Liam is back! But it's all for naught, since he has to witness Rayna canoodling with Luke and then work with Scarlett. He's crabby when Scarlett won't divulge personal details, then he reads her diary. Yes, Scarlett brings her diary to a recording session. It's all covered with Lisa Frank stickers. In any case, Liam's plan works and Scarlett digs deep and writes about her mentally ill mother. When she's exhausted after staying up all night, Liam offers her a pill that he takes for "jet lag." And this is how it all happened with Judy Garland! So look for Scarlett's drug addiction in the near future.
Meanwhile, Luke may be vaguely grody, but he DOES have a lot of money. He makes a customized Rayna Jaymes Nascar car, just because he can. And because he's now all about promoting her label. While on the Nascar grounds, Rayna runs into a Sam Walton-esque dude and chats him up about distribution of her new record. This is something she should have done about a year ago, but she remains unfazed. She invites him to be her special guest at Juliette's induction into the Grand Ole Opry. This event is supposed to be one where Juliette reads an apology (scripted by Edgehill) to her fans and the country for her un-American activities. Instead, she goes off script and refuses to be anyone other than who she is in the mother church of country music. She sings a defiant song about not putting dirt on her grave just yet, and then basically drops the mic. The audience reaction is tepid, while Jeff's is not. He practically gnashes his teeth, and then drops Juliette from the label. She notes that to lose your top two artists six months into a new job isn't exactly stellar performance. Rayna is supportive, telling Juliette that her stunt wasn't too smart, but it was brave.
No other label wants Juliette (we haven't gotten to the question of Highway 65 just yet), and so she sends Glen on vacation and actually feels a bit relieved to take a break from being The Great and Terrible Juliette Barnes. She makes pink macaroni, puts it in a casserole dish and takes it to Avery's place to declare her love. They kiss and have implied size-appropriate sexytimes, and all is right with the world for a moment. Meanwhile, the Sam Walton guy thinks he might be able to find shelf space for Rayna, because whatever Walmart proxy he owns is getting out of the Juliette Barnes business. It looks like Rayna makes a deal with him, to the grave disappointment of Maddie. But nay! She stands on the right side of personal and artistic integrity, which means that signing Juliette must be imminent. Luke thinks she's ballsy. He's also pretty ballsy by promoting her new record at a Nascar-related concert, which sends Jeff into fits. Jeff orders Brent to do all he can to sabotage Rayna's release, while Luke thinks that he might like to sign with Highway 65 himself.
Meanwhile, Deacon learns that Belcourt Buddy has given him a $20,000 recording contract in hopes that he'll wrangle in his famous friends to do a duets album. He's not thrilled about it, and Avery life coaches him to the decision that he'll make a "Live at the Bluebird" album instead -- on vinyl, because he's so behind the curve that he's ahead of it.
In stories of political intrigue, Teddy shares his theory about Lamar with his friend from the feds, while Tandy hides out in a motel in Biloxi. It turns out that she's run off and is in violation of her plea agreement, which is a big problem. Eventually she's arrested, but then informs the feds that she's NOT testifying. What's more, all of the incriminating evidence she gave them on Lamar was stolen, so it's inadmissible in court. So everyone goes free! This is less a result of filial loyalty than of Tandy's fear that Lamar is actually going to kill her. Needless to say, Teddy is not pleased.
Finally, with tour dates being cancelled, Will and Layla hang out in Nashville, which is all very confusing to Gunnar. Layla wants to write with Gunnar and turns out to be a bit of a blank, which leads to her and Will quasi-bonding over what it's like to disappoint your parents. Gunnar, meanwhile, wants Will to come out already and shave the beard.
Previously on Nashville: Tandy knew all of Lamar's dirty little secrets, and wasn't shy about sharing them with the feds. Teddy theorized to Megan that Lamar ordered the hit on him, while Deacon got a (low-paid) deal with Belcourt Records. Rayna had a come to Jesus with Scarlett, telling her that it takes more than talent to make it in the music business. And after angry mobs with pitchforks and torches showed up at every Juliette Barnes show (well, at least the ones that weren't cancelled), Jeff ordered her to apologize. Juliette in turn showed up at Avery's door…and asked him to write a song with her. A song of apology? Yeah, I didn't think so either.
We open the episode with Luke "Two" Wheeler banging on some drums, and Rayna is impressed. She wonders what he's doing with a guitar, and he says that you can't serenade the ladies with a drum. But he just did! He and Rayna start making out, and it's confusing as usual. Liam comes in at this opportune moment, looking like we feel (which is puzzled and vaguely disgusted). Luke introduces himself all friendly-like, and Liam congratulates him on "Ball and Chain." Liam then says that he's apparently not the only guy that Rayna can make beautiful music with, and Rayna looks rather uncomfortable. Luke, however, is unfazed and looks forward to hearing what Liam will do with Scarlett. He does pull Rayna toward him while he's talking up Scarlett, which leads me to wonder why these two don't just pull it out and measure. Looking at Liam with his extra-shaggy hair also leads me to wonder why Rayna isn't doing the logical thing and boning him instead of Luke -- a question I am bound to ask in perpetuity.
Anyhoo, Liam has finished mixing "This Time," the song that Rayna wrote with Deacon, and agrees that it's the single. This means that their album is done, and now all Rayna has to do is launch it against every major label in town. Scarlett then comes bumbling in to ruin everything, as she does, and Rayna tells her not to let Liam scare her. We're reminded that the first time Rayna met Liam, and he slammed a door in her face. But then they had an all night tequila rager and the world was right. Luke hustles Rayna out so they're not late to their next engagement, and she tells Scarlett to have fun and Liam to be nice. And the only thing more awkward than having Luke and Rayna there with Scarlett and Liam, apparently, is having Luke and Rayna leave Scarlett and Liam alone.