It seems that this week everyone's either facing their demons or avoiding their demons. In either case, there are demons, so maybe this is more of a Halloween episode than I was expecting. 

 

When a fat, much-needed check for $500,000 ends up at Rayna's house, she knows there has to be a catch -- and in fact there are many. Should she cash the check, she wouldn't be allowed to go on tour, release an album, or do much of anything except be a mom and a faithful wife to Teddy. While Lamar tries to convince her that this is just to ensure she does the right thing as a politician's wife, even he can't keep up that feeble charade. 

 

After Rayna's sister conveniently informs her that their mother had a ten-year affair with a singer-songwriter, it's pretty clear that Lamar just hates country music for having stole his woman. Although his behavior makes perfect sense, this storyline is a little too on-the-nose, as is some of the dialogue. Still, the scene between Lamar and Rayna after she's learned the truth about his past (and seriously, her sister just held on to that little detail until now? Because… well, for no reason, really) is well-played, even if I'm starting to get a little tired of Rayna storming out of every room she enters.

 

Scarlett and Gunnar's storyline is more satisfying, but I'm still waiting for something to knock this plot off its well-worn "A Star Is Born" rails. Scarlett, after having finally realized Waddy White (nicely played by real-life musician J.D. Souther) doesn't just offer a demo to anyone who wanders past him, takes another step backwards by choking in the studio. Everyone was staring at her! She doesn't deserve this! While her boyfriend Avery is actually jostled out of being a jerk for a few minutes after Gunnar stares him down, it's clear from next week's promo that he isn't interested in playing the supportive boyfriend for long. Given that Rayna and Juliette have all the juicy plot lines, there's not much left for Scarlett, but if this skimpy story is just an excuse to hear Clare Bowen sing, I'm okay with that.

 

Speaking of Juliette, she's still chasing Deacon -- but cajoling him into touring with her is the least of her problems this week. She admits to Deacon that the song she asked him to sing with her is about her mom -- not that it's given her any peace. "She lives her life, I live mine," she says, before tearing into Rayna for her privileged upbringing. I like the idea that her nastiness to Rayna didn't come out of nowhere, but from a feeling that she's had to work hard and sacrifice for her superstardom -- and yes, sacrifice her artistic integrity to make a buck. It's an impulse any performer who has risen up through the school of hard knocks can understand, and it makes her aggressive play for Deacon more sympathetic. But what really humanizes Juliette is her mom's arrival at her mansion gate, high and desperate. Juliette sends her away, only for her to get into enough trouble that Juliette's manager insists she take her back, at least until they can get her into rehab. 

The ending of the show may be the one true surprise, when Juliette seemingly sees a bunch of teen girls -- her demographic -- looking her way, then slips a bottle of nail polish into her purse. It's purely self-destructive, and it's hard to grasp exactly what she's hoping to accomplish. Does she want to test their loyalty? Expose a dirty little secret to someone, even if she can't expose the one living in her guest room? The promo for next week suggests that this one seemingly minor action has the power to upend her entire career, and I can't help but feel she's going to pay a lot more for that bottle of Wet 'N Wild than she expects.

While Juliette can lure Deacon into her bed almost as easily as she can shoplift, I was surprised to see him turn her down when she finally demanded an answer as to whether or not he was going to tour with her "exclusively" -- especially after Rayna admitted to him she should let him go, but can't. "I'm holding these hearts in my hands, and I'm trying real hard not to break 'em," she said by way of explanation, "but my heart's in pieces." Given that Juliette can offer him sold-out venues, easy sex and some satisfying songwriting (if their duet is any indication), it couldn't have been an easy decision, but I suspect that loyalty to Rayna was equally mixed up with some chafing at Juliette's controlling attitude. Though he tells her she deserves someone she can count on, I think he might realize he deserves to be free to do what he wants to do -- including slip out of Juliette's velvet handcuffs. Given everything that Juliette seems sure to face next week, I'm a little sad she won't have Deacon to lean on -- but then, I'm not sure he'd be able to offer much support anyway. 

What did you think of Rayna's kids in the talent show? Do you think Juliette's career is really damaged now? And what do you think Teddy is going to do now that he knows he can't get a loan from his old bank?