It's the penultimate episode of Nashville season two! There is a lot of drama, and also a lot of flag-waving, because Nashville stands for America, and ABC should just go ahead and renew it already. The random special guest combination of Kellie Pickler and Michelle Obama blew my mind a little, but in a "God Bless the USA!" kind of way, I guess.

So, Juliette. She kicks off this episode in the shower, but instead of being the sexy trailer vixen we all know and love, she is desperately trying to scrub the stank of Jeff Fordham off of her with a loofah. That is some sticky stank, and thus she does not succeed. She cries into a mesmerizingly giant pile of towels sitting on her shower shelf. I feel for her, but also mostly am just so intrigued about those towels! Why are they INSIDE the shower? Is this some sort of metaphor for her mixed-up life?

Later, Avery visits and notes that he stayed at her place last night, but she never came home. He doesn't seem too concerned about that, though, and wants to apologize to her for being insensitive during Scarlett's breakdown. Well that's rich, eh? Scarlett is his ex, he says, but he's in love with Juliette. Simultaneously on Juliette's skin, the remnants of Jeff's sticky stank begin to itch and blister. Avery wants to bone, but she has to run off to a meeting, which is probably really an appointment for a Silkwood scrubdown.

Meanwhile, Rayna tries to sell her new album and Highway 65 to radio broadcasters, who are still skeptical of her association with Juliette. She's interrupted by Bucky, who whispers the news that Luke was involved in an IED accident while in Afghanistan (of COURSE he was!), and is being flown back to New York to be treated. Why is it on this show that nobody can be treated in the city where they have sustained a grievous injury and/or mental breakdown? Is shuttling Luke to New York really a good use of our tax dollars? Anyway, Rayna is going to visit Luke in the hospital and so Teddy takes the girls. Maddie asks if she can stay at Deacon's for the night, and Teddy relents though he's not happy about it.

Oh Lord, and then there's Will and Layla's reality show. There's a big ol' crew in their house, which is a bit offputting to Gunnar and Zoey. Also offputting is the news that Gunnar saw evidence of Juliette and Jeff's bangery. He hasn't told Avery yet, but is certainly considering it. To add to the weirdness, he gets a call asking him to meet with Juliette to discuss co-writes. And seriously, how on earth has Rayna not signed Gunnar to Highway 65 yet? The people on this show have some very significant gaps in their professional capacities.

So, Luke is totally fine after his IED incident. (And speaking of incidents, I keep accidentally writing that Luke had an IUD incident, which would be much less patriotic.) (Also, how amazing would it have been if he'd actually just died in that accident? Like, poof! There goes your foil for the inevitable Rayna and Deacon reunion!) Though a few soldiers died in the accident, Luke's only damage is some bruised ribs and five or six visible, braggy scratches on his face. You'd feel sympathy, except then he says things like, "I want me some sugar." Ugh, that guy. From this point forth in the episode, he also grunts basically every time he moves, like, WE GET IT, YOU'RE STIFF. He's upset that he hightailed it out of Afghanistan before giving the soldiers a show, and Rayna suggests that they put on a big performance at Fort Campbell, right outside of Nashville, and simulcast it overseas. Yay, America!

Meanwhile, Scarlett is just kind of fiddling around and wondering what to do with herself. She shows up to the Bluebird, her scraggly weave having an existential crisis of its own, and wonders if she can get a few shifts back, "just for fun." When she does take a shift, a couple recognizes her and says things like, "Sorry for what happened to you," and, "Guess you're just back to being a waitress, then?" And then they order chicken fingers. This incident seems to have a direct line to Scarlett's later revelation to Zoey that she's thinking of leaving Nashville and starting fresh somewhere. To which I say, don't threaten me with a good time! Although, to be honest, even though I think Scarlett's the worst, if she's actually gone I think I might miss her. As evidence, I use my occasional longing for Peggy Kenter's crazy beret-wearing, pork-blood miscarrying ass to spice things up.

Juliette meets with songwriters including Gunnar, who awkwardly talks about how great Avery is. Jeff stops by unexpected, as is his custom, to harass her. He can't stop thinking about her, but not in a sexy times way (that part he treats with casual delight while seeing that it's obviously torturing her) — he wants her back at Edgehill.

In heart-tugging news, Maddie and Deacon are both having the time of their lives at their sleepover, and it's the sweetest. She asks a ton of questions, including what his childhood was like and if he ever thought about marrying Rayna. His lasagna burns just in time to get him out of answering that last one. She also wonders what he was doing on the day she was born. Deacon was "on the road," which actually means probably passed out in some fleabag motel with an unknown lady. He doesn't really remember, which clearly breaks his heart and is something he doesn't tell Maddie. He's sticking with, "On the road," except at confessional AA meetings.

Gunnar, meanwhile, is very close to telling Avery about Juliette when Zoey interrupts them with some news — she's just landed a gig as Juliette Barnes' backup singer. She puts the kibosh on Gunnar's confession, because now they'll both be working with Juliette and she, who is not regularly getting $400,000 checks in the mail, would at least would like to stay gainfully employed. And look, I am actually all for putting aside your personal ethics in favor of professional gain, so totally feel like it's the right call. And it's not exaaaaaactly their business.

On pre-show day at Fort Campbell, Luke (when he's not shaking the hands of soldiers) is chagrined to realize that Rayna has invited Juliette to be part of the show. He accuses Rayna of using the show to promote her label, and also wishes aloud that Juliette hadn't been invited. Juliette overhears this and tells him she won't be on his stage if he doesn't want her. She's not leaving the base, though — supporting the troops means something to her, and we see her tell a wounded soldier that her dad was a Black Hawk pilot and killed in a training accident when she was four. He had a flag tattoo, which I guess is why she remains so dedicated to country music. Luke sees all this as well, and apologizes for jumping to conclusions about her. He wants her to stay, and perform a song with him. Wheels up!

That night, Luke grunts his way into Rayna's house with his attractive minor facial injuries, and she asks why he's been picking fights and pushing her away. He apologizes for being a jerk, and says that when the IED went off in Afghanistan (and can you believe these are actual words on this actual show?) what flashed before his eyes was his kids and Rayna. He loves her, y'all, but isn't sure if she feels the same way about him. She gets really close to him and says that she loves him too, and is all in. I couldn't have been the only one who let out a few audible grunts and groans of my own here, right?

At the Fort Campbell show, there are a lot of flags being waved, and flags painted on the stage, and flags flags flags flags America! Michelle Obama says a few words on a giant screen, and it's basically about how much she loves America and also the service men and women and their families who are serving so bravely. We interrupt this address from the First Lady of our country so Daphne can ask Teddy if it's going to be just the two of them now, since Maddie and Deacon are bonding. Teddy says that they'll always be sisters, even though things are weird right now. What does Michelle Obama think about THAT, I wonder? And who does she think Rayna should be with? (I mean, Deacon, obviously.) What advice can she give Juliette about squashing the self-sabotage? And can she tell Will to just come out already?

Oh, SPEAKING OF WILL, I am certain that reality TV producer Gina Romano is not looking out for his best interests. Production on their show starts off OK, as Will serenades Layla with a song including the words "I'm the crosser of a straight line" (BOY HOWDY that is true!). But then later, when they can't pull off a convincing kiss for the cameras, Will gets mad. Alone with Layla, he rages about the amount of cameras in their home and pulls one out of the wall. He takes out his frustration in the gym, where a hot trainer named Tony gives him a porny business card and offers to help him with his "form." Will crumples up the card but keeps it in his pocket, and later calls Tony to schedule a "private session." If Will and Juliette had gone to high school together, they would no doubt have been in heated competition for the yearbook accolade of "Worst Instincts."

And then we have the Fort Campbell show proper. Luke brings Juliette on stage with him and they duet on "Don't Put Dirt on My Grave Just Yet." And…is that REALLY the song you want to sing at the very moment that dirt is probably literally being put on the graves of the two soldiers who died in the IED accident that gave you those attractive facial scratches? I mean, it's a great song, but Jesus. And Luke is a total nerd during the performance. Later, Avery tells Juliette that he feels like he's losing her, and doesn't understand why. She says that's not happening and kisses him with tears in her eyes. Soon, Jeff Fordham (always lurking!) shows up to once again hound Juliette about returning to Edgehill, admitting that it was a mistake to fire her for the very song she just sang inappropriately to an enthusiastic crowd of soldiers. She says that no matter how unsatisfying, brief and dumb our mistakes are, we can't forget them. This gives Jeff an opening to wonder if Avery would forget about her mistakes if he were to find out. And I think we all probably saw that one coming.

And then there's the thing that poured dirt on my actual grave. No, not the Kellie Pickler cameo, which isn't even worth talking about. Deacon approaches Rayna in the crowd, and says that all of Maddie's questions "kicked up some stuff" for him and (despite how uncomfortable she looks) he wants to talk about it now. He says he won't forgive her for not telling him about Maddie fourteen years ago…because she didn't do anything wrong. He now understands that she was just protecting Maddie when he was a hot mess. He's grateful. And, I mean, I am the biggest Rayna apologist out there (it's the hair, truly) but I think that's letting her off a little easy. It was kind of a shitty thing to do! We can get that and still understand why she did it. Anyway, both of them have tears in their eyes and I don't know how they don't just drop everything and start making out immediately. Gah. Later, Deacon approaches Teddy and asks him to describe the night that Maddie was born. I thought nothing in the world could ever break my heart again until I saw Deacon's face during that scene. Gah, again!

And THEN the dirt-pouring on my emotions continues as Rayna and the girls take the stage. They want to play a song that encapsulates their wish for the troops. Of course it's "A Life That's Good," and of course Maddie asks Rayna (on stage!) if they can invite Deacon out to join them. Rayna looks very uncomfortable and balks a little, but does it. And it's all so sweet and magical and perfect, like an IED explosion in the heart! Or, I should say, it's so sweet and magical and perfect if you are not Teddy or Luke, who are both looking on from the side of the stage and hating their lives. Deacon and Rayna eye sex/spoon each other like a million times in the 90 second song, which almost makes up for the fact that the hug that the previews promised us doesn't happen until next week!

Speaking of next week, it's the finale! Juliette confesses her Jeff sex, Deacon says he and Rayna are how it's supposed to be, and freaking Luke proposes on stage!

[Image via ABC]

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