Many “Nashville” fans were excited to see a premiere date released, but they discovered bad news on the same day: Connie Britton has a shorter contract. The actress, who plays Rayna Jaymes, is only signed on for 10 episodes, but CMT is making a full 22-episode Season 5. So how might the country music drama explain Britton’s absence? We have a few theories:

Space Out The EpisodesEntertainment Weekly reported that Britton is signed on for 10 episodes, but they didn’t say that they have to be the first 10 of the year. Writers could spread out her appearances over the season, blaming short absences on a long day in the studio or a quick business trip.

World Tour — Sure, Rayna typically checks in while she’s on tour, but her tours are usually just stateside. Maybe a trip to Europe could explain why she is missing.

Mental Breakdown — With everything Rayna’s been through, it’s a miracle that she’s still standing. If she were to finally crack under pressure, it would make sense for her take some time off to go into counseling and treatment. The series previously survived Juliette’s (Hayden Panettiere) absence when she went to rehab for postpartum depression.

Death — This isn’t an ideal option, but it might work if Britton really doesn’t want to be in the show. There isn’t really a permanent way to write her out of the show without taking Deacon (Charles Esten) and her daughters Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Daphne (Maisy Stella) with her.

The good news is that Britton might extend her contract. CMT is reportedly trying to convince her to sign on for more episodes. With any luck, new showrunners Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz won’t have to worry about writing her out.

They will, however, have other absences to explain. Will Chase, who played Luke Wheeler, will not return, nor will Aubrey Peeples, who played Layla Grant. Supporting characters will likely be a little easier to write out than a leading lady.

“Nashville” Season 5 premieres Thursday, Jan. 5, at 9 p.m. EDT on CMT.

Rayna nashville spoilers Rayna (Connie Britton) could have a reduced role in “Nashville” Season 5. Photo: ABC