In the second episode of season two, Juliette’s and Rayna’s careers are both threatened after a change in leadership at their label, Edgehill Records. “Harvard-educated bean counter” Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson) takes over as label chief and he has a new direction for the label. Unfortunately for the two stars, Fordham is more interested in Rayna’s back catalog than her new material, and is underwhelmed by Juliette’s determination for forging a more adult, mature sound.
Currently, “Saint in a Coma” Rayna (who is now out of the hospital, coherent and still recovering) is enjoying success on the charts after her near-death experience; the success has labelmate Juliette jealous. She devises a plan to expose her tattered childhood before the CMT cameras in an attempt to bring some fan sympathy (along with their dollars) her way. She agrees to a trip to her Alabama hometown for an on-camera interview with CMT host Katie Cook (who plays herself in the episode), where Juliette alternates between feigning grief over her father and mother, and shock at meeting people from her past who clearly loved her. Avery Barkley, now Juliette’s lead guitar player and friend (a term Juliette has trouble accepting) gets a front row seat for the whole thing (“Just trying to sell records,” she tells Avery after the interview).
Juliette’s plan works, pushing her single to No. 1 on iTunes–temporarily. Though Juliette’s aim was to beat Rayna’s sales, she’s thrown a curveball in the form of 19-year-old American Hitmaker runner-up Layla Grant (played by Ashley Peeples), who is introduced as the newest signing to Edgehill Records. Juliette’s No. 1 song is short-lived, after Fordham announces that Grant’s single just hit No. 1 on iTunes–and it’s a cover of a “Juliette Barnes classic” called “Gonna Get Even” (written by Kacey Musgraves, Al Anderson and Pat McLaughlin). Judging by the way she petted label chief Fordham’s arm after her performance, it’s clear Grant is his new star pupil.
Fordham also manages to steal away Will from Rayna’s Highway 65 label with the lure of being part of a major label.
Meanwhile Deacon and Rayna are drifting further apart. The singer is determined to move on, while her former lover and guitar player seems determined to throw everything away. They meet at a memorial at the site of their car accident (for Music City-dwellers wondering, it’s at the corner of Granny White Pike and Battlefield).
“We’ve been through this so many times. We’ve tried so hard. We’ve just brought each other so much grief. And we didn’t die here. I don’t think we can save each other,” Rayna states. “We each need to save ourselves.” She returns the engagement ring that Deacon had given her years ago and walks away; he flings it into the pile of sentimental objects at the memorial site.
The relationship isn’t the only thing Deacon has lost; after Scarlett tricks Deacon into going to the doctor to look at his mangled hand, he’s told he may not be able to play guitar again. Later in the episode, he saws off his cast himself and sells several guitars he assumes he will never be able to play again. Scarlett is (finally) gaining a backbone in the second season, becoming Deacon’s (loud) voice of reason. “Your father was an angry, bitter old drunk — and look at you: a stone cold image of him, stone-cold sober. You tell me what throwing away 13 years of sobriety was worth!
“You didn’t lose a limb. Man up. Don’t be a coward.” The scene ends with Deacon attempting (unsuccessfully) to play the one guitar he kept with him.
Without Scarlett, Gunnar has trouble writing songs, until he meets Scarlett’s childhood friend Zoey, who convinces him to write a song about what he’s going through–grieving his dead brother and his relationship with Scarlett. He finally debuts the song at the Bluebird, singing “Adios Old Friend” (written by Brett Eldredge and Jon Randall).
Early in the episode, Will (Chris Carmack) revs up a crowd at Nashville club The Stage, performing “Tears So Strong” (written by Jim Lauderdale); it is there that Fordham proposes the idea of joining Edgehill. Will later gets a visit from Edgehill’s marketing and PR man Brant, who seems to be either a stalker or a former flame of Will’s. Each time he appears, Will is startled; Brant later shows up at Will’s home. “I know what you’re afraid of, but you don’t have to be,” he told Will. Brant says he understands that part of Will’s appeal to the label is his charm as “the ladies man.” “I’m not gonna be the guy who ruins that,” says Brant. With that (supposedly) put behind them, Will joins Edgehill. He backpedals on the “verbal agreement” that he had with Rayna as part of Highway 65 Records. She tries unsuccessfully to convince him she would look out for him as an artist; he later says he views himself as more of an interpreter of songs than an artist as he joins Edgehill.
Considering all the battles that Rayna is facing professionally and personally, that location of the accident at Granny White and Battlefield was all too appropriate.
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