Nashville s6 ep 8

Alannah and the Boys (who are called The Lost Highways, a development I may have overlooked) are invited to appear on TV, but on the basis that they will perform two songs, on which Alannah will sing lead. Nuh-uh, says Alannah, who – unless I’m missing something? – is still being thoroughly decent about ensuring that the spotlight is shared around; I’m doing lead vocals on one song max. So Will is told that he’s getting the other song, about which he’s remarkably ungracious. But then he’s essentially a floppy fringe atop some steroids at the moment.

Deacon, meantime, has a gig at the Bluebird. Scarlett tries to talk Sean into coming along, for which she gets more snark from the woman in charge of the horse psychotherapy practice. Who has a point – Scarlett ain’t no therapist – but perhaps being a bit nicer to your volunteers would pay dividends? Anyway, Scarlett drags poor Sean to another live music event, which he runs out of. But he then plays her one of his songs, and she cries. Are they going to be… a couple? I mean, I really don’t see it; they have zero chemistry. But it’s Nashville.

As well as playing a gig, Deacon is keeping himself busy by crushing Daphne’s dreams: she wants to make an EP, and he doesn’t want her to. So, behind his back, she enters Brad’s talent competition and makes the cut. Quite rightly; she’s really good, and given how tough I’ve been on The Girls (as characters, in fairness, rather than as actors or people) over the years I should again record that Maisy Stella has developed into quite the screen presence.

Avery is saying to anyone who’ll listen that he’s done with Juliette, who of course didn’t come back with him from Bolivia. But when he tells Alannah, something slightly odd but interesting happens: instead of the usual yeah-dude-we’re-there-for-you, she replies with details of her own toxic relationship, someone who’s bad for her but she can’t give up, presumably equating that with Avery’s feelings for Juliette. I mean, I’ve been saying this for a while now, but I wasn’t aware that the show might share my views. I hope the writers keep Alannah as a good guy; I like her.

Before the end of the episode, though, there are a couple of bombs to be exploded. Firstly, while The Lost Highways are performing on TV Will collapses, and it’s a bad one; the paramedics can’t find a pulse. More entertainingly, the utterly dreadful Brad intends to send Jake, his son with Jessie, to boarding school. Jake won’t go, so Brad starts shouting at him, then breaks his bedroom door down. Deacon watches with obvious agitation, more or less cracking his knuckles – it has, after all, been ages in Deacon terms since he delivered a really good beat-down to anyone. And finally, when Brad starts to drag Jake out of his room, Deacon can stand no more: he grabs Brad and slams him against a wall, which is pretty much what Brad was hoping for. It’s not impossible that this was the best episode of the season so far. Nashville now goes on its midseason hiatus, before its final run of episodes.

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Nashville s6 ep 7

I’m probably not in the best mood to be watching Nashville, still less writing about it, but we are where we are. I’m not under any obligation to be fair. Avery and Cadence are at the airport waiting to greet Juliette on her return from Bolivia, but when the plane lands she isn’t on it. So after an episode’s worth of brooding Avery flies down to Bolivia, where Juliette is at Cult Central. She tells him that no, she isn’t coming back; she needs to fill the hole in her heart or some such nonsense. But what, asks Avery, not unreasonably, about your daughter? Oh, says Juliette, just send her down here and I’ll look after her. Or if not I’ll FaceTime her. Avery walks away. This is a complete waste of a good character and a good actor. One might speculate as to why it’s been done at all.

Maddie goes to Miami to hang and perform with Jonah, but after a day he goes off to audition for a part in a Richard Linklater movie, leaving Maddie with his rebarbative, uh, “squad”. Is that the term these days? Twig remains the tolerable one, and is obviously and hopelessly in love with Maddie, who looks after him when the rest of the squad pester him into taking drugs and he has a bad reaction. Next episode? The one after that? Maddie and Twig is going to happen.

Gunnar and Alannah has already happened, but there are tensions. Reporters want to talk to Alannah on her own, but to her credit – and thus far she’s been genuinely appreciative of joining the boyband – she replies that it’s everyone or no-one for the interviews. Meantime, though, Gunnar has gone all moody and possessive. This is, of course, part of the retcon which started during the last season, when the writers tried to persuade us that Gunnar’s behaviour towards Scarlett had been appalling throughout their relationship, which wasn’t the case.  By the end of the episode they’re doing it again, but it all portends a rough ending for the Alannah experiment, particularly as the truly repellant Brad is now involved.

Brad also turns up in the only storyline I actually liked this week. We’re seeing more and more of Brad. This won’t end well. Anyway, Deacon and Jessie go their kids’ school to watch them performing. Daphne does a lovely song, and Jake does an actually-rather-good rap about how big a jerk his father, Brad, is. Later Jessie overhears Deacon encouraging Jake – no doubt the sort of thing that Brad doesn’t do – and shags Deacon as a reward. This time he doesn’t cry. Bonus.

Nashville s6 ep 6

From time to time Nashville does one of these episodes in which just about everyone annoys me. Here we go. It’s the morning after the first gig for Avery, Gunnar, Will, and The Girl, and the social media response is overwhelmingly good, particularly insofar as Alannah is concerned. Will’s nose is, obscurely, put out of joint by this, but then he’s permanently hopped up on steroids at the moment. So should Alannah join the guys permanently? Here’s the thing, she tells Gunnar: I want to be a singer-songwriter in my own right. Would you like to come round to my apartment and “hear” my “songs”? Of course Gunnar would, and he gives her “songs” a right good “hearing”.

Because it’s Gunnar, he’s incapable of hiding this the morning after. It’s just casual, he tells Avery and Will. “It’s never casual with you, Gunnar”, replies Avery sagely. Anyway, this is a problem which will resolve itself, I expect, as Brad, Jessie’s appalling ex, is already hovering around Alannah trying to sign her to his no doubt Satanic record label.

Scarlett, meantime, is still entwined in the world of equine therapy, a phrase so boring that I can barely bring myself to type it. And, just as I’d made a mental note that she would at some point go into a sulk because Gunnar is hitting it with someone new, even though she split up with him, she sees Alannah and him cavorting on stage, and sulks. But then she catches sight of troubled veteran, former musician, and horse-psychology recipient Sean, who is so drunk he can barely stand, and offers him a (platonic) bed for the night. A simple act of human kindness, right? Not if you’re the frosty-faced woman who runs the stables, who stops just short of spitting at Scarlett when she finds out. Scarlett – who is, let’s not forget, a volunteer – for some reason doesn’t walk out, on the way telling Ms Frosty-Face to shove her horses up her hoop. But all this seems to have unlocked Sean’s fragile musical genius, and he gets his guitar out and starts singing. At the very least he and Scarlett are going to do some songwriting; and, given how much Scarlett likes the ones with the broken wings, maybe a bit more? God, I hope not.

Daphne, meantime, is in a sulk of her own, largely because Deacon has had the NERVE to form a tentative relationship with Jessie. Her behaviour is reminiscent of Maddie in the worst of her Older Girl days. But Jessie – who, with every episode, radiates more and more fundamental decency – actually offers to talk to Daphne, and they reach a sort of peace deal. Jessie might be too good for all of them.

Nashville s6 ep 5

The Avery/Gunnar/Will supergroup has realised that it needs… a woman. So after like two minutes of recruitment they find Alannah, who has a pleasant voice and is a bit of a looker. Gunnar immediately, and visibly, wonders whether he’s going to get to tap that, because he hasn’t learnt his lesson about dating the girl in the band, and improves his chances by wearing a hat, thus covering up his hair.

Although perhaps he’ll have some competition from Avery. I was kidding when, a couple of weeks ago, and with Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple in mind I suggested that Juliette should be cautious about any suggestion by the Church of Darius that she should go to Guyana. Well, what do you know? Darius’s latest wheeze is that Juliette needs to do some outreach work, and he knows the perfect project… in Bolivia. Meantime Juli is assuring Avery that the sexual abuse she suffered has affected every decision she’s made since. Including marrying him, is the clear implication. Anyway, by the end of the episode Juliette has disappeared, so perhaps we’re approaching the point when even St Avery has had enough of this shit.

But relationships aren’t easy on Nashville. Deacon and Jessie decide that it’s time to Do The Deed, so after some juggling of calendars and buying of condoms they meet at hers. But then, at the crucial moment, Deacon starts crying. Dude. It’s been nearly a year. Time to move on. Jessie, to her credit, is really, really, really nice about it, which puts beyond doubt that she’s good people, I’d say.

And the teens are having problems as well. Jonah’s ex drops ‘You Can’t Have Him’, which is totally a diss track about Maddie! Oooh! I’m still not quite clear where Jonah and Maddie are going, which perhaps sums this episode up: I felt it was a little static, a little sombre. But at least there wasn’t any equine therapy.

Nashville s6 ep 4

I can see that Nashville and I are going to have some bother if this equine therapy storyline is going to be a thing, and all the signs are that it is. Scarlett turns up at a set of stables which help out troubled teens by bringing them together with Brer Horse. “Horses”, she’s told by the grumpy ranch director, who frankly could do with loosening up a little herself, “are the teachers here”. No. They’re effing HORSES. People are helped. Scarlett mucks out and, you know, finds out something about herself in the process? Oh God.

Avery, Gunnar, and Will start working together, but Will is on steroids and hogging the limelight, and Gunnar is post-break-up and tetchy, so there are lots of fights, to the point where it looks as if they’re not going to be able to coexist. But Bucky wants to manage, Deacon gives them some guidance, and by the end of the episode they’re covering NSYNC’s ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’ and even throwing in a few dance moves, while Deacon watches proudly and Jessie tries not to faint, because she loves boybands and she fancies all three of them.

Meantime, the Deacon/Jessie relationship still isn’t going down well with Daphne, who is also landed with Jessie’s weird son Jake as a lab partner for frog dissection. Actually, I say Jake is weird, because that seems to be his reputation at school; I suspect he’ll turn out to be OK, all things considered. He doesn’t seem to be wanting Deacon in his mother’s life either, particularly as he’s aware of his history. Hey, Daphne, remember that time your sister took your dad to court because he’s a “rage-aholic”? But Daphne and Jake, too, manage to sort things out by the end of the episode, bonding happily while on detention.

So a happy ending all round, then? Well, not for poor old Juliette, who hears some heart-rending sobbing while at the Movement for Coherent Philosophy. It’s a Witnessing, she’s told, which seems to be cult-speak for a kind of hypnotic regression that gets your Secret Pain out in the open. Soon enough it’s Juliette’s turn for her Witnessing, during which she remembers that while she was still a child she was being pimped out by her appalling mother Jolene. Will this mean that she now realises that she deserves to be loved? And, if so, will that involve Avery, who (as he reveals) knows a cult when he sees one? Not terrible, but probably my least favourite episode of the season so far.

Nashville s6 ep 3

Was Nashville trying a bit too hard this week? Zach suddenly tells Deacon that he’s returning to California and running for the Senate. Uh, sure, Zach. Will, still pining for Zach, picks someone up at the gym but is unable to seal the deal, as he’s revealed to have been giving the steroids and human growth hormones a good seeing-to instead. And Scarlett, trying to find a purpose in life beyond being really good at singing, songwriting, and performing live, might instead be delving into the indescribably boring world of equine therapy.

Everyone else, though, gets a better storyline. Deacon and Jessie are continuing their will-they-won’t-they dance, although the problem of what to tell The Girls is resolved when they bump into Daphne at a coffee shop. They then decide not to see each other any more, which is fair enough, I suppose, given that their romantic relationship thus far has consisted almost entirely of awkward conversations. But then they change their minds again and make out. I mean, I’m quite into Deacon and Jessie as a couple, but that might just be because I like the idea of Deacon getting laid again at some point. Or the idea of anyone on this show getting laid again at some point (see Will, above, and reviews passim). 

Daphne, however, is NOT HAPPY with this development, and to prove it she sings a rather nice song (‘Come And Find Me’, written by Jillian Edwards and Ben Shive). Her sister Maddie, meantime, is hanging with Jonah and his claque of idiot friends, although one of them – Twig (?) – might be OK. In fact, given that Maddie and Jonah were papped, and she wasn’t at all comfortable with it, might the non-famous Twig be a better romantic bet? I wonder.

And Juliette has now reached the stage of spouting Darius’s irritating bon mots in conversation with Avery. The whole idea of the Movement for Coherent Philosophy is, in fact, something that Avery is very much not into, and a meeting with Darius fails to persuade him otherwise. Juliette, though, is becoming more and more contented under Darius’s spell, which suggests that something is going to give.

Nashville s6 ep 2

Last season I admitted that I have completely lost the knack of telling good and bad episodes of Nashville apart. So I have no idea whether this one stands up to any sort of critical scrutiny, but I loved loved loved it. Deacon and Jessie bump into each other at the market, and it’s all a bit strained. He’s then encouraged by everyone to ask her out, which he does; and having agreed that they won’t go on an actual date, they go out for a totally-not-a-date meal, which is extremely but endearingly awkward. Then they make out, which is good, because I don’t think my nerves can stand another Nashville couple who are into each other pretending not to be. I wonder if it will last, though; I like Jessie, but she seems somewhat… brittle?

Scarlett and Gunnar also cross paths at the market, and they’re gracious to each other, and reasonably dignified, and a little wistful, and OH MY GOD THEY’RE GOING TO DO IT TO ME AGAIN. Although Scarlett might be put off by The Hair. She tries a solo career – a lovely song, as well – but it doesn’t seem to be her thing. “I feel his absence”, she confides to Deacon. Gunnar, meantime, is having a blast gigging and – let’s be honest – kind of flirting with Will. Such a blast, in fact, that the two of them more or less abduct Avery, who is stuck yet again in a slough of Juliette-related misery, and drag him on stage with them. I could get behind a Gunnar/Will/Avery group.

And, at least, it keeps Avery’s mind occupied for a few minutes, because he doesn’t want to have to think about Juliette. This week she drops in uninvited on Darius’s Movement for Coherent Philosophy; he isn’t there, but she agrees to help with a MCP project to work on affordable housing. She is surprised when she’s expected to do some actual work – and frankly amazed when people aren’t running around after her – but by the end of the day she’s as happy as she’s been in a long time. Of course, if any of the people around Juliette had called her on her bullshit in any of seasons 1-5, rather than enabling it, maybe we wouldn’t be here, but we are. The price of admission to the MCP, incidentally, is 30% of your earnings. I quite like that I have no idea where this storyline is going, even if I’m enormously suspicious of Darius and his cult. Pro tip, though, Juliette: if they mention going to Guyana, pack up and run.

Finally, there isn’t much happening with The Girls this week, and I really only mention them to emphasise again that both Lennon and (particularly, in this episode) Maisy Stella are growing into very interesting screen presences: Daphne’s interactions with Jessie’s son Jake are very nicely calibrated by actors and writers. A highly enjoyable episode.