Heading into Wednesday's midseason finale, things are starting to gel on ABC's country music drama Nashville.
Rayna (Connie Britton) and Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) finally took the stage together for a duet that marked one of the season's must-see musical performances, Scarlett and Gunnar inched closer to fulfilling the romantic tension that's thisclose to coming out and Teddy's bid for office faced yet another roadblock in the form of potentially damaging photos being leaked to the press at the hands of the opposition -- a close friend of the Jaymes family.
Off-screen, the Nashville-set country music soap secured what creator/EP Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) believes is a vote of confidence from the network after ABC kept the rookie series in its Wednesday at 10 p.m. slot after rumblings about a potential move to Sundays, where it could have been paired with sophomore soap Revenge.
"I was very happy to stay on Wednesdays," Khouri tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I think they believe in us. A lot of times when a show moves, you can take one of two things from it: That they're struggling in their time slot and they're going to move them or we're going to have to figure out how we can make this work and if you don't find the right slot for it, then we'll chuck it.' The fact that they left us alone made me feel like they believe we're picking up steam. If they move us next season I'll be fine with that, but I was hoping we would stay where we were to be solid enough where people figure out where and when we are, though with DVRs it doesn't really matter."
While broadcast ratings this fall are down across the board overall -- save for exceptions including CBS' The Big Bang Theory -- Khouri notes Nashville (which most recently held its 1.8 rating in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 episode) "looks pretty good" when factoring in Live+7 DVR gains (recent figures show its up 57 percent).
"We're in a competitive market these days and when two network presidents come out in the same week and say stop looking at overnights, maybe everybody should stop looking at overnights," she says, noting she regularly views most programming via DVR. "I think cable changes everything and I hope I'm not naive but I look at a lot of shows and think they're in the same boat we are with exception of CSI and series like those that have been on for years. You elbow your way in and hope you get to stay."
Ahead of Wednesday's midseason finale, here are five things to know about the episode:
1. After Juliette and Rayna's nod of acknowledgement that the result of their overnight songwriting session was a success, their joint record label won't back down and will look to force the pair to extend their relationship as the single climbs the charts. "They both realize that the pressure for them to pool their resources and do things that are mutually beneficial is becoming more enhanced," Khouri says. "Both figure out how they have to deal with that and that pressure won't go away." Neither singer, she notes, will be pleased at that prospect but after a performance like that, can you blame the suits for wanting to cash in on the duo's success?
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2. Juliette will take things to the next level with her football stud boy toy -- but it won't be easy getting there after the young starlet initially started the relationship under false pretences. "She's never been with anyone who wanted to be with her because they like her and that's a really appealing state of affairs," Khouri says. "They definitely want to take it to the next level and will meet some resistance."
3. After crawling back to Avery and seeing a quick reminder of why they split in the first place, Scarlett will continue to find herself -- and stuck to Gunnar whether she wants to be or not. "She's stumbling onto this side of herself that she's not totally comfortable with; she did a couple shots of tequila and it was the love of a song that overtook her and now she's finding the courage to do things and express herself in ways she didn't expect," the creator/EP says. "She's finding courage to do things and express herself in ways she didn't expect and each time she goes a step further."
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4. Speaking of Scarlett, her songwriting relationship with Gunnar will be tested professionally and personally. "They're trying to keep things professional and Gunnar clearly has feelings for her and a lot of what happens in the show is characters have feelings that they feel are not right for the time or they risk screwing up their creative partnerships," Khouri previews. "Scarlett is really in love with Avery and she's horribly disappointed in him being driven to the point where he loses his moral compass and it starts to thin. That's a really difficult thing for her to deal with and it puts her in a different state of mind with who she is."
5. Rayna's worst fears are beginning to come true. With Coleman threatening to leak misleading photos of Teddy with Pam to the press, Rayna is "in a tough bind" between her longtime family friend and her husband, who is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to her politically savvy father. "She's going to try and come up with some way to mitigate the damage to her family and figure out whether this is something she can reconcile for herself. All of her warnings have been not been heeded and it seems like things will spiral out of control. It'll be a huge challenge for her to stay supportive [of Teddy.]"
What are you looking forward to seeing? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.
Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit