In the (almost) five years of Nashville’s existence, and in particular during this sui generis season, I’ve completely lost any ability I might have had to tell the good and the bad episodes apart. But what the heck: I liked this one; in fact, it was my favourite for weeks. Don’t ask me why, though.
Maddie is filming a commercial for makeup company Mascara 24, for which Highway 65 will be paid an unconscionable amount of money. In order to comply with the demands of the director she mimes ‘Tidal Wave’ over and over again while soaking wet – yet another difficult director, Nashville, change the record on this one – until the client spots that the words of the song don’t actually reference, you know, mascara, and demands a change in the lyrics. Maddie refuses, because it’s her song and it came from the bottom of her teen heart, or something, and Deacon backs her up until Zach points out that (a) the contract between M24 and H65 allows the former to do whatever the hell they like; and (b) if Maddie breaks the contract, he’s pulling out of H65, which will mean the end of the company. Ruh-roh.
So Deacon – who, as he would be the first to admit, is no sort of CEO – does what he usually does, which is to have a sort of cast meeting to decide what to do. The H65 talent, in turn, leaves it up to him, apart from Daphne’s pert observation that there really isn’t much point in H65 existing if it isn’t what Rayna wanted it to be. Three things at this stage: Firstly, I’m still not convinced that Zach is the bad guy here, exactly; he knows that H65’s future lies in more than record sales. Secondly, I still like Alyssa, who continues to be much more interesting than she needs to be: she’s properly concerned about Maddie’s welfare when the commercial is being filmed, and she also turns out when pressed into karaoke – no, not me, I couldn’t possibly – to have a great voice herself, which makes me wonder if we’ll find out that she’s living her dreams through Maddie. And, thirdly, this might be a good place to point out that Chip Esten has had a hell of a season, particularly the post-Rayna episodes.
We’ll leave Deacon pondering that dilemma for now, and instead head out to see Avery and Gunnar, both having a wonderful time being boys on the road. Avery is having to field numerous phone calls from Juliette, who is being particularly high-maintenance. At the same time, tour manager (?) Polly, another from the Nashville production line of perky brunettes, is wondering aloud why you would want to be in a relationship if it weren’t fun. A light-bulb visibly goes on above Avery’s head at the mention of the word “fun”, and another goes on atop Gunnar (“Whoa!”) when Polly makes it very clear, sometimes even while wearing a bra, that she wouldn’t mind a little what-goes-on-tour with Avery. But Juliette is then conciliatory over the phone, and Avery decides that’s better than bedding Polly, because he’s an idiot who likes being treated badly.
Deacon, meantime, is kidnapped by Jessie, who takes him out to the middle of nowhere to clear his head. When he gets back, he’s decides what to do: he tells Zach to back off, and plays a gig at the Opry which we perhaps get to see just a little too much of (but, as mentioned above, if anyone on this show has earned a showcase it’s Esten). Then he comes off stage and gives Jessie… a firm hug, no more, although one which still has Daphne looking a little perturbed. Don’t worry, Daphne. No-one on this show has sex any more. You’re not about to get a new mom.