We kick things off with our resident do-gooder, Rayna, hosting a charity Christmas special from her home. Puke is on the special, too, but I am doing my best to pretend he doesn’t exist. No need to finish the bottle of wine this early in the show! They are, however, pushing a good cause: Toys for Tots.
With unemployed and mopey Zoey on the couch at Uncle Deacon and Scarlett’s house, they do their best to get into the holiday spirit. But Scarlett’s helping Bubba from Forrest Gump’s (or: Terry's) career re-launch and I guess it’s working because he is headlining an upcoming music festival called Winterville Nashfest. Yeah. They thought long and hard to come up with a name for that event. And while we’re at it, why does every artist succeed in doing what they want on this show? The odds of being successful as a singer or songwriter in Nashville haven’t ever been good, but this show makes it look as easy as finding a date on Church Street.
Sadie and Gunnar are teaming up to write music together and right off the bat they are kissing each other’s asses. Now, if they don’t mean it, then we are truly getting a peek into the REAL Nashville music business. Anywho, they start chatting about how Gunnar’s band is supposed to play Winterville Nashfest and Sadie promises to introduce him to her manager, Noah Loughlin. In turn, Sadie wants Gunnar to help find a new producer for her next album.
‘Tis the season to be Juliette, and by that I mean bitchy and borderline psychotic. We first see our little sprig of holly at the OB/GYN office with Avery and she overhears him talking to Gunnar about being Sadie’s producer while he’s out in the hall. She thinks he’s talking about a love interest. Oh, you wacky Nashville writers. An overheard and misunderstood phone conversation is a whole new concept for television drama!
Deacon heads over to Rayna’s place to give Maddie a guitar lesson and walks in on the cheesy holiday special being shot. Of course, Puke is giving him the stink eye and we learn he and Rayna will be spending the holidays in Australia.
During a break from shooting, Bucky shows up with a copy of the Rolling Stone issue with Rayna on the cover. Though the cover story doesn’t mention the Maddie/Colt lip lock the reporter witnessed, it does make things pricklier for Deacon with Ray Ray quoted as saying “Of course I want Deacon to move on. I want him to be happy. Why hasn’t he? You’ll have to ask him.” So Rayna burns up Deacon’s phone, but it’s too late. He’s read the article and looks like he needs a Christmas elf to put the star back on his tree. Just call me Keebler. Or Buddy. Or some other famous elf I can’t think of right now.
At a band meeting for ZAG (Zoey, Avery and Gunnar’s band and yet ANOTHER killer name by the show’s writers) things are uncomfortable since the Z and G recently broke up. At least they aren’t next to one another in the alphabet. So, they all agree to play the gig because that big cheese manager of Sadie’s will be there to see them and how convenient – he’s looking to sign a band.
Back at Rayna’s crisis, Puke is upset because she’s only focusing on getting in touch with Deacon and not on him or the TV special they are trying to do. He even points out how he isn’t happy the article came out two weeks before their wedding and urges her to drop it.
At Will and Layla’s place, they are irked because they are spending most of the time promoting their reality show, which is now a ratings monster. Tired of not being able to go outside without being recognized, they go incognito into the only place they think their fans won’t be: East Nashville. They even “disguise” themselves (unconvincingly) as hipsters.
Are you kidding me? That is LGBT Central and if this were real Nashville and not fake Nashville, they would be spotted immediately. And where do they go in East Nasty? The lamely-titled Winterville Nashfest, a big music event where they certainly won’t run into anybody in the music business. However, at the beer tent, Will does meet a couple of handsome young specimens who are openly gay.
He asks one of the guys, who is working a beer tent, about his lifestyle – and then gets spanked down for saying “lifestyle” – and he sees a whole new side of the gay life, folks being out and comfortable with their surroundings. Might I add that beer tent guy looks a little like Joseph Fiennes. Yummy moment!
With everybody heading to the festival, we see WKRN-TV, Channel 2 (ABC in your face again) doing an interview with Bubba Gump Terry and the reporter is clearly overreaching and opening some old wounds with the tragedies in his life. Skinny Scarlett jumps in and rescues him just before he is about to lose it.
As Avery is leaving for the festival, we see Juliette and Emily parked nearby stalking him. And yes, they follow him to East Nashville where we next see Juliette with a scarf over her face, dark sunglasses, a brimmed hat and riding a scooter. I am talking about a senior citizen scooter where she is tooling around Winterville Nashfest. Instead of being incognito, she sticks out like Will and his beard.
She spies Avery talking to Sadie and assumes they are flirting. Before they can finish talking, he spots Juliette and as she tries to bolt, she backs into a display and her scarf drops so everybody recognizes her. When Avery confronts her, she lets her crazy suspicions fly and even pats her prego belly as Sadie excuses herself. Avery scolds her for blowing a potential gig (and money for their baby) saying he thought they had put all of the drama behind them. Oh, Avery. Juliette IS drama, sweetie. And she is your baby mama. FOREVER.
Creepy Jeff is always lurking nearby (he reminds me of Gollum or Scott Desjarlais) and he steps into a tent, listening to a girl who catches his ear and it is none other than Layla. Earlier, he had refused to hear the music she had sent over to pitch for her new album. He is visibly impressed with her, lost in her own playing and singing, sitting before him. They begin chatting and she urges Jeff to play her something when he tells her about his musical past.
ZAG (rhymes with gag, note) finally gets to meet the big shot manager, Noah Loughlin, and he is already familiar with their individual work. And without even hearing them perform, he says he’s ready to make them the next Lady Antebellum by getting them touring gigs almost instantly. I mean, if that’s how music deals work, can we get Scott Borchetta on the phone? Just tell him I’m the next Miranda Lambert, but he doesn’t need to hear me sing.
As they try to figure out a way to hit the road immediately, Gunnar and Zoey immediately begin bickering because Gunnar can’t tour with a kid at home. Zoey gets pissed and leaves before they can play. How convenient. And Scarlett just happens to be there.
Deacon arrives back at casa de Rayna and Puke to drop off Maddie’s Christmas gift and Rayna corners him to discuss the Rolling Stone elephant in the room. Rayna then explains why she had to spill it about their relationship to protect Maddie. Deacon is crushed to realize she basically sold their private love story for a piece of publicity. “I don’t know how you’re living your life this way,” he says to her as he bounces on outta there. Later, Puke admits the whole Deacon situation unsettles him and she tells him she’s going to go see him to make things right.
Bubba Gump Terry takes the stage at Winterville Nashfest and is really killing it, while Scar Scar stands side stage grinning like he’s a slice of pecan pie. But as the audience goes wild after his first number, he runs off of the stage and through the crowd in a panic with Scarlett on his heels. She next finds him (stereotypically) drinking booze out of a paper sack near a trash can with other homeless men. Like he automatically went back to being homeless after forty minutes? They begin to argue with Terry telling her she is pushing her dream on him and she’s a coward. So where does she go? Just in time to rescue Gag, I mean ZAG, minus the Z. They, of course, are amazing together while the camera pans to gaggy shots of little Mika in the audience bouncing to the music. Driving the knife in a little further, Zoey hears them playing as she hops in a cab and leaves the festival. Terry also hears them, knowing Scarlett had faced her demons.
Feeling bad about ruining Avery’s potential gig with Sadie, Juliette chats with Sadie and tries to convince her to use Avery as her record producer. Sadie is hesitant, but Juliette explains that the baby mama drama is from her hormones and she promises to stay out of the way when it comes to them working together. Avery later goes to see Juliette and thanks her for intervening and getting him the job and she apologizes for being a stalkery nut bag. But it’s clear they are still in love (eye roll, eye roll, eye roll.)
Will has had a bit too much at the beer tent and he is scheming on the hot beer-tent guy. I do not blame him! While trying to help him load kegs, Will feigns an injury and falls to the ground. As Joseph Fiennes’ doppelganger helps him up, Will attempts a kiss and gets rebuked. Beer tent guy explains that he’s in a relationship and that being gay is more than just random hookups. Will tries to defend himself (“If you knew who I am…”) but it seems like he’s coming around, starting to see what he’s missing out on. At this pace, he’ll be playing the Nashville Pride festival next June.
Will stalks off to find Layla, who has taken off with Jeff. The following morning, her bed hasn’t been slept in, but Jeff’s has – and Will’s beard is in it. GROSS, LAYLA! BAD LAYLA!! Seriously, you don’t know where Jeff has been, like we do: hanging with Teddy and hookers.
Rayna arrives at Deacon’s place as he is hanging Christmas lights. Deacon explains that what upsets him the most about the Rolling Stone article is that everything she said was true. He won’t let her go. When she asks why he won’t, he tells her he loves her and it’s never going to change. When Rayna returns to Puke, she tells him the talk with Deacon didn’t go well and he breathes a clear sigh of relief. Wow, I knew Puke was jealous, but not that he’s perceptive. Pivotal moment! Luke got a clue!
Later, Noah calls Gunnar and says the offer to take GAG — or is it SAG now? — on tour still stands and he turns it town to take care of his goofy kid. As for Zoey, she is taking her life into her own hands and hops the next plane to Los Angeles where touring work awaits her.
The show wraps with a dizzy version of Rayna and Luke doing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for the final number of their holiday special. And as the production team begins to pack up, Rayna is left standing alone lost in thought and we can only hope she is considering hopping on Santa’s sleigh to escape her upcoming wedding.
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