Forgive me, Dance Mom Nation, for I am an episode behind, having been sequestered at a hotel in Pasadena covering the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. I’m all caught up now and will recap the premiere (I think. Eventually.), but in the interest of staying current, let’s forge ahead with last night’s humdinger, “Return of the Candy Apples.”
Before I dive in, let me issue a correction to early posts in which I said Brooke and MacKenzie did not return for this second season. Sure they did. There they are. I wonder how much Kelly had to pay Brooke to return for Season 2. But there she is.
And also, my husband noticed that Abby’s lost weight even before I did. He’s attentive like that.
So there. Off we go.
Abby is not a fan of last week’s Sassy/exy Girl group performance. Not the work of National Champions, she says. Especially since this week we’re heading for Columbus, Ohio, and you know what evil lurks in Ohio!
“Candaaaaayyyyy Appuhlllllllls, woooohoooooo!” howls a gleeful, boogying Chloe. Her mother likens Candy Apples Woohoo — AKA last year’s Abby Lee nemesis and promoter of Botox, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein — to a cold sore that won’t go away. Speaking of which — it’s time for the Pyramid of Doom. AKA the Pyramid of Predictability.
One competition into her tenure, Kendall is not living up to Abby Lee standards and is therefore in the bottom row. I am 99.9% certain Kendall was brought in specifically to not live up to Abby Lee’s standards, because who needs more competition for Maddie, anyway? Plus her Real Housewife of Pittsburgh mother Jill is a super-bonus in so many ways, so all’s well in newbie land, you ask me.
Also at the bottom: MacKenzie, because her big sister Maddie would have done a much better job of mostly being stuck in a pretend box when she was Mac’s age. And then Brooke, not for problematic dancing, but for having emotions and accidentally expressing them. And Paige, not for problematic dancing, but for having to be told 32 times to sit down during the bus ride home. Kelly is apoplectic, which is augmented by a faux heartbeat scoring her individual aside.
Row two: Nia. Not for problematic dancing, but for her PhD mother continuing to refuse to surrender gainful employment in the education system for Abby Lee minion-hood. Also row two, Chloe. Not for problematic dancing, but because there can only be room for one person at the top. And that one person is …
Maddie! Whose dancing was slightly problematic by Maddie standards, according to Abby. So it goes with the pyramid.
Next, Abby reveals that since we’re going into Candy Apple territory we’ll be arming ourselves with the enemy’s fruit of choice: the group number will be called “Bad Apples.” A little bit ’40s, a little bit Andrews sisters, a little bit Katy Perry, a little bit Abby is grasping at straws for relevance other than pissing off Cathy Stein. Candy Apples into applesauce, she tells everyone. Capisce?
Upstairs, the moms continue to haze Jill into the sorority. Jill’s a pretty cool customer — until Christi figures out that being a cool customer is Jill’s Achilles heel. She suggests that if Jill is really so unhinged by Kendall being at the bottom of the pyramid, she should get it off her chest and pronto, never mind that Abby is currently in the middle of teaching the girls to be Bad Apples. Jill takes the bait. “Does anybody have any popcorn,” says Christi as Jill heads off to her doom.
Long story short, Abby tells Jill that the Abby Lee Dance Company is like Harvard (got that, Holly?): Thousands pay a lot of money to be there, but only one person gets to be valedictorian. That’s good one, Ab. For real.
And we’re off to enemy base camp — Candy Apples Dance Studio in Ohio (Oh, “Welcome to Ohio, John R. Kasich, Governor” sign! How I have missed you!). Candy Apples, if we are to believe the accompanying footage, is located somewhere between a herd of cows and an Appalachia-style shack with a swing-set and assorted rusty stuff in the yard.
Cathy admits that last season’s showdown in Hollywood was humiliating, but this time … oh this time, Abby Lee! You’re in her “repertoire of enemies.”
Meanwhile, at lunch with Kelly, Christi labels Jill a “studio hopper” and reveals that she has books-ful of evidence that, despite Jill’s protestations, Maddie and Chloe have repeatedly kicked Kendall’s keister in competitions.
Next we see Abby working one-on-one with Brooke which almost gives me the thrombosis … until Abby’s cutaway reveals word on the street (or in the pasture) is that Cathy has entered a dancer in direct competition with Brooke. So Brooke — whose solo “Garden of Eden” also features a bad apple — must be flawless.
Cathy says she only wants for Abby to acknowledge that hers is a good dance studio too. And for Vivi (who looks splendidly lovely in bubble gum pink) to, “Earn your puppy,” whatever that entails. It’s their deal.
On the bus ride to the competition, Melissa and Jill tell Abby that they went shopping and just happened to pick her up a little something. “Cause that’s what I think when I’m shopping — what can I bring Abby?” says Christi in what may be the episode’s funniest aside.
Turns out the present is an enormous, gaudy, gold and black ring, which Abby essentially welcomes by pointing out that she hasn’t a single thing to go with it. “Next time you’re out,” she informs the ladies, “I need a husband.”
But I thought she was married to the dance studio. Anyhooo….
When the gals arrive at the hotel in Columbus, they discover they have a mystery invitation to a “soiree” in the Presidential Suite of the local Sheraton. Cocktail attire is recommended. A tiny apple charm accompanies the note. Of course, they go.
And there is a solo Cathy, dressed in a paisley hippie-style blouse, jeans and boots and eager to show the duly cocktail attired ladies that if they ran with her crew it’s first-class all the way. Plus, wouldn’t they like to be under the thumb of a real leader, at a real studio? An hour-something away from their homes? Whose dancers regularly lose to Abby Lee’s? The ladies eat, drink and be greatly amused.
Competition time, which means the girls’ heads must get appropriately ratted and snooded for their little bit ’40s, little bit Andrews sisters, little bit Katy Perry group routine. Chloe observes her new look in the mirror and makes a face that is Little House on the Prairie‘s Nellie Oleson all over again. To distract Abby from the hissy she is having over the fact that not all of the snoods match, the moms decide to clue her in on the previous evening’s “soiree” and its purpose. Excellent plan. Abby’s rage wanders all over the place from the moms sneaking out without her permission (or her inclusion) to Cathy’s lame-o attempt to poach her dancers to the fact that Cathy was talking smack about her.
Worse yet, the next day at competition, Cathy takes the Bad Apples routine as homage instead of insult. And her flamenco-flavored group dance appears more technically sound than the Bad Apples, to boot. Abby recognizes that they may have been bested — though she suspects Cathy’s dancers may be too old for their age group — and turns on her own little dancers for blowing a “baby dance.” A baby dance that she choreographed, but you don’t need me to point that out.
Improbably, the Bad Apples beat the better Apples and the apple idioms fly — how do you like ’em, pork chops and applesauce, and so forth. Cathy does not find this swell at all and goes to the judges to check out the scores, learning that her Spanish dancers lost by a mere 12 points. Now she’s more determined than ever to see her soloist, Erika, take out Brooke.
Brooke’s “Garden of Eden,” is ethereal and acrobatic, and her costume is a stunner. She does great — even Abby says so. Then it’s Erika’s turn. She does well, too, and Abby frets that she’s also more mature than Brooke. The mothers, on the other hand, think Erika is more mature than Brooke because Erika is older than Brooke. And too old for her age group, too. “She doesn’t look like she’s from Cathy’s studio at all,” adds Kelly.
Sure enough, competition officials come searching for Erika’s mother and Cathy, and Cathy does indeed look like she’s swallowed a whole bag of bad apples. Seems that other folks besides Abby and Co. have said that they’ve seen Erika perform in the age-14 division in previous competitions. Cathy says she has doesn’t have birth certificates on hand. Leigh, the no-nonsense competition official, turns to Erika’s mom and flat-out asks how old she is. Fourteen, says Erika’s mother. Whoopsie … wrong age division. “So is Brooke,” nerny-nernies Cathy. Thus begins some odd dance-math that I don’t really get, but Erika is DQ’d and Brooke is cleared and takes first place in her division.
Erika’s mother and Cathy console her by giving her the wonderful life lesson that their collective cheating was A-OK, but the people who called it out are jealous and in the wrong. The kid is 14 and clearly not an idiot. We know why she is really crying.
The Abby Lee crew’s time in Columbus wraps up with Cathy instigating a pissing match about ownership over the red-and-black color scheme and calling Christi “Nose.”
“Be gone, witch,” Christi responds with a sweep of her hands. “You have no powers here.”
Maybe not, but we’ll see about New Jersey. Because if next week’s preview is any indication, we’re far from done with the Ohio Apples.
Dance Moms airs Tuesdays at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime.
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