To mark the return of the ABC country-music drama Nashville (Sept. 25), we asked series creator Callie Khouri—who’s also the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind Thelma and Louise—to select her five favorite moments from the show’s first season…but it turns out that’s easier said than done. “That was one of the hardest things so far!” says Khouri.
(MORE: A Second Look at Nashville)
Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that some of Khouri’s favorite moments are ones that viewers might not even remember. One that didn’t make the final cut, for example, was a scene in which Avery goes to Deacon’s house and finds him cleaning the gutters. “It was fantastic, but it’s not a moment that stands out in any way,” says Khouri. “It was just a moment of nailing the characters so perfectly.”
Still, despite how hard the task turned out to be, Khouri managed to narrow down her list, and to provide her—spoiler-filled!—reasons why these five moments exemplify the best of Nashville so far:
Episode 1: Scarlett & Gunnar singing “If I Didn’t Know Better”
“This list is not in order but I would have to say that’s the top moment for me. It was such an incredible surprise to everyone. It was just the last thing you expected, to see this girl where you were going ‘Who’s this?’—and then all of the sudden to hear this thing come out of her,” says Khouri of the moment that established the role music would play on the show.
Episode 7: Rayna & Juliette writing together for the first time
Why not choose Rayna and Juliette’s actual performance (a clip of which is below)? “You kind of expect that two great performers are going to be able to perform well,” says Khouri. “I just thought that watching the two of them have to work through all of their differences, to sit there together, that is the most intimate situation and it’s one that you just never really expected to see them in.”
Episode 12: The Elevator Kiss
Rayna and Deacon’s steamy kiss in an elevator was Khouri’s own idea: “I was just sitting there thinking that if I were Deacon this is what I would want to do. I wouldn’t want to talk. I wouldn’t want to have another conversation. This is how I would be feeling. Finally I just said it out loud, and everybody was like yeah, let’s do that!“
Episode 21: Deacon falling off the wagon
“All year long we hear about how Deacon is a drunk, Deacon’s so bad, he was terrible, and then you finally get to see it,” says Khouri. “I think just being with somebody in that very moment and watching him make the decision, there was something about it. It was like watching somebody fall down a rabbit hole.” (Note: Khouri’s pick for this scene focuses on the part with Deacon drinking in the bar, a high-quality clip of which is not available.)
Episode 16: The Stella Sisters singing “Ho Hey”
“I still can’t watch that without crying,” says Khouri, who still has the Stella sisters’ audition tape for Nashville. The casting directors had been looking for young kids with lots of experience who hadn’t been trained to act in the style Khouri associates with the Disney Channel, and that was hard enough without looking for kids who could sing.
In fact, it wasn’t until Lennon and Maisy Stella auditioned that the singing even occurred to Khouri. “Maisy came in and she just had it. Just jokingly we were like, ‘You don’t have a sister do you?’ And the casting director said, ‘You know, she and her sister have performed at the Bluebird [Cafe, in Nashville].’ They go get Lennon and her guitar and it was like, you’ve gotta be kidding me. And you know, I’m human, I wept,” Khouri recalls. “I just went, ‘Of course, we have to have kids who can sing and it has to be Deacon’s daughter that can play the guitar.’”
And what about Season 2? Khouri is unsurprisingly tight-lipped about plot developments, but she does have one hint about what viewers can expect: “If they thought there was trouble last year…”