‘Nashville’ Review: A Shooting Mires the Otherwise Excellent ‘I Can’t Keep Away From You’
Recap and review of Nashville – Season 3 Episode 16 – I Can’t Keep Away From You:
For a show that is steeped in the drama of the music industry, Nashville does step into criminal enterprises far more frequently than I’d like. Then again, it’s not as if I’m in charge here. “I Can’t Keep Away From You” is an excellent episode for Nashville, but the ludicrous nature of some of its dramatic entanglements complicates matters, for me.
On the one hand, I’m not surprised that the episode ended with Sadie (Laura Benanti) accidentally shooting her ex-husband dead in self-defense, since this storyline seemed destined to end with one of them six feet under. But Luke (Will Chase) happening in on the scene implies that this could become a criminal conspiracy of some sort, assuming he helps her cover it up. Either way, it left a sour taste in my mouth after what had been a solid subplot up to that point, as Sadie and Luke commiserate over past relationships, work on music together, and even develop feelings for one another. That would have been a perfectly fine story, and believable within the confines of the world this show is trying to present. But by adding a death on top of all that, credulity is further strained. Does stuff like this really happen to celebrities in country music? It just feels like too much soap opera bombast, like that terrible Dante storyline with Juliette back in Season 1. For all I know, this sort of stuff happens behind the scenes, but we just never find out about it. But does a show centered on the music industry really need accidental/justifiable homicide to create drama? Does this show need Teddy (Eric Close) attempting to bend the laws of his office to prevent Natasha (Moniqua Plante) from ratting him out to the Feds? What’s really being accomplished here if Teddy ends up committing a worse crime than the one he’s trying to cover up? How long until we just have Teddy ordering Natasha killed? That’s my problem with all this back alley shadiness on the show. It’s a slippery slope for both the writers and the characters they create. Granted, it’s not like these sorts of outlandish scenarios happen all the time, but even used sparingly, it feels so unnecessary when there’s a perfectly good show here centered on the Nashville music scene, and the romantic entanglements thereof.
Case in point, the best part of tonight’s episode: Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon (Charles Esten) are officially back together, and they’re going to be fighting this cancer side-by-side. It’s a dramatically potent story that stretches over the course of the hour, as Deacon does his best to push Rayna away, vowing to go through with this fight on his own. However, Rayna wants them to spend as much time together as they can, believing they’re simply stronger together than they are apart. What’s compelling about this story is that both sides have legitimate arguments. When Rayna questions Deacon’s decision to push her away by asking, “Do you not believe in us enough?”, it comes across as an unfair question. As Deacon notes, it was Rayna’s choice to hide Maddie (Lennon Stella) from him, Rayna’s choice to marry Teddy, and Rayna’s choice to eventually choose Luke Wheeler. Virtually every choice she’s made has basically told him that she’s the one who doesn’t believe in them, not the other way around. And yet, Deacon conveniently omits how Rayna waited for him again and again through each and every tour of rehab, only giving up on him after the fourth try at rehab fell through (as she noted in a past episode, “How was I supposed to know the fifth time would take?”).
In essence, Rayna is doing her best to be there for Deacon now. Best case scenario, they fight through this and live happily ever after. Worse cast scenario, they get to cherish whatever time they have left with one another, spending the reminder of their lives together as the couple they seemed destined to have been. Yet Deacon has trouble getting past his self-pity and his fear at how Maddie will react to the news. At least until Rayna rationalizes that Maddie is stronger than he gives her credit for, and that she doesn’t want to teach her girls that love is something to be avoided when times get tough. It’s a passionate speech that ranks among Britton’s best this season, and I’m pretty much loving how Esten is playing Deacon as a desperate man looking for a good reason to let go of his despair. His “nothing matters” rant at Rayna is heartbreaking, because we can see just how deeply Deacon seems to believe it. He’s someone who’s been beaten down by his circumstances, to where he can’t even recognize how much stronger he could be with Rayna at his side. It’s not that he wants to do this alone, but simply that he feels it’s the only way. But when he realizes Rayna truly does love him (as opposed to pitying him, as he feared), and that she is strong enough to handle this, Deacon eagerly grabs onto that lifeline. He kisses her and it leads to the consummation of their relationship. It’s beautiful stuff, and handled with delicacy and maturity, particularly when they break the news (both good and bad) to Maddie and Daphne (Maisy Stella). I could have taken an entire hour of just this storyline, but the episode had other masters to serve as well. Luckily, they mostly held interest.
The back-and-forth relationship between Jeff (Oliver Hudson) and Layla (Aubrey Peeples) is interesting mostly for what it says about the characters. When Jeff gets Layla an interview with an old blogger friend, things seem to be looking up for Layla’s career. But it quickly becomes evident to Layla that Jeff and the blogger, a lovely woman named Adele, have a romantic past together. Before long, she’s bailing on the interview altogether, rationalizing that Jeff and Adele would clearly rather be alone to catch up. Jeff is mortified that Layla would tank her own career over some “8th grade” drama, but her reaction tells us that while Layla’s sound has matured, she hasn’t. Layla can’t separate her emotions from what’s best for her career, because she’s still very much a young girl, formed in the crucible of an entertainment industry that chews up and spits out ingenues like her. So while Layla has a right to be hurt by how flirty Jeff was acting, she’s naive to think her relationship with Jeff is ever going to be straightforward. Eventually, she comes to recognize this when Jeff apologizes and says he wants to try a relationship with her. Layla breaks off their romantic/sexual relationship by saying that someone shouldn’t have to “try” to love her. Put plainly, she doesn’t want to do the whole Will Lexington thing all over again. Jeff seems heartbroken, but not entirely surprised by this. After all, what could he realistically expect from a girl he’s jerked around so many times? Their business relationship will continue, but Layla matures a bit in putting her foot down on the romantic side of things. I doubt that will last, but it’s nice to see Layla putting her own needs above those of others.
The episode was rounded out by some intriguing little subplots here and there. For one, I loved how Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) helped Scarlett (Clare Bowen) get her confidence back when the Triple Xs play a show at the same Chicago arena where Scarlett had her meltdown last year. Scarlett’s confidence plummets when the Triple Xs’s Twitter followers pile up on her with hurtful comments, and my heart seriously broke for her in that situation. While Gunnar is right that the people are firing away with terrible things they’d never say to the person’s face, this doesn’t really diminish the sting. Scarlett is devastated, and the only way to bring her out of it is with a song. And so they write one that serves as a kiss-off to her critics. It’s one of my favorite music moments of the season, a triumphant, upbeat declaration that neither hatred nor the traumas of her past are going to beat her down. This story also provides two forking paths in the romance department: although we focus for a little bit on Avery’s obsessive doting on Juliette (Hayden Panetierre), complete with an adorable lullaby for their unborn child, the real point of interest is in Gunnar’s attempts to win Scarlett back. I say “real point of interest” not because I think Gunnar and Scarlett are the optimal pairing for the show, but mostly because all of my favorite music moments in the series have come as a result of their pairing. One of Nashville’s strongest elements is its music, and I’m anxious to see what a Gunnar/Scarlett reunion could create, at that level. Then again, some of my favorite Gunnar/Scarlett musical moments were from before they ever had anything romantic between them, so I guess I’ll take more of a “wait and see” approach on this. But I’m certainly open to the possibility of the two getting back together, just as I’m open to the possibility of Will (Chris Carmack) getting together with songwriter Kevin Bicks (Kyle Dean Massey). Not only do they create a wonderful song together at the start of the episode, but Will’s remorse over shunning Kevin over his sexuality prompts him to track Kevin down, apologize, and basically come out to him. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger to leave that story on, but it compels interest for next week (or whenever we come back to this particular storyline).
“I Can’t Keep Away From You” is one of my favorite episodes of the season, and had it not been for the ridiculous, over-the-top stuff with Sadie and Teddy, it would have been a perfect episode. But when you love a show, you take the good with the bad. And Nashville has been consistently great this season, so I think it deserves the benefit of the doubt, even if I don’t love some of the show’s stories. I’m excited to see what happens when Rayna throws Juliette a baby shower next week, since that has disaster written all over it. You know, the good kind.