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'Nashville' Recap: Love Is (Almost) a Battlefield

CMA nominations pit Rayna and Juliette against each other, and Avery lands a sweet gig

Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes and Jonathan Jackson as Avery Barkley in 'Nashville'
Katherine Bomboy-Thornton/ABC
May 9, 2013 12:10 PM ET

The 90-second end-credits promo for next week's Nashville boasted more drama than the whole of last night's soapy series installment. Season one's penultimate episode promises a tumultuous knock-down-drag-out battle of blackmail, dirty tricks, fist fights, infidelity, a Juliette Barnes sex tape and even murder for viewers to look forward to. But first let's look back at last night's setup.

Remember when Rayna was on the ropes with her career, reconciling superstar expectations, creature comforts and credibility against an increasingly ageist industry and the threat of losing her Queen of Country crown to young, nubile Juliette? Well, now RayRay's so over the moon at being back in Deacon's loving arms that multiple wake-up calls informing her she's nabbed a CMA Best Female Vocalist of the Year nod are little more than a nuisance interruption of early morning pillow talk.

"AWESOME!" she tells Maddie upon hearing the news. And "awesome," she deadpans with an eye-roll upon learning she's in the running against Juliette. Still, her tryst with Deacon is taking center stage over Jules nipping at her heals. "Everyone's been talking about these nominations, but all I can think about is last night," she tells Deacon later that day.

Video: 'Nashville' Covers the Lumineers' 'Ho Hey'

While RayRay's got Deacon to put back on the mantle beside the CMA trophies she already has, Juliette is acting a bit more Joe Biden – to her, it's a big fucking deal. This is Juliette's first such nomination, and it couldn't have come at a better time. She gets the good news while in the middle of dressing down the private security teams she's hired to make any embarrassing trace of "he's dead to me" Dante's fraud vanish. "[My reputation] will be ruined if this gets out," she shouts, writing off the half-million dollars Dante skimmed in his brief tenure as her beau/manager/mother's sober companion. The CMA nomination makes kiboshing the scandal all the more critical.

As the next step in her release from teen-pop purgatory, Juliette wants to win this award, badly. So she sets up a power meeting with Marshall and demands he make like Abramoff and aggressively lobby for votes on her behalf. Marshall says the label doesn't have a sufficient budget. (For bribery?!) His real pickle is Rayna, Juliette's labelmate/opponent. "We plan on supporting all our nominated artists," he tells Juliette, much to her chagrin. "Rayna's won four CMA awards. This isn't gonna mean much to her," she (quite rightly) argues.

Spendthrift Juliette celebrates the honor by sucking down Mimosas and working with her wardrobe team on an outfit for Edgehill's Music Row-centric high-society nominations gala. Naturally, seasoned drunk Jolene immediately notices that her daughter is merely masking post-Dante dread, and CMA accolades can only do so much to ease the pain of giving her heart (and 20 school teachers' salaries) to a two-bit con man who looks like an Incubus fan.

Meanwhile, Rayna and Deacon have the fallout from their past suitors to deal with, and the stress and blowback turn rays of romantic sunshine to "it's complicated" within a gastrotrich's life span. First there's the issue of Stacey. Short story short: she pretends like she didn't walk out on the Deke last week, so this week he does the dumping. She gets the dog named Sue.

Teddy's tragic flaw is that he doesn't realize how toxic his fetish for family secrets is, and he sees red when Rayna tells him she's back with Deacon. And it's not just because Teddy's a jealous cuckold. "I know you," he tells Rayna, "And there is no way you can be in a relationship with [Deacon] without the truth coming out. Do you have any . . . idea . . . what's at stake?"

So, Deacon doesn't know he's actually Maddie's father.

Granted, Rayna could've picked a better time to drop the bomb on Teddy than when he's about to take Maddie to her junior high father-daughter dance. As for Stacey, she was nice, but too much of a two-dimensional character, and Teddy too much of an asshole, for We the Viewer to really care how they feel about the whole sitch.

All this drama culminates at the nominations party, where by now Juliette is a drunken mess, and Rayna, burdened by the conflict of Maddie's paternity, is pulling away from Deacon. He confronts her and they get in a fight, right in front of Juliette, who barks orders at him to get back to the ballroom for her performance. Fed up, Deacon storms out of the party in a rage, leaving Juliette high and dry, and drunk. So she drafts Avery to pinch-hit as her guitar player.

"You weren't half bad," she seductively says to him, kissing him onstage at performance's end. Afterwards, they bond over a bottle of vodka and, shockingly, he acts a gentleman and refuses her one-night-stand advances. "Great, I can't even pick up a roadie," she laments with one eye open. It's only a matter of time, Juliette.

Deacon, on the other hand, barges into Rayna's limo, and the pair tearfully profess their love, go back to his place, sing a song together and, presumably, bone.

While Deacon and Rayna deliver in the Department of Chemistry and Everlasting Love that has punctuated their every onscreen interaction, it's easier to see why writers waited so long to pull the trigger on Gunnar and Scarlett. Now that Guns N' Scars aren't penning pensive ballads together, their love is about as compelling as a tape-hissy, multi-volume bootleg culled from the In the Life of Chris Gaines sessions, and their relationship seems like a dead end.

Gunnar's also got clingiest-neighbor-ever Will to deal with. "We got so drunk, I didn't know what I was doing?" Will jokes, in hopes that Gunnar can forget last week's unsolicited Brokeback moment. This week, Will's wrenchingly awkward faux pas comes when, as Scarlett's friend-date to the Edgehill party, he offers Rayna his demo. Forehead slap.

Gunnar didn't go to the party because he was busy tracking the song he stole from his dead brother for the straight-out-of-central-casting manager bigwig who discovered him last week.

Meanwhile, at City Hall, Coleman, operating under a combination of moral indignation and back-stab-y strategery, turns down Tandy's offer to form an alliance against Teddy, shockingly resigns his post as deputy mayor, plots against Lamar and, if all goes to plan, arranges the trio into a circular firing squad that will leave him the last man standing.

So, who do y'all think will murder/get murdered next week? Will it be Peggy, in Lamar's study with the candlestick? Will it be Jolene, in the detox with the Mimosa? Or will it be Will, at the honky tonk with the Dobro?

Last episode: Dante's Inferno

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