Last week's episode of Nashville was pretty bonkers, what with Deacon and Avery's buddy comedy adventure and Olivia Wentworth's failed attempt to seduce Juliette shooting out of left field. Because Nashville, for all its soapy tropes, struggles to find solid ground as a legitimately compelling drama, it's moments like Will kicking the Texas-sized shit out of some homophobe Neanderthals and Juliette's razor-sharp one-liners that make the show a fun ride. But last night's Eric Stoltz-directed episode – "Hanky Panky Woman" – was the opposite: Painfully predictable.
Certainly it came as a surprise to no one when Peggy faked a miscarriage after Teddy told his new bride he wanted to tag along to her next doctor's appointment. Feigned panic in a phone call, a pint of pig blood and a flood of crocodile tears later and Teddy no longer has a phantom love child to worry about.
Scarlett's stadium-sized stumble at her first gig on the Luke Wheeler Tour could have made for some tense drama if only she had to suffer through the 40,000-strong chorus of booing, popcorn-lobbing beer drinkers for longer than, like, a couple minutes (literally!), before Rayna saved the day. The redemption came too soon, just like it did a few episodes back when Rayna got her voice back after a few weak notes – there wasn't time to get emotionally invested in the conflict.
The bigger problem is that it's hard to know whom to hate anymore. Avery used to be great comic relief, but now he just hangs out in Juliette's friend zone like a man-boy Deacon Lite, helping her write songs while she ignores love-sick texts from billionaire lothario Charlie Wentworth. Maybe if there was at least some underlying sexual tension between Juliette and Avery this storyline would feel like it's going somewhere, but as it is, it's boring. Even alleged wife-murderer Lamar has, in his increasingly rare appearances, had more sympathetic, non-villainous moments of humility than devilish deeds of domination this season.
At least Jeff Fordham is courting our hatred with smarmy, low-rent corporate-minded fuckery. And it makes sense. Between last season and this one, Nashville replaced frumpy, middle-aged Edgehill Records honcho Marshall with Fordham, as played by the oppressively dashing Oliver Hudson. Last night, Fordham sent the cops to Rayna's crib to seize the master recordings for her unfinished Liam Sessions album, which she curiously keeps in a big leather bag rather than on an encrypted, easily password-protectable hard drive.
Apparently eager to put out the record in time to meet Edgehill's quarterly sales goals, Fordham commissions the world's worst graphic designer to mock up a red-hot Rayna Jaymes album cover that's a cross between softcore BDSM porn and the cover for Lynyrd Skynyrd's Street Survivors. Seriously, y'all, it looked like an e-book cover for a self-published Rayna Jaymes fan-fic novella.
Further compounding Fordham's sharp-elbowed dickishness, he totally sabotaged Scarlett's first stadium performance by getting the monitor man to fuck up her in-ear mix. But when Scarlett gets her groove back, puts on a triumphant performance of her trad-country two-stepper "Crazy Tonight" at the next show, then helps Gunnar pen a sure-fire hit duet – the big-box-ready "Ball and Chain" – for Luke and Rayna – Jeff comes around, makes amends with Rayna and they hash out a compromise that, for now, effectively puts the latter's label woes to rest for the foreseeable future. And now what, we're supposed to like Jeff?
Once again, Juliette had the best line of the night: "Apparently [Charlie and Olivia] are into threesomes and I was the flavor of the month." That said, it seems, Olivia is a little more amenable to the threesome thang than Charlie. Nevertheless, assuming the Wentworths aren't another of the narrative dead-ends on Nashville, at least there's a reason to tune in next time!
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