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Nashville Recap: As My Guitarist Gently Weeps

NASHVILLE - "You Win Again" -- Edgehill Records celebrates the success of "Wrong Song" with a lavish party attended by Rayna, Juliette and real-life country stars including Brantley Gilbert and Chris Young (who cameo as themselves). But the party gets awkward for Juliette, who brings her mom along, and for Rayna when she's aggressively pursued by Calista (Ming-Na Wen), an exec from a competing record label. Meanwhile Teddy confronts Rayna about his suspicions over her relationship with Liam, Gunnar deals with family issues and Avery gets too comfortable with his newfound success, on "Nashville," WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/CHRIS HOLLO)
ERIC CLOSE, CONNIE BRITTON, HAYDEN PANETTIERE

So much drama out of the gate! Rayna and Juliette are onstage and, for starters, entire graduate theses could be written about their two different outfits — Rayna kind of country-rock-rebel chic and Juliette kinda I-had-issues-growing-up trashy. They’re singing “Wrong Song,” which has gone to No. 1 on the show (and in my heart), and Liam and Rayna are totally feeling each other — doing the whole back-to-back, Mick-and-Keith thing; singing to each other. At one point, Rayna even does this sort of sexy karate kick in Liam’s direction. (It was hot. You had to be there.) Meanwhile, Juliette is skulking around the stage looking totally lost. She keeps trying to engage in a stage threeway, as it were, and keeps getting denied. It’s an amazingly calibrated performance by all three actors. And this is just the first three minutes of the show, people.

They get offstage (what? no encore? or maybe that was the encore) and Juliette huffs right onto her private plane. Liam and Rayna, still hot and bothered from their onstage PDA, seem about to kiss (hello!), when they are interrupted by Calista Reeves (E.R.’s Ming Na Wen) from Countless Records, who wants to take Rayna away from Edgehill and sign her to a five-record deal. This will prove to be a little awkward, since Edgehill is about to throw Rayna and Juliette a “No. 1 party” (is that a thing?). Rayna has to think about it. Also awkward? Rayna is hitching a ride on Juliette’s private jet because, as Juliette snarkily points out, Rayna can’t afford one of her own. (The entire exchange between Rayna and Juliette on the plane is made of win, capped off by a stirring round of Who Moved My Bean Dip with Liam.)

Back in Deacon Land, a lot has gone wrong. A music magazine has printed an article claiming that Deacon got kicked off the Revel Kings tour because he fell off the wagon. (But they’re journalists! They can’t print lies!!) And, more distressing, he is still sporting his Revel Kings pompadour. (I wonder if we’ll be able to monitor Deacon’s character arc based on the height of his hair: The higher the hair, the lower his mood.) He is, once again, Deacon On the Edge. But who will come to his rescue?

Back at home, Rayna is making pancakes for the girls (the show’s insistence that pancakes are the only acceptable breakfast food is yet another weird overlap with Smash) when that pushy Calista shows up, to woo her some more. Rayna says she’s still thinking it over. “I know how hard leaving is, but that doesn’t make staying right,” Calista says. And then the camera pans to Teddy. (And believe it or not, this is the show’s most subtle Edgehill = Teddy moment.) Teddy keeps trying to get back with Rayna and she keeps saying things like “I don’t have the answers yet” and “It’s complicated.” To be honest, the entire Teddy plotline still seems extraneous to me. I keep asking myself: Who will Rayna end up with — Deacon or Liam? And then I remember that Teddy exists.

Meanwhile, Rayna pays a visit to Deacon and it is emotional, y’all. Deacon is all lash-out-y and defensive, and he accuses Rayna of not having faith in him — apparently she put him through rehab five times before finally settling with nice guy Teddy — and then Rayna cries and says to Deacon, “It’s conversations like this that make it so that I can’t do this with you.” “Then don’t do it,” he hisses back.

Deacon’s tall hair has made him mean.

Speaking of Deacon’s hair: How could I let this recap go without mentioning one of the best lines of the show — when Juliette calls out Deacon for hiding behind his “patchy facial hair.” (Mwah!) Juliette has just given a very heartfelt (not) testimony at her mother’s trial and Deacon accuses her of being overly hard on her mother (truth), and Juliette once again invites Deacon to go on her tour. One thing I love about Nashville: Rayna and Deacon are definitely the show’s official “now ... kiss!” couple, but they’ve made a slow, patient case for the fact that Juliette and Deacon are both damaged people with genuine affection for each other. Good on you, show.

And now is the part of the recap where I give you the obligatory Gunnar, Avery, Scarlett update: Avery’s ego threatens to be the Thing That Ate Nashville: “Get rid of the ‘The’ and the ‘Band,'” he says, upon spying a banner for the Avery Barkley Band. (See what he did there?) Then he gives an outdoor concert and Scarlett hides out in the audience under a hipster beanie, and she bumps into JT, who was also jilted by Avery. (In Nashville, attending someone’s outdoor concert is a bit like stalking their Facebook page.) And they decide to team up together. Gunnar, too. That concludes the People Who Are Not Named Juliette, Rayna, and Deacon portion of our recap. (Although there is an awesome moment at the Edgehill party when Avery tries to schmooze with Juliette and she literally looks over his head as he’s talking and then rudely dismisses him before walking away in search of her mother. Ha-ha. Burn.)

At the No. 1 party, Rayna finds out that Liam made a secret deal with Countless records to “double dip” into her portion of the proceeds. So she fires him. (Apparently, Rayna likes to fire guitarists on days of the week with the word “day” in them.) This strikes me as a remnant of last week’s Deacon Ex Machina — i.e., all those contrived reasons to get Deacon to join the girls on tour. It also fills me with a sense of dread. Is sexy Michiel Huisman, who plays Liam, not listed as a show regular? (Aaaaand, I just checked the press release and he’s a guest star. Dag.) If Liam is gone for good, someone’s gonna get hurt.

Since Deacon was a no-show at the party, Juliette goes to check in on him at his apartment. He’s doing the whole rock star on a bender thing — trashed apartment, smashed guitar (“It was out of tune,” he says dryly) — except he’s doing it all wrong. For starters, you’re supposed to destroy a hotel room, not your own place. And also, he’s stone-cold sober. “I know a dry drunk when I see one,” says Juliette. Once again, she implores him to join her on the tour and he implores her to be nice to her mother. The scene between Jolene and Juliette on the couch is really beautifully acted, by both women, especially Hayden Panetierre, who continues to surprise me with her subtlety. Watching Juliette try — and fail — not to cry as her mother tells her that she’s proud of her was pretty powerful stuff.

Final scene: The gang loads onto the plane for their next tour date (“Why do we have to do everything at the crack of butt?” moans Juliette, like the near teenager she is). But there’s a holdup. They’re waiting for someone. Yup, none other than Deacon Claybourne saunters aboard. “Did you hire him to replace Liam?” a stunned Rayna asks Bucky. “I’m not here for your band,” Deacon says. “He’s joining me,” gloats Juliette. And then Deacon PUTS HIS SUNGLASSES ON. Because Deacon is cooler than you. Hot damn, that was a good show.

(But are you kidding me with this “two weeks from now” bullcrap? Especially when there seems to be some hot Rayna-on-Deacon-on-elevator action. That is just wrong.)

Photo: Chris Hollo/© 2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.