I completely lost track of the return of Nashville. Three whole episodes aired without me entirely realizing it, so this is my attempt to catch up, and we’ve got LOTS of spaghetti straps, a jacket that is hideous beyond anything this show has ever given us, and an entire scene in which a character’s emotional arc pivots thanks to pee. Yes, pee. Who knew urine would have such a buzzy start to 2017. Maybe THAT should be the Pantone color of the year.

This season, Nashville is helmed by Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, of thirtysomething fame, and I think it shows. Nashville was never a show where people didn’t know how to communicate, but now it does feel like an hour FULL of people telling everyone else exactly how they feel and why, nipping conflict in the bud before it becomes stupid. It’s sweetly realistic and sensible and, yes, a bit glacial, in a real-life “This is what it’s actually like to be a person” sense. Ultimately, I think Nashville on ABC never got the credit it deserved for solid character work. The show is rooted so well and strongly in who these people are that you CAN do an hour where they bounce back and forth and discuss their problems, without traveling that far plot-wise from beginning to end.

But, since plot does count:

Rayna and Deacon: All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, Rayna has decided she’s lost touch with her art and is bored running a bad record label really badly and being bigly bad at it. Her big answer is to re-fondle her creative side via concept album with Deacon all about their relationship. Deacon, however, has had a really lousy year — between almost dying and then grieving his awful sister via the creation of an even more awful bar, and then Maddie trashing him during her emancipation hearing — and he’s not super keen to dive back into the muck. Rayna handles that by being really passive-agressive and snippy and pressurey, which is the douche move of all douche moves. It gives Deacon a nice scene where he throws up his hands and says he knows they’ll do it, because they always do it, because everything in their life plays by her rules. He owns that he’s participated in the decisions and events that have made it thus, but his point is clear: His “no” doesn’t count with Rayna, who is just going to act wounded until he capitulates. All of which happens. But then, prompted by a bouquet she believes is from Deacon, she delivers a massive mea culpa about how lousy that was of her. Lucky for Rayna, he’d already decided there’s value in the pain, and he performs a whole song all about how no matter how hard they fight, they’re still each other’s lobsters. I LOVE it when Chip Esten performs. Everything just pours right out of him.

Stalker: Rayna has one, and said stalker sent flowers that said, “To the only woman I have ever loved.” Candidates: There’s the new fanboy who’s handling social media at Highway 65, whom I thought was a red herring until he stole a keepsake of Maddie that Rayna has on her desk. There’s also a tech entrepreneur who’s ANOTHER fanboy and wants to “hack Rayna’s cloud” in a non-euphemistic way (more in the recap), which is who I STILL think it could turn out to be, unless this show really is hella obvious. A third candidate: This random dude who stops her on the street to ask for a selfie and hand her his demo, who then casually is like, “Oh, so Maddie’s back home now?” Rayna writes it off to how public her life got for a second there, but it’s super creepy. So, we have a trio of candidates. If this were How I Met Your Murder, one of them would be eliminated every week.

Gunnar and Scarlett: They’re basically fine, but Scarlett falls into a jealousy spiral prompted by a) a series of texts from Autumn inviting Gunnar back on her tour (?!?) and b) a lyric in a love song he wrote, which they perform, about a person with “golden eyes.” She freaks out at Gunnar for — ever since the S1 proposal she refused — always dating people she cannot avoid, as if dangling them in front of her face, and then making her sing about them. But then she gets over it, because they love each other; he changes the lyric to “blue eyes” during a subsequent radio performance and I’m pretty sure they did it in the broom closet after that.

Juliette and Avery: are trying. Which may be complicated by her potential discovery of God. Yes, God.

Luke Wheeler and Layla: are gone.

Tags: Nashville