“Nashville” -- returning for season five on CMT -- would not be “Nashville” without stars (and series antagonists) Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton. It would be something else entirely, like “Knoxville” or “Chattanooga.” Nice towns, but probably not good shows.

So it was widely expected -- in fact, it was a lock -- that they would return to the series when it jumped to CMT this fall, but (TV being TV), actual deals were not announced, giving fans concern (and writers something else to write about).

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On that note, they’ll both be joining the series. Case closed. Speculation over.

The website TVLine Wednesday reported their return without an official imprimatur from producer Lionsgate. Per the website, “Also expected back for the 22-episode season are co-stars Charles Esten, Sam Palladio, Jonathan Jackson, Clare Bowen, Lennon Stella, Maisy Stella and Chris Carmack.” (Esten, by the way, had been announced earlier).

Not back, per TVLine: “Will Chase and Aubrey Peeples, who played Luke and Layla, respectively.”

Panettiere -- who left the fourth season midway for health reasons (postpartum depression) and later returned -- had to be on the fifth season, if only for a cameo, to wrap her cliffhanger. (Juliette’s plane was lost ... remember?)