It sure made for a pretty song
Juliette hit the mall with her mom, who was fresh out of rehab. When Jolene suggested they throw Deacon a birthday party, Juliette went right into party planning mode. She wouldn't even stop to join her mom's session with addiction counselor Donate. He caught up with Juliette later and urged her to take part in Jolene's recovery - beyond writing the checks. He wondered why she cared more about "her" party than her mom. She just gave him the classic Juliette cold could shoulder.
Rayna called Teddy out for sleeping with Peggy. He hedged that his personal life wasn't her concern anymore, so she told him Maddie overheard him talking to Peggy. She was fine covering for him with the press, but not with their daughters. She also didn't want Peggy around the girls. After Teddy promised to talk to Maddie, Rayna went to fill Tandy in on the divorce. Her sister immediately asked about Deacon. Rayna was anxious to talk to him, but was more focused on protecting and taking care of the girls, for now. Unfortunately, her daughters spotted a gossip rag with a torrid cover story about the divorce, Teddy's affair with Peggy and Rayna's flings with Liam and Deacon. The report was all Nashville could talk about.
Back at home, the sisters tried to explain to Maddie that the papers make up stories to go with the pictures. Rayna promised Maddie the stuff about her and the guys wasn't true. Then Tandy called in a problem solver, who wanted to know if Rayna had slept with Deacon or Liam and hoped there wasn't a sex tape. She also told Rayna to stay away from Deacon and Liam, for the time being. That meant no birthday party. But there was no escaping Nashville locals at the girls' ballet class or the paparazzi, who were camped outside. They screamed questions about Deacon at her as she tried to hustle everyone into the car. After that, Rayna was set on staying in and writing until the story died down, but Lamar showed up and insisted she remain proud. She has nothing to be ashamed of and no reason to hide.
Teddy, meanwhile, was intent on seeing Peggy, in spite of all the attention from the story. At a press conference, he defended Rayna's faithfulness - as well as his own. He asked for privacy during their "very civil" divorce and then he announced Peggy was his new financial consultant for special projects. Later, he and Peggy met up for some of that "special projecting."
After facing the press, Teddy had to face Lamar. He reminded Lamar he'd treated Rayna right for 13 years, but it hadn't been good enough. His personal life was now off limits. The truth was, he wasn't going to let Lamar push him around at work either. He called Coleman in for a meeting. Coleman was staunchly Team Rayna, but Teddy asked his former opponent to be his Deputy Mayor, anyway. Teddy had now seen how Lamar operates and wanted no part of it for himself or Nashville. The guys shook on their new partnership.
Things were still cozy over at Gunnar and Scarlett's place. Jason was even looking for a job. Scarlett suggested that might be easier if he handled his legal problems back in Texas first, but he shrugged that he'd made some enemies in prison and was better off staying put. When Scarlett went into writer's block cleaning mode, Gunnar accidentally uncovered Jason's gun. They were both furious. He lured Jason out to the river and asked him about it. Jason said his past wouldn't forget about him and asked for the gun back. Gunnar threw it in the lake. After things got physical. Jason sneered that his brother owed him for his time in jail, but Gunnar was over feeling guilty. He told Jason to get lost and stormed off.
Juliette showed up at Scarlett's and asked her to get Deacon to the Bluebird for his surprise party. Scarlett explained that Deacon watched "Old Yeller" on his birthday - a fact everyone seemed to know - but there was no stopping Juliette. When Scarlett noted that her uncle would rally to see her perform, Juliette told her she could open for her at the party. Scarlett brought Deacon a cupcake and let him think coming out was his idea.
Deacon handled the surprise better than everyone expected. He walked in to find all the big country players in attendance, with Deacon fans in front of their faces. Even as he tried to walk back out, he was grinning ear to ear. Juliette, for her part, enjoyed the attention and the chance to hobnob with the likes of Watty, Dan Auerbach, Vince Gill, Pam Tillis, Kip Moore and Kate York. And she was blown away when Gunnar and Scarlett took the stage. Everyone was. "They are the real deal," Deacon marveled.
Poor Avery wasn't on the list, so he had to watch through the window. The sap was still fretting about the direction Domino was taking his music and whether he should really be going for that indie hip hop sound. Wise Watty White told him there were no "shoulds" in music.
Rayna, meanwhile, decided to screw playing it safe. She had Watty drive to the party with her and refused to let the paparazzi keep her from going in. She had a song she wanted to play for Deacon. Juliette said she'd try to fit her in. She also laughed that Rayna needed a new publicist.
After Deacon delivered a nice speech, everyone raised his or her glass for a toast - including Jolene. Juliette's mom fell off the wagon, and she fell hard. Juliette took her home and tucked her in, without getting to take the stage. Jolene apologized - not for tonight, but for her ninth birthday. By the time Donate arrived, Jolene had passed out. He asked Juliette about that birthday. Juliette recounted that she'd never had a party before, so her mom had gone all out for her ninth and rented out an ice cream shop. Then she'd blown the money on drugs and cancelled the party. Juliette had stormed off and returned hours later to find her mom passed out with a lit cigarette spilling onto the carpet. She'd considered leaving and letting the house go up in flames. Instead, she'd put out the cigarette, but she told Donate, "The truth is, I wanted her to die." She asked the addiction counselor if he believed he could help them. He did.
Juliette's early exit left the stage open for Rayna. "If there was no Deacon Claybourne, there'd be no Rayna James," she said, before singing her new, sad ballad for him. With Watty, Pam Tillis and Kate York backing her, she crooned, "Pour me something stronger than me." After things quieted down, she and Deacon had a heart to heart. She was sorry she hadn't told him about the divorce, but she'd been trying to keep him from getting pulled into her drama. She was taking care of everyone else, but she wasn't sure how she was holding up in the middle of it all or what she wanted next. "Well, it sure made for a pretty song," Deacon shrugged. She took his hand and told him she wanted to do right by him. He almost looked happy.
In the midst of all the birthday action, the police came for Gunnar. His brother had been beaten to death and he was forced to identify the body. All that guilt came rushing back. He'd kicked Jason out and thrown his brother's only defense into the lake. Scarlett told him it wasn't his fault and held him. Then she kissed him, straddled him and took off his shirt!
Juliette had one more birthday surprise in store for Deacon. She sent her assistant over with a gift. It was "some unconditional love" - in the form of a puppy!
Find the 411 on the music in this episode on ABC's Nashville website.
"Nashville" airs on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.