Dance Moms Season 3 episode 20 recap: Living With the Fibbin’

Lori Acken

Once again, Dance Moms nation, we have ourselves an episode that had a splendid opportunity to leave viewers with something positive and lovely for a badly needed change … and blew it resoundingly. We had support for patients and families living with cancer. The power of forgiveness (yes, I know Christi and Kelly aren’t really fighting, but still). The rewards of good sportsmanship and fair play.

All shot to hell because whomever is in charge just had to manufacture some drama that makes one little girl seem what I’m virtually certain is unduly insufferable and another, once again — perpetually, really — relegated to also-ran. Is it possible that the results of the competition actually went down the way they did? Could be. Is Abby’s reaction to them appalling either way — tediously, tiresomely, predictably so? Unquestionably. And that is the problem.

This episode was clearly — I think — intended to honor cancer patients and the strength required by them and their family members to make the best of the course of an awful disease, whatever the outcome may be. And it did that in admirable little fits and starts throughout the hour. So did we really, really need to end the way we did? Would the episode have suffered even a little if we had just skipped the last five minutes? If we needed to create a feud between Christi and Melissa and/or Chloe and Maddie and/or Abby and everyone for the purpose of storyline, could the revelation of the “true” results not have waited to the start of next week’s episode so as not to dilute that message?

Apparently not. And that is sad. Here’s how it all shook out.

We start with Abby, headphones in ears, getting down with her bad self behind the front desk as the Pitt Crew arrives.


Christi says the apocalypse has arrived because Abby smiled when they walked in. Must’ve been a good tune.

Once everyone is in place, Abby says her good mood is actually because we beat the Candy Apples last week. Everyone celebrates a little, and then Kristie and Asia reappear and we get to the pyramid.

Asia is bottom of the bottom because she was off in L.A. being a celebrity. She was left off the pyramid altogether last week for that, but not this time. Abby says the placement’s not a punishment. In seventh place — Nia. Abby says she lagged in the group and Abby doesn’t want her to be the weakest link. Kendall is next — she was good in the group but bad in rehearsal. Then Paige — Abby says that while second place is usually the first to lose, this time Paige should be proud of herself.

Last in row two is Big Mac. Ostensibly she didn’t dance last week either, but Abby says she has big plans for her this week, so she’s setting expectations by putting her there. Abby’s voice-over doesn’t quite match up with Melissa’s and Mackenzie’s reactions, though, nor Abby’s in-studio conclusion that, “you’ve got to give me more.” But whatever. That’s why Mac’s where she is. Then Abby uncovers Chloe’s and Maddie’s photos at the same time. She says they danced like professionals.

Brooke’s adventures in dancing with the senior company earn her the top spot. Not another chance to dance with the seniors, but the top of the pyramid, anyway. Abby said she was outstanding. Banner day for Brooke.

This week we will be attending the Powerhouse Dance Competition in Fort Wayne, IN —  yet another “Here’s your chance to see the cast of Dance Moms” in10sity Dance deal that has encompassed this entire season and is most likely the reason that the emphasis is no longer so much on our little dancers, because these competitions are basically the traveling set of the show rather than an actual competition, and that’s about that.

The group routine this week is called “Living With the Ribbon” — it’s the aforementioned cancer dance. Melissa immediately gets choked up, because her mother died of an aggressive form of the disease years before. Both of Kelly’s grandfathers died of cancer, too, and her dad is currently battling prostate cancer. Abby says the choreography of the dance is very intricate; therefore, Mac and Asia will not be a part of it and will be performing solos instead. Asia’s will be called “Too Hot to Handle.” Mackenzie will be doing something called “Old West.”

Maddie will be doing a solo called “Be Anything.” Chloe gets a solo, too, called “You Can.” Because she can be better, says Abby, if she just listens to Abby instead of her mother. Christi rolls her eyes.

Abby dismisses the mothers to the loft with the warning that if anything like last week’s F-bomb Olympics occurs this week, both offending mother and collateral-damage child will be expelled. Then she tells us that her own dad died of cancer, so the group dance is intended to reflect the hope that modern treatments offer. Kristie notices the change in the seating arrangements in the loft and the mothers discuss whether the feud is temporary or permanent.

Then Abby reveals her secret plan: Maddie and Chloe will be dancing the exact same solo “You Can” + “Be Anything” = “You Can Be Anything.” Get it? So sneaky! Abby says this will, once and for all, shut the mothers up about who is the better dancer and the fairness of the choreography they get. At the expense of the girls, to my thinking, but what isn’t these days?

Gia tries to muster up some enthusiasm for this plan.

Well, somebody’s proud of herself, either way. Very, very proud.

While the girls practice, Jill and Christi decide to go see if the other children are doing their homework, which handily affords us the chance to let Kristie get the scoop on what’s going down between Christi and Kelly with only one of them present. Downstairs, Christi and Jill have wandered off the mission they weren’t really on in the first place to take a load off and gossip about the tension, too.

Next day, in the den, Maddie and Chloe decide to compare notes on their solo music and — lo and behold — Abby’s secret is out. It’s the same solo.

The what now?

The same solo. The selfsame one.

Christi says she understands the real motive behind the maneuver. The girls are amused and begin dancing identically. Kelly wants to know if Chloe and Maddie learned their solos on the same day, too. That would be foreshadowing. Holly does her characteristic job of trying to put a life-lesson spin on the situation and point out its dubious merits.

In the studio, Asia is watching Mac run her Old West solo — your basic, skippy-posey-tumbly-cutesy Mackenize Zeigler performance with a couple of booty slaps thrown in, I’m guessing to bring to mind the whipping of a trusty steed. She’s the horse and the cowgirl.

Then Mac gets to forlornly watch Asia flying around doing dynamic choreography that trounces her own. I look forward to the day when these two do the same solo, too. Just to see. The mothers think the real injustice here is that Kristie got to go watch practice right down in the studio. Well, Jill does anyway.

Speaking of Jill, what’s this now?

This is Jill and Christi deciding to don their shades, dress all in black —that should camouflage them nicely in broad daylight — and go spy-teching to see if Maddie is getting extra private lessons to give her an edge in Solo Wars. They even plan to videotape the evidence so it’s irrefutable. And if you still cling to the belief that even a fragment of what happens on this show is organic, I pity you.

Sneak! Sneaky-sneak along the perimeter of the big cement building that is so completely windowless you could be buck naked and doing the Electric Slide out there and no one inside would notice!

First the spies note that Gia’s and Janine’s cars are here! Oh no! Wait, who’s Janine? Oh. Mac’s primary choreographer. Well that proves it! Melissa is Dirty Player of the Week! Now go right in there and prove it, Jill. Christi and the cameraman will serve as lookouts.


Which is exhausting.


That was exciting! Safely in the confines of Command Center One — OK, of Christi’s white SUV — Jill reveals the mission was partially successful. She has video of Maddie working on her solo.

Next day, Abby meets with the Samesies Soloists and says she knows they’re onto the part where they’re doing the same dance. She explains that it’s intended to mimic a real-life audition and will better prepare them for a professional career and is, therefore, good for them. Also, it will shut Christi up about Maddie getting superior choreography and is therefore good for her. Then she sends Chloe to the corner, so she cannot see how her rival is dancing her dance. The mothers discuss. Then it’s Maddie’s turn to take to the corner while Chloe dances. The mothers discuss. Abby says both soloists are dancing well. Her evil plan is working.

Time to rehearse the group dance — except the pink ribbon prop is not ready. Abby decides to have a little fun with the undone task and makes Gia tell Christi and Kelly it’s their job to dye the elastic pink. Right this minute. In the women’s room sink. A little team building exercise if you will.

Christi and Kelly will not. They dye in silence. It’s a messy job.

When they return, Abby summons everyone for a little costume try-on and discussion of the seriousness of the group dance. She asks for a show of hands on who knows someone who has died of cancer. Asia pushes her way to the front to help us see that it’s unanimous.

Abby asks if it’s a painful thing. Everyone nods. She asks if it’s a loss of dignity, because you’re not in control of your body and you feel this-small. Well, I don’t know about that. I get the message she is trying to give the girls, but the idea that battling cancer means losing your dignity is hardly the right one.

But Abby tears up and goes on to explain that as her father’s body failed from brain cancer, she had to lift him off of the bathroom floor after a seizure. She says cancer is not pretty; the dancers are pretty. Then, though everyone is in tears, she whispers, “Come here” and reaches for Maddie alone. Then she wants to know why Asia is crying — is it because Miss Abby is so sad? Asia nods. Abby asks who it was that Asia knows who passed of cancer. Well, it was actually before Asia was even born. And it wasn’t exactly cancer. Also, it was also her dad’s dog, Diablo. Abby says it’s still horrible when pets get cancer. Yes, it is.

Abby says enough crying now. Chins up and maybe if we win the dance, we’ll win the cure for cancer. Oh, you get her drift.

Come competition day Abby says she can’t explain how important it is for them to win. That’s because it isn’t. It’s their invitational, there are no national titles on the line this year because of the in10sity Dance deal,  and Cathy is nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t matter one way or the other, really. So let’s just enjoy the girls dancing, shall we? That sounds good.

Mackenzie runs her solo in what looks like her Lovely Day for Play costume from a while back. Kristie wants to know how long she intends to milk this cutesy thing. I mean she is eight now. Almost has all her teeth, too. Adulthood is right around the corner. Then Asia comes out dressed like a can-can girl and shimmies like one, too.

Kenzie’s performance is adorable. She boopsy-doos her way off the stage into Kendall’s waiting arms.

Kristie says Big Mac’s no match for Asia or her dance, and she isn’t. But that isn’t her fault.
Asia’s music is about everyone in the club wanting to come get wit’ her.

Yikes! Right, Kristie? Yikes about your 7-year-old dressed like that and dancing about being in a club where people want to come get wit’ her!

I guess not.

And now there’s another breed of fish to fry, because Asia’s doing a no-no from her Abby’s Ultimate days and singing along lustily to her music as she dances. I don’t think she’s supposed to be, but maybe. Nope. She’s not. In the get-ready room, Abby hands Asia her arse for lip-synching. Abby says the kid is one goal forward and two steps back. Asia says Abby can yell at her all she wants — she’s not going to make her cry.

Abby wants to know if Mac watched Asia from the wings. She did. And what’d ya learn, cowpoke?

That’s right.

Time for the Dueling Solos. Both girls are dressed in sunflower yellow and look thoroughly miserable.

Chloe goes first. She doesn’t have Maddie’s unrestrained style of dancing or intense facial expressions, but she does have the long, lithe body and grace that make the more balletic parts of the dance exceptionally lovely.

Maddie goes next. Her version of the dance is lovely, too, except she seems to stumble slightly in her final turn. Abby and Melissa cheer vigorously, anyway.

What happens next is just plain weird. Mackenzie comes to congratulate her sister and Maddie scoops her right up and says thank you. Then she suddenly drops the kid like a bad habit and shoves her hard in the chest. Mackie smacks her sister back, then smacks her again, grinning the entire time. Maddie smacks again, stalking away. Mackie lands the final blow. Someone ventured off script there for a minute until she remembered she’s supposed to be very very mad, or what?

Kendall follows Maddie out the door and ask what’s wrong. Maddie says her turns were bad. All of them. Every single one. Melissa says Maddie could have done better, as well.

Given this turn of events, when Abby returns to the get-ready room, Kelly asks if her little experiment went the way she planned. Abby retorts that she’s amazed Chloe could even remember the dance. Jill asks her who she thinks will win. Abby says it’s in the judges’ hands. Well, that’s boring. So no time like the present to reveal the fruits of the spy mission, eh Jill?

Melissa flips out. Christi calls Melissa a liar. Abby screams that it makes no difference because every single one of us knows Maddie can learn a dance in an hour flat. (Anybody else besides me love how Kelly is so inured to hollering that she calmly touches up her eyeliner in the throes of the most heated arguments?) Abby says it’s all old news anyway and we must focus on the cancer dance. Kelly reminds her daughters to think of Papa Kuhn.

Living With the Ribbon is a very moving dance and since I’m a pretty recent breast cancer survivor myself, it puts a genuine lump in my throat.

In the get-ready room afterward, Christi says it made her realize that life’s short, people can be gone from your life at the drop of a hat and it really does hurt her to see Kelly struggling with her dad’s diagnosis. She goes over and gives her erstwhile bestie a squeeze and a smooch on the cheek.

Aw! Nice! Let’s just end the episode here. ‘Kay? Hope for a cancer cure! A friendship restored! Someone? Cut! The end!
No? We have to hand out awards? No, we really don’t. Oh fine.

The announcer is dressed in a pink tie. What a coincidence.

Living With the Ribbon wins.

Mackie’s solo gets second. Asia’s solo gets first. She has to set down one plaque to go get another one, but whatever.

Maddie gets second place. Chloe takes it. A wise Paige opines that they both did fabulous so it doesn’t really matter who won. Oh, but it does, little sparrow.

This happens.

Then this happens.

With Jill and Christi just a pair of seats away.

Nonetheless, in the get-ready room, Abby comes in beaming … with the pink-tied guy who runs the competition at her heels. Pink Tie Guy says we’ve had a little whoopsie. One of the judges is so bad with numbers that Chloe’s 99.10 should actually be a 96.6, because said judge gave her a 27.5 in a category that only had 25 points to award. That means that the overall winner is actually Maddie, he says, without saying what her final score was for the sake of comparison.

To her credit, Chloe’s the first to applaud the new victor. Abby congratulates them on being great sports and then changes the subject. In a heartbreaking aside, Chloe’s voice breaks as she explains her disappointment but her happiness for Maddie.

Christi smells a rat. A big one. Dressed in black with green accents. Jill asks Abby how she found out about the mixup anyway, and Abby says the judges came to her with the news. Cue Pink Tie Guy, who magically reappears to return the score sheets to Abby and thank her for bringing the error to his attention. The mothers look perturbed. Abby looks smug. And that, ladies and gents, is how we close. Because, in the end, Maddie winning is what matters most of all.

Next week on Dance Moms, Cathy continues to populate her Home For Wayward Abby’s Ultimate Cast Members by taking in Yvette and Hadley. Plus two other girls and minus Gino and Mick. Abby takes a step toward completing her West Coast relocation — and furthering her education on working a stripper pole. And the incurable rash that is Kaya puts her finger on the end of Jill’s nose. I am making none of that up, I swear.

So what say you, Dance Moms nation? Was there legitimate method to Abby’s dual solo madness, or was it just a particularly squirmy attempt to build in some story? Were you touched by the personal cancer stories and Living With the Ribbon? Do you wish, too, that we could’ve ended on a happy, hopeful note? Are you buying the “results”? Sound off in the comments section below.

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


1 Comment

  1. Chloe and Maddy are both beautiful dancers, and their
    expressons on their faces are much different fitting their dancers.

    It’s as if they were artists with their hands, their work could both be beautiful but different types.
    Melissa will say anything Abbey wants, and we all know Abbey eats that up, but Kristi doesn’t play the game. Abbey is queen of her castle. If only all the
    Moms would be quiet and get out of the stupid, disrespectful mode, we would all see a tremendous difference.

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About Lori Acken 1156 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.