Monarch has been trying to sell us hard on Nicky and Gigi’s attempts to claim their mother’s crown and how it affects their dynamic, but to be frank, the most compelling family dynamic this show has at the moment is the one between Albie and eldest son Luke. Is it the most compelling because it is the most straightforward relationship and it’s not mucked up with bafflingly inconsistent character choices? I mean, maybe, yes?
The issues between Albie and Luke are a tale as old as time, really. All Boy wants is for Daddy to love him. Daddy thinks Boy is a punk-ass corporate bitch. Boy gets jealous of Daddy hanging out with Other Boy. Boy decides to ride a bull to get Daddy’s attention. Boy ends up in hospital. You’ve heard that before, right? One of the Roman family’s worst-kept secrets is that Albie is physically disgusted by his son’s choice to go into business rather than become a musician (and we know Luke can sing, so this was A Choice). We’ve known Luke only a short time, but it seems like he has spent the entirety of his adult life trying to prove his worth to his father. I mean, the guy does successfully run a multimillion-dollar business, but still — Albie doesn’t trust men who wear blazers; we know this. Albie does, however, implicitly trust random music producers from Atlanta who approach him in a bar to tell him his recent music sucks and they want to help him find his way back to the brilliant country artist he used to be. Which is exactly what happens when music producer Jamie Burke arrives in Austin. Albie immediately takes the guy up on his offer. Jamie doesn’t even give any real credentials except to say that he used to be a big fan! Did Albie at least Google this man? Does Albie even know how to Google?! This seems bad!
Luke catches Albie working on songs with Jamie and is not having one bit of it. Albie and Luke get into another one of their fights about how Luke doesn’t understand what Albie’s trying to do because Luke’s not an artist, and Luke cuts it all down to its core: His dad has never considered him a “real Roman.” It’s very sad! I can’t believe this show is making me feel bad for a man who is sleeping with his sister-in-law and has a seemingly unending closet of skintight turtlenecks!
When the family gathers at the annual Founders’ Day Rodeo, Luke again catches Albie spending time with Jamie. They look very happy together! And so what is a boy to do when he so desperately wants his father’s love and attention? He enters a bull-riding contest. The guy fails miserably and ends up in the hospital, as amateur bull-riders are wont to do.
Nicky has to spell things out for Albie: This was all Luke’s way of proving himself. For what it’s worth, it does look as if it hits Albie pretty hard. He heads into Luke’s hospital room (he’ll be fine, by the way) and tries to have a tender moment but reminds Luke that he’s “not good at putting things into words” except for in songs. “You know how I feel, don’t you?” Albie asks Luke. Luke tries his best to say “yes” even though he’s laid up with a goddamned neck brace he has to wear precisely because he does not know how Albie feels!! That was the whole point of the bull-riding, Albie! These boys need to make at least 15 percent more of an effort in their communication skills.
Maybe Albie will work on that later — because in all fairness, the guy does have a much more pressing issue. He decides to dig a little deeper into the mystery of why Dottie would sell the rights to their song catalogue, and the answer leads him to a whole host of questions. He meets up with the Roman-family lawyer we saw Dottie dealing with in the pilot. Albie learns that for the past five years, Dottie was being blackmailed for 50 grand A MONTH; she sold the catalogue because she needed an influx of cash. But Mr. Lawyer doesn’t know the whos or the whys of the situation. Albie takes a stand and has him pass along a message: The Romans will no longer be paying this tab. The response is equally as gruff: Oh yes, you will. And now we want twice as much. Juicy, right?
The mysteries really seem to be piling up on Monarch. One I’m extremely intrigued by at the moment is this Jamie Burke guy. Not only does he worm his way into working with Albie, but he also pays a curious visit to Nicky right before she is supposed to perform at the Founders’ Day Rodeo. Nicky and Gigi have been in a sort of competition (though both utter the phrase “It’s not a competition!” in this episode while also trying to best the other, so …) to debut a chart-topping single at the event (Dottie unveiled a new song there every year). Nicky heads to Nashville to audition songwriters, while Gigi gets some wardrobe help and then decides to secretly use the song Dottie left for Albie in the heel of her boots. Nicky catches wind and is pissed since technically she’s the only one of the two who knows she’s been cheated on and because it’s a great song and will surely be the hit she desperately needs to ignite her career. She even gives Gigi the opportunity to come clean about it, but Gigi lies to her face — er, at least Gigi hides the truth.
In the end, Nicky dives back into whatever well of fire she used to pull off that hearse stunt and beats Gigi to the stage, where she promptly steals their mom’s song right out from under her sister and uses it for her own set before Gigi gets the chance. And Nicky is right: It’s a huge hit. Gigi accuses Nicky of being ruthless and just like their mother. She even spits out the phrase “The queen is dead — long live the queen,” which I imagine sounded much cooler in her head. Honestly, I think I’m siding with Nicky here; Gigi was just as willing to do something sneaky, and the fact that she wasn’t up front about wanting to use that song is evidence she knew it wasn’t exactly on the up and up. Anyway, what does any of this have to do with Jamie Burke? Well, when he goes to see Nicky before her performance, he lays it on thick about how wonderful and talented she is and that if she’s trying to be the next Dottie Roman, she’s bound to fail. She should be something new, something fresh — she should be herself. It’s that speech that spurs Nicky to undermine Gigi. So what is Jamie Burke’s deal? What does he want with the Roman family?
Then there is, of course, the mystery of the missing body in the flash-forward, which is now only two months away. We get some additional details to add to the clue board. First of all, Luke is there at the house, and he’s in on the whole thing. When he starts freaking out about the missing body, as one might, Albie tries to calm him down by saying, “Let me remind everybody who we’re protecting here.” That’s interesting! From there, Nicky and Albie head to a shady alley to burn some evidence — evidence that includes bloody clothes and a bloody trophy for Single of the Year with Nicky’s name on it. So it looks as though Nicky’s dreams come true … and then get very, very messy.
• Everyone is being way too cool about this Kayla-is-pregnant-with-Luke’s-baby thing! I know the man is laid up in the hospital, but he’s “happy” and “scared” by the news? Not … like … at all concerned about what he’s doing to his sister? And Nicky’s just like, “We’ll figure it out later!,” and … not at all concerned about what Luke’s doing to their sister?? This is going to be such a mess (I can’t wait).
• It’s about time Nicky got some! She and Wade bump into each other while she’s seeking out a song in Nashville, and they bump into each other some more in the hotel elevator and then again up in the penthouse suite. I’m into this coupling? Nicky needs to have more fun.
• Luke tells Nicky that the coroner found a whole lot of oxy in Dottie’s system when she died, so Nicky has to come clean about what happened. Luke informs her that assisted suicide is a felony in Texas and apparently the DA isn’t dropping this case anytime soon. Couldn’t one just assume that Dottie took the pills herself? Why did the coroner jump right to someone else being involved?
• Ana is officially signed to Monarch, and they throw her a big signing party, at which she and Ace duet on “Watermelon Sugar.” Does anyone care about this?
• We get a flashback to when Teen Nicky was supposed to record “How Do I Live” as her star-making hit, but after Dottie hears how good it is, she steals it for herself. Dottie was the worst in the absolute best way. Nicky also recalls that during this heartbreaking betrayal, it was Gigi who was by her side supporting her. Maybe this means those two will stop being dummies and just become a duo?
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