All of Nashville’s various explorations of the country music industry synch up this week: creative growth, songwriting rights, publicity issues, staging a blockbuster tour, even what happens to a vocalist who loses her voice. After last week’s misstep, Nashville balances these truly interesting musical storylines against a backdrop none of us ever escape: our parents.
The episode opens with Tandy, Rayna, and her two daughters visiting Virginia Wyatt’s gravesite on her birthday, thirty years after her death. Losing their mother at such a young age has affected Tandy and Rayna, of course, but Maddie, listening to an album of Deacon’s in her earbuds, feels like she’s lost her mother as well, ever since she found out that Rayna lied about her parentage. And we know that Deacon is still desperately trying to avoid becoming the horrific drunk and parent that his father was. Even Teddy references his father this week, who apparently made a mess of his political office. Not that Teddy’s faring much better so far, but still.
The tough lesson that Maddie is learning: Our parents are just doing the best they can. They’re not perfect, especially if they’re as dumb as Teddy Conrad. As Tandy explains to the fed before she turns over the devastating thumb drive that contains all of Lamar’s foul dealings on it (not sure that she really needed to inform the feds her reasons for doing that, but it helps tie the episode together): “When you’re a little girl, you think your parents can do no wrong. Then you grow up, and you see the flaws. You start to question. But only so much because you want to believe that deep down, there’s a good person there.” Tough luck, Tandy. As she finds out when she starts exploring the circumstances behind her mother’s death, Lamar is not a good person.
Rayna, of course, is. The idiotic subplot of Peggy’s fake pregnancy forces Teddy to propose, which is bad enough. But then Peggy wears the ring around her neck to Lamar’s fancy symphony gala, and Maddie spies it. At first I couldn’t believe Teddy/Peggy were that stupid, but then realized only one of them is: Peggy is crazy and scheming, so she probably knew the ring would be spotted and get back to Rayna. But Teddy, the frickin’ mayor, couldn’t have said something like, “Hey, you want to put my mother’s ring away? This is not the time or place.”
And indeed it is not, as the reveal of the ring forces Maddie to flee from the gala. I suspected that this would lead Rayna to Deacon, but did not expect that it would lead Maddie to Juliette, in a wonderful turn of events. She takes Maddie home and calls her mom. Juliette has been despairing about how to reach the tween market with her new sound: She then winds up with a tween in her own living room. At least she’s capable of reaching one member of the populace. When Rayna comes to get her daughter, she and Juliette talk in another riveting Britton/Panettierre scene; the hurt in Juliette's eyes when she sees how Rayna cares for Maddie is palpable, as it is when she tells Maddie that Rayna loves her so much that she quit the tour for her. As the orphaned daughter of Jolene the addict, Juliette has always had to just rely on herself and decides to do just that. But her pain remains.
After grimacing and eyerolling through an “I’m A Girl” performance at tour rehearsal, Juliette rages against her old, bubblegum sound. Lest we forget, it was Deacon who opened up Juliette’s more mature, artistic side, which is a great development carried over from last year. Since she doesn’t want to sing the tween hits anymore, she then hires Layla Grant to open for her (Juliette invites Layla over but hilariously doesn’t let her into her home, then slams the door in her face).
Over in our young songwriter stable, Gunnar was so sulky at the shareholder showcase last week because Will performed “What If I Was Willing” without asking him. If he lets Will record the song for Edgehill, it will mean money and new opportunities, but it will no longer be his song (and his acoustic version, revisited again this week, is still better than Will’s). In the end, after a few choice comments from Avery, of all people, Gunnar decides to keep the song for himself, jeopardizing both his future career and his friendship with his roommate, but keeping his sense of artistic ownership intact.
The nod to family this week shines through the episode’s only original song, a former hit of Deacon’s called “A Life That’s Good”: “At the end of the day/Lord I pray, I have a life that’s good/Two arms around me/heaven to ground me/And family that always draws me home.” Rayna tells Maddie that Deacon wrote it for her in 10 minutes at the Bluebird, and it made her fall in love with him. Maddie’s complete 180 from sulky tween to adoring daughter in this scene is a bit sudden, and who among us did not wince when she called Deacon “Dad” after their phone conversation? But “A Life That’s Good” helps make up for this. After a few shoddy covers this week (including Scarlett the awkward dancer and Zoey the mike hog’s pointless karaoke version of “Come See About Me”), this song delivers, even more so as performed by the lovely, lovely singing voices of sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella.
Rayna listens to them outside the door and starts weeping. Connie Britton even cries beautifully, and the despair on her face is unreadable: It could be because of how amazing her girls sound, or her unrealized future with Deacon, or the fact that she has lost her voice, and she doesn’t know who she is without it. Any and all of these possibilities open up intriguing dramatic doors for Nashville next week.
- Juliette receives a car after singing at the Wentworth estate last week, then sleeping with Charlie Wentworth: “I guess he liked my performance.” [rimshot]
- As much as I liked this episode, still disappointed that the show’s only complete original song didn’t come in until almost the end.
- Raise your hand if you saw the Deacon/saintlike lady lawyer hookup coming three episodes ago.
- “You slept with Sticky Ricky?”
- Kind of love Lamar still barking at Teddy and telling him what to do when Maddie goes missing.
- Avery Barkley: from performer to roadie to tour guitarist, now Bluebird bar-back. Wonder what odd job he’ll be doing next week as he drops his world-weary life lessons from his short stint in the majors. Although I like the idea of him performing or writing with Gunnar if the show decides to go there.
- And that concludes the regular weekly coverage of Nashville for T.V. Club. So glad it’s ending on a high note. As Todd mentioned, I will check back in periodically this season to hopefully find Deacon and Rayna back together, Peggy and Teddy in South America, Juliette rightfully on top of the world, and T Bone Burnett back in the musical driver’s seat. In all honesty, Todd’s Nashville commentary last season was part of the reason why I got hooked on T.V. Club in the first place, so it is a complete dream for me to get to write about the show on this site. Thanks for reading.