Nashville premiere recap season 5

Nashville Season 5 Premiere Recap: Slow Jam the Blues

Goodbye, pig’s blood. Hello, ennui.

A spruced-up and pared-down Nashville gets underway this week, with the Season 5 premiere marking both the drama’s move to CMT network and its slowed-down approach to storytelling, courtesy of new showrunners Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.

The hour — which is the first half of a two-part season opener; Part 2 will air Jan. 5 — finds both of the series’ leading ladies in rough places. Juliette survives her plane crash (no shocker there) but becomes convinced that the injuries she sustains are some kind of karmic payout for past bitchery. And Rayna is just, for lack of a better word, shook: by business troubles, by Juliette’s situation, by an inability to connect with the music that got her where she is in the first place.

And in the absence of drunken car accident! fist fight! whiny teenage rebellion! crazy-eyed mistress! accidental death! pill addiction! alcoholic relapse!, the show has the time and room to go deep on both of these soul-searching trajectories. For the most part, and particularly in the Rayna-Deacon relationship, I think it works pretty well. Although I’m not 100 percent on board with Rayna’s sudden existential crisis, I’m very pleased with what it shows us about Mr. and Mrs. Claybourne, at least in this episode: They love and support each other consistently, not just in the lulls between big, soapy cliffhangers.

Read on for the highlights of “The Wayfaring Stranger.”

ON THE ROAD AGAIN | We open with Rayna, looking like Downhome Barbie in a muscle tank and baseball cap, pulling into a rural gas station in a convertible. While a starstruck kid pumps her gas, Rayna notices an old, blind man singing “The Wayfaring Stranger” over near the garage. She approaches him, a weird look on her face; when he asks her to sing, she tells him she’d rather hear him continue. It’s all a bit surreal, and before we can figure out exactly what’s up, a title card takes us back to three weeks earlier.

MAYDAY | All of a sudden, we’re plopped in the midst of the wreckage of Juliette’s plane. A woman who happened to be nearby runs through the scene, calling for help; when she sees Juliette is still alive, though badly hurt and fading fast, she sings to her to keep her awake. And because this is Nashville, the woman has heavenly pipes. (If it were me singing to Juliette, she’d probably go gladly into that good night.)

News of the accident travels quickly. We see Avery wake up Gunnar and Scarlett (oh hello there!) and Will; over at Casa Jaymes-Claybourne, a tearful Maddie and Daphne climb into their parents’ bed and turn on the news. The next thing we know, we’re back to three weeks later — though not quite at the point where we started the hour. Juliette’s spinal cord is intact, but two vertebrae were shattered, and she can only move one of her toes. “It could be months before you feel anything,” her no-nonsense doctor reassures her. “Or never,” Juliette replies, dour. “Think good thoughts. It helps,” the doc shoots back. And while I appreciate (and agree with) the woman’s chipper practicality, I understand where Ju’s mind is at: Is that the kind of thing you’d want to hear if you couldn’t get past the first line of “This Little Piggy”?

Juliette is pretty checked out of life, but there’s a bright spot: When she talks to Cadence, she’s fully engaged and much lighter and happier. Rayna comes for a visit, which we learn is a semi-regular thing. Under Red’s gentle questioning, Juliette starts crying and admits that she feels under pressure to get better because so many people’s livelihoods depend on her. “I caused this,” she says. “I messed everything up in my life, and this is the result.” Rayna looks pained as Juliette goes on to explain that she was saved by an angel. “If you were doomed, why would an angel come and save your life?” Ray asks.

Nashville Premiere Recap Season 5

RAYNA’S BIGGEST FAN? | Over at Highway 65, Bucky’s got some bad news: They had to pay $275,000 to free Maddie from her Lennox Hill contract, and because Gunnar and Scarlett were kicked off Autumn’s tour, the revenue stream from The Exes’ new album is basically dry. “Are we in trouble?” Rayna asks him, showing far more concern about finances than when, oh, Juliette broke her contract or when Markus was a total soul-patched d-bag or when Scarlett hid under a piano or when Layla threw a zillion hissy fits or any number of other H65 “bumps in the road,” as Bucky calls their current troubles.

To bring in a little cash, Rayna agrees to play a private charity event for a self-confessed “insane, out of control fanboy,” a Silicon Valley rich guy named Zach Welles. The three most important things to know about Zach: 1) He developed an app called Boogaroo, and it made him a lot of money. 2) He wears a hooded sweatshirt underneath his sportscoat. 3) He is odd in the way that might just be fun and eccentric but probably will end with him stealing Rayna’s fingernail clippings out of her garbage.

Anyway, she plays a concert at his party and is basically reduced to being background music; I give her credit that she gamely just keeps going through the set and doesn’t say anything to the crowd; can you imagine someone like Faith Hill or Reba or Trisha Yearwood being cool with people talking incessantly throughout their shows?

Afterward, Zach apologizes and, over drinks, wonders why Rayna hasn’t recorded anything lately. He pushes past her “I’m busy” excuse until she gives him an honest answer. “I’m not recording anymore because I don’t have anything to say,” she says, sadly. “I’ve worked so hard to keep my label afloat, I forget who I am as an artist.” When he asks, she tells him “The Wayfaring Stranger” by Bill Monroe was the first song that ever really got through to her; he suggests that she needs to figure out what else will make her feel that way, and chase it.

IN WHICH NOT EVEN DEACON-LOVIN’ DOES THE TRICK | A deeply unsettled Rayna calls her husband and confesses that, after an anxiety attack rattled her on the plane out to California, she can’t fly home. He talks her down a little and says they’ll touch base in the morning… and then surprises her by showing up at her hotel room. Aw, guys! “Why are you here, crazy person?” she says, smiling. “‘Cause my girl’s in trouble,” he says simply, and that sound you just heard? It’s Rayna’s pajama bottoms hitting the ground.

She drags him to bed, but their fun is short-lived: Afterward, Rayna makes it clear that she’s not going to fly home, because she needs the time and headspace involved in driving back to Tennessee by herself. “I’m lost,” she confesses. And though Deacon’s a little confused, he doesn’t punch a wall or sulk or do any of the other inexplicable things he’s done in the past. He merely hears what she says and supports her decision. Y’all, it’s hot.

And that brings us to Rayna and the old guy at the gas station. He plays. She listens. He suggests that she let herself sing, because she “might find the joy you’re lookin’ for.” Rayna looks at him like HOW HAVE YOU SEEN INTO MY SOUL YOU SIGHTLESS SOOTHSAYER? But she sits. Has she reestablished that connection she seeks? Unclear. (But remember, the finale continues in a few weeks.)

ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD | Meanwhile, back at her house, Juliette can’t accept that Avery is still in it for the long haul. When he professes his love, she responds, “We’ll see how you feel in a few weeks.” But after a nightmare about the crash late one night, she demands that he drive her to the site where the plane landed so she can see everything with her own eyes. Of course, all the wreckage has been cleared, and it’s back to being just a field. “I thought I was gonna die. Why didn’t I die?” she sobs as he holds her. Poor thing.

After a little nap in the car, Avery and Juliette stop for smoothies on the way home. They happen to be across the road from a church, and a voice inside draws Juliette out of her funk and over to the house of worship. At the door, Ju realizes that the woman singing a solo is her “angel” from the night of the crash, and her eyes fill with tears.

BACK AT HOME… | Maddie is still pretty terrible (though I hold out hope), snapping at Daphne when the younger girl tries to help her finish writing a song that’s giving her trouble. Scarlett takes the teen aside for a little real talk: When someone helps you out of a creative bind, “we call it collaboration,” she says. So Mads sucks it up, apologizes and sings the (very pretty) new tune with her sis in the living room while Gunnar and Scarlett look on.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the premiere’s first hour? Grade the episode via the poll below, then hit the comments to flesh out your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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72 Comments
  1. Al says:

    Solid premiere

  2. A. D. says:

    Wish they would’ve gotten rid of the no talent Maddie!

    • skyebright8 says:

      Agree she’s still a cow, she doesn’t seem apologetic to her family at all

    • Normandy says:

      I thought for sure they’d reduce the daughters back to recurring roles to save some money, but nope.

    • Kay says:

      Whoa guys- can we please remember that Maddie is a real-life child? Yes, the character has been terrible the past year, but to say she has no talent is not only untrue, it’s incredibly unkind.

    • Kel says:

      I wouldn’t say she has no talent but the way her character has been written makes her very hard to watch. I cringe when I see her on the screen. Let’s hope they turn her around this season.

  3. JM says:

    I was legit crying through all of it. Too good for words. Can’t wait for more. Nashville is back!

  4. Tedi says:

    I honestly felt like this was what Nashville was always meant to be. It was still dramatic, but it felt grounded and honest and…..peaceful in a way. I loved it thoroughly. I am very much looking forward to what season 5 has in store. Bravo to the cast and crew and production companies and of course last but not least, my fellow Nashies =)

  5. Shira says:

    Good episode. Very promising! But was I the only one who was bothered by the amount of God’s references?

    • Tedi says:

      I thought is made sense. In almost every case I know of fictional or otherwise, if a person feels as though they are in a life or death situation, they will call out for something or someone greater than themselves. They make peace with God or the universe. Whatever is personal to them. This isn’t the first time Juliette’s storyline has been integrated with religion. Of all the characters, I believe she’s mentioned God the most, thought to be fair that was not very often.

      • Shira says:

        I need to rewatch but to me, these whole references and religious symbolism felt way too much. Also, I believe there’s something very predictable with turning Juliette from a “sinner” to a “saint” or at least a “redeemed” woman in such way. I hate this dichotomy with female characters and Nashville so far managed to create more complexity in their female characters. That seemed too simplistic to me. But again, of course,need to rewatch.

        • Tedi says:

          I get what you’re saying about the ‘sinner’ to ‘saint’ trope, I agree that would feel over done.
          I am hoping they approach it more like, her life has been filled with hardship and turmoil that all culminated in this accident and now she’s going to finally find some inner peace. We all love Juliette but she’s a hurricane. Now she can’t run or hide or deflect. This is her moment to be calm and breathe and hold herself accountable and emerge a whole human being,

    • Jim says:

      It’s country music. A bit more god than there was when the show was on ABC is realistic.

    • Boiler says:

      Take it you don’t live near Nashville or listen to country music. It is all over

      • Shira says:

        I actually do. Spent there most my time in the past few years. Nashville isn’t a new show so when Rayna starts saying oh my lord every 2 seconds and Juliette talks about angels and mysteriously walks into a church, it makes me cringe no matter how “realistic” it is or not. There are many ways to tell a story of personal growth and a spiritual journey. With Juliette, especially when she had a storyline about being misquoted saying she doesn’t believe in God, it feels too simplistic. That’s what been missing from her life to be “fixed”? The voice of angels? Seriously? I’m waiting to see how this story develops but as much as I understand the story and how it’s rooted in southern mythology and how it’s a way to weave in gospel and other musical sides of the south, it felt too simplistic.

        • Anti-Analyzer says:

          It’s a tv show – it’s entertainment. It’s meant to catch your attention and bring you through the story – just enjoy it for what it is!

          • Shira says:

            Thank you for explaining to me how I should watch analyze and process what I watch on TV. I express an opinion. You can agree with it or not. Dismissing it as “over thinking” is not very respectful.

          • Anti-Analyzer says:

            I didn’t say anything like that. I enjoy the show and I wish others enjoyed it as well. I hope you have an enjoyable day, too!

    • If that bothered you, you do not know Nashville, Tennesee or Country Music AT ALL, all music, no matter the type, came from spirituals, gospel is the root of R and B, Rock and Roll and Country. Get over yourself, the character almost DIED, I think a little reference to God is just what is needed here. The Juliette character has a good connection to the music and has performed at least once if not twice in a church on the series. It fit the storyline and certainly did not offend in the least!!

      • Shira says:

        So I’m guessing you didn’t read anything of what I wrote in the comments. So just to recap: Yes, I know Nashville, the city very well. Yes, I understand where it fits in the South’s mythology and musical roots. Yes, I’m gonna wait and see how the story will develop before I decide whether on not I’m fully on board with the storyline. No, I still don’t appreciate it and it actually doesn’t refer solely to Juliette. People are allowed to view the same text in various ways and a TV show is a text. I expressed exactly why I don’t like it and it has nothing with offending my emotions or religious sensitivities. Not every criticism is because something offends you but because, shocking, you think about things and disagree with them. As for Juliette, I’m not worried she went through a spiritual journey. I am worried it will lead her on a path of “a bad girl gone saint through the touch of God” which is a narrative I don’t like. I think it’s toi simplistic. Even when she performed at church during the first season, it was her pretending she’s not who she is.
        I don’t think her character was ever bad, but simply a troubled person with an addiction problem.
        Next time you tell someone to “get over themselves” at least try to make an effort and read what they say before you automatically attack.

  6. D- says:

    When will Lexington be kicked off the show? That freak adds nothing to the series, and is the only fly in the ointment.

    • Jakay says:

      Clearly you didn’t watch this sneak peek cause Will wasn’t in it.

      • Dave says:

        Which made me sad cause I love that dude.

      • Well technically it could be said he wasn’t in it…he only had one line. He was in a bedroom scene sandwiched between the bedroom scene of Gunnar & Scarlett and the bedroom scene of the Jaymes Claybourne Family. It’s right at the beginning with the gospel singer singing in the background. It’s just a few seconds. But he is on screen. Showing everyone finding out about Juliette…

    • abz says:

      You’re complaining about Will when he was literally in the episode for all of two seconds? Will is pretty much the only character that the show constantly pushes to the side all the time in favor of other characters. He barely gets screen time. I’m hoping the new showrunners do something good with his story this season and also that we get to see his relationship with Kevin develop a bit more.

    • “freak” really? Wow! Will has an amazing voice. His character needs more dimension than the past writers gave him. I am sure we will get to see more of him moving forward.

    • the actor has a wonderful voice, great talent and his character is a decent one, I am not over joyed at the gay love scenes but it is reality and should have a voice, I just hope they give him a good story line, not a soapy, overly dramatic one, he’s already had that.

  7. Bwhit says:

    Reading the showrunners comments about letting scenes breath made me feel better and they did not disappoint. I loved the pacing and the fact that they didn’t cram several different storylines into one ep. The focus was perfect and I’m so pleased!

  8. Jim says:

    Connie’s really leaving, isn’t she. I can feel it.

  9. Marie says:

    Ugh, I did not know this was happening! Thought the premiere was in January. (Busy work week!) Will Part 1 be re-run on January 5th?

  10. Claire says:

    I liked the slower pacing of the show, but I didn’t really enjoy the surreal element of the wayfaring stranger bit. Glad Juliette is alive, tho I knew she would be because she is indestructible. I do wish Connie wasn’t leaving, but I’m prepared to enjoy the show without her, too.
    Maddie is still annoying. They need her to stop raising her voice, it’s irritating.

  11. Everton says:

    “when Layla threw a zillion hissy fits”

    Why would it impact the label? The only time last season she actually did something that affected the label was when she took a break after Jeff’s death which Rayna completely understood and supported. After she came back, her music career was her main focus. Yeah, she did plot a revenge against Juliette, which still doesn’t make sense, but by doing that she actually worked on her music by bringing Avery as her producer.

  12. Nathan Everett says:

    Felt like season 1 again. Beautiful. Hope the ratings show.

  13. Karen Winger says:

    Thank you CMT!!!I love Nashville always a fan!

  14. Haddy says:

    I didn’t like it. The entire athmosphere felt uber-soapy, the dialog, the acting, the “taking time” thing. On top of everything I think it was the that score pretty much settled it for me. I don’t think I’ll be back on Jan 5th.

  15. Arlene Chandler says:

    Happened to find this by accident cuz I was waiting for January 5th – so glad that I saw it and extremely happy about the show.

  16. Mary says:

    You forgot the Javery kiss in the recap! <3

  17. iHeart says:

    I’m not going to lie, I actually cried when that woman sung at the beginning

  18. Sissy says:

    “Downhome Barbie”, Kimberly I love your recaps! So glad you’re back w/ Nashville. Your singing comment about the crash is the cream cheese icing on a red-velvet, two layer cake! I also loved the fact that both girls were irritated that Deacon asked Scarlett and Gunnar to stay over with them when he jetted off to take care of his girl. Teenagers! So happy Nashville is coming back and I can’t wait to see more!

  19. Please don’t let Rayna die she’s a big draw to the show! Scarlett needs to sing more and show her talent( wonderful voice) TELEVISTION HAS ALL BUT TURNED TRASH! Please this is a good entertainment family show with Excellant singing😃 We viewers don’t have much to chose from please keep this show alive Thank You and God Bless the actors of this show! God should be involved in this show because realistically God is a big part in Contry music singers lifes! Just makes this show more realistic instead of fake! Sincerely, Karen Cordrey🙏

  20. izzie b says:

    So very glad to have Nashville back and also to have Kimberly Roots doing the recaps – awesome!

    Loved seeing Deacon and Rayna communicating, Scarlett was happy and not all big-eyed mopey-faced, Maddie finally listened to an adult’s advice, and Juliette and Avery are going to be fine.

    What worries me is that what everybody thinks is Rayna having anxiety or panic attacks will end up being a heart attack later in the season and then it’s buh-bye, RayRay! I hope that doesn’t happen, but I just couldn’t help feel like they were really setting it up for that.

  21. abz says:

    It was an okay episode, but I got a bit annoyed by the musical score in each and every scene. Every talking scene had loud, super sad/soapy/emotional music, it felt like they were trying so hard to say “Hey everyone, look at our characters having long emotional talks. Isn’t it so emotional? They’re really talking. Doesn’t it make you want to cry?”
    Maddie is still annoying. The show still has a serious problem with this character. I’m gonna miss Layla/Aubrey Peeple’s beautiful voice. Her songs are pretty much the ones I find myself constantly going back and listening to. Such a shame how poorly she was written and that the new writers didn’t want to try and fix it. I’d much rather see more of her than Maddie. Also, why is Will the only character that the show is constantly okay with sidelining? I know he’s not a main character, but it’s still annoying because I really like the character and I’d love to see him get a good storyline this season and also to see more of his relationship with Kevin.

  22. Boiler says:

    Now somehow get Chaley Rose back and I’ll be totally satisfied

    • RichieS says:

      ITA. Chaley has such a beautiful,pure voice plus is real easy on the eyes. Her and Gunnar make a much better pairing than him with that insecure, neurotic Scarlet. Bring back the 3 Exes !

  23. D- says:

    [COMMENT REMOVED]

    • Nashville Fan says:

      Don’t like it, don’t watch it. I hope TVLine has a way to delete disgusting posts like yours.

    • abz says:

      You want the show to make more references to God and yet in the same paragraph you wished that a gay character would have been killed during a hate crime?
      You really are a homophobic loser, aren’t you? It really is a tragic reality that despicable human beings like you exist in this world (if you can even be considered a human being).

  24. LoAnn Brandenberger says:

    I just found out I have to subscribe to the CMT Channel through my cable provider. I thought I had the channel. So when I pay my bill on the 1st I will have to have it added. Errr!

  25. bluegrassboy75 says:

    It is good to see Bluegrass Hall of Famer Mr. Jesse McReynolds pictured. He’s been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 52 years now.

  26. D- says:

    I hope Layla’s absence is explained. I liked her. To those who hate Maddie, she and Daphne form the heart of the series, with Rayna, Juliette, Avery and Deacon.

  27. Luis Roman says:

    This is the show I hoped it would be when it premiered.

  28. E. D. Boddy says:

    I don’t like when country fans are stereotyped, especially as people just waiting to riot over a singer’s perceived “sin,” as they’ve done in the past. This episode went the other way, with the smug “how much could tech people in Silicon Valley possibly know about country music?” line, as if you have to be from a farm, or live out the lyrics to have any understanding of the music.

    (On West Wing, Leo McGarry’s similarly smug “he sells dental supplies in the Twin Cities. How enlightened do you think he’s going to be?” worked – it was a setup to the guy turning out to be WAY more enlightened than they thought.)

  29. Iakovos says:

    I feel confident in the direction NASHVILLE is taking. Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz are amazing. I have loved their successes (THIRTYSOMETHING and ONCE AND AGAIN) and shows that did not last (RELATIVITY). These two KNOW HOW TO TELL A STORY! I did not feel my NASHVILLLE was taken away, only cleaned up from the tragic amount of sequins and high-test hooch (read that as over-the-top plot twists) that it became. So good to ride along slowly with these characters. And leave Maddie alone, people! Since when are we surprised a celebrity teen might act out as she seeks some identity and independence. Strikes an authentic chord to me.

  30. Best Yet, looking forward to MORE MUSIC this season and less soapy drama, more character development and less characters.

  31. Celina says:

    I liked, but I feel like the premiere were just Rayna and Juliette. Gunner didn’t say a word. Scarlet had a sweet moment with Maddie, which I liked, but we haven’t seem her and gunner talk, for example. And, most important, I’VE MISSED EMILY! She would be 24/7 with Juliette!
    I liked anyway. I love nashville! Happy is back.

  32. Jenny Lamont says:

    Kimberly, this was so entertaining to read! Thank you for the laughs. I will be looking out for more of your articles.

  33. Lorna says:

    It was bland after the opening scene. Loved Javery moments!!

  34. Viv says:

    Best produced episode ever–elegiac, elegant, thoughtful. adult. REAL country–as opposed to crappy, fake, plastic, bitter reality tv “country” This show made me feel– so. good.

    The actors had an arc. The production value looked like a movie. No hysteria or sloppy writing.

    A++ episode — it was perfect. Watched it on Hulu this am.
    Never thought I’d be watching this channel but — Way to go CMT!!

  35. shelly honsinger says:

    Please do not get rid of Rayna James she is one of the best reasons besides deacon that I continue to watch

  36. shelly honsinger says:

    Please do not get rid of Rayna James she is the whole reason besides deacon that I continue to watch

  37. Dee says:

    I am so excited that CMT picked up Nashville and we’ll continue to see the talented actors and singers play out. I’m disappointed that Aubrey Peoples didn’t return, she has the voice of an angel. Thanks CMT!!!

  38. Paul B. says:

    What kind of car was Rayna driving when she pulled up to the gas station? I know there was a Mustang emblem on the front grill but the car sure looked like a Camaro to me!!

  39. Bee says:

    I live in a rural area. I used to have cable television but lightning hit my satellite dish…twice… first time, I was told I needed insurance to cover the cable box the second time it blew out the back of my television so I decided to not have satellite TV. I don’t have internet access either, I only have my phone and I only have a small amount of data. Having said all that, my point is I don’t have access to CMT but I loved Nashville. I read your Recaps to find out what’s going on in their world I like it when you put in your own opinion because it’s usually pretty funny. One of the things I enjoy the most and the things I miss the most is hearing them sing. Also, what it’s like to be in the music business, more about how they became a star and what it takes to be on stage and what it takes to get a song produced. that never, ever, ever became boring to me. Thank you for writing interesting Recaps I appreciate it.

  40. Carolyn Smith says:

    I am sorry but I do not like the homosexuality in the show. Luke is kissing and sexaully hugging him. I think it goes against everything that makes country music performers and fans different. I know I have been country when country wasn’t cool. (Barbara’s song) I wouldn’t be mean to homosexuals, but I don’t want to have to set and watch it either