I’m back, Dance Moms nation — and mildly confused about what went down last week, since I didn’t have a chance to watch the episode. Here’s what I’m taking away from the intro: Kelly’s still gone, Leslie and Pay-Pay are filling in and annoying everyone, and the group dance was called Open Waters and beat the Candy Apples group dance so soundly that Anthony and Cathy had to stand with their backs against the wall and think about what they did. Also, Black Patsy has a man-voiced minion and hey, there’s Brigette Triana!
How’d I do? Good enough. Let’s move on to “The Dancing Dead.”
I’m happy to come back to a happy Abby, who says that the ALDC is on a roll and getting stronger every day. The group routine was outstanding. The kids worked beautifully together. And Payton actually wants to be part of the team, unlike those Hyland ingrates. Abby says that if the Temptations, the Supremes and the Beatles can replace members without missing a beat, by God and Pete Best, so can the ALDC.
Christi’s a fan of this analogy.
Let’s do the pyramid.
Bottom of the bottom are, of course, Brooke and Paige. Frankly, I’m surprised they’re even on there.
Next is Payton, who danced fine but had a little sassy moment in the dressing room. Never mind that it was apparently because she was called the wrong name twice. Leslie protests and Abby says, if Leslie prefers, she can call Payton another name — Replaceable. Which is the same as calling her Brooke all over again.
Next is Asia, who puts on her best I Never, Ever Cry face and takes it like a champ. Abby explains that she did a good job of the choreography but she still needs to learn to be as good an ensemble dancer as she is a soloist. Kristie rolls her eyes. She isn’t trying to raise an ensemblist, here, people.
Rounding out the bottom row is Mackenzie. Kristie’s miffed. She says that dance wasn’t even Asia’s style, so Asia should be ahead of Kenzie because of it. Melissa says it wasn’t Kenzie’s style, either. Abby says they’re in the same row, so hush. Kristie retorts that where in the same row makes a difference. Not to anyone else but you, honey. Abby puts the matter to rest by saying that Kenzie did two tricks on the ramp prop to Asia’s one — and more difficult ones, to boot — so there. Here’s how excited the subjects of the debate are about this particular conversation.
Last in Row 2 is Chloe. Abby says she did great in the group dance and the trio — there was a trio? Who was the trio? Was it a good trio? — but sometimes you win the battle and lose the war. Hopefully the next few placements will enlighten me about what the war was. Or not.
Maddie is next. Abby says she does everything right, but if Abby keeps slapping her up at the top of the heap, she’ll get overconfident and quit working, just like Brooke did when she was 12. Well, I’ll be. Abby has finally noticed that Maddie makes the same face — albeit an admittedly compelling one for all its angst — in every dance. Time to switch it up, says she. Maddie tries out this one.
Next is Kendall. She, too, was outstanding in the group dance and the trio, but she gets the second-place slot because her mother apparently won the battle and the war against Black Patsy and Minion. Jill says she doesn’t much relish her role as their primary target, but if it gets Kendall ahead — bring it on, sassy Apple mamas.
This means the top of the pyramid belongs to Nia! Yaaaaaaaay! For about 33 seconds, anyway, until Abby feels compelled to announce that — even though everyone is happily cheering for the girl — they’re all probably wondering why the heck she’s up there. Nia’s face falls. Holly’s face falls further. Captain Encouragement goes on to explain that Nia was the only dancer who came up to Abby and asked what she could do better, so that’s what earned her the top slot. Nia handles the whole shebang with typical Nia grace.
This week’s in10sity Dance outing is in Orlando, home of Abby’s other home and also her mom.
Everyone will be doing the group dance, which will be called On The Verge and be about ladies like Kelly (and Lori) who are forever on the brink of losing their $#!+. Well, that should be a kick in the pants to choreograph. Christi says she’s On The Verge, all right. On the verge of needing a drink.
Chloe lands a Latin-inspired solo called Fired Up. Kendall gets a contemporary lyrical one called Under My Spell. Jill is predictably thrilled. Last solo goes to Nia. And it’s not just any solo. Abby announces that she’s indeed had Broadway Baby “preserved” and it’s time for her, er, homecoming. Then she gets choked up telling Nia that she will be doing a tribute dance to the stuffed little pooch. That should be a kick in the pants to choreograph, too. Hysteria and a taxidermied dog.
Melissa says this turn of events is puzzling because Broadway Baby the Living was like family to her and her girls, so why Maddie isn’t doing the tribute dance is a mystery to her. Because she already did a tribute dance to the dog, dear. Remember? When you encouraged her to steal the group’s thunder? Melissa says Abby is just trying to teach Maddie a lesson.
Time for group dance practice, during which it becomes evident that Abby’s good mood has run its course. Up in the Mom Loft, Melissa, in her special Melissa way, opines that Maddie should have been top of the pyramid in addition to getting the Baby dance. Holly lets it roll off her and says that Nia has an enormous responsibility in doing that solo. Kristie says that’s just an excuse in case Nia blows it. Asia can do anything, anytime, without thinking twice. Wait a second, lady. Weren’t you just complaining back there a ways that the group dance wasn’t Asia’s style?
Leslie decides to push her luck and assert that since Kelly and the girls have now ditched out on the team three times in a row, they should be kicked to the curb for good. Christi says she’d give that opinion more weight if Leslie and Pay-Pay weren’t trying to take over her spot on the team. Leslie says Christi just doesn’t like her. Since the first day we got a load of you and your mouth, sweetie.
Next day, Abby is missing from group dance practice — and for good reason. She’s here.
So is Miller Mother Maryen Lorrain. I thought she was in Orlando. In any case, it’s a good thing Ms. Maryen’s along, because it turns out that Abby didn’t think all the way ahead to where she’s going to, you know, actually put Stuffed Baby now that there is such a thing.
“Well, we’re going to put her in front of the TV, where she likes to watch the television,” says Maryen calmly, looking for all the world like she makes decisions like this every single day. And here comes Baby now. Abby makes a large-bird sort of noise. Maryen slaps her hands to her cheeks and declares, “Oh my God, how beautiful.”
Back to Life Taxidermy Guy says he ordered Baby’s eyes special to make sure they were just right. This is more than I can resist. A quick trip to Google for “special taxidermy eyes” lands me at Van Dyke’s Taxidermy (A Taxidermy Tradition Since 1949), where I learn that you can order seven varieties of eyes, each with a host of subcategories. You got your whitetail eyes. Your bird eyes. Your North American Mammal eyes (I thought whitetails ARE North American Mammals, but whatever.) A veritable ocean of fish eyes. African-Exotic eyes. Reptile eyes. And lastly, novelty eyes for things that were never real in the first place, like dolls and carousel horses. Plus assorted Eye Products and an EZ Eye Rotation System to complete your order.
Van Dykes also offers a handy eye reference chart that goes on for two whole pages and includes everything from a Dik Dik (beats me, but its eyes should be the 20-24mm Antelope variety, which will run you anywhere from $11.50 to $15 a pop) to a rhinoceros (30-32 mm Elephant, which go for $9.95 to $10.40 in that size range), but no chunky, pampered poodle. Or any dog, for that matter.
I could honestly spend the rest of the night rummaging around on this sucker, but we’ve got a recap to tend to and it ain’t going to write itself, so I’m going to assume that Back to Life Taxidermy Guy either didn’t order his special Baby eyes from Van Dyke’s, or else he already knew what variety he could swap in, Antelope-for-Dik-Dik style.
Where were we? Oh yes. At Back To Life Taxidermy. Which is actually in Orlando, so we’ve got a bit of timeline fudging going on here, but who really cares at this point.
Abby says Stuffed Baby looks vastly improved from the way the poor pup looked in her last moments at the pet hospital. Maryen says she looks like “a hundred bucks.” That’s not a typo. She said a hundred bucks.
Back To Life Guy lowers Stuffed Baby into a box for easy transport, and Abby reminds him to leave the top open so she can breathe. I wonder if Abby’s wondering if she should have spent her money on another living dog.
Back at the studio, Christi gets a call from Kelly and puts her on speakerphone just in time for the wayward mama to invite her, Holly and Jill over for a catch-up session, but no one else. Kristie wants to know if Melissa feels bad about being snubbed and Melissa is refreshingly candid and says of course. Leslie whines that she’s wounded, too, and Melissa falls for it, reminding Leslie that Kelly has no way of knowing she’s even there.
Leslie waits a few seconds for the no-duh train to pull into Gisoni Station and when it doesn’t, rolls her eyes and tells Melissa she’s “jagging.” Kelly would never invite her over, even if she did know she was there. And Leslie doesn’t care.
Melissa retaliates by making sure Leslie knows she might be in the Mom Loft but she’s not “on” the team. If she was, she’d have the jacket, Jill points out helpfully. Yeah, Leslie! No jacket, no “on” the team.
Downstairs, Abby does not appear to be heartened by having her Baby back. She gives Nia about 90 seconds to master a move and when she can’t quite get it, Abby pulls the solo. The mothers are incredulous. Abby tells the kid she’ll think about whether or not the punishment is permanent, and when Holly chimes in in her defense, Abby says she never actually said she’s pulling the solo. She just wants Nia to be more on the ball with a dance as important as this. Well, OK.
Next day in the Mom Loft, Leslie keeps flapping her lips about gratitude and opportunity, which reignites the “on the team or with it” discussion. Then she decides to cuddle up to Kristie. Or least inspire her to shoot her own mouth off and take the focus off Leslie. Downstairs, Abby is pleased with Chloe’s dancing, but not her expressions. Same goes for Kendall. She needs to master three different expressions for her lyrical solo or else. Abby tells Kendall to go talk to Asia about how to give face, which inspired Kristie to give Jill a HA! face.
More sixth-grade caliber discussion of who is and isn’t invited to Kelly’s. Speaking of which, look! Kelly took all the washers in her husband’s toolbox and made herself a necklace!
I’m so mesmerized by the thing that I have no idea what she just said.
In any case, Holly, Jill and Christi are now neatly lined up at her kitchen island, wine glasses full, and listening to what the Hylands have been up to in this, their latest self-imposed exile. Brooke has been recording a song about hurting, yeah, hurting all over her body. We apparently don’t care what Paige is doing, because Jill moves right along to whether or not Kelly would ever consider coming back to the team. Holly tells her that the girls are still on the pyramid, so, even if Abby won’t admit it, she clearly still wants them on the team.
Kelly says she’ll consider coming to this week’s competition, but she has no inclination to forgive Melissa and Abby for their Annual Concert betrayal. Holly decides it’s time to put on her Dr. Holly hat and talk like a principal. She tells Kelly that, as an educator, it was hard for her to see Kelly blow up in front of a whole roomful of kids, even though Abby was indeed in the wrong. Uh, Holly, you do remember what show you’re on, right? Some adult is always doing or saying something inappropriate in front of an entire roomful of children. It’s the beating, bleeding heart of Dance Moms.
Kelly says she was defending not only her kid, but the entire group, and she can’t figure out why no one is backing her up in that noble pursuit. Jill says she does too back her up. Just not out loud. Or with any other physical indication that she’s doing so. But in her mind, she’s all, “Yeah! You go, Kelly!” Promise.
Then, in an aside, Jill demonstrates how much she’s got Kelly’s back by noting that if she and the girls don’t come back, it’s just more solos for Kendall. Well, no, Jill. Kelly’s kids never get solos for Kendall to take. It’s Melissa you want to go after.
Speaking of that, and seeing her friends turncoat a little, Christi looks extra troubled. She wants to know if everyone in the room honest to truly stuck to their pact not to have their girls participate in Abby’s Ultimate — code word “Abby’s West Coast Competition” — or if there are any other potential traitors in the ranks besides Melissa. Because she and Chloe were asked and they declined, just like she promised.
Jill says Kendall was asked to appear, but not to perform, so she said no, too. Hold the phone, there, sister, say Christi and Kelly. So you would have gone had the girl been asked to perform?!
Probably not. Well, maybe. Henh.
That’s it. Christi says it’s time to kick a bitch out, even though it’s not her house to kick a bitch out of. Then she’ll kick herself out, so there. “Don’t leave,” says Kelly, sounding like she could give two hoots if she does.
Come competition day asides, Abby is wearing Miami Dolphins teal and orange in honor of the trip to Florida — right down to her traffic-cone-colored lips. She promptly lets everyone know that she’s onto the fact that Kelly is lurking and Jill says that’s because she’s still a part of the team. “No!” Abby hollers. There’s only one president of this team and it’s Abby. Then the president morphs into the coach of the football team in explaining why the Hylands aren’t part of the team, which is because Kelly is an aging quarterback. Or something like that. In case, Abby in charge. And that’s final.
Then the soloists emerge to show off their costumes, after which Abby makes Nia look at photos of Stuffed Baby for inspiration. Nia looks appalled. Then Abby tells the three that they must think of their dances as auditions for Nationals.
In the auditorium, Kelly finally appears, but Abby won’t let her past her to get to her seat. Kelly says she’s still paying her tuition so the seat is rightfully hers. Abby refuses safe passage. Kelly stands stubbornly in the aisle.
Kendall finds the requisite three expressions in her Ode to Maddie, oops, nope, Under My Spell solo, but none of them are quite Maddie caliber. The dance just isn’t very memorable, even though she does it well enough.
According to the announcer, Nia’s solo is called Broadway Baby Tribute Part II. When exactly was Part I? Was that what Maddie did, even though it wasn’t officially named? In any case, she does a fine job of the dance and Abby declares it fun and sassy. Which is just what comes to mind when you think of an expired dog.
Back in the audience, Maryen — who had no trouble at all figuring out the placement for her taxidermied granddog, is having a lot of trouble understanding the placement of Kelly. Namely how someone ….
Mere words cannot describe how much I love that shot.
Then Maryen gives Kelly a little what for and caps it with an
… for emphasis.
Kelly says she loves Mrs. Miller and does not want to disrespect her, but, you know, her kid started it. So she should just butt out.
Chloe’s turn to dance Fired Up. Her snappy red and black costume against the garish blue and magenta of the competition logo kinda makes my eyes ache a little. And though her turns are immaculate and plentiful, she doesn’t inject the dance with as much, well, fire as I was hoping she would. She looks like a ballerina trying to apply ballet to a Latin dance. Abby looks pretty neutral about the whole deal, too.
Our Kelly is feeling super brave today. Now she’s back in the get-ready room where Melissa, Leslie and Abby can all get at her, and with far fewer witnesses. Plus, one wrong move with those oopsie-daisy, tote-bag-handle dress straps and we have another show entirely on our hands.
She starts in with Leslie, who says Kelly is hurting Payton by being here. Kelly says they’re placeholders, not really a part of the team. Yelling. Yelling. Kelly takes her leave and Leslie reiterates to the rest of the Pitt Crew that her presence here makes the Ackermans feel very, very bad. Lest there was any lingering doubt.
The soloists return, followed by Abby. Abby asks Maddie if she was bored not doing a solo. Maddie says it was pretty weird.
In the dressing room light, the group dance costumes appear the peevish pink of calamine lotion. In the audience, Kelly has successfully managed to score herself a spot in the middle of the Pitt Crew.
The first line of the group dance song is, “You wouldn’t mess with a child’s mind. You wouldn’t be so unkind.” Aaaand we have ourselves a new, unofficial Dance Moms theme song, ladies and gents!!!
When the dance is over, the mothers glance nervously at each other and then at Abby, waiting for someone to say, well, something, but no one does. In a bland aside, Abby says the girls did OK, but maybe she would have been better off with simpler, cleaner choreography that suited everyone.
Come awards time, the Pitt Crew mothers do some dorky-suburban-mom moves in their seats till Asia starts breaking it down hard onstage and Kristie leaps up and joins in. Momentarily scaring the living hell out of Leslie.
Yeah, baby! Who’s driving the funky bus?! This mama right here!
No more asking where Asia gets her groove. She gets it from this one right here, people!
And also, here.
Word. To the big queen bee.
Nia gets ninth in the teen solo division. Abby says her technique still needs a lot of help.
Kendall gets fifth. Jill is pleased.
Chloe gets second and doesn’t even seem to recognize the name of her dance.
The calamine dance gets fourth. Abby says the only thing worse than that would be Kelly crashing the competition. So, you know, bad day all around. And she just wants to go home to Baby in front of the TV set.
Backstage, the mothers get back into the semantics of “on the team” versus “with the team” and Leslie says their little clique isn’t going to run her and Payton “off the team” no matter how hard they try. And besides, she doesn’t belong in their group anyway because she isn’t the least bit afraid to do whatever it takes to get her kid ahead and come right out and say so. Holly, whose necklace in her aside looks like great big giant popcorn kernels, protests that they’re not just raising dancers, they’re raising people.
Leslie says she’s raising a people who’s going to be a star, no matter what they have to do to make that happen, and Holly gives her a big, ol’ sour-faced “Shame on you!”
Kristie, who’s still apparently feeling her oats from declaring herself the winner of a dance battle with her 7-year-old, decides now’s as good a time as any to sashay out, announcing that if Abby doesn’t cough up a solo for Asia next week, no big whoop. She’ll just take a bigger, better opportunity in L.A. Peace out, peons.
Next week on Dance Moms, Kristie’s still there, Kelly’s back, Leslie ain’t leaving, Abby’s MIA, Gia will get fired if she choreographs that dance and Jill has a reason to make this face.
So what say you, Dance Moms nation? Is Stuffed Baby a harmless memento or creepy-icky? Are you tempted to blow 30 bucks on a pair of 34mm faux elephant eyes, just to say you have some, or is that just me? Were you, too, underwhelmed by this week’s dances? Are you “on” the team or just “with” the team? What else is on your mind about this week’s episode? Sound off in the comments section below.
New episodes of Dance Moms air Tuesday nights at 9/8CT on Lifetime.