Nashville S5E21 Recap: Going Off Brand | W Network
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Nashville S5E21 Recap: Going Off Brand

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Russ Martin

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August 3, 2017

Deacon and his band of artists at Highway 65 are at a crossroads as old as the music industry. Do they cave to commercial pressure and make a buck, or stay true to their art and risk financial collapse?

It’s a question they’ve been battling all season. From the moment Alyssa rolled into town and put corporate sponsorships on the table, Deacon and co have had to ask themselves: is it worth shilling for a furniture company or a beer brand if it means keeping the lights on at the label?

This issue comes to a head this week as Maddie becomes the face of Mascara 24. The deal is fraught right from the start. Even at the first fitting, Maddie’s worried the brand is turning her into a character who has nothing to do with her music.

Then there’s the crew of suits who ohh and aww at her, pinching her cheeks like corporate grandparents.

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The shoot is a nightmare. Maddie’s made to stand around and shiver in fake rain while a director screams at her.


But the worst of it all comes via Mascara 24’s CEO, who decides Maddie’s song needs a closer link to the brand. He wants to re-write Tidal Wave to include lines about mascara. To give him some credit, sure, it’s his ad, so it makes sense he wants it his way, but if he wanted a jingle, why didn’t he hire a jingle writer instead of Maddie Jaymes?

It’s all a bit of a shame, because the ad has potential. It looks like a glossy, expensive music video. And while selling out may still be a cardinal sin in Nashville, it’s a reality of the music industry: Carrie Underwood has an athleisure clothing line, Taylor Swift shills for Diet Coke, and even back in the day Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman” lyric was used as a Revlon slogan.

Still, it’s an uncomfortable position for Maddie, who’s young enough in her career to not to see corporate compromises as a necessary evil for making commercial art. She takes a stand and says she won’t allow her lyrics to be changed, but it turns out that constitutes breach of contract. Zach and Alyssa signed away the rights to edit the song via some legalese – basically, once a Highway 65 artist signs on with a brand, that brand can do whatever they like with the music.

When Deacon stands up for Maddie, Zach reacts like a child, giving him an ultimatum – get Maddie “in line” or he hands in his 90 day notice and walks away with Highway 65 cashless in the dust.

Deacon calls an emergency meeting of Highway 65’s artists and Daphne steps in as the moral conscious of the label. “What’s the point of Highway 65 if it’s not what mom wanted it to be?” she asks.

Everyone agrees. Everyone except Juliette, In her mind, they’re all set to throw away good label deals because Maddie doesn’t want to switch up a few words. It’s a fair point-of-view. Couldn’t they have at least tried to find a solution that would please all parties before drawing a line in the sand between integrity and selling out?

Mascara 24 seems like a sad hill for Highway 65 to die on, but that may be the way things shake out.

As Deacon spins in circles trying to figure out what to do, Jessie kidnaps him from work. Knowing the state he’s in with everything going on at the label, she drives him out to a park in the woods, pulls the car over and sends him out for a walk while she reads a book.

It’s a boss move, even if nature doesn’t exactly agree with Deacon at first.

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Eventually, though, the wilderness calms him down and provides the perfect antidote to the chaos of work.


Whether Jessie’s acting as a friend or a potential love interest doesn’t really matter. She does right by Deacon and has his best interests at heart. It will be strange to see Deacon with anyone other than Rayna, but he has to move on eventually and if and when he does, Jessie seems like a very good pick.

Back in the city, Deacon sits Zach down and tells him Highway 65’s venture into branding is finished. Zach, once again, acts like a total child. He freaks out, screaming and pounding his fist on the table.

Deacon, meanwhile, is totally calm. He operates in a way that’s true to Nashville and true to Rayna - from the heart. He does what he believes right and soon enough we’ll find out what the consequences are.

Before any of that, though, Deacon’s got a show to play. The Grand Ole Opry, one of the most prestigious stages in country music. After gracing the storied stage hundreds of times in Rayna’s band, Deacon finally steps into the spotlight at the Opry on his own.

Right before he takes the stage, he shares moment with the girls. When tears start to stream down Maddie’s cheeks, Deacon launches into a pep talk about how she needs to stop feeling badly about Mascara 24. Maddie just shakes her head and tells him that’s not why she’s crying.

“Mom would have been so proud of you,” she said.

It’s a beautiful moment. Then Deacon strides confidently onto the stage to an adoring crowd. And from the very first song, he brings the house down.


Tune in to the season finale of Nashville next Thursday at 9 E/P! 

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Nashville
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tv recap
Rachel Bilson
charles esten
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