As has been the case over the past few weeks, there are spoilers ahead, so if you haven't seen this week's episode, proceed at your own risk.
After two extraordinary episodes weighed down by almost unbearable grief, the midseason finale of
When the Exes get an offer to tour with Margo Price, Gunnar is excited but Scarlett is hesitant. She wants to stick closer to home to take care of her Uncle Deacon and cousins Maddie and Daphne, all of whom are still reeling after Rayna's sudden death. Deacon just wants to watch old home movies and read Rayna's journal, but he's battling with Zach over the unfinished duets album. Zach, ever the shrewd businessman, wants the music out sooner rather than later, and Deacon, who says the songs are about his and Rayna's undying love, is in no hurry for them to be released.
While Zach and Will are having dinner, Zach suggests that perhaps Will could talk to Deacon, since they're made from the same clay. No, not that Clay, some other clay. Speaking of that Clay, though, he got a lot more screen time this week than Hallie, which is to say Hallie was entirely absent and Clay was only glimpsed briefly via a FaceTime chat with Maddie.
Maddie has been getting flooded with offers to go on several TV shows, but Scarlett has been deflecting them just as quickly as they come in. Juliette shows up and when she learns about the offers, she makes one of her own: She'll take Maddie to
Maddie and Juliette hit the Big Apple and she does a short guest spot on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. She starts freaking out a bit while talking about her mom, but when she changes the subject to her music, regains her composure. At home, Daphne's feeling left out and Scarlett once again sees her protective, maternal side coming out. Backstage, after The Daily Show, Trevor asks Maddie to sing, which she does – beautifully. Things start to unravel as Maddie continues her talk-show tour, however. On Harry Connick's show, Maddie mindlessly makes an innocent quip about her mom's death, which upsets Daphne and Scarlett as they watch. Of course, the moment goes viral and Maddie decides she's had enough of the media circus.
"...accompanied by some of the last images we are likely to see of Rayna"
In some truly sweet, heartbreaking scenes, Deacon reads Rayna's journal and we get a glimpse into her conflicted life as a young mother. Married to Teddy but in love with Deacon, she had already given birth to Deacon's daughter, Maddie, but was unsure about leaving her husband to be with the man she truly loved.
When Maddie returns home, she admits that her talk-show experiences made her forget how sad she was, if only for one moment. Deacon assures Maddie her mother would be proud of her. Juliette, however, tells Maddie she was disappointed by her lack of professionalism while in
Juliette decides she wants to manage Maddie's career, but is happy to leave the "boring stuff" to Bucky or Glenn. With Juliette at the helm, the boring stuff is likely to be kept to a bare minimum. Maddie and Daphne sing a song to comfort each other at a time when what they could really use is some of their mother's unsolicited advice, not to mention some catnip to help Scarlett and Juliette mellow out.
Deacon reaches the final page of Rayna's journal, which ends just as the couple finally gets married after years filled with dizzying ups and downs. As he watches some of the last footage of Rayna, Deacon completely loses it. Rayna talks about his strength and says he's the best father their girls could ever ask for and says that she knows he's never going to give up on her or their family or their duets record or anything else. As he lets her words wash over him, Deacon's sad, angry tears turn to joyful memories and he is once again comforted by the reminders of their undying love.
As the episode closes, the Exes are in the studio, singing along with Rayna's already laid-down vocals, which are accompanied by some of the last images we are likely to see of Rayna, making the whole thing incredibly beautiful and terribly tragic at the same time. Juliette, Avery, Scarlett, Maddie and Daphne, all join in – paying tribute to Rayna and ensuring her musical legacy will endure for years to come. As Deacon takes his rightful place in the studio to sing with the love of his life, Rayna's spirit is set free.
There are hugs all around as everyone leaves Highway 65. Even Juliette hugs Scarlett, who stops Gunnar to tell him she has decided to go on tour after all – and, by the way, she's pregnant. But whether Gunnar or Damien is the daddy is anyone's guess… including Scarlett's.