After five seasons, Connie Britton has officially left Nashville.
The shocking turn of events kicked off at the tail end of the Feb. 16 episode when her country superstar character, Rayna Jaymes, was involved in a car accident. Tonight’s episode, titled “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” opened with Rayna being wheeled into the hospital where a doctor later assured her husband, Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), “She’s resting comfortably.”
Rayna’s daughters, Maddie and Daphne (Lennon and Maisy Stella), then arrived at the hospital as their mother headed into a four-hour surgery and it seemed like business as usual with everyone planning for the future: Rayna discussed logistics for her upcoming album and Deacon suggested Daphne go get some rest because she had a concert the next day. A doctor later said that Rayna’s surgery went well and told Deacon she could “go home in a few days.”
But that was far from the case as Rayna suddenly went into organ failure and died surrounded by her husband and daughters as they sang her into the great beyond.
Needless to say, fans are freaking out — especially since Britton assured them she was “in for the duration” this past January after it was rumored she had only signed on for 10 of this season’s planned 22 episodes.
Britton talked to The Hollywood Reporter about her decision to leave, saying, “There were a lot of different factors that played into it; it was a cumulative thing. … what was most important to me was that we really do justice and honor the character and all of these characters and the world that we’ve been living in for these last five years.”
After the episode aired, Britton wrote to Nashville fans on her Instagram: “You made Rayna. You supported her and loved her and gave her inspiration just as she was able to inspire you. you were the energy source, the power behind her heart and soul and life. Rayna lived for you.”
Nashville, which ABC canceled in May 2016 after four seasons, found a second life when CMT picked up the show following a very vocal Save Our Show campaign from viewers. “I have seen in so many ways in my life the power that a unified voice can have,” Britton said on Ellen in January about the fan reaction. “The fans were just not going to have it.”