The faith is well placed. No one proves a sassier, more accurate truth-teller than Ms. O’Connor in this week’s Nashville. It’s as if she traded her Bluebird apron for a Microphone of Realness, which she drops with authority several times during this week’s episode. Meanwhile, Will screws Rayna (with everything you know about this show, you should know it’s not like that) and Juliette meets the enemy. Read on as we review what went down in the Callie Khouri-directed “Never No More.”
ON THE MEND | Rayna comes home after four weeks in the hospital to find Teddy once more ensconced in their home, happily helping out with the girls. Don’t look so conflicted, Ray – when you’re feeling poorly, bland things are best for you. Daphne’s thrilled to have her mom back, but Maddie gives Rayna a frosty reception and major attitude. During a quiet moment with Tandy, Rayna reflects that she nearly left her children motherless “because of him.” We learn Ray hasn’t talked to the-personal-pronoun-who-shall-not-be-named since the accident, and “I may never speak to him again.” Suuuuuure, Rayna.
Soon, another matter arises to occupy the convalescing crooner’s thoughts: Edgehill Records’ new chief (adios, Marshall!) is a business-minded “bean counter” – a development that Rayna knows may not bode well for her Highway 65 label. Though Bucky thinks it’s too soon for her to return back to work, Rayna insists upon meeting this Jeff Fordham in person – and on bringing Will and Scarlett with her.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS | Juliette is the first to encounter the new boss (played by Rules of Engagement’s Oliver Hudson), and she doesn’t like the way he dismisses her new, less-Bubblicious sound. When she runs into Rayna in the Edgehill lobby, Ju offers this succinct sum-up: “He’s an ass.”
But Jeff couldn’t be more charming when Rayna & Co. sit down in his office. He calls them “the future of Edgehill” and vows, “I got your back.” It’s all smiles and laughter and I’m sure they’ll have absolutely no problems because there’s no way a music-business executive would ever lie, right?
SNEAKY! | Later on, Will kills it during a gig at The Stage on Broadway (I love the glee with which Chris Carmack infuses Will’s performance) and then is honored to find Jeff in the audience, wanting a word. But the new boss reveals himself a poacher when he offers to sign Will to Edgehill, despite the singer’s verbal agreement with Highway 65. “Rayna’s label is like the farm team, and I’m inviting you to the majors,” Jeff smarms. “Wanna play?”
Will mulls the idea but gets unhappily distracted when he sees Brent – his laundry-room near-hook-up from last episode – waiting outside the club. Turns out, Brent works for the revamped Edgehill (which explains this) and just moved to town from Los Angeles. “Y’all are gonna make a great team,” Jeff says, not noticing Will’s consternation.
The next morning, Will tries to unburden himself to his roomie. Will gets as far as saying that Brent is a guy he knew in Austin, but Gunnar’s frustration over not being able to come up with song lyrics, post-Scarlett, shuts down the conversation quickly. (Side note: I actually have a bit of sympathy for Gunny this week. Though Scarlett’s blank stare when he admits to torching her couch is hilarious, her “Thank you and have a lovely day” sign-off is something you say to the nice bank teller who gives you quarters for laundry, not to someone who plucked your lady banjo on the regular for the better part of last season.)
HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A REDHEAD SCORNED | In a moment I can only chalk up to Rayna’s pain meds, she clasps Teddy’s hand meaningfully as he promises always to be there for her and the kids. Ray-Ray’s starting to look a little gooey-eyed, so I thank the heavens when Bucky interrupts with news of Will’s poaching. Before you can say “Oh hell no,” Rayna interrupts a meeting in Jeff’s office to call him out. “Is this really how you wanna start with me?” she demands. Fordham doesn’t deny the underhanded move – in fact, he says, her back catalogue and Will’s music are Edgehill’s most promising money-makers. Rayna picks up on the fact that he didn’t mention her new stuff or Scarlett, then vows to be successful on her own terms. He patronizingly wishes her luck, to which she replies, “I make my own luck.”
But Rayna’s not done telling people how things are gonna be. She comes when Deacon calls her from the scene of their accident (so much for never talking to him again), but tells him, “I don’t think we can save each other,” and hands him back the ring he gave her when he drunkenly proposed years ago. (Side note: Sniff.) After she leaves, Deacon heaves the piece of jewelry onto the heap of flowers, pictures and such that fans have left to mark the spot.
And when Rayna returns home, she gently makes it clear to Teddy that they can’t play house anymore: He’s going to move out, and their divorce is going to move ahead as planned.
FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES | Let’s rewind a bit on Deacon: He’s sober again, which means he’s refusing any medication for his painfully busted hand. He’s still feeling guilty, upset and sad about everything that’s gone down, and he’s taking it out on new housemate Scarlett – though he softens a bit when she calmly makes note of his boorish behavior. Chip Esten and Clare Bowen share more screen time in this episode than they did last season combined, and I love it; moving her into his house was a very smart move, Nashville.
Here’s a list, in order of occurrence, of the things Scarlett does or says to Deacon in this episode that I adore: She picks up and puts down the cereal box (aka “dinner”) without making eye contact, she tricks him into seeing the doctor; when he notes that he already said he wasn’t going to his appointment, she blithely replies, “Yeah, but you were wrong” … and later reminds him that things could be much worse,then orders him to “Man up! Don’t be a coward.” (Woo!) She also gets him to admit, as he’s in the process of selling all of his guitars and writing off his hand as useless, exactly what made him relapse: He confesses that he’s Maddie’s dad, and he concurs with Rayna’s decision not to tell him because he’s a drunk. “Now I don’t have Rayna, I don’t have my music. I got nothin’ and I am nothin’,” he says fatalistically.
Later, though, Deacon saws off his cast (himself!) and tries to play the guitar. It doesn’t go well – he’s definitely hurting – but perhaps this is a tiny spark of hope in his very dark time? Or maybe it’ll just send him back to the bottle? (Make sure to log your take in the comments.)
HOMECOMING | In a bid for album sales, Juliette takes CMT to Alabama to tape a special about her upbringing. She says she’s doing it all to compete with the business boost Rayna got from her accident, but when the camera crew catches some painful moments – like when Ju encounters a neighbor who showed her kindness years ago, or when she visits the yellow trailer where she lived – she’s reduced to tears. Avery, who seems to be turning into a real friend for the country princess, tries to comfort her, but she shrugs him off. Later, she gloats as her single rises to iTunes’ No. 1.
PARTY IN THE USA | Jeff throws a party to celebrate the new Edgehill, and that’s where Rayna learns that Will has cast his lot with the parent company rather than with Highway 65. (Side note: Letting Rayna know about the deal after the fact, Will? Not classy. I get that you’re afraid of exploring who you really are – a theme Rayna hit hard during her pitch to you – but you crashed your way into an audition for her, and she’s been nothing but supportive. Have a little respect.)
Another surprise at the bash: Jeff doesn’t care much about Juliette’s iTunes victory, because he’s just signed Layla, a 19-year-old brunette who came in second on a reality show called American Hitmakers. “From nothin’ to Nashville in 12 weeks,” says Juliette in a tone that tells you exactly what she thinks of that.
JuJuBee is less than thrilled when Layla takes the stage and sings one of Juliette’s hits, “Gonna Get Even.” The newbie is great – that’s probably one reason why, as Jeff notes, the “tweens love her” and she has just now nabbed the No. 1 spot on iTunes. Juliette spittake! Know what I love? The line readings on this exchange between Rayna and Juliette as they stand in the audience: RAYNA: Is that that girl that won that singing TV show thingy? JULIETTE: She– No. She did not win. She came in second. (Ha!)
Now it’s your turn. How many episodes do you predict will go by before Zoey and Gunnar get a little something going on? How involved do you suspect Will and Brent were? Does Jeff have an aversion to buttoning his shirt? Do you think Rayna will really leave the label that made her famous? And wasn’t the Conan bit kind of silly? Sound off in the comments!Follow @kimroots