For this fourth episode of “NashvilleSeason 6, “That's My Story,” the music was easy and playful, but the places the characters went were the deepest and darkest ever. Darius (Josh Stamberg) prompts Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) to travel back to childhood memories so painful that she has pushed them out of conscious thought. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) volunteers at a therapeutic equine program and discovers her comfort zone and greater purpose.

Daphne (Maisy Stella) unwittingly finds herself partnered with Jake Maitland (Myles Moore), who gives her dad, Deacon (Charles Esten) a most unflattering label, but she finds herself attracted nonetheless.

Avery (Jonathan Jackson), Gunnar (Sam Palladio), and Will (Chris Carmack) have chemistry onstage, but combustion in the creative process.

Not playing around

The trio of Avery, Gunnar, and Will still has no official name together, but the connection they have in performance is certainly pleasing to fans, particularly the ladies. The kinks come in when they try to “shape” their particular sound. Will brings too much fluff, and Gunnar is too dark, still dealing with the remnants of his breakup. Avery is uncomfortably between the two, feeling both sides, and not much room for his own creativity so far.

“Nashville” fans get to welcome Bucky (David Alford) and his character’s steady wisdom back to the series in this episode, as he and Deacon try to inspire the younger musicians to remember the fun and energy of the music.

Even boy bands have smiles worth remembering, Deacon reminds. Avery contends that peanut butter and chocolate need each other to make a sweet and musical success.

While Juliette is still delving deep into Darius’ teachings of “coherent philosophy,” Avery relates to Deacon his fears of her becoming part of a cult. He recalls a high school friend who never really came back completely.

There is “a piece never put back” after such an experience. Deacon urges a bit more time and patience, knowing Juliette's history. Darius describes the process of a “witnessing” to Juliette after she hears sobbing from his office. He starts to take her to her most painful childhood memory, going with her mother to an elderly man's home, where “he liked me” and there were always cartoons on TV and multiple $20 bills on the table.

She pulls back from the memory, fighting off going too far, but Darius assures her that she will be “a different person” after probing her darkness. When she comes the next time, it is her turn for “witnessing.”

Hayden Panettiere is nothing short of stellar, making this portrayal personal and powerful. Producers Marshall Herskowitz and Ed Zwick deserve credit again for these courageous storylines that move like Nashville song lyrics and truly take viewers on the journey with the characters. No one deserves true healing more than Juliette. Darius may not be the perfect vehicle, but if she gets to that place, in the end, this trip will be so satisfying.

Another delight in this “Nashville” offering is the return of the magnificent Rhiannon Giddens in her role as Hallie.

She offers grace and understanding to Juliette, and gives a luminous performance of a new song, “Wandering Roads.”

Broadway veteran, Lisa Banes, brings a lot to “Nashville” portraying the director of a therapeutic horse ranch, where Scarlett hopes to be of service.

Truth hurts

Daphne gets paired with Jake Maitland for her junior high frog dissection, which every student recalls. Jake tells her up front that he has neither the stomach nor the aptitude for the task, and he bails on the day, resulting in detention and a failing grade for them both. Their parents’ relationship gives them something to bond over, and Jake says her dad is a “rage-aholic,” referring to his highly publicized anger outbursts, often fueled by alcoholism.

She confides to Maddie, who is now grown up enough to come to Deacon, asking forgiveness, for real, for the court battle that she caused. Deacon calls Jessie (Kaitlin Doubleday) to make a confession, and she is almost instantly accepting.

Juliette is escorted for her own “witnessing” on her next visit to the compound and must go to the dark regions of her memories surrounded by other community members. She remembers at last that it was her mother, Jolene (Sylvia Jefferies), who offered her daughter to the disgusting elderly man, at “maybe nine” years old. The money would only feed a drug habit for the day, and the scars are with Juliette forever. Juliette asks if the pain will ever completely go away, and Darius responds “I can't promise you that.” If Juliette can ever find how strong, courageous, and worthy of love she is, that question will never go unanswered.

Avery, Gunnar, and Will celebrate another great day on stage, hamming up "boy band" moves, but Will is consumed by another addiction, creating the perfect body. Between shows, he runs to the bus to see his physique in the mirror, and more injections are sure to follow.

Pain is a certainty in life, and certainly a part of “Nashville” and a good country song, but going through the process to find healing and hope makes a marvelous ending verse.