We learned something right out of the gate, didn’t we, Dance Moms Nation?! We learned that the floors in Abby Lee’s studios cost a whopping $68,000. Thus, like the dancers upon them, they are precious and heels are not allowed.
Naturally, Jill shows up in gray suede boots with not-allowed heels. It’s OK, she tells Abby Lee because she’s standing on her toes. Rules dribble off Jill like water off a duck, but Abby lets it slide for now, ‘cause she’s got stuff on her mind. Namely this week’s competition, which is Dance Explosion in Secaucus, NJ. It will be riddled with dance-warriors with access to every advantage on this planet, so we better represent, says Abby Lee. And it’s pyramid time.
Kendall’s first up on the bottom row because her mother is way too needy, asking for solos and all. “That’s needy?” squeals Jill. “That’s inquisitive. You’re punishing her for something I did!” Jill is a rule breaker AND obtuse.
“BINGO!” hollers Abby Lee.
Next is Nia. Nothing about Mom this time. Nia’s just like the trusty cheerleader on the bottom row of the pyramid — that’s just where she fits.
Next, Brooke. “You’re back, but are you really back?” wonders Abby. “Abby’s rhetorical … but is she really rhetorical?” wonders Lori.
Last is Paige. Nia’s explanation, copy, paste, done.
Again, Maddie and Chloe take the second row.
So let’s see here … We got Kendall, Nia, Brooke, Paige, Maddie, Chloe … MAC! Mac-a-doodle is the top of the pyramid for her two straight wins!
Mac grins her jack-o-lantern grin and Melissa cries. Curiously, everyone else around her looks a little put out, which is not what I was expecting. Can it be that their little swing-riding, apple-toting, box-confined mascot has suddenly showed up to dance?
Next Abby drops another bombshell on the gang — and on me. No group routine this week. Everyone is doing solos instead.
I’m sorry, but wha’-ha-ha? No goofy titles? No scandalous subject matter? No iffy costumes? Then what am I supposed to talk about for half of this thing if no one is fighting for privates and special parts?
Ah! The moms are in charge of crafting the costumes because Abby doesn’t have time. Buying is cheating — they must be homemade. It’s Project Runway meets Dance Moms! And I am saved!
Jill says she has costumes that Abby’s never seen before, ergo fair game to pass off as handcrafted with love — but the other mothers call no fair. Besides of which, Abby will know. And by the way, you went into Studio 60K-Floor with your boots on after Kelly had to take hers off, so you’re already pushing it.
Jill says she is chastened and will never again do anything in which her actions affect her child. “That’s all that happens here!” crows Christi. “You better go to a new studio.” “Or keep yourself in a plastic bubble,” suggests Kelly. I notice that Kelly and I are wearing the exact same wedge-heel boots, so I make myself a mental to note to never wear them into a dance studio. I’ve never actually been into a dance studio. But just in case. You can never be too careful.
Then the veteran Dance Moms offer up an onerous tale that reveals the real secret to their captivity in Never Never Happy Land: extortion with a slight whiff of slavery. “Every time something happens, she writes it into a contract,” Christi sneers of Abby. “Why do you think we’re still here? In our contracts, it says ’cause our kids won a title, if we left, we have to play $100,000 in cash within 7 days or she will blackball us in the world of dance.”
Um, what? And you signed that thing? And you think it would hold up in a court of law?
Kelly expounds, “When you sign up at the Abby Lee Dance Studio, you sign a contract that says she owns you for a year.” Aaaaaaaaaand ya signed the thing.
Even Jill is incredulous. “You guys couldn’t tell me this BUH-FORE I came in here?” she moans. “You wanted to come,” say the captives.
Whoooooa … what have we here? It’s my beloved “Welcome to Ohio, John R. Kasich Governor” sign! We’re heading for Candy Apples! Or “my sweet little apples,” as Cathy — clad in a lipstick pink ruffled coat that looks like it came straight from Forever 21 — calls her dancers as they file into the studio.
“Let’s go to the PPP!” she enthuses. PPP stands for Perfectly Positive Pyramid, which is perfectly positive in that everyone is in the bottom row except one kid at the top. Imperfectly positive … but wait! Turns out everyone is equal here and the kid at the top is actually a question mark and not a kid at all. Everyone is equal. And apparently replaceable, because, says Cathy, if Abby Lee could put out a call for new dancers, why can’t the Apples? “Because we’re already here?” say the expressions on the sweet little apple’s faces. “It’ll be fun!” cheers an oblivious Cathy.
“And we’ve not seen the last of Payton and Leslie,” cheers Lori.
Back across the PA border, Maddie is practicing her “Spanish Jazz” solo. Abby calls her former pet pupil a hot mess. I’m pretty sure Abby bought Maddie a pony pre-season to compensate for this relentless abuse — “abuse” being my code word for “being treated like everyone else.” To add insult to injury, which appears to be Maddie’s fate of late, Kendall is handed a solo that came straight from the Maddie Ziegler Wheelhouse — lyrical, with a dreamy little girlie song to boot. It’s a little peppier than what Maddie usually does. But still. Maddie + Lyrical = victory. You know it. I know it. Abby knows it. All I can figure is that Maddie must have maxed out her visa in the Land of a Thousand Lyrical Dances.
Up top, the moms are fighting. Same stuff. Couple’a “shut ups!” fly around the room. No one shuts up. Same old.
Back to Ohio. John R. Kasich Governor. Cathy is welcoming a roomful of wannabe Apples, telling those of us at home that she doesn’t believe her team is lacking. She just wants it to be even stronger.
And you bet your positive pyramid that’s Pay-Pay coming through the door just now! Who called it!? OK, probably every one of us, but still. Who called it!?
Leslie’s motives are plain: It’s not that she’s so enamored of Candy Apples, it’s that she’s so enamored of pissing off Abby Lee. Payton is not so enamored of Candy Apples, either. Payton just fears her mom. “You know it’s up to you,” Leslie tells her and Payton’s expression (and mine) says, “Riiiiiight!”
“Strike your best pose!” trills Cathy-Madonna to her first group of dancers. There’s nothing to it!
Of course Cathy loves everything about Payton. Of course Cathy is going to offer her a position. Of course the ninety-hundred other dancers who did not come from the Abby Lee Dance Studio just wasted their day dropping by.
“Kind of a win-win situation for me,” opines Cathy of her plan to audition Payton with a couple hundred unwitting backup dancers. “I get to give Abby the ol’ stab-in-the-back-a-roosky and I pick up another dancer with some fine qualities!” Yes, she actually said “stab-in-the-back-a-roosky.” It must be an Ohio thing. John R. Kasich-a-roosky.
Maybe it’s just a Cathy thing.
In any case, there are a couple flaws in your theory here, Cath-a-roosky. For one, Abby will make you a laughing stock for picking up her discards. For two, Payton is old enough to realize that she is the pawn of two women old enough to know better. For here she is telling you that she has to think about your offer of sweet little Appleship.
“Are you a spy?” demands Cathy. Nooooo, she’s kid with friends at home, and home is a looooong drive from the little studio in the Ohio pasture.
Cathy is perturbed. A-roosky. She thanks Leslie and Payton for wasting her time. Leslie is unfazed. If she has to go crawling back to Abby Lee, she says, so be it. I know where I’d like her to go crawling back to, but that’s another recap for another day.
Back at Abby’s, the girls are struggling with solos and the moms are struggling with costumes. Worse yet, Abby is entering the mom loft to inspect the finery.
Holly holds up a skimpy, jungle-looking thing that Holly should hate and Abby should love. Abby hates it. Doesn’t look like an Abby Lee costume, she says. Jill holds up what looks like a sunshiny yellow toddler swimsuit. Abby looks at it and spits, “Sweet. Little. Lies.” Which must be the name of Kendall’s solo, unless Jill promised her off-camera that she would not show up with a yellow swimsuit. “Black, red or white!” demands Abby Lee. “Not sweet, like an orange?” chirps Jill. No, Jill. Not sweet like that.
Melissa holds up a big wad of sequins and says Kelly is showing her how to make it into a sarong. Abby Lee is, her own self, a big mass of sequins today, so even though she looks dubious, she affords Melissa a pass. Christi beats Abby to the punch and tells her straight away that Chloe’s tutu is home being dyed powder blue.
“Procrastination Station,” says Abby Lee.
Dysfunction Junction. That’s their function.
Kelly holds up a tangerine cami-and-booty-shorts combo that Abby pronounces loud. You told me loud, Kelly reminds her. Oh. Well, if Paige is wearing shorts that short, the legs better be straight and the feet pointed. I’m not sure if booty shorts self-destruct if these two things don’t happen, but them’s the rules in any case. Brooke’s white and periwinkle dress gets an OK.
Abby retreats to her office where she gets a call from a mysterious man that I instantly hope is Maddie and Mac’s dad, who rose up like a studio-yankin’ phoenix at the end of last season and has since flown off without explanation. I need some closure, here. Well wait. Mac is doing well. I change my mind. Now I hope it’s a Leslie flunky threatening I don’t know what unless Payton is reinstated into the dance team, at the top of the pyramid and without incident.
It’s not. It’s Rich from Dance Explosion telling Abby that Dance Explosion has imploded for lack of participants and there will be no competition. Abby reacts like her own house has exploded (which is better explained in the clip below). She summons the gang to share the bad news. Kelly suggests that they call around and find another competition so all this costume creating does not go to waste.
The girls and moms get back to work while Abby makes frantic calls in search of a new contest. Which she finds. In Clute, Texas. Home of the Buccaneers. And dance competitions that are held in high-school gyms. No stage lights to make costumes sparkle. Waxed wood floors to make dancers go boom. Of course they don’t find out any of this until they arrive in Clute, but the show must go on.
Brooke competes first, wisely choosing to do her acro routine completely barefoot. It goes perfectly.
Mac, clad in an adorable pink costume and headpiece (and looking more like Maddie by the minute) is a little freaked by the gym floor, but she does a good job.
Meanwhile back at the ranch dressing room, Jill, clad in a straw cowboy hat, holds up a studded white costume that the other mothers admire. “Did you make it?” Christi wonders. No, says Jill. Has Kendall worn it before? Noooooo-ish. And maybe it isn’t actually Jill’s. Maaaaybe someone lent it to her.
Here comes the costume police. Abby spies the floaty white frock and howls, “You did NOT go home and whip that up last night!” Of course Jill didn’t. She’s not “Becky-Home-Eccy” after all.
Abby protests that she is trying to teach the girls that you don’t need a $500 costume to win. You need to make whatever you throw together from home look like a $500 costume to win. Using your million-dollar dancing.
Jill does not buy this argument one bit. It’s about what she wants to put her daughter in. Is not. “It’s about what I want to put your daughter in,” howls Abby looking like what she wants to put Jill in is a headlock. Jill cannot believe that the moms aren’t backing her up on this. Clearly Jill’s hat is on way too tight.
Abby demands one last time to know if anyone, anywhere, at any time has seen Kendall in that costume. Yes, says Jill. But not you guys. And if us guys can’t accept that, Jill is leaving. She’s packing her bags and she is leaving because us guys don’t want her here.
“We want you here,” says Kelly. “We just want you to play by the rules!” Same as not wanting her here, says Jill, imploding into an impressive cuss-spewing, object-tossing hissy fit.
“Jill’s throwing shoes and she’s cursing,” Christi tells the camera, “and all I can think is, ‘You are so hard to take seriously wearing that hat.’” Jill has cowboy boots on, too, for what it’s worth. It’s a hoedown meltdown at the home of the Buccaneers.
Out in the hallway, Melissa tries to convince a whimpering Jill — who has now adopted a Texas drawl to boot — to “do this for Kendall.” Jill will not. Jill will let Kendall cry in the name of standing up for the rules applying to everyone else but them.
Meanwhile, Nia — looking utterly stunning in a periwinkle tutu — has a panic attack over Abby’s criticisms coupled with the prospect of breaking her neck on the gymnasium floor. Cosmically, her song is called, “I’m Going To Survive” and by God, she does, and with a smile on her face.
In the stands, Abby and Jill — who did not pack her bags and get scootin’ after all — reach détente. Kendall will go out there in a plain white top and booty shorts and she will dance. And after all that fit-pitching … all that shoe throwing … all that hall drawlin’ … Jill agrees. She got herself a ton of camera time and that heals all wounds, I guess.
Chloe, in the same powder blue as Nia, does a gorgeous ballet routine. I hope we see more ballet from her in future episodes.
Then comes sequined-sarong-wearing Maddie, with roses in her hair and jazz shoes on her feet. She starts strong, but on a diving front walkover, the little girl loses her nerve, under-rotates the move, and her shoes slide out from under her, dropping her on her hip. She is carried off the dance floor, wailing that it was her worst performance ever. You fell, kid. You did not perform a fall. Cut yourself some slack.
Abby comes into the first-aid room, soothes her tiny dancer and tells her that if she had a big butt, it wouldn’t hurt so bad to fall on it. The nurse gives Mads a once-over, says there won’t even be a bruise, and Abby gently totes her now-beaming charge back to the dressing room to the wry amusement of the other mothers.
Time for Paige’s solo. She looks awesome in her melon-colored costume and goes out there and shows that gymnasium floor and every other dancer who’s in charge here. Abby says it’s the best she’s ever danced. Abby says she was great — to her face — which I think scares Paige just a little. For now she must pay for her success. Everyone does.
But for now, it’s awards time. Brooke gets third. Chloe gets second. Paige takes it and everyone goes berserk. Even Melissa. Even Abby Lee.
But again, let me say this right now. There is no way on God’s sweet sequined-covered Earth that Paige will be at the top of next week’s pyramid. Maddie won a few weeks back and she didn’t get top. It took Mac two wins to make it up there. Nay, mark my words … it will be Maddie for surviving the hardship of falling on her teensy little tuckus without getting a bruise.
Nonetheless, backstage Abby is a fountain of compliments, something to which I’m beginning to warily adapt. Now, she says, the M.A. dance competition people know her and respect her and that’s because of the great job the dancers did and the great job the Costume-moms did and how nice the kids are and how nice the moms are. Yes, she did say all of that. And yes, she did make a face after the last part. But she said it. And then she even noted that every single dancer got a perfect score on their costumes, albeit with a roll of her eyes. But the mothers are jubilant. I’m slightly skeptical at the inclusion of Kendall’s plain old white top and shorts combo, but perfection is in the eye of the beholders, I guess. Perfectly positive, people.
“We’re all at the top of the pyramid,” crows Melissa. Oh, not all of you. Abby does have one bit of business left to attend to. Which is Jill.
Keeping a surprisingly even temper, she tells Cowboy Vertes that she must decide if Kendall will dance, if Jill will play by the rules, if her boots are no longer made for walking all over Abby and her $68,000 dance floors. Jill narrows her eyes and says she and Kendall will discuss.
And, lo, they must’ve, for here’s Jill and the mouth that roars front and center in next week’s pistol-packin’ preview. Wheeeee!
New episodes of Dance Moms air Tuesday nights at 9pm/8 CT.
Photo Credit: Scott Gries