Every week in Slate’s Nashville TV club, Katy Waldman will have an IM conversation with a different Nashville fan. This week, Slate assistant editor L.V. Anderson returns to discuss episode 1.13.
Katy Waldman: Welcome back, Laura! How was your sojourn in Nashville this Valentine's Day eve?
L.V. Anderson: Let me tell you, Katy, it was like taking a vacation from my life. But then I found myself locked in a bathroom with mascara running down my face. There were highs and lows, is what I'm trying to say.
Waldman: I bet you cry pretty, though. Should we start with highs and move to lows? I was personally very gratified by Liam's return, and even happier that he and Rayna could be intimate without being (especially) physical.
Anderson: What?! Are you saying you're not disappointed that they didn't go all the way? (Consummate their work marriage, if you will?)
Waldman: That is exactly what I'm saying! It would have felt too easy for them to hook up, somehow—just another soapy twist. I like the notion that they are temperamentally, rather than carnally, suited to each other.
Anderson: From a purely selfish perspective, as a viewer who loves seeing Michiel Huisman and Connie Britton practically burn down the set with their smoldering chemistry, I think putting the kibosh on their near-assignation was a good thing. (I'm impressed, by the way, by how well Rayna seems to hold her alcohol—she remembered all the intricacies of the two-step, managed to resist the advances of a very attractive man, and remained attentive to her lip gloss, despite ostensibly being shit-faced. Being drunk: Yet another thing Rayna James does better than everyone else.) If they had hooked up drunkenly, their working relationship would have imploded, right? So I'm happy that delaying (what I hope is) the inevitable will lead to us seeing more of Liam, as they work on the second half of that album.
But what this means, of course, is that Liam is no longer someone who "doesn't know a damn thing about" Rayna. That reversal—that Liam went from being someone who Rayna thinks doesn't know her at all to being the only person who knows she's divorcing her husband—was acute.
Waldman: What I want to know is: Will Liam settle into the role of sexy-but-Platonic confidante better than Deacon has? I’m getting sick of D as the wise philosopher-mentor dispensing life lessons to Juliette. At least he lashed out at Rayna at the end of the episode. I like when Nashville foregrounds his conflicts instead of wasting him as a scruffy Jiminy Cricket.
Anderson: I actually kind of appreciated that Deacon called Juliette out on all her shit this week. (Although I was surprised to see her take it to heart so quickly. Calling Jolene and inviting her to move in? Quite the turnaround.) However, I found Deacon's snappiness with Rayna unwarranted. Honestly, I'm a little bored with the tiny ups and downs of Rayna and Deacon's relationship. So much drama, so few concrete implications.
Waldman: Deacon and Rayna epitomize the whole "moving but not going anywhere" thing that Rayna was lamenting with Liam. Still, when they interact, I’m riveted. They are each other's Achilles' heels: Only Rayna can make Deacon lose his cool. (His character continues to strike me as very mysterious. "Still waters run deep" etc.) And Rayna’s identity as an artist seems to have some complicated and essential relationship to Deacon.
Anderson: Can I point out what an amazing performance Connie Britton gave this week? (And did you see this profile of her in the New York Times Magazine?) There were two moments when I just couldn't look away: When she was talking to her daughters on the phone at the beginning of the episode before going out onstage, and when she started crying in Liam's bathroom after putting on that lip gloss. What an amazing face she has! I think this is the least composed we've seen Rayna so far in the series.
Waldman: I also thought Connie Britton was spectacular—vulnerable, but not in the "I'm old and fading" way the NYTM article kept conjuring as a possibility for the role. (How cool that Britton pushed back against demeaning scenes like the one that had Rayna contemplating plastic surgery.)
Anderson: While we are being so positive, may I register my delight at the nugget of backstory we got from Glenn this week? We learned that he found Juliette trying out for a local TV show in Alabama—just "some scraggly-haired little kid with a big voice"—and that he thinks of himself as a father figure to her. Knowing the root of their highly charged, extremely contentious, mutually contemptuous relationship really helped things fall into place for me. Did you buy it, or was Glenn's story (and Juliette throwing it in his face, telling him he'd be "right back at the county fair looking for [his] next teen queen") too much information, too quickly?
Waldman: That piece of background didn't make a huge impression on me—I guess I just assumed Juliette’s discovery had happened along those general lines. (Though the idea of any of the Nashville women having "scraggly hair" seems incomprehensible/miraculous.) I do wonder if Glenn is gone for good.
Anderson: I suspect Glenn was banished from the universe of Nashville solely for uttering the words "scraggly hair," a concept that cannot coexist with Rayna's flowing tresses and Juliette's elaborate updos.
Waldman: He will have to exile himself to The Walking Dead. Oh! We haven’t touched on Gunnar’s fugitive brother. I don't have much to say about him other than I fear his gun is going to fire at some point in the future. Would Nashville kill someone off?
Anderson: I hope not! It feels increasingly as though Scarlett, Gunnar, Avery, and now Jason are living in a different show than the rest of Nashville's characters—a daytime soap, perhaps, in which men get in fistfights over women, lithe young studs walk around in towels for no good reason, ex-convicts carry around loaded weapons, and everyone just looks confused and pained all the time. I do not love this show-within-a-show.
Waldman: He likes to air-dry! On the bright side, Hailey's back. And flirting it up with Avery! Is this all business, or does she want to get back at Scarlett for spiriting Gunnar away?
Anderson: I was glad to see her, if only because she was the bearer of the first good news to befall Avery in months. Look, I get that Avery's not a nice person, but wasn't all this punishment getting to be a bit much? A producer who won't let him follow his artistic vision, a manager who won't look after his best financial interests, horrible facial hair ... I was starting to feel sorry for him. I think meeting Hailey is a stroke of luck for him. Not only is his bank account $100,000 fatter, but I also never got the impression that Hailey was underhanded, just determined. (It may be true, as Marilyn said, that he could earn more for his catalog if he waited until he makes it big—but do we really think "Kiss" is good enough to propel him to superstardom?)
However, if Hailey signing Avery means we'll have more primitive fistfights between Avery and Gunnar over Scarlett's honor, well, in that case, I'm not going to lie to you—tomorrow is going to suck.