Warning: Spoilers for Outer Banks are ahead.
There's a lot to love about Netflix's kinda-bonkers YA series Outer Banks, about a group of coastal North Carolina teens who spend their summer on a literal treasure hunt for gold. One of many reasons this escapist show is perfect for week, uh, six (eight? 10? Who even knows anymore?) of self-isolation — aside from the attractive cast and soapy drama, of course — is that it's brought a beloved TV figure back into our lives: Charles Esten aka Deacon from Nashville, the dearly departed ABC-turned-CMT drama.
Yes, the man who so charmingly embodied the loyal, sensitive guitar player and bandleader Deacon Claybourne is back on TV (thank goodness), having starred on Nashville throughout its entire six-season run and move from ABC to CMT. This time, however, he's changed his tune (sorry not sorry).
On Outer Banks, Esten plays Ward Cameron, a wealthy North Carolina real estate magnate with three kids and a younger second wife. And while he at first seems like a tough but fair father to his teenage children (19-year-old Rafe, 16-year-old Sarah, and 13-year-old Wheezie) and an understanding boss to his blue-collar employees, it doesn't take too long for his dark side to be revealed.
Ward first appears as the concerned employer of Scooter, who was missing after a big hurricane. But it turns out he wasn't just interested in Scooter's safety because he cared, it's because Scooter was after the sunken treasure in the 1800s shipwreck of The Royal Merchant, just like the Pogue kids. And just like the kids, they were following in the footsteps of leader John B's dad. But the reason they had to follow in Big John's footsteps instead of just help Big John out in his own quest is because Ward accidentally killed John B's dad. And instead of reporting the tragic accident — caused because the already mega wealthy Ward was greedy about his split of the Royal Merchant's $400 million of gold — Ward physically fought Big John, pushed him into a boat cleat, and caused a gnarly head injury. Then, instead of seeing if he was okay, Ward just assumed Big John was dead, pushed him overboard, and covered everything up.
With one accident, he turned from "rich guy who could sometimes be a dick" into a cold-blooded murderer, which primed him for the rest of the bad stuff he'd do throughout the course of the series, including beating the crap out of a drug dealer, covering up his own son shooting and killing the sheriff, some really weird misogynistic and paternalistic behavior toward his eldest daughter, stealing $400 million in gold, and framing John B for murder.
The dark twist shouldn't have been entirely unexpected, because why would you cast someone like Esten and then have him play the boring dad in the background? But it was both nice to see him have more to do as the series went on and sad to see him turn out to be an ACTUAL MURDERER.
How can this man, with the voice of a dang angel and a heart of gold who loved Connie Britton's Rayna James with all his heart (nevermind his messy past), be the same man who framed a child for murder and stole $400 million of gold from him?
Listen, I don't understand it, but it's always wonderful to see Esten on TV. Now please excuse us while we cue up this "Best of Deacon Claybourne" Spotify playlist and listen to the Nashville soundtrack for the rest of the day.