Regarding the title of this piece, the proposals are obvious. The funeral is mine, because the last five minutes of the Nashville finale killed me dead! I am writing this from beyond the grave! First there was that Gunnar and Scarlett song, and THEN: "It's Maddie, and Daphne, and you… and me." #dead #death #dying #imeanit #freakindeacon
So, this has obviously been quite the drama-packed season, with comas and meltdowns and pork blood and murders and Juliette's continuing poor choices. This episode begins with Rayna, Tandy (hi, Tandy!) and Bucky strategizing for Rayna's big album launch, which will face tough competition. As predicted, Jeff is spending a whole bunch of Edgehill money to promote Will's new album and keep Rayna from debuting at number one on the charts. And honestly, I DO like seeing Rayna in kick-ass business lady mode, but mostly all that stuff is just filler until we get to DEACON AND RAYNA KISSING AND ALSO EVERYTHING HE SAID OH MY GOD. #dead #still
So, Deacon. He and Maddie are playing "Outlaw Game," which is basically like "Who Would You Choose?" but with classic country singers and not involving dirty sex things at all. Maddie picks Johnny Cash over Kris Kristofferson and Deacon goes with Merle over Waylon, which is all fine. But THEN comes my one very passionate quibble with this otherwise excellent episode. Rayna joins in (it's clear that she and Deacon have spent a lot of time playing this game) and says, "Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton?" And first of all, that is a total Sophie's choice that no one should be presented with outside of unusually devastating and life-threatening circumstances. And second, what's with the smug, "LORETTA!" that everyone gives? Now, I love Loretta and she is obviously an amazing choice against any competitor but HOW DARE this show defile Dolly so casually? I am serious when I say that I take this as a very personal insult. Not cool, Nashville. Go listen to "Jolene" on repeat and THEN come back and play Outlaw Game with me. God.
Anyway, Maddie has a present for Deacon and Rayna—it's a framed photo taken at the Fort Campbell show, which features Rayna and Deacon and Daphne and Maddie all on stage together and basically looking like the world's most perfect family. Maddie thinks that Rayna should sign them all to Highway 65 and they can go on the road together, like a twangy, extra dysfunctional Partridge Family. Daphne is totally the Danny Bonaduce of the bunch. Rayna still thinks Maddie is too young for a record deal, and Maddie brats her way out of the room, per usual.
Luke shows up, apologizing that he can't play at the benefit for Deacon's recovery center. He and Rayna are scheduled to be in New York for a Good Morning America appearance. The atmosphere is very tense, as it can be when you are an interloper in the presence of true love. However, after Deacon leaves, Rayna and Luke talk about how great they are and smooching occurs, so I GUESS they're happy enough. FOR NOW.
And THEN Juliette catches Avery writing a song for her, and is delighted until she sees an incoming call from Jeff Fordham—for Avery! Apparently Jeff has been hounding Avery with messages and wants to talk about his "future." Avery isn't planning on calling him back and says, "I'm not gonna get into bed with Jeff Fordham." And that's a little on the nose, eh? Juliette calls Jeff to tell him to stop harassing Avery and tries to convince him that she told Avery about their dalliance, and that he understands and has forgiven her. Jeff knows that's BS, and suggests that she use her special skills to get herself fired from her Highway 65 contract and defect to Edgehill. Juliette is tortured, as is her custom.
Meanwhile, Scarlett announces that she's going back to school. That sure was a whirlwind application and acceptance process! I guess she's getting a graduate degree in Poetry at Ole Miss, and plans to say her goodbyes and move on from Nashville. Before she does, she has a chance to look at the photo that Maddie gave Deacon and wonder aloud how things might have turned out differently. Stake through the heart! Zoey is aware that Scarlett is leaving and passes on the news to Gunnar. He seems a bit taken aback, but says that maybe it's for the best.
Oh Lord, and then Will. He's freaking out about his album launch, and thinks that karma will prevent him from topping Rayna, who was the first person to really believe in him and whom he wronged when he signed with Edgehill. Layla says that he'll chart, and the reality show will help. WILL IT, NOW? Jeff appears on the show to announce that Will is going to New York, and that he's guaranteed a number one album drop.
And why is Will going to New York? It's because Jeff managed to get Rayna bumped from GMA in favor of a performance by Will. Rayna is PISSED at this news, and says it's getting personal now—she's ready for war. And then she uses her ex-husband connection to book the LP Field for her album launch, with a download coming with every ticket sold. There is a lot of talk about downloads in this episode which, again, is way less riveting than Deacon telling Rayna that he knows how to love her, which we'll get to shortly.
Juliette shows up to Rayna's place, saying that she made a terrible mistake signing with Highway 65 and wants out of her contract. She says that they can shake hands and part friends…"Or whatever it is that we are." Ha! Rayna wonders what happened and Juliette mouths off, but Rayna is NOT having it. She's about to put on a huge show at LP Field, which Juliette will be a part of, because if her album doesn't hit the charts like a hammer Highway 65 will be no more. Rayna lays down the law by saying, "So get out of my face, you're not fired, and I don't want to hear about this again." Juliette notes that Rayna is ruining her life in ways that she can't yet comprehend.
Now that Rayna isn't playing on GMA, she and Luke get to go to the benefit for Deacon's recovery center. Deacon gives a speech about sobriety and the need for a support system, and expounds upon how Scarlett and Maddie have shown him what it means to love somebody more than himself, which has given his life meaning. Rayna tears up at this, and I don't think in a good way. I mean, it's just tortured feelings all the time with these two, basically, and that's what keeps us tuning in. Also Hayden Panettiere keeps us tuning in like crazy by being a total genius as Juliette. But what I'm saying is that I've spent a lot of time being like, "Oh my God, Rayna and Deacon LOOKED at each other!" So as the target audience for this epic soul-mates-torn-asunder plotline, I say: it's working.
Meanwhile, Juliette shows up wasted. To an event celebrating recovered sobriety. Classy! She's just in time to hear Zunvery perform Avery's new song, which is dedicated to her, and thank goodness Deacon catches her before she drunkenly bum-rushes the stage. He's basically like WTF, and tells her that he doesn't know what's bothering her but she isn't going to work it out here. Not only is it SUPER gauche, but the last thing she needs is a damn scene in public. Rayna looks on with a very obvious headache.
Once Juliette is home, Rayna shows up at her door and wonders why she's careening down another road of self-destruction. Habit? Juliette confesses that she slept with Jeff Fordham, then runs off to puke. Rayna holds Juliette's hair, like the good frenemy that she is, then listens as Juliette wonders why she did it. She says that Jeff is hateful and gross and mean, and obviously Rayna seconds that emotion. Juliette explains that Jeff will tell Avery about it unless she signs with Edgehill, then wails that Avery will never forgive her….not that she deserves to be forgiven. Rayna says that everyone deserves to be forgiven before clarifying, "Not Jeff. Jeff doesn't. But everyone else does." She suggests that Juliette tell Avery herself, then says she's not releasing Juliette from her contract—it would be bad for both of them. They're going to kill it at LP Field, which will kill Jeff, which will be fun. And really, these two are so great when they're nice to each other, and I think will be unstoppable if they really join forces.
So, Will has apparently done a fine job on GMA, and tells the reality show cameras all about it as he goes to his hotel room. Once inside, though, he looks at his bed and sighs mournfully. Back in Nashville, Layla talks to the cameras about how great Will was on GMA, and producer Gina suggests that Layla call him. Cut to Will picking up the phone and looking excited. Cut to Layla getting voice mail. Yes, Will's call was from the hot trainer who's giving him "one-on-one sessions."
Back at home Layla looks troubled and finally cracks, confessing to the cameras that it's tough sometimes. When Gina eventually shows Will the footage of Layla saying sometimes she thinks he's already tired of her, he feels awful. He says he does love her, even if he's not always great at showing it. But he's under much pressure, with everything riding on this album. And do you remember when Gina told them she'd always have their best interests at heart? Yeah.
Meanwhile, Gunnar and Zoey have been acting weird around Avery all episode, and he finally convinces them to tell him what's up. We then see him at Juliette's, where he walks in the door, looks at her back (on the front she's crying) and says, "Tell me it isn't true." As we all know, it's true. Juliette hates herself for it, saying it was a mistake and meant nothing. That makes it worse for Avery, and he wonders if it EVER means anything for her. Of course it does! Because she loves Avery! But then he cuts deep, saying, "To you, love is just 50,000 fans worshiping you every night…You have no idea what it means to actually love another person. Because when you do, you would rather die than hurt them." Oh, like you did to Scarlett back during the "DID YOU SLEEP WITH THAT WOMAN" days? It wasn't all that long ago that Avery was a total pill, we must remember. Juliette wails as Avery leaves.
Tandy discovers that Sam Boone (remember that guy? Like the Sam Walton of the fictional world?) has cut a deal with Edgehill so that 200,000 Sam Boone's Superstore gift cards will come with a smiley photo of Will and a download of his album. And of course Rayna told off Sam Boone back in the day, in defense of Juliette. But he still really liked her, and Tandy is like, "CALL HIM."
When Rayna goes to Deacon's place to pick up a guitar he's giving to Maddie, she looks really jittery and he asks what's on her mind. She talks about the album, and the Jeff situation, and feeling like calling Sam Boone would be a sell out. Deacon tells her that the business they grew up in is gone and that with everything she's got riding on her album, she should do what she has to do and kick ass. She gazes into his eyes and says she sure as hell wishes things were the way they used to be. And THAT is a moment pregnant with meaning, helped not a little by the amazing soft light in this shot. As Rayna struggles to get the guitar out the door, Deacon gazes after her like he loves her so much, which obviously he does, and also every scene with these two is magic. I will add that in addition to the hair, which is obvious, Connie Britton has been killing it with her leather jackets lately. Swoons all around!
The talk with Deacon apparently helped Rayna to make a decision, since Will gets a call from Jeff Fordham (on camera, of course) telling him that the Boone's deal fell through because Boone went with another artist. Will rushes to Gunnar's place, crying and looking like hell. He's worried that his album will tank, and he'll lose his record deal. And a hit record was the thing that was going to "make it all worth it." At this point, Gunnar is like, "WILL YOU JUST COME OUT ALREADY?" I think pretty soon Will is not going to have much choice in the matter. They look at each other for a while, but do not kiss, despite the hopes of many. In sum: Gunnar is a good friend.
Backstage at the stadium show, Rayna gets gorgeous flowers from Luke AND Sam Boone. Way to wheel and deal! Juliette shows up, super sad about Avery but ready to kill it on stage and have Rayna's back, like Rayna had hers. Aw, those two. Jeff enters, smug per usual. First, Juliette reads him—"Hey Jeff. Thanks for the worst minute and a half of my life"—then says that she told Avery about that minute and a half, and he didn't understand. Juliette doesn't understand herself, and Rayna DEFINITELY doesn't understand. But in any case, Juliette is staying at Highway 65. As a parting gift, Rayna hands Jeff a Sam Boone's Superstore Rayna Jaymes gift card. Bam! After he leaves, Rayna and Juliette high five, and we can only hope that season three really brings their supercouple-dom to fruition.
Also at the stadium show, Teddy tries to say how amazing the whole thing is to a sullen Maddie, who just rolls her eyes. Then Deacon comes up and says it's pretty amazing and Maddie is like, "It's SO amazing!" Sorry, Teddy, this is what happens when you suddenly get a much cooler dad. Backstage, Luke tells Rayna he has a surprise for her later, and then she prays. It's a nice moment, I guess? What she really should have prayed for was a better album title, since "The Parts I Remember" is excruciating and horrible.
And THEN. Rayna and Juliette sing "He Ain't Gonna Change" while both wearing shiny sequins dresses, and it's fantastic. Then we see Rayna and Luke in the show's last number, "Ball and Chain," and obviously Deacon is not OK watching giant cornball Luke Wheeler romance his one true love on stage. I, myself, am not OK watching the two of them try a weird hip grinding maneuver that makes them look like they're at a fifth grade dance. Deacon would NEVER do something so terrible! When the song ends, Will stops any lingering background music and tells the crowd how special Rayna is, and how much he truly, truly loves her. Daphne claps madly, because she's the only one enthusiastic about this union.
As Rayna says she loves Luke, we see Deacon for a minute. He does not look happy about this turn of events. AND WHO IS? Yes, as the previews suggested, Luke gets down on his damn knee and asks if she would do the great honor of allowing him to become her ball and chain. AND SHE ACCEPTS!!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? First of all, just in case any of you were ever thinking of asking for my hand in marriage, a public proposal of that nature is the LEAST romantic and MOST horrible thing I can imagine. Plus, they've been dating for like six weeks. And didn't they want to run this idea by their kids first before sharing it with the world? I can't believe Rayna's response wasn't, "Why you gotta be so whack?" Ugh. Anyway, Teddy, Daphne, Deacon, and Maddie all look way less than thrilled at this sudden development. After the afterparty, Luke has to pick up his stupid kid at the airport and says he'll see Rayna in the morning. Meanwhile, Deacon looks SO PAINED. And I feel SO PAINED!
On her goodbye tour of Nashville, Scarlett stops by to see Avery, who's drunk and in his underwear. She's sad to hear that he broke up with Juliette, and believes (despite Avery's protests) that Juliette is fundamentally a good person. Perhaps this is what drives Avery to go to Juliette's place, and tell her that his problem is that he believes her when she says she loves him.
And then Juliette gives a really heartbreaking speech, saying that she did what she did because she thought Avery was going to leave her for somebody better. Ever since she was a kid she's been alone, and didn't understand why nobody loved her. She thought her mom's creepy guy friends loved her when they told her she was beautiful, and it took her years to realize that she wasn't what they loved. When she feels like somebody's going to hurt her, she makes sure to hurt herself first. And Jeff Fordham saw her for what she really is—trailer trash covered in rhinestones. She says she doesn't deserve Avery, and at the end of the day she'll get what she deserves—nothing and nobody. And she's most heartbreaking of all when she says, "Please don't make me be alone again." I think this was the exact moment when the show really started trying to murder me in earnest.
So, via Zoey, Gunnar gave Scarlett a thumb drive with the new song on it (the one that goes "It ain't yours to throw away"). When Scarlett goes to say goodbye to him at the Bluebird (and…he got a $400,000 check in the mail and is still working sound at the Bluebird?), she says it's the only thing she wants to listen to now. He says he's sorry for ever pulling her up on stage and pushing her to write and perform, but she says that nothing is his fault, and wonders if this is why he stayed away. No, he stayed away because you were a complete bitch to him! God.
Scarlett says that Gunnar believed in her, and loved her for a little while, and she loved him too. And then Gunnar plays the song, and Scarlett harmonizes, and JESUS. This is clearly a transparent attempt of the show to remind us exactly why we want Scarlett to stick around, and I'm sad to say that it's working. They could not have picked a more beautiful song for this moment—I actually got the chills. At the end of the song Scarlett cries, and Gunnar says he really doesn't think she should go. Ooh, big cliffhanger there. That scraggly weave isn't going anywhere, people.
Oh man, and then Will returns home to a crying Layla. He looks at the wall cameras all around their living room, then takes her into their bedroom. (We were reminded earlier that Will believed the bedroom and bathroom to be "no camera" areas.) And THEN, Will tells Layla that he's gay and starts crying hysterically. She looks like he just punched her in the face. Which he did, metaphorically. And then we see that there are hidden cameras in the bedroom wall clock, and they're rolling. And, I mean, obviously I think it's better for Will to come out (for him and for the world!), but that he won't be able to do it on his own terms is really distressing.
Oh but THEN. You guys. Deacon comes to see Rayna, full of intensity from the moment he steps through her door. He says he wanted to come over and say congratulations and what a great guy Luke is and that he hopes they'll be very happy. But he can't. Rayna asks, "Why not?" Bitch, you know why!!! It's because it's a lie. And Deacon isn't going to lie to her. He has to say something. She says, "No you don't." But HE DOES, OBVIOUSLY.
Deacon knows that he broke Rayna's heart a thousand different ways, and he's sorry for that. But something has changed. He's changed. He says, "I know how to love you now. That man you always wanted me to be…I am that man. And I can be a husband now, and I can be a father, and I can give you everything that we were always meant to have. And maybe I'm too late, and maybe I should just move on, but I can't. I've tried like hell, but all that ever happens, I just get better at lying to myself. I don't want to do that anymore." And really, who do you want to be with—the soulful genius who can bust out deep emotional truths in a succinct late-night speech, or the guy who writes "Will you be my ball and chain?" on a jumbotron?
Deacon walks toward Rayna and touches her face. He says, "You and me, Ray. That's how it's supposed to be. You know that." JESUS LORD. Rayna shakes her head no, and he just says, "Yeah." And THEN he just kills the world by saying, "It's Maddie, and Daphne, and you…and me." And then he kisses her. And she really for sure kisses him too. And then the two of them melt not only my TV, but my face through the TV, and the walls of my living room, the Reese's cup I was saving as a snack for later, and also singe the fur of my cats. Seriously, you guys. Dead.
But Deacon isn't finished! He takes Rayna's hand and puts a ring inside of it. He says, "Don't answer me now. This is yours. I never should have taken it back." And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you propose. The ring is much more humble than the seven-carat rock that Luke gave her, which is fitting. And then Deacon walks out. And it is SO Deacon to come to your door late at night, kill you with his emotional intelligence, kiss the life out of you, propose, and then just drop the mic and leave. Rayna looks absolutely tortured, and also probably like she wants to kiss Deacon some more. Being a best-selling country star is complicated but awesome, I am led to believe.
WHO WILL RAYNA CHOOSE? If she goes the Kelly Taylor route and pulls an "I choose me," I for sure am quitting this show. We shall find out in season three!
[Image via ABC]