“Dance Moms” recap: Ringers ’Round The Apples

Now, there ya go! THAT was an episode! We had villains we love to hate, villains we hate to love, drama that made me clutch my head and holler “ahhhmahhh gahhhd, that’s so fake,” a tablecloth/poncho for a shirt, drinks with Kelly and Christi, and my Welcome to Ohio sign (John R. Kasich, Governor).

Welcome back, my Dance Moms of yore! Welcome back! Now stay. Staaaaay.

Let’s get the business end of things outta the way.

Miss the episode? Watch it here for free.

This week, we will be traveling to the land of Kasich and Candy Apples, and, baby, we will be turning them into Apple Pie. The Candy Apples. Not the Governor. Unless he’s suddenly taken to dancing for Cathy Stein, in which case, look out Mary No Middle Initial Taylor, Lt. Governor, because if Abby has anything to do with it, your time to rule is just a dance competition away.

Since we’re heading into Apples Territory and Abby loves herself a message dance, she figures we might as well dance about territory, too. The group routine will be called Land Unforgiving. It’s about sticking a stake into beef jerky for the sake of claiming its land for your own. First apple pie. Now beef jerky. I think maybe Abby skipped lunch. I think maybe Melissa, too.

Christi, on the other hand, still clearly thinks beef-jerk-a-tard when she thinks Ohio, and I for one can’t blame her.

To make sure that victory is in the bag, Abby has decided to augment her troupe with a few “ringers” — that’s older, more technically adept dancers — just like the Wicked Witch of the West. Huh? For a moment she lost me to trying to figure out which of the flying monkeys were actually older, more technically adept flying monkeys, until I realized that she’s actually talking about Cathy. Ohio is west of Pennsylvania. They’re both east to me, but whatever. It’s time for The Pyramid.

Bottom is Brooke for choosing her eighth grade farewell dance over last week’s competition. She is still on probation.

Next is Big Mac. Wha? What did Big Mac do wrong? Oh. Big Mac didn’t spit her gum out. Little Lori would like know, outside of choking on it when you’re dancing, how this even figures into the pyramid criteria at all. But I’m not going to dwell.

Next is Nia for the usual Nia deal. Legs and feet. Technique. Same old.

Row two begins with Paige. Abby hints that maybe her probation sticker will come off now, too. Just not right now.

Next is Chloe. Apparently she flubbed something in the group dance, but her solo was good.

I’m not even going to pretend to be mystified by there being two photos left at the top of the pile and only one kid left on the floor, because last week’s comical preview gave it away. That’s Maddie the multiplying gremlin up there.  Two crowns, two titles in less than two hours, you know, even though reader dancemum says that’s actually a bunch of manipulated hooey.

Since Maddie wore herself out, what with that dancing two solos in ol’ Virginie, Abby’s going to rest her up this week and have Paige and Chloe do solos, instead. Because we must never see Paige smile again, ever, Abby singles her out as the one tasked with making Kendall and Jill realize that leaving the Abby Lee Dance Studio was the biggest mistake of their lives.

Reader Christy says she heard rumors that this particular story line is handcrafted hooey, too, and that Kendall and Jill never truly left ALDS but were loaned out to the Apples to keep them connected to the show. The human bridge between Pittsburgh and Canton, if you will. Dance Pawns.

In any case, to ensure that Paige is successful in her Kendall-vanquishing mission, Abby is going to have her do the ill-fated Tongue Twister solo and will help her rehearse it exactly zero times. That’s the bad news. The good news is she’s off probation, which tickles all of the little dancers absolutely pink. Awwww! I love me a moment like this!

See, Abby? You do a nice, you get nice in return.

Enough nice. Chloe’s solo will be called Angry Bird. Hubby Rik wants to know if this means Abby will be launching her artfully at a bunch of pigs and hay bales. Christi wants to know if the Angry Peacock dance is what awaits her child next. I, on the other hand, am serene about the whole thing. Chloe always does well when she’s supposed to dance angry and covered in feathers. I am sure this will all work out.

Whoa. We just went straight to the Apples without a look at the Welcome to Ohio sign first. We get a giant metal saxophone statue instead. I wonder if the Ohio sign has gotten all diva and is demanding end credits and royalties, so we’re cutting its camera time. But I can’t worry about that for too long, because Cathy has a supercool surprise for everyone! Jill’s pants got run over by a lawnmower and she survived it!

Nope. That’s not it. It’s actually that they’re going to do an Asian dance in which two Ming Dynasty warriors fight over Asian Princess Vivi. Oh, look at that — Asian Princess Vivi has even mastered her mother’s knack for a scrunchy-nosed mug for the camera.

Jill cannot believe that the Ming warriors will not be fighting over Kendall instead. In fact, she suspects that now that Cathy has made her former boyfriend Abby sufficiently jealous by taking up with Jill and Kendall, causing Abby to go back to Leslie and  Payton and then dump them  and move on to ringers, Cathy might actually be totally over them now … and into this super-enthusiastic choreographer that just walked through the door and is actually the supercool surprise.

The super-enthusiastic choreographer is Mitchell A, Finke, who appears to be a real-life version of Mr. Shuester on Glee. He shows up on a lot of Ohio show choir web sites. And he is here, along with his assistant Michael Place, to choreograph a winning number for the Apples, based on intel gathered from covertly — or perhaps outright vertly — observing the ALDC for a couple of weeks.

Back in Pittsburgh, the girls are taking a gymnastics class and the moms are wondering why they are not working on, you know, like, actual dances. Christi and Kelly decide to go right down there and get to the bottom of this mystery. The answer to the mystery is that Chloe is weak in gymnastics and Paige should already know her dance, since she’s practiced it for two entire hours between last summer and now. In other words, it’s still a mystery.

Kelly politely requests at the top of her lungs that Abby get up off her paperwork-doing dupa and get in there and amp up Paige’s choreography. Here’s how you say “tough noogies” without words, people.  I saved it so you can practice.

Since that didn’t go too well, the ladies reconvene over lunch and Cosmos to discuss what to do about Paige’s lacking choreography. All Paige gets is poses and butt shakes, but we know what happened last time Kelly hired an extra-curricular choreographer. No solo. This time Christi fears that Kelly will unleash the supreme wrath of Queen Kong. Well, missy, if Queen Kong is going to be unleashed, Kelly’s going to be the Abby-trained Fay Wray to do it. She’ll revamp the choreo herself.

Back in the land of the mighty metal sax, Mitchell A. Finke is working on the Asian routine that’s so sweet it’s givin’ Cath a cavity. Then Cathy runs Kendall’s solo with all the enthusiasm of, well, say, Abby choreographing Paige’s solos. And Kendall is just kind of half-heartedly putzing about. Now we’ve all seen Kendall practice and dance with both ALDS and the Candy Apples and this ain’t the same kid. Kendall’s technique is sharp as a tack. Something is rotten in Canton.

Christy, I’m pretty sure you called it, sister.

Still, doing her part to perpetuate this charade, Jill and her torn up pants wonder if Cathy might want to change anything about the dance to liven things up a little. No. No, Cathy does not. But, as always, it’s been a pleasure working with both of yooooooou. For the last tiiiiiime.

Yep. The honeymoon is over, Vertes. Pack your bags, call your daddy and move on.

Back in Pittsburgh, Abby is teaching Chloe to dance like an angry bird, while upstairs Melissa reveals that Jill has been crying on her shoulder about Cathy’s betrayal. Christi has a little violin music to accompany that sad tale.

Also, Melissa reports, Jill has ‘fessed up that Cathy knows she can’t choreograph a group routine like Abby can, so she’s hired outside choreographers for the weekend’s competition.

Speaking of going rogue on the choreography, now we’re upstairs at Kelly’s house in an open room with some numbers and an @ sign and an ampersand on the wall, plus a big giant piece of art that has as much unidentifiable crap in it as Abby’s beheaded octopus necklace. I know Kelly is fiddling with Paige’s choreography right now, but I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s all in that thing. I give up right about the time that Paige is rebelling against her mother’s intrusion for fear of having another chair tossed at her. Kelly says they won’t even tell Abby what they’re up to, but Paige retorts that that just means she’ll get it worse when she comes off stage. “Who cares?!” says Kelly. Paige’s face says she cares a lot.

Poor Paige. We really need a big giant Paige victory and we need it soon.

There’s my Ohio sign! There it is! It even got a close up! We’re at the Akron Civic Center, which is a truly splendid building and a truly splendid change of pace from the high school auditoriums we’re usually in. Because it is all fancy, Abby doesn’t want anybody to touch anything. Oh honey, just you wait and see what Kelly has put her figurative mitts upon!

Whoa. Now what the hell is on THAT necklace?

“Her recycling?” suggests Hubby Rik. Upon closer inspection, I’m pretty sure I see a starfish and what could possibly be a couple of seashells. And her recycling. Abby Lee is the new queen of flotsam couture.

Backstage, both teacher-ignored combatants in the Paige-Kendall title match are getting peptalked completely unnerved by their mothers. I’m completely distracted by this Dance Moms Fashion Moment in the form of the Pier 1 Mexican fiesta tablecloth turned poncho-shirt that Jill has chosen for the occasion. It’s a pon-shirt!

Chloe scores another awesome costume, but she looks nervous about her dance. Birdlike steps, Abby reminds her. Stag leap. Stag leap. Get it? I don’t get it. When exactly were stags reclassified as birds? Or birds as stags? Maybe that’s why the Bird is Angry. It’s expected to be able to leap like a stag. In any case, Chloe goes out there and makes the bird/stag amalgamation work just fine, despite a wayward earring that unsuccessfully threatens her kneecaps.

And then it’s time for Paige’s jury-rigged solo. “If Paige does what I gave her, she’s going to beat Kendall,” says Abby by way of foreshadowing.  Uh, well, Ab … aaaaand Ab just figured it out. She calls the new choreography elementary-talent-show caliber and says Kelly just cost her kid a crown. I’m guessing she probably cost her a lot more than that, but it does give Abby the opportunity to unleash a little zinger about Kelly sticking to what Abby feels she does best:

So hopefully that will take some of the fire outta Abby, because, backstage, Paige is pounding her chest for nerves and breathlessness.

Next up is Kendall. Again with the skipping music! Seriously, does no one check these things ever? And guaranteed win for Kendall! Right? Do I remember that right? Or maybe that only applies to Maddie. In any case, Cathy could give ten craps about the skipping music or the fact that Kendall is managing to dance through it and is instead focusing on the fact that the girl might still be a tad thrown off. Someone has been reading her Abby Lee Playbook. I think Kendall’s final little “take that!” finger snap before she leaves the stage makes up for any transgressions whatsoever.

But backstage, Jill is utterly bereft. Theatrically bereft. Slumped on the stairs in the hallway and comforted by Mitchell A. Finke bereft. Abby didn’t love Kendall. Cathy doesn’t love Kendall. Who will love Kendall?!

“Tell her to go play field hockey and get over it?” suggests Hubby Rik.

The bigger question right now is who will love Paige, because here comes Queen Kong to climb up the great big building of Who Messed With My Dance. Fay Wray-land offers up the rationale that Abby told them to work on the dance themselves, so they did. Abby swats that excuse away like so many little airplanes, but she does stay calm. At least momentarily. She explains that she wanted Paige to go out there and be able to do a flawless dance and that there was nothing wrong with the choreography she was given. From the safety of Kelly lap, Paige find her backbone and says the steps were too easy and she wanted to be challenged. You go, girl!

Oh oh. Kong mad! How dare Fay Wrayland raise Paige Wrayland to be a sneak! Um, Abby? Did you watch last week’s episode, Miss I’m Pretending That I Decided To Enter Maddie In Another Competition Just This Minute? Paige’s whole wide world is a classroom filled with lessons in sneaky.

Back in the C-A-D-C Whuuuuuuuut! get-ready room, all appears to be forgiven as the Apples get Asian-Empired up for the group dance and do a chant of solidarity. Field hockey will have to wait. But the ringer-enhanced ALDC dancers have a chant of their own. They’re Johnny Appleseed-vanquishers in white lace dresses and they’re going to chop those Apple [Trees] down. This land is their land. Chop chop chop chop.

Out in the audience, Christi is a trifle concerned about Cathy. She hasn’t bothered them once all day, and now she’s just taken her seat directly behind the Pitt Crew without so much as a word. Christi thinks that perhaps a little prune juice or some fiber might free the flow of B.S. from her adversary’s mouth. Yeah. I vote we just leave that alone.

Asian Empire certainly looks cool, what with the gang’s apple-red costumes and the pretend pagoda. And the choreography, with its fierce faces and intense arm thrusts, reminds me a lot of what Victor and Angel embraced on Dance Moms: Miami. Abby isn’t impressed. She says it’s like a Chinese buffet. A loud, obnoxious one that serves beef jerky and apple-scented cheese alongside the crab rangoon. And then ends with a bang.

I kind of dug it, in a complete-sensory-overload sort of way. Dr. Holly’s worried it might be a winner, too. Even Abby Lee, in her blinding yellow mirrorball jewelry, thinks it might be a problem. But the Unforgiving Land could not be in starker contrast to the Asian Empire, and that particular detail worked out reasonably well the last time it happened (‘member Ode to a Clown versus the Homeless Children?). So we’ll see.

Now, this is a pretty dance! As pretty as every one of Maddie’s solos. So pretty, in fact, that it makes Christi cry. Christi! Not Melissa! It’s like “Where Have All The Children Gone?” without the children having to play murdered.

Time for awards.

Paige gets seventh. Oooooh boy. There’s going to be hell to pay for that. Or maybe not, because …

Chloe gets sixth. And …

Even though Kendall appears to have a couple of good-sized trophies in front of her, her solo doesn’t place at all.

This means several things. 1) Having your music mucked up officially does not guarantee a win. 2) Kelly’s choreography and Paige’s dancing officially bested  Cathy’s choreography and Kendall’s dancing, as instructed by Abby. And 3) Kelly’s choreography and Paige’s dancing scored just one spot below Abby’s choreography and Chloe’s dancing. So 4) Kelly is probably going to get killed backstage. Where has all the Kelly gone?

But first the group awards.

Oof … Land Unforgiving gets fifth. Yikes. That means that there are four open spots above them — and this isn’t even the Biggest Competition In The Whole Wide World. (Oh, hey! Lucas Triana is on the Nexstar web site. Yes, I’m cheating and looking at the results again, which I really shouldn’t do ’cause the truth just bursts my bubble.) The happy news is that Asian Empire does not claim any of those four spots as their territory. The unhappy news? Something called Shindler’s List is the winner. Man, those judges love to see a dance about offing the children. Shouldn’t someone look into that?

In any case, I’m going to presume that fifth place is considered victory if Cathy’s group got no place. Yes? At least until Pyramid Time next week?

Yes. Abby’s even dancing about it. Abby even congratulates Paige, because she blames only Kelly for the devious switcheroo. But Kelly is emboldened by the relative success of her choreography. Give Paige some more rudimentary choreography, she warns the instructor, and she will tweak it again.

Backstage in Appleville, an ever-sunny Mitchell A. Finke is trying desperately to keep the Asian Empire from committing emotional hara-kari, but Jill is still wondering what about Kendall. Cathy ignores her ranting and concentrates hard on giving Vivi the perfect post-dance pigtails, while everyone else presses their backs to the wall and tries to stay out of the eye of the storm. And to make matters worse, Abby is waiting out in the hallway with a bitter dose of Cathy’s own medicine. No pre-contest cocktail party? No dinner with the sausage king of Canton? No witty repartee?

No.

Cathy is too exhausted by the traumas of the day and hearing the protests of the multitudes of other teachers who have told her that this is an “outcry” to even speak a word. Even a single one. Her retribution will come in the form of a superior dance and it shall come someday soon. Just not next week, by the looks of it …

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

Images and video: © 2012 Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC, a subsidiary of A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

About Lori Acken

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