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Nashville - Pick Yourself Up - Review: "On The Line"

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I’ve probably said this in the past, but we really have reached the beginning of the end with Nashville. “Pick Yourself Up” was the first of the remaining eight episodes, and as the series winds down I find myself having mixed feelings. In its prime, this show was the perfect escape from reality, as viewers could find solace in the soapy drama of country music, watching characters fall in love, fight to make it in the industry and the powerful relationships that were formed. At its worst, the show was an unbearable mess, introducing horrific new characters that took screen time away from the series regulars, irrevocably tore relationships apart with no plausible way for the characters to reconcile and featured pointless plot lines that made us watch to claw our eyes out. To say this show has had its shares of ups and downs would be putting it mildly. However, I hope the series can end on a strong note, as I’m not na├»ve enough to think it would go out on top. Where you’ve come to love or hate the series, it’s almost over. So without further ado, let’s begin.

So it’s really not surprising Brad is fighting Jessie for sole custody of Jake. After the events of the midseason finale, we knew Brad would find some way to punish Jessie for Deacon “assaulting” him. Again, violence is never the answer, but a man as vile as Brad would tempt even the most pacifistic and even-tempered individuals, someone Deacon Claybourne definitely is not. However, Deacon really should have tried hard because his short fuse could cost Jessie joint custody of her son. We all get that it was a split second decision made in the heat of the moment, but Brad isn’t the sort of guy who would just forgive and forget. In fact, it’s sort of like he gets off on torturing his ex-wife. His claim of not feeling comfortable exposing Jake to a dangerous environment would have been a lot more convincing if he wasn’t enjoying watching Jessie squirm. She went to talk to Brad, essentially on her hands and knees, begging him to drop the custody suit, and he just smiled and told her she should have learned by now to make better romantic choices. Like I’m pretty sure any guy Jessie decided to date after Brad would be an improvement. So while it’s sweet that Deacon and Jessie want to stay together and fight Brad for custody, it’s a stupid and reckless move. From what we know about Jessie and Brad’s initial custody dispute, Brad unfairly painted Jessie as an unfit mother and was given primary custody of Jake. As we’ve seen time and time again, Brad is a despicable excuse for a human being and a verbally abusive father toward Jake. Heck, we’ve even heard from Jake how much he despises Brad. So for Deacon and Jessie to gamble with Jake’s future is just irresponsible. This has never been and will never be a level playing field; this is a guy who has unlimited resources and isn’t afraid to play dirty. And like the lawyer said, a judge would probably find Brad’s version of events more accurate, especially given Deacon’s criminal record. So there’s a very good chance Brad will win sole custody of Jake, and then no one’s happy. Jake would then have to permanently live with an emotionally abusive father, Jessie would barely get to see her son and protect him, and she and Deacon would probably split up because she would end up resenting him and he would blame himself for what happened. There’s just no plausible scenario where this works out in their favor. The only thing Deacon and Jessie can do is break up. There’s no way Brad is going to back down until he gets what he wants, and what he wants is Deacon out of the picture. Is it fair that Brad gets to control her life and deprive her of any shred of happiness? No, but life’s rarely fair. She and Deacon had it right the first time when they decided to break things off, and I really hope they come to their senses before it’s too late.

Will essentially spends most of this episode trying to convince everyone, including himself, that he’s completely fine, despite suffering a major cardiac event. He’s been abusing steroids for however long several episodes are, and even after collapsing during a The Last Highway’s performance in the midseason finale, he still doesn’t get the severity of what has happened. He keeps making jokes, brushing off everyone’s concern as he’s not willing to admit that he is in serious trouble. I get that it’s easier to use humor as a defense mechanism than to face the reality, but it’s not like he fainted from severe dehydration. He has a serious infection, something that may require surgery, so no; he can’t just brush this incident under the rug and move on as if nothing happened. He needs to be resting and focusing on getting better, not thinking about playing gigs and exerting himself. Despite all of Gunnar, Avery, Scarlett and Alannah’s efforts to get Will to take this seriously, it ends up being one of the most loathed characters who manages to shake some sense into Will. Yes, Zach has graciously taken time out of his busy schedule to visit his ex-boyfriend in Nashville and “check in” on things at Highway 65. As much as I hate their relationship, Zach going to see Will does fall in the realm of probable. I mean, the writers tried so hard to convince us they were this epic power couple in love, so I guess someone campaigning for office can take a day to visit their ex-boyfriend who almost died. And despite Will, and the audience, not wanting to rehash the past, Zach still decides to bring up their breakup, which was honestly the best thing about their relationship. Apparently Zach wasn’t used to rejection – you don’t say – and decided to ride off into the proverbial sunset with some other guy who he’s no longer seeing. Being as egotistical as he is, Zach believes Will’s steroid abuse is a direct result of them breaking up, although he does at least to have the foresight to admit he could be completely wrong. What Zach fails to realize, and even Will, is that it wasn’t just one thing that contributed to Will’s fall down the rabbit hole. For most of the series, Will has been this confident guy whose self-esteem is tied to external praise. He’s always based his self-worth on how others see him. Being with Zach provided Will with bigger and better opportunities, but when they broke up, those opportunities went away. So here’s a guy who’s been dumped, and with his career somewhat stalled, he joins a band. Making music with your best friends is fun in theory, but Will has never had to share the spotlight before. He’s already feeling insecure, and then he gets pushed to the side by this new band member, so he starts looking for other avenues of validation, ultimately deciding to get use steroids to attract attention from other men. Was it the smartest move? No, but at the end of the episode Will does seem to turn a corner when Scarlett insists he is more than just a showman. I’m not really sure he’s ever really thought of himself as more than just a performer, but the song he writes is beautiful. I would really like to see him continue to grow and gain more self-confidence from something other than external appearances. I know seven episodes is a tight timeframe, but the show has done crazier things.

So while Will is dealing, or not dealing, with his new reality, the remaining members of The Last Highways have found themselves entangled in another damn love triangle. I really don’t know how many times I have to say this, but you don’t sleep with your band mates. You don’t kiss, you don’t date, you don’t do anything remotely romantic. If there’s one thing people should take away from this series, it should be this: If you’re trying to make it big in the music industry, don’t mix business with pleasure, EVER. Viewers have had to watch this scenario play out in various forms over the past six seasons, with half of them involving Scarlett and Gunnar, and the love triangle between Gunnar, Avery and Alannah is the latest, and hopefully last, iteration. As everyone knows, Gunnar and Alannah have been hooking up. That’s nothing new. Gunnar wants something more serious, and Alannah has repeatedly made it clear she’s just looking for something casual. Again, we know this. I could rant about them for a while, but let’s move on to the new element: Avery. As viewers will remember, Avery and Alannah had a moment in the midseason finale that hinted something romantic might happen between the pair, which was only confirmed by them kissing in the promo for the final eight episodes. So how do they get from just band mates to kissing? Well, this episode really laid the groundwork for how they get from point A to B. While I’ve been a pretty big advocate for Alannah – she’s been nothing but upfront with Gunnar since they started hooking up – this episode definitely made me re-evaluate things. Does she have to spend the night at Gunnar’s? No, but she really shouldn’t be running off for a “casual” late night rendezvous at Avery’s house. If she really just wanted to check up on Avery, she could have gone during the day or asking beforehand. Instead, she just showed up and invited herself in, using this as an opportunity to insert herself into Avery’s romantic woes. Reiterating that his relationship with Juliette is toxic isn’t really her business as she’s only known the guy for a couple weeks or months; she’s never even met the disappearing diva. And then we get to the part where she tells Avery the only way to get over someone is to be with someone else and that he doesn’t look at her like other guys. Like the only way she could be more obvious was if she arrived at his house with nothing on but a trench coat. As if that weren’t bad enough, she “accidentally” spends the night. Like she could have left at any time, yet she stayed over. So, of course, the paparazzi who have been stalking Avery catch her leaving, and of course, Gunnar finds out, and of course, Gunnar and Avery get into a fight over it. It just plays out so expectedly, yet it’s heartbreaking to see some random girl coming between Gunnar and Avery’s epic bromance. She knows that Gunnar has feelings for her and Avery is in a messy situation with Juliette, yet she chooses to insert herself into their lives and not even care about the wreckage she leaves behind. I really don’t want to spend the final seven episodes watching the guys on the outs before inevitably making up. Like can we move on from this already?

And instead of one really boring plot, Maddie gets two very boring plots this episode. One is the continuation of the doomed romance between her and Jonah, which is made clearer as he continues to ignore her. It’s gone from the simple act of choosing to hang out with his guy friends over her, to deciding to leave her dancing with his best friend so he can text his ex-girlfriend. Like seriously, could this guy be any more of a douchebag? As annoying as Maddie can be, she deserves someone who will actually pay attention to her and not pressure her into doing something stupid. Whenever Maddie has hung out with Jonah and his friends, she has always remained sober – one of the few things I admire about her – but this episode she gives into peer pressure and does shots with Jonah and his friends during her boyfriend’s birthday week celebration. Despite the issue that Maddie is 18, she still shouldn’t feel like she’s being pressured into doing something she may not want to do. And her biological father is an alcoholic, so she probably should have at least taken that into account – something Deacon does fortunately point out. Along with spending all her time with Jonah, and making poor decisions, viewers really haven’t seen Maddie writing any original songs. She’s so consumed by this codependent relationship that she’s lost all sense of herself. What I’m really hoping, or at least wanting, is for Maddie to see Jonah for who he truly is and pick a decent, age appropriate and not semi-incestuous guy for once. With the way things have been playing out, I’m guessing she’ll realize the truth and end up either by herself or with Twigg. Personally, I’m not really holding out for either option, but both are better than Jonah. Speaking of options, since when has Maddie had a desire to get her own place? She may think she’s an adult – she keeps throwing around her age as if that makes her all grown up – but she still has a lot to learn in terms of life experience. She may be able to support herself financially, but she has lived a very sheltered life. Everything she has ever wanted, save from her desire to become a solo artist at 16, has been given to her on a silver platter, and she even got her way with her music career about taking her parents to court and emancipating herself. She has no idea what it’s really like to be on her own and be a responsible person. Technically, she could have lived on her own for the past two years, yet she decided to stay at home because she eventually figured out she wasn’t ready. Well, I’m not sure if seeing Daphne crying or what was enough to get her to stay, but I doubt this is the last we’ve seen on the issue.

Some stray thoughts:
• For the remaining seven episodes, Scarlett should be regulated to a solely supporting role. She does better in small doses, and I can actually watch her scenes without wanting to change the channel.
• For those who have seen the promo, does Juliette being pregnant seem like a convenient plot point to get her and Avery back together? Like the writers ruined that relationship so badly that the only way to fix it is with a surprise pregnancy?
• How it that the entire world now knows Juliette has joined a cult except our leading lady? Like if everyone has figured it out, shouldn’t she have some idea about what’s going on?

So hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. Are Deacon and Jessie playing with fire? Will Will start prioritizing his health? Will Alannah ruin Gunnar and Avery’s friendship? When will Maddie realize she’s not an adult?

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