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Nashville Recap: True Blood

"Hanky Panky Woman" - Rayna joins Scarlett on the road for her first tour date with Luke Wheeler (Will Chase, "Smash") and is blindsided when Deacon confronts her about putting too much pressure on Scarlett too soon. Jeff goes to war against Rayna on control of the album she produced with Liam, and Juliette makes a decision about Charlie Wentworth. Gunnar struggles to write a song for a major artist, and gets help from Scarlett-sparking an idea for Rayna that could potentially be liberating for her and life-changing for Gunnar, on "Nashville,"

I guess, at this point, we just need to accept the fact that there’s Good Nashville and Bad Nashville, often on display in the same episode. An example of Bad Nashville? The handling of the Olivia kiss. Instead of using it as a chance for Juliette to get jiggy with the Wentworths, to throw a “who will Juliette choose: Charlie or Olivia?” onto the show’s increasingly large pile of love triangles, they had Juliette pull away, shocked, shocked, shocked! And sad, too, y’all. Because she has real feelings for Charlie and now she’s hurt that he might want to watch her get it on with his wife. Oh, silly Nashville, what’s feeling got to do with it?

One of the problems with Nashville — and I’m quibbling a bit because overall I liked this episode — is that the writers assume we’re invested in relationships that we couldn’t care less about. Ending an episode with an unexpected lip lock from Charlie Wentworth’s freaky wife? Good Nashville! Ending the next episode with a distraught Charlie declaring his love for Juliette? Bad Nashville! So bad, in fact, that I glanced at the clock in disbelief. This is how they’re ending the show before another week off? Well, it could’ve been worse: They could’ve ended with Rayna and Luke.

Oh, man, where to begin with Rayna and Luke? It starts with the intimation that Luke is better in bed than Liam (la, la, la, I can’t hear you!) and then we get two sex scenes between these crazy crooners, including one that features Rayna uttering the soon-to-be-immortal words: “I like being naked with you.” Unacceptable, Miss Rayna James! You like being naked with Deacon, ya hear? And maybe Liam when you and Deacon are on a break. And that is ALL.

On the other hand, I love the fact that we’re seeing clear indications that Luke is a jerk, and Rayna has no clue. Who will mend her broken heart when Luke’s jerkiness is revealed? (At the rate the show is going, the answer will be Tandy.)

Most mind-blowing moment of the show, by far? When Rayna goes backstage to visit Luke, sees Gunnar, and says, “Who’s that?” Who’s that? That’s Gunnar, one of the regulars on the show you’re currently starring on. (Is it really possible that Gunnar and Rayna have never met? Like not even one time, at the Bluebird? I know the show has continuity experts and stuff, but that just felt wrong.)

That said, the Luke Wheeler tour is fun. I love how many people they legit managed to get on this tour. (Okay, Gunnar as a songwriting apprentice who rides the tour bus with the opening act and writes songs for Luke as he’s on the treadmill is a bit of a stretch.) But so many juicy confrontations: Rayna and evil Jeff Fordham; Rayna and Deacon; Deacon and Luke; Gunnar and Scarlett.

Much as we saw Good Nashville and Bad Nashville last night, we also saw Good Scarlett and Bad Scarlett. (BRB, laughing because “Good Scarlett” sounds so much like “Good Charlotte.”) Good Scarlett told off Jeff Fordham (“Since Rayna signed me, it’s her impression I care most about!”) and sang a pretty duet with Gunnar (oh, the season-one feels, y’all!). Bad Scarlett received her lucky pillow from Uncle Deacon (ugh, that tattered, patchwork, Mumford & Sons–approved pillow — I could write a dissertation on it) and then did her deer-in-the-headlights routine onstage (okay, her monitor was broken, but still), and then cried and cried and cried some more. (Later, she also wore a knit cap with a sundress and suede boots, but I don’t want to pile on.)

It’s also so realistic that Scarlett would go from cowering onstage one night to “Who’s ready for some country music? I can’t hear you?” the next — but that’s just the power of a Rayna James pep talk, I guess. (I did love when Rayna said to her: “I had people yell ‘Show me your boobs!’ so many times, I would’ve thought it was a damn hit song.” Can I borrow Rayna from time to time so she can give me warm and witty pep talks that remind me that we all have our struggles in this life and we just need to dust ourselves off and get back onstage? I promise I won’t keep her long.)

Should we talk more about how horrible Luke Wheeler is? Because he is very, very horrible.

First of all, his country catchphrase is “wheels up!” — cause his last name is Wheeler, I guess. Or maybe because he assumes the audience has chartered private jets, just like him. Then, he starts his shows with the cheesiest thing ever: Standing in silhouette and doffing his cowboy hat, exactly the way he does in his tour poster! (That’s grounds to break up with the guy, right there, if you ask me.)

When Rayna’s not around, he belittles Deacon and discourages Gunnar and calls him “son” in a really patronizing way. Sometimes he slips up in front of Rayna, too.

“Congrats on our first co-write,” he says to Gunnar.
Co-write?” Rayna says.
“I’m just messing with you, man!” Luke says, slapping Gunnar on the back. Yeah, suuuure you were.

(And I, for one, don’t want to be around when Luke finds out that his daddy was, in fact, not the first person to say “you catch more flies with honey.”)

Anyway, if I’m following things correctly, Rayna and Luke are going to release Ball and Chain as a hit record (can I buy Gunnar and Scarlett’s B-side instead?) and, as a result, Jeff Fordham is going to release Rayna’s masters back to her and call off the lawsuit. Well, that wasn’t resolved quickly at all!

Hey, at least we got to see Deacon glowering jealously as Rayna and Luke cozied up onstage. “I’ve got to call … Megan,” he muttered. Yeah, you go call your transparent and highly inadequate Rayna replacement. That’ll make everything better.

Juliette wasn’t on tour, a pity, because I always like when Juliette is at the center of the action. Instead, she drank wine and bonded with Avery. Raise your hand if you thought Avery was going to totally ignore Scarlett when she called? But he didn’t — even if it was the shortest phone call in the history of phone calls. (I believe the entire content of the call was “Gotta go!”) Anyway, good boy, Avery! Lucky for you, Scarlett isn’t on tour with her ex-boyfriend and getting closer to him with each passing second! Oh … wait.

Stuff happened with Teddy and Peggy, too. First, Teddy read an article in the Tennessean and said to Peggy, “Nashville overwhelmingly approves of their new First Lady.” (Could that be a subtle dig at us, the fans of the show? I feel so judged.) Then Teddy decided it was high time he went to a doctor’s appointment with Peggy, so that could only mean one thing: Time to bring on the pig’s blood!

Oh god, that fake miscarriage was just a world of wrong. I can only hope that Peggy did something really stupid with the pig’s blood, like stash it under the sink. (Teddy: “Hey, this isn’t my hair gel!”) Because if Peggy gets away with this ridiculous miscarriage of justice (sorry), imma gonna be pissed. Not even Bad Nashville would put us through that, right?

Photo: Mark Levine/ABC