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 1.12 with Miriam Krule, a Slate copy editor.
Katy Waldman: Are you pissed, Miriam? It’s a small couch, and you didn’t make eye contact with me for the entire episode.
Miriam Krule: You brought a camera crew to my apartment!
Waldman: I wanted to share a piece of my alt-rock success with you. Or rather, flaunt it until you forgot how despicable I was. But let’s start before the punches fly. This week, we got a closer look at the Red Lips/White Lies tour—both Rayna’s cognitive dissonance at the idea of a Claybourne-Barnes partnership and Juliette’s struggle to redefine her “brand.” Deacon brooded, shared an intimate moment with Juliette onstage, brooded some more, and impulsively kissed Rayna in an elevator. Teddy and Peggy went to bed together, and Teddy showed up in Chicago to ask Rayna for a divorce. Gunnar, Avery and Scarlett flitted around saying inconsequential things in reedy voices. What did I miss?
Krule: There was a lot of plot, but nothing that made good TV. I’ll state the obvious—Nashville seems obsessed with the idea that no one wants to hear good music, so instead they play lots of “bad” songs (though I admit that I kinda missed “Boys and Busses” this week) and have everyone look down on the good songs. Gunnar and Scarlett clearly have the best voices and lyrics, but can’t seem to catch a break. (Although it looks as if something is about to happen with Rayna’s record label.) Juliet is famous but can only sing tripe. Yes, Rayna sounds great with Deacon at the Bluebird Cafe, but on tour she doesn’t have Juliette’s presence.
Waldman: Except—Rayna looked a lot like Juliette in that shimmery form-fitting dress! Meanwhile Juliette became an early Rayna, crooning old-fashioned melodies over Deacon’s strumming.
Krule: Yes, and to complete the role reversal, it seems that Juliette’s personal drama is kind of done. No one cares about shoplifting, Tim Tebow, or her addict mom anymore. But Rayna is chock full of drama! Her family has at least four devastating secrets that could be revealed at any moment, from illegal business dealings to affairs to illegitimate children.
Waldman: Rayna can’t be an all-purpose role model for Juliette, but she might work as an artistic one. Even Deacon, peeved at her, admits that Rayna the country star is always true to her voice. I love that she hired a lady lead guitarist! So much for women musicians never helping each other out.
Krule: Oh, ugh. I actually didn’t notice the lady guitarist until Rayna seemed to say, “Look, I have a lady guitarist!” And then asked Deacon to teach her how to play.
Waldman: We must talk about Deacon. And elevators. Perhaps the two-person elevator ride is the TV version of Chekhov’s pistol: Two passengers alone in an elevator will eventually lock lips, by immutable narrative law. I loved the bait-and-switch of the first couple elevator scenes, the way the enclosed space worked as a metaphor for the claustrophobia of the tour.
Krule: (Seriously! Where did all those backup dancers for Juliette come from?)
Waldman: (They were so awesomely horrible! But why had we never seen them in any of the other performances?)
Krule: I’m a bit skeptical about Deacon these days. He’s gone from sleeping with Juliette to serving as a father figure, to helping her with her mother, to going on tour with her. Somewhere in the middle he left abruptly to tour with the Revel Kings, and slept with a reporter writing a profile about the band. He just seems to have so many conflicting plot points, like the writers aren’t sure what to do with him, so they keep bouncing him around until something fits. And the thing that fits is that he’s in love with Rayna.
Waldman: Why can’t they all fit, though? Why can’t Deacon be in love with Rayna and a mentor for Juliette and a pillar of support for Juliette’s mom? I like that the show asks so much of him. I like that he can have this revelatory professional moment on stage with Juliette, mouth off to Glenn, and then make a move on Rayna all in a few hours.
Krule: But isn’t the message of Nashville that you make good music with the woman you secretly love? Haven’t you learned anything from Gunnar and Scarlett?
Waldman: I’d argue that the music exists on an entirely different plane than the messy relationship stuff. It doesn’t have to be spiritually transcendent, but it’s pure. Pure talent, pure business, whatever.
Krule: I think you’re kidding yourself! But speaking of purity, how did you feel about the mayor finally consummating the affair everyone assumed he’d been having?
Waldman: Yawn. Does it really matter whether Teddy stays or goes? (I guess there are the kids.) But Rayna’s “should I or shouldn’t I” dance around Deacon has always had less to do with her husband than with Deacon himself. I did think Rayna would be the one to initiate a divorce.
Krule: Never! Rayna would never do something so scandalous. And in Nashville, divorcing the mayor-elect seems pretty scandalous.
Waldman: But she’s always true to herself, Miriam!
Krule: Maybe there should be a #failRayna hashtag?
Waldman: Juliette’s probably started one.
Later This Week: Further analysis of Episode 12.