Tracie Potochnik has written for sites including Gawker’s Morning After and Television Without Pity, where she recapped “Nashville” for three glorious seasons. In addition to the fearless investigation of the wild places grief can send us below, she has selflessly volunteered to give Deacon Claybourne all the comfort he needs during this dark time.
In last week’s “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (Feb. 23), “Nashville” dropped a big bomb on us. A death bomb. A death bomb that killed the show’s lead character, Rayna Jaymes. Yes, Rayna Jaymes, played by Connie Britton. Yes, THAT Connie Britton, of Tami Taylor and also hair. In one of the most painful hours of TV ever aired (and one certainly of the most painful hours of TV ever aired on CMT, a network that also features a show called “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge”), we went from “…no way” to “noooooooo waaaaaay” to “oh, no way” to “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” to “[heaving sobs].”
If you’re feeling all cried out and in need of some group therapy, look no further. Let us walk together through the stages of grief, and try to find a way in which our hearts can go on.
Spoiler: They probably can’t. But still, we will try. It’s what Rayna would want.
Oh man, “Nashville” has been so great this season! We made it through Peggy’s (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) pork blood miscarriage, and Teddy (Eric Close) falling in love with a prostitute, and Juliette’s mom’s (Sylvia Jefferies) murder-suicide, and Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson) flying backwards off a building, and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) befriending that homeless man (Mykelti Williamson) who fit so neatly and offensively into the magical negro trope, and really just… everything about Maddie’s (Lennon Stella) teen years…
And now we get the sweet reward! Deacon and Rayna are finally together, and they are SO in LOVE! Couldn’t you just watch an entire episode of them looking at each other and smiling and having mature adult conversations and then singing “My Favorite Hurricane”? What a song! That duet album’s going to be so amazing!
…Oh, so wait. This thing with the stalker is weird and disturbing. Oh my God, he’s in her office! But if anyone can handle talking down a stalker and surreptitiously calling 911, it’s Rayna. Phew, thank goodness she’s safe… But probably traumatized, which maybe explains that article about how Connie Britton only signed on for half of this season’s episodes? Because that’s weird, right? But maybe Rayna has to go away for therapy or something, and then when she comes back next season she’ll be SUCH a good singer? And in the meantime, Daphne and Deacon will bond and the whole family will be happier than ever…
But whoa! Car crash! AGAIN? Are you kidding? Not another coma situation, that was so annoying!
Oh, but PHEW. Rayna’s in the hospital, and cracking wise with that same charming sense of humor. She was even like, “Can you BELIEVE this? [wink wink].” Haha, she’s the best. And she’s got a shattered pelvis but her hair still looks fab so everything is fine. Maybe she’ll have off-camera rehab for the next 10 episodes. Cool.
…Aw, look at her and Deacon writing another song. A coda! How perfect. But… Wait. Her dead mom? Oh, but it’s Carla Gugino, Connie Britton’s bestie, so maybe that was just a fun thing for them. Although hmmmmm, what does she mean, “Maybe this song is finished?” What exact metaphorical “song” is she talking about?
…Oh no, and now Deacon’s worried! Ah, but sweet relief, everything’s totally fine. Thank goodness, because could we as a nation collectively handle Rayna Jaymes not being OK? Obviously not. And now Daphne’s whole school choir has come to sing to Rayna? How…
UM? Is Rayna flatlining during Daphne’s frickin’ SOLO?
Hey. HEY. This is NOT HAPPENING! Organ failure? Everybody’s crying so hard, like this is real! But obviously she’s going to be fine, she’s the star of the show and this is just one more dramatic, soapy twist. How many near-death experiences does a protagonist need to have, “Nashville”? How silly. And…
Oh no, don’t tell me that Deacon and the girls are singing The Song. That one makes everyone cry anyway. CMT is really pulling out all the stops. Jesus. But…oh look! She opened her eyes! See, everything’s going to be totally fine, they just… wait…
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING? WHAT THE EFF JUST HAPPENED? RAYNA IS DEAD?!?!? LIKE, ACTUALLY DEAD?!!? Who is responsible for this? Is it the new showrunners? CMT? Powers Boothe, finally extracting his revenge? Or maybe killing both Thelma AND Louise wasn’t enough carnage for Callie Khouri? HOLD THE PHONE, OMG, IT’S DONALD TRUMP. DOES HE HAVE TO RUIN EVERYTHING?!? FINE, TAKE THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT BUT LEAVE OUR STORIES ALONE! [No, don’t take the Affordable Care Act either.]
Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. It’s CONNIE BRITTON!?!??!? Connie Britton just wanted to leave the show, so even though she’s under contract for another season she just LEFT the SHOW? And the producers LET HER? WHY?
Oh, wanted to keep CHALLENGING HERSELF? Well lah-di-dah. Apparently it wasn’t CHALLENGING enough to make us believe that Rayna had good reason to actually choose LUKE WHEELER (Will Chase, we love you) over Deacon for a whole season? Oh, and spare us that whole, “Thanks to the fans Long Live Rayna Jaymes #RIPRayna and plus the show’s in such a good place” bull: That is the most generic insincere tripe since Rayna pretended to like Beverly ( Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) just so she’d give Deacon her liver!
Fine, Connie Britton. Have fun with your new AWESOME JOBS. We’ll just be here HOPING DEACON DOESN’T TOTALLY SELF-DESTRUCT, and watching Daphne (Maisy Stella) deal with lifelong panic attacks anytime she hears a children’s choir. Or Adele. OR Bob Dylan.
And you know what, Connie Britton?
Connie Britton, I am extremely disappointed in you. This is a joke to you. You’ve been through autotune, you’ve been through a lot of autotune, and you go on Stephen Colbert and you joke and you laugh? This is serious to fans. And it should be serious to you!
Do you know that all of America was rooting for you? Do you know that? And you come in and treat this like a JOKE?
BE QUIET, CONNIE BRITTON, BE QUIET! STOP IT! I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE YELLED AT AN ACTRESS (who would probably be my best friend if we knew each other) LIKE THIS! WHEN MY MOTHER YELLS AT ME LIKE THIS IT’S BECAUSE SHE LOVES ME (and because I get “too invested” in “fictional characters”)! I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU! WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU! HOW DARE YOU! LEARN SOMETHING FROM THIS! WHEN YOU GO TO BED AT NIGHT YOU LAY THERE AND YOU TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF! Because nobody’s going to take responsibility for you. You’re rolling your eyes and you act like it’s because you’ve heard it all before — you’ve heard it all before? YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE THE HELL WE COME FROM (middle America probably, but not exclusively so stop stereotyping us!). YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE’VE BEEN THROUGH (seriously, imagine how it felt for us when Deacon fell off the wagon after learning Maddie was his daughter!). BUT WE’RE NOT VICTIMS. We grow from it and we learn. Take responsibility for YOURSELF, Connie Britton. And good riddance!
Oh my God. Connie Britton, I didn’t mean it. I’m so sorry.
I promise I will never speak ill of your singing voice again. It’s really good, I swear. You don’t even need that autotune! It’s like sweet nectar to the ears. You could probably cover Whitney’s cover of “I Will Always Love You,” I would love to hear that! On this show, “Nashville,” in season 6!
And no more complaints about all the Highway 65 storylines being so boring. You deserve to create something wonderful for yourself.
I will also stop asking what happened to Layla Grant, I swear! I mean it’s not like I actually care, I just get on a roll!
And to you, Gods of Television, if you need a sacrifice… No offense but TAKE SCARLETT! In the most gruesome way possible! TAKE GUNNAR TOO! Maybe there’s a new golden-voiced serial killer in town who preys on the annoying? Whatever you want! It seems like a fair trade!
…Okay, fine. If we have to get rid of someone we actually like…take Bucky (David Alford). Just — like we even have to say this — leave your dirty godly mitts off Will Lexington (Chris Carmack). Final offer.
Wait, and now Teddy’s coming back? From JAIL? Just… I can’t. What’s the point of going on? Why love anything, or bother to feel even the slightest tinge of hope in this miserable existence? Everyone will abandon you, even those who are contractually obligated to not abandon you. I’m going back to bed.
…No, wait. Someone please just pry the remote out of my cold hand, turn off the TV, and place a soft blanket over my body. If I must perish, it should be here on the couch, where I am most comfortable — and where Rayna and I have made so many great memories together. [Gently hums “Already Gone.”]
Take me now, cruel world. For I am ready.
Sigh. Yeah, so. Rayna is really dead. And you know what? Connie Britton deserves to live a life that’s good too. If she wants to raise little Yoby in LA, even though Nashville is a great city, that’s her prerogative. Plus, in literally every interview she ever gave since 2012, it was clear she was ambivalent about this show at best.
And she’s given us so much already! Tami Taylor. Faye Resnick. The hair — oh my God, the hair. All that insane eye sex with Deacon in Season 1. It all reminds me we already have more than we should. And, like, the show will probably be… Okay. You know.
Juliette can walk again, and she and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) are on a good path, and even if her newfound religious leanings seem like pandering to the CMT audience, that gospel album is going to be fantastic. And…
Oh wow. So this week’s episode is Rayna’s funeral, huh?
[Begin heaving sobs, return to Stage 1: Denial.]
“Nashville” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.