This week’s episode was about reclaiming one’s mojo: The girls of the Rock got their Sasha back; Sasha got his groove back; Damon found his songwriting chops again; and Kaylie made strides toward reclaiming her life.
Payson (Ayla Kell), Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) and Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) were on their way to a tune-up meet in Budapest, Hungary, when Pay convinced the other girls to make a side trip to Bucharest, Romania, where she learned that Sasha (Neil Jackson) is hiding out. The trio ditched chaperones Darby (Meagan Holder) and Summer (Candice Cameron Bure) and tracked down Sasha, who was pulling pints and serving borscht in a tiny pub. Each of the girls pleaded with him to return to being their coach, because they all realized that they have no chance of winning Worlds, let alone Olympic gold, without him. But he turned them down, feeling guilty over being blind to the turmoil in their personal lives. Even Summer showed up, and pointed out that just because he ran away, doesn’t mean it was the right decision. After some personal soul-searching, Sasha showed up in Budapest at 3 a.m. to take the reins once again – provided the girls could prove they are worth coaching again. Meanwhile, back in Boulder, Kaylie (Josie Loren) came to terms with her eating disorder by realizing she honestly cannot blame it just on making weight for gymnastics. And she had to deal with Damon (Johnny Pacar), who was dealing with Emily’s latest break-up with him. Ems was upset that Damon sang with Kaylie, so he responded by writing Kaylie a song to sing! Passive-aggressive much?
By far, the most important development this week was the return of Sasha Belov! Sasha was wallowing in guilt on a self-imposed exile, sickened by the way he allowed gymnastics to have a negative impact on the lives of his charges. And while it was heartbreaking to watch the disillusioned Payson return Sasha’s medal, the whole “Payson kissed him” scandal was not really a big issue for him; it was more about how he fumbled his responsibility to not only make the girls better gymnasts, but better people. That’s why it was so hard to persuade him to return to the Rock; it wasn’t about the girls, it was about him. Jackson has a way of making Sasha both stern and understanding. I think it’s his understated delivery that makes it clear that even as Sasha is disciplining the girls, it is for their own good. It was actually Summer who turned the tide, by pointing out he might be making a mistake by walking away – meaning he is not infallible. And the best thing for his girls may be engaging them, not disengaging.
Kaylie’s recovery has been decently paced for a weekly TV series. Sure, she is coming back quicker than real life, but her comeback is hard-won. She is facing truths about herself – which is actually the key to true recovery. It’s not food that is her enemy, it’s her own self-image. Loren has been very sympathetic as Kaylie, and has a nice singing voice. (Apparently, she can also figure out melody without music – witness how she sang Damon’s song from just the lyric sheet; no musical notes!)
Forget being dysfunctional; the Damon/Emily relationship has pretty much ground to a halt. She can’t trust him when he’s out of sight, and worse – she lets her self-powered jealousy interfere with her gymnastics. When the team needed her most, she fell off the uneven bars, forcing the coach to replace her on the squad with pixie-from-hell Kelly Parker (played by the excellent Nicole Anderson). It’s a shame, but the team needed someone they could count on, and that just isn’t Emily. To make matters worse, the mandatory drug test found something shocking in Emily’s urine sample. No, she didn’t test positive for a banned substance; she tested positive for pregnancy! (Do labs really test for that at athletic competitions?) Could Emily catch a break just once? Seriously, the character is becoming such a sad-sack that it’s tough to watch her. On the plus side, Sasha was right there, so she can’t lie to him about it!