‘Nashville’ Season 5, Episode 18 Recap: Moving Forward, If Uneasily
In Episode 18 of the fifth season of Nashville, much of the focus is on the grieving Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), who might just be making inroads in his mourning process following the loss of his wife, Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton).
This episode opens with Deacon getting a phone call from a foster care group that was one of Rayna’s favorite causes, letting him know that Liv, the transient teen befriended by Rayna’s daughter Daphne Conrad (Maisy Stella), has been placed in a foster home. It’s good news, but it seems a little bittersweet: The group has asked Deacon to perform at a benefit dinner, but they’re also looking for him to donate a piece of Rayna’s stage-worn clothing to help raise money for the charity. Not surprisingly, Deacon isn’t exactly sure how he feels about parting with anything belonging to his late wife.
At the same time, the Exes are trying to move forward in the aftermath of the news that Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) isn’t the father of Scarlett O'Connor’s (Clare Bowen) child going viral. At Highway 65, they’re approached by an IKEA-like furniture company that wants to feature the band (and one of their songs) in an upcoming commercial. The idea for the commercial — which will feature the couple putting together a piece of the company’s furniture — turns on the drama in Scarlett and Gunnar’s relationship, and neither is exactly thrilled about that concept.
Things are equally stressful for Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), who is still trying to make her big comeback after surviving that Season 4-ending plane crash. She consults with a famous choreographer, who’s helping her work on moves for her new song, while her husband, Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson), plans to go out on tour for several weeks as an opener for Dierks Bentley. Juliette isn’t exactly sure about Avery’s return to the road, and Avery has conflicting feelings about the tour, too: He doesn't want to leave Juliette and their daughter Cadence behind.
However, Avery ultimately decides to hit the road, and when he checks into his hotel, he meets a flirty bartender who reintroduces him to the temptations of road life. After his show, a drunken Avery runs into the bartender again; she offers to come upstairs to “fix the TV” in his room. Usually painted as the long-suffering good guy, Avery takes a moment to consider his possibilities ...
When the Exes show up to film their commercial for the furniture company, the producers throw a monkey wrench into the plans: Instead of the table that Scarlett and Gunnar thought they would be building, the producers bring out a baby crib. Scarlett bristles at the idea but is ultimately convinced by Gunnar to go ahead with filming. As they film, it almost seems as though the couple might be happy with the idea of building a crib together -- but before the final shot is complete, Scarlett has a breakdown and starts sobbing. They eventually make it through the shoot, but all is definitely not well with the Exes.
Meanwhile, Deacon approaches Daphne and her sister Maddie (Lennon Stella) about the foster care benefit, telling them that the group has asked for something of Rayna’s. The girls are furious and tell Deacon that he can’t give away her things ... until they see the bedazzled, sunflower-emblazoned jacket that he’s picked. Because it is, as they say, “hideous,” they agree to let Deacon put the jacket up for auction ... perhaps because they have bigger things to focus on. Maddie’s still working on trying to get her EP out there, and Daphne has officially attended her first “makeout orgy,” which she just wasn’t quite ready for.
When the benefit finally rolls around, Deacon realizes that he’ll be performing alongside some of country’s heaviest hitters, including Martina McBride and Lady Antebellum. Jessie Caine (Kaitlin Doubleday), the mysterious songwriter recently introduced into the Nashville universe, is also there, which makes the situation a little tense considering that Deacon essentially told her to buzz off in Episode 17. When Jessie gets to her table, she sees that she’s been seated next to Deacon and decides to swap out the placecards before anyone notices.
At the benefit, viewers finally learn more about the mysterious Jessie: Her ex-husband, who has been alluded to in previous episodes, is also at the benefit, and he’s a real jerk. When he touches Jessie, she physically flinches, and then he taunts her about her son. Viewers don’t know much about Jessie’s son just yet, but previous episodes have hinted that she lost custody of the child in a heated divorce ... which was, apparently, more more heated than expected. After seeing Rayna’s jacket auctioned off, Deacon heads outside to collect himself; a few minutes later, Jessie storms outside and starts beating up a trash can. Deacon asks what’s wrong, and Jessie totally spills her guts, telling him that her ex-husband is “slowly killing” their child, who she says has sensory processing issues; she also reveals that her ex had her declared an unfit mother, thanks to testimony from nannies and friends, all of whom are in his employ.
Shortly after this bombshell, Deacon is called inside to perform for the crowd. After consulting with his band, Deacon launches into a cover of Waylon Jennings’ tearjerking classic “Dreaming My Dreams With You.” It’s a curious choice for Deacon, who maybe seems as though he’s just about ready to move on, especially considering the lyrics of that song’s chorus.
“I won’t let it change me / Not if I can,” Deacon sings. “I’d rather believe in love / And give it away as much as I can / To those that I’m fondest of.”
Not surprisingly, there’s not a dry eye in the house by the end of the song.
After considering that invitation from the bartender, Avery gets a phone call from Juliette, who is furious that he’s been out partying instead of calling her back ... and that there’s someone else in his room! While Avery has been performing and drinking, Juliette’s been looking for someone to vent to about her struggles with post-injury dancing. Ever skeptical, she realizes that Avery is acting weird, especially since he’s whispering and calling her from the bathroom. In an effort to soothe Juliette’s worries, Avery heads back into his hotel room -- and reveals that the mysterious person inside is the hotel’s repairman, who is working on the TV. Avery tells Juliette how much he misses her and their daughter.
Episode 18's most dramatic moments come at its end, naturally, and (of course!) involve Scarlett and Gunnar. While they’re driving home from their commercial shoot, Scarlett tells Gunnar to stop at a grocery store because they’re out of milk; as they’re walking back to the car, the couple starts to fight, with Gunnar saying that Scarlett broke down at the shoot because she doesn’t want to raise her child with him.
As Scarlett tries to convince him that he’s wrong, the two are approached by a group of punk kids who want Gunnar to buy them beer; he refuses, but they’re not interested in taking no for an answer. Eventually, the leader of the pint-sized gang whips out a gun and robs Gunnar and Scarlett. Gunnar hands over his wallet, and so does Scarlett, but the tiny little psychopath isn’t satisfied: He shoves Scarlett to the ground and forces Gunnar to drop to his knees before holding the gun directly at his head. Eventually, the kids run off, and Scarlett and Gunnar embrace and sob.
It’s pretty terrible, but perhaps this robbery at gunpoint is finally the push that these two need to figure out their relationship drama.
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