‘Nashville’ Season 5, Episode 21 Recap: Happy (Almost) Endings
With just one week to go until Nashville’s Season 5 finale, the show's fictional country music universe is decidedly calm, especially given that the show is known for packing as much drama into 22 episodes as humanly possible.
Episode 21 opens with Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) getting an invitation to play the Grand Ole Opry. He’s been there before, but only alongside Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), and never as a featured solo artist, and as such, the less-than-confident Deacon isn’t exactly sure whether or not he’s interested in the opportunity -- especially considering all the duties that he’s taken over at Highway 65 since Rayna's death.
Of course, Zach Welles (Cameron Scroggins), the Highway 65 investor who has only gotten more annoying as this season has worn on, continues to push Deacon, both about the Opry and about the future of Highway 65. Even Jessie Caine (Kaitlyn Doubleday), the fledgling songwriter with whom Deacon is working, just won’t let Deacon pass up on an opportunity that is no doubt going to be a boon for his career. Eventually, he decides to do it.
Maddie Jaymes (Lennon Stella), meanwhile, is having a creative crisis of her own: In keeping with Alyssa Greene’s (Rachel Bilson) plans to integrate Maddie’s music into commercials, she’s filming a mascara commercial that will feature her song “Tidal Wave.” Maddie has long been skeptical of the shoot, which she doesn’t exactly think captures who she is as an artist. At a party for the mascara company, Alyssa learns that its head honcho is pushing for an even bigger product placement in the commercial -- and, of course, that’s not something Maddie is going to be happy about.
According to Zach, Maddie had a “meltdown” on the ad's set because the mascara company insisted on changing a lyric in “Tidal Wave” to mention their product (something that would upset pretty much any artist on the planet). Maddie begs Deacon to let her out of the opportunity, but he explains that this kind of thing is just part of being a grown-up. She doesn’t want to be a sellout, but considering the current state of music (fictional or otherwise!), money is the name of the game.
Still, Deacon confronts Zach about the commercial and says that he refuses to push Maddie into doing something she doesn’t want to do. Unfortunately, Alyssa points out that Maddie’s contract -- which Deacon signed -- allows the mascara company to alter the material “as they see fit." Deacon calls Zach a liar, which results in Zach having a meltdown of his own over how “ungrateful” Deacon and Maddie are being, and threatening to pull his support of the label if Maddie doesn’t comply with the contract ... which would, of course, be the end of Highway 65. Yikes.
Meanwhile, Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) is still out on the road and really coming into his own as a performer: He's drawing major crowds and playing alongside Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), who’s working as part of his backing band. Unfortunately, Avery is also getting a little flirty with a roadie out on the tour, which isn’t good considering that Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panetteire) is already feeling insecure about his absence. (The band is consistently greeted with a crowd of screaming women, which is also probably something that Juliette wouldn’t like.) The flirty roadie explains her own open relationship situation and points out that Avery is constantly picking up after Juliette; Avery doesn’t exactly agree with that assessment, but it’s becoming clear that he’s getting a little fed up with Juliette’s neediness.
Back at home, Deacon holds a meeting with Scarlett O'Connor (Clare Bowen), Gunnar, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and Maddie to talk about what’s going on at Highway 65. He tells them about the situation with Maddie’s commercial, and pretty much everyone in the room agrees that Maddie shouldn’t change her lyrics -- but when he tells them that Zach is planning to pull his support, pretty much no one in the room is willing to let her make that sacrifice. Her sister Daphne (Maisy Stella) pipes in and tells them to not be afraid of Zach, and they leave the final decision up to Deacon (because he totally needed another thing to carry on his shoulders).
Juliette, especially, doesn’t agree with that decision, which may have something to do with the fact that she and Maddie aren’t on speaking terms. When she asks Avery his opinion, he tells Juliette that they both need to have their own opinions. Juliette jumps to the conclusion that Avery is having an affair, but, as always, they come back around to their old selves when Juliette admits that she’s been acting difficult. Of course, just after they reconcile, the flirty roadie offers up a “less complicated” situation for Avery.
While Deacon is dealing with the record label drama, Jessie essentially kidnaps him to force him to spend some time out on his own, in nature. After a bunch of stubborn protests, he agrees -- but only after Jessie locks him out of the car -- and spends some time out on the hiking trails (soundtracked by the fantastic Sam Outlaw). As he walks through the trees and contemplates what the hell he’s going to do about Highway 65, Deacon falls asleep by a lake, and when he wakes, Jessie is just a few feet away. As they leave the trail, Jessie gives Deacon some pretty sage advice: He’s got to focus on living his life, because that’s exactly what Rayna would want.
Apparently, Jessie's talk the kick in the pants that Deacon needs. He heads to Highway 65 to meet with Zach and Alyssa to give them his final decision on the Maddie situation, and tells Zach that everyone at the label has decided that they’re done with the branding-focused crap that he and Alyssa have been pushing them to do. Not surprisingly, Zach doesn’t like that answer and reiterates his threat to yank his support for the label. It's, apparently, a fate Deacon is willing to accept.
As he prepares for his Opry performance, Deacon comforts Maddie, who tells him how proud Rayna would have been for him. On the big night, Pam Tillis introduces Deacon, and he gets his first shot to enter the Opry’s vaunted circle. Looking sharp in a vest and crisp white shirt, Deacon takes the stage, pays a little tribute to Rayna and dedicates pretty much his entire set to her. Considering how good Deacon sounds on these songs, don’t be surprised if Nashville's next season brings a new trajectory for him as an artist.
Even Jessie seems pretty enamored by Deacon's performance, which leads to a lengthy hug between the two once the set is over. Daphne notices the moment, too, which means that these two are clearly giving off plenty of chemistry.
And finally, for the first time in what feels like forever, Nashville left fans with a happy ending.
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