Christmas came to Nashville, Hollywood style but it didn’t make anyone but Luke happy. There’s so much we can say about this episode but only one thing that we must say: Rayna and Deacon are over and it’s actually the only thing that will bring them back together.
“Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle all the way…” no, ha? Well, I tried.
There’s a lot to say about Nashville’s Christmas episode. We can talk about Juliette, or as I love to call her – the comic gift that keeps on giving, and her ability to complicate so much a simple task as stalking on your ex. C’mon girl, haven’t you heard of social media? That’s what it’s for!!! We can also talk about the cuteness of her and Avery. He think she’s cute, she thinks he’s adorable…oh god, kiss already!
We can talk about Zoey’s departure and about Scarlett who finally found her place on stage. Yes, ZAG were great and being in a band with your two ex-boyfriends may not be the brightest idea on the planet but still, SAG (or whatever their name is) were all kinds of wonderful and in Nashville standards, this was actually not that complicated.
We can also talk about Layla getting into bed with
the Grinch Jeff Fordham although I’m not sure I have anything to say about it since I got temporarily blind while watching.
We can talk about all the above and so much more.
But we won’t or at least I won’t, for now.
I’ll leave the in-depth discussion and analysis for ‘Nashville Winter Finale’ and to the very special ‘Nashville Forever: Fans Write on Nashville’ project that will be launched here tomorrow, and for now will focus solely on the Christmas-Rolling Stone drama of Rayna and Deacon since it’s pretty obvious lots is about to happen in that department during the winter finale with the wedding coming up and Deacon collapsing (NO!!!!!!!) and since, well…it’s time!
1. It’s cold outside and even colder inside:
Guess that I have to start with a small confession. I’m not a fan of Christmas episodes in general. Usually, the level of saccharine there is so high that it press on my gag reflex. Also, it’s usually pretty predictable.
Thankfully, Nashville and I seems to be on the same page on this because what they did was use all the elements of your typical Christmas episode, exaggerated it and turned it into a setting that only emphasized what was missing – truth, family and real love or at least a very different kind of love.
These elements, far more than your usual mistletoe kiss, a winter carol, decorations and presents are what Christmas is all about (or so I’ve heard). That’s why the two most important conversations between Rayna and Deacon, who are each other’s truth-tellers, took place outside this setting – one in Rayna’s hallway and the other in front of Deacon’s house underneath his modest set of holiday lights.
That’s also why the most powerful shot of the episode (and possibly one of the most powerful ones of the entire series) was the closing one of Rayna standing alone in the middle of her now Hollywood style movie set living room that she can’t even recognize. While there’s a lot going on around her, she remains standing, isolated.
She doesn’t belong there.
This shot also made it pretty clear that she and Luke see things very different from one another. He was talking to the crew and seemed to be having fun from “another day in the office” but Rayna was lonely. Very lonely and not a bit happy.
This shot is a manifestation of the price she’s paying for linking her life to Luke and turning herself into a global brand as well – a loss of authenticity, family and deep connections wrapped up in a picture perfect setting.
Where will Rayna go from here? It was a powerful realization and I believe that one more selfie will be the last straw. It’s not about Deacon or even Luke. It’s about Rayna, who she is and the fact that being so lonely on Christmas is just too much.
2. Sometimes an “equal” partner is the last thing you need
Rayna is not a victim of her situation. She chose to set her ambition free and by that did all the right moves to promote her album and her label. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be on top or for being on top. The problem is that it came with a heavy price in her personal life. We can say that Luke’s paying the same price, but the difference is he’s accepting it as part of the bargain and she’s struggling.
True, she’s not new to the business and already had a long successful career but she always had people who balanced her out and helped her keep that price much lower. Back then she lived in a world where she could put out an album and go on tour without constantly self-promoting herself as a persona, she had Teddy who made sure she has a stable home and a family to come back to and she had Deacon.
The price she did pay for her normality was feeling she’s alone with her professional aspirations because she had unequal partners career wise. Deacon, to his own testimony “blew up every chance he had for a solo career” and settled for being her guitar player. Teddy was never in the music business but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he was always weak.
Rayna saw in Luke a possibility for a different life. A life of equal partners where she doesn’t have to restrain her aspirations or belittle herself for the sake of anyone. She saw a situation where she doesn’t have to be the sole breadwinner in the household (hence her reaction to Luke’s prenuptial agreement. Who does he think he is, treating her as anything less than equal when she was the provider for years?) and saw possibility of being with a secure, stable and independent man.
Sounds perfect, right?
Well, too bad it’s Luke but also, too bad that by making things right for her and finally “fulfilling her dreams” she got exactly the opposite. That’s because, as Rayna sang herself “sometimes it all goes wrong for the right reasons” and sometimes you find out that what you thought that was holding you back is actually the thing that gives you inner strength and balance but admitting it is hard and acting upon it is even harder. It’s especially hard when that “happy better” place is also not so perfect – it’s also a source of pain and misery.
Nevertheless, one valuable lesson Rayna is learning now is that EQUALITY doesn’t always mean JUSTICE and FAIRNESS. For her, seeing Luke as equal was actually selling herself short. What Rayna needs is not a guy that wants to split everything into half but someone that knows how to simply share. That’s not the same thing.
Here, in this episode Luke was relatively calm and was willing to “share” but it was only because they did what he wanted- the Christmas special, despite the fact they’re about to embark on a tour and miss Christmas. That’s not really sharing. That’s more on the line of: YOU GOT YOUR CMA AND NOW I GET MY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. Equal but not fair!
3. The last of the last talks
The conversation Deacon and Rayna had in front of his house is, what we call ‘the last talk”.
Anyone who has ever had the displeasure of a serious breakup knows that the concept of ‘ending’ and ‘the last talk’ is quite fluid and that more often than not there are several “last talks” and this process can take days, weeks, months and even years.
When does it finally end? I asked a friend of mine that keeps going back and forth with his ex for several years now and he simply replied: Does it end? For him, every time those emotions float and the right opportunity comes along it’s a good time to start again. He, in fact, was a bit surprised when I didn’t share the sentiment and asked, “but don’t you get tired at some point and simply decide one –sided that enough is enough”? His reply was no, because we, as people constantly evolve and there’s always a chance for a different ending.
Deacon and Rayna have been engaged in a series of last talks for a decade and a half. Deacon, is like my friend that believes that as long as there are feelings than it’s always on the table and Rayna is more like me, I guess. Someone that doesn’t think love has anything to do with this decision and it’s a matter of endurance and an ability to leave the past behind and have enough faith in a brighter future.
Deacon and Rayna are extreme examples of these two approaches and maybe it has to do with the fact that their back story includes an extreme past.
Deacon is a nostalgic. His addiction took away from him so much and he has trouble accepting the fact that you can’t turn back the clock. So he’s clinging to what he used to love and cherish and have a hard time letting go. Deacon IS three chords and the truth and he’s a man of habits. It’s like when he chose to record his record on a vinyl. He just loves the sound of it and stuck by this belief until accidentally the world become full circle and it became cool again. Deacon is not in sync with time of passing fashions. He’s a classic.
Rayna is different. She’s a woman on a journey so for her the past is a memory and something to learn from but not the present. She’s always eyeing into the future and for her this endless cycle of waking up the past and ‘what was will be again’ is tiresome. It takes away from her too much. For Rayna, going back to the past is not an opportunity to fix things but a missed opportunity of the present. Rayna is very present in everything she does and she’s loyal and committed but it’s only until she knows that she exhausted all the options. Then she’s out and she rarely looks back.
The depth of the feelings between Rayna and Deacon and the fact they share a daughter and are connected on the professional and artistic level plus the fact that it’s a relationship that’s been going on for so many years makes it very difficult for Rayna to do what she normally does and cut ties. She can’t do it and for her it’s pure torture. He keeps getting back for more and she must keep an arm’s length from him to be able to do it and every little change or shift can have quite dramatic implications on them.
We can even see it in the difference of their songs. Deacon sing “One thought of you and I’m right back home” or “keeps coming back and the place that I land is the palm of your hand”. Rayna, however, sings about “long, long road to independence” “I thought I would die without you but I came alive without you” and when she is being “nostalgic” and dig deep it’s not this romantic ideal scenery like in Deacon songs but “Pour me something stronger, pour me something dark. Pour it up so high that I can’t feel my heart…”
When Rayna came to Deacon’s house to talk about that Rolling Stone article and ‘make it right’ they had yet another last talk. Any survivor of these talks knows that there’s a vast difference between the first, second and the tenth (not to mention the one million one like in Rayna and Deacon’s case). After a while the conversations become shorter and shorter and far less dramatic. That’s exactly the talk Rayna and Deacon had; the clear logical one where even the deepest declarations of love are said as mere facts and no more and the decision to end this (for good, hopefully) doesn’t even lead to a big heartbreak. It hurts, but less than before. It’s just another fact one learns to live with and accept. Or in other words, when you get this far “it is what it is” and there’s just nothing more to say.
So all these emotional conversations from season 1? They were a series of last talks after years of avoidance. Eventually the feelings took over and they got back together but it crashed and for them to go back there is pure hell.
If we look at the track record of Rayna and Deacon’s last talks (meaning, every other episode since the beginning of season 1) we see that very little has changed. Deacon doesn’t let go of the past, and cling to Rayna and the status quo. Every little shift unsettle him and sends him to one of his escape mechanism to some degree although he’s really getting better at it.
Rayna is also repeating the same tune: I’m moving on and you should too because I am not going back and I don’t want to hold you back.
HOW MANY TIMES CAN ONE COUPLE HAVE THE SAME CONVERSATION WITHOUT LOSING THEIR MIND AND CONTAMINATING THEIR RELATIONSHIP???
Well, Rayna and Deacon show us exactly how long – approximately 15 years.
4. So now what?
Now, they can finally start something new. Deacon had one hell of an odyssey last season that at the end of it he learned how to love right himself and others. Rayna now went through a journey that made her live in a “sliding doors” life. She tried out what she thought she has missed out with Deacon and also with Teddy but found out that the price is a lot higher than she thought and maybe there are things from her past she won’t repeat but there’s also no need to throw everything away.
Now, when each reached full circle with their past they can give it a proper burial and start building something real and solid. Not a love based solely on memories but one based on the here and now as well…on life.
They say that if you hold a bird in your hand you must set her free. If it doesn’t return, it was never yours but if it does, it’s yours for eternity. Deacon must learn to trust that love enough to set Rayna free and Rayna must trust her heart to hear it humming and calling her to come back. Only freedom can do it. Not ball and chains.
So Rayna, put on your wedding dress for show, but it’s not going to happen because you won’t let it happen since basically EVERYTHING Luke does from now on will be the last straw. And Deacon? Take that guitar out of the old case, now without Rayna’s picture on it, sing your three chords and the truth and things will be fine. Eventually.
Just guys, seriously, enough with the drama! I’m not writing this again!!
Nashville Winter Finale will air this Wednesday, December 10 10/9c on ABC. Watch and find out what really happens. Got a feeling it won’t be boring 🙂