The slimy new head of Edgehill recruits the reality TV version of Juliette while luring Will away from Rayna
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Change is in the air on tonight’s second episode of season 2, “Never No More,” as a leadership change on their label threatens both Rayna and Juliette. Nineteen-year-old American Hitmaker runner-up Layla Grant (Ashley Peeples, fresh off the shores of Sharknado) shows up as the new teacher’s pet — anyone else notice how she was so familiarly petting Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson)’s shoulder at his party?

Layla’s an obvious threat to Juliette as they’re aiming for the same tween demo, not to mention all we’ve seen Layla do is a sultry and somewhat sloppy karaoke cover of one of Juliette’s own songs. I was so grossed out here; props to Juliette for reining in her horror. (Is Layla’s version of “a Juliette Barnes classic” supposed to be the same single that stole the No. 1 chart spot from Juliette in the middle of the record label party? How absolutely absurd!)

But the reality TV product clearly got under Rayna’s skin, too. I loved Connie Britton’s “thoughtfully infuriated” gaze during Layla’s performance — and subsequent “F*ck you!” air-cheers towards new label head Jeff. Now that Will Lexington has been lured away from Highway 65 by Jeff’s promises of a “full court press,” Rayna seems poised to break away from Edgehill entirely.

Prediction: Juliette will eventually split off from Edgehill too and go with Rayna. A common enemy in a suit can work wonders for two starlets in sparkly gowns — especially since they already agree that this new Harvard-educated bean counter is an ass.

See, Juliette is still on this evolution kick — she wants to move away from bubble gum and glitter. But her new boss doesn’t, because those tween-girl commodities are what move records. He loves them. Jeff Fordham goes home at night and rolls around lustfully in huge piles of glitter, thousand-dollar bills, hair product, and gum. His mansion is a disaster.

NEXT: Rayna and Deacon visit their non-gravesite {C}

Sick of talking about the Saint in a Coma whenever she did a talk show (hey, Conan O’Brien!), Juliette scooted away in her private plane to film a CMT special in the last Rayna-free zone in America: the Alabama trailer park where Juliette had grown up. Sporting down-home French braid pigtails and a hearty outpouring of what seemed like non-crocodile tears, Juliette got in touch with her roots, both personal history- and hair-wise.

And despite yelling at both a silent Avery (“Shut up!”) and a trying-to-help Avery (“Just trying to sell records,” she said, tears in her eyes), she definitely needs her lead guitarist around for all private matters right now. They’re friends. It’s such a foreign term to Juliette that she needs to repeat it out loud.

I like this development. Not every guy in Juliette’s house needs to be burrowing under her bedsheets.

Meanwhile, Deacon and Rayna are growing further apart. “I don’t know if I’ll ever talk to him again,” Rayna told her sister in the episode’s funniest moment. Well, that prediction lasted about 30 seconds, but nice try. You get a new lease on life; you’ve gotta dream big.

The former lovers met up at the mini-memorial at the site of their car accident. Rayna’s been healing, but Deacon’s been raging — mostly on the inside (whenever punching bag Scarlett’s not around). “I didn’t know who else to call,” he told her. “I don’t want it to be you, but… it always has been.” Awwwww.

But Rayna wasn’t having it. “We’ve been through this so many times. We’ve tried so hard. We’ve just brought each other so much grief. And we didn’t die here.” She sees the accident as an opportunity to move forward, while the hopeless and somehow still sober Deacon sometimes feels like they did die that night. He needs her; she doesn’t want him.

“I don’t think we can save each other,” Rayna concludes. “We each need to save ourselves.” He didn’t look angry, just resigned, and understanding as Rayna handed him back (I think) that engagement ring he hadn’t remembered offering her so many years ago. “Always thought we might need this someday,” she said before coolly walking off in some of her amazing boots. Deacon listlessly tossed the ring into the heap of sentimental crap.

If Deacon would’ve just listened to his new boss lady Scarlett, he could have used his left arm, which was tangled up in blue until Deacon finally decided to saw off his own cast himself at the end of the episode. Scarlett was feisty tonight! “You’re a damn fool!” she yelled as he set up a fire sale of the guitars he would supposedly never play again. “Your father was an angry, bitter old drunk — and look at you: a stone cold image of him, stone-cold sober. YOU TELL ME what throwing away 13 years of sobriety was worth!” Hell yeah, mop head!

“You didn’t lose a limb. Man up. Don’t be a coward.” Scarlett left for the party before she could remind Deacon that he is not a doctor and should probably not conduct his own physical therapy regimen… on his most cherished old guitar. No matter! He’ll be fine. He’s Deacon! Well, at least he’ll stay alive. As Deacon does.

NEXT: Why Will can’t drive Highway 65 {C}Will gets a home visit from mystery man/all-signs-point-to-stalker Brent, a marketing and PR guy whom Jeff Fordham claims he had to “lure away from L.A.” to come work with him in Nashville. We almost learned the Brent scoop in Will and Gunnar’s apartment, but Gunnar was in the thick of one of his whining spells. No harm done: There’s Brent at their door, moments later. “I know what you’re afraid of, but you don’t have to be,” he told Will. Brent understands what an asset Will is to the label as “the ladies man,” and he’s “not gonna be the guy who ruins that.” Foreshadowing… because I’m sure Will will be the one to ruin that himself by hopping back into bed with this guy pretty soon down the line.

Sure, he wants the money and fame, but was part of Will’s decision to defect from Rayna’s “farm team” and join “the majors” the fact that this way he’ll be working closely with this Brent guy? Maybe he just wants to keep an eye on him. But, like, no way. Both eyes. On all of him. Their spark was palpable; I’m glad we got to see more of it up close.

Poor Gunnar wrote a song about his dead brother — a plot device seemingly thrown in just to give newcomer waitress/Scarlett’s childhood friend Zoey something to talk to Gunnar about. But Will seemed affected, too, by the way Gunnar can come up with something so heartfelt, well-constructed, and fast when true inspiration strikes. Will he employ Gunnar as the “voice” behind his “act”?

Maddie is still “icing out” Rayna, and when they finally talk, it doesn’t go so well. “My mom’s a liar, my biological dad’s an alcoholic, and my dad isn’t even my dad. What’s confusing about that?” It is not all that confusing when she puts it that way, but I can see Maddie internally freaking out about who she “really is” and what her future holds now that she knows more about her genes. I’m looking forward to the inevitable Deacon-Maddie scenes that Maddie won’t admit she wants and needs. I can see Chip Esten and Lennon Stella will be able play tense and heartwarming really well.

How soon will Rayna dissociate from Edgehill? Can Juliette and Avery remain friends? Does anyone else have trouble remembering Teddy’s name at this point?


Episode Recaps

Legendary music icon Rayna Jaymes struggles to maintain her place in the spotlight while dealing with the ambitious rising pop vixen Juliette Barnes.
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