Nashville recap: 'A Little Bit Stronger'
Put on your Sunday best: Juliette is off to church
Stalkers! Teenage drama! The return of old flames! What are we waiting for? Let’s get sucked right into this week’s episode of Nashville.
In the Jaymes-Claybourne household, high-tech security is being installed right along with ex-Army security guys. They’re taking no risks when it comes to Rayna’s delusional stalker. Maddie, being her self-involved self, is worried the stalker might be after her, too, but one second later, she’s more interested in heading off to her room to call Clay. When Rayna suggests she stick around and talk more about security, Maddie flies off the handle, claiming that Rayna hates Clay even though she barely knows him. Rayna says she just thinks that at 24, he’s too old for 17-year-old Maddie. To which Maddie responds, “You guys clearly hate him because he’s black.” Wow. There’s a lot of racial discrimination going on in the country right now, but it would never come from the open-minded, kind-hearted Rayna. Her facial expression in the moment says it all. Just look:
Honestly, it’s such an “eye-roll at Maddie” moment. Rayna responds that she doesn’t care if Clay’s green, blue, or purple, she still thinks a 24 year old dating a 17 year old is taking advantage. Then she makes this impassioned speech to further drive home her point:
“Not very long ago white people and black people had a very hard time trying to be in a relationship together… It was not easy, just like for gay people it wasn’t easy, but my God, the world has changed.” (Hear that, Pence?) “People can make choices that they didn’t use to be able to make, and that is an amazing thing. So if he was your age, I would say, ‘Yes, you go girl, you love whoever you want to love, that is great with me,’ but he’s not your age. He’s 24, and he’s too old for you.”
Cue the standing ovation. All Maddie has to say is that she’s going upstairs now. It’s one of three responses the girl has; the other two are, “That’s so unfair,” and, “I’m not a child.” Maybe they can just put one of those security guards on Maddie for a while and have them tell her war horror stories until she gains some perspective.
Over to another impassioned country singer: At her physical therapy session, Juliette is being an impatient patient, but she is walking around on crutches when Hallie comes to visit her later, so she’s definitely making progress. Juliette tells her “angel” that she has a great voice and asks why she’s never pursued it. Hallie answers that she has in her own way and invites J to come and see her in action at the community center in a few days. But first Juliette decides to go to church with Hallie – an experience she seems to wholeheartedly embrace. She sings along with the congregation and knows all the lyrics to the gospel songs. Meanwhile, Avery performs for the first time in forever, and some dude named Billy takes notice. He comes by while Avery is enjoying some breakfast afterwards to tell him that if he decides he’s ready for a real manager, he should give him a call. He then steals some of Avery’s bacon, which — “real manager” or not — is just not cool.
A few days later, down at the community center, the Nashville Chocolate Drops — Hallie’s band — are playing for some kids. Hallie is bopping along to the banjo and educating the kids on its history when Juliette arrives. She’s impressed and again mentions to Hallie that she should be recording. I, for one, cannot wait for this banjo-infused duet.
NEXT: A boy wants to text Daphne
Oh-em-gee, guys! For the first time ever (or possibly just this season), we get to see Daphne at school. This storyline needs to get so much attention going forward. Anyway, a little cutie is, like, totally into Daphne. His name is Flynn Burnett, and he wants to text the younger Jaymes sister – Jeanie told Emilia, who told her brother, who told Daphne’s pushy friend, who is now relaying all of this information to Daphne. But when new crush Flynn stops by Daphne’s locker to ask for her number, she loses her capacity to talk and ends up rushing away flustered.
And then things really get dramatic. Daphne and her pushy friend are hanging out when Flynn makes a second attempt to talk to Daphne – well, Daphne actually asks him if he wants her number, to which he replies, “Not if you’re weird.” RUDE. Don’t worry, Daphne’s got this. “No weirder than you,” she retorts. Before they can get down to digit-swapping, creepy stalker approaches Daphne. NO, YOU WILL NOT RUIN THIS FOR ME (AND DAPH), STALKER MAN. He starts going on about being a close friend of her mom’s for many years until the kids all run away yelling for help. When Rayna and Deacon show up at the school, they’re a lot more concerned about the whole thing than cool-as-a-cucumber Daphne is. She doesn’t even take advantage of the opportunity to go home early — mostly because Flynn is waiting for her outside the principal’s office. Ah, super-young love!
Things aren’t running as smoothly for big sis Maddie and her boo. They’re having fun picking records and bartering for them at the market when Maddie brings up the topic of Clay’s mood swings. She doesn’t get it; he’s so well liked by everyone. He tells her that just because he’s good at putting on a show, that doesn’t mean he’s okay all the time. Maddie says she doesn’t want him to put on a show around her, but he counters that everyone is putting on a show and that she’s doing it right now. Of course Maddie denies that, but he points out that there are things she’s thinking about that she isn’t bringing up – e.g. that she’s scared of him. Maddie admits that she is a little scared and wants to know who started the fight with the racist dudes that he got into in the last episode. He asks if she thinks he’s going to hit her or something. Maddie tells him he’s an idiot, and he says he doesn’t hurt other people, only himself. Whoa. Poor Clay.
Later that day Maddie is clearly upset about the whole thing. She says she can’t talk to her mom about her relationship problems, but then she does so anyway. Maddie doesn’t get why people have to be so complicated. She admits to Ray that Clay has bipolar disorder and won’t take medicine because it suppresses his creativity. When Rayna asks how he treats Maddie, she freaks out, assuming her mom’s going to say that Clay is going to hurt her and that she should be with someone who’s not crazy — um, are we just voicing our own concerns here, Maddie? “Well you should be with someone who’s not crazy,” says Rayna. “If you can find one.” Maddie actually laughs. She says Clay is amazing, so sweet and smart, but then sometimes he’s completely gone. Well, Rayna says, she fell in love with a messed-up alcoholic and wasted years of her life trying to figure that out, so she’s not judging anybody. Helpful?
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In music biz news, billionaire boy Zach is admiring Rayna’s first gold record and boasting about his ability to find out all there is to know about a person — maybe not the best thing to tell someone who’s being stalked? Anyway, he’s discovered that Luke Wheeler is planning on selling his label, Wheeling Dealing Records, and Zach wants to buy it with Rayna for Highway 65. Ray’s hesitant on the grounds that she left Luke at the altar and he might not be so keen on selling to her.
Nonetheless, Rayna pays Wheeling Dealing Records’ superstar artist, Juliette, a visit. They’re sipping coffee and catching up when Ray asks J how she would feel about coming back to Highway 65 if she buys her present label. Juliette is flattered and surprised Rayna would want to work with her again after everything that happened. There’s a lot of water under that bridge, admits Rayna — maybe that’s the name of their next duet? Someone warn Adele. Juliette spills that she wants to make a gospel album next. Rayna’s like, “Whattttt? Really? But you’ve always been so mean to everyone and you look so great in short skirts!” Not really. She just think it’s a big change, but she believes whatever Juliette does next will be beautiful.
With Miss Barnes on board, all that’s left is to negotiate the actual purchase with Luke, and for that, we’re honored with a cameo from former series regular Will Chase. Luke Wheeler is onstage performing, looking all rugged and masculine — ugh, I miss him. Rayna gives him a wave from backstage, where she’s hanging with Zach. A sweaty-from-performing Will goes back there, too, and Zach follows him to his dressing room to flirt/tell him how well he’s going to do when they make Wheeling Dealing part of Highway 65. I’ve said it before: No one can resist Mr. Lexington this season.
NEXT: Will Luke make a deal?
Luke figures out pretty quickly why Rayna and Zach are there. Zach laughs in a little too high-pitched a tone when Luke jokes that he must have his office bugged to have found out that he’s interested in selling. He definitely does. Zach’s keen to close the deal, but Luke asks for a moment alone with Rayna. He asks his ex if she wants him to do this and if she trusts Zach. When Rayna says yes on both counts, he says he’ll sell the label to her because he trusts her and credits her for knowing that they weren’t right for each other. I feel like this is goodbye to Mr. Wheeler forever. Sigh.
Back at chez Jaymes-Claybourne, Maddie and Deacon are digging into some ice cream. Maddie questions her father about how to know when a relationship is right. He tells her to slow down, but Maddie has just realized that people are like whole worlds inside — they’re so big, they’re walking around with different histories and feelings and different ways of seeing things, and it just boggles her mind. I told you she’s deep. Deacon’s impressed she thought of all of this at just 17, but it all scares Maddie, and she doesn’t know how two people ever find common ground. Right then Clay calls and Maddie ignores it — she doesn’t know what to say to him right now. Clay leaves her a voicemail explaining that he gets it and it’s okay. He wants her to have the good life she deserves. People have way higher opinions of Maddie than I do, it seems.
Apparently that’s enough to convince Maddie that Clay is worth the risk, and she goes to find him performing. He says he didn’t expect to see her and she replies that she does the unexpected. Does she though? Ever? Anyway, he tells her she should let him go because he scares her, but she doesn’t think that’s a reason to give up on him. She wants to know that part of him. He tells her she’s making a mistake but kisses her anyway. Maddie says all this talk of mental illness and incompatibility is boring her, and can they go and do something fun? Or something along those lines, anyway. They skip off happily into the sunset.
Avery walks in on Juliette looking serene — she wears it well, he tells her. Church is having a great effect on her… mostly. Despite Avery being supportive about her newfound faith, she somehow manages to snap at him and accuse him of not actually wanting her to be happy. “As long as I’m miserable and suffering you’re totally fine,” she claims. Avery is right to point out that she’s being totally unfair; he’s been there every second, and he’s still here now that she’s better. She doesn’t bother to apologize just says that she feels a change happening inside, like she’s coming out of herself for the first time, and she’s afraid it’s going to go away and that people aren’t going to accept it. Just another confusing Avery-Juliette exchange, then. Thankfully, Emily comes in at that moment to show them an entertainment news report blasting the singer for seeking a higher power and claiming she’s a total cliché.
In spite of the press attention, Juliette dons her Sunday best and is off to church once more. Avery gets all suited up to accompany her. I’m sure he’s glad he made the effort when they get out of the car to a crowd of paparazzi. Once inside, Juliette seems overjoyed to be there. Question: Will serene, in-touch-with-her-spirituality Juliette make for as entertaining television as selfish and feisty Juliette?
One other loose thread that made its way into the episode was the return of the epic music video that we witnessed being shot last week. We’re not done with it quite yet. Scarlett goes to catch a glimpse in the cutting room before it heads out to the rest of the wide world. Just when you think she’s going to go on a rampage about how much she hates it (honestly, I wouldn’t blame her; she does appear a little crazed in the footage she watches), she turns to Damien and is amazed that he managed to capture who she really is on camera. It’s like she’s seeing who she really is on the inside – the way she sees herself in her mind. Damien looks as flabbergasted as I feel. Is Gunnar even in this video/band?
Nashville brought quite a few hot-button issues to light this episode. Here’s a quick summary:
- The right to carry arms: “You going to carry a gun?” Daphne asks Rayna when they’re discussing her stalker. Rayna immediately says no as Deacon says yes.
- Hostile attitudes toward the transgender community: Juliette’s therapist tells the singer that her dad wasn’t exactly accepting of her transition and believes God wouldn’t approve either.
- Mental illness: Maddie struggles to deal with being in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder.
- Race: Maddie unjustly accuses Rayna of disapproving of her relationship with Clay because he is black and she is white.
Here’s hoping all of these talking points are addressed more fully in upcoming episodes.