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Nashville Recap: Dead Ringers

I conducted this highly unscientific poll, strictly for recreational purposes.

Characters on Nashville that Max and her friends wouldn’t mind seeing turn up dead, in order of death preference.

1. Scarlett
2. Peggy
3. Tandy
4. Lamar
5. Teddy
6. Dante
7. Jolene
8. Scarlett’s weave

In that context, last night’s ep was a roaring success, right? I mean, we practically took out the entire bottom third of the list. (Sadly, the weave still lives.)

But more importantly, Nashville declared itself. If, for one second, you forgot that this show was a big ol’ sudsy soap opera, last night’s ep was here to remind us of that fact. Nashville may be many things: A launcher of iTunes hits, an ode to Connie Britton’s hair, a reconsideration of Hayden Panettiere’s talents, a generator of Deacon’s Man Wisdom, an orgy of smoldering glares. But first and foremost, it is a soap opera. As in, an evil twin is liable to show up any minute now.

In a way, an evil twin (or several) already has. Before we get to the Jolene-Dante murder-suicide (I can’t believe I just wrote that), can we talk about Gunnar going all Chris Gaines on us? If you don’t remember who Chris Gaines is, allow me to jog your memory. Chris Gaines was the alter ego of Garth Brooks. One minute, Garth Brooks was just a good ol’ boy in a ten-gallon hat — the next, he was some sort of Trent Reznor wannabe, with emo hair, the tiniest, douchiest soul patch you have ever seen in your entire life, and truly lame “rock” aspirations. Think of him as Sasha (Ain’t) Fierce. He even put out an album. (At least I think he did. It’s still possible that this was all some sort of late-nineties fever dream I had.)

I couldn’t help but to think of Chris Gaines when I saw Gunnar V. 2.0 last night — he even has the same hairstyle. I mean, who is this guy? I understand that Gunnar is grieving and guilty and maybe a little mad at how the police handled his brother’s death. But the nicest, sweetest guy on the show has had a complete personality transplant. Or, more accurately, he’s had a personality swap. Gunnar is Avery and Avery is Gunnar. It’s Freaky Wednesday, people!

Speaking of Avery, thank goodness they showed us that “singing into the whisk” scene on the “previously on Nashville” montage. I had no recollection of that ever happening. I would’ve been like, why the hell is Avery giving Scarlett a whisk? She’s making her Grand Ole Opry debut, not her Food Network one. (Is it possible that it was actually “previously on Nashville, but left on the cutting-room floor”? Or “previously, this didn’t happen on Nashville so we created a last-minute scene and edited it into the montage to give Avery and Scarlett a cute moment”?) Anyway, it would appear that the Avery-Gunnar-Scarlett love triangle is back in play. Love square, if you throw Will into that mix. (Love pentagon, if you add Juliette, who seems to have finally noticed that Avery is hot.)

Meanwhile, lest you were worried after his big health scare, Lamar is back, baby! (That sentence was written for those of you who don’t have Lamar at No. 4 on your own personal "Nashville Characters I Wouldn’t Mind Turning Up Dead” list.) First, Tandy tried to stage a coup. Her scenes are always the most interesting because she gets to use phrases like “mixed-use high-rise” in them. Zzzzzzzz. Anyway, she’s sitting at the head of the boardroom table (ohnoshedidnt), when Lamar comes oozing in. “You seem to be in my seat,” he says, oozingly (I need to come up with a new adjective to describe Lamar). And faster than you can say, “Sorry, Daddy, may I please have another,” Tandy skulked over to her not!-chairman-of-the-board seat like she’d been grounded and sent to her room. It was all very Tywin Lannister schooling King Joffrey from the floor of King’s Landing.

Lamar also helped Rayna get an expedited court date to deal with Teddy’s restraining order against Deacon. Geez, Teddy. I’m not sure which was worse: the restraining order or the fact that he interrupted Deacon’s adorable song with the girls. (Teddy is another one of the characters who seems to have revealed a surprising evil twin within.) The judge seems very hospitable to Rayna’s side, but it’s all irrelevant at this point, because Maddie found the box!

Okay, let’s rewind here for a moment: If you are a famous country singer who had an affair with her troubled guitarist, got pregnant, put him in rehab, married (allegedly) nice guy Teddy, and swore to Teddy that the true paternity of your first born would never be revealed, would you just keep the paternity information lying around in a small box in a walk-in closet?!? I mean, yes, we’ve established that Nashville is a soap opera, but that doesn't give them a free pass to do any old damn thing they want! (Or does it? I dunno.)

I can’t believe the true identity of Rayna’s baby daddy is being revealed so quickly. Nashville, bless its heart, moves at the speed of a show that wasn’t sure it was getting picked up for a second season. But — hooray, America! — it was renewed last week! (As we speak, the writers are all like, “Dag. Now what?”)

So, hmmm ... what else happened on last night’s ep? ... What else? ... It’s on the tip of my tongue. Oh, yeah: MURDER-SUICIDE! (Sorry, I’ll never be able to write that phrase in lowercase. Won’t even try.)

I applaud how Juliette decided to get ahead of the scandal and come clean about the sex tape. If she gave into Dante’s escalating demands, she would always be under his thumb. And that video she recorded, where she admitted that she’d been betrayed and heartbroken, was really humanizing. Hell, it might’ve actually helped her career. (Though it never occurred, here is how Juliette’s appearance on The View might’ve gone down: Barbara would’ve been mildly scolding, Whoopie would’ve been all “get it where you can” supportive, Elisabeth Hasselback would’ve given a sanctimonious speech about the need for abstinence, and Joy Behar would’ve told some unrelated anecdote about what she had for dinner last night.) But nooo ... Mama Jolene, well-intentioned, if sloppy and wrong-headed to the bitter end, had to get high and pull a gun out on Dante. That always ends well. In this case, it ended with Dante shot dead and Jolene OD’d on the couch.

Poor, poor Juliette. God, it’s amazing how my feelings for her can shift throughout the course of a single episode: from cringing on her behalf as she had to watch her sex tape with a bunch of lawyers and her own mother in the room (awkward!), to thinking “oh, what a brat” (albeit an amusing one) as she complained her way through the CMA dress rehearsal, to just plain wanting to give her a hug and some chamomile tea after her mother died. Am I the only one who’s hoping Rayna might find it in her heart to be at least a little mothering to Juliette during this time? The poor girl is truly all alone in this world. Then again, Rayna will have her hands full in next week’s season finale. All because the damn woman never heard of a safety deposit box.

Photo: Katherine Bomboy-Thornton/ABC