The big idea in this episode of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT was to have the girls pair off and learn to perform each other’s routines. I’m not exactly sure what that was supposed to accomplish (beyond the obvious “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” metaphor), but Payson was assigned to mimic Lauren’s beam routine, which is all about playing to the crowd with sex appeal – something power performer Payson does not do naturally, so the lesson was probably something about reaching beyond your comfort zone. (Blame Darby’s space-cadet approach to coaching for the muddled message. Surprise!)
Of course Payson (Ayla Kell) tackled the assignment head on, almost instantly learning the mechanics of Lauren’s (Cassie Scerbo) routine, but she could mimic none of the sensuality that made Lauren’s beam program so appealing. And Scerbo made the hip-swinging, moneymaker-shaking performance look so effortless; Lauren is a young woman used to utilizing her sex appeal to full advantage. Full marks, on the other hand, to Kell for making Payson’s experiments with rolling her shoulders and wiggling her hips look desperately stiff and not the least bit sexy. Kell’s face was a study in concentration and frustration; Payson had never come up against a problem she couldn’t power her way through. She appealed to Austin (Zane Holtz) to teach her how to be sexy, but she simply could not grasp the way he explained it. She was looking for some kind of formula she could execute; while he was trying to convince her that sexy is a state of mind. Payson made him promise not to laugh, but she extracted no such vow from the audience! Still, as amusing as it was, I was embarrassed for her.
The dichotomy between the women had another layer as well, as both are intrigued by new guy Max (Josh Bowman) — who mostly seems interested in Payson, but simply cannot look away when Lauren is on the beam and turning on the…er, charm. This should develop into an interesting triangle, with Max drawn to Lauren on a physical level, and to Payson for her passion and dedication (and her beauty, too, of course). And while Payson seems shy around him, Lauren is pulling out all the seductive stops. Interesting choice by the-powers-that-be to lower the level of discourse to Max and Austin leering at Lauren and discussing whether they’d “hit that.”
Steve (Anthony Starke) was having difficulties of his own: He went on Lauren’s computer and downloaded the unaltered footage of Payson kissing Sasha (Neil Jackson), fully intending to use the vid to get Sasha reinstated. Lauren was beside herself, because she realized that she could be kicked off the team and barred from elite competition for falsifying “proof” that Sasha was abusing his position to take advantage of 16-year-old Payson. Scerbo squeezed out the tears as Lauren pulled out every trick in the book to convince her father not to ruin her career. But it wasn’t really him doing the ruining, was it? It was Lauren’s sins coming back to haunt her. She played the mother card early and aggressively, trying to convince her father that she didn’t deserve to lose her career over one mistake. (Well, one mistake this time. We’ve seen her do far worse.) It always feels like Lauren gets away with her crimes, and this was just another case where she wriggled off the hook and avoided the punishment she so richly deserves. (Think being banned from international competition is too harsh? Payson narrowly avoided that fate, and Sasha still might not be able to dodge it.) How long can she ride such a wave of luck? Well, she has apparently done okay for 16 years…
Meanwhile, Kaylie’s (Josie Loren) refusal to acknowledge that she has a problem with food reached a boiling point with her parents. Kaylie was adamant about returning to the gym, but Ronnie (Rosa Blasi) convinced Alex (Jason Manuel Olazábal) that the therapist was right: Kaylie needed time to get healthy. Kaylie was livid, and envied her pal Maeve (Alice Greczyn), who not only got sprung from rehab, but was jetting off to a glamorous modeling job. Emphasis on was. At the end of the episode, Kaylie learned that Maeve collapsed and died of heart failure at the airport. This shock should be the kick in the pants that Kaylie needs to motivate her to get her head on straight and adjust her attitude about food. Still, it’s said that it would take someone dying to make an impression on Kaylie.
Emily’s (Chelsea Hobbs) new conditions for staying on the World team certainly made an impression on her this week, as she agonized over being barred from seeing Damon. I guess I forgot that Em and Pay are so close that Emily would pour her heart out and cry on Payson’s shoulder like that. And Payson seemed genuinely taken aback by the confession that Emily slept with Damon.
Hobbs did a nice job as weepy Emily… In fact, all the girls were better than usual this week, and in different ways. While Hobbs was all about angst, and Loren channeled anger and frustration, Scerbo brought sexy back to the Rock. But it was Kell who really stood out by helping Payson undergo a complex transformation, from that stiff, awkward teen on the beam trying to look sexy, to the alluring temptress who found her inner seductress and had the audience – in the gym and at home – eating out of her hand.