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 â€” 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?Â
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’sÂ 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 shouldnâ€™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 â€” and I quote â€” “We canâ€™t lose. We wonâ€™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. Â Nia is the former, Paige the latter. This is also when we learn that Nia has a pain management disorder called reflex neurovascular dystrophyÂ â€” 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.Â The other mothers are also amazed by the news. Melissa says she canâ€™t believe Maddie doesnâ€™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.Â 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, theyâ€™re an army getting ready for war.
Field trip to Hollyâ€™s pretty house, where she’s assessing the pain in Niaâ€™s foot. Nia says it’s aÂ 7 on a scale from 1 to 10. Thatâ€™s too much for Holly to bear. She wants to know if Nia is putting too much pressure on herself and Nia admitsÂ sheâ€™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.Â Been a while since weâ€™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 â€™70s-fab modular coffee table. Itâ€™s not. Itâ€™s a mountain. Disguised as a ’70s-fab modular coffee table.
Also, look. Abbyâ€™s buying her own jewelry again. It’s only a matter of time till we have us some flotsam.
And look whoâ€™s back! Jackie and Sophia! Abby says thatâ€™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, sheâ€™s more than welcome. Especially when we have the Lad Apples to beat.
Oh oh. Wait a sec. Sophiaâ€™s back? Sophia is a sure win. What does this mean for Maddieâ€™s solo?Â 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.Â 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. â€śOogleingâ€ť 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 itâ€™s stuck in a cattle shoot?Â 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.Â Sophia says she doesnâ€™t even care about winning or losing. She cares about doing her best. Donâ€™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,Â Jill decides a good idea would be to go after Abby about how much practice time Maddieâ€™s solo has gotten compared to Kendallâ€™s. Good one, Jill. Hold that door miles-wide open for Abby to pull Kendallâ€™s solo to make room for Sophiaâ€™s and blame the deed on you. Abby doesnâ€™t, though. She waits until Kendall cries out of frustration and then does it. Calls her a baby, to boot. Says itâ€™s disrespectful.
OK, two things. OK, one. This:
Meanwhile, Holly wonders if Jackie is up to Abbyâ€™s brand of tough love.
Back in Ohio, Cathy and Vivi are shopping at what looks like Cantonâ€™s strip mall version of Pottery Barn and discussing who the best Lad Apple might be. Cathy thinks Gino. Viv thinks Gino and Zack.Â Cathy says that she realizes that in order to beat the ALDC, not only do they have to outdo Abbyâ€™s dancers, but they have to overcome her popularity, as well. Then she has an epiphany:Â Â Itâ€™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.
â€śYou wouldnâ€™t want to do it, would ya?â€ť Cathy asks her little Apple blossom. She doesn’t even get the â€śyaâ€ť out before Vivi hits her with a resounding no. Cathy glares. Vivi shrugs. Case closed.
Viv suggests Ayla would be a much better option.Â Then Cathy consults her little sage about whom she’d prefer Gino go up against, solo-wise. Chloe or Maddie? Vivi picks Maddie. Cathy doesnâ€™t protest.Â 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 Niaâ€™s ouchie foot. She tells Holly she needs to get a doctorâ€™s A-OK in order for Nia to dance. So off they go.Â The doctor says there is no specific injury. Nia gets her note.
Competition time.Â 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.Â Cathy insults Abbyâ€™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 â€” Jaylin is from Seattle. Zachâ€™s from San Diego. We already know that Gino is from Miami â€” while Cathy flaps about, hollering â€śAbby! Abby!â€ť to no avail.Â Finally Dance Dad Rick interjects to ask what Abbyâ€™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 Abbyâ€™s girls started and finished dancing at Abbyâ€™s. Well, Rick, kinda. Because imported Sophia is MIA and everyone else is local.Â Abby tells him to save his disrespectful tone for his wife. Rick says he wouldnâ€™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 horseâ€™s asses of yourselves in front of everybodyâ€™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, itâ€™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 Niaâ€™s pain and her need for Abby to acknowledge itâ€™s real. Abby says to hush or sheâ€™ll just pull the duet. Holly says Nia will prove that sheâ€™s capable of dancing, dancing well, and dancing well through the pain. Abby calls Hollyâ€™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.Â Then the other mothers start in on Kelly about why Christi hasnâ€™t returned her calls, until it’s time to break the news to Nia and Paige thatÂ Abby pulled the duet. Nia begins to cry and Paige grabs her pal in a hug.Â Hey sensitive Kendall! Time to dance.
Kendall is a beautiful child and a splendid dancer, and thatâ€™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 doesnâ€™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 canâ€™t win if you have friends.Â Abby says the routine was just a rejiggered version of last weekâ€™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.Â Gino gets eighth place regional champion in the junior solo awards. Abby says musical theater would have served him better.Â 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 doesnâ€™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. ThenÂ Cathy barges into the get-ready room squawking like a flock of crows. This happens.
Abby apologizes and says she didnâ€™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 teamâ€™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, Â 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 sheâ€™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.