Every week in Slate’s Nashville TV club, Katy Waldman will have an IM conversation with a different Nashville fan. This week, she rehashes episode 1.16 with June Thomas, a Slate culture critic.
June Thomas: Hey Katy!
Katy Waldman: Blah.
Waldman: I call blah on last night’s episode of Nashville. It spent far too much time on Tandy and Lamar and Teddy and Peggy, whom no one cares about, and far too little time with the lovely new vet, Stacey. (And I could always use more Sue.)
Thomas: Well, I loved the Stella sisters’ song, but otherwise, I’d have to agree. There were no good lines in this episode, no big drama, only one good song—a cover, at that. And then a lot of stuff we'd already seen before dragged before us one more time (more on this in a second). I fear the show is getting stuck in a dull rut.
Waldman: That’s why I had such high hopes for Stacey. She seemed like such a breath of fresh air when she appeared last week, allergic to country music, talking in patter instead of a honeyed drawl …
Thomas: Ah, yes. She almost helped me recapture the excitement I felt in the show’s early days. Though it’s kind of strange that the actress who plays Stacey, Susan Misner, has another role in the same time slot. Over on FX she's Sandra Beeman on The Americans, the patient and out-of-the-loop wife of FBI man Stan Beeman. In Nashville, she's the patient, out-of-the-loop girlfriend of guitarist Deacon Claybourne.
Waldman: Except not so patient, right? She strikes me as kind of abrasive. Or at least, she doesn’t have Nashville manners. I also love that she fell asleep watching Animal Planet.
Thomas: Yes, even in her sleep she's being reminded that lions are just for ornamentation: It's the lionesses that bring home the gazelle—in the wild and in this show. But perhaps you’re right that patient isn’t the right word for Stacey. She believes in #realtalk. I have to say, though, I didn't quite understand why she was put out when she found out about Deacon's history with the two headliners, Juliette and Rayna. Did Deacon have a responsibility to tell her about his big-name conquests before they got on the plane? (I'm guessing that's why they made her a country music hater. Anyone who knew anything would know Rayna and Deacon's sad story.)
Waldman: Manufactured drama. More blah. At least they managed to resolve that conflict fairly quickly. I’m more concerned about Gunnar and Scarlett, whose stories have been surprisingly engrossing lately. They love each other now—it’s official—but Scarlett has a record deal and Gunnar doesn’t. Also, have you noticed that Scarlett always seems to be performing some household chore—laundry or gardening or cooking dinner? The gender dynamic in that relationship isn’t very evolved.
Thomas: The final straw for her was when neighbor Will asked Gunnar how the Titans' cheerleaders were, looks-wise. I have to assume the creators are sowing some seed with all that girl-chore stuff—after all, tonight's episode was written by a woman (Wendy Calhoun, who worked on the first two seasons of Justified) and directed by a woman (Julie Hébert, who's also a writer herself and did some great episodes of Boss). Those aren't women who would set up those tired old stereotypes without doing it in the service of a bigger point. I hope.
Speaking of Gunnar, I have one completely unrelated observation: I always thought the show’s writers had goofed by naming his brother Jason. Gunnar and Jason? Those weren't the products of the same name-choosers. Ditto Rayna and Tandy.
Waldman: Hmm, I can't imagine what ignoble machinations lay behind Lamar's choice of names for his daughters. But I was really surprised by the finale to the episode: We see Lamar, the power broker, brokering on the phone, and then he seems to suffer...what? A stroke? A heart attack? And this is right after Tandy reveals that Rayna used to be a devoted “daddy’s girl.” Cue blah—I mean, pathos.
Thomas: She once thought he "hung the moon," which actually made me go "Aw!" (Not blah.)
Waldman: Speaking of aw/daughters idolizing their parents, what did you make of the subplot involving the spectacular Stella sisters?
Thomas: This is a show that likes to announce its themes with a yellow highlighter and a really large font, and this week was brought to us by "heal from the past by acknowledging the mistakes you’ve made—and not confusing the past with the present.” There was a little too much of it: Rayna learning to let her wonderful girls perform without mixing up her own experience with theirs; Gunnar reminding Scarlett that he's not jealous like Avery; and Juliette apparently making a real effort to change the way she treats her mama.
Waldman: Yes! And I am getting mighty tired of the same arc for Juliette, week after week after week. She acts out and apologizes, acts out and apologizes. It's frustrating to get the sense that none of the Big Lessons imparted by Deacon or Rayna or Dante ever really stick to her.
Thomas: I love Juliette's fire and I really enjoy seeing her getting worked up about business ideas and strategy. And yet she seems to have no impulse control. She needs to go to one of those AA meetings her crew attends, if only to be reminded about the importance of knowing the difference between the things she can change and the things she can't. And then she needs to make some damn changes, because I too have Juliette Pattern Fatigue.
Waldman: Here is one thing that's always puzzled me: What is Juliette's animosity toward Rayna about? Why can't she stand seeing a 50 ft Rayna outside her window in Times Square? (Is it all professional jealousy? Bitterness that Rayna is a child of privilege?) Juliette wistfully remarks to Rayna that she never had a mother looking out for her the way Rayna looks after Maddie and Daphne. (And Rayna points out the obvious: Juliette has her mother now, and she’s ignoring her.) So maybe Rayna bears some of the brunt of Juliette’s resentment toward Jolene?
Thomas: All of that factors in, I think, plus some generational resentment. It's her turn, dang it. (And now that I know how many Twitter followers and Facebook fans she has, I'm starting to think she may be right.) Another part of it may be that she's an Angry Young Woman. That's what feeds the fire, I guess—what separates her from all the other wannabes who would like to be staying in those fancy hotel suites and playing the Barclay Center.
Waldman: Dang that fire. I kept hoping I was imagining the flirtation between Dante and Juliette, but they consummated it with a kiss in one of the episode's last scenes. Ick.
Thomas: Ick indeed. I enjoyed the flirtation, but the consummation was too fast and furious, somehow. And the scenes from next week's episode suggest that Dante's also getting it on with Jolene, which is a double downer, since it means he's being a terrible sponsor and leading us into a boring story line.
Another question for you: We know that Deacon, not Teddy, is Maddie’s biological father. So that little chat about her wishing she had more of her mom and less of her dad was extra-weird, eh?
Waldman: That struck me too! Very heavy foreshadowing, like last week when Deacon said that Maddie was "like family." And more foreshadowing: Avery, now a roadie, is headed to New York, where presumably he will meet up with the Red Lips/White Lies tour, right?
Thomas: Maybe he'll get an impromptu showcase like the Conrad sisters and end up being the next act signed to Rayna's label. And after that will come Will and Gunnar's brotastic duo.
Waldman: Right, Gunnar-and-Will, the newfangled Gunnar-and-Jason.
Thomas: Don’t say it.