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Nashville Recap: Scruff Riders

NASHVILLE - "I'm Sorry for You, My Friend" - Rayna and Juliette get ready to perform in San Diego in their first arena concert on the same bill. Rayna finds that working without Deacon is too disruptive and makes an interesting proposal to Liam, while Juliette sends Sean a message through the press. Gunnar takes a road trip to Austin to visit his brother, and Scarlett tags along for the ride so she can catch Deacon's performance in Texas with the Revel Kings. Meanwhile Avery makes his move to sign with Dominic, and Teddy and Coleman's campaigns find them in a dead heat, on "Nashville," WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET)

There’s this old joke by the comedian Garry Shandling that I’ve always loved: He takes this girl, on a first date, to see the movie E.T. She sits quietly and watches as a three-foot-tall alien lands on Earth, ends up in young Elliot’s closet, and tries to contact the mothership. But during the scene where Elliot and his friends take flight on their bicycles, she rolls her eyes and mutters: “Yeah, right.”

That was sort of the way I felt about last night’s episode of Nashville. Sure, with any soap-opera-ish show, there are going to be far-fetched plot twists and over-the-top characterizations. But still, the show has to have its own internal logic. It has to feel somehow plausible in the world that it has created. Nashville has been really good at making its soap-opera excesses feel, well, normal. Last night’s episode had me rolling my eyes several times and muttering, “Yeah, right.”

Look, I get the fact that we’re on a collision course with Deacon joining Rayna and Juliette on tour — and the show is just trying to contrive a way to make that happen as soon as possible. But let’s start with Cy, the lead singer of the Revel Kings. Does he have to be that loathsome and sleazy? The actor Daniel Buran plays him like a walking oil slick. He starts by hitting on that rock reporter chick from Deacon’s past. She blows him off rudely. And then Cy glowers in shame as he’s quietly mocked by all of his bandmates for being denied.

First of all ... the hell? I don’t know about you, but the last time the magazine I was working for hired me to cover a band and I slept with the replacement guitarist and completely ignored the established lead singer, I got fired. But maybe the rules have changed since then. (Just for the record: That never really happened. Hi, Mom!)

This was our first far-fetched way of establishing tension between Cy and Deacon, but if that wasn’t enough, Cy then basically tries to rape our favorite little clueless cherub Scarlett (she carpooled with Gunnar to check out the Revel Kings live in Austin), until Deacon manfully busts through the door, taking down a burly security guard in the process, beats up Cy, and saves her. Looks like Deacon won’t be touring with the Revel Kings after all! (The good news: Deacon’s hair seemed to lose two vertical inches the day after he quit the band. The Revel Kings pompadour is a thing of the past. Can I get an amen?)

Meanwhile, we’re on location with the Red Lips and White Lies tour in San Diego. (And I’m not trying to stir up trouble, but is it really wise to name the tour after a kind of makeup in the wake of Nail Polish Gate?). Rayna can’t seem to establish a rapport with any of her lead guitarists. They’re dropping like Spinal Tap drummers, all because they’re not Deacon. After her second guitarist — a kind of bizarro Rick Springfield type — quits, Rayna recruits Liam to play guitar until she finds a suitable replacement.

He reluctantly agrees. But he doesn’t wear the brand-new pair of cowboy boots that Rayna buys him because “They were broken,” he says. “I put ’em on, clicked my heels three times, and I didn’t turn into Deacon.”(Poor Rayna. Everyone knows she’s pining away for Deacon. Probably the guy from craft services is all, “I hope you like this veggie burger even though it wasn’t handmade with love by Deacon.”)

One thing I did like about the Liam story line? They’re obviously developing yet another potential love triangle (and as we all know, the only thing Nashville likes more than a love triangle is a really obvious establishment shot — hey there, Texas flag and Longhorn icon to establish Austin!). Liam definitely has a kind of sexy, comfy rapport with Rayna, but all those antagonistic sparks with Juliette could only mean one thing: We’ll soon see one of those “I hate you!” “I hate you more!” scenes that ends in a passionate kiss. (Or maybe that was just in my dream diary.) So look out Deacon — there’s another dark-haired, scruffy, brooding man in the ladies’ lives. And no, I’m not talking about Gunnar’s ex-con brother ... yet.

Speaking of Juliette, another bit of false drama is stirred up because she wants a quickie divorce and Sean wants an annulment. (There’s no plausible reason for why Juliette wouldn’t agree to the annulment right away, so this conflict doesn’t ring true.) Meanwhile, I’m still slightly baffled by the whole runaway bride thing. Does Juliette have feelings for Sean or not? When did she suddenly decide that he was better off without her?

Some other stuff happened too: As mentioned, Gunnar went to Austin to pick up his brother Jason (David Clayton Rogers), who just served eight years for armed robbery. (And yes, when I saw his swarthy brother, I literally LOLed. Can they throw in a blond? Or maybe go big and introduce some guy with alopecia?)

And naturally, Jason plays the guitar and sings! He and Gunnar do an improbable, if beautiful, duet in their seedy motel room. (I truly believe that Sam Palladio was put on this earth to beautifully harmonize with other singers. Every song becomes 70 percent more winsome when he shares the vocals.)

Avery is still sleeping with the manager lady but is also being seduced by new cars and the prospect of fame by Dominic Wells. The guy’s just a walking cautionary tale isn’t he?

And Teddy, well, he’s mayor now. (Least suspenseful and engaging candidacy in the history of television, amirite?) And did Lamar buy him the candidacy or not? (He claims that he didn’t, but the Cheshire Cat smirk on his face suggests otherwise. Then again, Lamar always looks that way.)

So Rayna came back to Nashville to kinda, sorta support her man, but the final scene is Teddy alone in a hotel banquet room. The door knocks. And it’s ... wait what’s her name again? ... oh, yeah, Peggy. “Well, thank goodness that story still has legs,” says absolutely nobody.

Oh well. Definitely not my favorite Nashville episode, but even when the show is not at the top of its game, it’s still one of the fastest hours on television. Bring on next week, when all of the elaborate hoops they’ve jumped through to reunite Deacon and the ladies (hopefully) pay off.

Photo: Katherine Bomboy-Thornton/ABC