Reasons to Quit
Photo: Jake Giles Netter/CMT
If you had asked me to name the top 1,000 things that might happen on the season finale of Nashville, “Alyssa Greene kisses Deacon” would not have made the list. Indeed, it wouldn’t have even been a glimmer in the list’s eye. Honestly, “Gunnar takes off mask and reveals himself to be Juliette’s sober coach” would’ve had a higher ranking.
The funny thing is, just last week I bemoaned that Rachel Bilson was being semi-wasted on the show. The solution to that, however, is not a completely out-of-left-field kiss that makes zero sense for either character and in no way resembles our Earth behavior.
The setup: Deacon is dealing with the fallout of Zach’s little power move — turning off the electricity at Highway 65, emptying the bank accounts — when he runs into Alyssa smoking outside the Bluebird. They have a fight about artistic integrity versus the bottom line, and Alyssa says, “Why are you so impossible?” Then she notes that Deacon doesn’t know what’s good for him. “What’s good for me, Alyssa? Please enlighten me,” he demands. Inexplicably, Alyssa starts to laugh. So Deacon’s like, WTF? And everyone at home is like, WTF? And then she lunges for him and kisses him. At this point, there aren’t enough WTFs in the world.
Needless to say, Deacon pushes her away. But her behavior was beyond weird. (If anyone can explain it to me, I’d greatly appreciate it because this will haunt me for life.) Later in the ep, Deacon has an almost kiss with Jessie, which makes a hell of a lot more sense but is still weird in its own way! More on that in a bit. Meanwhile, onto the rest of the show.
A lot happens and nothing happens in this season finale, if that makes any sense. For starters, Scarlett and Gunnar seem to have broken up … again. (But can you break up if you were already broken up? Can you double break up?) Once again, they rehash their relationship right before going onstage to sing a very sad song while crying and making mournful eye contact, and then decide it’s over. No, for real this time.
Will and Zach Welles also seem to have broken up. (Again, I wasn’t totally sure they were still dating.) Will expresses his anger with Zach over his Highway 65 pettiness and chooses his friends over his sketchy lover.
“I’ll call you later?” Zach says, pathetically.
“Don’t call me later,” Will responds. (Anyone else having, “And stop calling me Shirley” flashbacks? Just me? Alrighty then.)
The highlight of the episode, surprisingly, is the Juliette-Avery stuff, although it takes a while to get there. It starts in very familiar territory: Juliette bitching and moaning to Avery over the phone (this time, because the AC has broken), as the Cool Girl roadie lurks gloatingly, figuring it’s just a matter of time before Avery dumps the ol’ ball and chain and hooks up with her. I’ll say one thing for that Cool Girl: She’s as dense as she is persistent.
Juliette goes to the AMA kickoff party and tries to wave at Maddie from across the room, but Maddie runs away. Deacon notices this and forces Daphne to come clean about the whole song-theft fiasco. Then he catches Juliette’s eye and glares at her, and she knows he knows. Juliette beats a hasty retreat, but Deacon chases her down to the elevator.
“How could you do this?” he asks. “We’re supposed to be a family.”
“It was a horrible mistake,” Juliette moans. “How can I make this right?”
“You can’t … When the dust settles, if there still is a label, you are off of it.”
Then Juliette does something that I didn’t fully understand, which involves that nosy reporter Mackenzie Rhodes. Work with me here: I think Juliette’s plan is to have Mackenzie threaten Zach with a fake story about a “billionaire fanboy who destroyed the legacy of Rayna James” in exchange for an actual story about Juliette admitting to the song theft and withdrawing her name from AMA consideration. Have I got that right? (I realize I’ve been confused a lot by this episode and I apologize for that. Nashville doesn’t usually go over my head like this.) The whole thing is really unsatisfying, though, because instead of Maddie and Juliette having an emotional confrontation after Juliette withdraws her name, Scarlett and Juliette do. (“Scarlett and Juliette have a heart to heart” may have cracked my list of the 1,000 things that might happen on the season finale of Nashville, but it would’ve been close to the bottom of the list.) What’s more, I’m not even sure if Juliette’s little subterfuge had any effect on the Zach shutdown of Highway 65, but it does lead to the episode’s best moment.
Avery is in a hotel room in Albuquerque and you’ll never guess who shows up? (Honestly, anything is possible in this episode, but in this case, it actually is the Cool Girl.) Just as Cool Girl pretends to apologize for being so pushy (while still being super pushy), a news brief comes on TV about Juliette’s AMA recusal.
“Did you know about this?” Cool Girl says, practically rubbing her hands together in glee. She’s surprised to see Avery start packing a bag.
“Where are you going?” she asks. “Home,” Avery says. That’s our boy! One catch: It’s pouring outside and all flights have been cancelled, so he rents a car and begins the long drive home to Nashville.
Later, there’s a scene where Avery is driving in a downpour — while Maddie is singing her tidal-wave song at the AMAs, no less — and every single Nashie was thinking the exact same thing: Oh, hell no. But wait, there’s a twist! Avery doesn’t get into a car accident! (Only on Nashville would not getting into a car accident be the twist.)
When he came home and Juliette saw him and they embraced, I’m not gonna lie, things got pretty emotional (in my eyeballs, that is). It was nice to see a story resolve itself in a satisfying way, although I’m still not sure why they needed to make Juliette the Most Annoying Human Alive to prove how devoted Avery was to her. Regardless, hooray for (temporary) happy endings!
Anyway, remember back when Rayna used to say that Zach Welles was “weird” but I always countered that he seemed pretty normal to me? Turns out, our queen was right (and shame on me for ever doubting her). In this episode, we find out that the guy is a total head case, prone to long crying jags, paranoia, and extravagant self pity. Deacon witnesses Zach having a meltdown, but instead of running for the hills, he has an epiphany. “You’re the loneliest person I’ve ever met,” he says. (Not my interpretation of Zach’s behavior, but then again, I don’t possess Deacon’s Man Wisdom™.) Deacon suggests that Zach doesn’t really want to “hold this label down by the throat,” as he had threatened earlier, but that he just wants to be part of something and have friends. He proposes that they work together as equal partners. Zach seems to consider it, although I should mention that, earlier in the episode, he fielded some sort of nefarious proposal to team up with Jessie’s ex, Brad, who is bizarrely all over this episode AND uses a fidget spinner, so you know he’s the worst. I guess we’ll see where this all goes next season.
Deacon flies out with the girls to L.A. for the AMAs, but first has that moment with Jessie that I mentioned earlier. They hug and stand really close to each other and are obviously about to kiss … but then they don’t. It’s clear that Deacon isn’t ready and Jessie knows he isn’t ready and it’s all kind of wistful and sad and Chip Esten and Kaitlin Doubleday act the hell out of the scene. Honestly, I didn’t mind it. But then Jessie says, “You take good care of yourself, Deacon.” And he says, “You, too, Jess.” And now I’m confused all over again. He’s just going to L.A. for a few days, right? Why are they acting like they’re never going to see each other again?
So Maddie loses the AMA award to Katy Perry, which made me giggle, because imagine if Katy Perry had lost a made-up award to a made-up blonde country ingénue — that would’ve really sucked for her. The final scene is Deacon, Maddie, and Daphne in a convertible — all buckled up (responsible!) — presumably driving home. It’s a callback to the opening scenes of this season (sniff), when Rayna was doing her Thelma and/or Louise routine, although, once again, it kind of comes out of nowhere. (Was there talk of this road trip that I missed?)
“How do you feel?” Deacon asks the girls.
“Free,” Maddie says.
I like this ending more in concept than practice. On the one hand, it’s nice to see Deacon and the girls happy — lord knows they deserve it — and watching Deacon become an amazing father was one of the true pleasures of season five. On the other hand, free from what exactly? And why?
It’s a microcosm of the whole season, really: characters I’ve grown to love and care about, behaving in sometimes inexplicable ways. See y’all in 2018.