There was good news and bad news coming out of Nashville last night. First, the good news: Dante's dead. And now, the bad news: So is Jolene. The cause, a murder-suicide, is dark dramatic territory for Nashville's penultimate episode, which aired days after ABC announced it would renew the primetime soap for a second season.
It all started when that damn Dante decided to blackmail Juliette with a DIY sex tape. And he would've gotten away with it had he stuck to his original $2 million demand. Weighing her options – pay off the boyfriend/manager turned con man or go to the police, go public and let the scandal overshadow her CMA nod – Jules complies. But Dante overplays his hand, standing up Juliette's hired henchmen and raising the ranson to $10 million. "I know how important the CMAs are to you," he leverages.
Ultimately, Juliette realizes what the rest of us have known all along: "The world [will find out] what it already knows – I'm a trainwreck." So she decides to swallow her pride, go public and, in effect, diffuse Dante, a move inspiring assistant Emily to praise Jules as the bravest person she knows. But that does little to assuage Juliette's anger, which she unfairly and irrationally takes out on Jolene, telling her, "It would've just been cheaper for you to go to AA like EVERY OTHER ADDICT."
Tragically, Jolene reacts by irrationally hatching her own ill-fated plan to do right by her daughter. It involves reuniting with her old OxyContin dealer, procuring a pharmacy's worth of Rush Limbaugh's favorite elixir and a handgun and then drunk-dialing Dante, tipping him off to Jules' decision, but setting him up by offering to get him the original $2 million. He takes the bait, and ultimately a bullet or two to the gut.
The problem with this shocker was that it wasn't all that shocking. As soon as Jolene – who does manage to mince Dante's SD chip containing the sex tape in the garbage disposal – got herself a gun, viewers had the rest of the episode to realize exactly how this dreadful drama was gonna play out. Even Jolene's subsequent suicide-by-overdose, which could've been a surprise, maybe, was a dead giveaway with her final, frantic goodbye call to Juliette, who luckily picked up the phone mere moments before she was to talk sex, lies and videotape live on The View.
Nevertheless, Jolene's (and Dante's, but who cares?) death is still in vain. Dying in much the manner she lived (with pathologically poor judgment), Jolene fails to realize that saddling her daughter with the stigma of an infinitely more sensational mother-boyfriend murder-suicide to spare her the indignity of a sex-tap scandal isn't exactly trading up.
So, look forward to Juliette's songs getting super fuckin' sad next season.
And perhaps nothing is sadder than the idea of a Nashville in which Jolene is dead, bound for that big Bluebird Café in the sky, while Avery is still alive. Even worse, Avery and Juliette are hitting it off. Not only did he impress her with his guitar styles last week, his post-show gentlemanly gesture (which she perceived as playing hard to get) looks like it might really pay off, as she's drafted him to be her next song-rattin' partner and armchair shrink.
Does Avery even wanna knock boots with Juliette? Despite what that could mean for his career, he's still pining for Scarlett, whose upcoming Grand Ole Opry debut has him feeling regretfully reflective. In the pair's first rattin' session, Juliette tells Avery she's lost her faith in love. But love is not a myth! Avery has seen it! "I've been in love," he tells her.
"How did that work out for you?" she counters.
Perhaps star-crossed Juliette and Avery need look to Rayna and Deacon to, like a Foreigner hit, show them what love is. The couple was necking like young lovers at the start of last night's episode, and Rayna, though still conflicted over how to introduce her re-budding relationship with Deacon to the girls, invites him over for a quaint family dinner. Things are going great and hearts are growing warm as Deacon and Maddie (unbeknownst to them) share a magical, musical father-daughter moment when he jams with the girls on their cover of the Lumineers' "Ho Hey," until Teddy arrives unannounced to spoil the harmony. Disgusted at the sight of Deacon with his daughters, Teddy starts power-tripping on Rayna, and later obtains a restraining order to keep Deacon away from his daughters.
"I'm the mayor of this city. So trust me, it'll stick," Teddy boasts.
"What happened to you?" Rayna replies in disgust. Later, she goes to Teddy's office and offers a truce, by promising to continue to keep the family secret from Deacon and Maddie.
But it's too late. Maddie, ever the teenage sleuth, unearths damning paternity test results hidden in Rayna's closet. "I don't think my dad is my father," an emotional Maddie confides in a friend at episode's end.
Scarlett endures an equally upsetting emotional crisis when she slowly realizes Gunnar isn't exactly Gunnar these days. Looking all greasy-haired and heroin chic, Gunnar has gradually assumed the role of his dead, jailbird brother Jason, who, as it turns out, is perhaps a more insufferable zombie prick of a boyfriend than Avery ever was.
Gunnar unleashes a nauseating deluge of aloof, outlaw-rebel posturing, which, to Scarlett's chagrin, culminates with him pretending to be a philandering Casanova. He takes that artifice to the stage of a rough-and-tumble roadhouse gig, at which an un-fuck-with-able ex-con calls him out on his prison-themed lyrics, resulting in an all-out barroom-brawl between him, the locals and Will, who tagged along.
Later, in the drunk tank, Will finally shows some depth when he tells Gunnar of how, as a teen, his dad kicked him out of the house upon catching him in the middle of a bi-curious act. While Will still wrestles with his sexuality, he's dead-set on becoming a country star, which he proves by bum-rushing an audition for Rayna, dazzling her.
There's actually hope for this subplot, as, in real life, homosexuality is still taboo on Music Row. If Will makes it big next season, will he or won't he come out will be an inevitable $64,000 question.
On the other hand, Gunnar's about-face from boyish country gentleman to surly rock & roll outlaw is totally not believable. Unsurprisingly, Scarlett fails to see it as a phase and, upon bailing him out of jail, dumps him. "I fell in love with you, not your brother," she tells him.
Last episode: Love Is (Almost) a Battlefield