Nashville: Season 1, Episode 17
My Heart Would Know
Was this an episode of Nashville or The Maury Povich Show? I think it was the latter with a southern accent and a few more sequins. Here is where we left things off: things were heating up between Juliette and Dante (her mother's sober coach and her own quasi-therapist); Deacon was getting serious with a new woman; Rayna, Tandy, and the girls are reconnecting; Scarlett is joining Edgehill; Gunnar is still mourning his brother's death; this little couple that could gets a new neighbor who seems a little too good to be true; and Avery, blacklisted from Nashville, decides to become a roadie. Oh, Teddy is playing house with Peggy Cantor in Nashville while his family is in New York and Lamar suffered a heart attack shortly after threatening Peggy.

This week Nashville tried to continue to push all these points forward. Individually, each of these story lines is fun to watch, regardless how morally corrupt the character might be. Unfortunately the Nashville team was a little too ambitious trying to move all these storylines forward at once. This was a big critique I had of the show earlier this season and it's a shame to see the problem reoccur. Now, unlike before, the plots have more momentum and the stakes have gotten higher. To give all characters sufficient coverage, there was a lot of cutting back and forth between the plot lines. Given the sheer volume, it was a little overwhelming to try to keep track of all the big things occurring: some issues were dealt with too quickly, and on the whole I think some critical moments were deflated by the episode's noise.

First, the revelations Rayna learned while isolated in the hospital with her father in and out of consciousness were big moments for her character. Rayna and Lamar have had a strained relationship for most of her life yet she has always had difficulty understanding why. We know that Rayna takes after her mother in many ways and that this was painful for Lamar after her death. This week we learn that at the time of Rayna's mother's fatal car accident, she was moving out of her marital home. Rayna was twelve. As she became an adolescent and took more and more after her mother, her relationship with Lamar became more strained. Turns out, her father kicked her out of the house when she was sixteen because her mother's lover, Whitey White, arranged her first paying gig as an artist. Woah woah woah, Rayna's long term professional mentor and surrogate father figure, was her mother's lover? That is huge! And who was by Rayna's side during this whole ordeal way back when? Deacon! Not only do Rayna and Deacon get to have a genuine reconnection in the hospital, but Rayna also is able to confess to her father her sadness over the time they lost together because of misunderstanding.

Nashville should have also taken a breath and drawn out Gunnar's grieving process (and I am not just saying this because the sight of Sam Palladino in boxer briefs and an unbuttoned oxford is practically perfection). Moreover not only did they gloss over the grieving too quickly, its resolution too quickly written over and bad way to resolve it. When he is consumed with Jason's death, Gunnar has lost his appetite to play and write music. He cannot sleep well. Rather than work through the issues, he decides to turn Scarlett's signing day with Edgehill into an official holiday. The only person who can shake him out of the funk is Cowboy Will, their new roommate. His cure? Play chicken with the railroad. A little less conventional than Dr. Phil, he explains that the only way to move on is to confront death yourself. As shady as it sounds, Gunnar embraces it and asks to do it again. The next morning, he is back to song writing (with clothes on, sigh). Could this just be a temporary peace and not a long-term acceptance? I hope so. As things stand now, it is a very unrealistic treatment of grieving a death you feel responsible for.

Part of the mishandling of Rayna and Gunnar's stories was the overemphasis on Juliette's love triangle. As I said last week, Juliette does not share well with others. It is like she has tunnel vision for one man at a time. Anything else that challenges this pull is dismissed. This became increasingly clear when Juliette damaged her relationships with her mother and Deacon over Dante's role in her life. He will probably be a good manager and will be a boon to Juliette's success (excluding the strong chance his old habits lead him to shady dealings). I guess I am interested to see where this goes, but, the story has been overdrawn over the past two week. In the meantime, Hayden Panettiere continues riffing on the diva/strained maternal relationship notes without much growth since the early season.

Don't get me wrong, I really liked this episode. But on the whole, it seemed like "My Heart Would Know" cared much more about what would be salacious in the short term than compelling in the long term. Combined with the overwhelming volume of storylines and the poor pacing, it just made this episode seem like it was aiming for the lowest common denominator. Yes, Nashville is a network primetime soap. But I really believe the show has (or had) the potential to be better than that. There can be diva antics, love triangles, drug addicts, and country music without sacrificing quality. In the future weeks I hope Nashville refocuses to end the season on a strong note.

Grade: B


-If Rayna is like her mother, Tandy is all her father. I loved watching her march into Teddy's office to drop the bomb about Peggy's leaks. Sure she may have lost the leverage Lamar over Peggy, but she must have another plan to get their interests served in the long run. A rift between Teddy and Peggy will definitely help.

-Peggy's phone call to Teddy telling her she loved him was a little out in psychoville"”I hope Callie Khouri plans to turn her into a possessive ex-lover as her secret spills out.

-Dante gives me a lot of Sam Lufti circa 2007-Britney vibes. AND a BuzzFeed listicle now informs me that Jay Hernandez was formerly a star of MTV's greatest original programming to date, Undressed, before he made it to Nashville. Yes actors and their characters are distinct, but this definitely adds to my creeped-out factor.

-Avery is officially on the Red Lips White Lies Tour, and, while he quickly got caught in the crossfire, he did little on his own to make waves. I don't see a point in keeping his character around unless he starts to actively cause drama with Juliette (or Rayna?). The fact that Juliette recognized his face back from the Pilot was a good sign of juicy dirt to come.

-What happened to Sue? You can't just bring an adorable puppy into my heart just to tear it away the next week!

-Was it just me, or was it kind of creepy to watch two dudes (Gunnar and Will) watch and facilitate one girl (Scarlett) get really hammered in a bar? Why are neither of them drinking? And why is Will so eager to take a picture with her, announce to the entire bar she is signed by Rayna James? He is a little too much of a smooth operator to not have ulterior motives"¦
Tags: Nashville
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