OK, here's what I did...
removed the brine line, removed the brine-pickup tube, inspected them both and then reattached and reinstalled both.
removed the discharge line, removed the discharge threaded 90 elbow piece, reinstalled the discharge threaded 90 elbow piece with some Teflon tape added, and then reinstalled the discharge line.

Thus far, no air in the water lines, softener is working and all is well. Oh yeah, no $ spent either.