NASHVILLE 4×03 Debriefing: Parting is such sweet sorrow

Courtesy ABC

Oh, Nashville. You sure know how to yank a girl’s heartstrings.

Bring on the waterworks, folks, because just about everyone on this show is breaking your heart this week.

As I predicted last week, things are not looking up for Bev. The prognosis is Deacon and Scarlett’s worst-case scenario: she has no brain stem function. Should they take her off a ventilator, she’d likely die in a matter of minutes. But “likely” isn’t good enough for Deacon– since Bev came out of her coma once before, he’s convinced she’ll do it again, because she’s a fighter. It’s not his decision, though: Scarlett is her power of attorney, and the decision falls to her.

They decide to perform an apnea test to see if there’s any hope, by gradually taking her off the machines to see if she’s able to breathe on her own. It seals her fate: there’s no change. Her doctors tell Scarlett that she might not be in pain, but she is suffering, and that even if she ever did come out of it, she wouldn’t be the person she was. Scarlett and Deacon are at an impasse: he screams to anyone who will listen that Bev is still alive and deserves every chance she can get, but Scarlett, the more grounded of the two, realizes there’s nothing they can do except let her go and hopefully help other families by donating her organs. It pits them against each other, like we’ve never seen on this show.

Without her uncle for support, Scarlett turns to Caleb, who says all the right things, but maybe not exactly what Scarlett wants or needs to hear. He echoes that he knows he can’t say or do anything to help, and that only she will know when she’s ready to let her mom go. Scarlett’s reaction is strange to me, if only because I’m not sure why she pulls away. Is it because she knows he’s right, and is off to do some soul-searching, or is it because she’s upset at his truth bombs? Either way, she heads off the the hospital chapel, and expresses her grief through music, naturally. That is where Gunnar finds her, and basically tells her the same thing Caleb did, except this time he’s sitting next to her and offers her a shoulder to cry on. He assuages her guilt, reminding her that the reason she’s so heartbroken now is precisely because she loved her mom so much, in spite of all her many faults.

That’s when she decides she’s going to take her mom off life support the following day, and asks Deacon to support her. He’s angry, because he doesn’t want to admit that it’s time to say goodbye, especially since Bev told him she heard him singing to her last time she was in a coma. But Scarlett confirms that there is no hope, and the best thing they can do is to help other families the way Bev helped him, which sends him over the edge. The fateful hour arrives, and Scarlett is devastatingly alone as she takes her mother to the operating room, and says goodbye one last time. It’s raw, and Clare Bowen absolutely nails her performance, as she has for this entire arc. While it’s easy to condemn Deacon for not being able to man up and be by his niece’s side in their shared turmoil (and admittedly, I yelled at my TV screen when he ended up at his old house instead of the hospital), he isn’t just being stubborn. Sitting in Bev’s guest room, he breaks down, and lets out a primal cry that I don’t think I’ve heard from a man on network TV in ages. It’s gut-wrenching, and while it doesn’t excuse his lack of comfort to Scarlett, it does display that he is as destroyed as she is.

Speaking of anguish, Daphne does a fine job of breaking our hearts this week, too. Sure enough, after overhearing her classmates badmouth her family last episode, she’s fighting back, quite literally. In fact, she gets suspended from school for punching another girl, and reveals that her tormentor had been claiming that Teddy was guilty and refusing to let it go, despite his pleas of innocence to the courts and to his daughters. Poor Daphne just believes the best in everyone, especially her dad, and Rayna takes matters into her own hands. Though Teddy has refused to let the girls visit him in prison all this time, not wanting them to see him in this state, Rayna urges him to get his act together, not unlike how she does with Deacon later on, for his children’s sakes. The reunion, unfortunately, doesn’t go well. Maddie broods as usual, and while Daphne is initially ecstatic to see her dad again, when she finally learns that he did commit those crimes, she melts down. As should we, because Maisy Stella is so perfectly crushing in the role.

The girls lose control, by way of ripping up every picture of their father in the house. Rayna walks in, and lays down the law: he is their father, and though he may have made mistakes, nothing will replace the love he’s given to them their entire lives. Maddie pulls the “he’s not my father” card, of course, but Daphne is the one left in the dust; Rayna and Maddie have Deacon, but she’s left to grapple with her dad being in the clink, and destroying her perfect memories of him. (Maybe Rayna should sit down and have a talk with her about what it’s like to have a criminal father.)

However, Rayna absolutely steps up to the plate, and this might just be the most Tammy Taylor-esque delivery Connie Britton has given on Nashville: she brings the girls back to prison for a mediation session of sorts. There, she thanks Teddy for being such a wonderful father to Maddie and Daphne their entire lives, and for holding down the fort for them when she as on tour for all those years, in an admirable show of unity with her ex-husband. Surprisingly, it is Maddie who caves first; she hugs Teddy and tells him she loves him, and Daphne follows suit after, because all she really wants is to have her dad back. However, that’s one thing she can’t have, because Teddy reveals that he’s going to change his plea to guilty, because “actions have consequences.” He proves that deep down, he is not Lamar Wyatt, and is still a good man. This won’t be an easy road, but at least the Conrads still have each other.

Who aren’t so united? Avery and Juliette. He’s still acting as a single parent at Gunnar’s (yet the show still insists on denying me my Three Men and a Baby dream hijinks-of-the-week), while she is continuing her spiral on the road. Luke’s tour is on a break, but instead of going home, she follows him to his Nascar races, and then convinces him to party with her in dive bars. He recognizes the path she’s on, because it’s one he followed himself, to the detriment of his first marriage and half his children’s lives. He urges her to stop and consider her choices, but just when it seems like she might be ready to do that, she instead heads for another day of debauchery. She’s clearly got a problem, but she’s in no condition to stop yet.

Meanwhile, Avery’s reached a breaking point. Sure, it’s fun having his roomies play daddy (not), but now he’s angry that Juliette refuses to speak with him. So he takes a stand, and visits an attorney to begin divorce proceedings. There are clear grounds to claim abandonment, but really, he’s just hurt that it seems their marriage was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Emily, who is still on Juliette’s payroll despite being left behind in Nashville and is now acting as sometime-nanny to Cadence, offers that no matter what her (former?) boss is going through, she really does love and want them. It’s enough to stop Avery from signing the petition altogether, but it remains on the table, waiting for an inevitable discussion.

In other news, Will is still grappling with being the lone gay cowboy in Nashville, or so he believes. He’s reluctant to get back on the music scene, convinced that the industry has deemed him a pariah. Kevin’s (Kyle Dean Massey) songwriter friends disagree with him, and one in particular, Jill (Becky Wahlstrom) believes Will owes it to his fellow gay artists to take a stand, because his current name recognition can reach more people than she ever will in her career. Will doesn’t want to be anyone’s example, but it’s obvious that by the end of the episode, he’s considering whether he does have a responsibility to use his name to speak for those who are voiceless. It’s an interesting dilemma that I hope gets explored further.

All in all, “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” was an unexpectedly gripping hour of TV for me. I don’t often get emotional watching fiction, but I found myself getting misty, particularly over Scarlett and Daphne’s stories. I have to confess that back in season 1, I wasn’t Miss O’Connor’s biggest fan to say the least, but this season she’s managed to demonstrate a maturity and a resolve that is quickly making her rise the ranks of my character-loving heart. Maybe it’s because I know someone who’s recently had to undergo the same heartbreaking dilemma she has, but everything rang true, and once again I have to give Bowen kudos for that. On the other hand, Maisy Stella captured’s Daphne’s confusion and disappointment so earnestly, and as I said last week, I’m thrilled she’s getting a chance to shine on her own. Because let’s face it, those Conrad girls have been to hell and back in the last few years. Lastly, Rayna’s quiet determination is the perfect support system for her entire family, and this is the Rayna I love watching.

How are you guys holding up after this roller coaster of an episode?

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.

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