'Nashville' Recap: Rayna Is Laid to Rest

After last week's stunner, mourners gather to pay their last respects to Rayna Jaymes in an emotional episode of the CMT drama

Rayna's family mourns her passing in the latest episode of 'Nashville.' Credit: Jake Niles Getter/CMT

Mourning can often bring out the best qualities in people, while sometimes giving rise to the worst in others. But laying Rayna Jaymes to rest in one of the most raw, emotional episodes of Nashville to date elicited nothing but the finest performances from Connie Britton's fellow cast members. After all, it was their final goodbye as well.

As for their fictional counterparts, each grieving in their own way, there were tears, sweet memories and some awkward silences during the first part of the episode, which featured minimal dialogue but still had so much to say about Rayna and what she meant the series.

At the graveside, Deacon reads from W.H. Auden's "Funeral Blues" ("Stop all the clocks...") and can barely contain his unimaginable grief as he says, "She was my North, my South, my East and West, my working week, my Sunday rest."

The mourners gather inside Deacon and Rayna's home, and some familiar faces appear. Rayna's sister, Tandy (Judith Hoag), is in the kitchen and notes that Rayna would hate having everyone packed in there. Also making a cameo is Rayna's former producer Watty White (J.D. Souther), who was introduced in the first season as an enemy of Lamar Wyatt (Rayna's father), because of the affair he had with her mother – who made a memorable appearance in last week's gut-wrenching episode. But perhaps the most unexpected presence is that of Teddy (Eric Close), Rayna's ex-husband and former mayor of Nashville who is currently serving a prison sentence for using taxpayer money to pay for escorts. He's out of the can for three days, but soon finds out he'll be released for good in three months. 

Deacon wanders through the house feeling lost and alone, as the mourners either stare, touch him on the shoulder or attempt to offer a hug. He's having none of it and goes to the sanctuary of his and Rayna's now-empty bedroom.

Clay arrives and is asked to take food around to people, which makes his own awkward presence there even stranger. He wants to be by Maddie's side, but, understandably, not as waitstaff. Things get really uncomfortable for everyone when Juliette hands her infant daughter, Cadence, to Zach, who knows nothing about childcare. He just wants to share the video he made as a tribute to Rayna and toast her. Avery takes Cadence from him and, for a moment, everyone is reminded of the unbroken circle of life as they watch Zach's well-meaning video and witness the smiling child, who is oblivious to their suffering.

Meanwhile, Tandy, who is saddled with her own questionable past, having once bounced several checks at Highway 65, among other transgressions, conspires with Teddy out of "concern" that Deacon is not prepared to raise two daughters alone – one of whom, Daphne, is Teddy's biological child.

"I don't know who I am without her"

Glenn tells Juliette that CMT wants to produce a tribute to Rayna on their awards show. When he says they're talking about having Faith (Hill) do it, Juliette objects, saying she herself is the only person right for the job. Once it's confirmed that she will be the one performing, however, she spots herself in a mirror and freaks out, feeling unprepared and not up to the difficult task. Juliette and Maddie have a nice moment when Juliette tells her she's a lot like her mother. "You have her fire," she says. As comforting a thought as that may be, Maddie tries to find Clay, who is outside and ready to leave. He's unable to handle the situation, but Maddie is just feeling abandoned yet again. Also outside, Zach asks Will if his number is still in his phone, since he hasn't heard from him. Will is reluctant since the two of them are now working together.

With a heartbreaking yet beautifully hopeful version of the classic hymn "I'll Fly Away" accompanying the scenes, Maddie goes to Deacon and they embrace. He says, "I don't know who I am without her." "You're my dad," she says. Elsewhere in the house, Gunnar finds Scarlett breaking down and comforts her.

At the lawyer's office the next morning, Deacon, Scarlett, Tandy and Teddy have gathered to learn that Rayna had not appointed guardianship for the children, nor for her estate. The lawyer suggests that a court battle could decide everything, including Highway 65. Back at home, Maddie hears Teddy and Tandy coming to the agreement that Teddy should be the guardian. She panics and tells Deacon that something bad is going to happen and he needs to take action. Deacon wants to take a look at the papers that Tandy has spread out before her, but Tandy tells him, "We know you're not up for this." Deacon warns them to back off and Teddy responds with, "We'll have to see what the judge says about all this" – because that worked out so well for him before. It's even more absurd for Tandy to suggest that Deacon couldn't run Highway 65, let alone take care of Maddie and Daphne, but that's exactly what she tells him. Teddy and Tandy continue to plot major elements of Deacon's future without consulting him. To his credit, however, Deacon manages to avoid a violent outburst even as he wants Teddy out of his house before he wrings his neck.

Juliette is rehearsing for the CMT tribute but doesn't get very far, suffering a panic attack and saying she feels like she's watching herself from across the room. Clay shows up at Maddie's to tell her that when his mom died, he never dealt with it and that he thought when people were telling him to "be a man" it meant not to feel anything. He confesses that he let her down, but that he wants to support her through her grief.

Zach and Will get together for what Will thinks is a business meeting. He figures out it's not when Zach plants a kiss and tells him that we all know we're going to die and that being armed with that information is the reason we're supposed to go through life in pairs. (Groan.) Zach's pick-up lines definitely need a rewrite, so dating a songwriter is probably a good move. Later at the CMT event, Will performs "By Your Side" in Rayna's memory.

Juliette is in her dressing room backstage at Bridgestone Arena, panicking even more about the possibility of letting everyone down. She summons Maddie, who didn't even want to attend the event because she has no interest in putting her grief on public display. She's even less sure about it when Juliette tries to convince her she needs to be the one to sing the song for her mom. Maddie disagrees.

Before taking his seat, Deacon tells Teddy, "I feel like their father but we have to put an end to this for their sake." He then concedes that Teddy should be their daughters' guardian.

Juliette is introduced and says, "I grew up in a trailer park. We were poor but one thing we did have was the radio and I would listen to it every night. Sometimes all night. I will never forget hearing Rayna James singing for the first time because it felt like she was singing to me and nobody else. She taught me how to dream. And everyone who knows her knows she always followed her dreams."

But rather than following that heartfelt tribute with a song, Juliette introduces Maddie and tells her that everyone just wants to hear what's in her heart. She begins to sing the beautiful "Sanctuary," but it's too much and she can't finish. Deacon and Daphne go onstage to join her, and Daphne starts to sing. Once Deacon joins in, Maddie is able to continue. It all gets to Teddy, who tells Deacon that since he's still going to be away for awhile, he would appreciate it if Deacon watched over the girls.

"Maybe when I get back, we can work something out," he says. 

Perhaps Rayna can rest in peace after all.