Dance Moms recap: Rotten to the Core

OK, Dance Moms fans, before we get going on 90 minutes of Dance Mama (and Papa) drama, I have a question for those of you who do such a fine job of educating me about the dance world, since I’m such an outsider looking in. The thing we are at this week is called an “intensive.” This intensive. Wild Dance Intensive — a division of Starpower.

Now my admittedly limited understanding of an intensive is that it is like dance school meets summer camp only more … intense. But educational, all the same. Not competitive. So imagine my confusion at discovering that all of this water-tossing, purse-wielding combat that we’ve spent the last week gearing up for is taking place at an intensive. Schoolyard drama, Detroit-style. Whaaaa? 

I bring this up early because, as we not-so-merrily roll along, it goes a long way in making some sense of a number of confounding things. But let’s begin at the beginning.

Not surprisingly after last week’s dust-up, Christi and Chloe are nowhere to seen when we reconvene in the studio. (Cynical Lori: “Intensive week. Why sit on a bus all the way to Detroit with Abby for that?” Pretending I’m Not Cynical Lori: “Oh NO! Christi and Chloe are gone forever!”)

The mothers do a little puzzling about where they could be and then it’s time for the Pyramid. We start at the top this time, which is Kendall, even though her solo only came in third.
Row two is Maddie and Nia, even though Abby found neither exceptional.
Bottom row is Paige, because Paige is always in the bottom row, then Mack for snoozing, and then Chloe with this graffito on her photo.

Bad news for Chloe, but good news for Brooke, who finally gets herself back on the pyramid when Abby slaps her headshot atop Chloe’s and tells Brooke to write the girl a thank-you note.

Here’s where we learn that we are going Wild in Detroit. And that Cathy is coming, too. Of course she is. You think she imported all those boys for one lousy non-competition? Noooo.

Here’s our game plan to beat them this week:

Kendall gets another solo
Paige and Nia get a duet and are so happy about that they hug it out.
Last solo goes to:

Finally, a smile out of Maddie. But she really shouldn’t be so elated, just ask Abby. She got the dance by default because there’s no one else to do it. So there. And also because Abby knows she needs someone who can beat whichever of the Lad Apples will be doing a solo. Speaking of that — and I quote — “We can’t lose. We won’t lose. If we do lose, I might replace everybody.”

You won’t lose. Because this is an intensive. Not a competition. No one will lose. And yes, I AM going to feel like an idiot when 30 of you chime in to tell me that intensives are competitions, too. Oh yeah?! Well, where are the results then?

Nia’s and Paige’s duet is called the Wallflower and the Wild Child.  Nia is the former, Paige the latter. This is also when we learn that Nia has a pain management disorder called reflex neurovascular dystrophy — RND for short. It’s a sort of childhood form of fibromyalgia and poor Nia has suffered from it to the point of having to use a wheelchair.


Holly says that RND has direct correlations to stress and perfectionism. For real? I’m amazed poor, brave Nia can even make it through the door of the ALDC. The other mothers are also amazed by the news. Melissa says she can’t believe Maddie doesn’t have it, if perfectionism is the catalyst. Kelly can’t believe Melissa is so self-centered. She tells Holly that Nia shouldn’t suffer so badly for the sake of a duet. (“At an intensive,” adds Cynical Lori.)

Welcome to Ohio, where Gina is drowning in testosterone.

The boys agree that they got ripped off last week. Then we head right into Cathy’s cheery version of the pyramid in which everyone is a winner. Brandon, Jalen and Zack are the base. Top is Gino from Miami. Because this is manly business, the dude in the explorer gear to the left of Gina takes over the pep talk and tells the gang that they’re not dancers, they’re an army getting ready for war.

Field trip to Holly’s pretty house, where she’s assessing the pain in Nia’s foot. Nia says it’s a 7 on a scale from 1 to 10. That’s too much for Holly to bear. She wants to know if Nia is putting too much pressure on herself and Nia admits she’s afraid her best will never be good enough for Abby. Holly tells her girl to never give up. It’s a lovely mother-daughter moment, even if it is borne of nerve pain.

Back at the studio, the mothers wonder what the missing Christi’s doing right this minute. Gia runs the group dance, which will be about an avalanche and all but one dancer being buried alive. Been a while since we’ve had a dead-kids dance, huh, Dance Moms faithful? The moms are marveling over the choreography when Abby suddenly remembers the prop. She told the mothers to bring the prop. Where is the prop? Get the prop, mothers. The mothers get the prop. It looks like a ’70s-fab modular coffee table. It’s not. It’s a mountain. Disguised as a ’70s-fab modular coffee table.

Also, look. Abby’s buying her own jewelry again. It’s only a matter of time till we have us some flotsam.


And look who’s back! Jackie and Sophia! Abby says that’s entirely unbeknownst to her. Everybody who is buying that, raise your hand. They just happened to drop by Pittsburgh? Nonetheless, Abby admits she did tell Jackie that anytime Sophia wants to dance with the ALDC, she’s more than welcome. Especially when we have the Lad Apples to beat.

Oh oh. Wait a sec. Sophia’s back? Sophia is a sure win. What does this mean for Maddie’s solo? Melissa wants to know that, too. They begin the inquisition of Jackie and find out that the Lucias have apparently been trying to come back for a couple of weeks now, but something always comes up. Like TV and commercials and movies and not being in Pittsburgh. Thinking it over, Kelly decides to go mine the Hollywood vet for advice and some contacts. The brand-new besties head off to lunch.

And we’re back in Ohio. Because they are an army going to war, the Lad Apples are doing a dance called Apple Core, according the caption. I think they mean Apple Corps, but whatever. Whoops. It’s actually C) None of the above. They ARE the Apple Core/Corps, doing to a routine called Top of the World which incorporates every style of dance that the lads do best. Also they will be dancing with magazines. “Oogleing” them, says Cathy. More specifically, oogle-ing girls in magazines. Nice. Are we sure this dance isn’t called “Things I Hide Under My Bed”?

Also what is with this jacket Cathy is wearing that makes her head look like it’s stuck in a cattle shoot? Maybe Cathy has a hickey.

Speaking of which, I wonder why we never get a look at the Jerky King of Canton any more. Momentary pause for a fit of smoky, chewy nostalgia.

Turns out Sophia does have a solo. So does someone not have a solo? Or is there room for everyone? There’s not room for everyone. Jackie braces Sophia to handle the situation. Sophia says she doesn’t even care about winning or losing. She cares about doing her best. Don’t let Abby hear you say that, kid.

Meanwhile, the other mothers are discussing Nia’s foot when Melissa discovers that Christi is calling her. So we know she is, in fact, alive. Why is she calling Melissa and not Kelly, Kelly wants to know. Holly says for Christi, business is business and friendship is friendship. Apparently Melissa and Christi have business. Meanwhile, Jill decides a good idea would be to go after Abby about how much practice time Maddie’s solo has gotten compared to Kendall’s. Good one, Jill. Hold that door miles-wide open for Abby to pull Kendall’s solo to make room for Sophia’s and blame the deed on you. Abby doesn’t, though. She waits until Kendall cries out of frustration and then does it. Calls her a baby, to boot. Says it’s disrespectful.

OK, two things. OK, one. This:

Meanwhile, Holly wonders if Jackie is up to Abby’s brand of tough love.

Back in Ohio, Cathy and Vivi are shopping at what looks like Canton’s strip mall version of Pottery Barn and discussing who the best Lad Apple might be. Cathy thinks Gino. Viv thinks Gino and Zack. Cathy says that she realizes that in order to beat the ALDC, not only do they have to outdo Abby’s dancers, but they have to overcome her popularity, as well. Then she has an epiphany:  It’s silly to have the boys fawning over some pretend girl in a pretend magazine when they have a studio full of Girl Apples right there for the picking. Including Viv.

“You wouldn’t want to do it, would ya?” Cathy asks her little Apple blossom. She doesn’t even get the “ya” out before Vivi hits her with a resounding no. Cathy glares. Vivi shrugs. Case closed.

Viv suggests Ayla would be a much better option. Then Cathy consults her little sage about whom she’d prefer Gino go up against, solo-wise. Chloe or Maddie? Vivi picks Maddie. Cathy doesn’t protest. Then they shop for a present for Abby. Someone care to explain to me what THAT was all about?

Back in PA, Jackie and Sophia have gone missing. The other mothers ponder it awhile, then ponder the duet. Meanwhile, Abby is pondering Nia’s ouchie foot. She tells Holly she needs to get a doctor’s A-OK in order for Nia to dance. So off they go. The doctor says there is no specific injury. Nia gets her note.

Competition time. The Apples arrive in a stretch limo just in time for the Pitt Crew to arrive by bus. Oddly enough, there is not another spectator around to observe the verbal grudge match that ensues. Cathy insults Abby’s hair. Abby tells Cathy to go to hell. The action moves inside the venue, where there are a few more cameras, a few more spectators. Abby starts calling out the provenance of the Apple Corps — Jaylin is from Seattle. Zach’s from San Diego. We already know that Gino is from Miami — while Cathy flaps about, hollering “Abby! Abby!” to no avail. Finally Dance Dad Rick interjects to ask what Abby’s point might be, which gives Cathy a chance to regroup and start clicking a dog training tool at Abby. Why Cathy has a dog training tool at a dance competition is mystery, but it makes sense to her. Click-click. Click-click. Abby neither sits nor stays.

This is unfortunate, because Dance Dad Rick really wants to continue the conversation. He wants to know if all of Abby’s girls started and finished dancing at Abby’s. Well, Rick, kinda. Because imported Sophia is MIA and everyone else is local. Abby tells him to save his disrespectful tone for his wife. Rick says he wouldn’t talk to his wife like that because his wife speaks respectfully to children. Well, uh, actually your dance teacher started it, Dance Dad Rick, and all Abby really did was say where the kids are from. And now all three of you are seriously making horse’s asses of yourselves in front of everybody’s children, including the ones watching you on TV.

In the safety of the get-ready room, Melissa wants to share a little bit of Jackie Wisdom about Dance Dad Rick, but Abby interjects to say that she is the reason that Jackie and Sophia are not there. She sent them away. Her decision. Got that? Anybody buying it? Holly says either way, it’s not very professional of them to leave the group in the lurch. Like that actually happened. In any case, let the record show: Abby broke up with Jackie first. Jackie did NOT break up with Abby first. Pass it on.

Holly decides to move on to Nia’s pain and her need for Abby to acknowledge it’s real. Abby says to hush or she’ll just pull the duet. Holly says Nia will prove that she’s capable of dancing, dancing well, and dancing well through the pain. Abby calls Holly’s mouth ugly. Holly calls Abby a “monstrosity of evil.” Abby calls the duet dunzo. Then she leaves.

Cathy arrives. She’s got Canton’s version of Benjamin Bratt with her. Gina and a couple other Dance Dads, too. They’re an army, infiltrating enemy camp.

Cathy wants to know where Sophia is. Ohhhhh! Cathy knows about Sophia! Not that it matters, because Sophia’s not here. Cathy also wants to know where Chloe is. Without Abby to bait, she mixes it up a little with Jill, tells Melissa she likes her pants, takes the Man Minions Plus Gina and leaves. Then the other mothers start in on Kelly about why Christi hasn’t returned her calls, until it’s time to break the news to Nia and Paige that Abby pulled the duet. Nia begins to cry and Paige grabs her pal in a hug. Hey sensitive Kendall! Time to dance.

Kendall is a beautiful child and a splendid dancer, and that’s all there is to it.

Gino’s solo is All Of The Way. The solo is OK, but nothing special. Still, Abby reiterates that judges score boys high to keep them dancing, just in case it does better than her dancers.

Meanwhile, Kelly and Holly are having a bathroom conference, during which they decide they will not let Abby see them sweat. Er, cry. Er, care. They decide to go back into the get-ready with their game faces on and get the girls ready for their duet. That should go over well. It doesn’t. The duet will not happen. At least on camera.

Maddie is in Maddie Blue making Maddie faces and it’s just plain wonderful to see her dance again.


Abby exults. Melissa cries. And if that solo doesn’t beat Gino, I will eat my shirt.

Backstage with the Apple Core/Corps, Dance Dad Rick has taken over as General. The girls can be their friends after the competition, not before. Or during. Apparently you can’t win if you have friends. Abby says the routine was just a rejiggered version of last week’s and I’d be hard pressed to argue. But you have to love Jalen, the upside down wonder.


Here’s how Avalanche shakes out.

We’ve all been waiting 85 minutes for what’s coming up, so is anyone actually even thinking about awards right now? Or is that just me? Plus, this is an intensive, not a competition …but they’re handing out something anyway, so we might as well get it over with. Gino gets eighth place regional champion in the junior solo awards. Abby says musical theater would have served him better. Less than one point separates first and second. One point? Not one. Tenth. Of. A. Point? One point seems like a landslide win to me. A landslide win for Maddie. Kendall doesn’t place.

Group gets third. Maddie looks ill. The Lad Apples take the win.

Ever the charming victor, Cathy immediately starts taunting Abby. Now, Cathy. Did Abby do that to you last week when she won? No, no she did not. And now she refuses to engage. To a point. Jill is perfectly willing to pick up the slack. Then Cathy barges into the get-ready room squawking like a flock of crows. This happens.

Abby apologizes and says she didn’t know the lid was off of her water bottle.

Cathy accepts her apology. No she doesn’t. This happens.

Because she’s Jill, Jill jumps into the fray. This happens.

I’m pretty sure Jill knew the cap was off her water. Cathy rewards her with one’a these.


And one’a these.

And then she makes a break for the safety of her own get-ready room, where General Rick and Co. await. Cathy’s incredulous. She went screaming like a banshee into another team’s dressing room and something bad happened to her! Can you imagine?! When the boys return to the room, the parents try to celebrate, but somehow the victory seems, er,  pretty watered down.

Back in the Pitt Crew’s green room, Abby is dialing frantically and for a moment I think one of Detroit’s finest might be summoned to handle a multiple assault with handbag and Aquafina. Melissa worries that she’s going to have a thrombosis, what with her blood pressure and all. But Abby’s calling … her mom. Abby’s crying to her mother like a child. I don’t know if I’m touched or skeeved. I’m glad she admits that the brawl was all her fault, and I think this is intended to humanize her, but after so much time and so little understanding of her dancers’ own close relationships with their mothers, I just can’t help it. I feel like I’m suddenly watching the Dance Moms version of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

So what say you, Dance Moms nation? Are the Dance Dads a welcome addition, or a bunch of bullies? Was it wonderful to see Maddie dance a solo again? Was the water fight the biggest embarrassment of Season 3? And what did you make of Abby’s phone call home? Sound off in the comments section below.

Next week: Christi’s back and Kelly’s in trouble.

New episodes of Dance Moms air Tuesday nights at 9/8CT on Lifetime.


  1. Take 5 dancers trained solely by Cathy. Have Cathy Crab Apple do her own choreography. This would be a correct way of judging.
    For years, the Olympics did not allow professionals because they wanted the playing field fair, amateurs against amateurs.
    As Cathy pays out her Crabby core to support her need to BUY dancers and choreography…Abby should have the last laugh!
    Cathy has to continue BUYING talent. No one is signing up for her Dance Mill because everyone knows that they will get HER dance instruction and HER choreography.
    If anyone wants to know what that looks like, watch the episode when Crabby Cathy humiliated herself by upstaging the classy dance moms with her burlesque number that would make any decent man RUN to a gay bar!
    Abby is the real deal. Her dance company has the same expertise in teaching and choreography as what you see on TV!
    If the dance competitions would use REAL rules, then someone’s ability to BUY talent should never win over someone’s personal talent.
    How sad too that a professional choreographer is so desperate for money that he has to resort to kissing Cathy’s crab apples for work and even he didn’t train anyone. (He steals a lot of his choreography from working pros!)
    A separate category for talent bought instead of talent trained makes more sense.
    All in all though, Cathy will go broke while Abby builds up her bank account.
    Crabby Apple should at least be honest with herself and give the credit to where it is due…and none goes to her.
    Imagine how great the boys would be if they had Abby who teaches more than just a dance…she prepares them for life.
    Cathy needs to work with ViVi because it must be hard to see your mom so in love and consumed with strangers and other people’s kids when you needed your mom there to make you feel like you were what mattered most to her.
    I feel so sorry for ViVi.
    Cathy does nothing good on her own.

  2. Awesome job Lori! Minor corrections… the boy in your picture is Brandon and he was new this episode. Bryant isn’t on Episode 7. Rick is Jalen’s dad and Mickey is Gino’s father. 🙂

  3. Please make Cathy GO AWAY FOR GOOD!!! I have to fastforward when I just see her face, or see the Ohio sign coming up.. She makes my skin crawl. I don’t know why ANYONE would go to her for a dance instructor. I don’t know why these boys are there? I’m sure they are getting paid, but still! UgH!

    We need Chloe back ASAP! She is one of the main reasons I watch.. Well, I watch because I love all the girls, they’re adorable and much more mature than their mothers, but Chloe when she dances I just can’t take my eye off of her. I know Abby is always going on about Maddie being the “special” one, but to me, Chloe really, really stands out as the “Special” one. They are ALL special, but I do look forward to watching Chloe when she has a solo. I just wish her mom would put her in another school- preferably a solid ballet school, as I think she has so much potential, but at this point, just get her the heck out of there. All of them really. Maddie is very talented and I think she might actually suffer the most because she is being manipulated so much and you can tell what a nervous wreck she is. Trying so hard to please her mom and her teacher, and her teacher telling her to pick her (the teacher..?) WTF? What 10 year old is going to pick her teacher over her mother? Anyway, back to the point, I missed Chloe and hope to see her back dancing and doing solos (if she’s forced to be there that is). What would really be great is if the whole team just left and went somewhere else and they filmed them there. I would watch! I’m sure they could find a decent studio somewhere who would welcome them all with open arms- that way we still have all of our original girls, and moms, and none of the psychological abuse. I think most of us watch for the girls, and not for Abby. I don’t know if Abby knows this though. I would certainly watch that.

  4. You guys are so nice. Thank you. And I have to confess — I have that same sequined ski hat, except in black. My friends made me buy it. But I do have it.

  5. I love these recaps! Dance Moms has gotten more challenging to watch this season, mix and match teams, new dancer, new dancer gone, 3 new dancers then gone,some of the old team, but still girls & moms go missing. I like mindless entertainment, I loved watching those adorable girls dance to beautiful music and marvel at how they can flip and fly all over the stage in cute outfits. Now, I don’t know if I want to work that hard. Abby’s ego will perhaps tone down now that she’s got some losses under her belt, I hope so! It’s been like watching a wild bull chase all those cute clowns at a rodeo, you don’t know who’s going to be the target and neither do the clowns. I’m sure the show is scripted, I’m just hoping they start going back to the dancing part soon. And Cathy is cast as the evil troll, it’s OK to throw her in once & awhile to keep things a little spicey, but not a lot. There’s already way too many stories going on and that’s not what I like to watch. Go back, go back to just the squabbling moms, no more switching dancers, please!!

  6. Lori, thank you for your great recaps! Last night was just, dumb. They think the viewers are THIS stupid? For me, it wasn’t the same without Christi and Chloe. I watched that fiasco and asked myself “where are the security folks and why were men/boys allowed to just walk in on a female dressing room”. And somebody please talk to Jill about those hats. Horrideous!

    • Those were the ugliest outfits and the most ridiculous concept for a routine that I’ve seen during any season!! And what the heck was that thing that was supposed to be the mountain? I hope the audience had programs to explain what the dance was all about!

  7. I was bursting out loud, laughing so hard at the end with your fight pictures and commentary! Your posts are the best part of the show nowadays, since most of it makes me uncomfortable to see all the screaming and abuse. Keep writing! It always lightens up my day. 🙂 I must say though, Abby constantly breaks her own rules!

    • I don’t care for how the show has turned into a disaster,,,but I LOVE Lori’s recaps! These are so much more fun than that cow Cathy or the fakery 🙂

  8. I’m only watching this show anymore for the girls and their dancing. This show has become too scripted and too dramatic for me. However, I do enjoy reading your commentary every week. It brings a little light to this dark, drama-filled show.

  9. Oh Dance Moms, the fakest of all of the fake reality shows. I read that the pre-season special hosted by EP Jef Collins was filmed the same weekend as last week’s competition in Vorrhees, NJ. Remember when the moms recalled the alleged physical altercation between Christi and Cathy at season 2’s “nationals” competition? The EP asked where were his cameras. And lo and behold, there’s another physical fight at the very next competition, caught on camera!

    I didn’t think it was that weird that both teams arrived at the same time, since Cathy’s group is shown leaving from a hotel. I do wonder if both groups stayed at the same hotel and actually caravaned. It seemed like they were arriving at the same time and place because the area had been cleared for filming. That’s probably necessary at this point, as this has become a huge spectacle.

  10. This show has become too uncomfortable to watch. I had been DVRing it and fast forwarding through the “grown woman verbally abusing and humiliating little girls” sections to get to the danicng but, it seems to be a lot less dancing and a lot more abuse this season. I was absolutely horrified that Abby felt the need to belittle Nia’s condition and thought Dr. Holly was right on to say something.

    Remember the early seasons when there was some yelling (mostly as normal dance corrections) but also nice moments…remember the girls’ trip to the beach, the Abby/Chloe talk in the park when Chole was having confidence issues or the girls enjoying dance and each other??? I miss that aspect of the show.

    Editing aside….Abby’s behavior towards these girls should not be rewarded with the exposure that comes from the show. Until the direction of the show changes, I am not going to record or watch any longer….it is just too uncomfortable.

    • I totally agreed with you this week’s episode of dance mom has totally turned me off. I think we are teaching our kids to be disfunctional and disrespectful and also that winning at any cost is ok. Well I Will not be watching dance moms anymore until its about dancing again, Abbey was totallt out of line and oh my gosh kathy was childish and embarrasing. and please dont mention Rick the dance dad, shame on you all.I think this has become more about a bunch of screwed up adults wanting to be on tv to show out, and our kids are just becoming messed up and it will come back to haunt us as a society. I am so done with this show, this week was the worsts ever.

    • “.Abby’s behavior towards these girls should not be rewarded with the exposure that comes from the show” and yet in the entertainment world that is Lifetime/Bravo, it is. The children are collateral damage producers are willing to sacrifice for a paycheck. At some point, this fad, too, shall pass. At least I hope so.

  11. You’re welcome, Giselle. If you keeping reading, I’ll keep taking one weekly episode for the team. And agreed, Sarah. There was even more than the usual “what the!?” going on last night. The weird thing is, the savvier we get, the sloppier they get.

  12. We all know the edit reality TV to make a new reality, but this episode seemed very staged to me. First off, the Apples and ALDC arrive from different states at the exact same time? A little far fetched… then they have a fight that no one else is around to see? Abby played with her phone before dialing… if she was calling her mom it would have been a quicker action, everyone I know has their mom’s number saved and more than likely listed under recent calls too. Even the dialogue Holly had with Nia seemed off, like they were told by the production staff “hey, can we have you two interact for a few minutes?” I hope they can edit the rest of the season better than they did on this episode.

  13. I just wanted to thank Lori for keeping up with these blogs, lately watching DM gives me mini anxiety attacks, I just try to make it to the end of the episodes! So reading these instead is much better lol

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