After 20 episodes that tackled drug addiction, divorce proceedings, rekindled romance, requited and unrequited love on the rocks, the misery of celebrity, the heartbreak of starving artists, virgin quarterbacks, family secrets, political corruption, country music, sex tapes and murder-suicide – you know, all the clichés! – it’s safe to say Nashville had already succeeded in hitting the soapiest, most salacious hallmarks of grade-A primetime television heading into last night’s Season One finale. In it, writers threw in everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to sudsy melodrama.
For example, Juliette gets briefed by detectives on Jolene’s suicide and Dante’s murder; Gunnar comes clean to Jack about stealing his dead ex-con brother’s song lyrics and (insufferable) outlaw swagger; Scarlett and Avery reconnect over a lunch date; Teddy finds out the feds are investigating him; and Maddie shows up at Deacon’s doorstep to tell him he’s her father – all before the first commercial break.
What’s more, all this horror is transpiring hours before the CMA Awards, where Rayna and Juliette competing head to head (the show’s original premise) for Female Vocalist of the Year is an afterthought in the wake of real people problems. Suffice to say, it ends up being the worst CMAs ever – even worse than the time Kid Rock did a duet with Lil Wayne while they both wore matching Tennessee Titans jerseys.
This night was supposed to be a happy one for a reunited Rayna and Deacon, who were all set to come out as a couple and make their first red carpet appearance. Didn’t happen. Understandably, Deacon – reeling from Maddie’s revelation – stands RayRay up, arriving moments before taking the stage to back her with a special guest, “Accidental Racist” singer Brad Paisley, who cameos as himself.
Par for the course, Brad busts out hot licks on his Tele and hams it up with RayRay on her country rocker “Bitter Memory” (which, in real life, was actually written by Lucinda Williams and produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach). Brad and Rayna have decent chemistry, sure, but weird glances between RayRay and Deke take center stage in this scene.
Meanwhile, Juliette is determined not to let her mother’s death rain on her parade, proclaiming, “I’m gonna win Female Vocalist of the year tonight.” After she skips the red carpet and takes a back entrance into the arena, Marshall and Glenn come to her dressing room to console her, and try and convince her she should be at home grieving. Basically, Marshall is worried Jules might have a meltdown on national television. Luckily for him, she has one right then and there, backstage – a rather excellent performance from Hayden Panettiere, who unleashes Juliette’s rage to the point of saying she should be celebrating that her tortured relationship with her junkie mother is over.
Immediately horrified by her words, she breaks down, takes Marshall and Glenn’s advice and bolts to have a touching talk with Jolene’s embalmed corpse at the funeral parlor, where she confesses that she really wanted to win so her mama could see it. “How could you leave me?” she asks. “Now I have no one.” And Juliette does win. The next morning Glenn delivers her the trophy, along with a teary hug.
At the awards, Rayna and Deacon walk right off stage and into a backstage argument, where he confronts her about Maddie’s paternity findings. Infuriated, he storms out of the dressing room, leaving Rayna in tears just as a PA tells her she’s due back on stage to present in 40 seconds.
So, Rayna bolts, calls Teddy and tells him the secret’s out as Maddie is packing her bags and demanding to move in with Teddy. Turns out Rayna didn’t know Maddie was Deacon’s until after she married Teddy, and Coleman encouraged the secret as part of getting Deacon sober, as if it makes a difference.
As for Deacon, well, he bolts and heads to the bar. And, like the character himself, that’s when this episode loses all control.
“Not a country music fan?” the bar tender asks Deacon after he asks him to turn off the still-in-progress CMA broadcast. “Not tonight,” he responds. And that’s when it happens: a long starring contest with a glass of whiskey, followed by a dramatic, multi-angle sequence of shots showing Deacon falling of the wagon with one fell sip. “You know what? I’d like another,” he tells the bartender. And another, and another, until we finally see him wake up drunk the next morning, still at the bar.
Now well on the way to fucking up his life all over again, Deacon drunkenly assaults, or at least tries to assault Teddy on the steps of City Hall, but he’s too hammered to get a good lick in and Teddy (who really does deserve a beating) dresses Deacon down, lambasting him for being the loser that he is. The fun continues when Gunnar – looking for relationship advice – swings by Deacon’s digs only to find him angrily upchucking off his front porch. (Apparently, assaulting the mayor isn’t an arrestable offense in Nashville.) So, Gunnar calls Scarlett, Scarlett calls Coleman and soon Nashville becomes an impromptu episode of Intervention, with Deacon lashing out everyone involved like a drunken lunatic. Finally, we see the Deke’s dormant dark side we’ve been hearing so much about for the last 20 episodes.
Long story short, Deacon hits rock bottom a mere 12 hours after relapsing, Coleman babysits him and he sobers up enough to convince Cole that’s going make a night of going to an AA meeting to pick up his new welcome chip. But does he?
Of course he doesn’t.
He instead brushes his teeth with a bottle of Jack, Ke$ha-style, and heads to the Bluebird, where Juliette is holding a musical memorial service for her dearly departed mom. As Juliette sings her soulfully ruminative “Nothing in This World” for the show’s closing montage, Deacon storms out and Rayna runs after him. They get into his car (she drives) and they start fighting.
Meanwhile, Gunnar has spent the entire episode trying to win back Scarlett – who betrays him by singing with Avery at a local club. Unfortunately, combing his hair and bringing her flowers isn’t enough – “What more do you want?” So, during the montage, we see Gunnar get down on bended knee. That works.
At perhaps the same moment Scarlett’s living out another magical fantasy, Rayna runs a stop sign, swerves to avoid another motorist and loses control of the truck, which we watch flip through the intersection and into a ditch in glorious slow motion.
And if all that’s not enough drama, Teddy gets worse news than the federal indictment he’s likely facing: Peggy’s pregnant.
Last episode: Murder on Music Row