Deacon deals with everyone's issues
"NASHVILLE" - EPISODE 516Photo Credit: Jake Giles Netter/CMT
Credit: Jake Giles Netter/CMT
S5 E16
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Every once in a while, there's an episode of Nashville that really resonates emotionally, and this week's installment was one of them. That's not to say it wasn't without its faults — we'll get to Juliette's arc — but it dealt with the concept of familial grief really well. So let's break this one down by family:

Scarlett, Gunnar, and baby makes three

We start the episode with The Exes hitting up a gas station and Gunnar lamenting that they can't just keep driving to Sedona, Seattle, or Portland (all super long drives, G!). They're soon interrupted by journalist Natalie Morales — who will become a key player in this episode — reporting via Access Hollywood that the couple is potentially pregnant. But Natalie's just the start of their problems…

Later, in a clothing store, a group of teens flock to them to express how much they love Scunnar as a couple and take a bunch of pics. When they get home later, Scar and G-man decide to figure out what the term "shipper" means. They discover a Facebook page dedicated to their relationship — fans even dress up as them. Gunnar's not taking it too seriously, but, of course, Scar has a huge issue with everyone being in their business. She gulps down some coffee to battle her anxiety.

The next day, Scarlett goes to lunch with a journalist — presumably under the impression that they're going to be talking about The Exes' music and tour. The reporter questions Scar about how sexual the music video is, and Scarlett credits Damien for bringing it out of her. Journalist girl is all, "Oh, yeah, I totally get that," just begging Scar to ask if this journalist had a relationship with the Englishman. And of course, she did, and she is only too happy to go into detail. (This girl clearly didn't go to journalism school, or if she did, she slept through the class on interviewing.)

Anyway, apparently this girl never really got over her tryst with Damien. Despite Scarlett basically staying silent the entire time, the reporter still manages to arrive at the conclusion that Scar also had a relationship with Damien and that he's the baby's father. Scarlett is appalled at her audacity and walks out, but not before evil journo gleefully rubs her hands together and punches the air in triumph, exclaiming, "Exclusive scoop!" Okay, that doesn't really happen, but she's manipulative and mean and is totally ready to write up some sensationalized rendition of events. She's giving journalists a bad and inaccurate rep. Not cool, lady.

So it's not surprising when Gunnar storms in the next day brandishing an iPad (they walk around with those in hand way more down in Nashville than anywhere else). Natalie Morales is back in a segment with the headline "Trouble in Scunnarville." THEY STOLE MY COUPLE NAME. Who do I sue?? Anyway, Gunnar's mad because thanks to the mean lady reporter, everyone now knows he's not the father. Sigh. (Recap continues on page 2)

Juliette, Avery, and Hallie makes three

Hallie and Avery are having a hella good time in a jam session singing about corn bread and beans (no, really), until Juliette shows up all pissed that they're not working on Hallie's demo. Hallie explains impatiently that they finished it an hour ago and walks out. Avery catches up to her, and Hals explains she's sad because George (the married boyfriend) broke up with her last night — and oh, yeah, the song doesn't feel like her, but she wants to please J. Basically, lots of good things are happening to her, but she feels alone. Avery tells her he totally gets it — hey there, season 1 throwback!

When Juliette and Avery take the demo to Deacon, it doesn't come as much of a shock that he's not a fan because it just doesn't sound like Hallie. He's right; it sounds like a generic (if well-sung) pop hit. J tries to advocate for its crossover potential, but Deacon thinks artists should be true to themselves, and with this song they lose the authenticity that makes Hallie special. Avery knows what he means, but he tries to be diplomatic, while Juliette just plain thinks Hallie will fail if she takes risks and goes less commercial. There's more than a little projection going on here. J really wants to push Hallie to see what she's capable of,  but Avery says it's not the right song for her. Predictably, Juliette storms out, and in her wake, Deacon and Avery decide to go with Hallie's original sound; if she fails on her own merit, so be it.

Later, at home, Juliette's pissed at Avery for not having her back, but he points out she's being a crappy friend to Hallie and doesn't see her at all. Jules relents when she discovers Hallie has gone through a breakup and she didn't even know about it. She says she won't push her; Hallie can record her own stuff. Avery looks skeptical, and I don't blame him.

The next day, Hallie and Jules have lunch. Hals is thankful that J is letting her record her own music, and Juliette's surprised she already knows — and little ticked off that Avery called and told Hallie before she could. But for a brief, shining moment, it seems like Juliette genuinely wants to be there for her friend… for now.

And so, with J's consent, they get back in the studio a record a ballad that's much more Hallie. Avery is gazing at her, clearly pleased with the way it's turning out, when his wife shows up, takes one look at the scene, and walks out again, unseen by the other two. I'll be really disappointed if Nashville goes in the direction with this relationship that Juliette thinks it's going in. When Avery gets home, gushing about Hallie's voice, J tells him that she knows Hallie better than he does and that she's manipulating him; it's all an act to get what she wants. She even goes as far as to claim that Hallie used "a girl in a wheelchair" to get a recording contract. I can't even be bothered to rail against Juliette for this nonsense. It's a boring and played-out idea that Juliette can't handle someone else's success or someone catching Avery's attention. We've been here so many times before. All I'll say is her behavior is really ridiculous, and not in a juicy, "wow, can't wait to see more of this drama" kind of way. I'm just over it by now.

Anyway, when we get back to the studio, Hallie and Avery are all, "You're the best," "No you are," "No you," and Juliette is fuming. I don't blame her for wanting to get away from all of that sycophantic nonsense, but I do blame her for what happens next. She gets mad and tells Hallie she's not fooling anyone with her innocent act. She accuses her former savior of trying to wreck her life. Hallie tells her she's got problems, and she shouldn't take them out on the people who love her. Avery is "literally worried" about J at this moment (as opposed to figuratively worried?) and wants her to think real hard about what just happened. It's all so annoyingly inconsistent with her progression; isn't she supposed to be redeemed at least partially by now? I'm not trying to suggest that she should be perfect all the time just because she suffered a near-death experience, but at the very least, she is supposed to have a little bit more perspective. (Recap continues on page 3)

Maddie, Daphne, and Deacon makes three

Daphne is looking at her computer when Maddie comes bustling into her room to show her the graphics from her EP. Daphne panics when her sister grabs her laptop from her, and Maddie realizes why when she sees that the GIF of her was created on that very device. Daphne's reaction marks the beginning of an episode of really superb acting from Maisy Stella. She bursts into hysterical sobs, apologizing and pleading with her sister to relent when she kicks Liv out. Daphne runs after her homeless friend, and they have an emotional goodbye and hug it out as Daphne continues to bawl.

When Deacon gets home, Maddie tells him that Daphne was involved in her cyberbullying, and he's maaaaaad. Daphne gets hysterical again, even more so when Deacon confiscates her cell phone for a month. Of course, Maddie doesn't think it's punishment enough for ruining her life. They both walk away mad at Deacon.

The next morning, Maddie is inundated with interview requests, but she isn't excited about it, believing all they'll want to talk about is the incident with the cop. When she gets up to leave, Deacon tries to remind her that she's having a moment and tells her to appreciate and enjoy it. She says she's trying, but her grief for her mother comes in waves. Deacon totally gets it, saying that they all lost everything. It's a small moment, but a great one. There's nothing worse in a television show than when characters move on from a life-shattering loss all too easily.

Continuing in that vein, Maddie seems happy in her interview, but when she gets back to her car and is alone, she breaks down in tears. At home, Daphne tries on her mom's jewelry before curling up in a ball amidst Rayna's sweaters and falling asleep in the walk-in closet. It really is heartbreaking.

Over dinner the next night, Maddie and Daphne get into it. Daph accuses her older sister of only caring about herself (she's not wrong) and feels like she just doesn't matter to Maddie at all. They both cry, and Daph runs out in tears. Poor Deacon. I so want Maddie to remember she's the older sister in this situation, acknowledge that they're both dealing with the same pain, and go after her sister. Instead, she heads out for a while. A befuddled and wearied Deacon is at a loss. Charles Esten's acting is up there with Maisy's. He looks quietly devastated.

And now he has to deal with Scarlett too. She's drinking more coffee (I thought pregnant people were supposed to avoid caffeine?) and worried about the world thinking she's a slut. But soon she pivots to the topic of her ultrasound and finding out she's having a girl. She's now realizing that this s—'s real and she needs to be a strong mother figure. Deacon convinces her she's stronger than she thinks, and all she has to do is love her daughter and the rest will follow, before adding that he feels thoroughly inept as a parent. If there's ever an episode of Nashville where I don't say, "Poor Deacon," I'll buy a Stetson just to eat it.

And now, for Maddie's most redeeming moment ever. I swear I'm going to be so nice about her from here on out. She goes to Daphne and apologizes "for everything she ever did to hurt her." She admits that despite all the success coming her way, she's just not happy because she misses her mom every minute. She tells Daphne she couldn't possibly lose her too, that she needs her. Little cutie Daphne responds that she needs Maddie too, but she thought she was already gone. They cry some more (props for great acting all around) and hug it out. Tight. Then they put on their ripped jeans and go to the squat spot to find Liv. They're unsuccessful in convincing her to come back with them. Another abandoned storyline, Nashville? I kind of hope so; girl's annoying. Or maybe she'll get into some serious trouble, and the Jaymes family will rescue her. One or the other.

I love Deacon so much. He comes home with Chinese food to try to fix things — smart dude — only to find the girls have already made up. They sit down for a family meal, and then the sisters head off to the studio and record a song together about guidance and learning from mistakes. Let me know in the comments if, like me, you listened to it over and over again on repeat. Seriously, it's one of the best songs on Nashville in a while.

As the instant classic plays, we have a montage of Hallie eating alone and crying on the kitchen floor; Juliette sobbing on the couch; Scarlett grocery shopping and seeing her face plastered on the front of a magazine cover; and Gunnar looking at the couple's fan page on Facebook, pausing when he sees an early pic of them. (Just as a personal aside, I really wish Scarlett would grow out her hair. For some reason, she was more likable with luscious locks. Just me? Well, maybe me and Gunnar — he looks pretty longingly at that old pic.) Deacon sees the girls recording together and smiles, but when he retreats to the couch, he has that familiar look of devastation on his face. Ughhhh, it's all just so sad still. I'm not crying; you are.

And that's where we leave one of the stronger and more compelling episodes of Nashville in a while. Kudos to the Jaymes girls and to Deacon for bringing the emotion. Let's hope next week is just as good!

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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