Nashville Season Finale Recap: Ball and Chain?

Nashville Season 2 Finale RecapThis post contains spoilers from Wednesday’s season finale of Nashville. If you haven’t watched, flee!

Yes yes, y’all – that‘s how you end a season of Nashville.

No car crashes, no fake pregnancies, none of that business that sent last year’s finale flipping end-over-end-outta-control like Deacon’s SUV – just the characters we love doing what we hope/fear they’d do, and a summer over which we can obsessively mull the consequences.

If you were like me, you watched Luke get down on one knee in this week’s promo and grumbled, “Way to spike the cliffhanger, ABC.” But they totally didn’t! In fact, what takes place after that big question is likely to put the delta in your dawn.

Plus, Rayna and Juliette share scenes that are pure perfection (why does it take so much to get the two of them in the same room and talking on this level?), Scarlett makes a big decision (which Gunnar possibly undoes with a couple of chords) and Will’s unraveling clicks into warp speed. Read on for the highlights of “On the Other Hand.”

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THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM | Rayna’s just wrapped an album-launch strategy session at home with Tandy and Bucky – upshot: a performance on Good Morning America is the solution to all of their problems — when Deacon and Maddie enter, all buddy-buddy. Maddie gives them both a framed picture of their group performance at the military base but quickly turns sour when both of her bioparents agree that she’s still too young to be a Highway 65 artist. As she stomps off, a newly arrived Luke wonders, “Who fluffed her neck feathers?” (Side note: Totally stealing that.)

Over at Juliette’s, Ju wakes up to find Avery writing her a song, but she can’t hear the whole thing yet, because he wants the token of his love to be a surprise. They’re very snuggly for a minute or two before Jeff Fordham calls. Avery lets the call go to voicemail, noting how often the Edgehill exec has been dogging him lately. Juliette wonders if her man is considering a deal with the turtle devil. “I’m not gonna get into bed with Jeff Fordham,” Avery scoffs. Juliette just looks like she wants to pull her wool socks up all the way over her head and disappear, but she smiles and tries to act normal.

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SEE YA, SCAR | This is the point where the hour starts to get deliciously complicated, so let’s get Scarlett outta the way first. Deacon’s niece has decided that she’s going to go back to school at Ole Miss. (Side note: Did she not finish? Are we talking grad school? If you caught a piece of dialogue I missed, log it in the comments.) When Scarlett and Zoey hang out one last time, Zoey gives her a flash drive containing “It Ain’t Yours to Throw Away,” the song Gunnar wrote about/for her when she was in the hospital. She doesn’t hear it, though, until she stops by the Bluebird to bid him farewell, and he asks if he can serenade her. So he sings, and she cries and harmonizes, and it’s quite pretty. After the last chord is played, Gunnar looks his ex straight in her china-doll face and declares, “I really don’t think you should go.”

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THIS MEANS WAR | Later on, Juliette takes her own call from Jeff. She lies that she’s already told Avery everything and he’s cool with it, but Fordham knows better: He instructs her to get herself fired from Highway 65 and return to Edgehill, or he’ll spill all. (That’s the short version; I filtered out a lot of the smarm. You’re welcome.)

And because Jeff is such a miserable multitasker, he also manages to get GMA to bump Rayna for Will. What? Bucky’s pretty sure the morning show only agreed to postpone a big name (Rayna) for an unknown (Will) because Jeff also promised the morning show that they could have Luke Wheeler at some point, too – a fact that gets Rayna mighty hot. “He wants a war, he’ll get a war,” she vows.

Before you can say “calling in a favor,” Teddy has helped Rayna secure a 70,000-seat stadium for an album-launch concert that’ll feature Ray, Juliette and – in a big, cowboy-hatted middle finger to Jeff – Luke. Hopes are high again until Ms. Barnes arrives and announces that she wants out of her H65 contract. A confused Rayna, brushing away the reasoning that she’s “not big enough to service an artist” like Juliette, informs the younger woman that she is decidedly not fired. “You don’t get this now, but you are seriously ruining my life!” Juliette yells as she departs. Upstairs, Maddie thinks, “Hey, that’s my line!”

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IN THE TOILET | Deacon holds a benefit concert for a halfway house that helped him get and stay sober, and Rayna – sitting next to Luke in the audience – seems touched by Deke’s heartfelt speech about how great his life is now. It seems like everyone is there for the show… except Juliette, who misses Avery dedicating to her “One Light Shining,” the song he was writing earlier. Oh wait! As the ZAG band (Zoey, Avery, Gunnar of course) performs it, Ju stumbles around backstage, far too drunk for the heels she’s sporting. “He wrote it for meeeeee!” she protests as Deacon grabs her and squires her away before anyone can capture the soused mess and post it on YouTube.

Rayna, who watches the entire thing happen from her seat, beelines it to Juliette’s place after the show. What the heck is wrong with the younger woman, Ray wonders? “I schhhlepttt with Jeff Fordham,” Juliette slurs (heh) before zigzagging down the hallway to offer a sacrifice to the porcelain god. Rayna is a good Doo-Bee, holding Ju’s hair (there is a lot of it) and listening as the terminal screw-up cries and laments that she doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. “C’mon now, everybody deserves to be forgiven. Not Jeff, Jeff Doesn’t. But everyone else does,” Rayna replies.

This scene is Nashville at its best: It’s funny and touching, it advances the story and it has its two amazingly talented leads do something other than roll their eyes at each other. Rayna’s pep talk to her labelmate is sweet without making it seem like everything will be fine, and Juliette taken down a peg (aka puking on her own hair) is something I’ll never tire of seeing. Nice work, ladies.

So Juliette gets cleaned up and prepares to come clean to Avery… except Gunnar and Zoey already told him. “Tell me it isn’t true,” he says as he arrives at her place to find her red-eyed. “It meant nothing,” she replies, which isn’t exactly what he asked for, Ju. Her repeated cries that “it meant nothing” just make everything worse. “Does it ever mean anything with you?” he asks. “To you, love is 50,000 fans worshipping you every night.” Jonathan Jackson shuts down the scene (in a good way) as he leaves, informing his sobbing girlfriend, “You have no idea how much I love you. That’s something I’ll have to get over.”

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VERY PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION | At the Highway 65 concert the next day, Juliette shows up in Rayna’s dressing room with a really lovely sidebraid and the determination to play the show even though her heart is crushed. “I’m gonna have your back like you had mine,” she says. Aww.

Jeff swings by to gloat, but wait one sec there, oh Turtleish one. Juliette divulges that Avery now knows all, making his blackmail moot – “Thanks for the worst minute-and-a-half of my life” (ha!) – and Rayna has gotten her pal Sam Boone to give away 250,000 downloads of her album instead of Will’s, guaranteeing a huge launch. Not sure what I love more: the ladies’ high five, or Rayna’s face as Jeff walks out the door.

Now all that’s left is to play the show, and I’m sure nothing eventful will happen there – wait a tick, what’s Luke doing? After he and Rayna perform “Ball and Chain” to close the concert, Mr. Wheeler announces to the crowd that he truly loves his lady and wants to be her ball and chain. Any points he loses for the cheesiness of that proposal, by the way, are more than made up for by the size of the ring; I bet they can see that rock from the cheap seats. Cut to Teddy, Maddie and Deacon looking like someone fluffed their neck feathers (nailed it!) as Rayna happily says yes.

Here’s my one small beef with the finale: After everything she’s been through in the past few years, and given that Rayna seems to love Luke but also be really okay with him being away for long periods of time, doesn’t her breezy acceptance of his proposal in front of 70,000 fans seem a little too easy? (If I’m wrong, yell at me in the comments.)

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE | Avery later returns to Juliette’s in a less angry, though no more forgiving, mood. “See, my problem is that I believe you when you say you love me,” he says, which starts me them both crying. Juliette once more takes us on a sad traipse through her terrible upbringing, calling herself “trailer trash covered in rhinestones” and highlighting her tendency for self-sabotage. “I know I need help,” she whispers. “But please don’t make me be alone again.” But are they broken up? Together? We’ll have to wait for next season to find out.

Meanwhile, Deacon has made his way to Rayna’s, where he’s aware that something’s changed: “Me. I know how to love you now.” While the redhead looks completely kerfuffled and Rayna-Deacon ‘shippers start doing victory laps around their living rooms, he moves in close and lays a hand alongside her cheek. “You and me, right? That’s how it’s supposed to be,” he says, all low and sultry-like, before moving in for a kiss that she resists for .00000003 nanoseconds before returning with gusto.

He presses a ring into her palm – the same one he forgot-proposed with during a bender all those years ago – and tells her “Don’t answer me now. This is yours. I never should’ve taken it back.” Deacon Claybourne has failed at a lot of things, ladies and gentlemen, but making a striking exit definitely isn’t one of them.

LAYLA LEARNS | While all of this is going on, Will is in New York to promote his new album. Everything’s coming along well – he even FaceTimes with hot trainer Tony about their upcoming “private session” – but Mr. Lexington is thrown into a tailspin when Jeff calls to tell him about the Sam Boon debacle. Without those guaranteed downloads, the album could very well flop, a reality that sends him in a panic to Gunnar’s new place. Will is crying, shaken up and a complete mess as he laments that everything he’s done will mean nothing if he loses his record deal.

I’m going to say something I rarely say, so pay attention: Gunnar is a calm voice of reason and does the exact right thing as he draws his pal extremely close (kiss! kidding.) and says, “You’re livin’ a lie, and I am the only person you can be yourself with. That’s not enough.” So Will returns home, where he drags Layla into the bedroom and comes apart in spectacular fashion as he confesses that he’s gay.

Nice job, once again, by Chris Carmack, who really looks as though he’s in physical pain as he clings to Will’s aghast wife. And if the scene isn’t troubling enough, the camera pans up to show us a (very poorly concealed) hidden camera in the bedroom’s clock, and it’s recording. Those crafty reality-show producers!

Now it’s your turn. Log your vote for what choice Rayna should make, then grade the episode via the poll below and back up your selection in the comments!