“Nashville” has had its share of the rocky road through Season 4, both on-screen and on the set, but with the healthy and happy return of Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes, the full cast contingent can bring more depth and excitement to the Music City action. Juliette is making much better choices in this week’s Season 4 Episode 15, “When There’s a Fire in Your Heart,” but her right choices aren’t reaping right results so easily, and new characters and old loves are causing lots of upheaval to the status quo. Rayna (Connie Britton) finds herself ready for the road already, while Deacon (Charles Esten) has to take on )the tough part of being Dad with Maddie (Lennon Stella). Starting over again, and making a new start, never happens without a few wrong turns.
The story opens with Scarlett (Clare Bowen) literally almost shaking with nerves over her excitement to be opening for Autumn Chase (Alicia Witt), but let’s just say that her bubble of joy bursts rather abruptly, as shortly after she and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) are welcomed as the new opening act, the headlining star publicly fires a new guitar tech in her crew after just six weeks for failing to be in perfect position, booking him home that minute. Juliette talks with Dr. Kitley (Sumalee Montano), content to contend with the consequences of her choices in order to be with Cadence, such as being sued by the movie production for pulling out. She describes her desire to be back to work, but feels lost without old manager, and father figure, Glenn Goodman (Ed Amatrudo). She realizes that her radical swings in mood and sanity gradually pushed hard enough to move him away. She pledges a new approach to persuade him to come back– telling the truth. Rayna wants to put together a benefit for runaway youth, excited by her new cause and a stage comeback. Layla (Aubrey Peeples) confides to Will (Chris Carmack) about her frustration in not getting the stage showcase that she needs, lamenting that, for all his faults, Jeff “got things done,” even if his means were illegal. Always a friend, Will encourages her to hang in with Glenn, knowing his intent always aims “for the up and up.” Off the set, “Nashville” cast members are having much more fun and a lot less friction on tour.
Cash (Jessy Schram) thanks Deacon for helping to get her father back on the road to sobriety, while he sees it as returning the favor. Maddie has just learned about Colt’s enlistment, and begs Cash to plot a “secret performance” onstage, declaring that it is an essential need, beyond desire, and as far as her parents, “they don’t have to know.” Her mom is celebrating much more success of late with her label, Highway 65, but still yearns for the stage more than the boardroom. Juliette visits Glenn, fully accountable for her behavior, and honest about her need for him in her life. He responds with a reflection that there last few years “weren’t all that good,” still keeping his emotional armor up to protect himself from pain. No one had more purely loved Juliette, or been more protective and paternal for a longer time than Glenn, and he only got deeper hurt for his trouble, so his defenses are deep. Since the label can’t find a tour to take on Layla, Rayna pushes a tour with herself and the songwriting rebel. Bucky (David Alford) has doubts, but proceeds with his boss’ orders. Tickets for Luke (Will Chase) and Riff Bell’s tour are selling out, and Luke takes a strong stand to support Will, and tells everyone at his label to “get on the team.” He urges Will to work with Kevin Bicks (Kyle Dean Massey) again to polish up the songs, and Will insists that there’s no problem, and they can be all business, but his heart still hurts from their previous parting. Autumn Chase continues to display that she has awful professional manners. Juliette earnestly asks Avery (Jonathan Jackson), “Does Glenn hate me?” Avery replies that hurt is still speaking for Glenn, and reminds Juliette that telling people that she needs them, becoming vulnerable, still is so hard for her. She decidedly is making an effort not to handle things like “the old Juliette,” and Avery reminds her that “there’s a lot to love about her,” including passion. He agrees to help her win Glenn back.
Deacon doesn’t know how to respond when Rayna wants him to join her on tour with Layla. He feels settled as father and club owner now. Still, wanting to please his bride, and support her cause, he agrees to rekindle the old days. Will says “we’re here to work” with Kevin, but the pain of hearing the person he loved planning with someone new over the phone pricks at his heart, still raw, but the writing is still great. It’s gossip galore after a great set with Autumn, who’s telling all about the private lives of her opening act. Scarlett overhears, but says nothing yet, but lets off steam to Gunnar, disliking how he dismissed her as “just a poet.” Both Exes put on glad faces for Rayna, dropping in to cheer them on, and be Autumn’s surprise partner onstage. Daphne (Maisy Stella) divulges Maddie’s escape in an angry sister burst, and it sets Deacon off. At the Opry, Juliette pours out an apology and a cry to Glenn, singing “Hole in the World.” She sings right to him, and he walks away from side stage, and trying to leave, but his eyes well up with tears, and he returns. Backstage she tries again with Glenn, saying that even if he cannot be professionally at her side, she still needs him “in my life.” Explaining that he now manages Layla, he contemplates that there may be a way. Staying away from those manic extremes, Juliette sticks with sincerity. Maddie is getting plenty of male “hits” at the club, no coffeehouse, before she even gets to the stage. Will is trying to come to terms with Kevin’s current life, confessing “I loved you,” and getting the same in return. Cash introduces Maddie, who gets looks of being “fresh meat” as she sings her song that only eggs it on, “Bad Girl,” not even understanding what she’s asking for, and not knowing that Deacon is watching.
Layla turns on the waterworks full force with Luke, reminding him how he was there for her when Jeff died, and desperately describing how she needs this tour, despite being on Rayna’s label. He gives in and makes it a go for her to open for him, against advice from his team, saying “this tour is about more than business.” Luke seems to be growing a heart. Rayna feels stabbed in the heart with the news about Layla. Deacon storms the stage, dragging Maddie to the car, and clashing with Cash over her “support” of Maddie’s dreams, raging and reminding “she’s my little girl.” Scarlett tries to have a word with Autumn over respect and boundaries, and gets fake words of “I respect that,” and apology from the boss, along with glances evil enough to cause heart pangs. She makes her move on Gunnar, but he averts this time.
The final scene leaves Luke in the lurch, as Mrs. Bell comes to his office to let him know that Riff has packed up and left, and she has no idea where he is. Their sold-out tour begins in days. “Nashville” seems to be making its way back to music, its comfortable characters, and creating cohesive storylines , just-in-time to hopefully have another season.