This isn't a perfect metaphor, but Juliette and Sean's micro-marriage is a symbol for "Nashville" itself lately: It's rushed, nobody involved understood the motivations, and it doesn't quite work out… but it has some nice moments anyway.
That's right: the marriage is over, and Juliette is over it, dodging questions about it at the pre-tour press conference (which is set up similar to those of title fights; heh). She hasn't spoken to Sean, which her manager theorizes is why he won't sign the divorce papers, but it's actually because he wants an annulment instead. When Juliette skips Rayna's first tour set to fly to Oakland to confront Sean, he gives it to her sugar-free: She knew what marriage meant to him, and he only plans on getting married once, so he wants this one not to count.
It's Juliette, so she digs her heels in at first, but eventually gives in at the annulment hearing -- she admits to the fraud, then says she's sorry after counsel leaves the room. "I was never gonna be the wife that you deserved. I know that you know that; I just wanted you to know that I know it too." Sean isn't buying the penitent routine: "You once told me that I wouldn't like you very much if I got to know you. And you were right." Juliette stares at the table, furious and hurt. Best way (and time) to end the subplot, probably, but we'll miss Sean, and Tilky Jones.
The runaway-bride contretemps isn't improving Juliette's personality; she's her usual imperious and tardy self, including hogging the pre-show sound check. Liam has joined the tour -- basically because Rayna can't adjust to guitarists who aren't Deacon, and has fired two of them before she has to beg Liam to bail her out -- and even if he can't play a single bar, he's worth his weight in BBQ, marching onstage and lying down in the middle until Juliette finally stomps off, all the while mocking her selfishness and her tendency to make her "people" do her dirty work for her. He lays into her later as well, snarking that she's never wrong and can't take responsibility for anything. Love that guy.
Also love that Liam calls Rayna on her Deacon-itis. Rayna's still performing little pre-show rituals she used to do with Deacon, expecting guitar players she barely knows to read her mind about playing the changes; she even gives Liam a pair of cowboy boots before the show. Liam's face: "Um. No thanks."
Rayna IS afraid to move on -- but not from Teddy, necessarily. We don't blame her, as he's being kind of pathetic, asking if she's coming home for election night and then, when she expresses doubts, pouting that it's fine, it would only be for appearances anyway, whatever. Grow up, Mr. Mayor. …Oh, yeah: He wins. Lamar and Tandy both urge him to let them buy him some insurance votes, just like his great-grandfather did back in the day, but he refuses, and they claim to have obeyed him. Rayna comes home after all to watch the returns, and as Coleman Carlisle graciously concedes and thanks his wife, Rayna and Teddy squirm on the couch, envious of a sincere partnership in a political marriage.
So that's awkward, aaaaand then there's Peggy, giving new meaning to the term by popping in to the victory suite very late to say congratulations in person. And her suicide attempt was totally a mistake! She's fiiiiiine! And she could have said all this on the phone, but she wanted Teddy to stare at her lips like they were cookies! Okay, now she'll run off right before they kiss! Credit where it's due: This plot is paced well, and we'd sort of love it if Teddy decided, well, everyone thinks I slept with her anyway so what the hey. Eric Close is killing it with a namby-pamby character, too.
Charles Esten is also trying to kill it in the Deacon subplot, but talk about rushed. It's obvious the lead guitarist, Sy, is jealous of Deacon -- his talent, his obvious appeal to Journalist Lady, you name it. It's getting tense, but instead of exploring intra-band issues in some depth, the show's like, "Nope, this isn't working," and pulls the ripcord by having Sy try to rape Scarlett. She kicks him in the nuts! Deacon throws him through a table, and quits the band! We want Deacon's narrative strand to tie back together with Rayna's too, but this is too abrupt. And yet, we get a nice line from Deacon: "I used to think [Sy] was a jerk 'cause he was a drunk; there goes that theory." Heh.
City of brotherly love
Scarlett's visiting the tour in Austin with Gunnar, who's road-tripping down to Bastrop to pick up his brother Jason upon Jason's release from prison. It takes Jason no time to hock Gunnar's guitar for a handgun and prepare to resume his robbin' ways, just an hour after sweetly harmonizing with his little bro on a song about a fugitive, and when Gunnar realizes Jason is about to not just break his parole but shatter it, they have a big exposition du— er, "argument" about how Jason basically raised Gunnar, and felt abandoned when Gunnar fled a crime scene at age 16. Another storyline with potential that feels hurried past; more backstory about Gunnar and what became of his parents would be great, but not if it's just a way station to Scarlett falling in pity-love with him.
Elsewhere, Avery is having a boilerplate push-me-pull-you conflict between manager/lover Marilyn, who thinks Dominic is trying to screw him with the new contract; and Dominic, who calls Marilyn "small-time" and dangles a vintage convertible and talk of becoming a "big star" in front of Avery. All puffed up by Dominic's compliments, he snottily tells Marilyn where to stick it -- although, when she points out that Dominic is taking advantage of Avery's youth and inexperience, he's like, "Right, kind of like you?"
Watch the full episode:
While we don't need to see every clause in the contract or anything, this is a real-life issue for musicians that has plenty of drama baked in, even if Avery weren't sleeping with his manager. When do you leave your beginnings behind and swing to the next vine? How far can you trust a producer who talks trash about everyone in your artistic life except you? Earlier, Juliette is complaining about having to sign CDs, saying that nobody buys CDs anymore, and it's true, another nod to the tough choices facing musicians these days. Touring, merchandise -- this is where singers and bands have to make their money. OK, nobody's going to tune in to a primetime drama about the microeconomics of art, but again, the show is called "Nashville," and this is a story thousands of Nashville artists could tell. Why not tell it instead of rushing on to the next ill-advised pairing -- in this case, according to the previews, Liam and Rayna?
Maybe Twitter had a different take on the ep...
NOT HIS GUITAR! That's, like, taking Gunnar's manhood or something? #Nashville— Kaitlin (@thekaitling) January 17, 2013
Next time: …Liam and Rayna? Teddy thinks so. And it looks like Deacon's using again.
"Nashville" airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on ABC.