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Nashville Season Finale Recap: Crash and Burn

It’s a shame that finale was so uneventful, huh?

Seriously, the first seven minutes were so action-packed, I actually laughed when the Nashville opening credits popped up on the screen. They could’ve ended the show right there, right when Maddie showed up at Deacon’s doorstep saying, “I think that you might be my father” and I would’ve said, “Now THAT was a satisfying finale.” But we were just seven minutes in, people. Seven minutes in. (Oh, before we go any further, can I rectify an omission from last week’s recap? How did I not mention that the last thing Dante heard before getting shot was, “Give me the SD card.” Literally, the least gangster way someone can be taken out. But I digress.)

“I guess he turned out to be a pretty lousy sober companion,” the cop says to Juliette about Dante, practically nudging her in the ribs. Too soon, Officer Jokes-a-Lot. Too soon. So Juliette is all sad and pushing people away, including Deacon and her ex manager — he of the worst rug on prime-time TV this side of Marv Albert — who was an unexpectedly welcome and nearly paternal figure in this episode. (Just to be clear, her manager, not Marv Albert.) And then she gets the brilliant idea to attend the CMAs, which is exactly the kind of stubborn, wrong-headed, in-denial kind of thing Juliette would do.

Gunnar, meanwhile, has seen the light, telling that sketchy producer guy the truth about this brother’s songs and the producer is all: But I like outlaw Gunnar! And Gunnar is all: This is the only Gunnar you get. (This is rather niftily contrasted with Will, who will do anything to make it in the record industry — including sleep with women.) Gunnar tries to win Scarlett back — he even combs his hair the old cute way — but she is skeptical. (How Gunnar is able to concentrate on anything besides Scarlett’s cleavage in that scene is beyond me. The twins are out of the crib.) (Actually, between Scarlett’s low-cut top and the bedazzled bustier Rayna wore at the CMAs, it was like last night’s show was guest-produced by Seth MacFarlane.)

Teddy’s past is back in play, in the form of a federal investigation into that embezzlement deal. I had been on pins and needles waiting for that embezzlement scandal to come back to haunt him! (Either that or I had forgotten all about it.) Turns out, the feds’ best source of potential information is ... Peggy. (One more deet from that other show that involves building permits and stadium development: Lamar promotes The Lurch over Tandy and she quits.)

Deacon and Rayna were supposed to make their public debut as a couple at the CMAs, but instead, Deacon is late and all moody and pouty onstage with Rayna and Brad Paisley. (If I acted out my personal drama at work as much as Deacon does, I would’ve been fired a long time ago). Afterward, in the dressing room, Deacon confronts Rayna about Maddie. “Tell me that you haven’t been lying to me every moment of the last thirteen years,” he says. Yup, that pretty much sums it up, Rayna responds. He storms off angrily. Also, backstage at the CMAs, Juliette insists that she wants to go on, but finally breaks down and realizes that maybe she should grieve for, like, a few hours before collecting any awards. (Speaking of awards, can we talk about how amazing Hayden Panettiere was in this episode? Just drop this season finale in an envelope, write FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION on the outside, and send it straight to the Emmys, please.)

Juliette goes to visit her mama’s open casket. I always think it would be super creepy for an actor to have to lie in a coffin and play dead for a scene, but I suppose Sylvia Jefferies got paid, so she’s all: Bring on the embalming makeup, bitches! There’s some talk of how Juliette was the one who used to sing her mama to sleep and for a brief, horrifying second, I think, Oh God, she’s going to sing to her, but thankfully she doesn’t.

Meanwhile, Deacon has found his way to a bar and there’s a great overhead shot where he’s staring down the barrel of his first drink after years of sobriety. The TV is tuned to the CMAs and they’re about to announce the winner of Female Artist of the Year. “Turn it off,” Deacon says. “Not a big country music fan?” the bartender chuckles. (Remember when who won the CMA was going to be a big deal? Ah, we were all so young then.) (For the record, Juliette wins.) So Deacon goes off the wagon and he’s one of those subtle alcoholics where you can barely tell he’s drunk — except for all the SCREAMING and the SMASHING and the RAGING. (Seriously, are his drinks also laced with anabolic steroids?) He and Teddy have a huge fight in front of City Hall and times must be tough in Nashville, because the mayor’s security detail seems to consist of one cop and some other guy who just wandered off the street. They manage to pry Deacon and Teddy apart.

Gunnar wanders to Deacon’s house to get some advice about Scarlett, but it’s clear that Deacon is in no condition to administer any of his Man Wisdom to anyone (maybe it was the projectile vomiting off the side of the porch that gave him away). Gunnar wisely calls Coleman and Scarlett and they show up at Deacon’s house and he screams and throws things and body-slams Coleman and basically acts like a ginormous tool. Finally, Coleman grabs Deacon and points to a crying Scarlett: “Look at what you’re doing to her!” he says. And Scarlett looks as tremulous and wide-eyed and stunned as she always looks, so it’s probably hard for Deacon to notice anything different, but he gets the point. He finally calms down and goes to sleep.

Of course, Deacon misses Jolene’s funeral, which is a private affair and only attended by, like, five people, including Rayna (who does sort of give Juliette some motherly encouragement, although all their exchanges seem diffident at best) and, randomly enough, Avery. Teddy confronts Peggy to see if she struck a deal and ratted him out to the feds and she didn’t because she’s — gasp! — pregnant. And Deacon is the father! Oh, no... wait. The morning after, we get a little wet-Deacon-in-a-towel porn (hooray!) and Coleman naively believes that Deacon is going to drink some coffee and be okay. Juliette calls Deacon and invites him to a private memorial service for her mother at the Bluebird and he promises to be there.

The final scenes end more or less montage-style as Juliette sings a beautiful, elegiac song for her mother: “Nothing in This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again.” (Sniff). Rayna spots Deacon, who’s drunk, and chases him to the parking lot and they fight and she takes his keys and they drive off. Gunnar kneels down and proposes to Scarlett with some sort of glowing blue ring from the planet Zorbat. Will, cuddling with his honey, sees a handsome young man and it’s clearly an ex-lover and he shoots him a look that says “don’t come near me.” (They’re setting up his story line for next season really well. So glad they’re keeping Will around.)

With all the mournful singing and silent, slow-mo fighting that Rayna and Deacon are having in the car, no one sees the car accident coming at all. (And by no one, I mean EVERY SINGLE VIEWER.) Not exactly sure what the point of the car accident is. I mean, it’s not like anyone thinks Rayna and Deacon are dead — or that they’re going to introduce the show next season with a whole new cast, American Horror Story–style. (Although, with Connie Britton, I suppose there is a precedent.) But I give the show a pass for its somewhat cheesy cliffhanger. After all, when the entire show — hell, the entire season — has been zooming along at a breakneck pace, it’s got to crash eventually.

Photo: Katherine Bomboy-Thornton/ABC