“Nashville” fans got the wedding vision that so many have been yearning for in the spring return of the drama in the March 16 airing of Season 4 Episode 11, “Forever and For Always,” but not without a heaping scoop of dread, doubt, and nearly losing it all. Beyond the sight of Rayna Jaymes and Deacon Claybourne (Connie Britton and Charles Esten) at long last, joined at the altar, the sounds around them were lovely, too, with beautiful versions of songs offered by Lennon and Maisy Stella as Maddie and Daphne, and also from Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen as Gunnar and Scarlett. Some wedding guests truly became sickened by shocking revelations and bearing burdens of lies, but everyone managed to lay temper aside and come to acceptance and peace just long enough to celebrate hard-fought love.
Connie Britton demonstrated her love for her Music City saga and for fulfilling Rayna and Deacon’s dream by literally spending days in the exquisite gown designed especially for her, and the episode opens with Deacon offering his personal vow to his bride that their love will be based upon being best friends and family. Rayna is ready to be a bride, with the nuptials planned to take place on a faraway farm site where her mother had dreamed she would be married. She exuberantly shares “I didn’t want to wait to be your wife!” Switching to the lives of the guests, Avery (Jonathan Jackson) completely shuts down at the thought of even a visit to Juliette, who is reported to be much, much better, according to Emily (Kourtney Hansen). Besides being bruised by Juliette’s erratic behavior swings, Avery is further scarred by being sworn to report false stories as truth pertaining to his absent wife, and he’s paying a price. At the rehearsal dinner, Scarlett, in a sweet brunette shade now, collaborates with Gunnar on one of their earliest songs, that seems perfect for Deacon and Rayna now, and Maddie, with more blonde tresses, sings with her sister on a beautiful serenade of “All We Ever Wanted,” but both sisters are struggling with doubts. Daphne hits an emotional wall, and stops singing midway through the performance.
A nightmare scenario unfolds after the rehearsal dinner, as the paparazzi crush closes in dangerously on the family, and Deacon is particularly rattled over Maddie and Daphne being in the crosshairs. He angrily pushes down a photographer, and orders the car to drive off. With all semblance of privacy gone, the couple realizes that they have to secretly change the site of their sacred exchange. On short notice, the wedding is moved to a “barn” designed just for social occasions. Decoy SUV’s are assigned to allow the couple to make their getaway with the girls, and guests are shuttled via various routes. Maddie is more than distant as she mulls over the events of the night before. Daphne is “sick” in bed, and does not want to be touched by Deacon. Avery is almost at his breaking point as an unpaid press agent, and Will (Chris Carmack) is feeling used and washed up since his open revelation of being gay, and distress with his creative partners. He opts out of being at the wedding. Maddie confronts her mother over her father’s anger issues, with “What if?” questions going wild in her mind. Scarlett is working on her album songs to soothe her breakup instead of feeling festive. Deacon goes into his mode of feeling sorry for himself over failure, and drives away from the venue. Layla (Aubrey Peeples) arrives at the wedding dressed all in black, still in grief over Jeff’s loss, and blaming herself. That will change before evening’s end.
Gunnar keeps trying to pair Scarlett up with a fresh beau as his mission for the night, without much success. One is into taxidermy, and the other, comic book characters– not something that soulful Scarlett can grasp. They end their evening dancing together. Rayna has a deep talk with her daughters, admitting that Deacon has plenty of “demons,” but that his love for both girls, and his family, is deeper than they can realize. Daphne feels that she is the one left with no family, and spurts out that “Aunt Tandy doesn’t want you to marry Deacon, either!” Rayna tells her that she and the girls have been and always will be family, and that it’s Deacon who feels like the outsider. For now, feelings and fences seem to be mended. After a truthful talk about having alcoholic dads, Maddie feels understood enough to be there for her parents. Tandy confronts her sister about her true feelings regarding Deacon, and Rayna says “Go on!” expecting her to walk away, but instead, she summons the stylists, so the day can proceed. A talk with his club owner (Mark Collie) convinces Deacon that “your disease is talkin’,” and he decides to buck up for his big day. Colt Wheeler (Keann Johnson) tells Layla that he saw Juliette with Jeff on the ledge just before his death, and that he tried to help her, and fell himself. The shock of the revelation literally sends Layla to the toilet, being sick. Avery is besieged by Juliette stalkers with questions galore. Maddie is comforted when she finds Colt.
Planners become concerned when Deacon is nowhere to be found, but just as Rayna wonders aloud, “I don’t know what to do,” comes the reply from her groom, “Put on your dress.” Kudos are due to be set design team of “Nashville,” because the light and the ambience of the wedding scene was beautiful and subdued, in completely believable fashion for these two characters. Rayna was under a glow walking down the aisle, and her vows relating how the long journey had made the couple stronger and wiser, “forged by fire,” were very fitting. With a passionate dip of a kiss, the couple’s love was made legal, and Scarlett and Gunnar sang a beautiful version– especially for this episode, of “When the Right One Comes Along.” For their first dance, Deacon and Rayna couldn’t have had a better song than the Buck Owens’ classic, “Together Again.” Real-life music stars, Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and songwriter, Jim Lauderdale were also in attendance.
Layla tracks down Avery, ready for combat with Juliette, not there. That final straw to his stress really strikes suffering– he exits, under a panic attack. Deacon dances with Maddie, making her a promise that he will never be the man he used to be, and that she can always come straight to him with any of her worries, without fear. Time will tell… He then does some stepping out with Daphne. In their own quiet conversation, Tandy promises terror if Deacon turns to his old ways again.
The closing scene of this “Nashville” could be the beginning of a nightmare, as Layla is seen talking to Glenn (David Amatrudo) the next morning, saying that she wants a manager who will really promote her, and her new album, mostly complete. He signs on, saying “I’m your man,” and she adds another fateful request, “and I want Avery Barkley.” It’s a blessing that Hayden Panettiere is feeling strong and restored through her struggle with postpartum depression, thanks to family, friends, and the love for little daughter, Kaya. Her character, Juliette, may be up against the toughest battle of her life with this woman scorned and stricken in Layla. It will be the battle of her life, and episodes to live for upon her return. Let the fireworks flare!