This week’s sizzling episode of Nashville was, as usual, part history lesson and part therapy session, with added doses of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Fifty Shades of Grey in the mix. First, the history: We learned, thanks to newcomer – and Maddie’s new love interest – Clay, that R&B legend Arthur Alexander was one of the important links between soul music and country. (Fact: His “You Better Move On” was covered by the Rolling Stones and was also a George Jones-Johnny Paycheck duet.)
Clay also takes Maddie to the East Nashville spot that used to be the site of the Dixie Tabernacle and is now a vacant lot. From 1936 to 1939, the Dixie Tabernacle was the home of the Grand Ole Opry, something Maddie impresses Clay with as she names the other pre-Ryman Auditorium locations of the long-running radio show. We then learn about one of the earliest Opry stars, “pint-sized black man” (Clay’s words) DeFord Bailey, who played harmonica and appeared on the radio show beginning in 1926. Not only was Bailey one of the Opry’s first stars, he was also the first African-American artist on the show. (Fact: He was fired from the Opry in 1941, quit performing and shined shoes for the remainder of his life, died in 1982 and wasn’t inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame until 2005.)
Clay takes Maddie to a club called Joe’s, but she’s so smitten and swept up in the music when Clay gets up to sing that she doesn’t seem to notice she is one of the only white people in the place. Later, when Clay explains that part of his reason for being so resistant to her has to do with their respective races, she rejects the idea. She gets an unwelcome reminder of it later, however, when Clay gets into a fight with a couple of rednecks. Maddie finds him at home and takes him to the hospital. He confesses to her that he is bipolar and refuses to take the medication he was prescribed because it keeps him from being able to write, sing or feel. Although he makes it clear he can’t be with Maddie, Clay shows up at her door later and introduces himself, bandages and all, to Deacon and Rayna, much to Maddie’s delight.
Damien, who is directing the Exes (Gunnar and Scarlett) in a music video, has Gunnar looking like a cross between James Bond and the emcee in Cabaret and Scarlett dressed as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. While Gunnar is getting into the whole thing, Scarlett is having trouble finding her motivation. Damien schools her on powerful women like Isadora Duncan and Madonna. (Fact: Dancer Isadora Duncan died in a 1927 automobile accident when the long, flowing scarf she was wearing got caught in the car’s rear wheel, throwing her from the vehicle and breaking her neck. We all know pretty much everything that has happened to Madonna.)
Later, Gunnar is tied to the bed as Scarlett attempts, unsuccessfully, to channel her inner-Ana Steele from Fifty Shades. Eventually, Damien’s brow-beating and male-bonding with Gunnar over whiskey takes its toll and she kinda sorta lashes out at both of them. Later, she wants to know why Gunnar shared details of their personal lives with Damien. She tells him she doesn’t want people to think she’s weak, but he convinces her she’s much stronger than she believes she is.
A couple of the quickest scenes in the episode also seem like they could be foreshadowing, both involving Mr. Moneybags Fanboy, Zach Wells. While Randall is fired for stealing the box from Rayna’s desk, he is genuinely remorseful and completely clueless about the letters and flowers she’s been receiving. When Zach and Rayna are on the Exes video set, she offhandedly remarks to him that he’s crazy. “You have no idea,” he tells her. He also introduces himself to Will, giving him his phone number, a puzzling moment that’s nearly as awkward as Scarlett’s scene in the music video where she’s on her hands and knees on the dining table and smearing the lipstick on a redheaded woman’s face.
The episode ends with Rayna’s alleged letter writer showing up at the Highway 65 office with a special delivery: Fifty shades of batshit crazy!