T.S. Eliot said the world would end "not with a bang but with a whimper." He might have been watching the Nashville season five finale, for there were zero bangs (neither of the gunshot nor steamy sex variety) but one pathetic whimper – the result of man-baby Zach's unsuccessful attempt at a power play. Deacon and his Highway 65 label cohorts refused to capitulate to his tantrum over Maddie's refusal to do the mascara commercial the way the corporate suits demanded.
Brad Maitland (Jeff Fordham reincarnated with weirdo glasses and beard) meets with Deacon and offers to help prevent any more upheaval by buying the label. What a prince. Deacon doesn't fall for it and walks out, running smack dab into Jessie, Brad's ex, who is with her son Jake. The kid protests about spending time with Brad, and who can blame him? We just spent a minute with him and already feel unclean.
At the Highway 65 offices, the power goes out and Deacon finds that Zach has cleaned out their bank account. The artists and staff move to the Tracks recording studio where Kacey Musgraves shows up to sing with Maddie and Daphne and cheer everyone up as Highway 65 sinks into the abyss.
Later, Brad proposes to Alyssa and Zach that they team up to take down Highway 65. Deacon gets a bit of a shock when he finds Alyssa outside smoking and an even bigger one when she blows a smoke ring right down his throat as she plants a kiss on him. Zach isn't quite as affectionate but after Mackenzie Rhodes calls him with a quote from an unidentified Highway 65 artist, he thinks it was Deacon (Spoiler: it wasn't) and goes to tell Deacon he could sue him. What Deacon does, however, is to break Zach down to a near-blubbering mess, accusing him of not being able to stay away because he's lonely and feels at home with the label. Deacon suggests they form a partnership and work together instead of dissolving the label. We're pretty sure Deacon's all business (and totally straight) but unless Will comes back around after giving Zach the brush-off in light of his crummy behavior, add Zach to the growing list of potential Rayna replacements.
As the night of the American Music Awards approaches, Maddie and Juliette are still frosty toward one another. Avery's on tour, where Polly continues eyeing him like she's a panther and he's a white-tailed deer. But when Juliette decides to sacrifice herself to restore her good (well, fair) name and mend her relationship with Maddie by giving "journalist" Mackenzie Rhodes a scoop she can't print in exchange for one she can, Avery sees the news report and heads back in a rainstorm to be with his wife. Any time from now on that anyone is driving or flying in
At the awards show, Maddie's performance is a triumph but the award ultimately goes to Katy Perry. In spite of the loss, her night ends more happily than Scarlett and Gunnar's after performing at the Bluebird, as she moves out for good. Or at least for now. As the episode – and the season – ends, Deacon, Maddie and Daphne are cruising down the road in a convertible. When Deacon asks Maddie how she feels, she simply replies, "Free." Let's hope he checked the brakes before leaving town.