Recap and review of Nashville – Season 1 Episode 12 – I’ve Been Down That Road Before:
Nashville has gotten a lot more mileage out of the stop-and-start romance storylines than the actual music industry narrative, yet I can’t say the show was ever wrong to go in that direction. There are plenty of moments in “I’ve Been Down That Road Before” that illustrate just how much chemistry the various pairings have. In particular, Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon (Charles Esten) make this episode exceedingly entertaining at the level of straight-up soap opera dramatics. But there’s also a sweeter, more restrained chemistry between Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) that serves the show well, as the innocence of their partnership (both as songwriters and as friends/potential lovers) that contrasts nicely with the rawness of their elder counterparts. Because, make no mistake, the parallels between Scarlett/Gunnar and Rayna/Deacon are more overt than they’ve ever been, to the point that characters within the show are remarking upon it. While I could do without being hit over the head with the similarities, this parallel is one of the strongest aspects of the show, as the cyclical nature of show business is reflected in the cyclical love matches it creates.
There are several huge developments in this episode, but none bigger than the show-closing bombshell, as Teddy (Eric Close) flies out to Chicago and asks Rayna for a divorce. Although it’s not really a shocker that they’re separating, I certainly didn’t expect that the divorce would be Teddy’s request, as he’s been the one fighting the hardest to keep the marriage intact. Then again, he wasn’t getting sex on the side before tonight, when Peggy (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) escalated her flirtations from “suggestive” to “all the subtlety of a root canal”. While giving his former co-worker a ride home, Teddy confesses his troubles with Rayna, and Peggy tells him that he shouldn’t have to fight this hard to have someone love him. She puts her hand on Teddy’s, he takes her hand into his, and they’re suddenly kissing, with hardly a scene passing before they’re in bed together.
This seemingly genuine connection reinvigorates Teddy to the point where he’s catalyzed into breaking things off with Rayna once and for all, acknowledging that they both tried, but that neither of them are happy. Teddy more or less states that it’s unfair for him to have to wait for her to love him again, and while he’s not entirely wrong, I don’t know if we’re necessarily supposed to sympathize with him, at least not more than we’re meant to sympathize with Rayna, since Teddy has done his fair share of lying. However, other than cheating on Rayna tonight, and his occasional bouts of jealousy over the men she surrounds herself with on the tour (fears which were proven to be well-founded, given what happens), the show has rehabilitated Teddy somewhat from a villain into a decent, if flawed, human being. But I still can’t shake the sense that the show doesn’t really have any idea what to do with him. I’m genuinely interested to see if he’s an interesting enough character to follow, in his own right, independent of his role as Rayna’s husband. I mean, he IS the Mayor (well, Mayor Elect), after all. And there has to be some larger point to the whole election storyline that will necessitate Teddy’s continued presence on the show, whether he’s Rayna’s husband or not.
As for Rayna, Teddy isn’t the only man in her life doing everything in his power to turn her world upside down. Following his own Nike-like credo of just doing it instead of talking about it, he kisses Rayna in an elevator in a scene that’s actually pretty damn hot. It’s the culmination of three elevator scenes throughout the episode that build tension between the two, with the first elevator scene being a relatively cold moment where it seems like neither Rayna nor Deacon necessarily want to be next to each other. In the second elevator scene, Rayna has a one-sided conversation with Deacon about how talented Scarlett is, and it looks like Deacon, for all the world, is trying his damndest not to kiss Rayna right then and there. But he doesn’t say a word. He just gets off on his floor. The third elevator scene, however, is where things turn around, as Rayna attempts to chat Deacon up, becoming frustrated when he won’t respond, and suddenly snapping, asking what the hell his deal is. Deacon interrupts her, mid-sentence, with a kiss that, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think Charles Esten and Connie Britton enjoyed far beyond the necessities of filming the scene. It was seriously hot, yet without needing to be salacious. Sometimes a simple kiss can be sexier than all the bare skin in the world. Of course, a kiss will only satisfy passions to a limited extent, as Rayna comes to realize as she agonizes in her hotel room later that night. Resigned to her desire for him, Rayna texts Deacon and invites him up to her room. Deacon doesn’t need to be told twice, and makes for the elevator, but when he gets to Rayna’s room, he sees Teddy in her doorway, on the first stop of his 2013 Surprise Divorce Tour. With every bit of passionate heat they give us between Rayna and Deacon, they douse a little cold water on the fire before it gets out of control. I really can’t argue with a narrative approach like this when it works as well as this has, at least in my opinion.
As for Scarlett, she’s behind on the rent, and playing gigs with Avery’s old band to make money. While she’s growing more confident with her onstage presence, Scarlett is still nagged by the lingering specter of Avery (Jonathan Jackson). He still owes her money, and when she calls him over to confront him, he brings along a camera crew (documenting the early start of up-and-coming musicians) to “share a little of my success with you.” When Avery tries to apologize later for having been a jerk to her all this time, he sees Gunnar is in the house with her and assumes that the two are now sleeping together. Avery and Gunnar get into a verbal pissing contest over Scarlett, and it culminates in Gunnar beating the ever-loving hell out of Avery, a beating that’s been long in coming (even if it was hilariously over-choreographed for just three punches). Scarlett tends to Gunnar’s wounds while he talks about learning to fight from his brother (and neither Scarlett nor Gunnar seems prepared, or even interested, in discussing the implications of Gunnar having defended her honor), and it’s a scene that deepens the rapport between the two and adds another layer of sweetness to their relatively chaste partnership, as Gunnar has officially moved in with Scarlett to take over as her roommate.
Avery, meanwhile, storms into the home of his manager/cougar Marilyn (Rya Kihlstedt), ending their sexual relationship because “there’s got to be a better way” to make it in the business. It’s a peculiar direction to take Avery, but I like it, in the sense that it’s at least different to see a male objectified in a show on network TV. Not that objectification is good or anything, but it makes for a more interesting storyline for the possibilities it opens up. Could Avery actually turn over a new leaf and become a decent guy? Rayna has received the okay from her label to start a label of her own, and Watty White (J.D. Souther) recommends Scarlett and Gunnar, though it wouldn’t surprise me if Avery figured into this, whether as a prospective client for the label, or as a rival act. Either way, I like that the love-triangle between Scarlett/Avery/Gunnar is dovetailing nicely into the intrigue of the music industry.
If the episode taught us nothing else, it’s that said industry is notoriously fickle. Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) is desperate to be taken seriously as an artist, and it’s easy to tell early on that she’s getting a little sick of all the bubbly, crossover country-pop confections she’s been made to sing, night-in and night-out. So, on the advice of Deacon, Juliette decides to unexpectedly debut the song she wrote with him, an acoustic ballad titled “Consider Me”. It’s the best song in Juliette’s entire catalog (at least that we’ve heard so far, and again, only in my opinion), yet her manager, Glenn (Ed Amatrudo), is furious at her impulsiveness in not clearing the decision with him first. This is because a critic with the Chicago Tribune was in the audience, and he live-tweeted the song to scathing reviews. Juliette is devastated, and I have to give it to the show for the ways in which it continues to make Juliette more relatable and identifiable, since I can’t imagine any of us haven’t gotten criticized for something we thought was good. And I’d imagine more than a few of us were devastated whenever that happened to us, whether we were a child, a teenager, or an adult. Juliette took a risk with the hopes that she would be seen as credible, yet the press responds by questioning who Juliette thinks she is, and ripping her apart for her “pretensions”. It isn’t until her new assistant brings up the song’s YouTube clip, revealing that, in the two hours it’s been up, the video already has over 100,000 views and just as many likes, that Juliette starts to see that the opinions you want aren’t always the opinions that matter. Sometimes the opinions that matter most are the ones we’re not willing to listen to. That’s not exactly an Earth-shattering assessment, but it’s basically a mini-revelation to Juliette, who’s been ignoring warnings, advice, and opinions until this week’s episode, where some of the good words start to sink in, from Deacon and from her assistant. I love the idea of Juliette growing as an artist, the same way I would if she were an amateur on a singing competition. There’s a sense of excitement in seeing a person develop before your eyes, irrespective of whether or not they actually end up being successful. And Juliette already has the whole success part down, in this world. So it should be rewarding to see her development as a credible singer/songwriter, regardless of whether she sinks or swims on her own.
“I’ve Been Down That Road Before” is one of the most engaging episodes of the season, owing to the ways in which each of the major plotlines move forward. More happened in this episode than any episode since the pilot, I would argue – at least, more happened that was worth actually noting. I feel like Nashville has come to a point, over the last several weeks, where I no longer feel the need to classify it as a “guilty pleasure”. With episodes like these, it’s simply a pleasure.