NASHVILLE Winter Finale Debriefing: “I just wanna make sure it’s my life I’m living,” says everyone

CLARE BOWEN, CHARLES ESTEN

Way to close out 2014 with a bang, Nashville!

In the fall finale, we have a wedding, an overdose, a hookup and a paternity test, but none of them necessarily from the people you’d figure would have them. Talk about a roller coaster!

(Warning: As always, spoilers ahead for this week’s episode.)

The first half of season 3 has been steadily building towards the #Ruke (or #Layna?) wedding, and tonight’s episode is where it all comes to a head. On the eve of their nuptials, Rayna (Connie Britton) and Luke (Will Chase) can think of nothing else, but for entirely different reasons. Luke’s busy wondering where “Tim and Faith” are going to sit at their reception (because he is that connected, you know), while Rayna’s more worried about what impact this will all have on her kids. You see, her backers want to extend her tour another six months, and she flat out refuses at first, because she doesn’t want to be away from her girls for so long. Luke is understanding, and tells her to talk it over with them before making any decisions, which sounds compassionate, but you also know Luke must have some tricks up his sleeve, because he’s always about the bottom line.

Shockingly, Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Daphne (Maisy Stella) are not only fine with Rayna being gone another half year on top of the year she’s already going to be on the road, but they even suggest going to boarding school to her. (I had to laugh when Daphne told her mother to “chase her dreams.” What pre-teen says that to their mother?!) My jaw was on the floor at the thought of a couple of privileged, sheltered teenagers willingly offering to go to boarding school, until they reveal the true inspiration: Luke’s kids both go and love it, and he is the one who brought it up to them when they all went out for dinner a while ago. Besides, he can just fly them out on his private jet whenever they want, so what’s the problem? The problem, obviously, is that Rayna is livid that he’s discussing their education with them without her knowledge, and that her kids are going to get used to a lavish lifestyle even beyond what they already know. While it’s a little unbelievable that the girls’ request came out of nowhere, it all made sense once Maddie said, “Honestly, nobody’s really been around that much.” That’s the whole issue, to me: Rayna, Teddy (Eric Close) and Deacon (Charles Esten) are all so wrapped up in their own drama, that I could see how Maddie and Daphne would even somehow crave the stability that boarding school would offer.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

In any case, Rayna confronts Luke about it, and he laughs it off as no big deal, and Rayna accepts his apology and forgets about it. Luke reassures her that he’s only looking out for the kids, and trying to manage their crazy lives to the best of his abilities. “I told you from the beginning, babe. I don’t want our lives to be that kind of crazy,” says Rayna, but she appears to have had blinders on for the last six months, because she still doesn’t get that they are that kind of crazy now, and that this kind of crazy is what Luke lives for. But Rayna doesn’t, and she keeps warring within herself and with Luke about accepting that kind of circus into her life. Special visitor Tandy (former-regular-now-guest-star Judith Hoag) provides Rayna with a sounding board during this mess, and as always she is the welcome voice of reason. Rayna mentions she wanted a more modern dress, but Luke is traditional so she went with that. Tandy asks her sister if she’s happy, and Rayna’s face betrays her answer. When the rehearsal dinner turns into a red carpet where Rayna doesn’t even know most of her guests, she has a mini-breakdown with Tandy, looking like the most miserable bride-to-be, and you know this is all about to go sideways.

She’s not the only one dealing with marriage woes. Will (Chris Carmack) is back from being on the road, and wants to hang out more with wife Layla (Aubrey Peeples). Lest you think he genuinely wants to be friends with her, it’s all part of his image: Jeff (Oliver Hudson) confronts Will with tabloid rumors about his cabana boy exploits, and commands him to fix this before it’s too late. (In other words, “butch it up.”)  Will deceptively asks Layla to join his tour in Australia in the new year, so that she at least gets some travel out of this whole arrangement. She isn’t very receptive, and is even less so when they head to a party that night and she immediately makes a beeline for Jeff, who she’s been texting for days after their soirée last week. Will puts two and two together, and in turn orders Jeff to fix this mess. Interestingly, Jeff tells Will he only slept with Layla as a favor to him, because she was obviously looking to hook up with someone, and at least with Jeff they know there won’t be any tabloid photos of their rendezvous. (Unlike Will’s proclivities so far.) I wonder if he was telling the truth here — because this would explain his abrupt change of heart last week and would be in line with the Jeff we love to hate — or if he was protecting himself and Layla by lying to Will (which would at least validate their tender moment last week). In any case, it’s all very frustrating to me, because not once does anyone ask what Layla wants or needs, but I suppose that’s the whole point of the story: the entertainment business eats its young, especially when they’re female.

Meanwhile, Will is challenged by a reporter at the party, who puts the moves on him and tries to get him to have sex with her. When he proclaims that he’s married and doesn’t do that, she quickly changes tacks, and instead accuses that the rumors about him are true. To prove they aren’t, he decides to have sex with her, and you know this won’t end well. Indeed it doesn’t: Layla, who is drunk and shattered after Jeff blows her off, walks in on them, and she has a complete breakdown once she leaves. (I had to laugh at Will crying while having sex, though. I know it’s supposed to show how ashamed he is at living this lie, but it was just so cheesy to me.) Jeff handed Layla a bottle of nondescript pills to “take the edge off” after he essentially dumped her, and seeing her gay husband having sex with another woman is enough to send Layla to down them with her drink. See what I mean? Not going to end well at all.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Speaking of unhappy people, Deacon finally has his last tour date with Luke’s tour, and can’t get out of there fast enough. He decides to spend the weekend in Memphis, far away from Nashville and the press coverage of Rayna’s wedding. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) decides to stay with him, which he initially rebuffs, but they eventually have a good time together watching baby ducks. (I’m not even joking about that.) Scarlett will not let Deacon wallow in self-pity, and I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying this new-and-improved version of her. She’s still vulnerable, but at least with Deacon, she takes no prisoners, and is the only person he will even consider listening to when he’s festering. They adorably sing karaoke and paint Memphis red, but when he claims he isn’t feeling well, he leaves the bar to head back to their hotel. Where, of course, there are magazine covers about Rayna’s wedding all over the place, and he eyes the mini-bar. We see him knock it over, but are left to wonder how far he goes. Next thing you know, Scarlett finds him passed out in the middle of the living room, and calls for help. Did he drink himself into a stupor, or overdose on his own pills? We don’t know!

Gunnar (Sam Palladio) is still happily playing Mr. Mom, until Kylie’s parents show up with a court order to take Micah home to Texas, as his legal guardians. Gunnar is flummoxed, but quickly takes action with his lawyer, who advises him to play nice with Micah’s grandparents, because it’ll make everything easier. All he needs to do is to prove paternity to establish his legal rights as Micah’s father, and he does a rush paternity test to get the ball rolling. A tense dinner with the grandparents reveals they still think of Gunnar as the bad boy who ruined their daughter’s life, while Gunnar spits back that he never even got the chance to be a father because Kylie never told him she was pregnant, and they all left town before he knew what was up. He’s grown up, but they think he’s merely showing off. Then things go from bad to worse: his lawyer calls with the test results, and Gunnar Scott, you are not the father. Yikes! To make matters worse, the next day Gunnar shows up on Scarlett’s doorstep and reveals that not only is Micah not his son, but that there were enough similarities in the DNA for the lab to conclude that they were related — which means Micah’s father is actually his dead brother, Jason. So I guess he gets to be Uncle Father Gunnar to Micah, now?

In other news, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) asks Avery (Jonathan Jackson) to move in with her. She claims it’s nothing to do with romance, but it comes down to logistics: they can’t shuttle an infant back and forth between their homes, and if Avery truly does want to be involved in their daughter’s life, the easiest way for all of them is probably for him to move into her guest room for the time being. It makes about as much sense as any of this, right now, but Avery is noticeably rattled over it. He has a heart-to-heart with his mother over the phone — the same mother who trashed Juliette at the CMAs — and she tells him he’s gotta do what’s right for his daughter. He’s conflicted, and heads over to Juliette’s, telling her he can’t do this anymore. Poor Juliette is certain that Avery is leaving her for good, and you can see on her heartbroken face that she’s trying to hold it together to accept it, but he throws her another curveball: he asks her to marry him! She’s shocked, but once she realizes he’s serious, she accepts. Of course they would have to go from barely civil to engaged in five seconds, but I don’t care, I love them together and I’m glad they are finally figuring their mess out. Happy tears, people.

Elsewhere, Sadie (Laura Benanti) is confronted by her ex, who still believes she owes him royalties for her music because he inspired it. He’s creepy as hell, even more so when he shows up at her house demanding his cut, again. When she tells him to get lost, he punches her, and we witness yet another reason why she probably fled to Nashville. On the other hand, Teddy is still busy pining over his escort, and they both agree the “freebie” at the CMAs was a one-time thing. They resume their “professional” relationship, but the morning after, Teddy confesses he’s not looking for the “girlfriend experience” she’s giving him — he’s really looking for a girlfriend. He finally realizes how messed up it is that he’s paying for it, because he’s really just conflicted over his ex-wife getting married and being lonely. I have to admit I was a little surprised at his self-awareness, here, but it’s also about time it happened. I’m sure this can’t be the end to either of these stories.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

With all these balls up in the air, they’re all bound to come crashing down at once. Though Scarlett is initially worried Deacon has fallen off the wagon, his tox screen at the hospital reveals he is clean, but they have bigger fish to fry: he has cirrhosis of the liver, and his white blood cell count indicates he might have cancer. Talk about a double whammy! Deacon is predictably wallowing about that, and Scarlett is about 150% done with his crap, because she just wants to help him get treatment.

Back at the party, Will goes looking for Layla to go home, but is faced with a nightmare: he finds Layla’s lifeless body floating in the pool. We don’t know if she’s still alive, but I’m guessing not given the pills and the water. He asks Jeff to call for help, who in turn immediately calls Teddy to help clean this up, instead of 911. Yeah, these chickens are coming home to roost.

Rayna, meanwhile, does some soul-searching overnight while gazing off-camera, and finally figures out that marrying Luke is a terrible idea for a multitude of reasons. “I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I’ve got to break it, and take responsibility for my life.” Hold the phone — is Rayna actually acknowledging that his is of her own doing?! Luke assumes what she really means is this is about Deacon, and she says it is, but it isn’t. To borrow from breakups past, Rayna is choosing Rayna. (Or so she says.) Luke is heartbroken, but it seems to be more about the bank: he tells her that, “It would have been a hell of a lot easier if we’d gone through with it, and dissolved it after the fact.” That’s what it always come down to — it’s the public fantasy, and Rayna is ruining it. When the first thing you think of when your fiancée dumps you is to worry about what the press will say, it’s probably not true love. Luke yells at Rayna to get off his lawn, and she tearfully takes off in her giant truck. Is she sad that it’s over, or happy that she’s doing this on her own? It’s hard to say.

It’s not all sadness, though. In contrast to Rayna and Luke’s grandiose, impersonal event, Juliette and Avery have a simple courthouse ceremony officiated by a judge. It’s as bare as it can be, but they’re a hell of a lot happier than “Ruke.” This is how it’s supposed to be: while Rayna and Luke were too busy worrying about the superficial details (to compensate for the fact that they were wrong for each other in every way), Juliette and Avery get to the heart of the matter. In jeans and shirts, they say “I do,” and it seems like Rayna could take a page out of her rival’s book about the meaning of marriage. It’s not all going to be roses; in fact, earlier in this episode, Avery told Sadie the reason he and Juliette broke up was because they disagreed on how she handled something, which is the understatement of the century, but Juliette is unapologetically my favorite character on the show, so I’m hoping she’s finally figured her own mess out this time. She isn’t worrying about tour dates or awards or magazine covers — it’s just her and Avery and the baby, and for now, that’s enough.

Well, what a finale! It ties up some storylines, while leaving us hanging for the next half of the season for the new pickles they’ve given us.

Luke likes to pretend he’s an easygoing guy, but we’ve seen that he has a temper barely beneath the surface. Is he going to turn vengeful for the hit he will undoubtedly take for this humiliating turn? I could see this breakup getting really nasty, really quickly.

Rayna seems to have finally realized she needs some alone time to figure out who she is, and what her next priorities are. She jumped from Teddy to Liam to Deacon to Luke without ever taking a break to understand who she is now. I’m wondering if we’re going to see some more growth from her, or if she will immediately go back to Deacon once she finds out he’s ill.

Deacon is heading towards the fight of his life. I would bet money he’s going to begin by saying treatment is pointless because he will die anyway, but then eventually come around when Scarlett and Maddie knock some sense into him. The story makes total sense for him, but part of me does wonder just how much more crap they can pile onto him.

Scarlett has been a revelation to me this season, particularly in the last few episodes. I enjoy how feisty she’s become, while still acknowledging she has her own issues to work on. I really like how she told Deacon that she’s trying to figure out what role she wants to play in the music industry, and how much spotlight she can handle — is she more lead or backup harmony? I know we’re inevitably heading towards a reunion with Gunnar now that Zoey’s gone (?) and Micah is being shipped back to Texas, but I hope some if this spunk stays.

Gunnar: as much as I make fun of him, what a tough situation he’s in. It’s one thing to be told you have a ten year old son, then be forced to raise him on your own overnight; it’s another to be told, after you’ve bonded and become his primary caregiver, that he was never yours to begin with. Then, add to that the fact that a) your high school sweetheart was cheating on you and b) it was with your brother, who is now dead, and you’ve got a heck of a quandary. Even if Micah goes back to his grandparents, he’s still his nephew. That’s a whole lot of conflict to grapple with. He can’t really hate Kylie or cut ties with Micah, because he’s still his flesh and blood. I’m curious about this story for him.

Juliette and Avery have so much on their plate, but I can’t help cheering them on. Yes, they’ve got their own communication issues, but we’ve seen so much growth from Juliette in particular as she’s dealt with this pregnancy that I’m cautiously optimistic that her self-destructive streak is finally over now that she’s got other people to worry about.

Lastly: is Layla dead or alive? Does anyone really care? I kid. But, I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, her character has lacked agency for so long that it’s become frustrating to see everyone around her make decisions for her without giving her a story of her own, so it’d be good riddance. On the other, she was finally starting to become interesting to me, and I kind of wanted to see her wreak havoc in Will and Jeff’s lives, because they deserve it and she’s earned that right. No matter what happens, I hope this blows up in their faces, because how could it not?

So, how did you like the winter finale? Are you excited for the rest of the season? I sure am! The #Ruke wedding was never, meant to be, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be fireworks from this bust.

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: