Checking in on Nashville: Aren't We ALL Strung Out on Rayna James?

Nashville S01E15: "When You're Tired of Breaking Other Hearts"

We haven't reviewed Nashville since Price took on the pilot episode way back in October and I'd love to tell you that a lot of things have changed since then. But in a lot of ways, Nashville is still the same show we saw in that initial episode—it is just now a better version of that show.

Of course, becoming that better version involved overcoming some obstacles that started almost immediately after the pilot. For reasons that remain a little confusing, Callie Khouri and her writing staff decided to take the pilot's primary thrust, the burgeoning feud between Connie Britton's Rayna and Hayden Panettiere's Juliette, and stall the situation that was going to make that feud even juicier and more complex. So, away went the big tour and in its place came a number of stories for both female leads that, while generally interesting in their own right, kept you wondering why the show wouldn't just let Rayna and Juliette engage in their cross-generational southern diva-off. I understand the desire to not be pigeonholed as Country Strong: The TV Show, but detours like Juliette's dalliance with a Tim Tebow clone and Rayna's weekly crisis about everything that it means to be Rayna James didn't always work (though the performances did: Britton is one of my favorite performers on all of television, but Panettiere has, somewhat surprisingly, been very strong despite occasional overwrought material).

And yet, once the show finally got around to putting Rayna and Juliette (and Deacon) on their anticipated tour together, I started to get a sense of why it took so long. Not only did those additional, separate stories add complexity to what were fairly clear "types" in the pilot, but they really motivated character choices in ways that maybe weren't surprising, yet definitely worked. Those first eight or nine episodes built up the pressure on Rayna, Juliette, and Deacon so much that by the time they were actually out on the road together, the tension was even higher and their individual arcs had become even more intertwined. The journey was a bit bumpy, but Nashville is now delivering on the promise it teased us with in the pilot.

Last night's "When You're Tired of Breaking Other Hearts" simultaneously shrunk and expanded the show's world while managing to progress the season's big stories pretty successfully. As happens so often on this show, characters were troubled by lingering feelings or messy histories but in many cases, the events of the episode suggest that these tortured souls are truly starting to move past some of their fundamental hang-ups or tensions.

With the divorce made public, Rayna and Teddy attempted to co-parent their daughters with a split schedule, resulting in a really jarring turn for the oldest daughter, Maddie, who went from being totally understanding and mature in the past few episodes to calling her mother a bitch in this one. Yes, she is a teen, but the amount of vitriol in that opening scene at the Conrad manor seemed a little out-of-step to me. That bubbling anger extended to Rayna and Teddy's interactions, which are now more spiteful and biting than ever since Rayna knows Teddy's getting his "business consulting" from Peggy in an official capacity. Unfortunately, the show has gone back and forth with regard to whether or not it thinks Teddy is an okay dude or a complete jag, and this week, he was definitely more the latter—unless he was talking about politics and stadiums, but really let's not pretend you care about that.

Juliette, still dealing with her desire to be more in-control and reeling from the blow-up with manager Glenn, continues to push for more agency over her career. Somehow, she's penned enough new music on her own to put out another new album (like the label wouldn't be milking "I'm a Girl" or "Boys in Buses" more) and she's ready to be a real artist, but she doesn't actually know what goes into that process other than "I do what I want." Of course, like most new developments in Juliette's life, this turn toward maturity and control, while interesting musically, still stems both from her damaged relationship with her mother and an apparent yearning to be Rayna 2.0 without ever admitting it. 

Best of all, Deacon has finally freed himself from the middle of Rayna and Juliette's personal dramas by finding comfort in his dog's veterinarian (Susan Misner), who doesn't know who he is or even like country music. Charles Esten has done great work all season, but it's nice to see him get to play a different, less mopey and steely version of the character that isn't so tied to either Rayna or Juliette.

Smartly, all three of these stories convalesced at Juliette's latest show, one that she changed from a small fan club gathering to a full-on public safety hazard with a simple tweet, one that Maddie lied to Teddy about so she could attend. The tween "riot" and Maddie's subsequent injuries were a little silly, but they served useful story purposes: Juliette recognized that bulldozing everyone and doing whatever she feels like doing will only isolate her further and make her feel more alone, which is the thing she hates most. Rayna honed in on how difficult it's going to be for her daughters to deal with this divorce. And Deacon, inspired by a short conversation with Coleman, realized that there's nothing he could need more than time away from his two leading ladies.

Elsewhere in the episode, I felt like Gunnar's descent into drunken despondence over his brother's death made sense, based on what we know about their history. Of course he blames himself for Jason's murder, and when people on TV shows blame themselves for someone's murder, they get drunk and try to take police work (and/or justice) into their own hands. His treatment of Scarlett was a little unnecessary because we all knew they were going to reunite almost immediately (at least temporarily), and so I feel like we got jerked around for 25 minutes just so the show could create the conflict with Scarlett getting a solo deal. But props to Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, and Sam Palladio in that scene outside the bar with Deacon (naturally) providing the sage advice that he couldn't barely take himself.

One of the things I enjoy most about Nashville is how well the characters seem to exist in the same world, whether they're interacting with one another or not. Certain stories like Teddy and Coleman's Mayoral business or Avery's often unsympathetic trials and tribulations in Atlanta have little impact on the really solid stories the show knows how to tell with ease, but I never feel like those characters are unfortunately exiled on their own little islands (though I'm guessing a number of fans would wish that Avery was). Similarly, when characters who don't regularly interact come into contact with one another—I'm looking at you, Deacon and Gunnar—it never feels forced. Whether or not the show actually achieves the spirit of the real Nashville is up for debate, but the version of the city that these particular characters live in feels well-realized.

This episode certainly set up a lot of things for the home stretch of the season—Deacon's new woman, Scarlett's record deal, Avery burning the masters of his recordings because he's nuts, the stadium deal, etc.—that stand to move the show beyond some of the comfortable (and really good) rhythms it's been locked into lately.


B-SIDES

– Did anyone notice the flower-on-the-table motif happening early in the episode? I don't know what that was about exactly, maybe director Paul McCrane just really likes them. They looked nice

– Best line of the night goes to Coleman, who told Deacon that alcohol and pills aren't the problem; he's "strung out on Rayna James." Aren't we all?

– This is the moment where I admit that the reason I so badly want to like Avery is that Avery is the type of character that always sucks on shows like this. He's a tough guy to like, but I think Jonathan Jackson is doing a good job making the character's motivations seem well-intentioned. I'll be curious to see how he fits into the show now that he's not exiled in Atlanta with Wyclef.

– Because we haven't reviewed the show in forever, we also haven't talked about the music, which is obviously pretty darn good. What's your favorite track of the season thus far? Mine has to be either "Casino" or "I Will Fall."

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"Aren't We ALL Strung Out on Rayna James?"

Actually, no. While the show's commendable refusal to paint either Rayna or Juliette in black-and-white terms is welcome, the endless "You WILL love Rayna. You WILL. You WILL" subtext is a turnoff... and constantly presenting her as a fantastic singing legend when the on-screen evidence doesn't support it is wearying. Strung out on Juliette Barnes, more like (for a start, for all her flaws at least she only ever sleeps with unmarried partners).
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Finally took it upon myself to catch up and watched all episodes in the last 3 days and i must say, i'm glad i did. This is show really is that good and quite fantastic in ways.

As for the songs, i like none of Rayna's songs, partly because of Connie's voice.
Juliette is much better, but for me it's Gunnar & Deacon who steal the show. Add scarlet to Gunnar's voice and guitar play and it's pretty great. The closing song of the pilot is still the best song. And the song they played with Avery to get the deal. (I don't think Avery hijacked it, his guitar bits elevated the song)

This better get renewed, I can see this go on for a lot of seasons!
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My favorite song so far is Twist of Barbwire in the Clare Bowen version. Anything Gunnar and Scarlett is pretty good though.
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Wow,finally someone is doing reviews of Nashville. And it is great review. I love Rayna,but hate her kid Maddie:D Much,much,MUCH less of Maddie:D(I know,impossible). Also love Deacon,Scarlett and Gunnar. Teddy is what politic is,so I don't care about him. Avery and Juliette I like,but don't hate. And bring back Glenn!!! :D Great stories and great show.

My favourite song is the one,don't know the name,but the on Rayna does,when she is drunk in that studio.
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I really like this show but I was so confused by how Maddie was acting towards Rayna in this episode I mean yeah her parents are getting divorced but it felt like she went from loving her mom to hating her then loving her again by the end of the episode. The stuff with Deacon, Scarlett and Gunnar was probably the best things about this episode, I was laughing whenever they showed Deacon trying to figure out how to take care of the puppy. I did, however, enjoy watching Rayna yell at Juilette and made her see that she was actually responcible for what happened at her concert. As for Avery well I'm not too sure about him since the show keeps trying to make you hate him but it's becoming hard to like or hate him, for me anyway.
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my favourite is 'fade into you' ...unfortunately this is not available on youtube anymore :( and not included in the album either!!!!....can't wait for the next episode...love this show!!!
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Fav song - No one will ever love you! Since I have heart it I cannot stop listening to it, makes me sad, makes me smile, it is superb
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Love all the Scarlett and Gunner stuff, but my favourite track by far is Wrong Song by Juliette and Rayne - great song!
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I love the song by Gunner and Scarlett - Change Your Mind.
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I find Rayna kinda boring as a big star -- I don't blame Connie for that -- Rayna is just so "house-wifey" in how she just wants to get along with everyone. It was thrilling to see her tell off Juliette for hosting a dangerous show. Juliette is a ridiculous diva, this episode showed that she's starting to get it, but she has a long way to go IMO.

Both Rayna & Juliette sing nicely, but I love Scarlett! I'd buy Clare Bowen's music if I knew where to find it. I hope to see Scarlett stand on her own, without being so dependent on men.
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i absolutely love this show and am glad u guys wrote a review about it!
i was happy to see avery freeing himself... it was obvious he wouldnt be successful rt now cuz he was being a jerk to pretty much everyone.
i love all the songs on this show and i'd love to go to the red lips white lies tour haha sometimes i wish it was real...
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The Wrong Song is a fun one!

I loved Something Stronger Than Me. The montage during the song just added to it, like a music video.

I also enjoyed the song (and montage) Juliette sang at the end of the episode where she was supposed to get married in the church. At the very end, Juliette got on the plane. Does anyone remember what song that was??? I can't seem to figure it out or find it on youtube.

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Flower arranging—ever heard the expression "tend to the flowers in your own garden first"? It's sort of about taking care of your own business. Maybe that's what it suggests? The confrontation of domestic issues and career, with domestic issues winning the day. Rayna, Juliette, and Deacon all learn that the personal stuff can't be shrugged off easily (Rayna cut and run to go on tour, but that just got her a request for a divorce and a troubled teen; Juliette's artist-control issues teach her a valuable lesson on professional and personal responsibility--I'm sure spying on her mother brought home how much alike they really are just as much as the literal wake-up call from Rayna; Deacon takes care of business and then takes stock--nice tie-in with the Duet storyline, indicating why/what happened to send him off the rails when he and Rayna were dueting; even Gunner's absence from the recording artist-making moment signifies the paramount importance of handling one's grief, or at least how personal issues can sink professional aspirations, as establishing a music career has been front and center for him since the beginning, but he can't focus on his career with so much dead weight on his back).

"I Will Fall", "Fade Into You", and the Stella Sisters' "Telescope" are my faves so far.
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Should I watch this? Anyone have a comparison, like "If you like (blank), you'll like Nashville." It's not exactly my genre, but sometimes I'm in the mood for a good soap. . . Like, I love The Good Wife. Thoughts?
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Nashville is a good show and a good soap. So watch it.
Nashville is a collection of different storylines that each have their own drama and that sometimes come together because all main stories revolve around the nashville music industry. The singing is not pointless like in a musicial, but necesary because of the topic of the drama (the music industry) and serves to illustrate the state of mind of the characters (which are mostly singers of musicians). To answer your question: If you like The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy and are not disgusted by country music, you'll like Nashville.
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Well, I can't STAND Grey's Anatomy, but I do like The Good Wife, and Brothers and Sisters, as someone mentioned below. Your description makes is sound good. I'll check it out.
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Brothers And Sisters comes to mind...regardless this show is worth watching!
(And i love The Good Wife!)
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Nashville is like...great and so is The Good Wife, so watch it...
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Sorry Nashville fans, I don't think Nashville is as good as TGW. The closest show I can think of drama-wise to compare it to is Switched at Birth, although with completely different stories of course. There's quite a few performances, with drama leading up to most, sort of like Smash, but not as ridiculous as Smash.
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I'm so happy that Scarlett and Gunnar are finally together. Which is why I'm really annoyed that the writers had to make up a possible conflict/break-up reason right away with Rayna wanting to sign Scarlett on as a solo artist. I hope they drop this idea again, especially because I love, love, LOVE every song by Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio.
My favourites: Fade into you, One works better, If I didn't know better

Oh, and I love that Deacon named his dog Sue after the Johnny Cash song!

Nashville is a great show that just keeps getting better in my opinion, so I really hope it will get renewed for a second season. And it was nice to see an episode review again. I'm hoping for more in the future!
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I'm still really enjoying this show and I thought the review was spot on.
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Cory, I'm so glad you decided to check in on Nashville. When I first tuned in I never thought the music would be any good and I have to say both Britton and Panettiere are pretty awesome as country music divas. Like Banshee, I think this show is great fun and there is always something juicy and outrageous to chat about. Any chance one of y'all has the space to begin covering the show's full run (provided we make it to S02)?
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Do the writers not know that they have a chance for a good character death in Avery? We'd be shocked that they would actually kill someone off, but no-one would be angry because Avery sucks...
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I disagree with every aspect of that statement.
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Too many favorites to name! But "Fade Into You" & "If I Didn't Know Better" are stand outs foe me!
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Favourite song of the season: Love Like Mine. Hands down!
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Thus far I have really liked Nashville but this episode was like a country song, and I mean that in a bad way. It felt painful for the sake of being painful, to the point of being painful to watch (as in annoying).

The veterinarian perfectly described the car crash feel of entire episode, "booze and broken hearts." By the way, thank goodness they introduced a love interest for Deacon because I'm tired and bored with his Rayna addiction.

The show has done such a good job of developing its characters the added drama and really dumb life choices just seems like overkill. I hope they reign it in and focus on growth instead of the "cycle of addiction and road to recovery" they appear to be choosing.
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I love this show. I do think they have gone a little overboard shoving Scarlett/Gunnar as the Rayna/Deacon 2.0 down our throats, however.

I'm not an Avery fan, but I can be compassionate because he's young and ambitious and one expects people to make mistakes. The character I can't stand (more than Lamar Wyatt) is Teddy Conrad. He comes across as a weasly, whiny pussy, and his pissy behavior toward Rayna lately has been really disingenuous. I get that he feels like the consolation prize, but after more than a decade that is really foolish and immature. Man up already.

Fav songs, in no particular order:
"No One Will Ever Love You"
"Wrong Song"
"When The Right One Comes Along"
"If I Didn't Know Better"
"I Will Fall"
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I think the writers have trouble finding the right characterization for Teddy. He was a little more bearable in the episodes leading up to this, but an asshole here.
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Teddy was annoying in this episode, but I think that if anyone is whiny and pissy, it's Rayna. I also think that he *has* "manned up", by dumping Rayna for Peggy, and by going against Lamar.
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Perhaps you have a point about Teddy's actions, but then what is he angry about? I get Rayna being angry: it is one thing to know your v. recent ex is in a new relationship, quite something else entirely for your adolescent child to learn of it in a clandestine phone call prior to telling your children you are separating/divorcing. There are certain realities that parents want (perhaps mistakenly) to shield their children from and affairs and such are at the top of the list. I don't know a single woman who wouldn't insist the other woman not be a part of her children's lives for a certain period - certainly until the divorce is final. Considering Teddy also filed last episode I don't imagine that will be a protracted process. Perhaps he's simply reacting to Rayna's bitchiness, as you suggest. Truthfully, I dislike him so much I find it virtually impossible to give him the benefit of the doubt, let alone objectivity or compassion.
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I agree that he has no reason to be angry right now. That's what I had in mind when I said that he was annoying in this episode.
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Have not seen a single Nashville but that red head is Hot :)
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Maybe an unpopular opinion but Avery is my favorite character on the show besides Deacon. He's a jerk and makes the absolute wrong decisions all the time, but I think that's why I like him so much, he's flawed just in a more jerky kind of way.
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Funny, about nine or ten episodes in is when I finally gave up on the show. I liked the show fine - the actors and the music are both great - but it never turned into a must-watch for me. It was certainly never bad, but for me it was never really good either. And my DVR was already stacked with shows I still don't have time to watch, so I just had to cut this one loose. I don't even know what I think would make me like it more, other than less Teddy and his boring storyline.

I love "If I Didn't Know Better," and I honestly never enjoyed a scene as much as that one from the pilot.
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The show is OK. I find it more relaxing than the other shows I watch. I'm guessing it's because of the music. But I really don't like how they're trying to shove drama down our throats by making everyone get much more emotional than they should be in all sorts of situations. The characters spend half the time being ridiculously confrontational, or in a calm submissive state like one of Cesar Milan's dogs. The writers try too hard to avoid the middle range of emotional states.
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Hi!

First of all I'm glad someone wrote a review, Nashville is absolutely by far one of the best shows on TV right now! Secondly, I read/and re-read the whole thing a couple of times and I never saw a mention of my favorite scene so far: Rayna calling Juliette and telling her "...you hurt people all around you, wake up!". I thought it was simply amazing how powerful it was, and it finally forced Juliette back into reality. She never takes responsibility for her actions, that shoplifting accident (saying people are jelause of her and whatnot) to everything that happened in this one. It was like a huge wake up call for her, and the need of change. She admitted to her mom she saw her at her concert and admitted being ashamed of her. She also said she is going to the hospital and pay the bills of the kids that got hurt at her show. It was a huge turning point for her character and this show.

Few notes: "..Maddie, who went from being totally understanding and mature in the past few episodes to calling her mother a bitch in this one." -- I actually thought it was fantastic, and incredibly hilarious. I have been thinking the same thing since the start of the show. Someone had to say it! She has been incredibly bitchy since the start of the show, remember that guitarist that quit? He certainly thought the same thing! XD

Avery's performance at the end simply left me speechless. It was that GOOD!

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Totally true! I enjoyed that scene a lot, it just slipped my mind. Juliette DEFINITELY never takes responsibility. She's started to a few times but always fallen back on her petulant, spoiled routine. But as the commenter below suggests, Rayna has issues of her own. Which is good for the show.
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I would have loved that scene a lot more if it came from someone in ANY position to talk. Rayna is a child and a mess. She is the last person who should be giving anyone advice on anything aside from having beautiful hair cause damnnnn.
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I agree wholeheartedly with the Rayne observation. Nevertheless, she told the truth. XD
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i find it really hard to like Avery...to the point that i love seeing him fail...also my favorite song has to be Telescope (not the Juliette Barnes version) the one the sisters sang at the school talent show.
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Avery is a character you'd think we're NOT meant to like, but the show spends enough time on him that I believe there's supposed to be something redeeming there. The show just needs to do a better job of proving to us it's worth it.
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I agree, right now Rayna's father is more likable than Avery but I guess that is the design.... its kinda like Joffrey from game of thrones you end up really hating and can't wait until something bad happens to him
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Aren't we all? Ummm nope. I only started watching this show because Connie Britton is a legend and absolutely one of the best actresses in the industry today but I have been thoroughly disappointed with her character from the get-go. Rayna James is absolutely the worst character on television rivaled only by Christopher Ewing on Dallas. She is the worst. The only reason I continue to watch is for Hayden Panettiere who's really surprised me and delivered one of the best performances this season. Juliette is by far the best character on Nashville.
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What's so bad about Rayna? She's a mess, sure, but the worst character on television?
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I wouldn't mind her so much if she was given any redeeming moments but she just makes bad decision after bad decision and then judges everyone else for making bad decisions (Deacon and Juliette mostly). She's a grown ass woman and never acts like it. She leads every guy in her life on like she's 16 and she has the most foolish interactions with a girl half her age. The one thing Country Strong really got right was having Gwyneth go head-to-head with Leighton in an adult way. Rayna just sinks to Juliette's level and makes childish comments and rolls her eyes every five seconds like she's Blair Waldorf. It's really hard to take a character seriously when her actions don't warrant it.
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That said, I probably wouldn't care that much about any of this if the writers weren't determined to make Rayna the moral center of the show. To be a fan of Nashville you almost have to be a fan of Rayna because she's shoved down our throats every other scene and basically written like "Rayna is always right, anyone who goes against her is always wrong." When you don't like a character and are constantly told you should like her, it really makes you dislike her more.
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Favourite songs have to be... "No One Will Ever Love You" and "If I Didn't Know Better".

Loved Rayna lacing into Juliette, highlight reel stuff right there, and Deacon still figuring his dog out, like it was made at Ikea and he lost the manual.
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"I will fall " :) But ye, I did notice everyone's suddenly having some pretty obvious flower arrangements. Maybe director's dating a florist? Vets, florists, they always seem to feel comfy.
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I'm glad Juliette finally showed some maturity in last night's episode after Rayna FINALLY let her have it! That phone call was my favorite part (aside from Gunnar and Scarlett) and long over do! Interesting/awkward to see Rayna, Teddy and Deacon all together for Maddie, especially when Deacon bought the stuffed animal for her... foreshadowing! And I kind of preferred dub-step versions of Avery's songs than his usual ones.... I really hope this show isn't cancelled!!!!!!!!!!!! ABC needs to be more consistent with its scheduled programming and a better time slot! Why would they make us wait 4 weeks for a new episode?!
Favorite songs from Nashville: If I Didn't Know Better, Fade Into You, Undermine, Telescope (Lennon and Maisy Stella's version), Consider Me (Acoustic), and Stronger Than Me.
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I loved the phone call between Rayna and Juliette! That phone call encapsulated the differences between these women, where they are in their lives. Rayna, overwrought with worry and guilt, because pretty much every working mother feels guilty about working, let alone traveling away, and Juliette, resolutely unwilling to take responsibility for anything in her life and desperatly needing approval and validation. I loved how Juliette's entire staff tried to gently let her know she was responsible for the fracas at the show but it was Rayna's tearful haranguing that moved her to accept it and take action.

The hospital scene, when Rayna thanked Deacon for helping Maddie and he said the girl was "like family" was so upsetting to me. Rayna at least looked away, but I don't know how she lives with herself. Deacon has been clean for years and now that Maddie is older, I can't believe Rayna hasn't told Deacon the truth. Shameful.
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otally agree!
I really like Nashville, but the real pleasure of watching this show is Deacon Claybourne. Best character by far. Best acting. He singing to his yet-unnamed dog, the cutest thing! And the actress who plays the vet? First John Reese's girlfriend, now Deacon's? Jeez, what a hell of a job... ;)
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"When the right one comes along " is as perfect as a song gets, though all Gunnar/Scarlet songs are great
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Deacon got a dog and sang to it. The show got 50x better just with that one scene.
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That! But I guess Deacon watching paint dry would already be fine :)
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Deacon is the perfect character to have a dumb dog story like that.
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