Recap and review for Nashville – Season 1 Episode 5 – Move It on Over
Nashville gets back on track this week by focusing on its stronger elements in “Move It on Over,” although one of the weaker plots of the series threatens to consume the entire episode. I know that Nashville is a series with loftier ambitions than its soap opera trappings would imply, and that ambition often comes through via the mayoral election plot. I’m not entirely certain what the endgame is with this storyline, but it’s the show’s biggest problem at this point, since there’s no appreciable sense of where it’s going, or how it ties into anything else, other than that this is Rayna’s husband, her father, and her friend, and they’re engaged in a battle over the right to rule over Nashville. In theory, that should be more than enough to sustain the plotline, but it really isn’t. Not by a long shot. Even in its better moments, the mayoral plotline does real damage to the momentum of a given episode, and on a show like this, momentum can frequently mean everything to how good an episode ultimately ends up being. Luckily, the show is able to recover thanks to certain elements that separate this from other, similar series on television.
Front and center is the music, and there’s a ton of it tonight. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) get an audition with executives representing a famous music artist in need of some new songs. In an uncharacteristically generous offer, Avery (Jonathan Jackson) offers to play second guitar at the audition, and Scarlett is overjoyed, oblivious to his ulterior motives. At the audition, Avery gets bent out of shape about the bedroom eyes Scarlett and Gunnar are giving each other, and takes it upon himself to hijack the audition and add in a guitar solo to the otherwise subdued, low-key duet. Gunnar and Avery get into it after the performance, with Avery accusing Gunnar of trying to muscle in on his relationship. Scarlett overhears the whole thing and decides to make it clear to Gunnar that she’s with Avery, and that they can only ever be writing partners, nothing more. Gunnar agrees, adding that he’s now with Hailey, the cute assistant with whom he had a one night stand last week. Their light flirtations already reveal way more chemistry than I feel the Gunnar/Scarlett pairing is likely supposed to have, which might well be the point, since Scarlett seems immediately jealous that Gunnar has a significant other of his own.
Scarlett might not be resenting her love life so much if not for the fact that Avery’s little stunt ends up costing them the contract. Scarlett falls just short of accusing Avery of upstaging them deliberately, although I can’t see how she would see it any other way. She reasserts her commitment to Avery, saying that she chooses him, and will always choose him. Why, I’ll never know. Scarlett is interesting enough, and Clare Bowen does a great job infusing her with a doe-eyed innocence, but when a woman opts to remain in an abusive relationship, I don’t think it creates sympathy for the protagonist so much as it impels the audience to become agitated with her for not knowing better. That’s not exactly a fair reaction, but I see it happen a lot in other shows, and I feel it has the risk of happening here, particularly if Avery keeps mucking things up for her and she still decides to stick with him. Although that could well be the point, illustrating that, in the vein of Loretta Lynn and June Carter before her, country singers stand by their man. I do very much enjoy this love triangle, particularly now that it’s a sort of love rhombus with the presence of Hailey. If nothing else, it’s moving a lot faster than some of the other arcs of the season thus far.
Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) is still trying to piece her reputation back together after her shoplifting incident. This is to say nothing of the stress she’s under from the constant presence of her mother, Jolene (Sylvia Jefferies). Though Deacon (Charles Esten) offers to help with Jolene, knowing a thing or two about addiction himself, Juliette insists on barricading herself in the studio, working on her and Deacon’s song, in order to avoid returning home and confronting the issue. This delaying comes back to bite her, as Juliette eventually comes home and finds Jolene in bed next to some random guy, surrounded by drug paraphernalia. At her wits’ end, she takes the advice of her bodyguard, who suggests that perhaps Jolene just isn’t capable of hearing advice from Juliette anymore, and stages an impromptu intervention with Deacon. Though Jolene is initially resistant to the idea of rehab, she eventually relents. However, a bottle of pills fall out of her pocket as she gets out of the car, and the ensuing meltdown culminates in Jolene slapping her daughter across the face. This is more or less Jolene’s “come to Jesus” moment, as she realizes the extent of her own frightful decay, as both a mother and as a human being.
Jeffries, a character actress with a resume of small roles on film and television, does an excellent job infusing Jolene with a humanity that isn’t always present in this stock character type. The audience knows that she’s in the wrong for how she’s mistreated Juliette in the past, and for how she continues to abuse herself and generally make life hell for her daughter in the present, but we can also see that it’s not her fault. At least not entirely. She might have initially made the decision to use in the first place, and that is a decision that very much falls on her own head, but Jefferies makes it relatively clear, through the body language of shame, even fear, that she would rather not be subjugated by the hold drugs have on her. It’s a solid characterization in its own right, and it also provides us with further insight into Juliette, who tells Deacon that she’s not used to thinking of people as friends, since her so-called “friends” are really just people who want something from her. People are always wanting something from her, Juliette declares, and it’s a great little scene for Panettiere, and informs her decision to buy a new house to cleanse herself of her mother’s presence. The interaction also colors in her relationship with Deacon, as we kind of begin to see why these two people rely so much on one another, but without ever actually committing to anything beyond what they need right in that moment. It’s a weirdly parasitic relationship, but it’s also load-bearing, in that both Deacon and Juliette are human Jenga towers, threatening to collapse with the slightest tip of a block. Deacon, after the drama with Jolene, meets with Coleman (Robert Wisdom), mayoral candidate and his sobriety sponsor, and hands over Jolene’s pills. He claims that while he didn’t use, he certainly thought about it. Given how things are going with Rayna (Connie Britton), it’s easy to see why he might feel compelled to do so.
Rayna wants to use one of their songs for a commercial she’s shooting, arguing that she needs the money for her family. But Deacon has no intention of selling out, and so he refuses her. This does nothing to fix the ex-partners’ strained relationship, and the argument takes its toll on Deacon in more overt ways, beyond the fact that their tour has been canceled. While playing at The Bluebird, Deacon gets heckled by a drunk bar patron who demands to know why Rayna isn’t singing. After the show, the drunk man tries to apologize, but Deacon, overwhelmed by the troubles in his life, hauls off and punches the man, leading to a scuffle with the drunk patron and his friend that lands Deacon in jail for the night. Underlining the second runner-up nature of their relationship, Deacon calls Juliette to bail him out only after Rayna refuses to answer his late night phone call. As a late make-good, Deacon calls a lawyer and tells him to release the song rights to Rayna so she can make her commercial.
However, things aren’t really all that great for Rayna either. The record label suggests she put out a greatest hits album, which would be fine if she were at the tail-end of her career, but she’s not. Rayna is intent on cutting a new album, and gets back in the studio, where we get to see Rayna back in her element. It’s great work from Connie Britton, using body language to communicate just how at-home she feels in this environment, and how vibrant music makes her feel. Unfortunately, music does nothing to allay the damage her marriage has suffered. When Teddy (Eric Close) pursues an invasive line of questioning concerning why her tour and association with Deacon has been cut, he accuses her of sleeping with him. When she denies the accusation and asks if he really thinks that’s something she would do, he replies with another question, this time asking her if she wanted to sleep with him. We still don’t know all that much about Teddy, but I actually feel like he’s one of the more obvious villains they could base this show around. He’s subtle enough to work as an understated source of menace, and he actually has some pretty interesting motivations, coming from a background of wealth that already puts him at a disadvantage as a mayoral candidate, as Coleman accuses Teddy, in the mayoral debate, of having been born with “a silver spoon” in his mouth. There’s a real bitterness in Teddy that has the potential to actually make him interesting somewhere down the line, if not more layered in his characterization than the overt villainy of Rayna’s father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe), who takes a hand in making Teddy’s problem with co-worker Peggy Samper (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) disappear.
Yes, even Teddy’s scandals fail to arouse much interest, as it turns out that the secret he and Peggy have been hiding isn’t an illicit affair, it’s an embezzlement scheme. The Feds are onto their $2 million “loan”, and Lamar is the only one who can make the problem go away. And he does. But another problem appears in its wake. When Teddy and Peggy meet to discuss their good fortune, Teddy is photographed by an unknown party, keeping surveillance of the meeting and imbuing it with romantic implications, as the relatively innocuous pictures the man takes could easily be misconstrued as implying an affair that isn’t actually happening. Looks like Teddy is going to catch hell, whether he’s stepping out on the missus or not.
“Move It on Over” may suffer from the albatross that is the mayoral plotline, but everything surrounding it is boilerplate Nashville, from the escalation of the Scarlett/Avery/Gunnar love triangle, to the layering of the Deacon/Juliette relationship, and even Rayna’s characterization as a beleaguered wife torn between her passion for what she does, and her love for her family. There’s a lot to like her, and the presence of some fairly solid music means that there’s actually plenty to love. If nothing else, I still hit iTunes every week to check out the new singles, which is more than I do for other televised musicals. Nashville still has some kinks to work out with regards to the overarching plotline (i.e., where, exactly, is all this headed?), but the individual pieces of the entire series are getting stronger as the weeks go on.