The winter finale of ABC's Nashville wasn't exactly full of holiday cheer, but there were plenty of dramatic revelations, reunions, drunkenness… and a long-awaited wedding (although not necessarily the one we were counting on).
The episode opens in Memphis with Luke, Will and Deacon all on stage together performing "Ball and Chain." Deacon can't get away from Luke fast enough, but Luke does offer Deacon his most sincere thanks for his professional attitude, friendly demeanor and for not making things weird for him and his bride-to-be. Actually, that's not at all true. He pretty much just says "thank you," but the smarmy look on his face speaks volumes.
Deacon and Scarlett stay in Memphis, to steer clear of the "Ruke"/"Layna" pre-wedding hoopla, and also to watch the famous ducks at the Peabody Hotel, which for any Memphis tourist runs a close second to Elvis's Jungle Room at Graceland. Scarlett also drags him to a karaoke bar where they sing "That's Alright, Mama." She's doing a bit of avoidance herself, now that she's conflicted (yet again) about her feelings for her ex, Gunnar. Even though Deacon seems to be into the whole karaoke thing (he even busts out an Elvis hip swivel!), his mood darkens and he heads back to the hotel where he eyes the mini-bar. When Scarlett returns, she finds him passed out on the floor, surrounded by a whole lot of broken glass. At the hospital, when he wakes up, he assures Scarlett that he wasn't drinking. The news is much worse, however, as the doctor reveals Deacon has "undiagnosed cirrhosis of the liver with extremely elevated white blood cell count strongly pointing to cancer." (Which makes a potentially astronomical mini-bar bill seem trivial.)
Back in Nashville, Rayna is trying on her wedding dress as her daughters watch. Her sister Tandy returns, and it isn't long before she's questioning whether or not Rayna is happy and whether or not Deacon has moved on. Luke, meanwhile, asks Rayna if they'll have room for Tim and Faith at their table at the wedding reception. While we would, under normal circumstances, say there is always room for Tim and Faith, we agree with Rayna, who assumes their children would be at the table instead. Rayna also has her daughters in mind when she finds out that her tour is being extended. Maddie suggests that she and Daphne go to boarding school while their mom is on the road. Rayna is not happy to learn that the idea has already been talked over with Luke, who, naturally, thinks it's a good one. Rayna wonders what Mayor Teddy thinks about the whole thing, but Maddie tells her they haven't discussed it since he's been "super busy" lately. That's one way to put it. Another way: "Frequenting a high-priced prostitute." She texts Teddy while the happy couple is on another "date," during which Teddy tells his escort that he doesn't think they should see each other anymore. (Perhaps he's running out of $100 bills?) He just needed someone to talk to about his ex-wife getting remarried. She suggests maybe exploring "the girlfriend experience" with her, which could either be some kind of role-playing thing — like "the farmer's daughter and the ranch hand" — or an actual boyfriend-girlfriend/mayor-hooker relationship. Suspecting the latter, Teddy says, "That's just messed up," which is about the wisest thing Teddy has said in a very long time.
Jeff, meanwhile, is trying (badly) to extricate himself from his one-night stand with Layla, but he's got more to worry about when the top artist at his label, Will, becomes the lead story for an online magazine called "StudzTown" (don't bother looking, we checked. Not real). The salacious headline, "Super Hot Country Boys We Wish Were Gay and One Who Just Might Be," is accompanied by a big red arrow pointing to a shirtless photo of Will. Will suggests they should sue, but Jeff's brilliant solution is for Will to "butch it up." We're not sure what that would entail, but the readers of StudzTown would probably really enjoy it. Will suggests to Layla that she go out on the road with him when he returns to Luke's tour, but he quickly realizes she's distracted by a new man in her life — and that man is Jeff. At a party, Will meets a woman who is a freelance writer for a couple of country music websites. She tells him his "What If I Was Willing" is one of her favorite songs, and before long, she's showing him just how willing (and naked) she is.
Layla, meanwhile, is wearing a Santa hat because: A) She's full of the Christmas spirit and feeling charitable or B) She's full of alcohol and feeling naughty rather than nice. The latter is the answer. Will is having no luck convincing her to go on tour with him, and that all she needs to go with her Santa hat is a matching beard. (Readers of StudzTown will probably get that reference.) Layla continues to drink, then — thanks to Jeff — downs a few pills to take the edge off. Since Layla is pretty much all edge, it's going to take a lot of pills, so she swallows a few more. Jeff, who is just doing a bang-up job at managing his artists, tries to break it off with her and convince her there is nothing between them. While Will is busy trying to prove his heterosexuality to the freelance writer (who goads him into it by saying those StudzTown rumors are probably true), Layla spots the couple going at it. She takes off and ends up face down in the swimming pool, and Will pulls her out. Jeff's solution is to make an emergency call, not to 911, but to the mayor, telling him, "We've got a small problem and we need your help handling it." If anyone's a candidate for getting a big lump of coal in their stocking this Christmas, it's Jeff.
Actually, he does have some competition in Pete, the ex-husband of Sadie Stone, who's busy working on new music with her producer, Avery. When her ex shows up at the studio, he continues to assert that one of her songs sounds an awful lot like one they co-wrote when they were married. Avery interrupts them and can tell things are pretty contentious between the two. Pete leaves but tells Sadie it isn't over. Avery and Sadie talk about their romantic relationships, with Sadie admitting she was married at 19 and divorced at 25. Avery tells Sadie he and Juliette are trying to work things out and figure out how they will raise their daughter together. Later, after Sadie and Rayna have some sweet moments together at Rayna's rehearsal dinner, Sadie goes home to find Pete waiting for her on her front porch. She tells him she's "not that scared little girl I was 10 years ago" and won't be bullied, but in one of the episode's more upsetting "OMG" moments, he hauls off and gives Sadie a black eye.
Things at Gunnar's house are far less violent, but they turn from bad to much, much worse when his son Micah's grandparents arrive. The mom and dad of the now-MIA Kylie aren't armed with a slew of Christmas presents, however. Instead, they gift Gunnar with a court order that says they're taking Micah back to Texas. Gunnar goes to a lawyer, who tells him to take a DNA test. After a less-than-pleasant family dinner, during which Kylie's mother reminds Gunnar that the first time she met him he was in the back of a police car with his now-late brother Jason, Gunnar tries to assure her he's "not that confused, mixed-up kid anymore." Eventually, he just kicks them out. Gunnar tells Micah they're a team and he'll take care of him. However, in a twist worthy of a Maury episode, the DNA results prove that Gunnar is not Micah's father. He is, in fact, his uncle, since Kylie cheated on him with his brother. When we last see Gunnar, he is being comforted by Scarlett, who is blubbering just as much as he is.
Back at the wedding rehearsal, Maddie and Daphne sing a song that Maddie wrote with Deacon as a wedding gift for Rayna and Luke. Anyone who remembers how things ended the last time the girls sang when one of their parents got married (Teddy's wife Peggy was shot dead) would probably have advised them against this. Rayna continues to look conflicted and, later, has a sisterly talk with Tandy about how out of control her life at home is with her daughters. The next day, Rayna stuns Luke by telling her she can't marry him. "I can't make you a casualty of my life," she tells him, before driving away toward her new (old) life.
Avery, meanwhile, tells Juliette that their current arrangement isn't working for him and he wants things to change. He then proposes to her, and she says yes. Actually, she says it twice, which makes sense since she's marrying for two. As the episode ends, Avery and a very pregnant Juliette tie the knot.
And now we wait! Nashville returns Wednesday, February 4th, on ABC.