'Nashville' Recap: The Voice Is Back

Rayna makes a triumphant return, Lamar is in hot water, Scarlett stammers

Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes on Nashville
ABC/Mark Levine
Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes on 'Nashville'
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I'm confused. Weren't we supposed to respect Rayna Jaymes as a strong, independent superstar who confronted her problems head on with stoic grace? You'd think Rayna's country-strong gusto would come out in full when she starts playing hardball with cut-throat Edgehill Records head Jeff Fordham, who she threatens to her "Wyatt side." Unfortunately, employing her inner Lamar means seeking out the outer Lamar, and she hits up her ruthless, Machiavellian father for money to buy her way out of her Edghill contract and take her vanity label Highway 65 with her. Lest we forget, that's how Rayna's career got started in the first place – with Lamar's money.

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Still, money will only get her so far. It can't buy back the voice she lost, but she gets that back anyway on last night's Nashville, where "Biggest Thing in Country" Luke Wheeler's (Who? Exactly!) "Youthful Noise" benefit concert features the not-so-surprising return of Rayna's pipes. It was a touching, tearjerker moment when Luke, apparently oblivious to whispers of RayRay's vocal woes circulating through the Music Row rumor mill, put her on the spot to sing an old hit, "The Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts." Like Kirk Gibson limping into home plate, at first it seemed like she might not make it. She started to choke, and then got choked up when the crowd sings along to save her. Moved and empowered, Rayna triumphs and finishes the song and it's waterworks all around, except for Jeff, who looks smugger than ever.

"I'm happy for Rayna," Juliette tells Glenn, "but her timing just killed my moment." Poor Jules just can't catch a break. Sure, she's Edgehill's second-biggest star, her "Inside the Dream" tour is selling out arenas in advance and she's achieved the milestone accomplishment of induction into the Grand Ole Opry (the reason Rayna was onstage in the first place was to surprise Jules with the honor), but those successes are sure to be overshadowed by those of her competitors and colleagues. Oh, Juliette, always striking the delicate balance between vain, careerist solipsism and caring camaraderie.

In a move mirroring the rivalry with Rayna that got this whole twangy, soapy series started, Jules taps a new, nubile nemesis, the perma-grinning reality show runner-up Layla Grant, to open her tour, and then, to balance out estrogen levels (and effectively limit Layla's stage time), invites rugged, rookie whippersnapper Will to join the bill. But when a paparazzi shot of Will and Layla, snapped on the "Youthful Noise" red carpet, starts trending on Twitter, the writing's on the wall before the ink even hits the contracts – #LaylaAndWill's sham romance will surely overshadow Juliette, who clearly has eyes for Will once the roadshow gets rolling.

If only Scarlett could be so savvy, or at least just savvy enough to mask how much of an infantile, down-home damsel-in-distress she is. Further proving that Scarlett can't handle the jelly of (potential) stardom, hilarity ensues when Edgehill throws her into intensive media training sessions with a type-A PR pro.

"In certain situations, the stammering may come across as folksy," the flak tells Scarlett. "But on camera, it reads as scattered." How can the writers realize this enough to pen that nail-on-head-perfect line, and yet still make Scarlett's unyielding aw-shucks personality totally insufferable week after folksy week? It's maddening.

Of course, I spent all of last season complaining about how awful Avery was, and now look at him – he's become the show's most milquetoast, utterly useless character. All he can do now is bar-back at the Bluebird and write songs with Gunnar, who himself has little more to do these days than compete with Deacon for the Biggest Whiner in Nashville award and smooth talk Zoey (his ex's bestie!) into singing with him, and inevitably sleeping with him again. "I wrote [that song] for you," Guns tells his new lass of the infectious roots-pop song he crafts with her and Avery. They've apparently got a little trio in the works.

Scarlett totally blows it, by the way. Layla (perhaps diabolically) gives her some bad advice in the green room before Luke's shindig, tearing up her flashcards and telling her to just, you know, be herself. The result is a red-carpet disaster of epic proportions. "When you go off-book . . . your career is over before it starts," Jeff snaps at Scarlett before crowning her with a dunce cap and sending her off to pasture.

Bribery, racketeering and extortion are just three of 42 charges Lamar is facing after Tandy turns him into the feds. "Teddy's going to pay for this," Lamar tells his daughter when she bails him out of jail, obviously oblivious that Tandy's the one that cut a deal and squealed on him. Actually, seems like Rayna's the one who's really gonna pay. It's probably safe to assume Lamar's legal woes will throw a wrench or two in the works when it comes to bankrolling Rayna's Edgehill buyout. Bad news for Rayna; great news for viewers, as the war with Jeff is only just beginning. Way to fuck shit up, Tandy! Yes,

Deacon was in this episode. He bought a guitar shop and tried to play the piano. He's still suffering from a case of the Sads.

Previous episode: I Guess This Is Growing Up

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