Nashville: Season 1, Episode 9
Be Careful of the Stones You Throw
One of my earliest critiques of Nashville has been the ambition to weave too many storylines into forty-three minutes each week. While there were many strong individual pieces, "Be Careful of the Stones You Throw" overshoots and falls short by trying to tell too many stories at once. Many new television shows start with superfluous characters and storylines but find a way to trim the fat with time. Nashville seems to be going the other direction, delving deeper into minor characters and leaving me struggling to keep everything straight.

My two favorite story lines continue to be those of Juliet Barnes and Rayna James. Now that they have acquiesced to tour together, the two ladies will thankfully share more scenes. I loved Rayna's coolly delivered line to Juliet, "I only hate sunburns and hangovers. This is just business." Rayna and Juliet's entire exchange was filled with passive aggressive jabs that were fun to watch"”each held the other accountable for the scandal and shortcomings in the other's life. The ladies also have something to learn from the other. I hope the back and forth continues this winter while the two also gain more respect for each other.

Rayna's individual story arc actually got little screen time this week. Her family drama played out in short scenes interspersed throughout the episode. Rayna seemed distant, closed-off in most of these family scenes. I think Connie Britton did a beautiful job portraying a woman struggling to reconcile personal needs, duty to her family, and professional demands. This dynamic combined with Tandy and Lamar's campaign scheming should provide interesting fodder in weeks to come.

Teddy proved this week that he was somewhat of an independent and respectable man when he stood up to Lamar's threats to reveal his daughter Maddy's paternity. We have heard time and again how devoted Teddy is to his family with little supporting evidence. However, hearing him swallow his pride and hurt to protect his young daughter against the knowledge of her paternity was commendable. Previously I had dismissed any hope of the resurrection of Rayna and Teddy's marriage; this humble display suggests that there may be room to heal.

Teddy and Rayna's marriage is complicated. Yet by the end of the episode, all of their issues and feelings are laid out on the table. On the other end of the spectrum, Juliet's marriage to Sean has one dimension: physical. The episode opened with the newlyweds post-coitus in the back of a limo (a quick trip to City Hall provided the perfect solution to Juliet's problem with Sean's abstinence). As the episode built towards Sean and Juliet's church wedding (because its not official until Jesus says so!), his family was pushing her towards confronting the demons from her past. Juliet nearly broke into a cold sweat each time the topic of her family came up. When Sean brings up the subject, Juliet's go-to strategy is to straddle him and stop conversation. I don't think this tactic would work as well on his mother.

When visiting rehab, Juliet's mother sums up the problem perfectly. Juliet used the quick marriage as another temporary high to ignore the deep pain she carries daily. It will not be the answer to her problems. This prediction proves true by the end of the episode. On the day of the wedding, Sean gave Juliet his grandmother's pendant to wear down the aisle. At first, this is a point for Juliet against Sean's mother, who is still hypercritical of and hostile towards Juliet. But when alone in her limo, dressed in white and headed towards the church, her own mother's words have sunk in. The driver announces her arrival, but instead of walking towards a church, our last view of Juliette is walking towards a jet, running away from the wedding and confronting the situation.

Scarlett, Gunnar, Avery, and Deacon story lines continue to roll on despite my protests. On their own, they are not that bad. But I think keeping them alive drags down the more satisfying poles of Rayna and Juliette's stories. Deacon is on tour with the Revel Kings, a clear professional coup, but is still pining for Rayna and resisting acceptance of his new life. Scarlett is still trying to leave Avery for good (he really is her kryptonite), sort out her feelings for Gunnar, and kickstart her career. Scarlett grew on me a lot this week when she told Avery off and rocked out like Gwen Stefani (meets Little House on the Prarie) with Avery's band. However, there does still seem to be too much going on in Nashville. There seems to be no connection currently between Scarlett's story and that of Juliet and Rayna. If they have a future face-off, I cannot imagine a future situation that would be rewarding enough to make my current disorientation worthwhile. Deacon is also struggling for relevancy in my mind. He is not involved with his niece Scarlett. He is thinking of Rayna, but there is no indication she is thinking of him (except as the unspoken root cause of a current threat to her daughter's well-being). There needs to be some cohesion, pronto, to keep me on the edge of my seat.

"Be Careful of the Stones Your Throw," revealed many interesting character dynamics on Nashville. Lamar lost some of the potency in his threats at the hand of Teddy, Juliet continued to give in to her flight instincts in new challenging situations, and Scarlett finally starts to stand up for herself. But each of these, and other, interesting developments are overclouded by a messy episode. There are not enough connections between the ensemble cast to make the range of storylines clear. Had there been more cohesion, I might have given this episode an A-range rating. My fingers are crossed for next week!

Grade: B-
Tags: Nashville
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