Last night's winter premiere of Nashville included the reappearance of a surprise guest star: Deacon's liver cancer. Although heavily implied in December's fall finale, that particular revelation may have slipped a lot of viewers' minds amidst the Luke-Rayna drama and Layla's suicide attempt. Also, Deacon is just so darn stoic, it's hard to imagine him showing symptoms of the common cold, let alone cancer.
But now it looks like things might be getting worse for the guitar man before they get better. Issued an official diagnosis of liver cancer, he's going to need a transplant if he's got any hope of long-term survival, which means we can expect to hear a lot more about his health going forward. We're not necessarily looking forward to seeing Deacon suffer, and we're really hoping this won't be one of those "TV diseases" that are too-conveniently ignored whenever it doesn't suit the week's storyline. Just to refresh your memory, here are four other characters with medical conditions that we — and the show — often forget about.
1. Mr. Bates, Downton Abbey
Remember how, way back in Season 1, everyone fretted about whether Mr. Bates's bum leg — a souvenir of his time in the Boer War — would prevent him from fulfilling his duties as Lord Crawley's valet, let alone climb the manor's many steep staircases? These days, not only does Bates move about Downton with ease, but he also remained on his feet during his prison stint and took a day trip to London in order to kill a guy. (Allegedly, but c'mon… we all know that he totally did it.) Given that, can you really blame us for suspecting that Bates's cane is like Verbal Kint's limp from The Usual Suspects?
2. Hannah Hovarth, Girls
The second season finale of Girls made us cringe for days after Hannah — back firmly in the grip of the obsessive-compulsive disorder she believed she had conquered — jams a Q-tip in her ear, requiring an immediate trip to the ER. Hard as it was to watch, the scene was deservedly hailed as a far more accurate depiction of OCD than the Jack Nicholson version popularized in As Good as It Gets. Since going on Zoloft at the beginning of the third season, though, Hannah has rarely acknowledged that part of her personal history. And considering how much she overshares about every other aspect of her life, that seems very out of character.
3. Garry (or Jerry, or Terry, or Larry) Gergich, Parks and Recreation
The resident buffoon of Pawnee's Parks & Recreation department briefly became human to his co-workers when he suffered a heart attack (or, to go by Tom's description, "fart attack") in the show's fifth season. Considering that he already had a pacemaker before that attack, it was fair to wonder how much longer that ticker of his could go on ticking. Flash-forward to 2017, though, and he's apparently doing just fine, without having to lose any weight or turn into a Chris Traeger-level health nut. We're choosing to believe that's because in the future doctors have developed nanite hearts to replace our weak human ones.
4. Ryan Hardy, The Following (Premieres Mar. 2)
When the FBI profiler first got his man — serial killer Joe Carroll — the case left him with emotional and physical scars, most notably the one on his chest where Joe stabbed him, almost puncturing his heart. He's had to wear a pacemaker ever since, which supposedly makes him ineligible for field work. But he's been back in the field going on three seasons now pursuing the escaped Carroll and his followers, and the FBI docs haven't made a peep. Considering some of the grisly sights Ryan's seen, it's a wonder that his heart hasn't stopped multiple times.
Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.