I dunno, Dance Moms fans. This season is starting to feel like the tail end of the school year, where there’s nothing left to learn, your best friends have already ditched out on vacation, the teachers are substitutes and we’re mostly killing time while the sun shines elsewhere. I’m getting crabby. Well, worse crabby. And there’s no official final bell in sight freeing me to a different playground.
Once again we start out in sunny California, where Maddie is practicing the solo she will perform on Season 2 of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition (most probably a September premiere). Abby says no one else wanted to come to L.A. Abby does not say whether or not the others were actually invited, but you don’t need to borrow my crayons to draw your own conclusion.
To try to keep this whole mess at least a little bit connected (and pretend that Dance Moms won’t be one long commercial for AUDC from here on out), she rags on Cathy, says she has her own TV show so nerny-nerny and her rival will never catch her.
In Canton, Cathy is having trouble with Anthony remembering she is the employer and he’s the employee. Then she announces that the fancy digital Apple pyramid of irrelevance has been replaced by the fancy digital Apple Tree of irrelevance.
To further differentiate from Abby, we will also begin at the top of the tree, oh ho! That spot belongs to Nick. Kathy says that he was the man of the competition. Zack looks a little miffed about that assessment. Donna says it’s about time Nick got his due.
Next is Hadley. Yvette hoped her girl would be top of the tree, but whatever. Then we get yet another chance to revisit the road-kill comment, because really, who can get enough of that.
Next is Nicaya, even though she and Kaya are nowhere to be seen this week. Cathy says Nicaya dropped everything to … well, I guess be collateral damage so her mother could inject some drama into a seriously perplexing episode. Cathy says there will always be a spot for Nicaya on the Apples.
Next is Zack. Gina says Cathy is a great mentor and coach. Zack says Candy Apples is a really positive environment and he is happy to aid in Cathy’s quest to vanquish Abby. As long as it doesn’t involve little red puppet pants.
Then comes Jalen. Holy crap — Jalen is 11? And I thought I was teeny at that age. Rick describes him as a self-taught B-Boy and then — miracle of miracles — actually admits his boy is not so great at most choreography. But what he can do, he does great. Head-spinning, Rick. Accept that, too.
Mari is second from the bottom. Gina Collins doesn’t seem to have a problem with it and we get more recycled commentary about Cathy being the person who can take Mari to the top.
Campbell is the low-hanging fruit of the Apple Tree. Alli says her kid will still prove her worth. Campbell says her mother made her for one reason and one reason only — to dance. This brings to mind all manner of icky No Wire Hangers/I Made You Just To Dance connotations, but I’m going to ignore them.
This week we will be going to Masters of Dance Arts in Columbus. I can find little evidence of this online — not that I tried terribly hard, since it’s another in10sity Dance deal. The group dance will be called So Chic. Mari doesn’t know what chic means. Anthony says it means fabulous club kids.
Nick and Hadley will do a duet called Tribal Affair.
Jalen gets his first solo. It’s called One Last Goodbye. Also, One Last Thing — it won’t involve spinning on his head. It will be contemporary. Jalen looks worried. Since we know we have to pluck one apple from the tree, I hope the title of the dance isn’t foreshadowing. I could live without Rick, but I’m way fond of Jalen.
Mari gets a solo, too, even though Cathy calls last week’s vomiting episode an excuse and says there is nothing worse than a dancer full of excuses. Yes there is. A dancer full of vomit. Showing up at dance class. That’s worse.
Mari’s solo will be called Still I Rise. Brief pause while I belt out Journey’s “Still They Ride” at the top of my lungs to get it out of my system. I’m sorry, husband. I’m sorry, cat. I’m sorry, neighbors. It’s Anthony’s fault.
The Apple Parents head back to the parent sectional sofa to discuss what just went down. Yvette says she thinks Cathy’s just testing them. Gina Collins says Mari got a bad rap because she doesn’t typically dance in bare feet. Wait. I thought it was about vomit. In any case, both Gina Collins and Rick express concern that their kids are going to be the fallen Apple, but Rick says if it comes down to Jalen versus Mari, Jalen will beat Mari hands — if not head — down.
Yvette, who wore her shiny blue bathrobe to school today, says that Rick’s bravado is masking how much he’s worried about Jalen losing his spot on the team. Right, Gina Collins?
Rick probably has good reason to worry. Anthony wants to test Rick’s theory from last week that anyone can come in off the street and learn pirouetting even easier than break dancing by making Jalen do a triple pirouette. Jalen isn’t getting it, making practice run extra long, the drama of which is compounded by the fact that Mari hasn’t even begun her lesson yet. Tough noogies. Rick goes to see if Cathy will record Jalen’s solo so he can practice it at home. Mari can dance at midnight.
Rick further explains that the tough part of being the only dude in the parent/costume room that he calls the Kiss and Cry room is that the women-folk don’t understand that men just express themselves differently. Gina Collins is about to express herself differently, too. She says that Mari is being set up to fail, so she brings the girl into the studio to stretch during Jalen’s practice to nudge Anthony along. Even though they were all just lamenting Poor Mari’s fate, the other mothers act appalled.
Field trip to Cathy’s house! Cathy says she finally has some free time to tackle a task she’s been meaning to do for a while: catalog her bunnies. Everybody remembers Cathy’s Easter/Bunny fetish from way, way back in Season 1? We have ceramic bunnies, gift bunnies, antique bunnies, lounging bunnies … and once we have a final bunny tally we will decide if we need even more bunnies to maintain our “Hoppy Family” status. Viv finds this reasonable.
Cathy says the bunny below is Jill Bunny because it’s a manly bunny and smokes a pipe, which she is pretty sure is how Mrs. Vertes whiles away the time on her days off.
This bunny is Abby Bunny, because it looks very happy to have armloads of food. Pa-dow!
Seriously, we had nothing else with which to fill this episode? And also, I think we have enough bunnies.
Back at the studio, Anthony reminds us of his extensive resumé — stints with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Katy Perry — which I’m guessing still isn’t making any of us feel any better about his current situation. Even if he has to do it in Canton, Ohio, Anthony says he knows what it takes to spot a star.
Anthony tells Mari her solo is called Still I Rise (on wheeeeeeels of fire! Sorry, neighbors. Sorry.) because he wants Mari to rise to the occasion of being given a solo. Gina Collins says Anthony makes Mari way too nervous. Anthony gives Mari every reason to be nervous and starts hollering at her for having no energy in her finger. I bet if she were a little older, she’d find some energy in one finger in particular, but for now Mari is hyperventilating instead. Whoops. Nope. Asthma attack. Gina Collins wishes Cathy was in the studio instead of Anthony, because Anthony is not nurturing. In either case, I hope one of them has Mari’s inhaler.
Anthony may not be nurturing, but he is stoked about Nick’s and Hadley’s tribal duet, which looks to be the type of unh-unh-unh choreography he loves best. He says the costumes will be spectacular, too. Abby would only give this dance to Nia, so I’m impressed with his open-mindedness.
Cathy says that Mari’s meltdown proves that Anthony has too much power and it’s time for her to reclaim her rightful place in the studio. Huh? The kid had an asthma attack while Anthony was teaching her. That’s not the dude’s fault. Well, whatever. Let’s teach Nick and Hadley to breathe, because Cathy says so.
So Chic is actually a tribute to Anthony’s pal Malik So Chic, whose song will accompany the dance. The children have a question.
He is. Plus, says Anthony, Malik’s also the biggest fashionista socialite on the New York party scene. Malik So Chic only has 97 Facebook likes, so I’m not so sure about that, but anyway — let’s celebrate by doing some pushups. Or not. Cathy decides to assert herself further and say no to the pushups. Anthony says yes to the pushups. Jalen doesn’t want to do pushups unless there’s a reason to do pushups. His little chin begins to quiver. And here comes Rick. Rick wants to know why the girls don’t have to do pushups. Because Anthony don’t want no girls that look like He-Man, that’s why. He wants girls with soft and dainty arms.
Oh Lord. Rick’s crying. Rick didn’t have a dad. That’s why he’s a helicopter dad to Jalen.
Rick, my man, I’m sincerely sorry about your childhood, but I would be much more touched by this sudden weepy revelation if you weren’t such a bully to everyone who crosses your path.
Next day, Cathy promises the parents that she will deal with Anthony’s tyrannical ways. I suppose it’s probably time for Anthony to go back to choreographing for Abby’s Ultimate, where we got him in the first place, so it’s as good a time as any to pretend she’s giving him the boot. Cathy tells Anthony he has no right to consider her a joke and he should think about that long and hard. “Cathy,” he says quietly as she storms off. “Cathy.”
Alli says she has no patience for Anthony screaming and yelling at Cathy. Someone quick remind me which cajoling “Cathy” constituted screaming and which one constituted yelling? Doesn’t really matter because it turns out, all Cathy really wants is to have the last word. Anthony says OK. Dude, that’s claiming the last word. “No!” hollers Cathy. Anthony is silent. Better. He’s forgiven.
Back to the Abby’s Ultimate set, where Maddie is practicing her solo onstage this time. Abby says she has her work cut out for her because the Season 2 contestants are just that good.
Mari and the newly chastened Anthony are getting along much better now, but in the Parent Room, however, Rick and Gina Collins — who is now labeled onscreen as Gina G — are still going at it. Alli says the dances will settle their drama once and for all. I’d go with “make it worse,” Alli, but I admire your optimism.
Come competition day, Cathy is fretting about the lack of team unity. She decides to remedy that by bringing a live rabbit along for the ride and informing her dancers that anyone who doesn’t do well will have to take it home and clean up its “poop turds.” Campbell says she’ll clean up its poop turds without even dancing a step.
Aw. Teensy and cute, meet teensy and cute.
Cathy explains that she brought the poor creature — I mean the rabbit — along because her team needs so much luck that she opted for a whole rabbit, not just a foot. It’s too bad she didn’t bring a couple of rats, too, because Anthony’s shirt would make an excellent maze.
Jay-Jay will be dancing topless and possibly with a rose in his mouth. Rick and Gina G reiterate their hopes that their children aren’t being set up to fail. Mari’s solo will go first.
Her dance reminds me of Maddie’s choreography, and she looks a little sloppy but she’s a beautiful girl and entertaining to watch.
Then it’s Jalen’s turn. He’s still toting the rose. For a minute, I think he’s dancing to Whiter Shade of Pale, what with the heavy organ intro and all, but I’m wrong. Also, however did the cameraman get this close while he was dancing at a competition?
Jalen is cute as a button and super expressive, but he didn’t pull off his triple pirouette and he knows it. In the audience, Rick cries again as Anthony whispers to Cathy. Backstage Anthony and Cathy waste no time in letting Rick and Gina G. know that neither dancer did that great, and someone is going home. Yes, we know. Someone is going home. Some day. Probably.
Then Anthony and Cathy get to strapping Hadley’s enormous headpiece on her head. Good God. That thing looks like a small turkey. Or a large pheasant. It’s Hadley’s phurkey hat!
While they fuss and fuss, Hadley starts to burble and well and Yvette explains to us that’s it’s because she’s never had to dance with anything quite that large on her head before. I would certainly hope not. Though Cathy offers to alter the headpiece to Hadley’s liking, Yvette says she told her girl that she needs to borrow some of Mom’s strength and soldier through, bird hat and all. I’m not sure if she means emotional or physical strength, but both would come in handy.
The Tribal Dance dance is cool and if the phurkey hat is bugging Hadley once she hit the stage, you would never know it.
Then we get a preview of Maddie performing at what I think Manno just said was the grand finale of Abby’s Ultimate. I see the unmistakable shoulder of Richie Squirrel, but who’s the lady? That’s not Robin Antin gone all Farrah Fawcett, is it? No, it isn’t. Somebody wiser than me about these things — who is this?
• UPDATE: Thanks to reader Harry, we have identified Mystery Judge as none other than ALDC guest choreographer Rachelle “Sas” Rak!
By the way, for those of you who might be wondering, I made a quick trip over to the Twitter feed of Abby’s Ultimate Season 1 winner Brianna Haire, and miracle of miracles, look at this. It wasn’t a load of hooey after all. Hurray!
Maddie dances to a live vocalist. Abby looks proud. Mystery lady looks happy. Richie gives the dancer one earnest fist up instead of his signature ringie-dingie fingers. Maybe the no-finger-energy is a nationwide epidemic.
Surprise!! Malik So Chic has made the trip to Columbus to see the dance in his honor!
Yvette says she is attracted to him because he is so self-confident. The kids tell Hadley’s potential new daddy that his song is the coolest ever!
Malik don’t dance, no Malik don’t dance, he walk-walk-walk-walk-walks around!
The kids do dance and Malik is so inspired that he gets to his feet in the audience and sings along. I can’t get a decent grab of the dance, because we mostly see it in chunks, so I hope you caught it for yourself. I’m not sure if it was chic, but it was certainly something.
Nick and Hadley’s duo is a winner.
Jalen’s solo gets ninth. Mari gets eighth. Cathy’s not happy with either placement.
The group gets second. Cathy says she’s OK with that — sometimes other teams are just better.
Anthony says they might not have won but people will certainly remember them. Then Cathy rains on the parade and says that there’s no obvious choice for who gets cut from the team. In fact, maybe it needs to be Anthony! She could get some designer handbags with the cash she saves by trading Anthony for Louis V.
Next week, Dance Moms gets its very own Watch What Happens Live knockoff — complete with onstage drinkies and JC Executive Producer Superstar as the DM version of Andy Cohen — when Christi, Kelly and Kaya go head-to-head with a studio audience, each other, and superfan comedians Nadine Rajabi and Lisa Arch in the first ever Dance Moms Chatter.
So what say you, Dance Moms fans? Is this even Dance Moms anymore, or a hollow, Candy Apple red shell? Are you fearful for the fate of the series, given that Abby warned us that Abby’s Ultimate was the show she really wanted to do in the first place? And most importantly, if you were a bunny, what kind would you be?
Dance Moms airs Tuesday nights at 9/8CT on Lifetime.