It’s the season finale, friends! I don’t blame you if you’re nervous after the harsh blow the midseason finale served us. Let’s find out if the remaining cast members fare any better.
We open the episode on an unlikely pairing: Deacon and Brad, Jessie’s evil ex. As if we didn’t have enough disdain for him already, the dude’s sitting there playing with a fidget spinner. (He’s over the age of 14, so this isn’t okay.) Oh, and he wants to buy Highway 65 if “Zacherberg” leaves. Okay, fine, I’ll give him props for coming up with a good nickname. Deacon is less impressed and tells Brad where he can stick his offer — he’s more polite about it than I would be. Deacon is all class in times of crisis.
Unfortunately, Zach isn’t messing around. Before long, he’s cut the power from the HW65 offices and cleaned out the bank accounts. Luckily, some HW65 assistant we’ve never seen before has the great suggestion to set up shop down at Tracks, the friendly neighborhood recording studio. All of the label’s artists, a.k.a the whole cast, are called in for a meeting at the new offices. Will arrives and informs everyone that he hasn’t been able to get ahold of Zach either and really doesn’t know what’s going on with him.
Then Kacey Musgraves shows up (!), and they all sit around singing, worries temporarily forgotten. Jessie also makes an appearance with food for everyone; she touches Deacon’s arm affectionately, which makes Daphne worry they’ll start “making music” together soon.
Somehow Gunnar (who’s back in town but hasn’t bothered to tell Scarlett — you can imagine she’s thrilled) manages to track down Zach, and Deacon heads off to confront him. Zach shares his little sob story, saying he’s spent all his life trying to be nice but he’s just been pushed too far at this point. Then he gets downright frightening: He warns Deacon that he NEVER loses and tells him now he’s going to watch as Zach holds the label down by the throat until every person involved comes to him begging for air. Deacon just says, “I never realized how small you were.” BOOM. He goes to walks out while Zach accuses him of thinking of the business as a chore and never really caring about it anyway.
Elsewhere, Juliette is dying from heat exhaustion since the A.C. in her home is broken (stars, they’re just like us!), so she naturally calls Avery and lets him know how miserable she is. While Avery tries to calm her down from his faraway tour bus, the flirty roadie from last week seductively eats ice cream and makes eyes at him. Mostly, Juliette is stressed because she has to attend a party for American Music Award nominees alongside Maddie.
Turns out, she had good reason to dread it. At the event, Deacon is suspicious as to why Maddie and Juliette are still not talking. Daphne tries to tell him to leave it alone, but then she somehow ends up telling him the whole ugly truth about Juliette stealing Maddie’s song. Realizing Deacon knows, Juliette tries to run away, but she’s wearing heels and he catches up to her in no time. Boy, is he mad. He tells her they’re supposed to be family. Jules tries to explain it was a horrible mistake, but Deacon is having none of it and tells her that if there’s still a label when the dust settles, she’s off of it. (Recap continues on page 2)
Apparently Zach isn’t the only one who doesn’t like to lose. Brad, still intent on getting his hands on Highway 65, meets with Zach and Alyssa. He tells them that Deacon and Co. set up shop at Tracks and adds that all they’re doing right now is making Deacon a more sympathetic figure. In response, Zach explains that when he starts up a business, he delves deep, learns everything, and obsesses over the competition — which is how he knows that Brad is an impulsive, egotistical narcissist who masquerades as a nice guy.
Oh, but Brad is not stupid. Taking that as encouragement, Brad tells Zach and Alyssa he wants the end of HW65 to benefit both of them. He proposes a multi-platform media company, asking why they should only get half of the tour money. Why not own the tour, the content, and every exploitation of every artist’s brand? Heck, why not own a network? He adds that he thinks they can do better than CMT (a nice little inside joke). In response, both Alyssa and Zach raise their eyebrows like Ooooh, yes, great evil plan.
Back at HW65’s new HQ, they’re dancing and singing to deal with the stress of possibly being jobless. Scarlett’s having a rare old time twirling around when Gunnar comes in. They go for walk, and he tells her he’s ready to talk. He’s over trying to convince her he’s good enough for her, and he doesn’t need her to make him happy anymore. It’s a little harsh, sure, but it’s also a long time coming. Later, he tells her that he’s realized he could never be alone before; he was afraid of it, but he’s going to work on that now. He mentions the girl from back home who helped him come to this realization, and Scar is kinda pissed and tells him he should search his soul on his own some day. It’s an unnecessary dig.
And that’s not the end of it. Backstage at the Bluebird, where they’ve been asked to perform for the venue’s anniversary celebration, Gunnar accuses Scarlett of never trusting anyone. He tells her no one’s ever been good enough for her and accuses her of never letting anyone into her life. She find faults and picks apart people who love her, and it’s about time she realized not everything is his fault. YES! Finally, Gunnar!! If you’d just come to that conclusion four seasons ago, we’d have all been saved a whole lot of pain. Their performance is a just a little fraught when they head out on stage — probably not helped by the fact that Gunnar switches up the song they’re set to perform to more accurately reflect their present anguish. It seems Gunnar’s been listening to that girl on Avery’s tour. Scarlett cries as she sings.
In possibly the weirdest scene in this episode, Deacon encounters Alyssa as he’s heading into the Bluebird. She’s smoking outside and tells Deacon he can still make amends. She tells him he’s living in a fantasy and doesn’t know what’s good for him. Then she laughs at him and KISSES (?!) him. Does anyone understand Alyssa? One minute she’s being kind of sweet trying to help Maddie; the next she’s concocting evil plans to bring down HW65; and then she’s planting one on Deacon? I, for one, am mystified. Her explanation, when Deacon hastily breaks away from her, is that he looks like he needed it. It’s just her way; she sees the pain in people when she shouldn’t. It’s exhausting, really. Poor thing? Ugh. She is the most confused character ever.
Okay, let’s get to the good part: Daphne goes to a pool party. Kidding. Though that does happen, it’s mostly uneventful; Daphne just befriends Jessie’s socially awkward kid and dreads eighth grade some more. Anyway, Juliette and Avery are on the phone again, and Juliette is upset. At least this time she has good reason to be. She’s devastated by what she’s done and thinks there’s some real evil inside of her. Avery still doesn’t know she stole the song and assumes she’s upset about the label. He tells her what Zach and Brad are planning, but when he calls them “two vain, ego-driven jerks,” Juliette gets an idea and grabs her iPad to look up the name of the journalist who wrote the mean stories about Scarlett.
Later, Zach gets a call from said journalist, Mackenzie Rhodes. She wants some quotes from him, telling him she has a story about a billionaire fanboy trying to ruin Rayna Jaymes’ legacy. The she reels off some quotes from “other sources” about how terrible and inefficient he is as a boss. Zach is truly flummoxed and dismayed and threatens to sue Mackenzie if she prints a word of it. But when Mac hangs up the phone, it’s revealed that she already knows she’s not going to print any of this. She’s with Jules, who asked her to make the call to Zach solely to spook him. Mackenzie still wants a story, and J tells her she’ll be happy with the one she’s going to get. (Recap continues on page 3)
Out on the road, Avery is in his hotel room when that annoying groupie girls shows up at his door because she can’t take no for an answer. They’re chatting about him being allowed to make his own decisions in life when an ET report comes on the television: Juliette has withdrawn her American Music Award nomination and admitted to stealing Maddie’s song. All of this was originally reported by Mackenzie Rhodes. Avery is ready to head back to Nashville immediately. Fangirl tries to dissuade him, but he’s adamant and heads out to drive home in the storm. Surely we can’t have another weather-related travel disaster in the season finale?
When Deacon catches up to Zach, Zach is crying. He makes some threats to sue Deacon, complaining that no one has ever treated him this way, then changes tactics and says he feels sorry for Rayna because Deacon was all she had to depend on. Deacon stays calm and asks him if all of his actions over the past few days were just a smoke screen — and if they weren’t, why is he still here? Zach reiterates that he doesn’t lose, but wise old Deacon doesn’t think that’s what this is about. He thinks Zach is lonely. In fact, he’s the loneliest person Deacon has ever met. Zach was happy to be part of a family here, and he doesn’t want that to end. Being the wonderful human being he is, Deacon tells him it still doesn’t have to end; they can forget about the money and truly make HW65 a partnership instead. Zach tries to pretend that’s too ridiculous an offer to accept, but he accepts it nonetheless.
And so the Jaymes girls and Deacon head to L.A. for the AMAs — after a tender, almost-kiss-but-thank-goodness-no-kiss moment between Deacon and Jessie. At the AMAs, there are jokes about song stealing, and we get to hear Maddie’s eerie song once again as she gets up to perform. As she sings, we cut to footage of Zach crying at the boardroom table, Juliette crying at home, and Avery driving through the storm to get to her. Over at Gunnar’s place, Scarlett packs up her stuff; Gunnar has tears in his eyes as she leaves. Thankfully, Avery reaches Jules unscathed and they embrace and are super happy to see one another, which is heartening. Good on Avery for not falling for that floozy on tour.
Back at the award show, Katy Perry wins instead of Maddie, but Maddie’s okay with it and even gives her a congratulatory “Woo!”
We close on Maddie, Daphne, and Deacon taking a drive in California, roof down in a convertible. Deacon asks Maddie how she feels, and she replies that she feels free. They drive off
into the sunset (fine, it the middle of the day), and they’re all content and in a far better place then we saw them half a season ago.
And that’s it for season 5, folks! Nashville‘s already been renewed for season 6, so we’ll pick back up with the gang soon. (Head here to see what showrunner Marshall Herskovitz had to say to EW about the finale.) In the meantime, be wary of eager billionaires and flirty girls on tour — oh, and car wrecks. R.I.P, Ray.
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