Episode 9: Be Careful of the Stones You Throw
By: Carlos Uribe
Nashville is a series about the country music scene and the political scene of Nashville.
There's a scene this episode where Rayna and Juliette meet to discuss their tour. The two are passive-aggressive towards each other, hiding their barbs behind layers of delicate sweetness. It's that scene where this episode really comes alive. This is a show that has proven that it's pretty amazing when it puts the two characters together but flounders when it comes to just about anything that isn't music. Don't get me wrong: the rest of the episode was entertaining. It just doesn't really leave a big impression nor is it particularly note-worthy. The mid-season finale had promised that there was finally going to be a tour with Rayna and Juliette but this episode doesn't pick up with the tour. It picks up with the few days before they actually leave. We get to sit as they tell their families and how this decision causes drama. We get to see how their personal lives are falling apart and how the two characters are using the tour to escape. This is good and all but I would have preferred if the episode had just picked up with them already on the road. Why? The promise of the narrative lies with Rayna and Juliette being forced to work together. These characters work together even if they don't necessarily belong. That's why their one scene stands out above the rest of the episode: it's the core of this series. That's what I want to watch. The rest is filler that isn't really interesting.
Rayna had started the series with a declining career but a happy personal life. She was forced to cancel her tour as she refused to take the steps that the studio demanded. Her husband started a campaign for mayor but the series concentrated more on her relationship with Deacon. Once Deacon was out of the picture, the campaign created a tension between Rayna and her husband when she discovered his financial secret. Her trust in him was shaken and this tore down their happy marriage. She wants to leave Nashville because she seeks to escape her personal life. A life where she's married to a husband she cant' trust and whom she has problems with. In other words, she's not happy. This could have all been very exciting to watch. Some of it was but it was often wasn't. This week, she spends the episode fighting her father and husband on whether she should take the kids or not. It's decided she won't when Teddy stands up to her father because Lamar had threatened to tell Maddie about her real dad. This convinced Rayna that she'll leave her daughters in school but her marriage with Teddy is on the brink of divorce. This is all drama that is leading to her decision to get out of Nashville but it's just not engaging enough to really hold my attention. This is because the personal drama is something that other dramas have been able to tackle better while at the same time presenting very little that is actually new. It's not like this week really was a large development in her personal situation. Her daughters might be staying home but all the same problems with her family remain. It really was all just filler and it felt like it too.
The Juliette plot felt less like filler. Juliette has always been defined by her mother issues. She not only hates her drug-addicted mom but she desperately wants to be in a family. When the mother of her football boyfriend told her that Juliette would never be accepted into the family because of her own family background, Juliette takes her issues and proposes to her boyfriend. It probably helps that she really wants to sleep with him. This episode picks up right after they eloped. The family of her new husband is upset but they decide there needs to be a proper wedding to avoid a public fiasco. Marrying her boyfriend with a mere piece of paper was a way for Juliette to try and force her way into a family but she's still not a part of it. She hasn't formed the bonds that make a family mean something as is proven when she decides to go on tour without telling her new husband. She doesn't even think it's a big deal because she doesn't realize that letting someone in is essential to be a member of a family. Having a wedding represents joining a family the proper way but it's not right for Juliette because it's not what she wants. This is because she's not happy, something only her drug-addicted mother made her realize. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Juliette decides she'll start going to the first city in her tour and leave her husband at the altar rather than go through with it. Of course, that's the Juliette plot in a nutshell: largely predictable. Her proposal might have come as a surprise but that's largely it. At least something meaningful happened in her plot compared to Rayna's status quo being reaffirmed.
Rayna and Juliette might be going on tour to escape their personal lives but Scarlett is being forced to face hers. She now knows that Gunnar likes her and she turned him down. In what should come as no surprise to anyone, this makes being his writing partner awkward. It's a good thing that someone is there to remind Gunnar that he won't have a career with Scarlett or he might have ended the partnership to get over her. Scarlett has problems concentrating until she goes and sleeps with Avery before finding out he quit his band to get the contract deal. This reminds her that he's a terrible human being and she's able to write a good song out of it. As for Avery, I've realized now what the writers are going with him. He's not meant to be a villain but a character who can't help but hurt the people he cares about because of his own self-centeredness. It's not the most original character but it does make him more interesting take than just a guy whose jealous of his girlfriend's success. Oh, and Scarlett might be joining Avery's band because apparently we care about it. Overall, this plot continues to feel like it's contributing nothing to the show because it remains so far removed from everything else that's happening. That it's predictable isn't really helping matters.
Scarlett's uncle isn't happy either. Deacon is on tour with the rock and roll band. He's trying to adjust to this new lifestyle but it's not satisfying him. He complains that being in the band is loud and that he just needs time in order to get used to it but it's obvious the problem lies deeper than that. He's simply not content. This could have easily been established with a few scenes but the episode felt the need to introduce a new reporter to restart a relationship with him. Which is fine except I don't really care who Deacon is sleeping with at the moment. The episode ends with him staring out the window and he's probably thinking about how he was joining that Rayna-Juliette tour. Since that would mean he's a part of the show with the other main characters, I'm wishing that as well. A series might have sub-plots and temporarily separate characters from the universe but it always needs to bring them back at the end. This is no problem if the is trying to show how the universe needs the character as much as the character needs the universe but so far we're only seeing how Deacon needs to be a part of the tour and not vice versa. This makes his plot feel more like it's just giving him something to do before he finds w way to work with Rayna again.
The Nashville I'm interested in watching is the one where Rayna and Juliette are interacting. The Nashville I keep getting is one that promises that's going to happen but is stuck trying to actually get there. Now that the characters have boarded the plane to their tours, we can only hope that Nashville can finally begin to tell the tale that the pilot promised. This episode may have largely been a lot of stalling in order to get to the tour and it was competently entertaining-and it's the ending that really excites me.