As many parents can attest, hearing your 13-year-old daughter tell you she hates you is an inevitable growing-pains moment. Maddie Conrad on Nashville has more cause than most angsty teens, though. Sure, there’s the ongoing daughter-to-mother sass mouth her mother, Rayna, earned by hiding the secret that Deacon is her real dad. But her supposed father Teddy really earned his daughter’s outburst on last night’s episode when he neglected to tell Maddie before popping the question to his psycho pregnancy-faking former mistress. “Why are you wearing my grandmother’s ring?!” she shouts at Peggy. Ouch.
I think we can all relate to Maddie hating Teddy right now. He’s the kind of guy who tells his fiancée flat out that he’s proposing as much out of political necessity as love. Not like Peggy deserves any better – assuming Teddy’s bad at math and can’t count to 9, she’s still trying desperately to get a bun in her oven before he notices there’s no baby bump. Is Mr. Mayor trying to make us hate him? It’s the only thing he’s succeeded in not fucking up so far. What’s more, to seal the deal, he’s going the extra mile and considering a congressional run, because what’s easier to hate than a congressman these days?
Seriously, how Maddie isn’t sneak-smoking Marlboro reds by the carton and bumping early Cure records on her iPod by now is almost a bridge too far in the arena of suspending disbelief. Instead, she’s comforting herself by listening to Deacon’s undoubtedly vast canon of country weepers he wrote about Rayna.
By contrast, Deacon is actually happy in this episode. The Deke gets his groove back when he starts courting his public defender, “Greatest Person on the Planet” Megan. He’s cheery and charming during their drama-free dinner date, maybe because Megan’s sob story of losing her husband to a teenage hooligan’s bullet puts all of Deacon’s sad-bastard bullshit into perspective.
Meanwhile, Maddie is intent on ruining every possible family gathering with her ‘tude. First there’s the morbid, graveside birthday bash for Rayna and Tandy‘s decades-deceased mother, which Maddie ruins with her iPod and questions about Deacon. Speaking of dearly departed Mrs. Wyatt, Tandy hired a private investigator to track down leads on her mother’s possible murder at the hands of her father. Apparently, despite the long passage of time, it was an easy case to crack. The P.I.’s Scooby Doo-worthy recitation of incriminating evidence is neatly packaged into a two-minute-long scene, another misfire in Nashville‘s constant struggle to scare up a subplot that justifies Lamar‘s existence as a character.
Later, a symphony gala honoring Mrs. Wyatt devolves into a dreadful debacle. Shit really hits the fan when, after Maddie mars another magical family moment with petulance, she discovers Peggy wearing other grandma’s ring! Then come the parental I-hate-yous” (“both of you!”) and Maddie goes full Soul Asylum and runs away, aimlessly wandering the rough Music City streets in a cocktail gown.
Did she run off to Deacon’s bachelor pad? Nope. But Rayna does look there first, and walks in on Deacon and Megan, effectively ending their date with some much-needed drama (and giving audiences some much-needed sexual tension between RayRay and the Deke).
Will that spark be enough to galvanize Rayna’s vocal cords? Juliette can only hope. Initially under the ruse of needing to focus on the family, Rayna pulls out of the next leg of her ongoing co-headlining arena tour with Juliette, who, of course, totally understands. “That’s what lip-syncing is for!” she exclaims in an angry huff. The dropout leaves Jules in a serious quagmire. Her old tweenage fan base (“the one that’s evaporating.”) isn’t buying her mature new record and she needs to pack her set lists full of saccharine radio hits to keep headlining above a theater level. “I only play arenas!” she reminds Glenn, but refuses to take such a tour opening for “biggest thing in country music,” Luke Wheeler.
Despite moving Rayna back to the top of her shit list, Juliette comes flying to the rescue when runaway Maddie calls her in tears for a pickup, and gets some girl-to-girl mentoring that eventually helps quell her anger towards her mother. Turns out, Jules still connects with the tweens more than she wants to admit.
If there’s one character who really actually grew up in this coming-of-age episode, it’s Maddie, and certainly not Scarlett. The unicorn had been making progress this season, showing some backbone here and there, standing up for herself, and dressing like an actual adult person. But the frightened child returned last night when, during an Edgehill photo shoot, a wardrobe person forced her to “perk up the twins” and photographer had her “give [him] some pout.” If that ordeal didn’t effectively crush Scarlett’s innocent spirit, certainly the revelation that Zoey slept with Sticky Ricky in high school did the trick.
Last episode: Running Scared