Nashville premiere recap: 'The Wayfaring Stranger' / 'Back in Baby's Arms'
It’s time to head back to Nashville, country music fans.
Last we heard from Juliette, her plane had gone missing. It was quite the cliffhanger ending, made even more suspenseful by the subsequent cancellation of the show. Thankfully, CMT picked up the country drama — so we’ll get to find out what happens to the blonde diva, though not right away. As is only right, Rayna opens the show.
The country queen pulls into a gas station in the middle of nowhere, all dressed down in a baseball cap and muscle tee, (more Tami Taylor than Miss Jaymes) where she comes across an old, blind crooner singing “The Wayfaring Stranger” — only Rayna’s favorite country song ever! She has herself a little moment and is clearly moved by the music, but why are we at a random gas station with a blind stranger? Let’s head back in time by three weeks to the wreckage of Juliette’s missing plane smoldering in the middle of a field.
It turns out Juliette is the sole survivor of the crash. She’s been found by a local woman who sings to her while she implores the barely conscious singer to hold on; help is on the way. It works. Soon a teary Avery is waking up Gunnar and Scarlett and rushing off to the hospital, while every other member of the cast watches a news report on television.
Three weeks later we’re in Juliette’s hospital room, where she’s wheelchair-bound and being talked into making some television appearances by Glenn. (Time and place, Glenn.) She’s suffered a nasty break to her leg, a deep cut to the forehead (but the roots of her hair look like they’ve been touched up nicely), and having shattered two of her vertebrae, has no feeling from the waist down except a slight tingle in her toe.
Meanwhile, Rayna’s “having a day.” She stops by to see Juliette, who’s trying to believe the medical staff when they tell her she’s lucky, but mostly she feels like she deserves what she’s going through, that she caused the accident because she messed everything up in her life. Rayna’s kind enough not to roll her eyes. Juliette tells her she was saved by an angel who sang to her to keep her alive, and Rayna points out an angel wouldn’t have saved her life if she were doomed.
After that uplifting trip to the hospital, Rayna’s day only gets better. Down at the Highway 65 office, Bucky is the bearer of bad news. Basically, the label’s hemorrhaging money. Between it costing them $275,000 to free Maddie from her contract with Lennox Hill records — have they met her? I feel like I’d pay someone that much to take her off my hands — and The Exes getting kicked off Autumn’s tour, there’s no revenue coming in. Highway 65 is bracing for some “very big bumps” in the road…
… which leads Rayna to the dark place of watching aspiring artists on YouTube. The newly super-positive Deacon appears to try reassuring her it’ll all be okay. He’s all “We’re so blessed, we have each other, blah blah blah,” but Rayna is not about failing. So, she jets off to Silicon Valley to make some quick cash performing for a tech-billionaire megafan. As she’s leaving, the ever-sensitive Maddie calls out to her to “fly safe” — words that are no comfort to Rayna later, when her plane hits a spot of turbulence and she suffers a panic attack.
NEXT: Rayna endures the Silicon Valley treatment
Enter tech billionaire Zach Welles as a distraction/someone to add to her turmoil. Sporting a hoodie under his blazer jacket (standard tech-guy getup), he tries to dazzle Rayna with some gourmet green room snacks and then fesses up that he’s a self-confessed “insane out-of-control fanboy.” That doesn’t sound creepy at all. Turns out the one crazed fan is the only country music fan in Silicon Valley. Zach is the only one bopping his head along when Rayna performs.
Later over a drink, Zach fills in Rayna on his social awkwardness as a teen and tells her she should be recording because he wants to hear anything she wants to sing. (Seriously, the kid needs to develop some chill.) Rayna admits she’s not recording anymore because she doesn’t have anything to say and is feeling the pressure to stay relevant. Poor Ray is forgetting who she is as an artist.
Back in her hotel room, she calls Deacon — who’s sitting guitar-in-lap — to tell him she can’t get on a plane tomorrow. He tries to convince her not to give in to her fear and says they’ll talk again in the morning…in person. That thoughtful husband Deacon caught the last flight across the country (aren’t they short on cash?) to accompany her home. Despite being happy to see him, Rayna is still feeling too overwhelmed to fly. She needs the drive home to think and remember who she is. If the name of her next single isn’t “The Long Drive Home,” I’ll eat my Stetson.
Back in the ‘Ville, Juliette is home and telling Avery he doesn’t have to stay with her. When he protests that he loves her and is there for good, she responds, “We’ll see how you feel in a few weeks.” Jules, babe, if he can take you back after sleeping with Jeff Fordham, I think he’s pretty much in it for the long haul. But after she dozes off and has some terrifying flashbacks to the crash, she feels an overwhelming compulsion to return to the scene of the accident and demands Avery drive her there. They trudge through the field looking for any remnants of the wreck, but there’s nothing to see. Juliette breaks down in Avery’s arms, questioning why she survived when no one else did.
After a nap in the car, they’re driving back to Nashville when they stop at a juice stand on the side of the road for a smoothie. Juliette overhears some singing coming from across the street at the church. She rolls herself over in her chair to get a closer listen, and lo and behold! There’s her angel singing a solo accompanied by the church choir. She tears up, watching in awe from the back of the church.
In other news, Maddie is having a nightmare of a time trying to write a song and is refusing all help from eager lil’ sis Daphne. It takes some words of wisdom from seasoned pro Scarlett for Maddie to accept her sister’s contribution and apologize to her way-more-mature kid sister. They sit down and play a nice little duet together. Isn’t it great when everyone gets along? Love literally makes music on this show.
And we’ve come full circle. Rayna’s back at the gas station in the middle of nowhere, listening to the old man sing her favorite song and telling her she should let herself sing because it’s good for the soul — and she might just find the joy she’s looking for. It’s like he’s reading her mind or soul or emails… Wait, that’s Zach.
So, is Rayna inspired by the techie whiz kid and old crooning stranger to start making music again?
Let’s find out right now — there’s another episode coming up.
NEXT: Scarlett and Gunnar don’t know how to be happy together anymore
Let’s break this second hour down by couple:
Scarlett and Gunnar
It’s early morning at Gunnar’s place and Autumn Chase is interrupting a sleeping Gunnar and Scarlett with some persistent text messaging, asking Gunnar to rejoin her tour. (Another person on this show who needs to develop some chill. Maybe someone should introduce her to Zach.) Scarlett’s none too pleased and just generally struggling with trying to define their relationship.
Her mood doesn’t improve when The Exes-but-not-exes arrive at Highway 65 for a career update. Rayna wants them to release their song “All Of Me” next and debut it on an upcoming radio show appearance. Gunnar’s game, but Scarlett’s hesitant and, later, pretty pissed about the whole thing. She can’t figure out which of Gunnar’s previous girlfriends he wrote the song about. She basically acts like an irrational teenager (she’s been spending too much time with Maddie) and attacks Gunnar for dating other people after she turned down his proposal and broke up with him. She goes as far as to yell that singing the song makes her want to slap the living hell out of him. Gunnar’s at a loss and exasperated by her constant hot-and-cold behavior.
After a good old chin wag with Mr. “Been Through It All When It Comes To Relationships” Deacon, Scarlett realizes she’s not letting herself enjoy what she and Gunnar have now because she’s still thinking about how badly it all went before. Deacon reassures her things will work out, and then she’s off to plant a kiss on Gunnar at the radio station and get down to performing the song that’s probably not about her. Talk about whiplash.
Will and Kevin
It’s Will’s birthday and he’s getting free chocolate cake at a fancy restaurant with his boo, Kevin, when Jacob Fine — the top menswear designer in the country — stops at his table to compliment him for coming out in the country music industry. He invites Will to a trunk show and rather rudely blows out his birthday candle, robbing the birthday boy of his wish. The arrogance! Will pretends not to have noticed Jacob’s flirting when Kevin points it out, but his eyes follow Jacob as he walks away and his interest is clearly a little piqued.
The boyfriend-of-the-year award should go to Kevin, who encourages Will to go to the designer’s party — it can’t hurt his career to have some fancy threads, right? At the party, Jacob dresses Will in Fine (get it?) clothes and hits on him. They almost kiss before Will puts a stop to it; kindly Jacob leaves the offer open. Will feels guilty about it because part of him wanted to, but when he later takes the issue to Gunnar, he advises him to keep it from Kevin. Sigh. That one will be back to haunt you, Will.
Instead of coming clean (even though there’s an easy moment when he could) Will makes grand plans to move in with Kevin and get a dog together instead. Healthy.
NEXT: Juliette finds her angel
Juliette and Avery
Juliette is trying to feed Cadence when Avery tactlessly suggests trying the airplane action with the spoon. Way too soon. She’s getting angsty about her self-described “cripple” status and once again tells Avery she doesn’t expect him to stick around to deal with her for long. We’ve been over this, Juliette. Am I the only one who remembers Jeff Fordham? All Juliette has on her mind is thanking the “angel” who saved her. Just one problem: She doesn’t want to risk going out in public where people might see her in the wheelchair. Avery tries to remind her that all that matters is she’s alive, that she survived, but she’s not about it.
So, she has her assistant Emily drive her to the church where she saw the woman sing and talks with the pastor. He tells Juliette her name is Haley, but won’t give out any personal details since she doesn’t want any media attention. Agreeing to pass on Juliette’s thanks and cell number, he pauses to assure the young country singer that God has a great plan for her. Juliette seems genuinely intrigued. And we begin her season-long story arc about finding Jesus.
Rayna and Deacon
After hours of driving through canyons and deserts, Rayna returns to Nashville with a clearer mind. She’s come up with a plan to get her music flowing again. She wants to write her and Deacon’s story together for a concept album, laying everything bare. Neither Deacon or Bucky are keen on the idea — Deacon wants to keep all that pain private and Bucky would rather pair Rayna with someone more commercially viable who can actually sell some records. Ouch.
Rayna pressures Deacon to think about it and then gives him approximately three seconds to do so before she’s badgering him for an answer. He eventually relents and says he’ll do whatever she wants, but that’s not what Rayna wants. She wants him to want to do this because he wants to. (Confused?) Deacon points out there are only two ways this can go — her way, or he lives with disappointing her again. Yikes. Poor Deacon. He’s been so upbeat and positive since the season started (an entire episode!) and now Rayna’s dragging him down with her persistence. He even tells Rayna: “It’s your world, I just live in it.” I thought it was Beyoncé’s world and we all just lived in it? But he does have a point. Finally, she sees where he’s coming from.
Rayna tells him he’s the heart and soul of everything she does, and she’s sorry she made him feel trapped. Gotta give it to her, she’s good at apologies. Then he totally one-ups her by playing an apology song. He didn’t send her the flowers she thanks him for, though. Maybe they were from crazy billionaire Zach, who called her earlier in the episode to say he’d be in town soon and wants to “hack her cloud” (tech speak for “pick your mind”) about the music industry.
Rayna heads off to work — and who’s sneakily watching her from his car while listening to her music? Well, we don’t find out yet. But it’s either Zach or Highway 65’s new social media and digital marketing manager, who seems to have attended the same school of Rayna obsession. Which tech expert will it be? Do they have a club? Are they trying to hack her record label? Have I been watching too much Mr. Robot? Time will tell. All I know for sure is someone’s going to lop off Rayna’s red curls and sleep with them under their pillow before we hit the midseason mark.