Now that the wedding bells have stopped ringing, Nashville can finally get back down to the dirty business of putting its characters through various traumas both emotional and musical. On the docket this week: hate crimes, breakups, divorces, reunions, felonies, and theft. Buckle up! And this is Nashville, so I mean belt buckle.
There’s a lot going on in tonight’s Nashville, with everyone moving into new directions. Avery is first seen going to the rehab center where Juliette is recovering. Layla is meeting with Rayna and securing a deal for a second record. Will is back in town after having found his itch for performing again while in Kentucky. On top of that, there’s a new girl in town, and she’s at the Beverly telling Deacon that she wants a spot on the open mic list and that she’s willing to audition for it.
This mysterious woman makes for the most intriguing story line of the night, but we’ll get there. Let’s start with Avery because the dude is never lacking for drama in his life. When he visits the rehab clinic, Juliette’s doctor tells him that she’s not in a good mental and emotional state to see him and discuss their marriage. That’s understandable, but Avery has been lying for so long that he can’t handle it anymore.
Still, he’s finding himself comforted by working with Layla, who’s in the studio working on that second record. The two share an immediate chemistry, even if it’s unclear whether or not Layla has some sinister intentions. I think she mostly just feels bad for Avery, though, because she despises Juliette. Is there romance in the air?
Meanwhile, when Scarlett heads to the venue where she and Gunnar are doing a set for the night — a set that they’ve convinced Will to sit in on for a few songs — she sees Erin in the parking lot. That’s natural because Erin is on the tour, but there’s a twist: She’s tonsil-deep in another dude’s mouth (sorry for the gross image). Because Scarlett is a little more prim and proper than Erin — or, you know, totally in love with Gunnar — she freaks out about it.
That leads to a cute moment where Gunnar knows as soon as he sees Scarlett that something is up. These two just know each other so well! Anyway, she tells him about seeing Erin and the other guy, but Gunnar takes it surprisingly well. After all, he says, they agreed to be in a casual relationship. Mature Gunnar is a good version of Gunnar.
Luke, on the other hand, is having more of an issue dealing with his problems. While he’s apparently settled everything with the IRS, his financial troubles have alienated his fan base. As a series of angry, disillusioned radio callers show, they feel Luke has lost sight of his more humble roots. And guess what? They’re not wrong. After all, this is the guy who wanted to build his name into a “brand experience.”
As if all the “haters” weren’t bad enough, ticket sales for his tour are seriously slowing down. He needs something big to get people back on board with his performances. That’s when his tour manager suggests bringing Juliette on. Now, if only they could find her.
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Meanwhile, the mysterious woman that showed up at the Beverly turns out to be one hell of a singer. So much so that Deacon calls Rayna and gets her to come check out the show. She’s blown away as well, and when she meets with her after the show, Rayna tells her that they should have a sit-down meeting sometime soon to discuss the label and what they can offer. In order for that to happen, she needs a job so she can stay in town, so Rayna and Deacon hook her up at the Beverly, even though Frankie has a bad feeling about her.
Bad feelings are the name of the game when Will finally gets to his performance during Scarlett and Gunnar’s set. A drunk, angry homophobe starts shouting slurs at Will before finally picking up his beer bottle and throwing it in Will’s face. A broken nose and a bruised ego later and Will is sitting in a police station filing charges for a hate crime.
The only problem is that Will doesn’t want to record the statement. He doesn’t want to deal with all the legal nonsense. Gunnar gives him hell for this decision, but Will assures him he has another plan. The way he says it is so menacing, it’s presumed he’s going to go full Liam Neeson in Taken on the guy.
Things get heated for a lot of people after that. Avery explodes on Luke for even asking where Juliette is and says she’s totally unreliable. Then he goes to the clinic and tells her doctor he wants a public announcement of divorce in 24 hours or he’ll do it himself. Eventually, the statement comes out, seemingly paving the way for a, Avery-Layla connection. Also, Maddie goes in on Cole like a total boss and demands his respect while Gunnar breaks up with Erin because he didn’t feel anything when he heard about her with that other guy. Like I said, so much is happening in this episode!
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Then, Vita, the girl who mysteriously rolled into town, leaves her job interview at the Beverly because of her apparently felonious past. Rayna convinces her to come back, though, saying she’s had a rough past, too, and that she’s always willing to take a chance on people that she gets a good feeling from, and she gets a good feeling from Vita.
Meanwhile, after realizing that Juliette isn’t an option for his tour, Luke has a fortuitous run-in with an old tour mate of his. After having dinner at his house and awkwardly explaining where his kids are these days, Luke convinces his buddy to come back out on tour. The catch? He gets to bring his whole family, which surely won’t bother Luke at all.
“How Does It Feel to Be Free” ends with one moment of triumph and one of potential deceit. First, Gunnar and Scarlett panic when they hear Will has gone back to the bar where he was assaulted. They’re worried he’s going to do something stupid and beat the guy up. Instead, they show up to see Will buy a beer for the guy and then get on stage to perform his song. “You didn’t get to finish your beer, and I didn’t get to finish my song.” It’s a powerful moment, and finally something good is happening for Will. Plus, that guy gets shamed into leaving the bar. Good riddance to the good ol’ boy.
Vita, on the other hand, is either exactly who Frankie thought she was, or there’s a misunderstanding taking place. When Frankie counts up his register at the end of the night, there’s $500 missing. Is this new, mysterious woman with a tumultuous past someone to be wary of? Did someone else take the money? If Vita did, could we blame her, considering her circumstances?
“How Does It Feel to Be Free” does a good job of moving various plots forward after the perfunctory wedding episode, but it’s those questions I’m perhaps most interested in. It’s nice to see a new face on Nashville shaking up what’s otherwise been a pretty dull season.