Emotions on “Nashville” were as raw and real as it gets on the July 5 Episode 13 of Season 6, “Strong Enough to Bend.” Life is hard, and forgiveness is even harder. Forgiveness is the first step to healing and comes especially hard in families because not even God can change the past. Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) has clearly put her experience in discovery, self-love, and inner peace to work because she becomes downright apologetic for returning home at such an inopportune moment for Avery (Jonathan Jackson) and Alannah (Rainee Blake). Avery's new sort-of love beats a hasty exit, and surprisingly, so does Juliette, who is too tired to hash everything out and looks “like you've been through hell,” in her husband's words.

Deacon (Charles Esten) is struggling more with entrances than exits in his life. His daughters, Maddie and Daphne (Lennon and Maisy Stella) love having the grandfather they never knew at home, but their dad is in a tailspin over Gideon’s (Ronny Cox) recollections that seem to rewrite history. Daphne discovers that the quest for stardom doesn't come without a price, a lesson that Alannah is also learning the hard way. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) sees for herself that finding help for troubled veterans is a long, hard road.

Revisionist history

While Avery rushes to see Alannah out the door, saying he’ll call her, to which she responds,” You don't have to,” and he retorts with “I want to,” Juliette is there to see Cadence.

In a deeply touching scene, she stands in the doorway of her daughter’s room, doing what so many mommies love to do-- simply gazing at her sleeping child. Avery tells her “you can wake her up,” but she declines, recalling all the times “my mother woke me up just to say she was sorry.” She apologizes, and Avery affirms “This is your house,” but for the night, she goes to her true friend, Hallie, portrayed by the luminous and talented Rhiannon Giddens, who even treats fans to a song snippet.

The two discuss how the best and the most difficult situations in life happen simultaneously, as Juliette found the strength within herself to break from Darius and return home, despite the manipulation of his Movement. Juliette surmises “I've lost him,” of Avery, but Hallie holds out hope, prompting her to be patient. “I love you,” Juliette says in a tender moment.

“You're not so bad yourself,” Hallie responds.

Daphne and Maddie gush over the old photos of the past that Gideon has preserved through his evacuation from Hurricane Harvey, but his versions of fun and playful stories of Deacon’s and his sister’s childhood don’t jive with the horrific nights of terror and beatings that still haunt the son. Deacon also does not appreciate his dad's intrusion into parenting his granddaughters. He has not been the one seeing them through the loss of their mother and trying to rebuild a new family life. Like the “good granddad,” he takes Maddie and Daphne's side against the counsel of Deacon, who has a lot more history and investment into their lives to consider.

The humanity and acting craftsmanship in these exchanges are deserving of kudos for all. Alcohol and time tend to blur the past, but nothing takes away the sting of emotional and physical brutality, long after the scars on the body fade.

Morning light

Daphne has her own struggle in her rise on “Nashville's Next Country Star.” Her mentor Ilse (Ilse DeLange) coaxes her to leave her guitar on her next performance, and display herself more as a performer, with stylistic moves. Daphne balks at her direction, clinging to her instrument, and unbeknownst to her dad, she doesn't show up for practice. One of the most powerful, pivotal scenes of this “Nashville” episode evolves when Deacon tries to explain his complete understanding of Daphne's predicament, and still convey the fact that she is in breach of contract over her behavior.

Gideon tries to intervene once more, and Deacon sees what these disputes are doing to his daughter.

A lovely, much calmer interlude occurs between Juliette and her daughter, who snuggle tenderly and find delight in prisms of sunlight, as she tells Hallie. She is fervent about rescuing others in the colt, but she is open and accepting with Avery, who insists that he should be the one to move out. He meets with Alannah, who doesn't “want to be the reason” that Cadence doesn't see her daddy. Alannah explains another slimy encounter with Brad (Jeffrey Nordling) who coyly whispers “Are you my friend?” to his new artist when she inquires about prospects for her career. She tells Avery that she's going to handle Brad with an offer he can’t refuse, but when she returns home later, she finds a stack of CDs with songs and a note saying, “Let's be friends.”

Brad’s ex, Jessie (Kaitlin Doubleday) literally runs into Deacon with her shopping cart, and clearly, none of the feelings between this couple have diminished.

He thanks her for bringing him into the light, and she thanks him for showing her how kind and decent a man can be. They embrace and share a meaningful but brief kiss.

Scarlett gets a call from Sean's wife, saying he won't go to his VA for help. Scarlett is more than happy to be there for him, but she discovers the wait, especially for those not already on record, is endless. She pleads Sean’s case to the appointment manager, who served two tours himself. He assures that they do the best they can. She turns around to find that Sean (Jake Etheredge) has vanished. She runs after him, but he tells her that he cannot bear this system and that he will get help later. In another conversation, he reminds her about her admonition to not give up the thing that means so much in life, and yet he sees that she has given up that thing, music, in her own life.

She turns the pages of one of her lyric journals, finding blank sheets at the end.

Deacon attends an AA meeting, this time being five years sober, He pours out his soul over wearing hatred as “my armor” for years against the pain of his past, feeling that if he forgave, no one would be there for Beverly, his mother, or those not left to tell the misdeeds of his dad, somehow letting him off the hook. At the same time, he knows that if he doesn't take that faulty armor off, then “I'm the broken one.”

The whole family is there to cheer on Daphne's performance as the “princess” of the “Nashville” competition. After watching another contender, Daphne discards her guitar, and makes her first “performing” gestures to the crowd, singing “Without Warning” to raves from the crowd and the mentors.

The scene montage moves from Scarlett to Jessie and Jake watching Daphne on television, and lastly, shows Avery packed and leaving, giving Cadence a kiss. When they arrive back home, Deacon utters “I just want you to know that I'm trying” to his dad. “I appreciate that son,” Gideon answers, and Deacon puts his hand on his father's back as they walk inside.

Family issues are so difficult, but not nearly so hard as leaving them unsettled.