Last week, Nashville engaged viewers in a game of carrots and sticks – promising primetime character death on last night's mid-season finale. The show even got its own #WhoWillDie hashtag trending on Twitter. That question (or was it a pun?) is still relevant, as the final minutes of the episode extended that tease with two mutually exclusive potential killings in fade-to-black fashion.
First was psycho pregnancy-fabricator Peggy, who took an assassin's bullet, in front of Rayna, that was intended for Teddy (who, regrettably, escaped unscathed). Looks like Lamar's still calling the shots from behind bars. Sure, this was a rather jarring, haphazard way to dispose of the show's most dead-weight irrelevant character, but whatever it takes! Unfortunately a parting shot of her motionless body means she might end up in a coma or something when Nashville resumes on January 15th. But dead or alive, what might have hurt even more than that bullet was Maddie pouting "You're not my mother!" to Peggy at point-blank range hours earlier.
Then there's (gasp!) Will. The singer's story of reconciling being gay with possibly becoming the next Kenny Chesney-sized country star is compelling enough that it should develop further over the rest of this season. That said, Will taking a place in country music history as the conservative genre's first in-the-closet suicide casualty is also compelling. Early on we see Will laying down pining over an iPhone photo of boy-crush Brent. Will's so lost in Brent's selfie he's totally oblivious to sham fellow-rising-star girlfriend Layla undressing in front of him.
Later, during a spirited set Teddy's Music City Music Festival, Will's getting glances from both Layla and Brent while performing Gunnar's greatest songwriting achievement, the wide-open country-rocker "What if I Was Willing." He sings that lyric, preceded by "if you wanted someone to love you right," while making suggestive eye contact with Brent. And that night the two give in to temptation and shack up together. But when Brent suddenly bounces, a teary-eyed Will – trapped in a private prison of confusion, fear and shame – sets off for the railroad tracks to end itall. Cut to black as he turns to face an oncoming locomotive.
Now for a conspiracy theory about Teddy's botched assassination: Maybe it was actually an attempt on Rayna's life, hastily ordered by smarmy label suit Jeff Fordham? Jeff's livid when he leaves the festival, right after Rayna tells him – against the advice of every level-headed confidante in her inner sanctum – she'll take him up on his offer to buy herself and Highway 65 off Edgehill's payroll for $20 million, a sum she'll have to liquidate her every asset to gamble with.
Jeff didn't expect Rayna to go all in, and since her recent coma demonstrated that she is worth more to him dead or dying than alive, maybe Peggy actually took that bullet for her. Food for thought, y'all. And maybe Jeff will kill Layla in the next episode. Believing cash-cow Juliette's shrewd suspicion that Layla leaked Charlivia-gate to TMZ, Jeff threatens to destroy the expendable reality show runner-up.
The press devours the story, and what was supposed to be Juliette's triumphant MCMF headlining set is overshadowed by a scandal that almost breaks her, and a performance marred by the crowd heckling taunts of "tramp," "skank" and an unavoidable front-and-center fan banner with "homewrecker" scrawled across it. Mortified, Jules freezes onstage, but gets her groove back when she averts her gaze and focuses on Avery, who (resuming his role as sideman) rescues her, taking the lead while she regains composure. The pair recovers with a molten-hot impromptu duet that oozes with steamy chemistry. After, in a backstage heart-to-heart, Avery inspires Jules to tell off the press hounds, and later that night Jules realizes Avery's her prince. Cusack-style, she rushes to his door to poetically profess her love, which seems to go well until post-coital Scarlett walks in.
Here's all you really need to know about last night's Scarlett-Zoey-Gunnar drama: Scarlett is a childish, self-absorbed idiot for denying Zoey and Gunnar's love. She spends the episode fighting back tears and giving Zoey a third-degree silent treatment that even a fourth grader wouldn't tolerate. Then, as an encore, she goes and bones Avery? Ugh.
This episode was all about desire – most of these characters want what they can't have, while others get what they need. Take Deacon. At MCMF, Gunner ends up with a dreadful 11 a.m. slot in "toilet town," while Teddy gets the Deke bumped from the bill entirely. So, like a honky-tonk Tango and Cash, they pair up and stage a guerrilla gig in a festival-adjacent parking lot. Its success inspires Deacon to pursue the solo career he's always dreamed of.
With two characters killed off and another couple written into oblivion, maybe Nashville is finally wising up and thinning the herd. But not Will! Not like this!
Previous episode: Daddy Issues
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