Our hero Rayna is heading up a big ol’ meeting of assorted broadcast industry bigwigs. They love Rayna, they love how she streams mad digital content, but they ain’t too keen on the fact that she associated herself with Juliette Barnes, a woman who once stole a nail polish and is erroneously believed to be an atheist. I mean, total bad news. As she's sticking up for Juliette, Bucky comes in to tell Rayna that Luke was injured by an IED while on his way to perform for troops in Afghanistan. At hearing this news, Rayna puts on her most serious-feelings face.
She visits Luke in the hospital. He is about medium busted up, especially compared to the two people he said died in the attack. “Right now I just really want me some sugar,” he says grossly, and I am feeling generous and will explain that away as the morphine talking. Luke is sad that he couldn’t sing his songs for the heroes, but Rayna says “Fort Campbell is right here!” and she even knows the number of troops stationed there right off the top of her head.
Rayna asks Juliette to perform as well, but Luke is hesitant. He is concerned about Juliette’s ability to “behave herself,” because it is very likely, in his mind, that she will appear on stage wearing the flag as a diaper. Luke wonders if Rayna is only using this Fort Campbell concert as a promotion for her label, but he is also wondering if she is only doing it for the troops, or if she is only doing it because she loves him. “I just wanna give back, or whatever,” Rayna deflects.
She and Luke are sitting on the sofa, at opposite ends. The physical distance between them indicates there is also an emotional distance between them. He tells her that when the bomb went off, all he could see was his kids … and her. He loves her, but doesn't know if she feels the same. She does! She says.
Special guest star First Lady Michelle Obama appears VIA VIDEO SCREEN, LAME. Doesn't count! It doesn't count. You have to actually go to the set to have it count. #thanksobama. She gives a speech about respecting the military or whatever, I'm not actually sure what it was about because li'l daughter Daphne talks over half of it. Speaking of Daphne, she and Maddie get to join Rayna on stage to perform. And Maddie wants Deacon out there too. So it's a whole little family band! Minus, of course, Teddy.
She's in the shower, scrubbing off the Jeff Fordham dirty and breaking down into tears. Avery comes in after she's dressed, and his hair looks better than it ever has on this show. He apologizes for jumping back onto the runaway train that is his ex-girlfriend Scarlett, and tells Juliette that he loves her. She has guilt feelings and is like, "Thanks, gotta go!"
Avery drives all the way down to The Bluebird to whine to random employees, this time Zoey. He hates feeling that Juliette doesn't trust him. Zoey hates knowing that Juliette hooked up with Jeff, because Gunnar saw it (well, saw the aftermath) and told her about it. She does not want to be the one to tell Avery, so she suggests that he and Gunnar have a guy's night.
What else is Gunnar up to? He's got a meeting with Juliette as a potential songwriting thing (now are they gonna fall in love?) and he also has good hair in this episode. Jeff walks in, wearing all black, like a villain. A sport jacket over, like, a collarless button-up shirt. Like I said: villain. He wants her back to Edgehill because she has real crossover potential, but she's still on this "wanting to do a country record for Rayna" trip. Rayna gives her freedom! Just then, Glenn walks in and is like, "Rayna demands you go do this Army thing," and she says okay. Stroking his white cat and adjusting his monocle, Jeff calls it an "empty patriotic gesture" (which is something I'm willing to believe the writer felt about this whole episode).
At the Fort Campbell show, Juliette overhears Luke talk shit on her; he said he'd rather not have her perform, because, I don't know, she's fake and he's real or something. She has hurt feelings and wanders off and finds a hot soldier. She's asked what she's singing, and she says she's not there to sing. She tells a story about her dad being in the military and how he was killed during a training accident, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've really heard anything about her father. Luke, of course, eavesdrops on this exchange and has a change of heart now that he knows she #respects the military.
She and Luke duet. Avery is there, and she kisses him, but with a sad face. Avery never learned of her infidelity, because Zoey got a job singing backup for Juliette at the last minute and convinced Gunnar that the wise course of action is to keep their damn mouths shut (a course of action I agree with). Speaking of infidelity, Jeff is there. He basically threatens to tell Avery about the two of them for some reason? I don't know. Villain reasons.
Maddie's visiting! And we learn that Deacon cannot do very basic mathematics. He goes online to complain about School Today, and that it wasn't like that when he was a kid. #thanksobama. Speaking of Deacon's childhood, Maddie wants to know what it was like. "Fucked up" is the short answer. Refusing to take a hint, she plows on and asks him why he never got married at all, but specifically, why he never married her mother. The kid either needs a class in subtlety or a change in career ambitions towards detective work.
Ohhh, Deacon burned the breakfast casserole! They laugh and laugh. Sitcom riffs play.
The next morning, she jumps right back into it and says that she wishes she grew up living with him. "Uh, you definitely do not wish that," he responds. She wants to know where he was when she was born. Ah, Spring of '99, Deacon says he was on the road. She lets it slide that he only mentioned a season and year rather than the actual date.
At his AA meeting, he cracks wise a bit and then tells the story of Maddie. He tells the story of how he lied to her, that is. Oh, he was on the road all right — the road to hell. During her actual birth, he was at a bar. "I had one drink — 20 times!" Is this AA or an open mic night? I can't tell anymore.
At the Fort Campbell concert, Deacon tells Rayna that he wants to clear the air, and thanks her for protecting Maddie from his drunken smash-y rages, and apologizes for letting her think she did anything other than the right thing. He also asks Teddy about Maddie's birth, and it's a man talk about daughter feelings, and I love it.
The reality TV crew is setting stuff up in Will and Layla's home, lights and cameras and makeup and loud drilling sounds. The filming begins! Will immediately and awkwardly segues into a song, while Layla sits and listens. (Also, there is an Exit/In poster in the background. Nice detail, set designers!) The producer, who may or may not be villainous, but probably is villainous because she works in reality television for money, is like, "This couple is a goldmine." We're supposed to find that crass, but hey, she's got student loans to pay off like everyone else.
They film several takes of Will carrying Layla over the threshold after their wedding — well, a recreation of such. "The kiss is falling flat," the producer tells them. Why oh why could this be? Will gets mad, Layla gets hurt, and they now have all of this footage of their faces being mad and hurt which will, in the grand tradition of reality TV, be edited to tell a different story.
Will has gone to the gym to try and throw out his back. A hot gym bro is like "Hi, I am a hot gym bro," and gives Will his card. Will crumples it into his pocket. I do not know the delicate codes of gay hookup culture, but it kind of looked like that guy really was just a personal trainer trying to help someone not throw out his back? Happy to be proven wrong. Back at home, Will and Layla are sitting and doing nothing. The hidden cameras are making him nervous, and he starts pulling them out. I'm positive that he would have signed something specifically prohibiting such actions, and now he's probably on the hook for quite a few grand. He hides in the bathroom and pulls out that guy's card. Wants to schedule a private session. LET'S SEE HOW THAT GOES.
Scarlett, a fistful of sand that can slip right through your hands, is reading her own journal and reminiscing about all of the terrible things that have happened since she moved to Nashville. "I thought I'd feel better off the road, being free," she says, but now she has no idea what to do. Doesn't "the road" typically symbolize "freedom" in songwriting? I can see how she's now confused about her options.
She decides to work a couple of shifts at The Bluebird. None of her friends/ex-lovers are there, because they have quickly achieved varying degrees of success. But the patrons recognize her! They are kind to condescending, and then she gets to bring them chicken fingers. I do not know what she was expecting. Later, Zoey tells Scarlett about her new gig as a backup singer for Juliette. Scarlett is happy for her friend, and happy that she will be on the road so much; that makes her decision easier. What decision? Her decision to leave town. Dun dun dun ...
Kellie Pickler was also there.