‘Nashville Season 5, Episode 6 Recap: Big Steps
After Episode 5's terrifying encounter with Rayna Jaymes’ (Connie Britton) stalker, the sixth episode of Nashville’s fifth season was much calmer than those that came before it, giving time for the show’s most important relationships (some new, some old and in need of repair) to bloom, and for the characters to tackle some heavy issues and make some big steps, both personally and professionally.
Episode 6 kicks off with Rayna and Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) consulting with a home security company after Rayna's stalker showed up at her door. She’s gotten a restraining order against the creep, and he’ll be carted off to jail if he comes within 300 feet of her in the future; however, considering the long lead-up to the stalker’s reveal in Episode 5, at this point, viewers should probably not expect that the man, named Carl Hockney (Linds Edwards), is planning to go away anytime soon. Rayna and Deacon attempt to explain the issue of the stalker to Maddie and Daphne (Lennon and Maisy Stella, respectively), which somehow leads to a major explosion when Maddie accuses Rayna of disliking her street-performer boyfriend, Clayton Carter (Joseph David-Jones) because he is black; it’s a tense moment, but Rayna believably counters with the fact that Clayton is 24 years old, which is probably just a little too old for 17-year-old Maddie.
Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) doesn’t play a huge role in Episode 6, but she does appear to be making some major progress. While she’s working with her physical therapist, viewers learn that her legs are getting stronger by the day; additionally, Juliette’s therapist reveals that she is transgender (which the writers had hinted at in previous episodes). There’s no real moment of revelation, which is honestly pretty heartening and in keeping with the way that Nashville’s writers have respectfully handled LGBTQ issues, including the coming out of Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), throughout the past five seasons.
Hallie Jordan (Rhiannon Giddens), the woman who rescued Juliette from the plane crash, comes to Juliette’s house for lunch, and viewers get to learn a little bit more about the mysterious woman in white: She’s a social worker who helps children and families in crisis, and she’s somehow talked Juliette, country music’s most notorious heathen, into going to church. There's nothing like a little near-death experience to literally strike the fear of God into even the endlessly stubborn Juliette!
Back at Highway 65, tech executive (and new investor) Zach Welles (Cameron Scroggins) tells Rayna that Luke Wheeler (Will Chase), her ex-fiance and current king of country music, has designs on selling his record label, Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records. Welles is, of course, aware of the history between Rayna and Luke, but he seems to think that the potentially lucrative deal is worth a few awkward moments with Rayna's ex.
The tension between Clayton and Maddie, meanwhile, continues to build: They go dig for records at an open-air market, at which point Maddie admits to being confused about Clayton's mood disorder ... and now, even Clayton begins to worry a little about their age difference and, as he walks away (for what looks like for good), points out that Maddie is maybe a little too young. But as much as Nashville has focused on the blooming love between Maddie and her various suitors throughout its past seasons, now, the younger Conrad sister is dealing with her first crush ...
... but more on that later. For now, it's time for Juliette to finally make her appearance at church. Walking with the assistance of crutches, she meets Hallie in the sanctuary, and Hallie helps her find a seat in the pews. Juliette sings “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” with the choir in her pew — she’s not made the return to the stage just yet — and Hallie's voice is so angelic that viewers will begin to forget about the insanity of Juliette’s past. While Juliette's at church, Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) plays a rollicking real-life gig of his own at Barista Parlor in Nashville, and encounters a manager; Juliette is on the mend, so perhaps this means that he’s making a return to the solo career that almost was.
Later, Rayna meets with Juliette to talk about the potential of purchasing Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records, the label on which Juliette is currently signed. Juliette's flattered, but she isn’t sure when she’ll be ready to make music again; still, she says that she’s already (mentally) working on her comeback — a gospel album.
In the only scenes where the Exes make an appearance, Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) visits video director Damien George (Christian Coulson) to watch the music video that he practically forced out of her in Episode 5. While she watches, Scarlett is clearly a little uncomfortable with the sexuality and vulnerability displayed; she starts to cry, of course, but quickly realizes that Damien has done her a whole lot of justice -- she’s “seeing herself, but not from the inside,” further proving Damien’s point that she really just needs to lighten the hell up.
Because she is the coolest, most understanding Mom of all time, Rayna is remarkably relaxed when Maddie tells her that Clayton has bipolar disorder. She’s decidedly skeptical but is giving Maddie more freedom than most parents would ever consider. Rayna bristles when she learns that Clayton isn’t treating his mood disorder, but she ultimately is pretty understanding about the whole situation ... which might be because, as she says, she herself fell in love with a screwed-up alcoholic in Deacon.
In this episode’s most awkward moment, Rayna and Zach visit Luke at a performance in Nashville; Will is there, and he’s got a little more of that awkward chemistry with Zach. Zach wanders off to “walk around” (i.e., go find Will) while Rayna and Luke discuss the budding business deal and finally get a little bit of closure on their horrid breakup from a few seasons back. Luke tells Rayna that he trusts her, mainly because she knew that they would never work out as a couple, and agrees to sell her the record label because he wants to go sit on his farm and write songs, not spend all day answering emails and going to meetings.
The real tension comes later, though, when Daphne is at school and is finally summoning up the courage (courtesy of her loud-mouthed friend) to talk to her crush, Flynn. She asks if he still wants her phone number, and almost exactly at the same time, Rayna’s creepy stalker Carl shows up and tries to hand her a letter ... at school! Daphne runs to tell a teacher, and Carl runs off into the woods, but later, Rayna and Deacon show up to have the guy arrested; Daphne, however, clearly wants to stay at school and hang out with Flynn.
Episode 6 ends with Nashville's relationships strengthening: Avery and Juliette are getting ready to go to church when Juliette’s assistant Emily shows up with footage of Juliette singing in the church and tabloid TV anchors giggling about her comeback; Avery, despite his skepticism about the church, accompanies Juliette to services as she tries to push past the paparazzi and crowd of fans that has gathered. Maddie goes out to find Clayton, who is performing to a crowd that’s assembled on the street; they have a quick make-up moment just before the credits roll, which means that the tumult between these two could be looking to settle in coming episodes.
But with a stalker, young love, major business transactions and more drama swirling around everyone's favorite fictional country music stars, Nashville doesn’t show any signs of slowing down the insanity anytime soon.
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