What’s the matter with Lauren? I mean, seriously. Well, after last week’s tease, MAKE IT OR BREAK IT finally got to the bottom of it when Payson made good on her promise to force Lauren to visit a doctor. And, wouldn’t you know it, it also happens to be Parents Weekend at the USATC, so Payson has problems of her own.
But not as big as Kelly Parker (Nicole Gale Anderson), whose megalomaniacal mom Sheila (played once again by Kathy Najimy) came to town intent on making KP captain of the Olympic team at any cost. Sheila finagled an invite to stay at Coach McIntire’s (Dondré T. Whitfield) house while his wife was conveniently out of town, then pretended to cook him a meal, then blatantly offered to bride him with lucrative endorsement deals! What a nightmare for poor KP.
For longer than GAME OF THRONES has been promising that “Winter is coming,” MAKE IT OR BREAK IT has been milking the crucial reveal to Payson that Lauren sent the NGO pictures of Payson kissing Sasha — nearly ruining both their lives. The time of reckoning finally came this week, and it hit with the force of a blizzard.
Alfred Hitchcock famously said the key to suspense is giving the viewing audience more information than the characters have — and, in the best Hitchcockian tradition, we fans have known forever (well, since the season two episode “If Only…”) that Lauren was behind the stunt, so we’ve been in suspense waiting for the catharsis of the other shoe dropping ever since.
This could have been MAKE IT OR BREAK IT’s ODD COUPLE episode, an all-out comedy about clashing personalities, but instead, the script played it straight and tackled the idea of what it means to be a team: self-sacrifice for the larger good of the team.
There is no “I” in team, but there is a “me” — so that’s probably why Coach McIntire decided to convince the elite gymnasts that nobody qualifies for the Olympics alone; they need to be part of a team.
It’s been almost a year since we had any new episodes of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, and the dawning of the new season means a new location, new storylines, new cast members — and the relegation of some characters to the back burner, while others were shown the door.
The Big Three — National Champion Kaylie (Josie Loren), Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) and Payson (Ayla Kell) — arrive at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., after just barely qualifying back in last season’s finale. At the OTC, they meet Coach McIntire (Dondré T. Whitfield), who will put them through a grueling eight-week regimen and only the survivors will go to London.
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?
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.
So the girls of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT’s Rock got a new coach this week, and while the lady may be a former Olympic gymnast, the lady if no coach. And that’s a problem. For everyone.
In an effort to get the Rock rolling again, Steve (Anthony Starke) hired a new coach to replace the departed Sasha (Neil Jackson). Unfortunately, all the experienced, A-list coaches are already under contract, so Steve settled for Darby Conrad (Meagan Holder), a perky former Olympian. She’s like an overgrown kid, and I hated her from moment she was introduced. Way too bubbly to be trusted…
Darby is a longtime pal of Lauren’s (Cassie Scerbo), so naturally the spoiled brat figured she had it made in the shade. She even tried to appoint herself team captain. But when Payson (Ayla Kell) objected, Darby’s Achilles’ heel was exposed: She hates confrontation of any kind, and thus refused to “take a side” by designating a captain. She decided to let the gals compete for it. True, Sasha would have done the very same thing, but he would have done it as a way to toughen up Lauren and Payson; not as a way to avoid making a tough call.
The second half of the second season of ABC Family’s MAKE IT OR BREAK IT is off to a rollicking start, mixing a serious issue like eating disorders with lighter material like club rivalries – as well as a generous dollop of romantic complications.
No doubt you remember the unforgettable cliff-hangers from waaaaay back in August: Kaylie (Josie Loren) had collapsed as a consequence of her eating disorder; Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) was arrested after stealing medication for her brother; Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) discovered that her father Steve (Anthony Starke) had lied about keeping her late mother away from her meets; and Sasha (Neil Jackson) hauled his trailer outta town amid the scandal of Payson (Ayla Kell) kissing him. Oh, and there was some gymnastics, too: With the help of the legendary Bela Karolyi playing Sasha’s dad, Emily, Payson, Lauren and Kaylie all made the World team. Now, Emily and Kaylie must fight to keep their places on the team: Can Emily stay out of jail, and can Kaylie get sprung from rehab in time to get in shape for the Worlds?
MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, one of the most entertaining (and unexpected) nighttime soaps, returned to ABC Family last night, and befitting where the series left off at hiatus, the series was in championship form.
Following the triumph and tragedy of the national team finals, Kaylie (Josie Loren) learned that it is very crowded but oh, so lonely at the top, while Payson (Ayla Kell) struggled to control her emotions after learning that her back injury will prevent her from ever competing again. Haunted by the fear that she wouldn’t have won if Payson hadn’t been injured, Kaylie found a target painted on her back — both from the media who want to interview the reigning national champion as well as her local rival Lauren (Cassie Scerbo), who took their competition over Carter (Zachary Burr Abel) to extremes both on and off the mats. Their rivalry illustrates what makes MAKE IT OR BREAK IT more soap than sports show. The girls are just as focused on affairs of the heart as they are on honing their gymnastic skills, but the emotional turmoil has to be kept simmering beneath the surface because they are forbidden from having romantic relationships while training. Lauren delighted in twisting the knife in Kaylie’s back by getting her cheating boyfriend Carter reinstated from suspension — and right back in Kaylie’s face.
Lauren also stuck her nose into Payson’s newly-shattered life by uncovering the secret that Nicky illegally supplied Payson with cortisone for nationals — which could land Nicky in jail. Payson was trying to deal with her injury by avoiding the gym and shutting down emotionally. Her father praised her ability to compartmentalize her emotions during competition, but pointed out that in real life she should express her feelings. Which she finally uncorked with a cathartic wrecking of her trophy case. You don’t see releases like that on ESPN. Payson also confronted her anger at Kaylie, admitting, “I am filled with rage and bitterness and jealousy,” because her friend took the crown. But Payson also encouraged Kaylie never to be ashamed of winning — hinting that perhaps Payson has a future as a coach.
Meanwhile, Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) could use a romantic coach. No sooner had Damon set up “the world’s most romantic date” than her old flame, Razor, strolled through the door. How (in)convenient that Damon is leaving for Los Angeles now, with Razor back in town. Will Emily be able to resist temptation? Tune in next week…
Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com
The midseason finale of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT was sadly lacking in true make-it-or-break-it moments, but it was still entertaining when treated as just another episode of an entertaining series. Tryouts for the Worlds team were the fulcrum of this week’s episode, with the girls from the Rock competing with a lot of emotional baggage around their necks, but without Sasha in their corner.
Payson (Ayla Kell) made the brave decision to return to the Rock, where the other girls were pointing and laughing at her because of scandal over kissing her coach. She took a proactive approach and tried to preempt the jokes from Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) and Kaylie (Josie Loren). Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) predictably defended her (glass houses and all that). Meanwhile, Kim (Peri Gilpin) told the parents’ council that as Payson’s mother she was okay with Sasha (Neil Jackson) continuing as coach as the innocent kiss with Payson. However, the borderline sociopath Ellen Beals (Michelle Clunie) called Sasha “a potential pedophile.” Chloe (Susan Ward) defended him, but Alex (Jason Manuel Olazabal) was against. Ellen and Steve (Anthony Starke) delivered the bad (but expected) news: Sasha was suspended, and Beals was taking over. Before leaving, Sasha told the girls, “All you have to do is follow the rules and stay focused.” Oh, is that all? That is certainly easier said than done for this group. I mean, have you met Emily Kmetko? Loved that Sasha refused to treat his retreat as a walk of shame, preferring to stride out (in slow motion) with his head up.