Nashville s6 ep 15

Gideon is aware that Daphne knows about his drinking. Can we, he wonders, “keep this between the two of us”? That’s… kind of how abusers operate, Gideon. But later on Deacon finds a full bottle of booze in his father’s car and kicks his father out. I have a horrible feeling that next week’s finale will be all about father and son reconciling, so let’s say no more about this storyline for now.

Anyway, the rest of this week’s episode was a lot more fun. Who would have thought that a huge ranch offering equine therapy might be financially unsustainable? Well, it is, and it might have to close down, so Scarlett – being, frankly, much nicer to the hard-faced woman who runs it than she deserves – starts to organise a benefit concert. If it doesn’t make enough money to get by I don’t quite see how a short-term boost in funds will really make a huge difference, but everyone else seems delighted. 

It means, at least, that for the first time in weeks Scarlett and Gunnar are in the same room, as she tries to recruit him for the benefit. He, like her, hasn’t written anything new in ages, and his attempts to do so are unsuccessful at first. But then he decides not to be Gunnar any more – it might be that Not-Gunnar is the logical endpoint of what used to be our Gunnar-of-the-Week series – and knocks out something of a rock-and-roll banger. Steve Earle – don’t ask, keep going – encourages him, and Gunnar is therefore encouraged to hit the stage at the benefit. Along the way he almost makes out with Will, in a slightly odd scene. It isn’t the first time something like this has nearly kinda sorta happened, and I wonder whether the writers have tiptoed up to this as a possible storyline then backed away.

Also on stage at Horse Aid are Scarlett and Sean. Now, given that Mrs Sean has, by this point, already said to Scarlett “Sometimes I think he’d be better off with you”, it might not have been entirely appropriate for the Scarlett and Sean show to feature lots of meaningful eye contact. Sean, of course, thinks he’s in; but Scarlett tells him to go and be with his wife. I’d like this arc to be finished now, thanks.

There’s so much talk, last week and this, about Cadence maybe having a temperature that it’s no surprise when she’s hospitalised. Fortunately it’s been caught in time; I really didn’t want a life-or-death cliffhanger leading into the finale. The issue of Juliette’s pregnancy remains, for now, something of which Avery is unaware, because she doesn’t want him to stay with her just because of that. Juliette has also announced that she is to go to war with Darius and simultaneously retire from the music business. Alannah is still flirting through gritted teeth with Brad, and is so very obviously soliciting his interest that she might as well be writing a song called “I’m Taping My Boss’s Sexual Harassment”. Finally, Twig decides that he’s had enough of being Jonah’s bitch, which is all the encouragement Maddie needed to kiss him. This is all much, much better than the Gideon storyline.

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Nashville s6 ep 14

I’d like to be more positive about this episode, because Nashville – a show I love – is nearly done. Unfortunately, Deacon’s father Gideon, and his appalling storyline, are hanging over the show like nuclear fallout. He’s started telling The Girls little homespun tales about how he taught Deacon to play guitar, leaving out the bits about him bullying and assaulting his son. So far, so Gideon. Then he starts wandering off – good, good – without telling anyone where he’s going; Deacon follows him, and it turns out that he’s meeting up with some old friends to play a bit of music. 

Which seems to turn the tide a little: Deacon starts, y’know, remembering the good times, then cosies up to his father later on for a jamming session. If this were Jessica, say, snuggling up to Brad because “he wasn’t always mean”, the show would rightly be getting a kicking for equivocating about abuse. So knock it the fuck off, Nashville. No doubt the empty bourbon bottle Daphne finds under Gideon’s bed at the end will be some kind of misunderstanding as well.

Alannah’s storyline is more fun: she’s decided, she tells Brad, that it’s better to be his “friend”: sure enough, she immediately lands a support slot. Entertainingly, she delivers all of her come-ons to Brad in a tone of thinly-veiled contempt, which seems to turn him on even more. The only problem here is that I assume she’s recording every word, and if I’m thinking that it should be occurring to Brad, who as Jessie reveals is a serial predator.

And Maddie decides to go to Europe with Jonah; seconds later, she sees him making out with his psycho ex Mia. Twig gets caught in the crossfire: he was covering for Jonah, which means Maddie hates him; and he didn’t actually manage to cover very well, which means Jonah hates him as well. Poor Twiglet. Poor Maddie.

Nashville s6 ep 13

To repeat the point I made last week: there are often no good reasons why I like some episodes of Nashville and dislike others. Was this week’s objectively any worse than last week’s? I don’t think so; but large parts of it annoyed the heck out of me, almost exclusively because of the presence of Deacon’s father. 

There is, it should be said, a hint at one stage that Deacon’s recollections of his childhood might not be accurate. But the point isn’t pursued, which leaves us for now in the position where, having welcomed his abuser into his house, Deacon is expected to keep his mouth shut as said abuser ingratiates himself with his grandchildren, throwing out a few passive-aggressive remarks about their upbringing along the way. I’m amazed that Deacon doesn’t knock his father to the ground and then kick his stupid head a few times. (The fact that Deacon in one scene misinterprets a conversation and calls his father out on that basis is very much an irrelevance.) And their final conversation this week, during which it seems to be incumbent on Deacon – Deacon! – to reach out to his father, earning the response “I appreciate that, son”, is an insult to the intelligence. Not for the first time – e.g. the sanctification of Beverly – I’m left wondering what in the holy hell the Nashville writers are playing at.

And so, acknowledging firstly that Deacon’s chance encounter with Jessie was sweet, let’s move on to the rest of this week’s storylines. Juliette is, as we saw at the end of last week’s episode, very much back, but realises that Avery may have moved on. “God, what have I done?” she wonders. Well, Juli, where do we start? Apparently with her thinking that after treating Avery appallingly for years she might have lost him. Ya think? Actually, she probably hasn’t, because Avery is a glutton for punishment. Meantime, though, he moves out of their house. 

Alannah – who continues, and I am in no doubt about this, to be a fundamentally decent person – is very clearly wondering whether she’d be better off without the whole dysfunctional lot of them. She also has more Brad woes: her career isn’t advancing in the way he promised; and, it continues to be implied, it won’t until she sleeps with him. Someone else who is probably decent is Ilse, part of Brad’s absurd reality talent circus: her advice to Daphne this week is, when performing, to lose the guitar and move a little more. Daphne, understandably, isn’t entirely clear what this might mean, but it does seem that Ilse genuinely cares about her; and, responding to that, by the end of the episode Daphne has indeed put the guitar down. (Pause here for my more or less weekly observation that Maisy Stella, as Daphne, is knocking it out of the park on a regular basis.)

Scarlett, meantime, has now been stranded in the Sean plot cul-de-sac for what seems like weeks, and to have effectively taken over as his counsellor, psychiatrist, and pseudo-wife. Sean correctly identifies that this is all displacement activity because what Scarlett actually wants to do is perform again herself. First, though, she takes him to a VA clinic, where he has to wait for hours. Scarlett professes herself baffled about the way in which America treats its veterans. Unfortunately that isn’t new, or uniquely American, as Rudyard Kipling could have told her (“For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot”) over 100 years ago. I am, however, really bored with this storyline now. 

Nashville s6 ep 12

As I’ve said many times, I long ago lost the ability to distinguish a good episode of Nashville from a bad one. So when I say that I enjoyed this, I’m not making any claims in respect of quality; in fact, it could reasonably be argued that most of this week’s storylines were calibrated to annoy me. But let’s get started.

First up is Deacon, who is front and centre in one of my least-favourite kinds of plot: the parent who appears out of the blue. When it’s a mom-who-turns-up it generally means passive-aggression; when it’s a dad-who-turns-up, on the other hand, as it is here, it’s quite often about actual aggression. So we get flashbacks to when Deac was a boy, getting thrashed by his appalling father, a “drunk with a mean streak a mile wide”. There really is no good reason whatsoever why Deacon should offer the tiniest concession to this dreadful human being, and for most of the episode he seems to share that point of view. But then Maddie jumps in, and the upshot is that Deacon’s violent father will be staying with him and his granddaughters. Me, I think I’d have taken out a restraining order to keep him away.

On the subject of people interfering: Sean is still Scarlett’s pet project, and she drags him along to the Bluebird to perform, even inviting Mrs Sean along. But when Sean gets up on stage, he starts by thanking the one person without whom this wouldn’t be possible – inevitably, Ms Scarlett O’Connor, not Mrs Sean – then insists that Scarlett accompany him. Unsurprisingly, Sean’s wife is less than happy at these developments, and walks out. But Scarlett isn’t done: she tells Sean’s wife that she’s not after her husband, which is true as far as we know – although we also know that Sean is into Scarlett – and manages to broker a visit home by Sean. Which, predictably, ends badly when Sean sees something online about a former colleague killing himself, starts headbutting his shed, then locks himself in the bathroom with a gun. Well done, Scarlett; well done, the horses. There’s a kind of happy-ish ending to this, but maybe Scarlett should leave well alone for a while?

While all of this is going on, it looks as if Alannah has left – left Fleetwood Nash, at any rate, if not Avery. There’s a bit of soul-searching among the boys about this, but they all concede that in various ways they screwed up: Will might not have tapped that, but he was thoroughly hostile to her while in the grip of his steroidal madness. She, meantime, is over at the offices of Brad Records, which has a silly name that I didn’t note and can’t recall; and I’m not going to waste time looking it up. Brad has a proposition to put to her: do you, he asks her, like The Lumineers? “Are you kidding?!” she replies, which oddly enough would be my reply to that question as well, for very different reasons.

Anyway, Brad – hey! – thinks he can swing Alannah a support slot – ho! – on The Lumineers’ next tour. Great, thinks Alannah… except that when she goes for a drink with Brad to discuss it, he comes onto her in a way which, as she rightly tells Avery afterwards, is finely judged to stop just short of actual, provable harassment: there’s nothing remarkable about what he says, but there’s no doubt about what he means. And what he means is “let’s have sex”. She confronts Brad about it; he feigns confusion; then, all of a sudden, the support slot with The Lumineers has melted away.

Which means that Alannah has time on her hands and confidence to be repaired. Now, we’ve been squabbling about Alannah recently on Unpopcult: my position remains that she’s essentially not a bad person. Maybe one or two of her relationship decisions have been less than optimal, but who among us can say otherwise? However, when what remains of Fleetwood Nash want to have a writing session, and Avery has to admit that he’s already committed to writing with Alannah that evening, Will’s reproachful face offers Avery a fitting rebuke.

Still, the writing goes well, as does everything else, and Alannah is astride Avery having whipped her top off… just as Juliette walks into the house, having escaped Bolivia. I’d like to think that next week Avery will tell Juliette that their marriage has been over for months, if not years, and that he’d sooner be with someone who behaves as if she likes him and is nice to him. No, I don’t think that’s going to happen either.

Nashville s6 ep 11

I had a big problem with this episode, because I’m kind of over Juliette and her Bolivian adventures. One could argue that the character – and, perhaps, the actor – have been ill-served by the writers; one could speculate about why that is the case. But what’s left is an arc which is both stupid and boring.

So let’s deal with everything else first. Fleetwood Nash are still mired in turmoil, with Gunnar and Avery arguing furiously about Alannah, because – who would have thought it? – when Gunnar said that he was OK with Avery’s romantic interest in Alannah he wasn’t being entirely truthful. Has Avery never met Gunnar before? “I just feel like I’ve caused nothing but trouble”, muses Alannah. Well, yes. Will adroitly runs a couple of diplomatic missions with a view to getting the band back together, or even in the same room, and he’s kind of successful. But meantime Alannah is off having signing talks with Brad, which – as Jessie tries to warn her – is really just a raised middle finger to the entire human race.

Then something… odd happens: Alannah, who has previously come across as someone who is reasonably comfortable in her own skin, suddenly has a meltdown, wondering why she’s always so hard on herself. I hadn’t seen any evidence of this, so it’s possible she’s being manipulative, I suppose. Either way St Avery is on hand to reassure her, prompting the thought in one viewer at least that what Avery could really, really do without is another high-maintenance love interest. Why can’t he just be allowed to have a little fun?

On the subject of love interests, Maddie calls Twig over in order to play him a half-written song… about Jonah. I’m aware that there has been some controversy about the concept of the “friendzone”, as it seems to be used by some to imply male entitlement. Since I think it fair to say that Twig doesn’t strike me as the entitled sort, I’m going to say that when your crush plays you a love song meant for someone else you’ve been friendzoned. Twig is good enough to do a bit of production work on the song, turning it into a bit of a banger, and he and OG are bonding about that when Jonah walks in. Oh dear. Twig risks an attempt at a kiss later, but he decorously backs off when Maddie makes it clear that she’s not interested, and their friendship is sort of preserved.

To Jonestown, Bolivia then (oh God), where Juliette is NOT. HAPPY. with the treatment of one of the “volunteers”. Wait, she thinks, until Darius finds out! Meantime, though, she tells a couple of his brainwashed surrogates that she wants to leave, and their response is to lock her up, which they present as entirely reasonable given her previous issues: issues which she herself has conceded have been addressed by the Church of Darius. But, but… says Juliette, you’re imprisoning me against my will! Meh, whatevs, say the disciples.

The whole thing takes a turn for the worse – the much worse – when Juliette discovers, courtesy of a test smuggled in by Disciple Rosa, that she’s pregnant. Rosa, whose son is being held captive by the cult, offers to help Juliette escape, and Juliette in turn promises that if she’s successful she’ll ensure that someone comes back to help Rosa get her son back. At the end it looks as if Juli has managed to break out – unless that apparently helpful Bolivian van driver is another of Darius’s people in country – which presumably means that next week a pregnant and irate Juliette is going to hit Nashville. The outcome of that will go a long way to determining whether the final few episodes of this show are going to be a pleasure or an endurance test. (Our reviews are now going on hiatus for a couple of weeks; but we’re nothing if not completists on Unpopcult, so we’ll catch up shortly.)

Nashville s6 ep 10

This week in ‘Dude, Learn To Read A Room’: it’s day 1 of Brad’s stupid reality TV songwriter thing. Daphne plainly doesn’t want Deacon to take her to the studio. Deacon seems, God love him, to be genuinely baffled, and out of elementary tact Daphne doesn’t spell out her reasons: the fight with Brad, the pre-existing animosity, the previous convictions, the custody dispute… DUDE. Learn to READ a ROOM.

Meantime, The Lost Highways endure an excruciatingly awkward rehearsal, at which Alannah and Avery won’t even make eye contact, presumably because if they did they would immediately make lip contact. Gunnar then visits Alannah, uninvited, and is all puppyish enthusiasm, whereas it couldn’t be any clearer that Alannah is very much over Gunnar and onto Avery. DUDE. Learn to… etc. Full-on Fleetwood Mac-style dysfunction then ensues when Alannah and Avery make out; and, during a subsequent gig, Gunnar spanks the drums as if they were Avery’s head, then storms off stage. It’s worth noting, in passing, that Alannah’s dissection of how women, unlike men, always need to worry about the consequences of their actions is impressively written and delivered. I am LOVING THIS.

And Scarlett drags her wounded bird, Sean, to an open mic night at which he performs. He’s very good. Afterwards, he kisses Scarlett, who doesn’t respond. DUDE… etc. She’s all, don’t worry about it, but thus far I can’t detect any romantic interest on her part. I hope it remains that way.

It’s Brad’s week, though, which I’d be worried about except that it isn’t that long until the end of the show, and Nashville isn’t gonna let him walk away as a winner. He pushes Daphne into writing a song about her dead mom for the TV show, which presumably is yet another piece of Deacon-provocation. Jessie decides that the only way of dealing with his legal action is to split up with Deacon. And Alannah, presumably reckoning the future of The Lost Highways in minutes rather than years, turns up in his office to hear what he has to say about signing to his label. Whatever else you say about Brad, he at least can read a room. And this episode was very much better than last week’s.

Nashville s6 ep 9

I’m sure I’ve asked this before, but does everyone else remember when Nashville was a spangly drama about clashing divas and dudes with big hats? I mean, this episode wasn’t depressing as such, and it wasn’t bad. But my God it was downbeat. For starters Will is in hospital, after collapsing in the last episode: he didn’t have a heart attack, but he does have an unpleasant-sounding infection. Prohibited from playing live, thinking he’s lost his ability to write songs, and now saddled with a bad heart, he visibly wrestles with what the hell to do with the rest of his life. But then he writes a song, so at least that’s fixed. And Zach is hovering, because he cares.

Mind you, it doesn’t look as if The Lost Highways are going to be around much longer anyway. While Avery is being stalked by the media, who want the juice on Juliette and the cult, Gunnar is becoming more and more needy – and, therefore, less and less appealing – in what I suppose we need to call his relationship with Alannah (makes sarcastic air quotes). She, meantime, is now singing her love songs more or less directly to Avery, and when that isn’t sufficient to attract his attention she drops in on him (more or less immediately after sexytimes with Gunnar) and sleeps over. Although nothing actually happens, a delighted photographer now has evidence of Avery “moving on” after Juliette, and the story breaks online, whereupon Gunnar goes looking for a fight with Avery. He doesn’t get one – yet – but since I’ve been saying for a while now that Avery deserves a little fun, I hope he and Alannah do it, releasing Gunnar to get back together with Scarlett in time for the end of the series. Writers: hit me up. I got this.

Not a good week for Deacon either, whose half-hearted pre-hiatus “assault” of Brad has resulted in Jessie being sued for full custody of Jake, on the objectively not-entirely-unreasonable basis that Deacon’s, uh, on-off relationship with anger management is putting Jake at risk. “What can I do?” Deacon asks Jessie. I’d say you’ve done quite enough already, Deac. Maddie, meantime, is still hanging with Jonah and his squad, including the hopelessly-in-love Twig. As a result of her partying she’s feeling a little ill one morning, and I assumed – as she’s a female of childbearing years on TV – that we were perhaps being given a steer towards unplanned pregnancy. Unlike Deacon, I was somewhat relieved to discover that she was just hungover. The episode strives to end on an uptick, with Maddie deciding  – to Daphne’s joy – that she’s not going to move out of Raynadu for the time being, but I wouldn’t mind a little more fun next time.