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Nashville - That's My Story & Where the Night Goes - Double Review: "Battle-Scarred"

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“That’s My Story” and “Where the Night Goes” were amazing but infuriating episodes. They were amazing in their delicate handling of Juliette’s and Deacon’s storylines, with both Hayden Panettiere and Charles Esten delivering standout performances of the season. However, they were also infuriating by their need to focus on pointless plotlines that seem to be there only for time constraints. On the one hand, we have the series dealing with sexual assault and moving on after a loved one dies, and on the other, we have to endure watching a useless plot about equine therapy and Juliette completely ignoring the needs of her family. It just doesn’t make sense in my mind how the writers can get it so right sometimes but wrong so others, and in the span of the same episode. If I didn’t know better, (and yes the pun is intended), I’d think the writers just threw darts to decide what happens to the characters next. That would make a lot more sense than anything else at this point.

So I’m going to table my constant annoyance with Juliette’s inability to see who Darius really is and what coherent philosophy is really about for this review because there is something more pressing that needs to be addressed: The revelation that Juliette was sexually abused as a child. When Juliette started this journey with Darius, I never imagined that the writers would take this route. I don’t think they realized just how timely this storyline would play out, with this episode airing the day after Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting dozens of gymnasts, and the writers couldn’t have picked a better character to portray this extremely important issue in today’s society. During one of her talks with Darius, Juliette asks about the crying she heard on the way to his office. Darius explains it’s the witnessing, the next phase of the “training,” but for now, he wants Juliette to focus on a memory from her children, a place where she was the happiest. The audience, along with Darius, are transported to a memory of a 9-year-old Juliette with Jolene and her “uncle.” There are stacks of bills on that table and Jolene dances, urging Juliette to join her. It seems a little weird, but nothing too alarming, but for some reason, Juliette doesn’t want to continue. For all his faults, Darius doesn’t push and says it was a good session, wondering if Juliette even knows what good means anymore. He says the things Juliette has been pushing away for so long have been keeping her from feeling things, and that’s when things start to become a little clearer, or at least they do to Darius. He’s probably been doing this long enough to realize when someone’s on the brink of a remembering something traumatic. While Juliette knows she’s heading toward something, she doesn’t realize just how big this revelation will be. She’s aware that she may have to go through some pain to get there, but I don’t think she knew it be this painful. In a powerful scene, we learn Juliette was sexually abused by her “uncle.” Hayden Paniettiere delivers the standout performance of the season so far. I mean, how could Jolene let that repulsive man violate her daughter that way, and for what, money? That just makes me sick. Afterward, Juliette feels numb and the saddest part is she isn’t even surprised. Darius thinks Juliette keeps reliving this pain, even in her most intimate relationships, and the only way forward is to break the cycle.

In “Where the Night Goes,” viewers see just how Darius wants Juliette to break the cycle. Juliette is still dealing with the aftermath of finding out she was sexually abused as a child, but Darius wants her to imagine what her life would have been like without her childhood trauma. While some things may have changed, I doubt EVERYTHING would have been different, including her marrying Avery and having Cadence. Her being raped at a young age definitely affected her, but what good does playing the ‘what if’ game get you? It’s not going to change anything; the only thing you’ll accomplish is driving yourself insane. Juliette needs to find a way to move forward, and Darius believes she can by going to Bolivia on an outreach program. I’m all for Juliette giving back and helping others, but South America. Really? Why doesn’t she just join Scarlett volunteering at the ranch? That might make those scenes more bearable, but more on that later. So when Juliette tells Avery about her wanting to help others who have gone through trauma, he’s all for it, until he finds out the project is in Bolivia. Even though it’s only two weeks, Juliette wants Avery to once again play housewife and watch their daughter. It doesn’t seem to matter to her that his music career is finally taking off or the idea of Emily parenting their daughter. Apparently, Juliette feels like she needs a private life but hasn’t she gotten that with the cult? No one seems to be reporting that Juliette has become a participant of coherent philosophy. Avery, rightfully, counters that it doesn’t feel like Juliette has been present. Even when she’s home, she’s not really there. It would be enough for anyone to wonder if his partner really needs him except to save her from herself. Juliette seems to take Avery’s words to heart by saying she needs him more than anybody else in the world, but then is gone when he wakes up. Like no note and she’s not picking up her phone. I mean who does that? Juliette Barnes, that’s who. While I promised not to badmouth the cult too much this review, I’m allowing myself to again express my frustration with Juliette’s inability to think of anybody but herself. Yes, this awful thing happened to her, but that doesn’t mean she gets to up and abandon her family again. She’s allowed to be angry and moody and hurt, but she’s not allowed to leave again and expect everything to be all right.

When we first check in with the supergroup in “That’s My Story,” they’re in the middle of a slightly awkward performance. Like Avery tells Juliette, you could tell the guys had never played together before. Their set was sort of all over the place; there was a lack of cohesion. Despite the guys reminding Jessie of a boy brand, Avery thinks it would be a good idea for them to focus on material that makes sense for all of them, with Deacon agreeing that they should figure who they are as a group and not just individuals. Of course this is easier said than done with Gunnar and Will constantly arguing, forcing Avery to be Switzerland. Apparently Gunnar’s too depressing and Will is too bright. While both Gunnar and Will are going through breakups, they have different ways of handling it. Gunnar is channeling his pain and heartbreak into his music while Will is putting on a fa├žade, hoping if he acts like he’s gotten over Zach, he eventually will be. And poor Avery is stuck in the middle. Not only does he have to do with play Juliette’s constant cheerleader, he now has to serve as referee for Gunnar and Will. Fortunately, Avery doesn’t hold his tongue for too long and gives a glorious analogy about Gunnar and Will needing some of each other’s chocolate and peanut butter. In plain terms, Gunnar needs some of Will’s light and Will needs some of Gunnar’s darkness. While Avery’s words of wisdom don’t get through to the guys, Deacon is finally able to knock some sense into them. Despite knowing nothing about boy bands, Deacon knows bands. He explains the guys don’t have to be the same person to be in a band together. Gunnar can be brooding and Will can be charming and Avery can keep being Switzerland. Just because they have different styles doesn’t mean they can’t have fun and play music together. It will just take some time to figure out the kinks, and to prove they do have the charisma of a boy band, or make Jessie happy, the guys play NSYNC’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” I’m aware it was beyond cheesy, and while I wasn’t as ecstatic as Jessie, it did make me smile. As someone who grew up listening to boy bands on the radio, it was a nice nod, and I may have rewound the scene a few times. No judgments.

“Where the Night Goes” sees things going smoother – or at least less arguing – for the supergroup, with the trio getting ready to go out on tour. This time when an argument arises, as Gunnar doesn’t like signing the “high girly parts,” the guys decide to be proactive instead of spending another episode arguing. They decide invite a female vocalist to join their band; the only caveat is that they need to find one. After one whole night of searching without any luck, the guys are thinking of asking friends of a friend (or cousins of a friend) to join their band until they hear a woman singing. The aforementioned singer is a rocker chick named Alannah, and she’s pretty great. The guys go up to her after the gig and introduce themselves, but upon asking Alannah to join their band, it actually sounds like they’re trying to get her to have a foursome with them. However, the moment of awkwardness is short-lived as the guys finally get to the point: They have a band and are looking for a backup singer. Despite being new to Nashville, Alannah knows who the guys are and agrees to grab a drink with them. When B-list country singers ask you to join the band they’re forming, you say yes, or at the very least agree to hear them out. So the guys, especially Gunnar, seem really taken with Alannah, and they invite her to join their band. They group as a gig later that night, and from my opinion, they sound pretty great. Alannah seems to clique really well with the guys; she’s cool, calm, and collected. She doesn’t really seem to bring too much drama to the table and seems like a great addition. Based on next week’s promos, I’m not sure how long she’ll be sticking around, as Brad Maitland seems very interested in Alannah screwing over Deacon. If Alannah does end up signing with Brad, that will at least make it easier for her and Gunnar to hook up without all the added drama of being in a band together. As Gunnar has experienced time and time again, but doesn’t seem to learn from, it’s never a good idea to sleep with someone you work with. And based on the promos, he’s definitely getting into bed with Alannah. The only question remains whether she’ll still be part of the untitled supergroup at that point.

While “That’s My Story” saw very little of Deacon and Jessie, aside from Deacon making sure knows he’s not a ‘rageoholic,’ “Where the Night Goes” heavily feature the couple. The duo was out on a date and things were getting hot and heavy during a make out session in the car. They briefly consider taking things to the next level, until the question of contraception raises its head. Even though it’s been a while for Deacon, the thought of having protection didn’t even cross his mind. With the moment having passed, they decide to table their sexcapades until their children are somewhere. I mean, nothing screams awkward moment like having your teenage children walk in on you with your new significant other. After setting up a time when both their children will be out of the house, Deacon embarks on a very awkward grocery scene of buying condoms. While it shouldn’t be this weird for a man in his 40s to buy condoms, it is for Deacon. Besides the humor, the scene was a nice parallel to the awkwardness of teenagers buying condoms for the first time, because in a sense, this is Deacon’s first time. This is his first time having sex after losing the love of his life, and it’s nerve-wracking and scary and weird and a million other emotions. So on what is supposed to be their first night together, both are really nervous about it. These are two people who have been through a lot romantically, and it would be weird if Deacon and Jessie weren’t apprehensive about taking the next step. When things started heating up, I kept waiting for the series to cut to black, but instead we saw a broken Deacon who confessed he isn’t ready yet. In this harrowingly honest scene, he’s crying and apologizing and it just breaks my heart. Meanwhile, Jessie’s really understanding, letting Deacon know it’s OK and if he needs to talk about Rayna, then that’s fine too. Even though it’s been 11 months since Rayna died, there hasn’t been a day where Deacon hasn’t broken down. He feels like since the girls are doing better, he he has to bottle up his emotions as not to upset them. Since the start of the season, it’s been hard to get a read on where Deacon’s head is. We’ve known the basics: He was lonely and had feelings for Jessie, but this episode is the first time this season that viewers really get a better idea of what’s really going on with him.

So instead of having sex, the pair just talk. In a way, they share a more personal experience with Deacon revealing his dad hit him and how Jessie worries about Brad not being there for Jake in the way her son needs. Random strangers have sex all the time, but people are rarely this vulnerable with someone they just met. So after spending the night talking and cuddling, Deacon encounters that awkward moment of when exactly is an acceptable time to leave the following morning. Does one stay for breakfast after having a non-intimate sleepover with your girlfriend or can you exchange pleasantries and be off on your merry way? As Deacon is about to say something, Jessie promptly cuts him off, believing she knows what it’ll be. She is very aware that she can’t compete with Rayna and would never try to be her, so she wouldn’t blame Deacon if he wasn’t ready to move on. However, that’s not where Deacon’s head is at all. He says he felt close to Jessie the night before, something he never thought was possible after losing Rayna. He also tells her that he knows he’s damaged, but he doesn’t want Jessie to give up on him. . For viewers, it’s been hard to nail down a timeline since Rayna died, and we finally got one this episode: It has been 11 months since the Queen of Country passed. I’m well aware some fans are probably going to say it’s way too soon for Deacon to be pursuing any sort of romantic relationship, as it hasn’t even been a year. While I’m still not sure if Deacon is ready to be in a relationship, I’m glad he was open and honest about his feelings. If he had continued to bury his grief, then he should absolutely not be in any sort of romantic relationship, but he was upfront with Jessie about things he’s been feeling, and hiding, and that shows growth. As long as the duo keep the lines of communication open, they at least have a chance at a happily ever after. As a side note, did viewers catch the potential foreshadowing of Jessie getting pregnant? I mean, Deacon did say he secretly wished he always had a son. So unless I’m reading into things, a baby may be on the horizon.

“That’s My Story” also features Daphne and Jake and the dreaded frog dissection. I’m just kidding about the frog dissection, but it did serve as a backdrop for Daphne and Jake to interact after being paired up for a biology lab. When Jake freaks out during the dissection, Daphne runs after him, trying to get him to come back to class. Since they’re being graded together, Jake walking out essentially means that Daphne fails as well. With Jake having Brad for a father, the teen is obviously worried about his dad metaphorically killing him for failing the class. Despite his father being emotionally abusive, Jake just assumes all dads are jerks, calling Brad a Nazi, which is true, and Deacon a ‘rageoholic,’ which is very untrue. Jake takes a very nuanced situation and boils it down to Maddie essentially went to court because Deacon went around punching people. Thankfully, Daphne calls Jake out for being a prick and has the decency not to tattle to her father. Instead our characters engage in a game of telephone with Jessie ultimately finding out and punishing Jake. So during Daphne and Jake’s time in detention, Jake continues to be a jerk and assumes Daphne went running to Deacon. I’m not sure if this episode was supposed to make us feel sorry for Jake about how hard his life is, with his father being a grade-A jackass and his mother dating, but I just found him to be a whiny little brat. First, he walks out on Daphne during a science lab where they are graded together, and he wasn’t even the one doing the dissecting. Then, he calls Deacon a ‘rageoholic,’ knowing absolutely nothing about him. And lastly, he just starts complaining about how he and Daphne shouldn’t even know each other. I get that it’s not easy to have a verbally abusive father and not like the guy your mother is dating, but he doesn’t get to take his frustrations out on Daphne. Like he barely knows this girl, and yet he thinks it’s OK to be a complete jerk to her. Like what did Daphne even do to him? However, Daphne is a bigger person than me and doesn’t hold a grudge. By the end of detention, the two are pretty chummy, as they commiserate about their parents being together.

And then we get to the most pointless plot of the two episodes – Scarlett volunteering at the ranch. Since she’s been working with kids lately, Scarlett thought equine therapy would be a good fit, but the ranch director recommends Scarlett observe a few sessions before committing. In general, that’s advice Scarlett should apply to her everyday life, like whether or not to pursue music, get back together with Gunnar, the works. But anyway, as Scarlett learns equine therapy isn’t just about riding horses. The employees at the ranch work with teens, addicts, veterans, autistic individuals, and terminally ill patients. During one of the sessions, Scarlett gets in trouble when she responds to one of impressionable teens. The work the teenagers are doing is sensitive and Scarlett can’t get in the middle, so she is sent to muck out the stables. Oh, if only we could send her off to do chores whenever she annoyed viewers, but then we’d probably never see her. Because it’s Scarlett, she can’t take her punishment in stride and confronts the ranch director, saying doesn’t mind cleaning, but it’s not really helping anyone, which is why she came here in the first place. Instead of getting fired for mouthing off, Scarlett ends up earning the ranch director’s respect due to her impeccable cleaning abilities. While this plot was completely filler, it became clear what the writers’ true intention was halfway through as this episode introduced Sean, the ranch director’s nephew. Played by musician Jake Etheridge, Sean is described as a recent military veteran suffering from severe PTSD who has yet to embrace his talent and passion for music. Besides Sean possibly breaking into the country music scene, his time on the show is most likely going to be spent as Scarlett’s potential love interest. Completely ignoring the fact that Scarlett doesn’t need a new love interest – isn’t she supposed to be taking time to focus on herself instead of getting involved with a new guy? – Sean doesn’t seem like someone who is really ready for a relationship. I mean, Deacon and Jessie are barely a functioning couple, how is a guy with “severe PTSD” supposed to be in one? Couldn’t we just have seen a single Scarlett this season, working to put herself first, and potentially be ready to try once again with Gunnar, because at this point that’s pretty much what’s going to happen, but apparently that’s not in the cards.

And then we have Maddie and the continuation of what the writers are trying to make an epic romance between her and Jonah. Last we left the burgeoning romance, things seemed to be going well, as long as you ignore their pending relationship status. However, that seemingly implodes when Jonah’s ex-girlfriend Mia posts a music video publically calling Maddie out for stealing her boyfriend. So being the “grownup” Maddie is, she decides to pretend he doesn’t exist until she comes face to face with Jonah. Maddie wants to know what’s going on with Mia and doesn’t quite buy Jonah’s answer of nothing. To make matters ten times worse, the paparazzi ambushes the duo, leading to Jonah getting into an impromptu fight with a photographer. Their encounter is all over the internet, leading Maddie to confide in Deacon about her confusion over Jonah’s behavior: Sometimes he’s with her and other times he’s checked out. Maddie really likes him, but she can’t tell where his head is. Well, she finally gets some answers when Jonah shows up at her doorstep. He tells Maddie he and Mia broke up weeks ago, and anyone can say anything they want about him, even if it’s not true, because of who he is. After the pretty cookie cutter stuff of the hardships of fame, he reveals he has anxiety – some days it’s so bad he can’t leave the house – and he’s tired of keeping up appearances on social media. Jonah then tells Maddie that he’s not trying to hide; he needs her. So here with this guy saying all the right things, all the things Maddie wants to hear, but there’s an edge of possessiveness. During Maddie’s conversation with Deacon, he reminded her not to lose herself in this relationship, yet she ends up canceling her plans to go Jonah to his EP rollout and just stood by herself while he signed autographs. As we also learned from Deacon, Maddie hasn’t been writing any new songs lately either. She’s rearranging her life around a guy she hardly knows, waiting hours on end for him to text and not making music. I’m not exactly sure where the writers are planning to take this relationship. Whether it will develop into full-on codependency or just the regular trope of the problems of dating in the public eye remains to be seen, but it’s not exactly the healthiest right now.

Some stray thoughts:
- Jessie’s obsession with boy bands and Deacon’s failure to consider protection really highlighted the couple’s age difference these two episodes. I wonder if that will be a source of conflict in future episodes?
- While Will’s steroid use wasn’t touched on in these episodes, we did get a glimpse of his continued struggle with body image.
- Deacon was way cooler than my dad would have been after finding out his 18-year-old daughter was out all night.

So hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. Did Juliette’s revelation break your heart or make you mad? Is Deacon ready to be in a relationship? Will Alannah and Sean become love interests for Gunnar and Scarlett, respectively? Are you upset with the amount of screen time Maddie and Daphne are getting?

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