I think everyone knew exactly where this episode was going to end up — but it is always a treat seeing Connie Britton and Chip Esten do their thing, because you feel every one of the years that passed between these people and sometimes that kind of depth of chemistry is all you need. Nothing surprising has to happen if watching them talk it out, or just look at each other, is a pleasure.
We pick up right at the end of the last hour, when Rayna came back to Deacon, only to find out he’s dying of cancer. And she smacked him one out of surprise and grief, and then threw herself at him, sobbing. Now, I love these two together, and I actually understand her knee-jerk reaction there, but I also was mildly dismayed to see her doing her usual routine of making this about her. Here she does apologize for the slap, but other than that, the first thing she says is, “I’m not gonna let you leave me.” Which is a very ME ME ME kind of thing to say, when in fact, one might consider, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you — are you in pain, how long has this been going on, tell me everything,” etc. But of course Rayna goes all Needy McMEEEEE about it.
Connie Britton does look completely wrung out and empty, though. The way she clings to him is pretty heartbreaking. Also, from this I glean that Deacon gives good hug. I could get on board with buying my face in that, preferably without the imminent death. DEACON.
What you can’t see here is what’s under the Emo Sweater: SHORTS OVERALLS. OF COURSE. Scarlett and the boys were offered a job touring with Rascall Flatts the night before Rayna went to Deacon, and Rayna is STILL with Deacon, so… I guess they either left the next morning, or are on a magical time-traveling bus, or Deacon’s cabin is like The Lake House from the titular movie and they’re in a different dimension and they’re about to get a letter from themselves in the future that says, “He’s under contract. Relax. Eat more cheese.”
Anyway, they have a Twitter account, which confirms a few things. Not only are they The Triple Exes rather than just The Exes — fine — but:
The Triple Xs? YOU ARE EXES. You are PEOPLE, not LETTERS. What even IS an X-Boyfriend? The star of a comic about mutant former couples?
Eyebrow here is Powers Boothe’s old henchman. Teddy is still running scared from The Law, so he rooted around for the cord and plugged in Powers Boothe’s power booth and Eyebrow agrees to secretly investigate whether anyone is being secretly investigated. SO many layers of Secret Investigation. Let’s get this out of the way, because nobody cares: Yes, Hooker Natasha is being followed; yes, it’s the Feds, so Teddy can’t intervene; no, nobody seems to know if they have anything on Teddy even though he is AWARE the FBI truck was outside when he was hissing at Natasha about their cover stories. Natasha then politely informs him that she will HAPPILY rat on him in exchange for a reduced sentence and/or immunity, and suggests that he COULD pay her six figures to disappear. It doesn’t come out as convenient as all that, but she sure does work him beautifully, because he’s completely prepared to scrape together the cash. Sadly for him, Oliver Hudson won’t kick in anything, because Oliver has already lost everything and doesn’t give a loogie in a windstorm whether Natasha gets caught.
Next, Teddy tries to strong-arm his finance minister into setting up a hurried “discretionary fund,” so he can funnel the money at his discretion to his indiscretion. The guy smells a rat about the phony project Teddy wants to rush through and refuses to jump when Teddy snaps, so Eyebrow then agrees to rattle that dude’s closet for some skeletons. Essentially, Teddy is becoming Powers Boothe. Or maybe Peter Florrick.
Over in May-December country: Oliver Hudson is bruised that Layla didn’t want him to come out and party with him; Layla is wounded that he set her up with an interview with “an influential blogger” with whom he’s clearly done the Grand Ole Orgy. She acts like a high-schooler and he scolds her like he’s her old man grounding the teen brat. It ends with Oliver saying he’d like to try and see if they can love each other, and post-coitus, Layla deciding that love shouldn’t take that much effort and so maybe they should just stick to the manager-client relationship because that’s the part that works. I would argue that the sex part also might be working, since they can’t seem to stop doing it. The FEELINGS are the problem. Just stop having them, y’all! Oliver hasn’t really felt anything in twenty years anyway, right? Isn’t he shriveled up inside? It’s like the Sahara up in there.
Another one we can get through quickly: Will and Kevin write brilliantly together, but Will flinches anytime Kevin touches him in a friendly way, so Kevin EXTREMELY politely extracts himself from that situation. Will realizes he can’t write as well alone, because he’s never truly been in love (isn’t that a bit revisionist, from what we know of his backstory?) and so love songs aren’t coming out authentically from his pen(is). At the end of the episode, he slithers into Kevin’s office and awkwardly says he thinks he needs to work more with Kevin because Kevin might be able to understand what he’s going through; Kevin nods slowly and sees right through him and agrees. Do we think they hook up next week, or the week after?
Deacon and Rayna are having a big fight, though. She keeps insisting they will do this together, and he refuses to agree to that. He says he can’t do this with her, keeps insisting he can’t drag her into his bitter end, and avers that he’s getting what he deserves from a lifetime of throwing it all away. She points out that this is stupid, because they should be together while they can, blah blah blah — basically, Deacon is being super proud, Rayna is refusing to let him be a complete pessimist about his shortened future, and finally Deacon snaps that nothing matters to him anymore because he’s a dead man walking.
So Rayna smashes one of his guitars. Speaking of messy! Thanks, Rayna. She kills that thing and then tells Deacon she’ll ruin the rest of them, too, if nothing matters. He gets huffy and calls her bluff, but she can’t do it (possibly because the guitar he next hands her has like a GIANT metal drum-looking thing in the middle so it’s got to be HEAVY and her arms are probably tired from whacking the first one; there is only so much wanton destruction a person can commit in a day when they haven’t been training for it). And he repeats that he doesn’t care about anything. Not them, not anyone.
“Well, if you were trying to break my heart, you just did,” Rayna softly ME ME MEs. RAYNA. This is not about YOU. Not really. Not everything the dying man does is about you. Maybe, just maybe, this is about how he thinks he needs to deal with this, and so instead of making him apologize to you for hurting your feelings while HIS LIVER IS EXPIRING, tell him you think he’s being a moron and you’ll politely wait for him to unplug his head out of his anus.
Although, here is what I loved about this episode: She stormed out… to the porch, where she stayed. Because she knew this conversation wasn’t over, and she wasn’t going to let it end there. Even though she said the selfish thing, I suspect she knew it would shame him into coming back out and continuing to talk, and so she didn’t leave. She was never going to leave. Not again.
But you guys know where this is going:
Deacon doesn’t want Maddie to be involved in any of this, either, because she’s been desperate to reunite Rayna and Deacon, and “she can’t miss what she never had.” But finally, FINALLY, Rayna essentially points out to Deacon that they are going to miss him terribly anyway. They will always love him and always mourn him, but denying themselves whatever time they have left — and not attacking whatever is coming as a team — will ultimately make the loss that much harder and worse. So instead of being miserable for the foreseeable future, let a little joy in, instead. Deacon looks so grateful that he leaps at her for a kiss, and then their loin heat lights the logs in SEX FIREPLACE. It’s very satisfying, if also weirdly shot — it’s either this far, or, like, TIGHT close-ups of their mouths — and a tiny bit Dynasty.
Scarlett and Gunnar and Avery have adjoining rooms in their hotel, and she arrives to see white roses from Dr. Blankey.
Gunnar is mad crazy jealous, but he can’t wallow in it, because Scarlett gets sucked into Poking The Crazy on Twitter. It seems they are in Chicago, where Scarlett had her mental breakdown on stage, and Twitter would like to remind her of that. After she falls down a wormhole of trying to explain herself and then fend off the ensuing multiplying hordes of mean nutballs, Gunnar and Avery convince her to write a song about it. This takes them approximately nine seconds. I mean, I guess that’s longer than it takes to win at the rodeo, at least.
Before she goes on-stage, Gunnar tells her that he’s proud of her, and that if she gets lost she can just look at him and he’ll bring her home. He gingerly reaches out to touch her wrist, and they stare at each other for a second — Scarlett trying to read the height of his arousal by the height of his hair, and Gunnar wondering what Dr. Gerber is doing to her in the tongue department that is making her hair look so brushed and full. He NEVER had that effect on her.
Scarlett goes out and sings a kicky ditty after acknowledging to the crowd the circumstances of her last performance on that stage, and then sings in a black strapless gown that’s vomiting up some grey tulle at the bottom. EXACTLY the opposite of a mood-lifter. Her head looks cute, but she was wearing a black tutu and metallic halter when she cracked on-stage, and wouldn’t you want to set yourself up this time with something a bit more cheerful? And maybe, I don’t know, ditch the tulle? Treat. Yo. Self. Honestly, wear your creepy overalls with the footless striped thermal tights. It’s INSANE and we would have screamed something about whether she was mucking out the stalls or performing live at an arena, but… at least it’s her?
Anyhoo, Scarlett is great, and then suddenly she’s wearing… a blouse? Maybe a P.A. gave her a wrap when they came off-stage. And who should be there to greet her but Dr. Babyface, who didn’t want to miss her big concert, but has booked himself a room at a different hotel so that Scarlett didn’t feel any sexual pressure and he could change his Pull-Ups in private. Avery notices Gunnar’s flagrantly wounded reaction and orders him to act quickly if he wants Scarlett back — which, by the way, do we think he DOES? Or just that he’s depressed about Micah the Wonderbore and is reaching back to something comfortable and present and right in front of his face? Regardless, Gunnar thinks he wants her..
… and Scarlett appears to be staring at her roses, and then at her co-write with Gunnar. And right as he knocks lightly on the door of her hotel suite, we see Scarlett knocking on Dr. Wee’s. And going inside. For some pack-n-play, and I’m not talking about the portable crib, although it’s possible that’s where they’ll do it because big-boy beds can be really scary if you’re not ready.
The show is also beginning to set up Will and Sadie.
She bumps into him, they discuss her brave coming-out as a domestic abuse survivor, and there is a lot of mutual respect and some backward glances, because I guess they are each the only two warm-blooded people in Nashville. Actually, I tease: I sort of like the idea, not because I enjoy Luke, but because it’s messy. And this show needs to get a little messy sometimes.
She next “accidentally” helps someone bring coffee into Luke’s very studio, and hears him recording a super personal song about how Rayna’s ghost still haunts him. She gets starry-eyed watching him lay himself bare, and after they talk it out a little bit she convinces him to add a female voice to it so that it feels like an experience and less like a stripped-down confessional. After they run through it together, he asks if she’ll do it, but she says no because she’s Rayna’s artist and that would be insane. Well done, Sadie. You are calm. So Luke asks her out for coffee instead…
… and Miss I’m Eating My Chicken-Fried Steak Over Here And Totally Not Eavesdropping Or Tweeting Anything About How Far Apart You’re Sitting doesn’t visibly reach for her smartphone while Sadie and Luke bare their souls about their breakups and how to ever feel whole again…
… and I’m sorry, but even Chicken-Fried Steak took a picture of this one and didn’t care if it was surreptitious or not. You know she hashtagged it “#makeupsex #Highway65ToHeaven #bangbang” and posted it thirty seconds later. In the parking lot, it’s awkward when they part, especially when Luke offers to walk her to the car and she is like, “I think we both know THAT’S a bad idea.”
But it would have been a good idea because guess who’s waiting for Sadie there? And guess what happens when she pulls out her gun, and they tussle as he tries to smack it out of her hand?
Luke drives up just as Pete’s bleeding body drops to the car-park floor. Sadie is trembling. I actually like Luke being the one to help her — I root for Sadie, and attaching Luke to someone who isn’t Rayna might give him a worthwhile reason for remaining on the show and making me like him. The problem is, I doubt SADIE is remaining on the show because I think Laura Benanti either got cast in a pilot or has other shit coming up or both, so they’re not going to be able to keep her as a regular. We also don’t know if Pete is dead, or just mostly dead, but either way he’ll be more trouble to her than the Six-Fingered Man was to Mr. Montoya.
And Juliet wore this onesie while getting calls from Avery every hour on the hour. The summary: She is dismissive initially because she is afraid he thinks she’s needy, and he just actually misses her and sings their baby a semi-okay ditty about how their love is destiny. I love Juliette and Avery. They’ve redeemed him for me and I am glad for every scene he’s in, and I like him a LOT in The Triple Exes — or when he plays with literally anyone else. But — sorry, Jonathan Jackson — every song they give him to sing solo is drippy and I wish they would stop.
Speaking of drippy, that’s what my tear ducts did here:
It’s actually a BIT weird at first because Rayna and Deacon walk in holding hands, calling for Maddie and Daphne. When Maddie catches sight of them, she squeals and is like, “FINALLY,” and poor Daphne stands there for a beat before going in for a hug, too. There is a total story breath there where Maddie is getting the family she wants, with both her parents, but that immediately puts Daphne genetically on the outside looking in — and therefore possibly emotionally as well. The thing is, I don’t know if they MEANT to give her that moment, or if it’s just how the blocking worked out. So we’ll see. But there is joy in Jaymestown for a hot second, until Deacon sits them down and we surrender to Jonathan Jackson’s breathy dripfest of a love song as the montage carries us around to our characters and then finally back here:
Where everyone is crying and hugging. DEACON IS DYING. Sometimes I get sad when shows deny us the gut punch of The Reveal, but honestly, we got to see Rayna find out and that was the most important to me. For the girls, this was enough. There will be plenty of crying when Deacon inevitably takes a turn for the worse, or gets false hope for a hot second, or any number of other indignities before he either dies or survives in a miracle. Maybe he can take Potentially Dead Pete’s liver. Can Sadie check the blood type of what’s on her hands real quick?