Recap and review of Nashville – Season 1 Episode 9 – Winter Premiere – Be Careful of Stones That You Throw
Nashville has had a rocky first season so far, in some ways. I wouldn’t say it’s ever been bad, but the show has faced an uphill battle trying to live up to the critically-acclaimed pilot episode, and the series has detoured from the series that many people were expecting it to be – a look into the world of the Nashville music scene, with the rivalry between Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) as its central conflict. Before the official start of Rayna and Juliette’s tour in tonight’s “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw”, many feared the show would never get around to actually putting these two women in the same room together with any frequency. Yet the episode gets the ball rolling almost immediately, as Juliette meets with Rayna, who dismisses her entourage so she can have a moment alone to discuss the tour with the starlet. It’s a hell of a scene simply for its mercenary nature, with Rayna explaining that she’s setting aside whatever differences Juliette thinks they have, in service of what’s best for business. It’s great bit between two characters simply having a woman-to-woman chat, and it’s a bellwether for the episode to come, which is among the strongest since that well-loved pilot.
What’s great about “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw” is in how each of the major characters has a clearly defined arc for the episode. Let’s break it down:
-Scarlett (Clare Bowen) begins the episode by getting into an argument with Gunnar (Sam Palladio), a fight that seems to spell the end of their songwriting partnership. When Avery (Jonathan Jackson) comes to the apartment to drop off his key and pick up the rest of his stuff, he and Scarlett briefly reconcile and sleep together. However, when Avery reveals that he’s ditching the rest of his band for a shot at the big time in Atlanta, Scarlett remembers just how selfish Avery can be, and kicks him out of the apartment (and, presumably, out of her life). From there, she offers to fill in as the singer for Avery’s out-of-luck bandmates, and proves a sensation at the gig later that night. When band leader JT offers her the spot as their permanent vocalist, Scarlett has to take a moment to weigh her options. This introspection brings about the realization in her that while it can be fun singing other people’s songs, it doesn’t compare to singing your own. And so she comes back to Gunnar, reconciled, and with the now-finished lyrics to the song they had been working on at the start of the episode. Thus, Scarlett’s arc followed her as she tied up loose ends and explored other possibilities, bringing her to a realization about what she wants to do with her life.
-Rayna wants to get her tour with Juliette started as soon as possible, not only because the single is charting huge, but also in order to have a reprieve from her tailspinning marriage. She confronts Teddy (Eric Close) and tells him she’s going on tour and that she’s taking the girls with her. Teddy is understandably furious to have his daughters taken away, but he doesn’t really have any leverage, given that he’s an admitted embezzler whose partner-in-crime just tried to kill herself over it. Still, Teddy doesn’t think it’s a good idea to go on tour. Nor does Rayna’s producer, Liam (Michiel Huisman). Also in the Anti-Tour Club is Rayna’s big-shot father Lamar (Powers Boothe), who threatens to expose the truth of who really fathered Rayna’s daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella). Rayna is incensed. She confronts Lamar the next day with Teddy in his office, and when Teddy learns of Lamar’s threats, he rails against the old man, threatening to tear his father-in-law apart if he ever says one word about exposing the truth, which he’s known all along, to young Maddie. This fatherly outburst causes Rayna to rethink her dismissal of Teddy, and her hasty escape-by-tour. She realizes she has to talk things through with Teddy, instead of just delaying ever addressing the issue. And so she has an honest talk with Teddy in their bedroom, in which they come to the decision to continue portraying the picture of a loving marriage for their daughters’ sake. Rayna goes on tour, with the girls getting the chance to visit when their school schedule permits, and with Rayna promising to come home when she can. It might not be perfect, but she at least still has some semblance of a family to come home to. Her arc charts the process by which she comes to the decision to try and make things work with Teddy, for now.
-Then there’s Juliette, who starts the episode as a newlywed, having just consummated her marriage in the limo with her new husband, NFL quarterback Sean Butler (Tilky Jones). As if soldiering on to spite Sean’s mother, who told her not to hold her breath hoping to be a part of their family, Juliette tries to sell herself on the idea that this quickie marriage to Sean could work. Of course, for it to work for Juliette, it can’t involve any meaningful dialogue or anything beyond just having sex all day. When Sean’s mother insists that the couple get married in a proper church, before God and all their family, Juliette is all-in. But it’s about more than just Juliette selling the fiction of the marriage to herself. Juliette is also trying to convince herself that she can be happy, and that she’s not automatically given to the same wretched impulses as her mother (Sylvia Jefferies). This more or less plays out when Juliette visits her mother in the rehab facility, and Jolene tells her daughter that she’s basically just running from her problems by burying them in this hollow facade of a marriage. Juliette is furious with her mother, accusing her mother of being unable to bear seeing her happy. To which Jolene replies, “Are you?” And as she sits in the limo in her wedding dress, en route to what we assume is the church, Juliette realizes that she’s not. The limo driver opens the door to reveal that Juliette isn’t at the church, but instead at an air strip, boarding her private jet to join the tour, leaving Sean – and their brief, quaint little sham of a marriage – at the altar. Juliette’s arc is about recognizing that she doesn’t have to compromise, where her happiness is concerned. She was so singularly focused on not turning out like her mother, and also proving Sean’s mother wrong, that she didn’t take the time to realize that she didn’t have to go through with the marriage just to prove some point. Juliette gradually comes to the decision to no longer live on other people’s terms, or to be defined by others, whether it’s her mother, her husband, or her mother-in-law.
-Lastly, Deacon is on tour with the Rebel Kings, and though he’s playing to packed houses of rabid fans every night, he’s still strangely unfulfilled, particularly when he hears news that Rayna is touring again. He asks who her new guitarist is, but nobody knows – and no matter who it is, Deacon knows it isn’t him, so what’s the use in asking? Deacon buries his lack of fulfillment in dalliances with a reporter, with whom he had a fling 14 years earlier. She spends much of the episode trying to get an interview out of him, but he’s not interested in discussing his personal life. Or even his career. To do so would be to confront his lack of fulfillment. And so he spends the episode dodging the bullet with sex (which is as good a strategy as any when you’re handsome), until the reporter approaches him from the perspective of a friend, and not a reporter doing her job. Deacon still doesn’t want to discuss the accident from his past that’s alluded to, but he seems open to being a bit more honest with himself, as he first dwells on, then tosses away a magazine with himself on the cover. Deacon’s arc seems to be about recognizing his own dissatisfaction, but also addressing it. In this sense, it’s the episode’s one incomplete arc (though I would happily listen to arguments to the contrary about why it isn’t incomplete). Regardless, there’s still a lot of potential for where Deacon’s narrative could go, as he wrestles with whatever demons and doubts are still picking at him.
These explorations into personal growths and character arcs, at least concerning the ostensible leads of the series, easily makes this one of the best episodes of the show so far. And the music is great too, particularly the song Scarlett and Gunnar finish together at the end. Their songs tend to be the best on the show, owing to a haunting, plaintive quality. The more the show embraces its musical roots, while also charting how its characters change within the context of the music business, we’ll really have a show on our hands. As it stands now, this is as strong a return from break as I could have asked for from the series.