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‘Nashville’ Review: Desperation Takes Hold in Poignant ‘Time Changes Things’

Recap and review of Nashville – Season 3 Episode 20 – Time Changes Things:

As Nashville nears the end of its third season, everyone is getting more desperate, as if they’re aware they’re each nearing a crossroads in their lives. “Time Changes Things” hinges on that desperation, whether it’s desperation for a career, desperation to get out of legal trouble, or desperation to save the one you love. It’s an unmistakably emotional hour.

That said, it’s also one of the busiest hours in recent memory, considering how much ground we have to cover. And part of the problem is that not all of it is good. For example, Jade (Christina Aguilera) throws a party that results in Layla (Aubrey Peeples) getting drunk and flirting with a hot young singer in order to give her career a boost. Jeff (Oliver Hudson) gets jealous, and then spitefully tweets out a pic of Layla, Jade and the Hot Singer that Jade expressly asked Layla not to tweet out. In the midst of all of this, Luke (Will Chase) breaks things off with Jade, and…well, that’s basically it for Christina Aguilera’s brief arc on this show. You could see how all this would be disappointing, and read as hollow, when set against the more substantive developments of the episode. Even though they all hit upon a universal theme of desperation (Jade wants to keep Luke, Jeff wants to keep Layla, and Layla wants to be a real star), these interlocking stories are the most anemic of the episode. Things happen, but it doesn’t feel like anything really does, because nothing is treated with the necessary gravitas.

Nashville - Time Changes Things

Credit: ABC/Mark Levine

Hell, I found more interest in Maddie (Lennon Stella) getting caught in a state of undress with Colt (Keean Johnson), since it dovetails into exploring how Deacon (Charles Esten) is still learning to be a father, even though he might not actually have a whole lot of time left to be one. Honestly, I was moved by the heart-to-heart Deacon has with Maddie in her room, because it shows how he’s honestly trying to figure out this whole fatherhood thing. He missed out on a lot of Maddie’s life, so to suddenly be a parent to a teenage girl is a daunting responsibility, considering the kind of trouble teenage girls can get into. But I like that he kind of luxuriated in the worry, noting that while he’s not thrilled to be having “the talk” with her, he’s happy that he gets to be here for this moment at all. Deacon knows he’s a man on borrowed time, so he makes each connection in his life mean something. He even breaks the news to Juliette (Hayden Panettiere), and then comforts her when her heart breaks over the revelation. It’s a moment that further develops them both as individuals, with Deacon growing more paternal with his instincts, and Juliette becoming more maternal in how she helps Deacon through his rough patch with Maddie. It certainly helps that Esten, Panettiere and Stella all do well with the material, creating a sense that these are all people with a deeper respect and appreciation for one another.

Nashville - Recap and Review - Season 3 Episode 20 - Time Changes Things

Credit: ABC

Similarly, Rayna (Connie Britton) illustrates her love for Deacon, but through an act performed on his behalf. She essentially takes a flight to go confront Beverly (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), Deacon’s sister, with the hopes of convincing her to reconsider being his donor. Naturally, this is all easier said than done, since Beverly has a deep-seated bitterness towards Rayna for breaking up the duo she and Deacon had going together, and causing her to lose out on her shot at a career. She feels she deserved to have the career Rayna has had, and that the only reason Rayna even has it at all is because she stole Deacon from her. So when you have that amount of bitterness poisoning your better judgment, it’s unthinkable to actually help the person towards whom you’re bitter, even if that bitterness means the death of your own brother. I’m not sure, honestly, whether or not the show wants us to sympathize with Beverly’s reasons for refusing to help Deacon, but there does seem to be a pretty clear judgment against her. Yes, being a donor is a huge sacrifice, but as Rayna reminds her, Deacon was once her rock. That ought to count for something. Rayna’s desperation makes this a gripping storyline (and the awesome age-reversing makeup makes it a treat to watch, considering I’ve never seen Rayna and Deacon looking this young), and it all builds to a climax that I really ought to have seen coming. I figured it should have been Rayna’s first course of action to try and bribe Beverly, but when she didn’t take that opportunity, I assumed bribery was off the table. But as the episode comes to a close, Beverly finds that she’s been offered a check from Rayna for $1 million. And while Rayna is rich, Highway 65 is still an upstart label, so $1 million isn’t exactly easy money. This could have huge implications if Beverly takes the money, but either doesn’t go through with the operation, or faces complications that, once again, prevent the operation from happening. It’s certainly got my interest piqued.

My interest is also fairly piqued, for once, by the Gunnar (Sam Palladio) storyline. In short, Kiley (Alexa PenaVega) returns and reveals to Gunnar that she never cheated on him: Jason, in fact, raped her. That’s how Micah was conceived. It’s a complex story that allows Palladio to dig deep into Gunnar’s conflicting emotions. He initially has a rough exterior when dealing with Kiley, chastising her for having the nerve to come back at all. But that shell gradually softens as he learns the horrific nature of what happened to her, to where Gunnar is feeling pretty remorseful and guilty by the end of the episode. He feels it was his responsibility to protect her, and while it really wasn’t his fault, Gunnar still takes that burden onto his own shoulders, because that’s the kind of person he is. Maybe he has a martyr complex or some sort, because it always seems like he needs to be the Atlas of the group, the one who’s carrying the world on his shoulders, whether these problems are his or someone else’s entirely. Of course, none of that excuses how he acts with Scarlett (Clare Bowen), blowing up on her and accusing her of judging everybody now that she has a hoity-toity doctor boyfriend. It’s the stupidest kind of dramatic argument: the kind that could easily be solved by just clarifying the situation.

'Nashville' Review Desperation Takes Hold in Poignant 'Time Changes Things'

Credit: ABC

Scarlett is judgmental towards Kiley because she’s still operating on the previous version of the story that Gunnar told her, namely that Kiley cheated on him with Jason, then dumped Micah off at his doorstep before fleeing to Texas. But instead of clarifying the new version of the story, Gunnar gets angry at Scarlett for speaking so derisively about Kiley, saying she had a rough childhood, but neglecting to go any further than that. It’s just such a brutally asinine argument for them to have, even if the intent was to keep Kiley’s suffering private. All he had to say was, “I got it wrong. I can’t really talk about it right now, but everything I thought about what happened is wrong. I’ll explain it to you sometime, but for right now, please trust me.” But nope, we get this clumsy, manufactured bit of business that does neither character any good, since now we have another conflict to threaten the future of their band. It’s always rinse, repeat with these two. But hey, at least there was some fun romance with Juliette and Avery (Jonathan Jackson), as Juliette puts on an impromptu rooftop concert to announce her return to the industry.

On the one hand, I’m worried that Juliette’s annoyance that Emily (Kourtney Hansen) is now the new nanny means that she might grow paranoid. And paranoia can lead to an even less pleasant Juliette than we’ve gotten the past several weeks. I love Juliette as a character, but they’ve really made her a tough pill to swallow these past few weeks. I really hope we’re getting the character back on track, although I guess we’ll see. At the very least, the show is putting in some interesting character rehab for Teddy (Eric Close). The insufferable Natasha (Moniqua Plante) refuses to just go the hell away, and calls to give Teddy one last warning about selling him out to the Feds. Teddy spends the rest of the episode saying his goodbyes (albeit without actually saying goodbye), and it actually inspires a certain measure of sympathy, despite the bad deeds he’s committed. He was essentially tricked by Jeff into hiring Natasha, and once his feet were in the quicksand, it was pretty difficult for him to get himself out. Of course, the show just might avoid having Teddy deal with any consequences, as one of his friends in law enforcement offers to clear his name from the investigation in exchange for a shady favor. We don’t know what that favor entails, but it wouldn’t surprise me if murder and/or drugs were involved. No idea why, just a hunch. If nothing else, this actually has me intrigued by a Teddy storyline, which almost never happens.

Ultimately, Nashville is still riding a hot streak with “Time Changes Things,” as each of the characters are facing the possibility that irrevocable changes are in store. Naturally, those changes are more interesting for some than for others, but there’s still an overall sense that progress is being made. And that counts for a lot towards the end of a season, since we can rest easy knowing we’re actually headed somewhere. Now all that remains is seeing if the destination is the kind of place we want to end up.

But what did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

And to keep up on all future reviews, follow me on Twitter: @NickRomanTV

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