“Never No More” – Nashville

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 7.39.34 PM“Never No More”, the second episode of Nashville’s second season, is more what we had come to expect from the ABC hit. Given space, a little at least, from Rayna and Deacon drama, the show once again flourished. This episode allowed us, now that Rayna is well(ish) and Deacon is out of prison, to really explore what the rest of the season could offer us.

And that’s going to be a lot. Certain important arcs – Peggy’s fake pregnancy and Lamar’s wife-killing – were left out entirely, perhaps detrimentally. Every time we saw Tandy on screen, we were desperate to know her reaction to what she learned about her father’s past. But it was swept under the rug in favor of exploring Rayna’s present and Juliette’s past.

But that was fine. We actually enjoyed the episode, in spite of those notable absences. Rayna’s recuperation was, blessedly, given little focus. Used solely as a crutch to support a brief pseudo-rekindling of her romance with Teddy, we weren’t subjected to a full arc of her gadding about in pajamas and looking poorly. Instead, she launched right back into work, allowing us to fully relish the season’s new ‘big bad’, Jeff Fordham.

His first episode on screen and he’s already caused all kinds of drama, and given us the shape of the season to come. Treating Juliette as replaceable, stealing Will from Rayna (a strand that should prove interesting moving forward, as Will will now find himself working with his former paramour), telling Rayna he has no faith in Scarlett or Highway 65… he’s already the villain we love to hate. And his presence is what is finally going to drive Rayna and Juliette together. That much is already obvious. We saw last week, and in the first season’s finale episode, a relaxing of tensions between Juliette and Rayna, and that continued here. Their civility was almost whiplash-inducing, but felt right, too. And it was clearly all leading up to this. As Fordham replaces Juliette with the new, appealing-to-teens Layla Grant, we can almost see Rayna and Juliette’s invisible bonds growing thicker and stronger. And, with Rayna about to leave Edgehill to set up Highway 65 in truth, we have to wonder what’s to become of this relationship. Rayna’s one artist down. Will Juliette defect from Edgehill? Regardless, we see her teaming up with Rayna, with Layla positioned as this season’s usurper to the country music crown.

While we delighted in pondering the show’s future, that was by no means our favorite part of the episode. That honor falls to Juliette’s publicity grabbing. Week after week, she is making cynical choices that, nonetheless, result in a show of true emotion. Last week, it was her highjacking of Rayna’s coma for her own benefit. This week, in an effort to show Fordham that she has staying power, she sought to use her own past to get record sales. And yet it was the most emotionally honest we’ve seen her – the loss of her mother appears to have pulled down some internal wall that long stood. A return to her childhood home saw her breaking down. This arc also showed growth in the bond between her and Avery. This is something we’re not sure of. Juliette’s motives are clouded here, as are her otherwise blatant feelings. We sense that he means more to her than she means to him. Perhaps friendship will only be enough for her for a short time. This will no doubt cause drama down the line as a love triangle develops between her, Avery and Scarlett.

Perhaps even a love rhombus – with Rayna an artist down at Highway 65, we’re wondering if Gunnar will finally get that record deal he so clearly deserves. With Scarlett unable to avoid him, their romance may face a rekindling of sorts, too. Which, technically, would make it a love pentagon? As predicted last week, Zoey is a wrench in Scarlett’s romantic works. Tension is already building between her and Gunnar and she’s set to replace Scarlett as his muse.

Of course, the romance can’t all be forward momentum. Rayna has put the brakes on any hope of reconciliation between herself and Teddy, or herself and Deacon. Which is fair. Neither treated her exceptionally, and she needs to put herself first, now. We don’t really care about her and Teddy, but we’re sad to see her and Deacon calling it quits, mostly for Deacon’s sake. He may have lost his music. He shouldn’t have to lose her.

That particular arc of Deacon’s could be entertaining for a while – he might have lost the ability to use his hand (at least to the extent that he could before) and the next few episodes should be taken up with therapy and playing through the pain. We just hope that that’s not all we see. We need something more. Some of Lamar and Peggy next week, please. – K

Quoteworthy: “Alright, you wanna get mean? That’s fine, I will get mean. All my life, I’ve watched you refuse to become the man your father was – an angry, bitter old drunk. And look at you. Spittin’ image of him and you are stone cold sober.”

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