“Dance Moms” finale recap: Behind Barres

And so it ends … with another come-from-behind triumph for Chloe, a day of reckoning for Abby, an applause-worthy lecture from Dr. Holly and a ballet instructor who looks like Robert Goulet.

But, it doesn’t end for long, since all-new eps will be back in June — and so will Abby despite her tearstained little hissy-pissy tonight. Mark my words. We ended last season — and several episodes this season — thinking Maddie and Mac might not be back, and there they were without a mention of The Troubles come the season 2 premiere. We may see Abby being fanned by cabana boys on a little mental health vacay. But she’ll back.

Or maybe we’ll just shift the whole shebang to Candy Apples. That would be neat, too. But mostly that would be the very reason that Abby will be back — so we don’t welcome ourselves to Ohio, John R. Kasich Governor for good.

Just for fun I googled that — “welcome to ohio John R. Kasich governor.” Dance Moms shows up on page one. How I apologize, John R. Kasich, Governor. Blame Cathy Stein.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure I should probably point out that — for fun and in the spirit of kinship — I’ve decided to take the Twitter advice of @Dancemomchristi and take a swig of my Leinenkugels Summer Shandy (girlie beer for a girlie show!) every time someone says “Joffrey.” So if this thing gets worse out of hand than usual, I blame the Joffrey. And Christi, for good ideas gone bad.

So, let’s have at it — which amounts to a couple Dance Moms Fashion moments. For one, my beloved lip necklace has made the trip to New York. Or at least the show about the trip to New York. For two, Abby is wearing a shirt with more colors in it than black. Like blue. And white. Someone is feeling festive.

Oops. Noooo, someone is not.

After ragging on the girls for not bonding as a unit — despite the fact that she pits everyone in the studio (and the viewing audience and the universe) against Maddie, divides her attention unequally, breaks up longtime duos and trios, and assorted other “bonding” exercises — she gets to the greatest not bonding exercise of all. The pyramid.

Paige — for not putting her phone away. Kelly points out all of the actual dance-related things that Paige did well. Abby gives the child a death stare and some cruel applause. Someone please say “Joffrey.”

Mackenzie — for making her trio look like idiots because she was out there — woooo! — shaking it up. Understood? Not so much. Do more, Mackenzie. Do more! Except don’t.

Chloe — for sticking with the script and forgetting her choreography last week (and for the second season in a row) without making so much as a peep of protest.

Row two begins with Nia — for working through her foot pain but not correcting her technique.

Brooke — for doing what she needed to do, but only what she needed to do. Brooke says she’d love to give Abby more, if more were given in return. Pretty much.

On top is Maddie — because the higher they are, the harder they fall and that is the theme for tonight’s episode, boys and girls.

Whoops! Drink #1 for the Joffrey Drinking Game. And two and three. And four. Five. Six. The Joffrey Drinking Game is not going to work out. Either that, or I should just call into work right now. And no one will be reading this recap.

Anyway, while I was chugging my beer in vain, I am pretty sure that Abby gave us a mini Joffrey history lesson and then began yelling at the girls whom she didn’t tell how to dress about how they should be dressed. Which is in pink tights and a bun. Because all ballerinas wear pink tights and a bun, just like the little plastic ones in jewelry boxes.

Also, pink tights are the perfect attire for pretending you are in prison, which is what the group dance for the extra-curricular field trip to Starbound New Jersey is all about. Hold on a sec —  “Joffrey!” — I need a drink to get past that fact.

Paige would like it on the record that she has never been in prison before. And also that Abby is weird. Duly noted and recorded.

And we’re off to Ohio, where Cathy has a really spectacular announcement. Which is that they will be once again using their favorite travel agent, Abby Lee Miller, to guide them on their next adventure. Hence, Cathy just said Joffrey. I’ll drink to that. The Candy Apples are going there. And also to Starbound. Cathy says this will all go beautifully, because Abby is way stuck in vaudeville rather than ballet when it comes to plotting routines. She may actually have a point here.

To wit — back in NYC, Abby decides to buck up the stressed out girls by going on an endless tirade about how undertrained they are and how much in danger of being a joke, while they twirl and tumble and totter about, trying to choreograph their own audition routines. Yep. Now she wants them to choreograph, one day before the most important audition of their lives and after a million days of being torn down for trying to contribute. This is sure to go well.

Abby says they are not “Little Trinas” because they don’t take ballet class all day long. For the sake of another dance-vocabulary word I can practice while I wait for June, I Google “Little Trina” and become the 24th person to watch a little girl do a monster dance to a rap tune in a spectacularly messy room. Since I’m here, I watch the whole thing just in case she has any choreography that might help out the girls. Then I become the 33rd person to watch teeny-tiny Little Trina Belle, in a popsicle patterned body suit, spin herself darn near to brain injury from a homemade trapeze. That one’s actually pretty amazing. You should see it. Whatever “Little Trina” Abby is talking about shall remain a mystery.

Meanwhile, the weirdly dressed-down moms, who look genuinely exhausted and concerned, talk amongst themselves about  how there is no way on earth that Abby can make up years’ worth of ballet training in one contentious hour.

It becomes abundantly clear to me that, for the first time in a long time, I am watching every single person in the room genuinely realize that while they’ve been playing TV, a real, serious and impactful opportunity — not a faux dance video for an obscure wannabe popstar — has come along for themselves and their girls and no amount of scripting or editing can determine how it plays out.

To that end — and ever the clear thinker — Holly calmly asks Abby to convey to the mothers what she thinks is an appropriate outfit for the girls’ auditions. Abby complies and the ladies head off to Sansha to procure the goods.

Back in Ohio, Kendall is wearing 35-pound false eyelashes that would make Twiggy proud and Cathy is making sure that the shaggy-fur-vest trend gasps ever onward. Lamenting last week’s loss of Taylor to a wonky ankle, Cathy says that cream rises to the top and asks Kendall to give her latte.

Never mind that what is on the top of a latte … is froth.

Back in New York, Chloe is practicing her solo. She will be playing the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland — something she has been waiting to do for forever. Abby says that Chloe relates well to dark and evil and vicious.

Chloe has been at Abby Lee’s for most of her life. ’nuff said.

Maddie’s lyrical solo is called “In My Heart” and will be about doing the same thing she does every week so as not to fall from the top of the pyramid and ruin Abby’s life. Actually, I just went to Twitter to see what the live-Tweeting moms are saying and I have no idea what Maddie’s solo will be about. But I return to the action in time to learn that it’s hard to get to the top of the pyramid, but even harder to stay there. Yep. Maddie is going down for sure, by script or by fate. Either of which is a genuine shame.

Sure enough. The next day, the tyke leaves her dance bag at the hotel and has no jazz shoes in which to practice dancing behind bars. Melissa takes the fall, but Abby says that she doesn’t want Maddie to ever make a mistake. Melissa — who appears to keep checking her phone — doesn’t want Maddie to make THAT face, which looks an awful lot like a stiff upper lip to me, because she is not in the mood. Then she storms out, Abby in her wake.

In an aside, Christy opines that it’s a $14.99 pair of dance shoes, so who cares — and a Twitter war ensues between her and Cathy (AKA @Poodletoes1) — about whether or not $14.99 dance shoes come from Payless. Actually Payless sells dance shoes from the unimpeachable America Ballet Theatre and they’re $19.99. So … that.

Anyway, Abby yells at Melissa who has the distinct disadvantage of having just put something in her mouth that she can’t quite get down in time to respond. Darn those vending machines!

Well, here’s some foreshadowing. Abby says that if the group dance doesn’t win this week, she’s done and also finished. So she’s worked up a half-assed — that there’s the beer talkin’ — routine in which the girls are obscured by jail bars that are actually straps for much of the time. Fine plan.

In any case, Abby instructs the girls to be nasty and bitter and mean while they dance, which MacKenzie demonstrates by grinning her gap-toothed grin. Suck it up, Abby Lee. That’s as mean as our Mackie gets and THAT is an accomplishment.

Then Abby takes one last opportunity to remind the kids that 40 million other kids with more ballet experience than they have will be trying out for the Joffrey scholarship that she is all but ignoring in favor of Starbound. Hmmm.

… aaaaaand here’s the Apples straight outta [Welcome to] Ohio, [John R. Kasich, Governor].

OK, why are they advertising a massage parlor show during Dance Moms, which is watched by a million aspiring Little Trinas (er, I think)? But since they are, here’s my interview with Jennifer Love Hewitt about said show. Yes, I do actually write about something other than Dance Moms. I write about shows about moms who work in massage parlors.

At the Joffrey building, everyone is quiet, trying hard to fend off their nerves and the encroachment of the Candy Apples. Paige auditions first. The judges are Jean-Claude Van Joffrey/Brian McSween from last week’s episode, plus a guy who looks like a younger, blonder Robert Goulet and a really, really scary lady in purple glasses and the requisite Joffrey bun.

Brooke is next and inexplicably does a routine that looks like she’s trying out for Cirque du Soleil. She — and we — find out quickly that Joffrey types are so not fans of tricks. Or Nia’s death drop. Or Mackie’s junior-hoochie dance moves. You’re a dum dum, Abby, for making Mackie shake her bum bum. Robert Goulet says so.

Joffrey types — at least ones in purple glasses and a bun — are also not fans of gobs of purple eye-shadow and crimson lipstick — as one of Cathy’s dancers who looks suspiciously like last week’s fallen Taylor finds out. They are all, however, fans of Kendall. Purple Glasses even takes them off and softens her big, dark eyes.

They are also fans of Chloe. Jean Claude Van Joffrey praises her God-given talent and begs her to take more ballet classes. Ohhhh, that’s your job, JCvJ. Help a poor, little vaudeville captive out, won’t you please?

Maddie goes next and emotes like crazy, but her scrappy little body and theatrical moves seem especially in stark contrast to the lithe and understated Chloe — especially in this environment. JCvJ says she could be on Broadway because of her showmanship. Purple Glasses says she has to slow down and finish her moves. Robert Goulet says she has to be a dancer and not just a performer. Her feet have more potential than she’s showing. Because she dances with her face, just ask Abby. And this is not a face-based audition.

After all the individual auditions are complete, Robert Goulet teaches the girls + Justice a ballet class while Abby remains oddly subdued and Cathy runs her mouth like a freight train, only less elegant, stopping occasionally to pick up cargo at Grilled Cheese station. The smack talk escalates until Robert Goulet, Jr. comes out and asks that if the mothers can’t respect him or the girls, the least they can do is respect the art form. I think he’s got it backward.

And here’s an ad for a sleeping pill that is like three sleeping pills in one! Who need plain old sleep when you can go straight to coma? Can we maybe advertise something kid-friendly just once?

Back at the Joffrey, Robert Goulet tells the girls they should never, ever behave like the people who are responsible for them and Cathy pries her nosey from the window and skulks away like a busted Peeping Tom. Miraculously, she sits down and zips it.

While they await the judges decision, everyone heads off to Starbound, where the Pitt crew are the defending National champs. As Abby tells them about all the new studios that will probably beat them, Maddie brushes on faux abs, which I find utterly fascinating.

And here’s Cathy again, wearing the pelt of a blood-red Snuffleupagus. Taylor is back on crutches. Oh wait. There’s a Taylor lookalike. I stand corrected on the girl in too much makeup for ballet.

Kelly doesn’t think the prison number is technical enough, which begs a “getting off on a non-technicality” joke but I can’t come up with one that’s appropriate for discussing a show about kids, even with The Client List and sleeping pill ads as a bad-influence excuse. A cackling Melissa, however, loves the number so much she can barely stay in her seat. Holly looks physically ill. Cathy pronounces it a bad takeoff on Chicago.

The Apples come out dressed like a pack of angels and do a group version of every solo Maddie has ever done. It could not be less like the prison dance and even Abby admits that the Apples might beat her. You have to hurt them first, Ab. The group dance song said so.

I’m going to try to forget that Cathy just said that her butt shakes when she gets nervous. I’m going to try for a long, looooong time.

The take-no-prisoners prisoners get tenth place. The angels score ninth by a single point. Every dog has its day, says Cathy. So she comes to pee on Abby. Abby calls her Satan and begins to weep in earnest, wailing for her reputation. Wha’? Cathy made Abby cry. Abby let Cathy see her cry. What the hell is going on here right now?

In what is perhaps the most sadly anti-climatic payoff ever, Davis Robertson from the Joffrey Ballet School calls to offer Chloe the summer scholarship, which causes Maddie to go oddly bonkers. Rather than console her, Melissa calls her “Madison” and takes away her phone for five, ten, fifteen, 20 million days.

And look who’s dressed like the Red Queen from Alice In Wonderland! Kendall! Wait. What?

Despite an elaborate costume that is so cumbersome and painful that it makes her cry, the girl does a beautiful, dramatic solo — which would be great except that Cathy has just outright admitted that she has stolen the Queen of Hearts idea for the purpose of stealing Chloe’s thunder. Jill just loves this. Off with her head, says Abby Lee. Can someone please say “Joffrey?”

Speaking of stealing Chloe’s thunder — only this time not the good kind — Maddie goes out and nails the first 60 seconds of her solo. Then comes the horror-movie music that usually follows Chloe to competitions like this.

Maddie doesn’t even take the time to look confused. She just just bolts from the stage in hysterics. “I want to go again!” she shrieks, staring into the camera. Hmmm. We’ve just heard a Joffrey-caliber judge tell Maddie she could be on Broadway. So is she acting or is this really happening and Maddie is just accustomed to having cameras following her every move? I can’t honestly tell. I feel astoundingly uncomfortable all the same, especially when she starts to frantically pound her little chest with her hand. It’s just TV. It is just TV. Except I’m not so sure it is.

Melissa goes to collect Maddie from backstage. Abby just stays in her seat, the tears coming once again. Or maybe they never stopped. Or maybe she finally realized that she has sacrificed decades of her career and reputation to have a national audience see her and her studio and her teaching ability in this light and believe it is so.

Trying not to let Maddie’s distress affect her, Chloe goes out and does a perfect red queen then runs off to comfort her friend. Abby sits in silence in the audience and cries.

Backstage, Abby rocks the sobbing Maddie and gives her tender words of encouragement. Which would be nice, except that every other kid in the troupe has forgotten their solo as well and they were belittled and shamed. Oblivious, Abby says the other mothers will now pick the child apart like vultures.

But it is not Maddie they are after.

With a plainly furiously Holly taking the lead, they force Abby — and to a lesser degree, Melissa —  to face her blatant favoritism and the harm it has done their children, who dance on nonetheless. Abby offers up a feebley defiant, “I don’t care,” then sits in uncomfortable silence. When everyone leaves to take in the awards, she remains behind to cry.

Kendall’s pillaged Queen routine get seventh. Chloe takes the win — and a beaming Maddie cheers. Abby, who could really use the lesson that her prized pupil is unknowingly giving, is nowhere to be found.

The mothers find her frozen in her seat backstage. Then, when Holly asks her why a grown woman can’t model her own “Save Your Tears For Your Pillow” mantra and come watch Chloe win, Abby rises, turns  and sticks out her rear end. “Go ahead,” she taunts. “Paddle me. Paddle!”

Welcome to your legacy, Abby. I own it on iTunes.

Without so much as a word of congratulations for the National Champion Chloe, Abby heads out the door with a flippant, “See you on the flip side.”

“She’s going home,” says a grave Melissa, who is privvy to this plan. And so Abby is, claiming she needs a break from the moms, the kids, the yelling. But it won’t be a long one — because new episodes of Dance Moms return in June.

About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.