Does this mean we can be done with shows about Jill now? That Kendall can dance, happily, supported, victorious and unhindered by her mother’s ego? That Nia can dance happily and supported, victorious and unpunished for her mother’s work-life balance?
That this show can actually become an eensy-peensy bit about dance again instead of the low blows of high-heeled moms?
I’m guessing no on all accounts, but a girl can dream. Because I want my old Dance Moms back. The ones who ultimately played yakky but reasonably harmless second fiddles to their joyfully dancing daughters. I want to believe that at least 50% of each episode is simply the DM cameras capturing dancers, dance moms and Dance-zilla Milla while they do how they do.
I don’t think that anymore. I’ll bet you dollars to Dance Moms that a good 90 percent of what we see on the show this season would not occur unaided by scripts and prods from producers, extra scenes shot at dance competitions in exchange for free publicity and cordoned sections in the front rows of auditoriums.
Which is a perfectly good place to launch into last night’s episode “Runaway Mom.”
That would be Jill, who flipped out after Kendall was relegated to the dungeon of the pyramid and placed back on probation because Jill can’t stop acting like the Screeching Queen of Pittsburgh. Though Abby expresses dismay when Kendall tears up, she’s unfazed — nay, amused — that Jill pronounces the two of them outta there, never to return. Yeah, yeah. Abby’s heard that before. You’ll be back! You’ll be back, I tell ya, or you’re ruined!
Whilst everyone else celebrates Nia scoring the top of the pyramid (Abby praised her consistent hard work and good nature, signaling the dawn of Dancepocolypse for sure) Jill grabs her weepy progeny, throws her in their giant SUV and heads not for her former studio, as she fibs to Melissa via text, but for the land of the ultimate foe — Ohio, John R. Kasich Governor, Cathy J. Nesbitt-Stein, Dance Instructor.
And shazam! Just like that, life is dreamy! The other mothers form a gentle cocoon of love around Jill and offer their finest faux-champagne and shiny red candied apples wrapped in fancy cellophane. For Kendall, a solo and private lessons that start right now. A place on the competition roster from the very first day! And do you know why?
Because none of this is actually happening, that’s why. If it was, the mother of whichever child just lost their solo to Kendall would take her shiny red candy apple, remove the cellophane and shove it up Jill’s interloping … uh, nose.
Speaking of interloping, Abby has cornered Melissa’s two children plus Chloe in a dressing room and is bending Big Mac’s limbs until she spills the details of Melissa’s upcoming wedding to, depending on who’s doing the talking, “Greg” or “Sugar daddy.” OK, actually they’re just warming up, but Abby has been so inspired by the impending nuptials that she designed a matrimonial group dance for the gang — and hence she deserves the 411. The kids ain’t talking … until they’re excused from the room. Then Chloe looks coyly at Abby and says, “I love the story.” “Don’t say it!” commands Maddie. “We’re not even supposed to talk about it.” Mac doesn’t crack either … offering a nervous, gap-toothed grin as a peace offering before being saved by Gia.
Cut to the moms in a bridal shop, ostensibly to garner inspiration for the girls’ bridal-themed costumes. Now I watch a lot of TLC, so I’ve seen a lot of wedding dresses on wedding dress shows, including some really skimpy ones. But none as skimpy as the costumes the children wear to dance. So I suspect this field trip may actually be designed to trick Melissa into trying on gowns, getting all swoony and spilling the damn story. But the only person who winds up in a wedding dress— despite confessing that she’s not wearing undies — is the already-wed Kelly. Make good note of that dress, Pittsburgh brides-to-be. Don’t try on that one at Babette’s Bridal Shop.
All Melissa talks about is cutting up the gown from her first wedding for costume parts. The trip has accomplished nothing but a few health code violations.
Back at Abby’s she’s explaining the method to the matrimonial group dance. She wants the girls’ dads to take part in order to give them away. But not to any yucky boys! The girls will be getting married to dance! Get it? Big Mac doesn’t. If she HAS to marry someone, she wants it to be Justin Bieber. I want MacKenzie to get her own show.
At Candy Apples, Cathy mines Kendall for Abby Lee pyramid info and is elated to find out that Kendall will be going head-to-head against Nia instead of Maddie or Chloe (Because none of this is actually happening. Because back in the wedding inquisition room, Abby was telling M&C to work on their solos, which is the first and last we hear of them) at this week’s competition of which I’ve forgotten the name. It’s in Pittsburgh, though. The travel budget must have been cut, because that’s two Pittsburgh competitions in a row.
Then comes something that I really do believe is happening — while Melissa works away in Abby’s office, the other moms sit in the mom loft and discuss her unwillingness to spit it out that she is engaged. Then they start a laundry list of the stuff that she WILL tell them. Which entails bodily nooks and crevices, desires, throbbing. “I mean, I know that she’s cleanly shaved down there,” Kelly says, pointing down there, “but she won’t tell me that she’s engaged.” “That’s a little too personal … little too personal,” deadpans Holly, who is excellent at deadpanning, and the women dissolve into laughter.
You can’t make that stuff up, people.
What you can make up is that Abby Lee has brought Broadway Baby (‘member? Her hapless, elderly poodle mix?) to the competition in a pink coat. In a pink baby stroller. She air kisses a few people here and there, reminds everyone of how beloved she is in Pittsburgh and then it’s down to business.
And here come the Apples. Jill says she’s a little nervous. Jill says what she really hopes of Kendall’s solo is that Kendall dances beautifully, has a wonderful time and earns the trophies ostensibly denied her by the wrath of Abby.
No, she doesn’t really say that. Jill says that her goal is to get Abby’s attention.
Well what fer, Jill?! You left there, and you’re never going back. You’ve found a studio where they love, cherish, respect and honor your need for Kendall to be the center of attention and every friggin’ dance. And where they display an alarming fondness for applying 73 pounds of bright purple eye shadow per dancer eyelid. Tastefully augmented by rhinestone wings. Jill dabs gingerly and tells herself she is relaxed and happy and taking care of her child.
Then comes the moment, we’ve all been waiting for. Well not me. But Cathy and Jill — who is curiously dressed in Abby Lee hot pink and black instead of Candy Apple red — for sure. The apples come around a corner, Kendall in the lead, and there is Abby Lee pushing Broadway Baby and leading her bridal-clad bunch. Melissa embraces Cathy like a long-lost friend. Holly realizes that Kendall will be squaring off against Nia.
Bathroom conference! Strangely framed in a mirror with Christi, Holly expresses her disbelief that Jill would actually do this to Nia. I express my disbelief that Holly has suddenly blanked on virtually everything Jill has said about Nia ever. Then Holly says that what she really hopes of Nia’s solo is that Nia dances beautifully, has a wonderful time and earns the trophies ostensibly denied her by the wrath of Abby. Holly really says that. Holly really means that. And I realize that the reason Holly can’t fathom Jill’s betrayal is because that sort of thing is as foreign to Holly as murder.
In the audience, Cathy solemnly tells Jill that she doesn’t like to engage in Abby’s “sloppy seconds,” conveniently forgetting that she almost drowned herself in drool at the prospect of signing up Payton a few weeks back. She hopes Jill is feeling welcome. She hopes Abby, seated nearby, overhears.
Meanwhile, backstage, Kendall and Nia are forced into an awkward little, “I like your outfit, I like your crown, good luck” interaction that is so staged you can see the lighting. And then it’s time to rumble.
Holly is crying before Nia even takes a step, in part because Nia dances beautifully and part because she knows that her daughter is having a ball despite the fact that a pack of adults have conspired to ensure her loss. We also get a look at Nia’s handsome dad Evan, which is charming.
Then Kendall goes out there and does what Abby says is heeeeeeeer choreography in heeeeeeeeer costume and I can’t figure out why someone of Abby’s intestinal fortitude would not hightail it to the judges and tell them that.
Then I remember. Because none of this is really happening.
Backstage, the girls are getting on their wedding gear and we’re taking a roll call of dads. Nia’s dad is there. Brooke and Paige’s dad is there. Chloe’s dad Mark can’t make it and neither can Mac-Maddie Daddy nor Sugar Daddy. Not the least bit rattled by her man-free status, Melissa stages a mock bouquet toss with one the girls’ nosegays and Chloe and Paige playfully wrestle for it. Like the scrawniest gal at the weddin’, poor little Mac doesn’t stand a chance to catch the flowers and she hunkers down and begins to cry. Melissa trots over to comfort her, telling her not to cry because she’ll muck up her make-up for the group dance.
“It doesn’t matter about the dance,” snorts Mac. “It matters about me. I’m emotional.” What you are is funny, Mac. And genuine. And charming. And real. And I love you.
The wedding dance is cute, though it doesn’t hold a candle to last week’s guns and poses spectacle. But the dads are delighted and no one messes up, so that’s nice. But what’s this? Cathy has entered a group dance, too. Number 287, A Funeral, to be exact.
Let me get this straight. Abby enters a wedding. Cathy enters a funeral. What. Are. The. Odds. The odds are 100% because none of this is real. At least I hope to hell not, because the centerpiece of Number 287 A Funeral is a big ol’ wooden coffin that I am pretty sure will give my Mac the nightmares. The dancers in Number 287 A Funeral are all well into their teens, clad in black and dipping and swaying around the coffin. At the last minute, Vivi-Anne and her two little pals chug through, causing Abby to point out, “Cathy doesn’t know how to choreograph — and who runs into a funeral and does an arabesque?”
Good point. But you did a wedding, so she had to do a funeral and arabesques are pretty standard dance fare, so what were you expecting? Weeping and gnashing in time with the music?
The wedding dancers take the junior-group, earning the overall high score for the division. High-fives all around. First place junior soloist is … Kendall. It’s a victory pretty much no one with an ounce of decency can feel good about; I’ll let you do the sorting on that one.
Nia cries — not because Kendall beat her, but because she wanted to win for her dad. It’s a genuinely lovely moment that is promptly blown to hell by Abby Lee busting in and bellowing that tears are for pillows not for public.
Over in the Apple room, Cathy presents Jill with a “Candy Apples Dance Moms” jacket, which looks like a denim shirt with a sequined apple iron-on on the back. The other mothers — none of who are sporting a Candy Apples Dance Moms jacket — laugh hysterically and Jill slides one arm into the thing, looking for all the world like she smells mothballs. In the following shot, it is wadded up and draped over her arm.
Time for one last Cathy-Abby throw-down in the hallway, with a little did-not, did-too over poached dancers and purloined choreography, and we’re done. Until next week, when the audience should think the girls are nude and somehow Christi, Chloe and Cathy are in the same non-competition-related room. Because … well. You know.
New episodes of Dance Moms air Tuesday nights on Lifetime.
Photos and video: Lifetime