Nashville Recap: The Plot Quickens

Photo: Mark Levine/ABC
Episode Title
First to Have a Second Chance
Editor’s Rating

On a normal, sane show, any one of the following things would’ve made for an OMG-style winter finale:

1. Rayna breaks things off with Luke
2. Deacon is diagnosed with maybe cancer
3. Layla is maybe dead
4. Avery and Juliette get married
5. Gunnar finds out that Micah is his brother’s kid
6. Tandy returns

(Okay, just added that last one to see if you were paying attention.)

But no one ever accused Nashville of being sane. Indeed, it was a bounty of television delights. Or total overkill. Either way, let’s break down all the juicy details, shall we?

1. Rayna breaks things off with Luke
After months of silently murdering him with her eyes, Rayna finally delivers the kill shot. Poor Luke is just assessing the seating plan, trying to figure out how to put Tim and Faith in the family section, and she comes along and tells him she’s calling off the wedding. (Such a shame because her second wedding dress was a major improvement over the first, which she claimed she jettisoned because of “blah blah paparazzi” and “blah blah Luke is a traditionalist” and definitely not because everyone on the internet hated it.)

Luke and Rayna’s latest fight had to do with sending the girls to boarding school, but it was really just an extension of every other fight they’ve had: Rayna not being happy with the out-of-control celebrity circus her life was turning into. (I’ll give the show credit here: They didn’t make Luke a monster. They just made him a guy who really loves being a celebrity.) So she had a heart-to-heart with Tandy while looking all sun-dappled and gorgeous. (I, too, like to do all my important decision-making in a cream-colored sweater while bathed in a beautiful, golden light.) And then she stayed up all night thinking about it and finally decided she had to end things for good.

“I can’t do to you what I did to Teddy,” she tells Luke. (Send him straight into the arms of a hooker who looks like a soccer mom and is now offering “the Girlfriend Experience”?)

“I am not Teddy!” he counters. Then he adds knowingly, “But I’m not Deacon either, am I?”

“Nope!” a million viewers shout.

“It’s Deacon, but it’s not Deacon,” Rayna admits, finally, which I’m sure is a very satisfying answer for Luke.

Then Luke gets really angry and starts crying and throwing chairs, which seems pretty reasonable to me. (However, that gun he’s sporting in the previews? Not so reasonable.)

Then Rayna gets into her truck and takes off her ginormous wedding ring and puts it in the coffee-cup holder, like it’s a Slurpee or something, a final indignity for Luke that at least he didn’t have to see. The last shot is of her looking triumphant and all self-actualized on the open road, and it basically needed its own “You go, girl” theme song, preferably sung by Dolly Parton.

2. Deacon is diagnosed with maybe cancer
Oh, man. Deacon coughed a few shows ago, so we all should’ve seen this coming.

The tour ends in Memphis and, suddenly, everywhere Deacon looks, there’s news of Luke and Rayna’s wedding: on TV, in the newspaper, overheard in snippets of conversation. He tries to distract himself by fangirling over a bunch of ducks and doing a killer karaoke rendition of Elvis’s “That’s Alright Mama” with Scarlett — complete with hip-swivel, praise the TV gods. (By the way, can you imagine being the next guy queued up for karaoke at the bar? He’d be all, “I was not aware that spontaneous laryngitis was a thing that could happen to a person. But lo and behold, it just happened to me.”)

Anyway, Deacon leaves the bar and goes back to the hotel, just to get away from it all — no lights, no TVs, no talk of weddings — and they do an ominous close-up of the complimentary hotel magazine on the coffee table, and it has ...  Ruke on the cover! (All the LOLs.)

So Deacon throws the magazine at the minibar — Rayna is constantly inspiring men to throw things in a fit of rage; I’m so jealous — and then remembers that all those little bottles contain alcohol. Uh-oh.

Cut to: Scarlett entering the hotel room to find Deacon passed out on floor, unresponsive.

He gets taken to the hospital and the doctor comes into the room and basically says, “I’ve got good news and bad news.”

The good news: Tox screen-clean!

The bad news: Start drinking, because you’re going to die!

Not quite. But it’s cirrhosis of the liver and a low white-blood-cell count consistent with maybe cancer.

Deacon being Deacon, he’s being all stoic and lone-wolf-y and doesn’t want to tell anybody about it. Oh, Deacon.

3. Layla is maybe dead
So Will is semi-outed by the “StudzTown” website, and Jeff tells him he needs to “butch it up.” (Coincidentally, the editors of StudzTown would also like Will to “butch it up.”) Will’s answer to this, rather endearingly, is to take Layla on tour with him. But she wants to stay with Jeff, as the two of them have been exchanging flirty emails since their hookup.

They go to a party at Jeff’s place, and Will notices Jeff and Layla draped all over each other. He confronts Jeff, who basically says, “Yeah, I boned her. For charity.” (That Jeff Fordham, a real humanitarian.) So Will’s like, “Fix this.” (Right now I’m giving the side-eye to both Will and Jeff for manipulating Layla so much.)

Meanwhile, Will wanders upstairs, where this random chick tries to seduce him. “I can’t. I’m married,” he demurs.

“So the rumors are true,” she says.

“What rumors?”

“That Will Lexington isn’t interested in ladies.”

With that, he dives for her, because nothing says “I’m a straight guy who loves the ladies” quite like having sex with a woman just to prove that you’re straight.

Downstairs, Jeff breaks up with Layla, which is doubly humiliating because she’s drunk and wearing a Santa hat. She starts to make a scene and he’s all, “Relax, Mrs. Claus.” Okay, he doesn’t actually say that. But he does give her some pills to take the edge off. (The man just gives and gives and gives.) And then he leaves her while she convulsively cries on the couch. (Before you judge, who among us has not ugly-cried at a Christmas party in a Santa hat?) Naturally, she takes the pills, then wanders upstairs to find her gay husband having sex with a woman, which isn’t confusing at all, and by the end of the episode, she’s floating in Jeff’s pool, looking rather not-alive.

“Call 911!” Will shouts. And Jeff calls Teddy, who can’t even do CPR as far as I know, because Jeff does think Layla is dead, and he wants his powerful friend to help make the problem go away.  

Remember last week, when we all thought Jeff was getting nice?

4. Avery and Juliette get married
First they do a little misdirection with Avery and Sadie Stone singing a duet while looking deeply into each other’s eyes. (And I thought, If Avery and Sadie hook up, I’m going to start raging out like I’ve just been spurned by Rayna James.)
But their relationship is strictly professional, and besides, Sadie has no time for romance because her insane ex husband is in town, wanting to sue her for writing songs about him, which I didn’t even know was possible. (Right about now, John Mayer is rattling off a group text to Jake Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles, and Taylor Lautner with the subject head: Class-action suit?) Also, Sadie’s ex is an abusive ass who brutally cold-cocks her (yikes!) and looks, curiously, like the new Bachelor (just me?). Hey, at least she has a story line now.

Avery and Juliette talk about living together, but he tells her he just can’t do it.

“I thought we could be friends for the sake of the baby, but it’s impossible.”

“What do you want to do?” Juliette says, looking all sad and fretful.

(And I thought, If he ends this beautiful friendship, I’m going to make Luke and Deacon look like amateur tantrum-throwers).

“I want you to marry me.”


So not only do we get a surprise proposal from Avery, we actually get a surprise wedding — albeit a quickie justice-of-the-peace deal, with Avery and Juliette looking all adorably happy and smitten. Hey, I’ll take joy anywhere I can get it this episode.

5. Gunnar finds out that Micah is his brother’s kid
Okay, Vulture comment section. Consider yourself a bunch of hammers, because you nailed this one.

Kiley’s parents come to town (I honestly did not realize she was Hispanic until they rolled in), and they hate Gunnar for sketchy reasons and want full custody of their grandson. (They’re awfully haughty considering the fact that their daughter is an abandoner, but I digress.)

So Gunnar is going to fight it in court, but first he needs to take a DNA test. (Uh-huh.)

Final scene: There’s a knock at Deacon and Scarlett’s door.

(Raise your hand if you thought it was going to be Rayna? )
It’s Gunnar, all teary-eyed, turning to Scarlett for comfort, because Micah is ... his brother’s kid!

Vulture comment section: *Collective yawn*

6. Tandy returns
[. . .]

And there you have it, folks. A completely calm, reasonable, not at all nutty, bananas mid-season finale. Haven’t these writers ever heard of plot?