My Favourite Nashville: I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You) (1×02)

In one month it will be five years since Nashville premiered on ABC and four and a half since it started airing in Sweden and got me hooked completely. Season 5 has ended, without me in the audience I’m afraid, and I feel the urge to revisit the show and share my thoughts on some of my favourite episodes, the stories that got me mesmerised and the scenes that took my breath away. 

First up is episode 2 of season 1 and Nashville does a great job in continuing to establish the main characters, who they really are and want to be, and what crossroads they are at, professionally and in life general. By giving us an insight in their backgrounds and letting us in to some emotional turmoil we start seeing the depth and complexity of their personalities. Among those things are the intimacy still remaining between Rayna and Deacon, what some of the struggles are for Scarlett and the many faces of Juliette. It’s just brilliantly setting the scene.

Rayna is at a stop

Rayna starts off being stuck in traffic due to Juliette’s video shoot, which perfectly gives the picture of where Rayna is in her career at the moment and as it turns out, in her personal life. She has come to a stop in her music career while Juliette’s seems to be souring, and she is not really sure where to turn to get back on track again.

Rayna in the car with the kids
As we learned in episode one, Raynas arena shows are not selling and her label, Edgehill, will not support her album unless she goes on tour with Juliette. Watty White, her friend and mentor, suggests she does a scaled-down acoustic tour with Deacon, but it’s one thing doing cosy one-on-one performances when you are young and madly in love, and quite another when you’re past 40, married to someone else and have children. She does not feel very comfortable with the idea, and neither does her husband, Teddy.

Rayna likes being in control and suddenly she is just not. At all.

I love how Nashville is the master of details and in a second gives us a glimpse of just how well Rayna and Deacon know each other. Late for the meeting with Watty and Rayna, Deacon is sweeping in and nonchalantly picking food from Rayna’s plate before spitting out his “What did I miss?” It is a very intimate gesture, I think, something you would only do when you know someone really well, and it becomes clear that these two have shared many intimate meals where picking food from each other’s plates probably was part of the foreplay.

Deacon stealing food
Teddy is not quite satisfied with where he is at either, as the back-seat, not so successful husband to his famous wife, so he has decided to run for mayor. This triggers a background check which forces Rayna to answer probing, uncomfortable questions about her past and we learn the details of the sad and unfortunate history between her and Deacon, one filled with alcohol abuse and rehab visits. Teddy is far from happy letting his wife go on tour with him, but in a marriage you have to compromise. He wants to run for mayor and she rather does a tour with Deacon than opens up for Juliette Barnes, so that is that and it could work, right?

Seeing Deacon hanging out with Juliette does not sit that well with Rayna. It is one thing having the record label’s undivided support anymore, but having the always dependable Deacon slipping away with her biggest rival is just too much. Rayna likes being in control and suddenly she is just not. At all. When she and Deacon finally meets to discuss the tour, the disappointment and some vaguely disguised feelings of jealousy have Rayna (for once, we realise later) unable to keep her calm. And before the episode is over Rayna’s marriage has also come to a stop, even if Rayna will try all kinds of manoeuvres to convince herself that it isn’t so.

Scarlett is trying to please

Scarlett and Gunnar get an offer to do a 3-song demo with Watty and suddenly Scarlett needs to decide if she really wants to branch into the music business or not, which she contemplates in a series of scenes during the episode.

Scarlett and Avery
Scarlett writes poems and has no real desire to sing and pen songs, or? She did look quite comfortable singing when Gunnar lured her up on stage at the end of the pilot episode, but no, even if Avery would support the idea, she wants to be with him and support him as planned. Even though both these things might be true, it becomes obvious that Scarlett is someone who avoids creating conflicts or the risk of hurting someone else.

[Scarlett’s] struggles with balancing between pleasing others and pleasing herself as well as understanding that there actually is a difference becomes very evident.

She is very sensitive to the mood of those she is with. In the scene where she is planning to tell Avery about the demo says it clearly. She spots in a fraction of a second that Avery is not happy, immediately changes the plan and lets the conversation be about Avery. In the scene later with Gunnar, who puts her a bit on the spot regarding her decision not to go forward with the demo, she claims it to be about herself and what she wants, even though what actually comes out still sounds like it’s all about Avery. Her struggles with balancing between pleasing others and pleasing herself as well as with understanding that there actually is a difference becomes very evident in this episode.

Juliette is playing roles

Juliette overhears some negative comments about the age of her fan base and she decides she wants to do music for adults, starting now. That decision will take her through a journey of emotions during this one episode that seriously would be enough for the whole season. The episode quite brilliantly gives us an insight in just how Juliette Barnes works, how her self-confidence together with her insecurities impact her actions, and how she quite flexibly takes on whatever role she thinks will suit her goals for the moment.

Juliettes video shoot
She starts being very determined and confident. Juliette doesn’t want to do stupid music videos for 12 year-old fans, she wants to be taken seriously. ”I’m doing my part, you need to do yours” she tells her manager, Glenn. He should give Deacon a business offer he will accept and she will help by giving Deacon a personal offer he cannot resist. Having Deacon in her band on is a way of giving her music credibility and writing songs with him will be a way of showing she is a real artist. Getting Deacon into her bed will help her getting him in her band, or so she thinks, disclosing just where her self-confidence is at.

[Juliette] is very aware of that she is playing roles… but somewhere it becomes difficult to see, even for her, where the role ends and the genuine Juliette begins.

Juliette lures Deacon away from Rayna and takes him to her countryside property to write some music and to seduce him. Juliette is very confident in the persuasive powers of her sexual attraction, but she is also letting her guard down trying to show Deacon another side of herself. She is very aware of that she is playing roles. ”I’m whoever my manager is thinking will sell the most records”, she tells Deacon and adds that she has another side too, but somewhere here it becomes difficult to see, even for her, where the roles end and the genuine Juliette begins.

Juliette and Deacon by the lake
She wants to show him the land and her love for that, as well as her genuine intentions for songwriting, but she still can’t help trying to impress him with rare gifts and flirting with him to get him into her bed, or in this case, the water. When they finally get to the songwriting part, she is too insecure to appreciate his admiration for her songwriting; it’s much easier for her to believe in his attraction to her. During these scenes she shifts between being confident, flirty, vulnerable and modest so effortlessly that it is difficult to know when she is playing a role and when she is honest, and probably she doesn’t even know herself anymore which is what, it’s all just means to get what she wants.

Back home Juliette is getting quite confused! She doesn’t get why Deacon is not thanking her for the guitar she gave him. She wants that validation from him and she just doesn’t understand why she won’t get it. And yeah, Deacon is not the most honest guy here, looking for distraction in all the wrong places as he chooses to ignore the context of Juliette’s “offering”. He takes the sex, flattered as he is, probably without any intention of giving her what he damn well knows she is really after, him on her tour.

Juliette at Deacons houseMaybe Juliette gets that she doesn’t get it. Later when she shows up at his house to give him the demo of the song, she is back being the sincere girl: ”Something about you wants me to grow up”. And this time we know it’s real. She looks so happy at the Bluebird later, like she has figured things out. But the happiness turns to one big bowl of hurt when Deacon asks Rayna to sing with him on stage instead of her. Even if it was an extra bonus that her actions towards Deacon would spite Rayna, it was never her reason for doing it. Juliette wants first of all to be a respected artist, she wants to be (like) Rayna, although she would probably never admit it.

The Bluebird is where it concludes

The episode ends superbly with one of best performances on the show, Rayna and Deacon’s No One Will Ever Love You at the Bluebird Café. You can literally see those buried emotions being released and coming alive during the song. And while it tells the story about Rayna and Deacon, it manages to impact the feelings and thoughts of Scarlett and Juliette as well, and I love how Nashville always manages to make the closing song relate to the other characters.

No one could watch without being affected by the genuine feeling of that performance, and having Watty point out that it could be Scarlett and Gunnar up there, could not but help Scarlett to make the decision to go ahead with the demo. And she looks pleased having done so.

Rayna and Deacon at the BluebirdJuliette is singing the words to Rayna and Deacons song, because she knows and loves the song, or maybe she wishes she had written a song like that, or she wishes she had someone loving her like that (now realising the extent of Deacons feelings for Rayna), or just all of the above. For Juliette the episode ends with that pain of being rejected by Deacon where it hurts most, as an artist, even after she was trying to show him her true self.

It was the moment she realised that her marriage was over.

“No one will ever love you like I do.” Deacon eyes could not more obviously show just how much he loves Rayna and never was there a more heartbroken face than Rayna’s in the car with Deacon after their duet. This very short scene is my favourite from the episode. There in the car she realises that her marriage is over and her ”I wish we hadn’t done that song” is when she admits it, if only for a second, before she goes home to hug Teddy and tell him that she loves him.

Rayna and Deacon in the car
We will see this repeating in later episodes, both the same reaction and similar scenes. The moment her emotions gets too real and familiar, when the reminders of the painful past gets too loud, she turns 180 degrees and runs in the opposite direction, because it is only that or giving in. Rayna is the not the one to give in, that would be to be weak and losing control, and Rayna wants to be in control. “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)” and it’s obvious that Deacon can’t help it, even Juliette points it out to him. He should focus on the present, not the past, she tells him. Rayna can’t help it either, but that does not mean she has to acknowledge it.

The episode is written by Callie Khouri and directed by R.J. Cutler.

This is the first of My Favourite Nashville posts. Here is another:
My Favourite Nashville: Your Wild Life’s Gonna Get You Down (2×18)

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How a show called Nashville changed my life!

The last week of October, on autumn school break, I brought my husband and two daughters, 9 and 13 years old, to Nashville.  We had the most fabulous vacation, quite unexpected, and I thought I’d tell you how we ended up there, and how a TV show can impact lives, my life! 

IMG_0965 I’ve always been a TV and movie buff, but I must admit, the number of hours spent in front of a TV or in a movie theater had seriously decreased the last couple of years. I lost a bit of interest in movies, and although TV was getting better and better (and more and more), since the TV and only laptop always seemed to be occupied by the kids, I found myself watching less and less.

So it was really by accident, in January 2013, I saw a TV panel discuss new shows coming the Swedes way. One in particular caught my interest, since it had Connie Britton in it, whom I loved from the fantastic Texas football drama Friday Night Lights. Hayden Panettiere, who was the most adorable, unbreakable cheerleader in Heroes, and Eric Close, the most handsome guy from Without a Trace, was also in it. That it was a drama, set in Nashville and told the story of the world of country music, seemed just like so much fun.

I set the recording to the digital box for the first episode, but then forgot about it (or maybe the TV was occupied) and forgot to record the next episode. Then after a couple of weeks I noticed that TV3 would air the first five episodes in a row on Saturday afternoon. After episode two I was hooked. After episode four I was obsessed. The show was great in many ways, one of those was the fantastic music performances, but the reason for the obsession was a couple called Rayna and Deacon. If you have seen it, you know what I mean.

Rayna and Deacon

The next episode couldn’t air soon enough and I started searching internet to find out more about the show. In US it had premiered in October 2012, and they were already on episode 12, and I was watching YouTube clips, reading reviews and spoilers, as well as joining the Facebook fandom! In May when spending a long weekend at our internetless summerhouse, I was so desperate rewatching scenes from the latest episode, I quickly volunteered to go grocery shopping, and was then sitting in the parking lot outside the store watching scenes on my phone over and over again. Yes.

After weeks of trying to calm down after a crazy season finale, when home alone, I decided to try this thing called twitter. I created my account, followed the Nashville creator, the actors and other things related and then spent weeks feeling ridiculous with zero followers. Then boom, three Nashville fan accounts followed me back, and I dared to start! Twitter fandom is fabulous, just start writing a few tweets, comments and answers and things will come to you. Six months later I had twitter friends from Israel, Netherlands, UK, Argentina and of course the US, with whom I was discussing and doing serious fangirling, sharing our love of Nashville, but sometimes also other topics.

Rayna and Juliette So why is this show so special. Of course it is not only Rayna and Deacon, although the chemistry between the actors, Connie Britton and Charles Esten, is unreal. (They are also super hot and they are in their late 40’s!!!) It is the fantastic music, written by local songwriters, and always fitting the stories of the different characters so well. The characters, ranging from young diva Juliette (played by Panettiere), the accidental artist, Scarlett, and wannabe songwriter Gunnar, to big country music stars like Rayna and Luke, might seem stereotyped at first, but no, they rise above that becoming all so full-fledged, complex and relatable – annoying, adorable and flawed – all at the same time. It is just a very well-written show taking place in a truly authentic music environment.

No wonder I got inspired to go to Nashville, to see where all the scenes were filmed, and to experience the music and atmosphere of Nashville. I had a somewhat hard time to convince my family to go, or as my 13yo daughter told me. ”I’m not even that into music!” Well, maybe they wouldn’t enjoy it, so I kind of gave up on the idea, but then I saw a tweet from the Ryman Auditorium (who everyone who has seen the show know is the Mother Church of Country music) that First Aid Kit, our favorite Swedish band, would play on October 29, which was the exact week of the school break! It was a sign! Tickets to that show, and tickets for the trip, was bought quicker than anyone could say – country music! (The First Aid Kit song ‘Emmylou’ is featured in ep 1×12. Yep, after the elevator scene!)

IMG_0999I was nervous for sure about bringing the family on an expensive vacation overseas, just because I happen to love a TV show, not knowing if they would enjoy it at all. But I needn’t have worried. Everyone loved it! We were walking along downtown Broadway, stopping at every boot shop and debating with our 9yo daughter if she should have boots with heals or not (she got one pair of each). We went to see an NHL hockey game (yes, this was a concession I made and the Predators lost unfortunately), visited Nashville Zoo (kids loved it, the clouded leopards were the favorites), breakfast at the famous Loveless Café (blueberry pancakes of course) and the Country Music Hall of Fame, where the kids got the task to find different instruments, the oldest, the weirdest etc. And yes, there was one weirder and more innovative than the other. Fantastic really! My appreciation for country musicians just exploded.

We did the the backstage tour at the Ryman Auditorium, took the ABC Nashville bus tour to understand where different scenes took place including a visit to the famous Bluebird Café, a day trip up in the mountains, visiting the fantastic Dutch Maid Bakery & Café and nearby Foster Falls, and of course a fair share of shopping. Music is everywhere and anytime in Nashville, at 11am a Saturday morning and late on weekdays. On top of some nice lunch and dinner music performances, we saw two fantastic shows, the First Aid Kit at the Ryman of course, and then finishing off the week at the legendary Grand Ole Opry, listening to among others, Vince Gill!

If you’re living in Sweden and have not watched Nashville I don’t blame you. It started out on Mondays 8pm on TV3 with very little advertising. Since nobody watched it, they thought better to move it to Saturday afternoons, not telling anyone of course, and then to Saturday mornings. You didn’t catch it then? No? Well finally, they put it on their streaming service and Nashville is now available on Viaplay, all 53 episodes. Season 3 is now on winter break, but will be back on US TV February 4. That hopefully means that Viaplay will have it available for streaming no more than one week later. So a little bit of time for y’all Swedish guys and gals to catch up on the first two and half seasons.

Not all TV critics have understood how good Nashville is yet, they see it as soap opera, and a soap opera cannot be that good, can it? Well, it can, and one critic who does get it is TVdags.se editor-in-chief, Kjell Häglund, who is one of not so many people in Sweden having discovered Nashville. He also happens to appreciate it, a lot! When naming the best TV drama of 2014 he put Nashville on top, above True Detective. Just like me and many fans, he sees just how very well made this music drama is by creator Callie Khouri and her team.

IMG_2140

So you obviously know by now that I am obsessed, but what other affects has this show had on the family. Well, husband walks around in cowboy boots, shirts and sometimes also in a nice Stetson. Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl is on repeat on Spotify and so is the Dixie Chicks. Kids are constantly belting out songs from the show. Me, I have these fabulous fellow fans that I chat with more or less every day. I’ve started listen to Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert and loads of other great country music. I’ve also started to write a little, something I always wanted, as a guest writing fan for the fabulous Nashville Forever blog, and I’m going back to Nashville soon, cause it is just such an inspiring place to be! And yes, I have a new favorite shirt!