“Nashville” has always brought the real world, and the real stars and talents, of country music, to fans week to week, but the drama deserves true kudos in this week’s focus in the second episode of Season 4, “Till the Pain Outwears the Shame,” which reveals that Juliette’s maternal struggles aren’t just the upshot of always putting goals first, or loving the party life. Hayden Panettiere, who brings the spark to Juliette Barnes, has talked quite openly about her real-life struggles with postpartum depression, and decided it should be part of her character’s arc in this new season. That may offer some explanation for the Barkley-Barnes home, but what about everybody else? Bless them, they are all trying to build bridges to better relationships, but the danged ol’ music business keeps delaying construction!
Deacon (Charles Esten) is still too disturbed to rest, worried over Beverly’s condition. Rayna’s girls, Maddie and Daphne (Lennon and Maisy Stella) can’t rest because their favorite band, Boulevard, has just broken up, and they want to re-work their talent show performance for the next day. Rayna has her own worries, with Highway 65 not managing to hold on to any of its headline artists. Juliette looks great on the surface, commiserating with Kelly Ripa on “Live with Kelly and Michael” about the strain of juggling motherhood and career, but seeing a single family portrait shown on the big screen provokes a breakdown, which Avery (Jonathan Jackson) sees while caressing their baby, Cadence, who just happens to be the most precious new addition to the cast ever. He decides to go to Juliette, and make a go of being a family again. Rayna and Bucky (David Alford) are eager to welcome one of their new artists, Cole, on board, except that he’s not coming on board after all, after conferring with his team that it’s not a good decision. Gunnar and Scarlett (Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen) are squabbling about publicity images for T-shirts, with Gunnar protesting far too much, when the call comes that Beverly’s breathing tube will be removed, and Scarlett rushes to her. Rayna is trying to sign a big name, while Beverly (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) is trying to talk, and potential star, Layla (Aubrey Peeples) has just been given a solo show at the Bluebird. No one can ever accuse this drama of not having enough disaster going on.
Jeff is back in charge, perfectly portrayed by Oliver Hudson, and even the self absorbed manager confronts Juliette about her mental and emotional well-being, saying she is “desperate” for Avery and the baby, further spurring him on for reconciliation. Relieved that Beverly is off her ventilator, Deacon encourages “Keep faith, babe,” to Rayna. Will (Chris Carmack) playfully ribs Gunnar over the T-shirt photos, and Gunnar sharply retorts that “The X’s” are turning to “The Sex’s.” Avery and Cadence arrive home to find the place in full party mode. Juliette shuts the fun down, sending everyone home, but Avery can’t just shut his rage down. Juliette convinces him that she really wants to be a wife and mother—“ I just don’t know how.” Maddie and Daphne make a big splash, and a big impression on mom, with their Boulevard song by Markus Keen, Riley Smith of “True Blood,” and she immediately phones Bucky to tell him they have to do whatever it takes to make a deal with him. Daphne is devastated by gossip she overhears in the bathroom about her father in jail, and her mother’s possessions. Meanwhile, 50 dates are added to the tour for Gunnar and Scarlett. Avery and Juliette make a convincing appearance together on the red carpet with baby Cadence, but it’s all too perfect. Avery tells waiting journalists that he plans to “tagalong” on tour with mom. Layla feels in the lurch in her show, with no Jeff, no Bucky, and no Rayna to encourage her, but she dazzles nonetheless. Rayna makes a near instant connection with Markus on the plane, and has just the deal she hoped for by the time they land. She pitches to him perfectly, and he can’t wait to guzzle her artistic Kool-Aid. Juliette performs at Luke’s label party as if nothing is wrong. Jeff shows up, and Avery and baby are front row, baby protective earphones in tow! Juliette is about to burst into tears, joining her daughter, by the end of the song.
Beverly brings up Scarlett’s song, “Black Roses,” owning up to her failures noted in song, and a bridge is built between the two, as the song plays. Will is shunned by everyone for photos, and even just handshakes at the party. Gabriella confers with Luke, assuring him that cutting Will loose is necessary, and it comes in short order. Diaper duty gets too difficult for Juliette, and Avery takes over too soon, further demeaning her esteem. Rayna has the perfect words to seal things up with Markus, and it doesn’t matter that his deal is costing millions. Avery never finds Juliette again at the party, and comes home to find her telephone in the trash, and Juliette herself is trashed when Jeff pours her into her planes seat. He gives her another phone with numbers nobody knows. After seeing the reception that Layla received, and seeing her all alone, Glenn Goodman (Ed Armatrudo) offers his services as her manager, handing her his card. But Gunnar goes to see Dr. Rand (Nick Jandl), asserting that “I may not be the one for Scarlett, but neither are you,” in a mutual diss session. Scarlett visits her mother next morning, fresh flowers for the room, just as she is telling her that she wants to scale back the concert dates, Beverly codes, and a team of professionals swoop in over her. Plenty of excitement awaits in this “Nashville” season, and very hard decisions come next week.