Nashville: Season 1, Episode 14
Dear Brother
Please excuse my recent hiatus from Nashville recaps. Michigan winters are long, dark, and cruel; this TV recapper is fighting tooth and nail to make it to spring. Despite my battle with the worst season, I've still been watching the show and thinking a lot about our favorite fictional country stars. At the end up Episode 13, I was really frustrated with pretty much every character. Everyone was stir crazy by the end of the tour, and both Rayna and Juliette were acting like total divas. Rayna seemed incapable of understanding how her actions with others could impact Deacon; Juliette, while well intentioned, has no idea how to function like a mature adult. Back in Nashville, Scarlett and Gunnar just existed and Teddy was being a jerk. Episode 13 was also the first time (spoiler alert"”not the last) I have cried watching Nashville. The episode was called "There Will be no Teardrops Tonight" but that clearly did not apply for the audience. Watching Rayna and Teddy explain to their girls they were getting divorced, while listening to Scarlett and Gunnar's latest song, was heartbreaking. (Remember when I asked for a happy-ish Valentines' week episode? Yeah, Callie Khouri didn't listen.)

Fast forward two weeks to "Dear Brother:" we get to see how high profile divorces, a surprise party, and a fugitive brother might mix.

Now that her children know about the divorce, Rayna has to figure out how to tell the world. But first, she tells Teddy off for being sloppy enough to let his thirteen-year-old daughter here him on the phone with his mistress. Every time Teddy screws up, I love watching Rayna put him in his place.

Rayna next enlists Tandy for emotional support as the divorce is about to become public. When they are in the grocery store talking, in my head I immediately shout, "Stars"”they are just like Us!" They too catch up on divorce drama with sisters in the grocery store. Even though they are trying to be subtle, they realize it is all for nothing when they see Rayna and Teddy's faces plastered on the front pages of the tabloids in the checkout aisle. They learned that word got out, that rumors were flying, and all privacy was gone all in one instant. The near chaos that ensued was only a foreshadowing of the attention yet to come.

Rayna's publicist bans her from going to the party Juliette is planning for Deacon's birthday. Instead she focuses on keeping her girls' lives as normal as possible and keeps Tandy as her sidekick. Some of my favorite scenes involve Rayna and Tandy interactions, and obviously any scenes with Rayna's daughters are the best.
After the news leaks, acquaintances and the paparazzi are coming at Rayna hard, and we can see how overwhelming that kind of spotlight can be. After an unfortunate post-ballet paparazzi incident, Rayna decides to hole up and write music until the storm blows over. She plays the piano"”who knew!

Of course Rayna needs to stay in contact with the outside world. But thanks to her curiosity, she learns through a televised press conference that Teddy has nominated Peggy Cantor for a role in his administration (a pretty bold move for a cheating husband). Watching Rayna watch Teddy play mayor made me wonder, where is his puppet master Lamar? What will happen now? On cue, Lamar shows up at Rayna's house. And for once, he actually shows some fatherly support in the time of crisis. Could there be an agenda attached? Lamar is always going to be the meanest snake in town. But now if he is on Team Rayna with Teddy in his crosshairs, I am OK with his evilness.

After Lamar visits Rayna, we know he is on her side. But we still do not know where things stand between he and Teddy. Teddy is in that office all because of him. Lamar goes to see Teddy at City Hall. Teddy refuses to discuss his personal life with Lamar. So Lamar cuts right to the chase and gives him a list of appoints to city government he expects to see in place. Rather than acquiesce immediately, Teddy threatens a pissing match with Lamar. First step down that road: he ignores the deputy mayor appointment suggestion and gives the job to Coleman, his campaign rival instead.

Coleman says he is on "Team Rayna" but he will still take the job. This definitely will make things interesting between Lamar and Teddy. It will also be interesting because Coleman will be able to see how Teddy has been involved with Peggy during their marriage and is not stopping now. If this does go to court, will he be reporting from behind enemy lines to Rayna?

Teddy is unapologetic to Rayna and Lamar about his choices. He feels like he played the good husband/good dad role for 13 years with no thanks; now it is time for him to control his life. While I can see him standing up against Lamar this way, I was angry to see him be so flagrantly jerk-faced with Rayna. Their marriage was not good, thanks to both of them. Somehow he is acting as if she was the bad party in all of this. The battle is definitely not over.

Switching gears, lets turn to the party: Juliette's selfless act to show Deacon how appreciated he is on his birthday (cough, cough). A big party is always a great device to see how characters that do not share a lot of screen time are going to interact. Everyone is putting on a performance of who they are expected to be, although not everyone can comply with the understood social rules of this situation. Often this leads to some conflict. But, as in most Nashville scenes, the climax of the confrontation falls short of potential. All episode we've heard warning after warning that Deacon does not like parties and surprises. Yet when he realizes what is happening as he enters the packed Bluebird Café, he rolls with the punches like a champ.

Once the party gets started, it is really clear how much of it is a vehicle for Juliette is network with Nashville's biggest movers and shakers. Deacon is a humble guy, has a lot of talent and has been in that town for a long time"”he is friendly with a lot of important people. Now, everyone will now know Juliette and Deacon are close friends; hopefully take her more seriously as a heavyweight in Nashville. But for every lovely thing she does, she commits an equal faux pas to counteract any good will she garnered. But rather than publicly humiliate herself, it is more like death by a million pinpricks.

The opening act of the party is Scarlett and Gunnar (remember, she and Deacon are related!). While rumors of their talent have been circling around Nashville, this is the first time a lot of heavyweights get to hear them at once. Once the two start singing, everyone's jaws drop"”including Juliette's. Had she known how good they were, she would not have let them open for her. Red flags are going up in her head; she is starting to see the duo (especially Scarlett) as a potential threat. This is definitely an important moment for Gunnar and Scarlett as they move into the big leagues; I am excited to see what exactly will happen next.

The height of the night is supposed to be Juliette playing a new song for Deacon. Unfortunately, her mother gets drunk and needs to leave. When Deacon offers to take her home, Juliette insists she do it and he enjoy the rest of the party. When she tells him she really wanted to play for him, he reminds her he's heard her play tons of times. Juliette replies "but I wanted to play for you here." That's a loaded response. Juliette wants Deacon to see her play in the Bluebird as a sign of her musical maturity and changing sound. She also wants to play in the local venue where many artists with more organic career trajectories started. She wants to play a song she wrote for Deacon in front of him and some of the biggest names in the business. It is OK to have more than one motive; I think her Juliette's good intentions were more prominent than any bad ones lurking. It is heartbreaking to see her take the mature route and sacrifice her vision for the night to take care of her mother.

After the dust has settled from hurricane Jolene, we learn a little bit more why planning this party was so important for Juliette. Jolene references Juliette's 9th birthday as she is falling asleep back at the house, but Juliette tells her not to worry. Later, Juliette explains to Jolene's sponsor how, when she was 9, her first planned birthday party was cancelled at the last minute because Jolene spent the money on drugs. When Juliette found her mom later that night passed out with a lit cigarette in her hand dropping embers into the carpet. Juliette put out the sparks, but she wanted her mother to die.

This is such a heavy situation for a 9 year old to be placed in; Juliette has bottled up all these memories for a long time. The fact she is now recounting the story to someone now really shows her growth and attempts to heal herself, her mother, and their relationship. Hearing these sad anecdotes throughout the season also softens Juliette. All of her otherwise selfish, childish, and rash antics are more forgivable given where she has come from. I think the show does a really nice job throwing us between being disgusted with Juliette's actions towards others with these moments of raw exposure. As an audience, we can never quite be sure how we feel about Juliette.

Instead of a Juliette dedication to Deacon, we get one from Rayna, with a little help from Whitey White. The song she plays for him is beautiful, but not exactly flattering ("I'm in between vices"¦ Pour me something stronger than me). But, Deacon seems to like it. They have not yet been able to talk about the divorce, but at least now they have some kind of understanding.

When they do finally get to talk, Rayna says she wants to do right by Deacon, despite all the unknowns in her life right now. We see here that Rayna's stoicism is a highly calibrated act. She needs to preserve some normalcy for her children, her career, and all those who depend on her. Meanwhile, she is getting slapped in the face with tabloid accusations of having affairs with Deacon and Liam, while it seems that Teddy's infidelity remains a secret. Even though Rayna and Deacon drag each other's feelings through the mud, they still understand each other better than most other friends/lover can. Any rekindled relationship between the two seems to be on pause for now, but there is hope for them in the future.

When Gunnar is asked to leave the party by the police, I immediately thought he was being arrested for harboring a fugitive with a weapon. It is not until the end of Rayna's sad song for Deacon that we see him entering a coroner's office. As we see Gunnar identifying Jason's body, I lost it again and started to cry with Gunnar. Jason really did need that gun for protection; Gunnar feels like again he ruined his brother's life.

When he returns home hours after the party ends, Scarlett is furious and terrified. She has no idea where he went or if he was in trouble. But when she says the hollowed out look on his face, it is clear something is really wrong. All of her anger dissolves and she consoles Deacon; it was really a sweet scene to watch. When Scarlett tells him his brother's death is not his fault, Gunnar responds: "then whose fault is it?" It was heartbreaking to see him think he's ruined his brother's life, twice. I was pretty surprised, however, to see the consolation transition from platonic to sexual so quickly. We all knew they were going to hook up one day, but I never thought it would be under these circumstances. Taking it to the next level on the occasion of a murdered brother does not a sustainable romance make.

My third set of Nashville tears came towards the end of the episode, when Deacon finds Juliette's assistant and a giant box on his doorstep. Juliette gives Deacon a yellow lab puppy for his birthday, which is perfect. He is the little boy in Old Yeller who needs to have the unconditional love of a puppy. I am a sucker for dog storylines; they just better not kill it off anytime soon. (And I hope there were holes in that box!)

This episode of Nashville worked so well because the meandering plots were streamlined and highly focused around a few events. Teddy's turn to being a jerk, Lamar moving to Camp Rayna, Juliette acquiescing to help her mother's sobriety, and Rayna and Deacon's single conversation were some of my favorite moments from the episode. It also didn't hurt that Avery had about 30 seconds of total screen time. Some recent plot points were dropped this week in favorite of focusing on the divorce and the surprise party. Although a little inconsistent, I think this was the right move because really allowed the critical storylines to shine. Each week, Connie Britton (and her hair) kill it; Hayden Panettiere is growing into her role too as Juliette becomes more multifaceted.

Grade: A-


-Thank you to the Hulu gods who played (not once but twice!) the baby Clydesdale ad with "Landslide" that aired during the Superbowl. Gets me every time. I am not including my tears from this commercial in my total Nashville tears count. (Although I am sensing a trend with my tendency to lose it when young animals and grown men connect on screen).

-We sort of dropped Rayna's record deal this week. Is that still happening? If it was still happening, and her plan to sign Scarlett and Gunnar was still a thing, you think she would have made it to the party by the time they performed.

-Juliette, while planning Deacon's party: "I think he has a niece who lives in Nashville." For being his good friend, that is kind of a crucial detail to be unsure about.

-At one point towards the end of the episode, Peggy does her best Marilyn Monroe impression in Teddy's office. The look on his face shows that he loves that this woman is paying so much attention to him. However, it makes me wonder how long this will last. Either he will start to think she is being clingy, or she will start to see him in less of a shining light. Their relationship is too much about the novelty of sneaking around and forbidden passion (also, Peggy tried to overdose, she is not the most stable person on the show) to let this relationship last in the long term.
Tags: Nashville
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