On soap operas, people come down with comas the way the rest of us come down with the common cold. And so it is that season two of Nashville starts with Miss Rayna James in a medically induced coma.
“Sometimes a person’s brain can get a little swollen,” Aunt Tandy explains matter-of-factly to her nieces, as if this is a bit of life knowledge that needs to be imparted, right between, “Look both ways before you cross the street” and “Don’t do drugs, kids.” The brain in question — Rayna’s — is swollen because of that season-ending car crash with Deacon, right after he found out that he was Darth Vader to Maddie’s Luke Skywalker.
We are immediately treated to a flashback of Deacon and Rayna: The Soft Focus Years. In it, Rayna has been nominated for her first-ever CMA and is wearing this kind of Scarlett-esque cowboy boot–miniskirt combo that 2013 Rayna wouldn’t be caught dead in and Deacon has put down the first payment on their dream house (and has 60 percent less stubble — because manly stubble has to be earned). And they are all lovey-dovey and cutesy, which is never exactly how I pictured their relationship back in the day, but hey, it’s not my show.
Next, we are treated to the continuing legend of Deacon Claybourne: Troubled Hero. First our troubled hero pulls Rayna from the mangled wreckage. And then our troubled hero takes the blame for the crash, which is supposed to be seen as some sort of grand sacrifice, I guess (even though it was totally his fault). Our troubled hero also has the perfect troubled hero injuries: a broken arm and a tiny, manly cut just above his eye, sealed with the world’s tiniest bandage. Come to think of it, Rayna also has very few visible scars — say it with me, people: internal injuries! — so she can just lie there in the hospital bed, with what we’ll call a mid-coma radiance.
Elsewhere! Juliette is watching the news of Rayna’s coma and she looks concerned and I think, D’aww, Juliette’s worried about Rayna but then I remember that Juliette has to have the exact same arc for every show: First she’s sour, then she’s sweet, like a country music Sour Patch Kid. “Hard enough to deal with the tween demo. Now I have to compete with a saint in a coma,” she sneers. Oh, Juliette, I’ve missed you. (An even more perfect Juliette moment? When she dismisses her potential new personal assistant because he’s lousy in bed: “Get home safe,” she says coldly, which is totally going to be my new post-hookup catchphrase.)
So she pretends to care, making a big show of her concern for Rayna at the concert (an aside: Did Juliette rock so much duckface when she sang last season? Because it really needs to stop) and leading a post-concert vigil to Rayna’s hospital. (Another aside: If I’m ever lying in a glamorous coma and you all want to create some sort of sidewalk shrine to me: Can you go with something slightly more original than teddy bears, candles, and freakin' Mylar balloons?). Juliette is about to beat a hasty retreat from the vigil when she bumps into Maddie. They actually share a tender moment, bonding over their lying mothers and then Maddie accidentally lets it slip that Deacon is her real father! Oops.
Over in Scarlett Land, things are pretty much the same. Scarlett has said no to Gunnar’s proposal, and still seems torn between Gunnar and Avery. She has a new best friend named Zoey (Chaley Rose), who is most definitely NOT a panicky reaction from ABC executives who realized they have one of the whitest shows on television. Gunnar is under the influence of Will, who’s trying to party his way out of his homosexuality. But while Will can try to deny his true self, Gunnar can’t deny the fact that he’s still in love with Scarlett, although he does, inexplicably, set fire to her couch. (“Have you been barbecuing?” asks Scarlett, scrunching her nose in a Scarlett sort of way.)
Scarlett gets onstage at the Bluebird and says she wants to invite a very special person up with her and, for a second, we’re not sure if it’s going to be Avery or Gunnar, although discerning fans will note that Avery already got his song this episode, so it’s probably going to be Gunnar. (And damn if those two don’t make the most beautiful music together.)
More soft focus flashbacks! Deacon proposing to Rayna; Rayna finding out that he proposed while drunk; and, then, my favorite flashback of all time: Rayna, about to tell Deacon she’s pregnant with Maddie, but instead finding him performing a kind of Theater of Drunken Rage, hurling glasses and abusing his record collection (nope, no clue), while taking angry swigs from several open bottles. “Do you want him to be the father?” Tandy asks (Rayna had apparently brought her along for moral support and buzz-killing advice). And so the deception begins.
I spent the entire summer fretting over Peggy’s pregnancy (just kidding; I totes forgot about it), so I’m glad they’ve picked up that story line right away. And ugh … Peggy had a miscarriage. When I found out, I literally said to myself, Please don’t lie to Teddy about it … Please don’t lie to Teddy about it … But, of course, she does. Oh, womenfolk and their man-trapping uteri.
Back in prison, Deacon has a court-appointed model — I mean, uh, lawyer — who’s as smart as she is beautiful. She figures out that Rayna was the one who was driving (something to do with seatbelt bruises), but Deacon doesn’t care. He wants to stay in prison and lick his wounds and suffer for his sins. Meanwhile, Rayna is coming out of the coma and there’s this awesome fake-out. The doctor tells the family that Rayna might not recognize them and I’m like: If Rayna has amnesia, I’m so done with this show. But they’re just screwing with us. “Do you know who the people in the hallway are?” the doctor asks. (It would be hilarious if there were a bunch of people in the hallway dressed as historical figures — Abe Lincoln and Besty Ross — but no, it’s just her family.)
And Rayna nods radiantly.
Now that she’s awake, she tells the cops that she was the one driving and they let Deacon go, whether he likes it or not. (“But I jaywalked once!” he screams on the way out. “And I have several outstanding parking tickets!”) Our final scene is Rayna James, on the hospital balcony. Her brain may still be a bit swollen, but her hair, as always, is perfection. “I’m just not interested in looking behind me anymore,” she tells Lamar, who may or may not be responsible for the death of her mother. “I’m just going to live my life.”
Yeah, good luck with that.