While the origin of the ubiquitous phrase “Don’t poke the bear” is uncertain, there’s no question that it is excellent advice. In an episode of Nashville that contained much bear-poking, (not to mention the promise of a long-awaited pig roast), it is Juliette’s long-suffering manager, Glenn, who invokes the expression when she decides to take her story about Darius and the Movement to the press. “Have you ever heard the expression, ‘Don’t threaten Juliette Barnes?’” she asks Glenn. Touché, Juliette. As their battle heats up, Juliette threatens legal action and they, of course, offer their own twisted take on the whole thing to the media. But having seen her sharp, sizable claws in seasons past, our money’s on Juliette.
Meanwhile, Maddie’s boyfriend, Jonah, takes a verbal poke at his pal Twig, telling him he has found him a date to their upcoming pajama party and it only cost him $50. Maddie, who is still mulling over the idea of the European tour, doesn’t like the idea that Jonah embarrassed him. The two grow closer as Twig helps Maddie produce a track, but at the same time Jonah is still getting calls from his ex, Mia, and hiding it from Maddie, which is also upsetting Twig. Maddie tells Daphne there’s nothing between Twig and her, but her look says it all. At the pajama party, Twig spots Mia and warns Jonah, claiming it’s the neighbors complaining about the noise. Twig swigs alcohol and dances with Maddie, but her suspicions get the better of her and she takes off only to find Jonah and Mia making out. Maddie confronts Twig about keeping the whole thing from her and then takes off leaving us to wonder which of the two deceivers has her more pissed. It’s at this point we find it rather ironic that someone nicknamed for a tree branch, the ideal instrument used to taunt and restrain wildlife, remains one of the more poor, defenseless creatures in this teenaged natured film.
Alannah goes to the Shiny New Records office, where she finds Brad’s receptionist, Leah, fighting back tears. Brad comes in and proceeds to get all handsy with Leah while whispering in her ear, until he spots Alannah. During their cringe-worthy meeting Alannah says, “Let’s be friends,” but she really just seems like she’s getting ready to rotisserie him like the greasy pig he is. She tells Jessie about the scene she witnessed with Leah, and discovers he’s settled more sexual harassment lawsuits than a Hollywood movie producer. Backstage before a gig, Brad invades Alannah’s dressing room and goes in for a kiss but is rejected. She’s still playing coy with him, all the while looking like she wonders what wine goes best with barbecued pork. She takes the stage singing another woefully self-deprecating number as Avery arrives. Her plan, if there is one, is slow-roasting, so we’ll have to wait until next week to find out what she has in store.
Deacon is warming up to his dad’s presence, if only just barely. Gideon tells his granddaughters about their dad’s regular Friday night performances as a kid, which were staged on a tree stump in their backyard and regales them with tales of teaching Deacon to play guitar. Deacon, however, says the truth is “more complicated than that.” Daphne is worried when Gideon leaves the house and later Maddie is starting to get concerned, too. He returns and apologizes for upsetting them. Deacon and Scarlett talk about him and she wonders if he’s drinking when he takes off like that.
Deacon follows him and finds him, literally, playing in a garage band with friends, including legendary Music City harmonica player Jelly Roll Johnson. It’s our first opportunity to witness the other side of actor Ronny Cox, for whom making music has been a decades-long passion, in spite of his being so readily recognized for his numerous acting roles. The tune, “I’ll Waltz You Home,” is featured on his 2013 LP, Ronny, Rad & Karen. As lovely a performance as it is, it sends Deacon off and running back home rather quickly, where he flashes back on some of the abuse he endured at Gideon’s hand throughout his childhood. “You did everything you could to take away my music,” he tells his dad. While his father insists he gave Deacon his love of music, Deacon strikes back saying, “What you did was horrible, and the only love I had for music was in spite of you.” Gideon insists he did love and teach his son, and wished for him to have a good life but now he doesn’t know what to do with those feelings. Deacon doesn’t either.
Although Gideon tells him he’s decided to stay away from his son’s gig at the Bluebird, just after his introduction from songwriter-musician Shawn Camp, Deacon is telling the crowd about “Little Bitty Ditty,” the first song his dad taught him to play, and he’s soon face-to-face with his complicated past as Scarlett walks into the club with Gideon. After he sings the tongue-twisting tune, the father and son nod approvingly at each other, and the violent flashbacks are instead replaced by ones of the two sharing their love for music. Back at home, they hang out in the studio playing guitars and Gideon tousles his son’s hair like he’s a youngster again. But when Daphne discovers an empty whiskey bottle under Gideon’s bed, it seems another long-hibernating animal is about to get a rude, stick-induced awakening.