Nashville Recap: Unfinished Business

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Photo: Mark Levine/Country Music Channel
Nashville

Nashville

Fire & Rain Season 5 Episode 11
Editor's Rating 4 stars

It’s time we finally acknowledged the truth about Scarlett: She’s awesome. Yes, her dalliance with Damien George was ill-advised to say the least. Yes, she still has that strange deadpan, staccato patois that sounds like Nashville by way of Australia by way of the Borscht Belt. But she’s cut back on the manic pixie hillbilly affectations — I haven’t seen a banjo, a hemp necklace, or a tattered wooden suitcase for months — and, well, she’s an incredibly decent human.

The way Scarlett has stepped in to take care of her uncle and the girls is amazing, especially given last week’s breakdown in the hallway. She’s being strong so they don’t have to. Plus, she’s been like Confucius with the advice. Last week, there was the whole explaining-the-concept-of-death thing to Daphne. This week, she gives her niece even more good advice about memory and grieving: “Reflect on all the good about [Rayna] … and all that good is right there inside of you.”

Also, she’s right and Juliette’s wrong about Maddie’s little trip to New York. Come to think of it, Deacon is wrong, too.

So, yeah, after Maddie’s big moment at the Bridgestone Arena, her phone is ringing off the hook with interview offers. Because Nashville is no longer airing on ABC, those calls are coming from someone other than Robin Roberts at Good Morning America. Maddie doesn’t think it’s a good idea to go and Scarlett (correctly!) agrees, but Juliette, who’s visiting, can’t believe it’s even a question. She goes all Hamilton on Maddie and tells her to not throw away her shot. She even offers to chaperone Maddie to New York. Then Deacon tells Maddie he’s all for it, too. “Mom would be nervous for you. But so excited, too,” he says. Oh, really? Last I checked, Rayna was doing everything in her power to put the brakes on the fast-moving locomotive train that is Maddie’s career. Regardless, Maddie and Juliette are off to New York.

Meanwhile, Zach Wells is trying to figure out how to save Highway 65. He’s got one answer so far: More cowbells. No, that’s obviously wrong — it’s releasing Deacon and Rayna’s unfinished duet album.

“It’s not finished,” Deacon says.

“Okay, when will it be ready?”

“Never?”

Zach notes that lots of unfinished albums were eventually released: The Basement Tapes, The Smile Sessions, and so on. (Zach’s the kind of guy who has a big, pretentious vinyl record collection filled with limited editions that he paid too much for.)

“Yeah, those were good,” Deacon says drily. “Rayna would not have wanted that.”

Again I say: Oh, really? Because that album meant everything to Rayna, and I’m pretty sure she would have wanted that.

That said, Zach Wells isn’t exactly Mr. Sensitivity in how he handles the whole thing. Like, maybe it’s best not to demand the album at a conference table a few days (or weeks? I’ve totally lost the timetable here) after Rayna’s death? Deacon agrees to at least think about it.

In New York, Maddie is getting set to be interviewed by her No. 1 fan, Trevor Noah. No, seriously, we’re approaching Annie Wilkes territory here. First, he hands her cash on the spot to buy her (hypothetical) new album. Then he literally begs her to sing “Sanctuary” at the show’s after-party. (She obliges, by the way, absolutely crushing an a cappella version. Respect.) As for the show itself, she does okay, stumbling a bit when she’s asked to elaborate more on her mom’s death, but she’s still charming enough to win over the audience. The next day, it’s onto the Harry Connick Jr. show (who knew?), where she makes a bit of a rookie gaffe, expressing her mixed emotions over her newfound fame coming right on the heels of her mother’s death. “Good things can come from tragedy,” she says. “Obviously, I’m not, like, ‘Thanks, Mom, for all the attention I’m getting!’”

Naturally, that quote is taken out of context and blasted all over social media, leaving Maddie in tears and full of regret. In her dressing room before her next interview, she tearfully calls Scarlett, who tells her to come home straight away. Juliette is not happy.

Back home, Deacon is spending most of his time holed up in the master bedroom, working himself into a deeper depression by looking through old pictures and demo tapes and home movies. They cast a fresh-faced, strawberry-blonde look-alike to play young Rayna in 1991 and, even though we know that the real Connie Britton was sporting an unfortunate mullet at the time, I’ll allow it. And yeah, Rayna kept a secret diary, of course. (That secret-diary trope needs to die. It’s like an answering machine: a once handy screenwriter’s tool that has been rendered obsolete by technology. Rayna would have blogged — or kept all her private thoughts on iPhone notes.)

All this rummaging through the past had a strange effect on me: It made me feel even more sorry for Teddy. No, Teddy is not in this episode — except for some dude playing grainy young Teddy in the home movies of Maddie’s first birthday party. But in the diary, Rayna keeps gushing about looking into Maddie’s eyes and seeing her true love’s soul. (Yeah, she’s talking about Deacon, not Teddy.) Meanwhile in the home movie, sad, clueless early-’90s Teddy is wearing a dad sweater and brandishing a birthday cake with a candle in it. Poor bastard.

It gets worse. Deacon finds an interview Rayna did where she discusses the duets album. (It’s nice that Connie Britton recorded all this extra content before — sniff — abandoning us forever.) And once again, she starts gushing about Deacon at Teddy’s expense. “It means everything,” Rayna says, of her collaboration with Deacon. “To be married to him. To finally have him be the father of my children.” Somewhere in a prison cell, Teddy lets out an anguished, soundless scream.

We’ll get back to Deacon’s really depressing scrapbooking in a bit, but first, there is a helluva cat fight brewing that we must discuss. In one corner, Scarlett, who drops these lines to Maddie: “I’m sure Juliette means well, but that doesn’t mean she knows what’s best. Look at her life, look at some of the choices she’s made.” So now Scarlett has turned into your Sassy Gay Friend.

Later, the two women confront each other in Rayna’s kitchen, as Maddie looks on anxiously. “The world doesn’t wait until you’re ready,” Juliette says, making a case for Maddie to go back to New York.

“I don’t believe that,” Scarlett replies. “And even if it were true, there are more important things than chasing after fame.” (Have I mentioned that I’m totally #TeamScarlett in this fight?)

“How would you know?” Juliette snaps back. “Just because you’re afraid of success.”

It is ON, everybody. Or maybe not: Maddie storms away at this point, so I guess we’ll have to put a pin in this for now.

Upstairs, Deacon has gotten to the part of the interview that could be titled “Instructions for What to Do in the Event of My Untimely Demise.”

“He’s never going to give up on me or my girls,” Rayna tells the interviewer. “Or our record. Or any other damn thing we drag him into.”

Deacon laughs and cries and emerges from the room to give his girls a bear hug and tell them how much he loves them. (BTW, Nashville is a “low-prestige” basic cable show so he won’t get consideration, but Charles Esten totally deserves an Emmy nom for his work in these last three episodes. Dude is bringing it.)

But there’s a surprise waiting for him downstairs. The entire gang has assembled — Gunnar, Scarlett, Will, Bucky, Avery, and even Juliette (she and Scarlett temporarily put aside their differences) — and they’re going to help him finish the album. It’s a somewhat strange concept to have everyone come together, We Are the World–style, to help with a duet album celebrating Rayna and Deacon’s love, but damned if it doesn’t work. Everyone takes a lyric, including the girls, and Deacon is truly grateful and touched. When it’s his turn to sing, buoyed by his friends, he steps up to the mic and belts it out. Nashville has done something really canny these last three episodes: It’s recognized the emotional power of music and let the songs speak for themselves. Sometimes, as a wise, gaudily dressed man once said, “Sad songs say so much.”

Nashville is about to go on hiatus for a few months, so I guess they have to leave us with a cliffhanger because “everyone sings beautifully, is sad” doesn’t make for much of a stunner. So, wait for it … Scarlett is preggers, y’all! And she doesn’t know who the daddy is! Just a friendly reminder that, as profoundly moving as Nashville has been lately, it’s still a soap opera at heart.

Nashville Recap: Unfinished Business