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Nashville - Back in the Saddle Again - Advance Preview: "Sad Noodle Casserole"

Welcome back Nashies. After an almost three month hiatus, our favorite country drama is back on our screens. "Back in the Saddle Again" picks up ten weeks after the events of "Fire and Rain." As the title suggests, our favorite characters are adjusting to life post-Rayna. So while the time jump gives our characters time to mourn, Rayna's presence is still felt. This is not an episode of Charmed where viewers never see the image of Rayna James again; this is Nashville. I know a lot of viewers, myself included, wondered if the show could survive without Rayna. I'll be the first to admit that I usually hate it when shows kill off their primary characters: Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy, Marissa Cooper on The O.C., Prue Halliwell on Charmed. So while I would have preferred Rayna and Deacon to ride off into the sunset, the series does an above average job of making Rayna's presence felt.

Daphne takes Rayna's death the hardest. She's having a really difficult time coping with the loss of her mother. It's heartbreaking to watch Daphne in so much pain, but kudos to the writers for finally giving the character a story arc of substance. She starts acting out, but we, as viewers, can sympathize with her. While not everyone has lost a parent, everyone understands grief; it's a universal concept. Her behavior is much more justifiable than her sister's rebellion in previous seasons, specifically the whole emancipation storyline in season 4. Maddie's brattiness was just annoying, and she came across as ungrateful. Daphne, however, is going through a rough time. She's allowed to be angry and upset and messed up. It's all right if she's not okay. She just lost her mother and her father is still in prison. As she tells Deacon in this episode, they're not a family without Rayna. Her acting out leads her to make a new friend, a homeless teen named Liv. It has yet to be determined if Liv will be a good or bad influence, but I'm guessing the latter because this television after all.

God bless Deacon. He really steps up in this episode, just being there for Daphne despite her attempts to push him away. As the synopsis from CMT states "Deacon helps Daphne with a school project, but Daphne feels unmotivated." However, Deacon's support goes further than simply academic; he's there for her emotionally. Deacon, out of all of our characters except maybe Juliette, really knows what it's like to struggle in life. His life story is basically a depressing country song, and while lesser characters would have continued to wallow after losing the love of their life, Deacon takes it upon himself to do everything he can for his daughters. (Yes, I'm aware Daphne isn't technically his daughter, but he loves her like one). There's a really touching scene at the end of the episode between the three of them that melts my heart. Charles Esten delivers in this episode.

Meanwhile, Juliette and Maddie clash over Maddie's new single. Juliette really does have Maddie's best interest at heart, and after some disappointing news in the first few minutes, she takes it upon herself to do everything in her power to try to help Maddie. Maddie, being Maddie, is as stubborn as ever. However, she really has "grown" (also known as the new co-showrunners performing major corrective surgery on her personality) and eventually comes to see things from Juliette's point of view. The dynamic between these characters has come full circle to the beginning of the series with Rayna attempting to mentor Juliette, and Juliette resisting at every step of the way. It's actually great to see Juliette helping someone without ulterior motives; this is the Juliette we know and love.

The good news is that you find out in this episode who's Scarlett's baby daddy. Thank god they didn't drag this reveal out for several episodes. Going forward, it'll be interesting to see how all parties involved handle the situation. What I will reveal about Scarlett and Gunnar is that they have a duet together, which is one of the three news songs featured in this episode. Their duets are always a favorite of mine. As a side note of complete unimportance, the doctor somewhat slut shames Scarlett by asking her if she's SURE there's only one other potential father.

Lastly, Will has a "mini-crisis" of sorts and someone's job may be in jeopardy. Do not miss the first episode back of Nashville when it airs Thursday, June 1 at 9 on CMT.

As a parting gift, I give you humourous and heartfelt quotes alike to tide you over until tonight:
"[Insert character's name], what's going on?" / "Just brainstorming on how to achieve world domination."
"I never thought this would be me."
"It's physically impossible to turn in homework every day."
"We all get sold this fantasy that life's gonna be easy. Hurt's like hell when you learn the truth."
"How are you doing?" / "Sanctimonious and saccharine."
"I keep trying to make everything okay, but it's not. It's not for me either. It's not for any of us, and I don't know what to do about that."

So hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. Who's job may be in jeopardy? Who's the father of Scarlett's unborn baby? Love it or hate it, I want to know. Okay, not necessarily if you hate it, but constructive criticism is welcome.

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