Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 4 of ABC's "Nashville," titled "You're No Angel Yourself."
For an episode with such a snarky title, "You're No Angel Yourself" was surprisingly sympathetic. Juliette, Deacon and Gunnar -- all frustratingly stubborn denizens of "Nashville" -- were rounded out by their respective strengths over the course of the hour. Unfortunately, the progress of the more wrong-headed members of the ensemble functioned only as subplots for Rayna's increasingly tangled familial drama, which (combined with her lack of a voice) left her tour canceled. Peggy and Teddy are engaged, Maddie is a teenager and Lamar officially killed his wife; as Juliette articulately put it, "This sucks!"
The "Grandma's birthday" cemetery visit and Rayna's graveyard monologue definitely pulled together the loss-of-voice and long-lost-mother story lines, although the sudden sadness did seem a bit rapidly manufactured (considering it was barely mentioned across the entirety of Season 1). Tandy's due diligence in confirming Lamar's role in her mother's death was interestingly calculated until she handed over a flash drive basically labeled "REVENGE." Speaking to the attorney about how she felt as a "little girl" seemed a bit unorthodox. But Tandy is no fool, so let's wait to see her next move before passing judgement on that scene.
The Wyatt-James saga rose to a head at the symphony gala, where Maddie was padding around and mumbling "I'm a teen now!" It all seemed pretty silly until Peggy showed up with the engagement ring bobbing between her cleavage like a medal. That woman is dangerous. Plotting with ovulation calculators is truly estrogen-fueled genius and when this fake pregnancy scheme comes crashing down it promises to be the soapiest mess Teddy has yet to clean up. [Side note: Did you see his face when she hugged him and said, "I love you"? He looked like he was eating a lemon.]
Maddie's very necessary running away forced a Rayna-Deacon interaction, which was less tormented than it might have been given the circumstances. Mr. Claybourne was ambling through the remainder of his made-up 12-step program on a very lackluster date, but his eventual phone call with Maddie was a logical step in the right direction (namely any direction that is not self-administered "physical therapy").
Deacon's semi-closure was just one way that Maddie served as a powerful device in "You're No Angel Yourself." Standing alone in fancy clothes at a gas station, the poor girl looked like she was re-enacting the mugging scene from "Clueless," until Juliette swooped in to save the day. At first, a call to Juliette Barnes seemed somewhat impractical, but the country star's advice and kindness toward Maddie was truly the most genuinely heartfelt scene we've had from Miss Barnes since we met her mama and it was a refreshing change, indeed. Juliette's stress over her lost tour with Rayna and need to conform to the "tween" scene seemed very real; Maddie was the perfect way for her to gain perspective.
Despite his complete lack of physical appearances, Jeff the Bean Counter emitted a ghost-like presence throughout the episode. His force was threaded throughout various plot lines, in a way that shaped him almost as a symbol of the dark side of the music industry. Even in absentia, he was able to exert his influence over Will, Juliette and even Scarlett. As Will was strong-armed into getting Gunnar's approval for a song, Juliette struggled to overcome "the sparkle and the flash," and Scarlett was basically felt-up at the Edgehill photo shoot, the three artists were forced to grapple with who they are and who they want to be as country stars. Of course, Jeff didn't command any of this directly, but each instance felt like a manifestation of the sort of pressures he would exude.
Said pressures forced Gunnar to stand up for himself in response to Will's request to record his song. We saw a very drawn-out portrait of Gunnar's internal struggle, featuring the grand return of Avery's little judgey faces at the Bluebird. Avery acts like he has just seen it all, and although he's seen -- at most -- some if it, his advice to Gunnar felt sound here. Gunnar and Will's eventual fight pits the two as foils in a clear juxtaposition of the music industry Haves and Have Nots.
Speaking of Have Nots, Rayna was still a Have Not in the voice department. As her daughters sang the most precious song we've heard all season, she placed her signature black nails on her throat and attempted to quietly sing along: croak. As next week's promos forebodingly asked immediately following the episode's close: "Will the voice of 'Nashville' be silenced?" [Probably not, but I'm willing to bet we'll be teased with that possibility until at least midway through the season].
- Just so you know, Charlie Wentworth, Juliette Barnes can pay for her own cars.
- Deacon chewing with his mouth full at dinner was just the icing on the "He can't have chemistry with anyone but Rayna" sundae. "This steak's not going anywhere," he said, with a mouth full of steak.
- Layla Grant's reactions during her visit with Juliette were so hard to read! Although, there's no doubt Jeff the Bean Counter's new star will prove a delightfully contentious rival on tour.
- Scarlett's struggles with fame are a bit forced, but there is a juicy plotline on its way for Scarlett's friend Zoe -- she is not just "the preacher's daughter" anymore.
- Where is Liam and can he please come back next week?
- Maisy is the official winner of the Adorable Award. I could bake cupcakes and play "Pretty, Pretty Princess" with that child for days.
"Nashville" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.