After the dramatic, two-hour extravaganza that was Nashville’s Season 5 premiere episode, the series is starting to settle in for what is shaping up to be perhaps its most interesting season yet.

Episode 3, "Let’s Put it Back Together Again," which aired Thursday night (Jan. 12), kicks off with Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) listening to demos of songs that she might use for her big comeback following that plane crash; she’s clearly not enthusiastic about what she’s hearing, but that may have more to do with how Barnes is feeling about her own future than the music itself.

Meanwhile, Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) is gearing up to make his return to producing albums with Ashley Willerman (Bridgit Mendler), the (fictional) YouTube star who is making her country debut. Interestingly enough, Maddie Conrad (Lennon Stella) is starting an internship -- part of her attempt to work her way up through the music business -- at that very same studio. As interns often are, Conrad is sent out for coffee and encounters Clayton Carter (Joseph David-Jones), a charming street musician whose voice is so alluring that Conrad drops the coffee she ordered all over the sidewalk. There’s pretty obvious chemistry here, so don’t be surprised if things soon start to heat up between the two!

Unfortunately, Barkley isn't quite having the same success with Willerman. In keeping with his own raw musical aesthetic, he wants her to drop the gimmicky production tactics (Auto-Tune and some weird train noises that she recorded herself) and produce a more authentic, vulnerable album .. but, as her assistants are Snapchatting and Instagramming the whole process, the fledgling singer reminds Barkley that it is she who has racked up more than 15 million views on YouTube for her music videos.

Elsewhere, the Exes, who don’t make much noise in this week’s episode, are meeting with Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) to discuss making a new music video. Creepy social media manager Randall (Jordan Woods-Robinson) makes an appearance, delivering some kind of swamp water-looking green juice to Jaymes while extolling its benefits; considering the level of awkwardness that the guy has brought to Nashville's previous two episodes, the show is really trying to sell the idea that he’s the one who is stalking Jaymes.

Back to Barnes: She shows up at the door of her “angel,” Hallie Jordan (Rhiannon Giddens), the woman whom she believes saved her life after the plane crash, and viewers learn that Jordan is an actual, real-life person, not just a figment of Barnes' imagination, cooked up to deal with the trauma. The two make plans to meet, and as Jordan drives away to volunteer at church, Barnes notices that her car is on its last legs; not surprisingly, she reacts in typical Juliette Barnes fashion and has a Range Rover delivered to Jordan at the church.

Being the humble, gracious woman that she is, Jordan asks Barnes to take the car back ... and she does. Considering Barnes' high-strung, bratty attitude throughout the entirety of Nashville, it’s fascinating to watch her grow up as she contends with potentially being paralyzed for the rest of her life.

Back in the studio with Barkley and and Willerman, the struggles escalate: Her singing is contrived and annoying, and she isn’t listening to any of the criticism from Barkley or Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), who is playing guitar on the album. The situation rises to a boiling point, and Barkley quits the gig because Willerman is being stubborn and acting like a jerk. Later on, Maddie Conrad has her own turn with Willerman; Conrad gets fired, and Claybourne is definitely not happy about it.

Then, somewhat awkwardly, viewers learn that there's another possibility as to whom Jaymes' stalker might be: While she’s walking down the street with Bucky Dawes (David Alford), a random stranger walks up and tries to give Jaymes his demo; she politely declines, but then the man insists on a photo, and mentions something about Conrad being back home after her estrangement in the previous season. Jaymes shakes it off and chalks it up to the story being in the tabloids, but there’s clearly something more at play.

The two biggest revelations of this week’s Nashville episode come very near its end: First, after Jaymes tells Claybourne that he shouldn't be afraid to stand up for his own daughter, he and Conrad make up (remember, she claimed that he has a violent temper during Season 4's emancipation proceedings). When Conrad visits her younger sister Daphne (Maisy Stella) before the pow-wow with her dad, she asks if she's "turning into a b---h."

"A little," her sister replies, and Conrad has a change of heart.

But, most importantly, it's official: The comeback of Juliette Barnes has begun. As Barkley leaves to pick up some of his things at Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio)'s house, he and Barnes attempt to figure out where their relationship stands; neither knows what the hell is going on, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re headed for reconciliation. While Barkley is gone, Barnes writes a song about her post-plane crash journey -- and it might just be the best one yet that we’ve heard from the fictional star.

Then, in the episode’s final scene, viewers learn that Barnes actually will recover: As she’s changing baby Cadence’s diaper, the little one pees in her lap -- and she feels it. Considering that she’d only been able to wiggle her toe prior to the pee incident, it’s a pretty emotional (albeit hilarious) moment.

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