Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) was beyond furious at dad Steve (Anthony Starke). So was Emily (Chelsea Hobbs), who brought him a big chunk of change and vowed to pay back every penny of the rest. Meanwhile, Chloe (Susan Ward) told Lauren she will not keep her and Carter having sex a secret, so either Lauren comes clean, or Chloe will. Cornered, Lauren turned to Carter (Zachary Burr Abel), who resolved to tell her father together. But Lauren always has something up her sleeve: She told Summer (Candice Cameron Bure) that she needs to marry Steve and be her stepmother. Thanks to her determination to pay back Steve, Emily was literally searching the couch cushions for change to pay for the bus. Which was kind of the last straw for her. She railed about carrying the family on her back, and demanded that her mother get another job. Chloe managed to get a word in edgewise to announce that she already secured one. (But we don’t know what it is… hmmm.)
Lauren was worried that Carter was just trying to avoid getting kicked out of the Rock when he finally declared his love. Angry, Lauren summoned Summer and told her that she’s been having sex with Carter – and that Chloe has known about it and encouraged it, going so far as securing her condoms! Lauren encouraged Summer to tell Steve. Later, Steve confronted Chloe with what Summer told him. In a well-acted scene, Steve was in tears, and Chloe got weepy. She apologized, but because she did not understand the lies Summer had larded on the story, Chloe didn’t disabuse him of the idea that she facilitated Lauren’s sexcapades behind his back. So he couldn’t forgive her. Devastated, she dropped her key and left. To her credit, Lauren seemed to feel bad about what she did. And that’s the key to why I like Lauren so much. Scerbo is so great at humanizing Lauren that the really (really) mean-spirited stuff she does almost seems forgivable. At least I find it hard to stay mad at her. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of Chloe, so her misfortune just makes me shrug. But I do care about the rest of the Kmetko clan: Emily returned home to find the power had been turned off because the bill wasn’t paid. And, as (bad) luck would have it, Brian (Wyatt Smith) forgot to refill his anti-seizure meds. When he started to manifest symptoms, Emily took off to get more. Luckily, the pharmacy was still open; unluckily, there was a problem with the insurance, and the pharmacist demanded $220 for the meds, instead of the usual $15 co-pay. Worried about her brother, Emily swiped the pills. She may or may not have thought it through, because later, when the police predictably showed up (her identity was hardly a secret), she was arrested.
Payson (Ayla Kell), however, was clearly liberated from the shackles of self-doubt that had been holding her back for months. She was on Cloud 9 after Sasha (Neil Jackson) gifted her with his gold medal (if only temporarily), and twirled about the house like a ballerina. Mark (Brett Cullen) and Kim (Peri Gilpin) could not help noticing the change in their daughter. But as happy as they were about that, Mark was not happy that Kim was running for president of the parents’ council. Payson’s elation extended to the Rock, where she was practicing like she had a song in her heart. Sasha noted that while she has the techniques down, she is not making him feel the emotion behind the moves. She suggested she doesn’t have any deep emotions. (Oh, really, Payson?) To release her inner self, Sasha set up a canvas outdoors, handed her bottles of paint, and told her to paint the canvas as she danced. Her movements should have appeared as “fluid, flowing lines,” but hers proved to be short and choppy. He encouraged her to close her eyes think of a really strong emotion. Casting aside thoughts of where she was and what she was doing, Payson threw herself into the dance, and the paint flew. When she had finished, she had created a beautiful piece of artwork. “I guess you do have some deep emotions in there somewhere,” Sasha mused. “Good job, Payson.” The “painting” seemed to have a subtle Olympic rings theme, but that could be just due to the twirling nature of her performance. (BTW, when I interviewed her, Kell told me that Payson’s “painting” as seen on-air was created by an artist; the result achieved during filming was…not quite so beautiful.) At last, Payson was feeling the performance. And she was feeling grateful to Sasha. She insisted that if he were to get fired, she would follow him anywhere, because he’s the only coach who really still believes in her. His dedication kept her from giving up. (And by giving up, she clearly implied that she was speaking not just about gymnastics, but life.)
Later, Sasha had Summer over to the trailer for dinner (well, a salad, at least). Inside his little shelter, she saw he had a book called, Unlocking Christianity, and was pleased that he seemed to be making an effort for her. Then Payson showed up, laden with food: a garlic-roasted chicken, grilled vegetables and julienned potatoes. When Summer emerged from the trailer, Payson pretended to be dropping off some extra food – since she knows how primitive Sasha’s dinner’s can be – and beat a hasty retreat. Recalling the book, Summer said grace before eating, calling him a “beautiful, kind and thoughtful” man. At practice the next morning, Sasha was impressed with Payson’s marriage of technique and artistry, but still found something to complain about: She was still missing “one crucial element — story.” He encouraged her to take the audience on a journey. When she pointed out that she has always loved Romeo and Juliet (subtle, Payson), he encouraged her to dance as Juliet demonstrating her love for Romeo. She fairly bubbled at the thought. Kell is really shining with this arc. You can see it in her posture, her breathing, and especially the light in her eyes. Kell really projects the sheer joy that Payson is struggling to hold inside just being around Sasha. Later, Payson did her floor routine one more time, dancing with emotion and telling a real story with her movements. “That’s it!” Sasha praised, sweeping her into a grand – but chaste – hug. “It’s you!” she exclaimed. “You inspire me.” And then she kissed him! It only lasted a second, and then he instinctively backed off. Mortified, she instantly ran off.
I have to confess that I am totally enamored of this Payson/Sasha storyline. There are so many ways it can go wrong, but the-powers-that-be – and especially the skilled Kell and Jackson – have been deft in walking that tightrope. Or, should I say, staying on that balance beam. I cannot wait to see what happens next for these two. I know Sasha is 35 and Payson is 16, so the relationship really has nowhere to go, but I’m dying to see how they don’t get there.
The other major storyline is Kaylie’s (Josie Loren) eating disorder, which is becoming so severe that she is going to have trouble hiding it from now on. Austin (Zane Holtz) noticed that she had cold hands and was shaky on her feet. Austin took Kaylie for a ride in one of the fancy cars he is considering endorsing. But more than that, he brought her to the lake and set up a picnic. She insisted she wasn’t hungry. “I’m concerned,” he admitted. She got angry that he was trying to test her with food. She reined in her anger, took a deep breath and took a bite of a piece of chicken. He brought her back to the Rock, but before letting her go, he noted that he has personal experience with eating disorders. His little sister ended up in the hospital with anorexia. (Luckily, she is okay now.) “I have been getting a little intense with my training and my diet,” Kaylie admitted, but declared she would stop “today.” He leaned in and kissed her. Suddenly, it all seemed to turn around for Kaylie. But that night, it flipped back. Unable to resist, she broke out her food log and scrawled in 120 calories for chicken (apparently she went on to eat an entire piece?) and climbed on the treadmill. Not good, Kaylie. Not good…