Sometimes it feels a little exhausting just watching MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, because the girls have such a demanding schedule of national team practices, assorted auditions, special meets, showcases, invitationals, international travel and even World team try-outs (not to be confused with the Olympics or whatever it is the national team does). Then pile on all the personal intrigue of boyfriends, friends with secrets, rivals, frenemies and a job at the Pizza Shack, and I’m out of breath!
This week, bids for the world team took the focus off a full national team practice at the Rock, meaning pint-sized bitch-queen Kelly Parker (Nicole Anderson), who is worth twice her weight in snark, was back in town. It’s almost funny the way she can get inside Kaylie’s (Josie Loren) head so effortlessly. But more than a psyche-out artist, she is a straight-shooter, so while I was glad that Kelly instantly diagnosed Kaylie’s eating disorder, I was stunned that she volunteered to keep Kaylie’s secret. At least she expressed sincerity when cautioning Kaylie to “be careful.”
I was heartened when Sasha (Neil Jackson) finally spoke up about Kaylie’s weight-loss and alerted Marty (Erik Palladino) to the situation. He also appealed to Ellen Beals (Michelle Clunie), who clearly could not care less. She responded by cluing in Sasha about Emily catting around with Austin (Zane Holtz) at the invitational in France. Then she threw him out of his own gym! But that’s Beals all over: pure bully. While Marty backed national champion Kaylie, Beals stumped for Kelly. But more than that, Beals actively campaigned against Emily (Chelsea Hobbs), arguing that she is “a horse that can’t be tamed,” and will never become “a refined, elite and obedient athlete.” Emphasis on obedient, eh? But that was a quality even Marty could never be accused of. Recognizing Beals’ brutality, he confronted her about pressing Kaylie to perform with a minor injury. Beals went running to the national committee and immediately secured approval to fire Marty. (This is becoming a habit for him. If I were Marty, I would never set foot in the Rock again!) Beals took over herself, and sent Marty packing. But before he left he pulled one last classy act: He reminded Emily that she is the real deal, and that she should never let the likes of Beals take that away from her.
But it wasn’t just Ms. Beals who got Emily’s goat. All episode long – right from the “Previously on…” montage – it was emphasized by all and sundry that Steve (Anthony Starke) is the cash behind the Kippman Endowment Group that is financing Emily’s “scholarship,” and she must never find out, or Very Bad Things would happen. So, of course, she had to find out before the end of the episode. How? Credit a clever Ms. Beals. She gave the scholarship paperwork to Lauren (Cassie Scerbo), knowing full well that she would not be able to resist opening it. When Lauren saw all the canceled checks for Emily, she was devastated to realize that her own father was financing her rival! She marched across the gym and presented the documents to Emily, who was crushed. She fled the gym in tears, and confronted Chloe (Susan Ward). Emily wanted to return every penny. (Sometimes she is just way too proud for her own good. Wait, did I say sometimes?) Luckily, Emily believed her mother when she denied complicity in the ruse. Chloe pointed out that when the going gets tough, Emily has to have faith in herself, not some sports foundation. “Do you believe in you?” she asked. Good question; one Emily was asking herself just hours earlier as she and brother Brian (Wyatt Smith) pondered moving into a brand new fancy home. While growing up, “I was fine being the great white hope of the Kmetko family,” she sighed. But now she really feels the pressure. “Emily, you’re my hero,” Brian told her – for what she can do with her body as well as her mind. Even earlier that day, Emily had confessed that she fears she faked her way to success. But Chloe pointed out that she could not have gotten as far as she did by fooling everyone at every step along the way. And so Emily decided to set her mind on getting her body to qualify for Worlds.
Chloe had her own moment much earlier in the episode, following up last week’s cliff-hanger, when she caught Lauren in bed with Carter (Zachary Burr Abel). Chloe’s first instinct was to try to have “the sex talk” with Lauren, but Lauren cleverly deflected the chat by claiming she needs a role model like Chloe – someone to do, y’know, “mom stuff.” And also keep her mouth shut about Carter.
Sasha also had his hero moments this week. After Payson (Ayla Kell) complained about being forced to take ballet classes (taught by GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Finola Hughes, brandishing a heavy cane as a weapon), Sasha enrolled in the class himself! Payson read the book Sasha wrote about himself and his Olympic victory, and hit upon the idea to cook him Romanian stuffed peppers, just like his mother did. When she later got weepy thinking about how she won’t be on the world team, he responded with an inspirational gift: He gave her (okay, loaned her) his Olympic gold medal. You could see Payson melt for him. This is my favorite relationship on the show, and I cannot wait to see what happens next with these two!
As for the rest of the girls, after an intense try-out that saw the athletes streak down the track for the vault accompanied by whooshing sound effects, and land with thunderous, echoing thumps, Kaylie qualified No. 1, with Kelly in second, and Lauren placing third. And, much to Ms. Beals’ disgust, Emily made the team. Just barely, but she didn’t let Beals break her; she made it!