Dreams came true for a few “Nashville” favorites in this week’s 17th episode for Season 4, “Baby Come Home,” on April 27, while others are still struggling and searching to find ways to recapture what they once had. For the first time in a long time, the full cast was back, and the characters were showing some real character, including finding real courage, in the midst of the storms of life. Whether surrendering to passions, or proving parental love, the scenes felt real. The result was a very satisfying ride, and a beautiful revisit to a favorite song, and these last few episodes are cooking up for what could be a very nice treat of a season finale, and even for a better Season 5.
On the good news front, more comfort came to faithful viewers with the knowledge that new show runners, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, have set up a working writing quarters to work on new stories and directions for next season, even though there has been no official word concerning renewal. Consider it a good sign. Things looked good on the surface for a “Southern Living” magazine shoot for Rayna and Deacon (Connie Britton and Charles Esten) as the episode opened, apart from the fact that cozy family shots with Maddie and Daphne (Lennon and Maisy Stella) are possible, and none are promised for the performance in the evening, either. Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) proves that she is back and blazing in her opener performance on Luke’s tour, but while manager, Glenn (Ed Amatrudo) is rocking along, Layla (Aubrey Peeples) is giving the look that could kill toward the stage. Luke (Will Chase) takes a courageous stand in promoting his once scorned, now newly signed-again artist, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) , insisting to his team that it’s “time to climb it,” meaning the mountain of opposition to gay artists in country radio. “Nashville” is to be commended for its daring stance on equality, particularly in light of some legislation happening in Tennessee. Once again, the drama is proving to be bold and groundbreaking. Connie Britton has been eloquent spokesperson on the strength and character of the drama to weather whatever comes against it. Juliette tries to bring Glenn into her effort to win back Avery (Jonathan Jackson), asking that he play “Don’t Put Dirt on My Grave Just Yet” onstage with her. Layla captures Avery in a few passionate kisses while the two are at the mixing console. He insists that they keep their relationship “just professional,” but Layla is no quitter. Just as the photographers leave, Rayna gets served with papers for the emancipation hearings. Daphne asks, “Is she divorcing us?”
Rayna’s lawyer (Paul Schackman) has more bad news, telling Deacon that even though he is Maddie’s biological father, in this matter, he is not considered a parent. The attorney says that he will recommend mediation, but Rayna just wants to have a conversation with her daughter, pouring out mother’s love. Layla tells Avery that he’s “missing somethin’” between the two of them, but too much is spinning for him to make him want to test that proposition. Gunnar and Scarlett (Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen) become trapped in an elevator, and the situation forces them both to hash through hurt feelings. Rayna goes to see Teddy (Eric Close) in prison, asking his support with getting Maddie back home. He says he wants to listen to both sides. A meeting is set up between Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records, which he declines, but Rayna insists that the meeting should happen, not wanting to seem to be the roadblock in her daughter’s future. Will is disheartened when he learns that only five promoters will be at his showcase, but instead of pulling back and going smaller, Luke says it’s the time to “go bigger,” and he means in a national way. When Scarlett starts to go for a big, boozy drink from her purse in the elevator, Gunnar knows something is wrong, and the hurt and betrayal of seeing him leave Autumn’s room come spilling out. He tells her that Autumn did invite him to see James Taylor, and spend the weekend, but that he turned her down. The walls came down, and memories and trust began to flow.
Glenn confronts Juliette, letting her know that he does not appreciate being manipulated between her and Avery. He tells her that the only way she will ever have any hope of getting Avery back is by being completely honest. Luke introduces Will as artist of the hour on “Good Morning America,” giving up his own spotlight, and honestly addressing his previous issues, and letting Will’s talent do the talking, too. Rayna wrestles with Cash (Jessy Schram), dismantling any notion that her actions are out of “caring” for Maddie, but instead, about herself. She makes it clear that she is “promising” to ruin Cash’s career if she continues to drive the wedge between Maddie and her family. Teddy tells his daughter the truth, that her record deal with Edgehill was concocted as part of blackmail over his escapades and infidelity. She is crushed, and says, “all my parents are liars, then” as she leaves. Luke is open about being too concerned about his own image to give Will the respect he deserved from the start, but now, he is out to make amends. Deacon cheers on Daphne, as she prepares for what might be her first solo performance, that she wishes would never happen. Teddy tells Rayna that he will sign the affidavit. Scarlett informs Gunnar that he was unaware of their true first meeting, after a show with an early bluegrass band, when he welcomed her to Nashville. Rayna runs after Maddie in the snowy night, pleading with her to remember that she has a family who has always loved her, and to “listen to your heart” instead of lawyers or Cash. Glenn and Layla go a few rounds over her priority in his schedule, but he eases her fears, with assurance that “everything is coming up Layla” soon. Juliette goes to Avery pronouncing her abiding love, and confirming his own, and with her best declaration that “I am different,” and that can make their future going forward better. He is still not in a place to trust that promise, or Juliette. The scene is beautiful, and raw– a wonderful performance for both stars.
Despite the attorney’s advice, Maddie can’t keep from reading her sister’s texts. She tells Cash, who plays both ends against the middle, as always. Gunnar and Scarlett confess feelings further, and sing the favorite oldie, “If I Didn’t Know Better,” nevermore beautifully. Avery knocks on Layla’s door, and greets her with passionate kisses to go with his assertive entry, while Emily delivers Cadence to Juliette for the night. Scarlett gets kisses of her own, closing her hotel room door, and opening it again, finding Gunnar, and consuming embraces. Maddie and Daphne find harmony again on stage, singing “A Willing Heart,” but those feelings don’t transfer to a homecoming. Just as Rayna caresses her daughters close, gushing that she’s “so happy you’re coming home,” comes Maddie’s retort, “I’m not.” She tells Daphne “We’re still sisters,” and leaves once more. Daphne is left with only bitter sobs. Rayna takes the stage in the turmoil, her own tears welling in her eyes while Maddie walks away.
Now is no time for any “Nashville” fan to make alternate plans on Wednesday nights