‘Nashville’ Season 5, Episode 17 Recap: Back on the Market
After the intense drama of Nashville’s past few episodes, Episode 17 of the show's fifth season brings an air of calm to the fictional country music universe.
Much of Episode 17 centers around Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), who is emerging as a heartthrob as he continues to grieve the loss of Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton). In the beginning of this episode, Deacon runs into a woman named Diane Harrison, who’s laying on the flirting extra thick -- even Maddie and Daphne Conrad (Lennon and Maisy Stella) notice that the woman is interested -- laying the groundwork for what could be a forthcoming love story for the handsome widower.
Also a focal point in Episode 17 is the fall-out from the revelation that Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), Scarlett O’Connor’s (Clare Bowen) paramour and bandmate, is not the father of her child. The Exes' largely young, overwhelmingly female fan base is incensed that Scarlett has “cheated” on Gunnar, so she meets with the newly arrived Highway 65 marketing guru Alyssa Greene (Rachel Bilson) to figure out what to do about her image. In addition to a benefit for a local women’s center that provides healthcare for uninsured musicians, Alyssa suggests that the Exes host an intimate show and meet and greet for their most dedicated fans.
Episode 17 also brings a deeper introduction into the storyline of Jessie Caine (Kaitlin Doubleday), the mysterious new songwriter who first made an appearance a few episodes back. Highway 65 investor Zach Welles (Cameron Scroggins) “discovered” Jessie at a Nashville venue and brings her to the label’s offices to talk about a potential deal. While there, Jessie runs into Deacon and asks him to listen to her new music. Deacon is aware of Jessie’s potentially dark past, which apparently involves a bad breakup with her ex-husband and possibly a mental breakdown; ultimately, though, he agrees to give her new tunes a listen.
At the same time, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) is in Los Angeles, working on his Budweiser commercial. The spot styles the rugged star as a modern-day Johnny Cash, featuring him saving old ladies from an oncoming bus, taming wild dogs and becoming a saloon favorite (though when the spot airs in its entirety during the episode, it feels like a weird and oddly intrusive bit of product placement).
While filming, Will is told by a tailor to look out for his new paramour, Zach, who apparently has a bit of a playboy past -- and those suspicions are confirmed when Will snoops through Zach’s secret second phone and finds that another man, Jeff, is calling him. When he confronts Zach about the call, Zach tells Will that Jeff is an old flame that is mentally unstable, and he’s too scared to break it off. Will isn’t buying that story, though, and heads back to Nashville.
When Scarlett and Gunnar perform their surprise show, Scarlett spots a fangirl in the crowd with tears pouring down her cheeks, Nadine. Scarlett remembers her name from a previous meet and greet and asks what’s wrong. Nadine has her own fantasy about how the Exes are supposed to be — Scarlett and Gunnar in love, raising a baby named Rayna — but doesn’t seem to understand that this complicated couple’s reality is much different from her fantasy. Nadine calls Scarlett a liar, and storms off.
Perhaps inspired by her interaction with Nadine, Scarlett storms into the office of McKenzie Rhodes, the reporter who published the story about her child’s paternity. She is, perhaps not surprisingly, furious, and points out that McKenzie didn’t exactly disclose her own relationship with Damien George (Christian Coulson) when writing the story. McKenzie doesn’t give Scarlett the response she wants, but does seem to spark an idea that could rebuild Scarlett’s image: Scarlett logs onto Facebook and finds Nadine’s profile. There, she learns that the slightly obsessed fan is having a rough time at home, and that she is an artist -- and she sends Nadine a message, offering to meet with her.
When the two have coffee, Nadine tells Scarlett that the Exes’ music is an escape from the bullying she deals with at school and at home. Scarlett tries to explain that she’s just a regular person and that Nadine really needs to understand that life’s a little more complicated than her fairytale, but Nadine isn’t having any of Scarlett’s explanation. She storms off ... but ultimately agrees to join Scarlett on a panel with several other teens, all of whom share their stories of being bullied for various reasons. Scarlett opens up a little bit about her past, telling the group that she was once a super-skinny kid bullied for wearing an eye patch to correct her lazy eye. Gunnar shares his own experiences, and even McKenzie stops by to talk about being bullied for wearing a back brace in high school. She apologizes to Scarlett, but the episode ends without any kind of resolution on the feud.
After her massive blow-up last week, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is largely absent in this week’s episode, except for one major revelation: In the aftermath of their fight, Juliette’s husband, Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson), has decided to go out on a 20-date tour that will keep him away from home for seven weeks. Of course, Juliette thinks that he’s punishing her, or just trying to run away, but Avery makes it pretty clear that after years of taking care of Juliette, he needs to do something for himself. Considering that Avery is the definition of patient and long-suffering, he’s exactly right.
Meanwhile, Deacon’s love life is heating up, even if he isn’t exactly aware of it just yet. While at dinner with Alyssa, who seems to be making an earnest effort to get to know her new boss, Deacon learns that Jessie might have a little crush on him ... but when he gets home, a freshly baked chicken pot pie from Diane awaits. In a decidedly ill-advised move, Deacon decides to call Jessie and tell her that he’s not interested in a relationship. Jessie doesn’t exactly take the news well, and tells Deacon that she isn’t interested in a relationship — with him or anyone else; she tells Deacon to buzz off, but he ultimately decides to go see her perform and is totally enraptured by her smoky, emotive singing. Sure, he’s still grieving Rayna, but after all the pain he’s endured throughout this show’s five seasons, it’s about time that a little sunshine came into Deacon's life.
At the end of this week’s episode, Zach tries to prove his fidelity to Will by breaking it off with Jeff, the unhinged former ex. He calls Jeff on speakerphone with Will in the room, and tells him to never contact him again. Jeff, not surprisingly, doesn’t take it well, and neither does Zach. He’s clearly struggling with the breakup, and seems concerned about Jeff’s mental health. Will, however, seems to appreciate the gesture, even if it does make it completely uncomfortable.
With just five episodes left, there’s still so much to be resolved for the stars of Nashville.
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