Rayna is getting ready to announce her album launch now that her single (co-written with Deacon) is ready to go, and boyfriend Luke Wheeler is happy to help out. He surprises Rayna with a Rayna-James-sponsored NASCAR car, and while she’s admiring the car, she meets an old man named Boone whose store chain is “practically the only place left that sells CDs.” My sense is that this is a Sam Walton stand-in. Anyway, Rayna sucks up to Boone in hopes of getting distribution now that she doesn’t have the power of a major label behind her. He’s happy to flirt with her and exchange stories of business and country music, but eventually tells her that shelf space is allocated a year in advance, so he’d be happy to find her some room next year. Rayna’s face falls as she realizes she might be in trouble. (But seriously…she’s been in the business for 20 years and doesn’t know at least a little about how distribution works?)
Meanwhile, Juliette is being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and Evil Label Guy Jeff thinks it’s the perfect time for her to recite a penitent speech about how she’s been lost since her mom died, but that she was going to take some time to straighten out. In rehearsal, Juliette is grudgingly practicing the speech, and ELG Jeff is smug, saying to Glenn that “the filly’s been broken.” Not so fast, buddy–when it’s time for the real thing (presented by Brad Paisley in tonight’s cameo), Juliette tosses the script, tells people she won’t apologize for things she didn’t do, and sings a song called “It’ll Take More than That.” Fun! This is shot very strangely–throughout her whole speech and song, we cut to the audience, stony-faced, refusing to react. But then why were they there? If they hate Juliette, why come see her induction ceremony? And then at the end, they’re shown unmoving, but the soundtrack plays applause. Bad editing. Anyway, Juliette retires to her dressing room, where she’s quickly found by ELG Jeff and summarily dropped. He’s predictably nasty about it, but she gets her licks in, pointing out that a label head who’s lost his two biggest artists in six months might not have such great job security himself. You tell him, Juliette!
Back at NASCAR, Luke’s doing an impromptu concert which is an excuse to pull Rayna up on stage and debut her new single and announce her album’s drop date. And who’s there to hear it? ELG Jeff! Who immediately calls his distributor channels and tells them to move something major to the same date and make sure Rayna’s squeezed out of the market. Meanwhile, Boone has rethought his associate with Juliette and offers her shelf space to Rayna instead–he does this in Maddie’s hearing, and Maddie glares daggers at her mom for considering undermining her best pal. Eventually, Rayna graciously declines Boone’s offer because her “Highway 65” brand is supposed to be a haven for artists, and punishing Juliette for her mouth doesn’t fit with that. This is obviously shaping up to have Juliette sign with Rayna’s label, and I’m fine with that. These two are fun when they’re forced to work together.
Meanwhile, Scarlett is in the studio with Liam, who’s been sent by Rayna. Scarlett mouses at Liam for a bit, and he’s bored and annoyed by her mealymouthedness. He asks her pointed questions, trying to draw out her emotional vulnerability, and eventually he gives up and walks out, stealing her (conveniently visible) journal and locking her in the studio while she reads it. Scarlett goes nuts, screaming at him like he killed her dog in front of her. But of course, eventually Liam convinces her to find the artist in its pages, and she reveals that her most painful and honest journal entries are about her mom, who was…bipolar? Mentally ill in some way that was scary to young Scarlett, anyway. They work through the night and in the morning, are ready to lay down the track…but Scarlett is so tired! Fortunately, Liam has some little pep pills she can take–and just like that, we’re launching into an idiotic “Scarlett gets hooked on speed” storyline. Don’t do it, writers!
Back at Gunnar mansion, he’s surprised when Will appears in the kitchen that morning–turns out the label sent everyone home since Juliette’s imploding. And oh hey, Will told Layla she could stay with them too! OK, regardless of his personal issues, Will is a shitty and inconsiderate roommate. Layla comes smugging into the kitchen, fawning over Gunnar and saying that Will said maybe they could “write together,” since she knows to be taken seriously as an artist, she has to write her own songs. Gunnar allows his arm to be twisted, and they sit down to start writing. Layla’s all, “OK, so what do you want to write?” and Gunnar tries a couple of different times to get her to do the contributing…but she can’t because she’s an empty shell, and she gets offended and storms off. TL;DR version? Layla still sucks.
And finally, in the plot that no one cares about, Tandy’s gone AWOL and ditched the Feds because she knows that Lamar put out the hit on Teddy, and she’s figured out that if she testifies against him, she’ll be next on the hit list. The Feds come after her, but she gets herself a lawyer and a loophole that negates their key evidence, so Tandy walks and charges are dropped against Lamar. But Teddy’s getting nervous, because even though he didn’t spill the beans, he knows Lamar thinks he did…and a free Lamar has got to be even more dangerous than an imprisoned one.
We end back on Juliette, who’s in her house making her horrifying macaroni & ketchup comfort food while talking to her manager. She tells him that she feels a little relieved to be essentially unemployed, and then she takes her casserole off to…Avery! She arrives on his doorstep and says, “I brought you dinner.” (Don’t eat that, Avery!) She tells him that when he tried to show her she didn’t need any of the trappings of success, she realized she needs one thing: him. Smooches!
And that’s about it! A pretty good ep, and now we’ve got all our players poised for their next act. Until next week!