Nashville: Season 1, Episode 12
I've Been Down That Road Before
Even though law school and blizzards got between me and my Nashville review this week, I am very happy with the show's new developments and tempo. After many weeks of head scratching and boredom, two weeks ago there was light at the end of the Nashville tunnel. Significant storylines were finally shifting (at tectonic pace) and it looked like the stage was being set for some new action. This week, they did not disappoint. Sure, there were only a few bombshells, but these were big and there was promise for some more in the near future. We also got to indulge in more music this episode than the past few combined. It's official folks"”I am super psyched about Nashville again!

All of the story lines that seemed to pointlessly drag in recent episodes now seem to have a purpose in the show's big picture. Story lines are coming together, new allegiances are made, and long-held tensions are flaring up again. "I've Been Down that Road Before" did give a few characters déjà vu, but now as their surroundings have changed, so too have the consequences for their actions.

This week I am going to start with the Scarlett, Gunnar, and Avery storyline, which actually had some satisfying progress. Scarlett is having trouble paying the rent on the house she used to share with Avery, even though he still owes her money. After all other options run dry and her landlord threatens to kick her out, she racks up the nerve to call Avery to get her money. Avery decides to stop by with a camera crew and incorporate this visit into the tour of "Avery's Nashville" for a TV show. Scarlett confronts him outside after she sees him staring wistfully at their old home as the camera crew shoots b-roll. When Scarlett calls him out on the b.s. of his whole shenanigan, he returns the favor by refusing to pay her back.

Meanwhile, Gunnar has been having problems with his own roommates (who somehow did not exist before last night, but I'll ignore that detail for now). They are a bunch of overgrown frat-boys whose favorite activities involve air horns and Gunnar's eardrums. After a few complaints from Gunnar, Scarlett sees a solution to both their problems: he can move in with her! There is no way this will cause any problems down the road! But hey, in the mean time it will be great: Gunnar can bring as many girls home as he wants and Scarlett promises not to play the banjo in the shower (?????)"¦ it is a win-win.

With perfect timing, Avery comes over to apologize to Scarlett just as Gunnar finishes moving in. Gunnar walks into the room just as Avery gave Scarlett an apology that seemed to contain some genuine remorse. Of course, Avery immediately jumps to conclusions and accuses Gunnar of "stepping in on his woman." THANK GOD Scarlett had the cojones to say "I'm not your woman." A few weeks ago, I am not sure she would have been strong enough to stand up to him (she too must have watched the Destiny's Child reunion at the Superbowl and been inspired by "Independent Women").

Gunnar steps in and lays it on Avery: "You are lonely and you hate yourself since you took up with Marilyn." This was actually pretty powerful: for all of his jackass moves, no one has been able to break Avery in a confrontation. After a few more insults, Avery punches Gunnar. To everyone's surprise, Gunnar reflexively wails on Avery and he is soon on the floor. Avery runs away; Gunnar and Scarlett have a moment while she tends to his wounds. Turns out his brother taught him how to fight and Gunnar was not always a model citizen. I like this added mystery to good-boy Gunnar's persona. His career is about to blow up, aiding a fugitive brother could definitely ruin his big break. But this endorsement is qualified: I am on board so long as we don't get dragged down a strange rabbit hole that sucks life out of an episode, a la Kalinda Sharma's shady husband on another primetime drama.

The last we see of Avery is him leaving Marilyn's house with a duffle and his guitar. He still wants her management, but he does not want to sleep with her in the process (because he's a "professional"). I feel a little bit sorry for Avery; he knows he has messed up and is trying to make it right. The problem is, he wants to have his cake and eat it too. He cannot improve his relationship with Scarlett while still bailing on his band and working with Marilyn. His demons are going to continue to eat away while Scarlett will be continue to realize how much better she is not under Avery's spell. I'm intrigued to see how this relationship will progress.

Rayna, Juliette, Deacon, et al. spent the entire episode outside of Nashville. They had two nights of shows and had lots of visitors while in town. Rayna is still very confused why Deacon is on tour. The last time Rayna saw him was on his front lawn; his house was on the market and he planned to run away to his cabin. Now, Deacon is playing guitar on a stage with glitter and back up dancers in front of an arena-sized army of tween girls and their parents. Neither Deacon nor Juliette is providing Rayna any explanations.

Meanwhile, Rayna's new lead guitarist is a woman. Her manager is not a fan of the changed "chemistry" on stage versus her old guitarists. Which basically means he misses watching Rayna air hump on stage. She is also getting a lot of grief from Teddy for working so closely to Deacon on tour. Little does Teddy know that Rayna and Deacon are not having anything more scandalous than awkward elevator rides.

Deacon is not impressed with the glitz and glam in Juliet's performance. He is also dressed like a Dad running Saturday errands while everyone else on stage is in spandex and bustiers (but this is just a symptom, not the disease). After being continually rebuked by her manager, Juliette decides to take career changes into her own hands. Rather than starting the second Chicago show in leather booty shorts and a silver glitter fringed bustier, she gets on stage in jeans and an oversized oxford to perform an acoustic version of a new song with Deacon. Her manager is freaking out because Juliette has diverged so widely from her brand (the original Juliette is a multi-million dollar industry with a winning formula). Rayna is freaking out because one, she is not the woman singing onstage with Deacon and two, she realizes that this girl is actually good.

After the show, Juliette's manager, furious, confronts Deacon. He accuses him of taking out his Rayna-rejection on Juliette and that Deacon is trying to change her. He spits back a piece of advice Deacon gave Juliette before"”and what is also a big theme for this episode"”about thinking versus acting. He calls Deacon out for being the biggest thinker who is afraid to commit. It also re-poses the question, what is Deacon trying to gain from playing this tour?

This harsh truth inspires Deacon to find Rayna and give the audience what we've been dying to see for 12 episodes: a passionate, forbidden (and IRL) kiss between Deacon and Rayna. She is, understandably, completely shocked. Deacon has not spoken more than 5 words to her since he ran on to Juliette's plane. Of course, with her relationship with Teddy still on the rocks and her passion for Deacon reignited, Rayna texts Deacon to come back upstairs and (I can only hope) finish what they started.

The next scene between Teddy, Rayna, and a watching Deacon, was so painful to see. Deacon charges to the elevator and down the hall with such a spring in his step. He has taken a 180-degree turn from last episode's dark moments. But as he rounds the corner, he sees Teddy walking into Rayna's room. Once again, he feels like Rayna has burned him despite his unconditional love for her all these years. That Shakespearian bad timing took all the satisfaction out of Teddy's announcement he wants a divorce. We have known it was coming for a long time"”before the characters did. This week, Peggy's insistence that he deserves to be loved finally wore him down. I was surprised that Teddy so quickly decided to end things with Rayna. However it does not bother me enough to object to the final outcome. Regardless, I hope that this small timing hiccup doesn't become another giant set back in Rayna and Deacon reuniting.

By the end of the episode, we can tell that we are about to enter into a new chapter in Nashville. The power dynamics have changed. Given Juliette's talent"”and the Internet's curiosity with her new sound"”there is now another opportunity for collaboration between Rayna and Juliette. Rayna now has a deal with Edgehill to develop her own label (this development felt out of left field; Rayna had never before expressed interest in cultivating other artists). A grown-up, less pop-tart Juliette could be just the kind of big act Rayna needs for commercial success. The money provided by Juliette would help offset the costs developing fresh acts like Scarlett and Gunnar (I assume they will also ditch the ex-Avery Bartlett band; while country No Doubt was a fun distraction, at the end of the day it is all about Gunnar and Scarlett).

Lingering in the background of all of these possibilities, of course, is Deacon. He is writing and working with Juliette now; he is Scarlett's uncle. Deacon has a habit of sleeping with his collaborators, not his record label executives. With Rayna at the helm and profits at stake, the relationship dynamic will change. With that, jealousies and rivalries will return, proving to be very tumultuous (just like we like it!).

I thought this episode was one of Nashville's best so far. It did a great job of providing short-term solutions to season-long conflicts, only to cause more complications down the road. My only objections are loose parts of the storyline that required a little more work on my part. These included: the advent of Gunnar's raucous roommates (huh?), Juliette's on-again, off-again assistant (I had totally forgotten about her) and Rayna suddenly having a major new deal with her label (we knew she was trying to evolve and expand, but this type of venture definitely warrants being tee-ed up in a previous episode).

Grade: A-


-Next week's episode airs the day before Valentine's Day. There surely will be more fallout from divorce-gate, but I really hope the writers throw me a bone and incorporate some romance as well!

-Sometimes Scarlett's accent and expressions are just too over the top. Sure, she might be from the country, but she's been living in a city for a while now. I think she'd learn how to tone it down a notch. (ex: "What happened in Dallas that turned your fur all backwards"¦")

-Part of what made this episode great was the condensing of storylines. I counted 2.5 this week. There are still a ton of small characters, but they did a better job complementing the main characters, rather than distract from the bigger story.

-I also really enjoyed the variety of camera angles used this week. Specifically, in my neophyte's vocabulary, there were documentary-style angles as well as Big-Brother-esque hidden camera treatment. It gave the whole episode a VH1/CMT "Behind the Scenes TV Special" effect (in a cool way).
Tags: Nashville
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