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‘Nashville’ Season 5, Episode 11 Recap: Closure (or Not)

Nashville Season 5 Episode 11
Photo by Mark Levine, courtesy of CMT

In Nashville‘s last episode before its mid-season break, the loss of Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) is still weighing heavy. Her surviving loved ones are trying to figure out what the world looks like without their matriarch, and it’s all pretty devastating to watch.

Season 5’s 11th episode kicks off with Rayna’s family — Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) and Maddie and Daphne Conrad (Lennon and Maisy Stella) — trying to find a little normalcy but dealing with new dilemmas. Their heart-wrenching performance at the CMT Music Awards is earning the eldest Conrad daughter attention from major media outlets, which she ignores … until Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) stops by. Bearing gifts — and wisdom, apparently — Juliette tells Maddie that she absolutely must take advantage of those opportunities if she wants to have a future in music. Shockingly, Deacon is supportive of whatever Maddie wants, which is, ultimately, to head to New York City with Juliette to film interviews with Harry Connick Jr. and The Daily Show.

At the same time, it’s back to business for Highway 65. Rayna’s business manager Bucky (David Alford) meets with the Exes, offering them a spot on a tour with country up-and-comer Margo Price. There’s a catch, of course, and it is that Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) will have to leave behind her grieving family (remember, Deacon is her uncle), in two weeks, to go out on the road. She is, not surprisingly, skeptical.

But Zach Welles (Damien George), the Rayna-obsessed tech exec who invested in Highway 65, is feeling decidedly opportunistic. He tells an obviously emotional Deacon that the label has to capitalize on the outpouring of love following Rayna’s death and release the album that they were working on. Somehow, Deacon manages to not punch Zach in the face, and says that the album will never see the light of day; he isn’t persuaded much when Zach insists that the label owes it to Rayna’s fans, but it’s clear that won’t be the end of the discussion.

And then there’s the issue of finances: Rayna’s label is financially in trouble, and revenue from Rayna’s final album might be the only thing that could keep it afloat. Taking advantage of their budding bromance (or actual romance?), Zach convinces Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) to plead his case to Deacon because the two of them are, as Zach says, “cut from the same cloth.” Considering that Will and Deacon have really only been tangentially connected throughout Nashville‘s run, it feels like a bizarre move … but Deacon agrees to at least consider releasing the album, which is a pretty big step.

In NYC, Maddie is preparing for The Daily Show and is (understandably) freaking out. Juliette manages to calm her down enough to get her onto the stage for the interview, where she is announced as “Maddie Jaymes.” It’s the first time that Maddie has overtly taken on her mother’s stage name, and in spite of her grief, Maddie is extremely poised. After the show wraps, host Trevor Noah convinces Maddie to sing for the crowd. She makes it through “Sanctuary” without breaking up — a gorgeous performance, unsurprisingly (hearing Lennon Stella sing is truly one of Nashville‘s selling points).

Back home, though, Daphne is feeling sad and left out: She can’t stop thinking about her mother, and she’s concerned about why she wasn’t asked to go on TV with Maddie. Scarlett, who lost her mother in a previous season, offers her some good guidance; she’s redeeming herself a bit.

For most of this episode, Deacon sorts out his emotions in a particularly vivid way: by reading the journals left behind by Rayna, and watching video footage of their early years together. For fans who are intimately familiar with the tumultuous nature of Deacon and Rayna’s relationship, the nuggets revealed in these journal entries definitely pull at the heartstrings — especially when Rayna writes about the birth of Maddie, who was fathered by Deacon but raised to believe that Rayna’s ex, Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), was her father. Watching Deacon dig through the closets at Rayna’s house — looking for more journals, more song lyrics, more photos or videos — it’s easy to think that he might be looking to crawl back into the bottle (and, really, who could blame him? After finally getting it together, they didn’t make it too long past the wedding).

All is going well on Maddie’s media tour … until she sits down for her interview with Harry Connick Jr., who is apparently now hosting a daytime television show instead of singing jazzy tunes and acting in Sandra Bullock movies. Now loosened up enough to speak freely, Maddie says that some good opportunities have come for her after her mother’s death, a statement that the media spins negatively. In that moment, Maddie seems pretty opportunistic, but her reaction to the ensuing backlash (read: lots of tears) indicates that it was honestly just a poor choice of words — something that every teenager in the history of time has dealt with at least once.

Unfortunately, because an entire episode of this show can’t pass without Scarlett causing some type of drama, she decides that she’s not ready to leave Deacon, Maddie and Daphne for the Margo Price tour. Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) tries to convince her otherwise, but she’s dead-set on sticking around to help out at least a little while longer.

Left without any more old videos or written words to comfort him, Deacon finally plugs in a flash drive containing the footage documenting the making of his and Rayna’s album. He sees himself with Rayna again and really begins to process his grief: He smiles for a second, and then begins to sob. Deacon finally begins to own his pain, and it’s really heart-wrenching to watch. At the end of the footage, he hears Rayna talk about the importance of the album that she’s working on with her husband … and it all seems to finally click.

As Deacon gets to the end of Rayna’s journals, Bucky, Will and Gunnar show up to try to talk him into finishing Rayna’s album. Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson), who had stopped by earlier to check on Deacon, gives everyone a big dose of reality and tells the assembled group that they have to be supportive instead of demanding — and Scarlett gets a pretty genius idea. Avery, Gunnar and Juliette come back with their guitars, and, while video of Rayna plays in the studio, the Exes record what would have been Deacon’s harmonies. Juliette, Avery, Maddie and Daphne — who have been having a sisterly heart-to-heart — also contribute vocals. They’ve figured out how to finish the album in a way that Rayna would have loved — a way that supports her artists and gets those songs that were so important to her out into the world.

But, of course, the album can’t not include Deacon. He is doubtful that he’ll actually be able to perform the song, but he heads into the studio to sing with Rayna one last time. And, now, it feels like everyone — viewers included — has gotten some closure about Rayna’s death.

This episode wraps up (almost) with Zach listening to the songs that everyone recorded with Rayna’s vocals — and he actually seems happy with the record, which puts that whole controversy to bed. But as everyone’s parting ways, Scarlett stops Gunnar to let him know that she wants to go on the Margo Price tour — oh, and also that she’s pregnant, and isn’t sure if Gunnar’s the father.

Unfortunately, fans are going to have to wait a while for more details about that bombshell. Fortunately, that just means there’ll be plenty to look forward to when Nashville returns.

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NEXT: Watch the 'Nashville' Tributes to Rayna Jaymes

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