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Nashville Just Made a Game-Changing Move

This is the most shocking twist yet

Liz Raftery

[Warning: This article contains major spoilers about Thursday's episode of Nashville. Read at your own risk!]

RIP Rayna Jaymes, y'all.

Nashvilledid the unthinkable on Thursday's episode and killed off its leading lady, country diva Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) - and in the cruelest of fashions, after lulling fans into a false sense of security. Rayna survived her car crash from last week's episode (after surviving an earlier attack by her stalker) and seemed to be on her way to a full recovery, only to suddenly crash in the hospital, go into organ failure, and draw her last breath in the final moments of the episode.

For those of you wondering whether Rayna will make another miracle recovery and somehow be revived in next week's episode... we hate to break it to you, but it's not gonna happen. Go here to read our Q&A with executive producer Marshall Herskovitz, who explains why Rayna's character had to be written out in this way, and why it's definitely a final exit.

Connie Britton, Charles Esten, Nashville
Jake Giles Netter

But in the meantime, let's recap the highlights of how Rayna headed up to the big stage in the sky:

At first, Rayna's diagnosis seems pretty positive. She has a shattered pelvis and hip from the crash, but no critical injuries and is awake and talking. But as everyone - and we do mean basically everyone in the cast - heads to the hospital to be by her side, there are a few signs along the way that Rayna is not long for this world.

First, Rayna says that's been struck with sudden inspiration to write another song with Deacon (Charles Esten) and is desperate to finish it, but she's struggling to come up with the last part of it in her head. Later, when Rayna sees the ghost of her mother in a vision (red alert! red alert! warning! warning!), her mother, played by guest star Carla Gugino, gently tells her that maybe the song is already finished. Ahem. Maybe the song is already finished. When Rayna tells Deacon about Ghost Mom, he's understandably a little freaked out, but the doctors again assure him that it's probably just Rayna's pain meds talking and all her vital signs look good.

But then the heart-to-hearts begin.

In a twist of fate, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) were planning to head to the hospital the next anyway because Juliette's leg is hurting so badly that she's convinced she has a bone infection. But after hearing about the accident, they rush over and Juliette brings Rayna a care package. Rayna observes how much Juliette has changed since her plane crash and wonders how much the experience of this accident will change her. Well... a lot, unfortunately.

Next up is Scarlett (Clare Bowen), who nearly misses the phone call about Rayna because she's spent nearly 24 hours shagging the British director. When Scarlett goes into Rayna's room, Rayna gives her a feminist speech about choosing her own destiny and not letting a man choose it for her. She also tells Scarlett that just because Gunnar (Sam Palladio) is willing to fight for her, it doesn't mean that he's The One for her.

And finally, Daphne (Maisy Stella). Rayna's youngest daughter, who's forced to skip a concert at her school because of the family emergency, gets a big speech from her mom about the responsibility of sharing her gift (aka her voice) with the world. Rayna, who's likely seen the writing on the wall at this point, also reassures Daphne that Deacon loves her and that they can rely on each other going forward. Daphne's school friend, who clearly has a crush on her, convinces their teacher to bring the concert to the hospital, where Daphne and her classmates gather around Rayna's bed and serenade her. (We're guessing that Daphne may be a little reluctant to share her gift with the world going forward, since it's during this impromptu performance that Rayna codes and gets rushed to the ICU.)

Jake Giles Netter

While Rayna's condition is rapidly declining, Juliette and Avery are meeting with Juliette's doctor, who tells Juliette it's very likely her pain is psychosomatic and also happens to be the same woman who's treating Rayna. Juliette's insistence that she can't bear the pain in her leg another day conveniently puts her in a prime location to say a final goodbye to her onetime rival. She casts her crutches aside and walks down the hall on her own to Rayna's room, where she whispers: "All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me."

But wait. Where's Maddie (Lennon Stella) in all of this? Well, as Rayna is being brought to surgery early on in the episode, Scarlett finds Rayna's eldest child puking in the bathroom, ugly-crying about the fact that this is all her fault - both karmically, because of all the trouble she's caused her mother, and literally, because if Rayna hadn't come with her to see Clay's (Joseph David-Jones) show (after Maddie refused to bring a bodyguard), none of this - the stalker, the car accident - would have happened. She feels especially guilty about her behavior after hearing what an awful mother Clay had growing up. (Sorry, Maddie, but we've all been trying to tell you how awful you are for going on five years now.)

When Rayna comes out of what appears to be a successful surgery, Deacon assures Maddie that everything's going to be fine and tells her to go home for the night, so she does - and, of course, gets stuck in traffic as she's rushing back to the hospital the following morning, so by the time she gets back Rayna is already on a ventilator. Rayna dies surrounded by Daphne, Deacon and Maddie, who are singing to her.

And there you have it, folks. Were you shocked by Rayna's death? What did you think of the episode overall? And how should Nashville move forward without Rayna Jaymes? Sound off in the comments!

Nashville airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CMT. Episodes are available on Hulu the day after broadcast.