'Nashville' Recap: Deacon Faces His Past - Rolling Stone
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‘Nashville’ Recap: Deacon Faces His Past, Scarlett Rescues Sean

Veteran actor and musician Ronny Cox, who famously played banjo in ‘Deliverance,’ joins cast as Deacon’s abusive, alcoholic dad

Charles EstenCharles Esten

Deacon (Charles Esten) gets an unwelcome surprise when his estranged father shows up in the latest episode of the CMT drama 'Nashville.'

Jake Giles Netter/CMT

Every story needs a hero or heroine and this week’s Nashville has two of the latter in Scarlett and Maddie, who act as voices of reason in otherwise chaotic situations, one much more life-threatening than the other.

Deacon is invited to perform for a group of college students and his bluesy performance is one of the best we’ve heard from actor-musician Chip Esten in a while. But a shadowy figure enters the theater, looming over the proceedings as Deacon sits down for an interview with the great Eddie Stubbs, voice of the Grand Ole Opry and Nashville‘s historic WSM radio. No, it’s not the Phantom of the Opry, it’s Deacon’s long-estranged father – played beautifully by veteran actor-musician Ronny Cox, perhaps best-known for his memorable banjo-playing role in the otherwise deeply disturbing Deliverance, and as Dr. John Gideon in the TV classic St. Elsewhere. We’re more pleased to see him than Deacon is, however, because he’s soon getting violent flashbacks of the abuse his alcoholic father inflicted on him and his family throughout Deacon’s childhood.

Deacon finds out his father lost pretty much everything to Hurricane Harvey, but he claims he’s only there because he wants to get to know his family, now that he has quit drinking and changed his ways. But is it too little too late for Deacon? One thing’s for sure – the two actors execute a pair of really fine performances in their scenes together. Deacon tries to explain his father to Maddie and Daphne, and Maddie not so subtly reminds him she almost gave up on him so maybe he shouldn’t write his own dad off too hastily. She then visits her grandfather, who admits things in the past were rough, but not as bad as Deacon remembers. Maddie shows up at the Highway 65 offices with her grandpa beside her, ready for the two to bury the hatchet, but Deacon hasn’t warmed to the idea yet, proclaiming, “I never had a father!” “I can’t hurt you anymore,” he tells his son. “You were becoming me and I wasn’t going to let that happen.” Once Deacon realizes that in spite of his own struggles with alcohol and anger, his father’s abandonment was the best thing for him and his family, he takes him home to stay with him. We’re hoping for more great scenes as he gets to know his son and granddaughters.

Meanwhile, Sean and Scarlett talk about his wife and son (and we had honestly forgotten all about them). Sean’s battle with PTSD, brought on by his military service, has driven a wedge between the young man and his family but watching Scarlett and Sean together, it’s possible we’re not the only ones who forgot any of that had happened. Sean is summoned to play at the Bluebird but he wants Scarlett to do it with him. Being Scarlett, she invites his wife to the gig then gets coaxed onstage to sing with him, which has everyone but Sean squirming. Later, Scarlett visits his wife to tell her Sean is changing and getting better and she eventually takes Sean to visit his family. But when he discovers one of his fellow servicemen has killed himself, he has a full-scale panic attack, locking himself in the bathroom with a gun. Now, we honestly don’t know what the hell Scarlett was talking about as she played crisis counselor and talked him back from the brink, and, admittedly, she didn’t either. It’s just quite possible that everything sounds better with a Southern accent (well, unless you’re a hillbilly in Deliverance) because whatever she was telling him actually worked and saved Sean’s life.

If Scarlett is actually part angel, which we suspect, her next mission to earn her wings really should be knocking some sense into Gunnar, Avery and Will, whose constant bickering over Alannah’s presence makes us wish all four of them would take a canoe trip in the Georgia wilderness together. At least Gunnar and Avery agree they screwed things up by getting involved with her. Will insists his drug-fueled ‘roid rage only played a small part in all of it, and compared to Gunnar and Avery – the Flying Testosterone Brothers – he’s probably right.

Meanwhile, Alannah meets with Brad and his Shiny New label minions. There’s talk of her opening for the Lumineers, so Brad, Alannah and Kate, Brad’s assistant, all plan to have dinner together to discuss it. But guess who doesn’t show up. Yep, it’s just skeevy Brad and his unsuspecting new prey… er, artist, all alone and cozy with Brad quickly pulling out every trick from his “How to Make Women Squirm” playbook. After she decides she wants to clear the air about how uncomfortable she was, she shows up for dinner with Brad, Kate and the Lumineers, only to find out that both dinner and the tour have been called off.

Brad may be powerful enough to “move mountains” for people he likes, as Kate tells Alannah, but Avery’s intensely growing interest in the singer-songwriter might actually be more persuasive. It’s at least a mutual interest, even if we don’t totally get it. Back at his house after Alannah performs onstage, the pair are writing a song together and get distracted by her clothes, which Avery decides to politely remove for her. They may be able to fight the evil Brad together, but there’s definitely one obstacle they hadn’t counted on in the heat of the moment – Juliette, who walks into her house after being held captive in a Bolivian cult compound only to find her husband in the clutches of another woman. Cue the banjo music and grab the popcorn, ’cause we can’t wait to see what the next episode of Nashville has to deliver.

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