By Lori Acken
With no advance warning (unless I was still reeling from LaQueefa when it happened) the gang is now — SURPRISE! — on a multi-city tour that begins in Orlando.
Well sort of. We’re pretty sure that everybody is physically in the Sunshine State. But, Chloe will not be dancing solo, says Abby Lee, because, while she was happy with last week’s fourth place finish, Christi was not. Christi looks like she’s going to choke. Chloe looks philosophical in an, “Oh well, at least I can just sit on my doopa to lose to Maddie this week” kind of way. And Abby has moved on to brand-new tough chick Holly before Christi can make a peep. Abby warns Holly that there will be no more “altercations like Connecticut.” “Conversations,” corrects Holly, still improbably convinced that civility can vanquish bluster. “There will be no more conversations like Connecticut,” barks Abby. Holly rolls her eyes and fidgets with her new dance notebook; Abby has moved onto the biggest issue of all — Cathy and the Vivster are nowhere to be found.
Oh well. Given Vivi’s relevance to the Abby Lee win/loss column in the last few weeks, I don’t think the day is doomed, and neither must Abby Lee. After blowing off a little steam, she starts talking the group number, “Snapshot.” The girls will be playing swimsuit models — tame by Abby Lee’s standards.
But then guess what, you guys?! The number will also feature a photographer! And it won’t be MacKenzie or Vivi (cause we can’t find her) sitting around and cranking away on a Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Camera!
It will be …. BRANDON! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
I have never seen Brandon before, but clearly everybody else here has, most especially Kelly — who lunges toward his photo like she’s been wondering Where Has All The Child Gone for ages. And Kelly’s 13-year-old daughter Brooke, who winces like her stalker has been spotted in the woods.
“Brandon and I used to like each other a couple of years ago, but it never really went anywhere,” explains a non-plussed Brooke to the camera. “You were eleven,” explains a non-plussed Lori to the television. “There was no place for ‘It‘ to go.” Not beyond the dance studio anyway, where Brooke and Brandon, we learn, used to be quite the prize-winning duet partners till hormones took over and rendered them all, like, awkward and junk. (<— that’s foreshadowing right there.)
Nonetheless, the other little girls jump up and down and squeal and call him weird and Melissa presses her palms to her cheeks Macaulay Culkin style and asks, voice a’tremble, “Is he heeeeere?!”
He sure is! All the girls but Brooke flock and fuss around him until it’s time for him to go stand in the corner and watch them dance, mostly because his role in the number will be to lie fetchingly on the floor and carry Brooke around.
After her own rockstar entrance, Brandon’s mom, Diane, is welcomed into the mom-fold, then promptly ignored while the other mothers revisit earlier offenses. But she’s soon back in demand, because Abby for the life of her can’t figure out why these two 13-year-olds down here can’t bump and grind like a pair of drunken college kids on choreographed spring break. She believes a date is in order. A semi-unchaperoned date, mind you. “No tables for four!” bellows The Pompatus of Dance Mistress Love. “Let them do their own thing.”
In the meantime, Nia finally has a private lesson to rehearse to her new solo, which, happily, is not an African dance. It’s an East Indian dance called “Bollywood.” Holly, clutching her notebook, clearly recognizes Abby’s slyly cruel reminder that Nia is still the studio’s Ethnic Kid, (at least until that 30 grand appears outta somewhere). Then she tells Abby to take her sari and stuff it, and she and Nia walk out of the studio, never to be seen again.
Ah, no they don’t. Holly refocuses her disdain on the complexity of the dance as the reason Abby is setting Nia up for failure. And also, therein, sort of admits what Abby has been telling her all along — that Nia’s kinda middle of the pack when it comes to skills sets, all “bad feet” and no ab control.
But returning to the subject of never seen again. Cathy has been seen again and is now being summoned to Abby’s mustard-colored hotel room. “Is this my last rites before execution?” she wants to know, settling on the foot of the bed with a giant cup of coffee. Or Magic Cathy Juice. Or whatever is in there.
“I’ve. Had. It.” Abby tells her fellow dance teacher. “Either you’re part of this team, or you’re out.” “That’s ridiculous,” Cathy counters. “Stuff happens.” Stuff does not happen to Abby Lee, and she pulls Viv and Mac’s duet. Cathy tilts her head, perhaps getting the best angle for severing Abby’s jugular with one of her over-gelled hairs, then reckons on a new, even more ferocious weapon — one which doesn’t even require her to stand up. “So you’re hurting MacKenzie, then!” she crows, clearly pleased to be pulling the Ziegler family card. Abby is just as pleased to dismiss her from the room.
And then we’re off on B-Squared’s Big Date at The Fun Spot. Brandon and Brooke go on rides and wander around awkwardly. Kelly and Diane — Kelly’s former best friend — get in a fight about how Kelly likes Christi better now. “Can we talk about something else?” wails Brooke. I agree.
Like how Maddie just displayed a few passes of the Solos That All Look The Same and then gazed serenely into the camera and opined that she’d kill herself if she couldn’t dance. You’d kill your mother, for sure, honey.
Flash to some conference-looking room where Kelly is finding Holly’s dance notebook hilarious. Hiiiiiii-larious. Oh, that Holly and her insistence on book learning.
Flash to outside where Abby — frantically trying to get her girls ready for Starpower’s inexplicable beauty pageant portion — demonstrates a serviceable modeling walk, which makes the girls giggle. Everybody bombs their individually-tailored interview questions (“Nia, explain the origin of your name.” Really, Ab? Truly?). Abby quickly gives up and blames it on the mothers, who she feels should clearly be teaching Beauty Pageant 101 in their living rooms, when they’re not gluing sparkly things on costumes or gifting each other with candy bikinis.
Flash to the make-ready room. Cathy sashays in, begins jacking Vivi up and apologizes sincerely to the other mothers by suggesting that they should have gotten on stage with MacKenzie in Vivi’s place if the duet was so damn important to them, and then reminding them she is not in their group and she is not their friend. Also something about how Holly should stick her arm where the sun don’t shine on a mute Melissa and serve as her ventriloquist. Then she warbles that she is simply there to support their team. Then she spins on her kitten heel and leaves.
Then we’re at Abby’s Florida home, meeting her mama, eating fried chicken and subjecting the children to a game of “haul the greased watermelon out of the pool.” Nia, Brooke, Paige and Chloe find this terrific fun. Maddie, who weighs about as much as the watermelon, finds this a good excuse to clutch her leg, claim Nia or Brooke or somebody hurt her and get the hell out of there. I was 4″ tall in gym class once, too, Mads. I feel your faked-out pain, little sister.
Cut to a magically-restored Maddie happily spinning it out at the competition — only danger still lurks! Behind her a ways, in a dazzling cobalt costume, is her arch rival Juliana.
Clearly recovered from her loss of vocal expression (and girl-cahones) Melissa smirks into the camera and explains, “A lot of people think that Juliana is Maddie’s big competition. Don’t get me wrong — she’s a sweet girl and a great little dancer. But Maddie has no competition.”
Maddie doesn’t think so either. So when the two great little dancers and their mothers have an awkward meet-and-greet, during which Juliana’s mom proclaims, “So does it matter who wins, or does it matter who has fun?!” everyone but the questioner looks stymied. Finally Maddie pipes up, ” I don’t care who wins…?” with a Cheshire Cat smile — then sneers as her not-rival with the Mrs. Sunshine mother wanders away.
Turns out No Competition Maddie is, in fact, the only Abby Lee’er who qualifies for the pageant (apparently greased watermelon hauling was not among the requirements). With Chloe sidelined as Maddie’s whipping girl du episode, we watch a slightly slower, stouter Juliana perform ably instead. Then comes the speaking portion. Juliana, in a rumpled-duvet-looking aqua gown, nails it. Maddie, twinkly in pink, can’t remember what it is she hopes the ladies, gentlemen and judges enjoyed. But she walks beautifully. And of course she kicks Juliana to the runner-up curb and lands herself another NBA-height trophy for the effort.
Then it’s “Snapshot” time. Romeo and Juliet look like they’d rather take the poison than do the dance, Brooke especially. It’s so distracting that it takes the judges attention away from cherry-bikinied Maddie (apparently this is possible). The gang doesn’t even place in the top ten. Brandon and Diane, feeling justifiably used, hightail it outta there before Abby can blame the boy for the girl’s disinterest, leaving Nia as the only port left in the path of Hurricane Abby.
Problem is Holly found her Dance Mom Holly voice last week and she kinda likes it, so when Abby whips out a dazzlingly tasteless “wipe her butt all the way there” metaphor, Holly barks back. Abby takes umbrage to her descriptive use of “barking” because that makes Abby feel like a dog and she doesn’t want to feel like a dog, even though her dog Broadway Baby is the love of her life.
Turbaned Nitro Nia with a gold snake on her arm gently soothes her mom, then sets her chin and goes right out there and kicks some Bollywood butt, winning her category and scoring a good-sized pink and purple weapon trophy to ward off demons. And dogs.
Cathy is back in the make-ready room for Abby’s post-competition announcement that they will not be flying home — they are, instead, off to Vegas, then L.A., then Lake Tahoe. The other mothers are flummoxed, even though I am fairly certain they had to be forewarned in ordered to pack properly. Cathy is irate. Seems she suddenly remembers that she has her own dance studio to tend to and other stuff like that, so she informs Abby that she and Viv “are “getting off the party train” even though they were kinda caboosing it in the first place.
“Everyone’s replaceable” shrugs Ab. Especially people who make war, not love on the dance floor.
“Even dance teachers!” snaps Cathy. [Crickets] “I’m not going to Vegas!”
“Then you’re a quitter,” says winner of the final word. Which I doubt is final, even though Dance Moms without Cathy is like Brandon without Brooke. Perfectly fine.
But with Cathy out of the picture, Christi’s back in the cross-hairs, Vegas style. Vacation’s over, Christi!