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While Nashville is a show that's at least in part about music, and Dancing with the Stars is a show that at least in part has music…this is weird, isn't it? And if ABC was going to insist on making it happen, couldn't they at least give us Carlton?
In their excitement at the cross-promotion possibilities, the folks at ABC probably didn't take into account that a Rayna Jaymes Dancing with the Stars appearance would set a rather corny tone for an otherwise excellent episode. (Though, in fairness, I bet my parents LOVED it.)
My biggest complaint about Nashville lately has been that the superb music that was such a hallmark of the first two seasons has taken a bit of a backseat. This episode was a return to form, with beautiful numbers that reflected and deepened the arcs of several characters. One standout was this gem featuring ever-more-delightful Scarlett and newcomer Terry George, played by Bubba Gump himself, Mykelti Williamson.
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Scarlett nabs the formerly homeless Terry (who's now in a shelter, hooray!) from his job selling papers to co-write with her, and in the process learns that he was a touring musician who gave up his career after his family was killed in a car crash while driving to see him. She encourages him to return to the stage at the Bluebird, where he doesn't buy her "scratchy throat" excuse and gets her to join him. And so we see these two stage-shy performers, still tentative, working through their troubled musical pasts and beginning to find some healing. It's lovely, and represents real heart of the show (well, other than pork blood), and I hope the trend continues.
Other characters had plot- and narrative-deepening numbers, too! All of them, you may be surprised to learn, are actually blues songs.
The "Oh Shit, My Daughter and Her Stepbrother Are Making Out and a Rolling Stone Reporter Is Here to See It" Blues
Rayna has exactly one weekend to spend with Luke and her family, but can't turn away the opportunity for a "day in the life" cover story from Rolling Stone. And so a reporter shadows her, much to the chagrin of Luke (and of Juliette, who throws a hormonal fit in Rayna's office with said reporter looking on). The real kicker comes, however, when Rayna, Luke and the reporter return home to find Maddie and soon-to-be stepbrother Colt making out on the couch. To prevent the reporter from running with it, Rayna offers up "the story of Deacon Claybourne." So, that's probably going to be a big hit with everyone. Kudos for us finally getting to see that Luke's daughter Sage actually exists, though!
The "Reality TV Is Ruining My Life, Just When I Was Starting to Feel a Little Better About Being a Closeted Cowboy's Beard" Blues
Poor Layla Grant! She was such a hot mess when we last saw her, but in the two months that gay husband Will has been on the road, she's discovered the benefit of channeling your pain into music (and what a stunner of a song she sang, eh?), thus tapping into previously unknown talents. She and Will were even getting along! And then came the premiere of their reality show, Love & Country, in which she looks like a total dumb-ass who can't operate a manual can opener. Kudos for all the shots of shirtless Will, though.
The "It Turns Out the Mother of the Kid I Didn't Even Know I Had for a Decade Is a Total Deadbeat" Blues
Gunnar is really enjoying the opportunity to bond with his newfound 10-year-old son, Micah. Zoey, not so much. Neither of them, however, really thinks it's cool that Micah's mom, Kiley, is dropping him there nearly constantly so she can go see the out-of-town boyfriend that she met, like, on Christian Mingle. Said boyfriend breaks up with Kiley when she tells him she had a kid (which is probably less about the fact that she has a kid and more about the fact that she's been dating him for three months without telling him that she has a kid). So Kiley decides to go the deadbeat mom route, and leave the kid altogether. If you genius commenters are right and it turns out the kid isn't even actually Gunnar's, Zoey is going to be EXTRA pissed.
The "I Just Want My Baby Daddy to Do Lamaze with Me" Blues
Juliette and Avery can't agree on anything having to do with their baby-in-utero. And while he's at first interested in Lamaze, when he realizes that he actually will have to get near and possibly touch Juliette as part of the classes, he's out. Despite the little person growing inside her, Juliette feels lonelier than ever. Rayna encourages her to put it all in a song, and we get another stellar, heartbreaking number. When Avery stops by to deliver a crib (which, by the way, was that called the "Delta Berkley"? And is that a reference to Delta Burke? And why aren't there MORE references to Delta Burke? And is Delta Burke still alive?) he hears Juliette's mournful song, and soon enough they're in Lamaze classes together, hooray! He feels a baby kick and melts, and hopefully the baby will soon kick him in the actual butt and he'll finally get back together with Juliette.
The "Pam Ups Her Game" Blues
So, I have been very skeptical of this Pam character, because obviously it's a personal affront to viewers if Deacon finds happiness with anyone other than Rayna. But then it turns out she's kind of reasonable, giving Deacon his space in Nashville when their tour has a break for a few days, and even listening calmly to him talk about how he'll never really get over Rayna. And she seems cool with Deacon's position that "the road's not real life or real love," which will probably make him like her MORE, which probably means that we're not rid of her yet. And WE might even start to like her too! Curses.
Next week: It's the fictional version of the CMA Awards!