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‘Nashville’: What Rayna’s Fate Means for Connie Britton (SPOILERS)

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched “Nashville” Season 5, episode 9, titled “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” which aired on CMT on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Last week’s shocking episode put Rayna (Connie Britton) through the ringer. The country star barely survived a scary attack at knifepoint, but the police got to her just in time to escape her stalker. But moments after she survived, her life was put on the line once again — on her drive home, the car was hit by a truck.

This week’s episode started with Rayna being rushed into the hospital after the car crash. By the time Deacon (Charles Esten) arrives to the hospital, Rayna is conscious and in good spirits. Then she goes into surgery and the procedure goes well. The doctors tell Deacon and their daughters that she’s expected to make a full recovery and be released from the hospital within a few days.

Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) visits Rayna and the ladies have a sweet moment when Rayna tells Juliette that she’s changed for the better. Deacon is playing guitar at Rayna’s bedside, and even brings her meal of choice — a cheeseburger, which she’s been craving in the hospital. But the next time Deacon walks into Rayna’s room, she’s talking to her mom who, of course, has been dead for years. Deacon realizes that Rayna has been hallucinating, but the doctors explain that painkillers are strong and assure him that there’s nothing to worry about.

Daphne (Maisy Stella) decided to stay in the hospital to be close to her mom, so she misses her concert at school. But then her classmates surprise her by bringing the concert to the hospital. While Daphne is performing in Rayna’s hospital room, she starts to crash. The doctors rush her into the ICU and Deacon pleads to her, “Don’t leave me” through his sobbing tears.

Meanwhile, Juliette is in a meeting with her doctor, who turns out to be the same doctor who worked on Rayna the night before when she was rushed into the hospital from the car crash. Juliette’s doctor gives her good news about her leg, but then she is called into an emergency situation for her “trauma patient” — and Juliette puts the pieces together that the patient is Rayna.

Juliette rushes to the ICU where Rayna is hooked up to machinery that’s helping her stay alive. “All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me,” Juliette tells an unconscious Rayna, who’s surrounded by Deacon, Daphne, and Maddie (Lennon Stella). The sisters sing a song to their mom, who momentarily opens her eyes. But then, she blinks and flatlines.

So, what does Rayna’s death mean for “Nashville”… ?

RIP… Rayna is dead. This is not a fake-out TV death.

Connie Britton is officially departing “Nashville.” Sources close to Britton’s camp tell Variety that the actress knew she would leave the show, soon after CMT picked up the series when it was canceled by ABC after four seasons. Knowing at the top of the fifth season that Britton would leave gave the creative team time to craft a proper send-off for Rayna — and Britton.

Meanwhile, the actress has been courting many pilot offers from the major broadcast networks, but has yet to sign onto a new project.

Insiders close to CMT tell Variety that Britton’s character Rayna James will appear in the next two episodes, which will include a funeral and will showcase a series of flashbacks.

Check back Friday morning for an interview with “Nashville” showrunner Marshall Herskovitz — and drop a comment below: Are you shocked that Rayna was killed off? Will you still watch “Nashville” without Connie Britton?

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