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If you were looking for drama, Nashville's season five finale, "Reasons to Quit" delivered.
In the opening scene, Jessie's ex-husband, Brad Maitland is seen meeting with Deacon. He informs Deacon he's aware Zach is angry, Highway 65's financial problems are not a secret, and he is interested in buying the label. If fans had to think of who would be an even worse leader of Highway 65 than Zach, well, it would be Brad.
Deacon shuts him down and tells him Highway 65 is not for sale to which Brad replies, "It will be if Zacherberg (like Zuckerberg y'know because he's as rich as the Facebook founder) leaves," and mentions he just wants what's best for Deacon. Deacon questions why he would want that but is interrupted when he receives a call from Jessie. Upon seeing her name on Deacon's caller ID, Brad makes the remark, "She was good wasn't she?", originally implying there was something going on between them but then followed it with, "at the benefit." Tired of the conversation, Deacon walks away.
As Deacon walks down the hall and runs into Jessie, she introduces him to her son, Jake, who is with her. This relationship just seems to be advancing quickly. Deacon then overhears Jake telling Jessie he just wishes he could live with her and Jessie telling him she wants that too but they have to listen to the court. After Jake walks to meet his dad, Deacon offers his condolences by saying "Sorry about that. He seems like a real sweet kid." She replies "I just wish things were different" and Deacon agrees. Does anyone else foresee Deacon totally going off on the ex-husband in the future? He seems to have genuine sympathy for Jessie's custody problems.
Juliette watches Entertainment Tonight cover her and Maddie's feud as she melts away because her A/C is broken. It's kind of weird to see Juliette Barnes experiencing such a normal problem. Avery calls to check on her and she says she's "in the 9th circle of Hell." "Betrayal?" Avery questions, confusing Juliette and causing the literature geek in me to laugh. Avery explains the reference to the ninth circle was from "Dante's Inferno" and Juliette responds "That's an actual thing?", creating one of my favorite pieces of dialogue between them in a while. Juliette explains she's talking about her and his daughter (do any of the rest of you get a warm fuzzy feeling when she refers to Cadence as his daughter? It's just so cute!), dying of heat exhaustion because of "some sort of condensing fan," filling him in on the fact not only is the A/C broken but she also has a pre-award show party to attend with Maddie that she's not looking forward to. Avery is supportive as always.
The power goes out at Highway 65 and Deacon receives a call that Zach has cancelled the electric account and it takes three days to resume service along with a deposit which they can't put down because Zach cleaned out the company bank account and they're about to be overdrawn. How can he do this? Isn't he only part owner? This feels a bit illegal. Deacon heads over there and comes up with the idea to set up temporary shop at Tracks Records, a shop owned by a friend.
At Track Records, Deacon and the girls happen to run into Kacey Musgraves (yes, she played herself which was cool) who had been cutting some new songs and heard what happened with Zach. She says she's going to start a protest, a comment to which Deacon responded "Okay, do it." Totally wish they would have shown that! It would have been a great plot. Jessie brings burgers and milkshakes for everyone at the temporary studio after she said Scarlett called and said they could use some help. Daphne and Maddie sit and sing a song titled "Clockwork" with Kacey to pass the time.
Later on, Daphne and Maddie both sit and enjoy their milkshakes outside of Tracks as they contemplate the future. Daphne questions what Maddie thinks Deacon will do if they do have to shut down (Highway 65). Maddie says she thinks he'll do what he did before. Daphne points out "before he made music with mom." Maddie says, "He'll still make music just not with mom." Daphne asks if Maddie thinks he'll make music with somebody else and Maddie replies she guesses he will eventually. Daphne then questions what Maddie thinks of Jessie and Maddie simply responds she doesn't know yet. Well, fans know and most of them don't want him "making music" with anybody any time soon.
Deacon confronts Zach at the studio and Zach says, "You told me to do what I will so I'm doing what I will." He tells Deacon he tried to be civil and nice and Deacon pushed him too far. At what point was he ever really super nice? Literally all Deacon did was say they didn't want to do branding. That's not the end of the world, dude. Zach tells Deacon he plans to hold the label "down by the throat" until they all come to him begging him for air and that he chose this fight. Deacon looks hurt as he responds, "I never realized how small you are," and turns to leave. Zach then tells Deacon it's funny how he's trying to confront him about a business Deacon himself views as a chore causing Deacon to turn around. Zach also asks him what made him start caring and to please tell him it wasn't the mascara as Deacon walks away for real.
Juliette looks nervous at the pre-award show party as it's the first time she's had to face Maddie since Maddie threw the drink in her face at the last party. Her manager, Glenn, assures her that she deserves to be there and she says it doesn't feel like it. Glenn brushes off the comments and reminds her she's "Juliette Barnes, the comeback artist of the decade," and so what if she borrowed a song, she's the one who made it great and a hit, no one else. Umm, Glenn, Juliette ruthlessly stole the song and nonetheless from her teenage friend who's mom just died and is trying to get her break. We don't think you're taking this seriously enough.
Later on at the party, Juliette and Maddie make uncomfortable eye contact and Juliette waves to her. In response, Maddie walks away, leaving Daphne and Deacon alone. Deacon has no idea what's going on and convinces Daphne to fill him in. Daphne tries to say Maddie will kill her if she tells but spills the beans anyway, telling him Juliette stole Maddie's song. "What song?", Deacon asks and Daphne points up as "Water Rising" plays on the overhead speakers. Man, was that perfect timing to break the news or what? Daphne explains that Travis gave it to Juliette to give to Maddie but Juliette took it for herself and Maddie didn't tell him because she knew he'd be mad. Deacon looks over at Juliette with the devil in his eyes as he responds "You're right."
Juliette tries to run to the elevator but Deacon calls out after her and says she isn't going to out run him in those heels. LOL, Deacon's my favorite. Juliette sighs in defeat as she presses the button but the elevator won't arrive fast enough to save her. Juliette admits she doesn't know why Maddie didn't tell him sooner. Deacon asks how could she (do that to Maddie). Juliette says she doesn't think she could ever explain it to him, let alone herself. Deacon goes off on her saying, "How far do we go back—you and me? Huh? That's my daughter Juliette, who just happens to love you and you do this. We're supposed to be family." Juliette tries to explain it was a horrible mistake and asks what she can do to make it right. Deacon responds, she can't [make it right] and turns to leave to which Juliette begs "c'mon." Deacon spins back around only to inform her he's going to keep battling for Highway 65 but not for her, for everybody else and when the dust settles if there is still a label she's off of it and then leaves as Juliette cries, devastated that her decisions have finally caught up to her.
Brad shows up at Zach's house as if the no he received from Deacon about joining the Highway 65 team didn't matter. Not sure why he even attempted to talk to Deacon in the first place. Alyssa is also at Zach's and is introduced to Brad as Highway 65's chief strategy officer, a title he says "sounds important" but brushes off. Alyssa takes a seat over in the back of the room and she doesn't seem to like him. Finally something we can agree with her on. Brad informs Zach he's heard he turned the lights out on his employees and that's some strategy. He also fills Zach in on the fact Deacon has set up shop at Tracks and he's "running his little label despite being handcuffed by his out of town investor" and says "it's inspiring really." Then as if fans didn't already hate Brad he brings up Rayna and bam he's officially turned himself into a villain by telling Zach, "You have managed to create even more sympathy for the Queen of Country's widower which you know I didn't even think was possible so well done."
Zach then says when he invests in a company he dives deep and learns things about the company and competition and obsesses it over it. Which is surprising since Alyssa doesn't seem to know anything about the company or who she works for since she didn't even know Deacon was a recovering alcoholic and tried to offer him a drink earlier this season. Brad asks Zach what he's found out about him and he replies that he's an "impulsive egotistical narcissist who masquerades as a nice guy." Which, in reality, is also true for Zach. Zach then admits that although that's true, Brad's not stupid. Brad tells him he wants the end of Highway 65 to benefit both of them and proposes a "multi-platform media company" where they "own the tour, own the content, own every exploitation of every artist brand." Alyssa stands up and approaches them, listening and intrigued. Brad even says "Why not own a network? Think we can do better than CMT?" Ugh, Brad, Alyssa and Zach deserve each other. They're all equally money hungry.
Gunnar shows back up from his tour and meets up with Scarlett. Scarlett lets him know they've been asked to sing at The Bluebird's 35th Anniversary show. Gunnar tells her he didn't even know there was a "them anymore." Dude you're in a band together. Did you forget? He then goes on to say he's ready to discuss their relationship and talk, really talk, not just him trying to convince both of them that he's good enough for Scarlett. He says Scarlett said he needed her to make him happy and while that used to be true it's not anymore and he doesn't need her to carry him in this relationship. Wow, this already isn't sounding good.
Daphne attends an end of summer back to school pool party. She's going into eighth grade and it seems like just yesterday she was little bitty. As Daphne stands inside with her friend who's getting ready, she spies on everyone by the pool. She spots Jake Maitland, Jessie's son, off to the corner by himself and her friend replies "Woah, now there's a nut job. How did he get invited? I get such a totes creep vibe from him." Wow, who knew Jessie's son was the social outcast.
Later, Daphne gets jealous when she sees her crush, Flynn, talking to another girl but little does she know he is really asking the other girl where she is. Annoyed, Daphne walks outside to the front of the house to get away from everyone and runs into Jake who's also sitting by himself. They talk for a moment and it seems like we are getting a future preview of another Colt & Maddie situation. Jessie picks both of the children up from the party since Deacon is meeting with a lawyer. They're really pushing her into Daphne's life, aren't they?
Avery calls Juliette and fills her in on how Brad Maitland is in talks with Zach and they are discussing building a company which would lead to the end of Highway 65. Juliette insists there has to be something they can do to which Avery responds, "I don't think there's anything to do at this point. Zach and Brad deserve each other. Two vain ego driven jerks." This comment reminds Juliette about Mackenzie Rhodes. You know, that self-serving magazine reporter who wrote that article about Scarlett earlier this season? Yeah, THAT Mackenzie Rhodes. Juliette hurries and ends the call with Avery and pulls up Scarlett's 33 & 1/3 Magazine article. The camera pans in on Mackenzie Rhodes' name.
Upon hanging up with Juliette, the band girl who has a crush on Avery offers him a drink "for his troubles." However, he shuts that down quickly telling her that, "I'm not going to keep defending my relationship."
Scarlett and Gunnar have a heart to heart where Gunnar admits he has a problem being alone and that even in high school he was constantly in a relationship and that it’s a real problem but he’s “willing to work on it.” He says an old friend helped him realize this when he was in Texas. Scarlett tells him that for his sake she hopes that one day he learns how to search his soul on his own.
Will and Zach get into an argument because of what Zach is doing to everyone at Highway 65. Will even tells him “You’re being a real ass to people that I love”. YES! We're so happy Will’s standing up to Zach on behalf of his friends! Zach asks Will if he really thinks he’d let anything bad happen to him as a result of all of this to which Will responds that they’re his friends. Will leaves angrily and Zach says he’ll call him later but Will replies “Don’t—don’t call me later.”
Deacon runs into Alyssa smoking outside of the Bluebird. She claims she doesn’t “normally do this” to which deacon responds “What is that? Smoke cigarettes or ruin lives.” Oooh, shots fired! Alyssa tries to tell Deacon he can still make peace with Zach but Deacon refuses to cave into all of his demands. They continue back and forth and Alyssa questions why he’s so impossible. Deacon spins back around and suggests maybe because he believes in something, maybe that’s why. Alyssa claims Deacon doesn’t know what’s good for him causing Deacon to angrily ask what’s good for him and demands for her to "please enlighten him." Alyssa bursts into laughs saying, “I can’t—I can’t even say it,” confusing and pissing off Deacon even more. Alyssa then runs up to him, grabs his face and starts kissing him. Deacon pushes her away and questions “What the hell was that? What are you doing?” Now, this scene infuriated Rayna fans because what the hell, Alyssa? Before you, Rayna was the last woman Deacon kissed. It should be his choice who he kisses. Have some respect!
Alyssa’s only defense is that he looked like he needed it and she tells Deacon “I just look at you and I see this poor guy who’s been to hell and back y’know with the label and with Rayna and just everything. It’s just my way,” and that she tends to see the pain in people when she shouldn’t. Deacon ends the argument and simply says “Good luck with Zach,” as he walks inside the Bluebird.
Back inside of the Bluebird, Gunnar is still persistently trying to inform Scarlett he knows he has problems and he’s committed to fixing them. He then says he understands she’ll never truly trust him but accuses her of never truly trusting anybody. Scarlett says she’s not having this conversation here, but Gunnar continues saying “You never completely let anybody in your life. You find faults and pick apart all the people who love you and that’s on you because it’s time you realize not everything is my fault because, I’m done trying. I’m done trying with you, Scarlett.” Did anyone else get the feeling now that Gunnar is “done trying?” Scarlett is going to be super into him again? It feels like that’s how this goes. Upon walking out on stage, Gunnar switches whichever song they were going to sing to a song called "As the Crow Flies" which is basically the story of their relationship and you can see the pain in their eyes as they sing together.
Meanwhile, Zach receives a call from Mackenzie Rhodes with 33 & ⅓ Magazine. Ooh, maybe this is what Juliette had up her sleeve! Mackenzie says she just wants to do a quick fact check on some quotes about Zach's leap into the music industry. When he asks what the story is about, Mackenzie replies, “a story about a billionaire fanboy that destroyed the legacy of Rayna Jaymes.” YES, FINALLY SOMEONE'S CALLING ZACH OUT. Mackenzie goes on to ask him if it’s true that he’s “withholding company funds, cancelling ad campaigns and shutting off the power,” on his own employees? Zach asks who her source is but she simply responds, “I can’t release my sources but I can quote them. He’s an ineffective and temperamental leader. Working for Mr. Welles is like working for a spoiled six-year-old. He’s an outsider we wished would’ve just stayed out.” Zach demands that she’s not printing this and even threatens that when his lawyers are done with her she will never work again. Unfazed, Mackenzie clarifies, “Is that on the record?” What? Does it suck that you’re not in control of this too, Zach?
Upon ending the call, Mackenzie tells Juliette “That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever had to do,” to which Juliette responds, “I tend to bring that out in people.” Ah, so Juliette was behind this! Mackenzie questions the fact she gave her all of this information and she can’t print it but Juliette assures her she’ll be more than happy with the story she can print.
On the road, Avery is faced with a storm advisory and the tour girl who’s been questioning Avery and Juliette’s relationship and flirting with him apologizes. A breaking news alert from Entertainment Tonight then comes on the TV stating “Juliette Barnes has withdrawn herself from her American Music Award Nomination. According to Mackenzie Rhodes with 33 & ⅓ Magazine, Juliette Barnes admitted to recording a song meant for friend and fellow nominee, Maddie Jaymes, the very song nominated in the same category.” Avery immediately tries to call Juliette but there’s no answer so he starts packing. The tour girl says there’s no flights anywhere and it will take him forever to get home by driving but Avery casually responds, “I have to get home.”
Back in Nashville, Deacon finds Daphne desperately searching for her phone. They discuss the party and Daphne questions why Jessie picked her up from the party and asks if she’s “going to be… around.” We all knew it was just a matter of time before the girls started to fear that Deacon’s moving on. Deacon assures her that he’s got her and her sister and that’s all he needs. Awww, sweet dad moments like this are why we love Deacon!
Turns out Daphne accidently left her phone in Jessie’s car and Jessie brings it back to Deacon. They discuss the fact Maddie’s nominated for an American Music Award and hug. Their hug is riddled with tension and both of their expressions change like they’re just realizing there’s feelings between them. As they pull away, they stop centimeters from each other’s face and gaze into each other’s eyes. What’s that noise? That would be the simultaneous gasp of the fandom holding its breath and waiting for Jessie and Deacon’s inevitable kiss. However, that’s not what happens. Jessie simply says, “Take good care of yourself, Deacon” to which Deacon responds “You too, Jess.” Good, enough time has still not passed for Deacon to moving on already from the love of his life for over thirteen years.
Alas, the scene between Zach and Deacon kicks off. Zach is crying in the office and as Deacon walks down the hall Zach says he could sue him. Say what? Deacon questions on what grounds and Zach responds, “No one has ever treated me this way.” Really, treated YOU this way? Do you even realize what you’re doing to everyone else you narcissist? Deacon shoots back that the “feeling’s mutual.” Zach accuses him of talking to the press. However, Deacon maintains his innocence causing Zach to get angrier and tell him, “ I might be an “ineffectual” leader, Deacon but I am not an idiot. Do you think you can run this company without me? Do you think you have the ability to run anything? What is it you call yourself? A side man? That is all you’ll ever be and I feel sorry for Rayna that you’re all she had to depend on.” Ouch, that one stung. Never bring up Rayna in arguments like this! That’s just wrong. Why can’t Deacon kick this guy’s ass?
Instead, Deacon decides to be the bigger man and sits down to talk to him. He tells him that all of this cutting the power and funds and cozying up to Brad is just a smokescreen and that Zach’s the loneliest person he’s ever met and maybe being at Highway 65 is the first time he’s been happy in a long time because he’s part of a family. It seems some of what Deacon is saying is resonating with Zach because he replies, “a family that betrayed me,” while tears fall down his face like the spoiled child he is.
Deacon explains that’s not the case and that they disagreed with him and went along with him until finally he asked for too much, that he hasn’t left because he loves it at Highway 65 and that he has more money than he’ll ever need so why doesn’t he let himself be happy. Zach questions if he’s supposed to set this up as a charity, don’t care about the money and let Deacon do whatever he wants which he’s sure Deacon would love. However, Deacon keeps his cool and explains “No, not a charity. A partnership. Up until now we’ve done everything your way all the way down the line. From here on out, I’m saying, we work together. We make decisions together?” Zach asks if he’s supposed to accept that. What the hell, dude? You’re literally only co-owner. Why wouldn’t you accept this? Deacon calmly responds, “I think you already do.”
Scarlett visits Juliette and tells her that Mackenzie called and told her what she did and how she sacrificed herself. Juliette claims she keeps trying to go back in time and not do what she did but she can’t undo it. Scarlett asks if she thinks she’s made up for it now but Juliette isn’t letting herself off the hook saying, “I don’t think so. I think I’m doomed to make the same mistakes, never able to see them before they happen, just constantly cleaning up the mess. Like some darkness in me that will never go away.” Scarlett tells her not to say that but Juliette insists she thinks it’s true.
Maddie performs "Tidal Wave" at the American Music Awards and Juliette watches her on TV with regret in her eyes. Although Juliette dropped out of the category, Maddie still doesn’t win and the favorite song pop/rock award goes to Katy Perry.
Avery arrives back home and surprises Juliette saying he came back as soon as he heard what she did. Awww, he’s always so happy when she makes things right! Juliette runs and kisses him, giving us one of the cutest Juliette and Avery scenes we’ve seen in forever.
Season five ends with Deacon, Maddie and Daphne driving back to Nashville. Deacon asks Maddie how she feels [after the awards]. She replies, “free.”
Many fans have commented the final line and the fact that they drive off into the sunset feels like a series finale scene but don’t worry, Nashville will be returning January 4 for one final season.