Nashville – Recap: Let Go and Let God
Recap and review of Nashville – Season 3 Episode 14 – Somebody Pick Up My Pieces:
After an hour of heavy personal drama last week, I was impressed at how nimbly Nashville maneuvered back into focusing on the business side of country music, as this continues to be one of its most interesting aspects. “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” explored the difficulties in running a major record label.
For example, I loved that the problems facing Rayna (Connie Britton) this week weren’t all exactly the same. There was variety in the dilemmas she had to face. She promotes Bucky (David Alford), but won’t listen to any of his suggestions on artists they should sign for Highway 65. This seems like downright lunacy, since Edgehill has completely dissolved, meaning every single one of their major artists and every single song in their catalog is up for grabs. Rayna makes the prudent decision to buy the catalog, but would prefer to build talent from the ground up, which runs contrary to Bucky’s goals. It’s an ideological clash that represents one of the best aspects of the episode, as we get to see exactly the type of label executive Rayna is trying to be. She privileges talent and artistry above record sales, easily shrugging off financial concerns by putting all her faith in the re-release of old Edgehill material. Sure, they might not have the ideal amount of financial security to develop talent, but they’re stable enough that Rayna doesn’t seem concerned about hiring someone who’s as toxic in the recording industry as Layla (Aubrey Peeples). What Rayna hears is an artist with something to say, and that’s exactly what she wants on her label, specifically telling Bucky, in reference to the media firestorm surrounding Layla’s recent divorce and depression, “I don’t care.” She feels Layla deserves the chance to show people a different side. And that reinforces likability for a character who could use the character rehab after spontaneously deciding to call off the wedding to Luke at the last minute (to be clear, Rayna was well within her rights to do so, but if she was having doubts, she owed it to Luke to end things sooner. She also probably owed him a better explanation than she gave).
Similarly, Rayna is a big help with Sadie (Laura Benanti), who’s faced with the issue of how to make Pete go away, since his lawsuit against her is preventing her from completing her album. I can understand the shame Sadie feels in turning to Rayna for help, but I found Rayna’s support to be reflective of her character, exemplifying why she makes such a great protagonist for the series. On the one hand, Pete does earn a settlement from Highway 65, with Rayna using the label’s liability insurance to make this all go away. On the other hand, she makes it clear that Pete hasn’t won anything as long as Sadie keeps making music. In fact, Rayna goes as far as to threaten Pete by declaring she’ll ruin him if he comes after Sadie again. It’s one of her fiercest moments as a character, rivaled only by her offensive against Jeff last week. Britton does a tremendous job giving Rayna layers, portraying her as someone with a warmth and caring, while also allowing her to embody that boldness and ferocity that makes her so believable as a force in the Nashville music scene. Even with a label in its infancy, Britton goes a long way in depicting Rayna as someone with a LOT of power at her disposal who isn’t the least bit afraid to use it. Rayna has heaps of integrity, and that integrity strengthens her character and makes her feel more real, to me.
I sort of feel the same way about Deacon (Charles Esten), whose desire to keep forging on despite his cancer makes for one of the more resonant storylines this season. To avoid being cooped up in the house, and to put off his decision to either remain on the donor list or take a chance on clinical trials, Deacon accepts an invitation from Avery (Jonathan Jackson) to lay down guitars on Sadie’s album. But one of the big themes of the episode is that having power is not the same thing as having control, and Deacon is someone who’s at a complete loss in his life, since he has neither power nor control against his cancer. So he hijacks the studio session and attempts to produce the album himself, offending Avery and throwing their friendship into chaos. It’s a story that makes sense, considering music is the one thing Deacon still has some measure of control over. Yet, even here, he finds he doesn’t have the say he thought he would. He comes to recognize that he can’t live in a state of indecisiveness, and so he decides to forego the clinical trials and remain on the donor list, rationalizing the choice to his doctor by declaring, “Let go and let God, you know?” And suddenly, it’s as if his burden has been lightened. He apologizes to Avery and offers his services as a guitarist once again, accepting that he won’t have control, and finding peace in that realization. It’s a lovely storyline, and Chip Esten is just fantastic in the role.
However, I wasn’t as crazy about the rest of the episode. I suppose it’s karma that Jeff (Oliver Hudson) finds himself shut out of the new record label he starts with Luke (Will Chase), since no artist or producer in Nashville wants to work with the man who brought down Edgehill — well, except for Will (Chris Carmack), since Jeff looked out for him despite his secret. Yet Luke doesn’t seem to take Will into consideration when coming to his decision to fire Jeff, since Will has already promised himself to the new, upstart label. But even though we’re meant to have a certain amount of sympathy for Jeff’s plight, I just don’t think I can muster it up. Layla does come to the rescue at the end by offering him a job as her manager, which could create problems for her, since she just signed to Rayna’s label. But Layla doesn’t exactly know that Jeff and Rayna are at odds, so it could make for a more interesting situation than the one we got this week. I’m thrilled about the possibility of Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) coming back together to make music again. They help lift one another’s spirits this week, as Gunnar is considering moving since he can’t stop thinking about the Micah situation, while Scarlett is still having trouble processing what Deacon is going through. In both instances, they strengthen one another, and as they play at the Blue Bird with Avery, Gunnar seems to find the courage to stay, and Scarlett finds the courage to ask the doctor out on a coffee date, of sorts. It’s not riveting television, or anything, but it’s succinct and serves a function. And I’m optimistic about the likelihood that Scarlett and Gunnar will make music again, since most of my favorite songs on this show are duets between the two. So here’s to more Scarlett/Gunnar duets!
That said, I’m far less optimistic about the story with Teddy (Eric Close), who tracks down Natasha (Moniqua Plante), the escort he’d been sleeping with, and begins telling her that they need to get their stories straight in case anyone starts asking questions. Little does he know, Natasha’s home is being monitored by law enforcement, and they’ve just caught the entire conversation on tape. So yeah, Teddy’s political career is in jeopardy, and while this is the big cliffhanger of the episode, I struggled to really feel any sense of dread, coming out of it. I suppose this could have huge implications for Rayna and the girls, but Teddy is a character of almost uniform blandness, so it’s hard to really care all that much when things happen to him, good or bad. I like Eric Close, but Teddy just feels like a blank slate most of the time, and it’s no different here. Hopefully, the resulting story will prove me wrong. Lord knows, I’d love to be proven wrong on this one.
“Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” is a perfectly fine episode of Nashville. It’s not a blowaway, but then, not every episode can be. If nothing else, there were some interesting moments on the industry side of things, and some sweet little moments in the personal lives of the characters, such as when Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) has a photoshoot with Vogue revealing her pregnancy belly. Avery is stunned into silence, overjoyed that the rest of the world will get to see her the way he does, as the most beautiful woman in the world. It’s a bit treacly, sure, but Nashville is excellent at portraying these intimate moments between people who love each other, and that makes those personal stories all the more gripping when they’re seized by drama. Ultimately, Nashville is enjoying its strongest season yet, and “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” is a damn fine addition to the catalog.