Part of why Nashville has created such a loyal following, besides the incredible music, is the inexplicable nature of all the main players to “put a foot in it” in country music speak, no matter how good things are going, and to always opt for “getting by” over grappling to get to the root of all the messy matters in life. Season 2’s finale, “On the Other Hand,” finally brought some things to a head, and forced some hard looks at the honest truth, but harder questions are left, and one diva likely has more than a hangover and a diving career with which to contend!
Rayna (Connie Britton) is trying to work a way to wrangle the numbers to allow her single a #1 debut, which is the only thing that she feels can save her Highway 65 label. She is set for a Good Morning America appearance as a push, so things look promising. Maddie has proudly made pictures of their family song together, sung before the troops. Avery (Jonathan Jackson) tries to sing a song to Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) as a gift “better than flowers,” but Juliette is too preoccupied to listen. Avery knows something is wrong, but not exactly what. Will (Chris Carmack) is forcing himself to get through the reality show commitment, but the camera is starting to reveal already that things aren’t so rosy for the newlyweds behind their smiles, especially with Will already having private sessions at the gym with Tony Ward (Cory M. Grant), not to mention the ghosts in the closet that ever-threaten to appear, and collapse his rising star. When he questions whether he should have ever left Rayna’s sheltering sort of label for young artists, Layla (Aubrey Peeples) says, “screw Karma,” continuing to insist that the show will be the perfect boost. Zoey (Chaley Rose) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) make plans for their new home, but when are either of them really going to be there?
Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson) drops in on the reality show to announce that Will is going to have the #1 debut album, and that Sam Boone will be offering gift cards in his stores for the purchase. Rayna gets news that her GMA spot is canceled, and decides that since Jeff is drawing these lines, “he’ll get a war.” She gets Teddy’s (Eric Close) help to secure LP Field for a free concert spectacle, and works to secure big names, too. Still rife with regret, Juliette comes storming in, demanding release from her contract, and that she and Rayna can “part as friends.” Rayna quickly advises, “you’re dangerously close to seeing what I’m big enough to do,” utterly refuting her signee, and telling her she will be part of the show. Deacon (Charles Esten) thanks Avery, Gunnar, and Zoey for being part of a benefit for Heart Fellowship Recovery Center, near and dear to his heart. Avery again sings to Juliette, thinking she’s there. She does indeed show up, quite intoxicated, and Deacon throws her out. Witnessing the upheaval, Rayna realizes she has some reckoning to do with Juliette. She pays her a visit, and ends up holding the hair of her retching “frenemy” over the toilet, and the two come to a familiar consensus that their common goal will be to “kill it” at the show, and rub it right back to Jeff, Rayna reminding Juliette that everyone deserves forgiveness except him! Rayna also counsels that Juliette had better tell Avery about her sleeping with Jeff before he finds out from Jeff himself. Juliette should also be reminded that there are other reasons for finding oneself over a toilet after a one night stand, besides booze! It becomes too late for Juliette to tell the tale, because Avery asks what’s going on from Gunnar, and comes home to confront Juliette, who fesses up to everything, too late. Avery admits he loves her, but “that’s something I’m gonna have to get over,” he tells her as he leaves. Tandy (Judith Hoag) tells Rayna to make a call to Sam Boone, and work her own deal. Deacon, too, says to “do what you have to do to make it fly-kick his ass.” Rayna wistfully comments “I sure wish it was like it used to be.” Will gets a call that his collaboration with Sam Boone is off, and he knows his album is doomed without it. He goes to Gunnar for help, and Gunnar encourages that he is more than “the deal,” and worth more as an artist, but that he has to be honest about who he is.
Flowers from Luke (Will Chase) and Sam Boone fill Rayna’s dressing room, and Juliette makes sure that just leaves with the knowledge that she is not returning to Edgehill. Luke tells Rayna how proud he is of her, and that she has more surprises in store. Rayna speaks a prayer before going on stage, thanking God for her family, for “this man,” for letting her sing, and for “letting me live.” She enters the stadium to chants of her name, and the night is destined to be a success. Rayna and Juliette sing “He Ain’t Gonna Change,” and she and Luke sing a very cozy “Ball and Chain,” after which Luke pops the very unexpected question, presenting Rayna with a seven-carat ring as he drops to one knee, reminding her that he can’t stay there long. Maddie (Lennon Stella) Teddy, and Deacon look on with dread from the stands, but Rayna kneels with an accepting kiss. Maddie is in near tears, her dream of Deacon and her mother marrying again seemingly shattered.
Talk is already buzzing backstage, with the likes of Jess Cagle, playing his inquisitive self. Headlines are sure to be set up for the next day. Avery returns to Juliette, saying he’s not staying, and sadly, admitting that he believes her when she says that she loves him. She admits to herself and to him that any threat of hurt “makes me hurt myself first.” As Scarlett (Clare Bowen) says her goodbyes to favorite friends and places, Zoey gives her a flash drive with a song from Gunnar, “Diamonds.” She goes to him in parting, and he asks to sing it to her. They wind up doing a soft, sensitive duet once more. Gunnar asks her not to go. Will rushes into Layla, taking her to what he thinks is a secluded part of their quarters. He confesses, “I’m gay,” to her speechless and utter shock. What neither of them realize is that it’s all being captured by a camera in the clock. Late that night, Deacon comes to Rayna’s door. He says he cannot congratulate her on her happy future. He admits all his past hurts and failings. He reiterates that now, he is a man ready “for you and me, Ray,” and he places the original ring in her hands, and she is left with the same haunting questions to consider.
Nashville will return for Season 3, and faithful fans are left with lots to mull over through the long, hot summer!