Photo: Mark Levine / ABC

Sad Songs Say So Much

What Nashville's songs say: Rayna's on the spot, Scarlett's frozen in the headlights, and Deacon's still in his own navel.

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Deacon

Deacon (Charles Esten) is still getting it on with Lawyer Megan (Christina Chang), when he's not considering investing in a guitar store; giving Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) back her schmancy guitar; refusing to go out on tour with her; and barging over to Rayna's (Connie Britton) house when Juliette -- not venally, in her defense -- lets it slip that Rayna probably can't sing anymore. He blares, "Can you sing?" at Rayna about fifty times, and why she doesn't inform Pill Bailey that it's no longer his goddamn concern, I have no idea, but Deacon's oh-woe-is-my-hand brooding has Epstein-Barr, it's so tired. It's also too boring to qualify as soapy:

Rayna, Lamar, and Tandy

She's still freaking out about the catching and tightness in her voice; the therapist points out that anxiety isn't helping matters, and her manager isn't helping that when he tells her that she has to invite Juliette to join the Opry, and also Summer's Jeff (Oliver Hudson) wants the masters to her new album to capitalize on goodwill from the accident.

Rayna's like, oh hell no, and marches over to Lamar's (Powers Boothe) to ask him for $20 million to buy herself out of Edgehill. Lamar's like, wow, but he's so thrilled that she finally asked for his help, he agrees. Tandy (Judith Hoag) is like, WOW, because she's signed an immunity deal with the feds in exchange for the evidence against her father that she provided -- not that she's allowed to tell Rayna that -- and she knows full well that money's not coming. She also doesn't tell Rayna that Lamar is going to get arrested in a hotel bar, while toasting his daughter, as Teddy (Eric Close) smugs smugly from a corner smug. (Teddy has almost nothing to do this episode but respond to Lamar's "you'll regret this" thundering with a brisk "No. I don't think I will," but he does that almost nothing so well. Loving Close's performance so far this season.)

As for Rayna's voice, well, Edgehill franchise artist Luke Wheeler (Will Close) kind of traps Rayna into performing at his benefit, and as Juliette looks on from the wings, horrified, Rayna flails about a bit, fearful and tearful, before -- of course -- coming back in at the chorus and belting it out. Then she tells Summer's Jeff to take his rumor-spreading and last-album marketing and shove it up his ass, moments before her manager is all, um, about that? Your dad's in federal holding, so...maybe dial that attitude back.

And Lamar's all "Teddy! Why I oughta" in the visitors room while Tandy looks nauseated.

A brilliant and unearned comeback; Oedipal issues surrounding an arrest; oaths of vengeance; big money and corruption.

Juliette

Tries to squeeze Layla (Aubrey Peeples) out of the tour by claiming she thinks it needs a male voice -- namely Will (Chris Carmack). Is a fucking boss in her meeting with Summer's Jeff, calling Layla "Mini-Me," but is also sweetly psyched about the Opry invitation…until she overhears Luke Wheeler calling her a flash in the pan, which forces her to stare at her mantel full of awards during a montage and wonder when she'll get the respect she deserves. I respect you, Short Stack. Come over. We'll drink vodka marts and prank-call people.

She also finds Avery (Jonathan Jackson) to apologize, telling him that now she knows how much it sucks to think someone has your back, but doesn't. …"Now"? Whatever: he accepts her apology, but not her tour-job offer, so she hands him the keys to her studio.

It's not that sudsy this week, but Panettiere can go from zero to Alexis in 2.6 seconds, bless her heart.

Scarlett, Will, Gunnar, Avery, Zoey, Bob, Ted, Carol, & Layla

All crammed together here because who cares. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) is chafing at the media training. Shocker. The press-line coach has to explain as though to a small child that, "in certain situations, the stammering comes across as folksy," but other times it's just annoying. Like times ending in "o'clock." Layla -- who apparently deferred Harvard to go on Faux-dol -- advises her just to be herself, but of course that goes over like a lead balloon, and Summer's Jeff makes a bunch of contorted faces in front of the entire press corps and yanks Scarlett away from them. Great "save," ass.

Summer's Jeff reams Scarlett for going "off book" and being naïve about ignoring press and promoters; Will glares, and later accuses Layla of sabotaging Scarlett, which, what? Then Scarlett goes home and sulkily plays banjo and sings with Deacon, who calls bullshit on her "I just want to write songs and comb my weave in private" thing.

Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Avery, meanwhile, have become friends or something, and play a song together, and Avery thinks it needs a female voice and suggests Zoey (Chaley Rose), and nothing "needs" Zoey, least of all Nashville, but of course it goes great, and she and Gunnar have beers and she tongue-bathes his songwriting, and he's all oh-shucksy, and then they fuck, and if this is Avery deliberately starting shit and whistling off to get back together with Scarlett? That is awesome. Zoey is not awesome, though. Zoey is boring and spends most of her scenes with Gunnar staring at him like he's a large bug.

Will locks up the spot on Juliette's tour, thereby getting himself out of Summer's Jeff's doghouse, and thanks Brent (Derek Krantz) a little too nicely, and it's a good thing there's no dialogue after that because the rushing of all Brent's blood to his groin would have drowned it out.

So, work rivalries; a bizarre love pentagram; Avery doing his best Lucy Coe impression…it's pretty dang soapy, but I had to knock a couple points off thanks to the tedium of ScarZo.

5.3
On The Agnes Nixon Surfactant Scale Reading
L'Occitane Bonne Mere
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