We begin with this episode with a field trip, Dance Mom Nation! Because Brooke has invited Abby out for tea and creme puffs at a place that looks like a dollhouse and is called “Flowers In The Attic.”
I’m going to take a momentary pause here for those of you in my age demographic to skeeve out over the part where someone in Pittsburgh felt compelled to name their posey-shop-slash-café after the 1979 V.C. Andrews novel that made catastrophic familial dysfunction a middle-school must-read and caused us all to be just slightly nervous about our mothers and grandmas for a long, long time.
Hmmm. Maybe there is some sense here after all.
Anyway, Brooke has decided to ’fess up that cheerleading is not for her and that she would like to come back to dance.
“It’s not that easy, Brooke,” says Abby solemnly. Stabbed backs and slapped faces, remember? Then suddenly some tender piano music starts and Abby starts waxing about the girl’s God-given talent and how she’s not going to let that disappear. Abby calls Brooke “honey,” they clink glasses and four minutes later all is forgiven. Turns out that it IS that easy — especially where most stuff with Abby is concerned. Well, I’ll be!
Abby’s good mood even lingers long enough to take Kendall off probation and award her an official “I’m a captive of Abby Lee” jacket. If Jill catches Kendall slouching while wearing that bugger, says Abby, she is to “stick a thumb tack” right between Kendall’s shoulder blades, and Jill would be thrilled to do it. So thrilled that Christy compares her smile to the “Sheshire Cat.”
I’m pretty sure that’s actually “Cheshire Cat” and I’m also pretty sure that the moms would actually prefer that Jill pull a “Reverse Cheshire” and have her mouth disappear even when the rest of her remains visible. But whatever. You say “Sheshire,” I say “Cheshire,” let’s call the whole thing …
The bottom row is the usual suspects — Abby’s perceived sins of the mothers visited on Kendall, Nia, Paige and Mac. Row two. Maddie, even though she was the sole winner last week. What on earth is going on here and how is said earth still on its axis? Maddie looks a little nauseated.
Also in row two, Chloe, whom Abby calls “snooty.” Abby really needs to look snooty up in the dictionary if she thinks Chloe is it, but for now we have more pressing matters at hand. Who, oh who, is at the top?
Despite last week’s mega-flap, Payton the Mouthy is in the room and so is Leslie the Inquisitor. So is it possible — if Ab would condemn Mads to row two for what feels like eternity — that she would also let P-the-M rise to the top on a great gust of ego?
No. No she would not. That’s the prodigal Brooke up there.
And a big welcome back to you, Miss! Now here’s the catch. You have to win. You HAVE to win. HAVE to! ABBY DEMANDS THAT YOU WIN!
Anybody besides me scared for Brooke?
In any case, Brooke’s return and Kendall’s promotion can only mean one thing and Payton knows it. She begins to cry. Leslie begins to bellow. “How dare you?” Leslie demands. “Where is your loyalty?!” (Leslie clearly has no idea whose name is on the building.) “We’ve so been faithful!” she crows.
Kelly ain’t havin’ that. Kelly was an Abby Lee student when she was Payton’s age, so the Ackermans’ four years is a mere drop in the bucket. Be gone with you, foul four-year interloper. We’ll see for how long.
Group dance practice time. It’s called “Avalanche” and Abby says it’s about the whole world of cheerleading tumbling down. The side of a mountain, apparently. I don’t see many cheerleading movements going on (or extreme snow sports that might cause said natural disaster) in the choreography, but whatever. It’s called Avalanche, anyway.
What is raging down from the mom loft is a whole mess of smack talk with the children used as slings and arrows. Jill adopts a funky, clenched-teeth sneer that she will display throughout the episode and I will notice every time. Go look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Grrr!” It looks like that.
Brooke’s solo, “YOU MUST WIN” — just kiddin’, it’s really called Starry Night — entails her playing an alien from another planet. I thought Abby meant Planet Cheerleading, but actually she means Planet Kelly. She’s wearing her necklace of thorns again. I make a mental note to forgive Kelly for last week’s remark about Abby crushing her own leg.
Up in the loft, Jill is fretting special parts and securing a not-in-the-back place for Kendall. Jill does not appear to understand that Kendall must dance well — and she is — in order to achieve this — and she will. She goes down to harangue — wisely choosing Gia as her target and then skedaddling back up to safety before Abby can inquire.
Another random party at Kelly’s features brightly painted wine glasses and lots of talking about “gettin’ the privates.” Melissa gets a lot of The Privates, say Kelly and Christy, because she is Abby’s lackey (Dear Holly says “friend”). For those of us who are not dance mom by nature, this is one seriously squirmy line of conversation to begin with, but the fact that it actually entails pay-for-play, dance-studio style, is not much comfort. In any case, Christy puts Jill and Melissa both on blast, even though she is a guest at the party, too, and they wisely take a hike.
In the morning, and bonded over their mutual belief that Christy is a bad thing and bribery is a good thing, Jill and Melissa head off to indulge in a little retail therapy and commiseration. Melissa tells the camera that she feels this will be “a real long friendship here.” Not as long as your kids keep gettin’ the privates and the special parts, lady. Jill has simply removed The Doormat from everyone else’s feet but her own.
Remember Cathy back in the day, Melissa? No? Try. Try hard.
Back at the studio, Big Mac starts the party right now and then some — and lo and behold, she makes Abby cry. Big Mac makes Abby say, “good.” What the hell is happening here? Who is this woman? This is twice in one episode with the plinky piano music.
Ah, never mind. It’s Brooke’s turn to work on her solo. No piano music. No Abby tears. No good.
The next day, Abby’s vocal puberty is back and so is Jill’s plan to buy Kendall’s way into gettin’ privates and special parts. Oy. This is going to take some getting used to.
In any case, Studio C has been converted into a personal massage parlor for Gia and Abby on Jilly’s dime and may no child who dances ever after in Studio C discover what is about to go down here. “This is something we could do on a regular basis,” says Jill clutching awkwardly at her own arms and hunching as far toward the uppermost regions of a presumably naked and sheet-covered Abby as she can. In return, Jill says, she is expecting good things for Kendall.
The other moms show up and don’t know whether to laugh, laugh harder or laugh till they cry. Kelly wonders if Jill has run out of her meds.
I’m hard pressed to argue. Pretty much the entire episode, Mrs. Vertes has appeared to descend into a lippy-rific madness that comes to a head on competition day. Perhaps it’s because she saw how quickly Leslie’s time came and went, but she has elected to morph into Leslie X 64,000 and begins ordering everyone around. “Give Kendall a solo! Worry about Kendall’s headpiece!” she barks at Abby, then sets her teeth in the “Grrr” thing. I wait for Abby to deck her mouth right off her, but for the most part, Abby lets it slide. After all, this is still the woman who has offered to deliver and pay for a weekly massage and sit up by her head while she gets it. Let us not throw the baby out with the b*tch water.
And anyway, it’s dancin’ time.
Big Mac officially rocks the party and the house in a solo that goes off without a hitch. Man oh man, Maddie! First Abby’s after ya and now your own kid sister is breathing down your neck. Maybe YOU want to try cheerleading for a week.
Speaking of, Brooke once again has a knockout of a costume and choreography that makes my joints hurt. The whole thing looks a little awkward, but judging acro’s not my wheelhouse, so we’ll see.
And it’s Mac for the win. Brooke gets third.
BROOKE DID NOT WIN. And ABBY DID NOT KILL HER! Abby said more nice things, instead.
What the hell is going on here? Can anybody else see my desk chair sliding toward the ocean? Because the planet is definitely off its axis!
Or maybe, as Christy suggests, there is just a full moon.
In the meantime, Abby convinces Jill to apply makeup to her highly bemused face — and this time, Christy, I do see a Cheshire Cat grin. Only it ain’t on Jill.
The group number goes well and — again! — Abby says so. Maybe this massage thing is working out after all. Maybe we should start a fund.
During the group judging, the emcee reveals that two groups have scored over 290, which is not easy to do. Unfortunately, Avalanche is the second. And second is the first ones to lose, says Abby Lee. Biggest losers on the stage, her girls.
But this time she takes it out on the moms. Jill most of all. Abby Lee Miller was not put on this Earth to make her kid feel special (sound familiar, Kel?). Abby Lee Miller was put on this earth to get free jewelry and massages. And even then, Jill is now on Super Secret Abby Lee Probation.
Jill says she left a great studio with which she was perfectly happy (except that no TV show was filming there) and for the first time, I realize how much she sounds like Candy Apple Cathy — literally and philosophically. But unlike Cathy, Jill ain’t leavin’. She’s packing her guns … and from the looks of next week’s premiere, her cowboy hat to go with ’em.
New episodes of Dance Moms air Tuesdays at 9pm/8CT on Lifetime.