Episode 7: Lovesick Blues
By: Carlos Uribe
Nashville is a series about the country music scene and the political scene of Nashville.
Lovesick Blues is an episode that finally did something that the pilot promised: it forcibly united Rayna and Juliette to professionally work together. The head of the label company had really wanted to combine their tours but he found two obstacles and that was the two artists. Juliette is not only a difficult person but Rayna doesn't like or respect her. The pilot had set up that Rayna is at the top of the game but she's starting to fade while Juliette is a rising star in country music. There were promises of a war and the idea that they would be forced to come together. That didn't happen. The battle between them largely rested on who had Deacon but it never really worked as what we had expected. Deacon was too loyal to Rayna to ever leave her, no matter how hard Juliette tried to seduce him away. He's been in love with Rayna for his entire life trumped any action he was actually getting from Juliette. The battle was only settled when Rayna was forced to fire Deacon. That firing had nothing to do with Juliette but rather the political part of the show. This episode kind of makes sense on why the series was holding out on bringing them together. Rayna's fading star and financial insecurity might have been good enough to force them together but that didn't mean that Juliette had a reason to go along with the tour. Her publicity nightmare with the fingernail paint and being considered a bad influence on the football star she's dating has caused her promising career to take a hit. The episode had to ensure that both country stars were in a position where they would be forced to accept this. Rayna is black-mailed with a greatest hits album while Juliette's only opportunity to start playing again is by playing a duet with her. At the same time, getting to this point hasn't been the smoothest ride. The series seemed to be moving in a different direction than promised and that hurt the earlier episodes.
Why? The pilot had built in the Rayna and Juliette conflict as the core of the series. That's what the series is ultimately about: the two trying to be at the top of the country world. This desire is represented through their mutual dislike and disrespect towards each other's music. This episode was therefore alive whenever it dealt with the duet that the two have to perform at the anniversary party of the record label. Their interactions were simply the best part of the pilot and any subsequent episode and Lovesick Blues proves it. Rayna's passive aggressive attitude towards Juliette's blunt hostility help to create a tension that only these two characters can create. That's what makes Nashville worth watching: it's seeing these two forced to be in the same room together. I don't care about the political sub-plot or what's happening with Scarlett or Avery. I'm not interested to see what happens with any of the side characters at this point. It was a bit of a shock whenever the show took the focus back to any scenes with Teddy or Lamar and me wanting for it to immediately go back to Rayna and Juliette. That's the heart of the series and it's largely been missing until now. When the two are forced to write a song together, I was glued to the screen whenever the scene was about that. When the scene was on the sub-plot, it lost my attention. I was literally anticipating the scene where they performed their duet because I really wanted to see what song they created. It wasn't half-bad but it didn't matter because what did is that the two were pretending to like each other while on stage. The two might even enjoy working professionally with the other but the personal problems are still going to be there. Lovesick Blues is the best episode in a while for Nashville simply because it found the heart of the show and it focused on it.
The episode also continued the two other major sub-plots. The political plot is slowly moving forward. Coleman reveals to Teddy that he has photographs of a meeting with Peggy that makes it look like the two are having an affair. Coleman's terms is that Teddy drops out of the race or he'll rock Teddy's personal life. Teddy is justifiably worried because of what Rayna might think and because the photos might reveal his dull financial crime. Lamar's solution is for Teddy to start coming forward with Peggy and Rayna. Teddy does tell Peggy about the pictures and asks her to stay away. She's not very happy about this. Teddy doesn't tell Rayna by the time the episode ends because he wants to wait until after the concert ends. The problem with all of this is that it seems to disjointed from the rest of the series. By that, I mean it's too detached from the heart of the series. The political sub-plot works best when it directly affects Rayna. This week is all about promising how it will affect her and her career. It's okay to try and hype the scandal but it's not succeeding. The political sub-plot could have been an interesting exploration of Nashville politics but it's turning out to be a political world that can exist on any other show. That makes it uninteresting.
The other sub-plot is heading in a predictable manner. Scarlett is sad that she's broken up with Avery and there's multiple attempts at trying to get her to get over him. Gunnar's girlfriend forces Scarlet to go to the Blue Bird to try and have some fun. This involves getting drunk, going up on stage and singing her favorite song, and making out with a random guy. When a jealous Gunnar interrupts her from going father with the random guy, Scarlett is reminded that she seriously misses Avery. Her attempt to reconcile with him ends when she see catches him getting dressed after sleeping with his agent. The very agent he had promised he didn't sleep with her. While that's all very true, Scarlett definably doesn't believe him now. The episode ends with Scarlett telling Gunnar that she's ready to write a song again. This sub-plot was advanced in that it was the first episode where Gunnar's feelings for Scarlett actually manifested itself into action. It should come as no surprise where this is headed: Scarlett and Gunnar getting together. It's not that this sub-plot is being badly written but it's just been done to death a million times before.
Lovesick Blues is the best episode of the series since the second one. It's the first episode in a long while that shows that there is indeed an actual television series here rather than disjointed plots threaded together by a single city. All of this is because this is the first episode in a while where it was what Nashville is really about rather than some soap opera without any purpose or sense. Now if it can somehow bring the two sub-plots closer to the heart of the series then Nashville could really be a great drama. How does it do this? Have the political sub-plot actually affect Rayna and her career rather than promise that it will. It did this in one episode and it felt relevant and part of the show's unique fabric. Have the love triangle sub-plot be more about making it in the industry than it already is. As you might notice, the elements to bring the sub-plots into being more Nashville than generic are already there. It just needs to actually concentrate on them.