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.
There’s no better way to describe this week’s MAKE IT OR BREAK IT than to call it a tear-jerker – because there was a lot of crying going on.
The storyline I am most invested in is the Payson (Ayla Kell)/Sasha (Neil Jackson) relationship, and last week ended with her impulsively kissing him and running off in shame. He’s 35 years old and she is 16, so naturally things were awkward between them. She couldn’t help noticing how he was hesitant to even touch her during practice. “I’ve ruined everything,” she growled in frustration. Sasha finally decided to confront the elephant in the room by talking about the normally complex relationship between coach and athlete. He explained that his father was actually disappointed that Sasha won the gold because he was competing for England, not Romania. So he split with his father – who was also his coach: the legendary Boris Belov. But Sasha praised his replacement coach, because he “made me an Olympian.” (He even admitted that had his coach been female, he probably would have kissed her!) The most important aspects of the coach/athlete relationship are trust and communication. “I trust you,” she declared. “You didn’t ruin anything,” he smiled.
Some characters may have bottomed out this week on MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, but it wasn’t for lack of aspiration on Payson’s part and, like all good bad girls, Lauren proved she is never without a plan.
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.)
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.”
Way back in 1973, the theme from The Poseidon Adventure, “The Morning After,” won an Oscar as best original song, and the latest episode of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT should probably have used that tune for its closing theme, since much of the key action took place around dawn.
The episode began with Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) catching Chloe (Susan Ward) sneaking out of the house “like a common slut” after spending the night with Steve (Anthony Starke). Lauren then promptly lied to her father about being a virgin herself. When Chloe got home, she attempted to convince her kids, Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) and her brother Brian, that she actually came home last night, but the kids knew better; they gave mom “the talk” about using protection, much to her humiliation.
It’s been a while since I have been able to check in with the elite athletes of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, and this week’s episode reminded me of what I like so much about this series: It focuses on charming, complex characters in stories that manage to be simple yet compelling.
I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, but comforting to see I haven’t missed much. MIORBI’s “Previously, on…” montage caught me up just fine. The recap segment on serialized drama is very important, and I don’t think enough shows pay enough attention to them. It fits in with the old-fashioned, straight-forward storytelling; don’t look here for fancy camera tricks directorial gloss.
Merci-fully, MAKE IT OR BREAK IT did not drag out the French invitational storyline. Just a week after being named to the national team for the special event, the ladies were sent to Calais this week, which proved to be the site of triumph and heartbreak for the girls from The Rock.
Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) was upset about going to France as an alternate, so her father, Steve (Anthony Starke) challenged her to do better. Instead, she did her worst: She waged psychological warfare on her teammates on two fronts. Lauren tormented Kaylie (Josie Loren) by talking about how happy she is with Carter (Zachary Burr Abel), emphasizing that they are having sex. Kaylie wanted to focus on the meet, but we could tell she was rattled. Then Lauren went to work on Emily (Chelsea Hobbs), needling her about Damon (Johnny Pacar) being in nearby Paris with Green Day – and tons of groupies. “As far as he knows, you blew him off,” Lauren hissed. Lauren’s twin objectives were to get Emily to screw up and get kicked off the team, then to destabilize Kaylie so Lauren could win the overall gold.
As the second season of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT began, Kaylie, Emily and Lauren were being marketed as the “rebel” faces of the Rock, Payson was back to practicing with her old fire, and Kim was once again managing (well, co-managing) the Rock with Summer. The girls of the “rebel Rock” were training the French invitationals, but the real hurdle to going to France was Eleanor Beals, from the NGO — who suspended them from the national team for competing against the Chinese in last season’s finale.
The soapy content was sky-high, as Kaylie (Josie Loren) and Carter (Zachary Burr Abel) were not talking; because he has been creeping around with Lauren (Cassie Scerbo), unknown to the national champion. “Kaylie doesn’t always get everything,” Lauren sniffed. “I picked you because you were there for me.” Carter told Lauren. And even though he appreciated that she took him in, fed him and did his laundry, he noted, “You’re more competitive off the mats than on them.” When Kaylie confronted him at the Pizza Shack, he broke it off with her. Lauren worried about losing her best friend, but Carter noted, “She’s not your best friend if you’re lying to her! We both know that secrets hurt more than truth.” So Carter gave her a choice: her friendship with Kaylie, or her relationship with him.
Payson, Kaylie, Emily and Lauren
Everyone likes to see characters grow and change – but not for the worse. And that was exactly what I feared on the freshman season finale of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT this week, when Kaylie decided to blow off the China meet in order to protect her endorsements and make the dictator of the national committee happy.
I know she was having issues with Lauren (Cassie Scerbo), but had never seen Kaylie (Josie Loren) be so mercenary before – and the other girls did not deserve to be shafted. And her decision did not seem to be a matter of putting food on the family’s table, either. Miss Beals from the national committee was all about saving face – ostensibly for the USA, but it was really about her and flexing her muscles. In her way, she was as much a corporate toady as MJ (who at least has the excuse of being an agent). Still, no matter how many endorsements she may have been endangering, Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) was surrendering her scholarship to compete. Then the truth came out: Kaylie was insecure about being able to prove that she deserved to win the national title, so she was looking for any excuse to avoid competing.
Lauren, Emily, Payson and Kaylie
MAKE IT OR BREAK IT is getting more and more soapy as it goes along. The-powers-that-be realized it is not a sports series, and thus ramped up the drama, and now, following the winter hiatus they are really upping the soap opera factor. While reigning national gymnastics champion Kaylie (Josie Loren) tries to balance the demands of new fame and jealous peers — not to mention her surly relationship with men’s champion Nicky (Cody Longo) – my favorite storyline is Payson’s struggle with career-ending injury.
Payson (Ayla Kell) has been coming into her own as a coach-like mentor while steadfastly refusing to embrace the role, because that would mean she had officially given up on making an athletic comeback. This has led to her becoming more and more detached from reality – to the point where she is planning to win the national title next year. Even Summer began to wonder if some kind of miracle cure might allow Payson to rebound from a broken back and return to the mats. Now, if this were a daytime soap, we viewers could be certain that she would find that magic cure. But MIOBI is a nighttime soap, and thus it eschews the facile, “inspirational” path. Payson’s admirer Nicky weaseled her an appointment with the best spine expert in the country, and the table was set for her Lourdes-like rebirth. Well, it didn’t happen. The top back man in the world assured Payson that her spinal damage is inoperable. Payson was so worked up with hope, and then so crushed. Kell did a wonderful job depicting Payson’s bubbling, cheerfully positive mania in the run-up to her consult, but was subtle with Payson’s grief. Kudos to Peri Gilpin for her moving portrayal of Kim’s pain, embarrassment and helplessness in the face of her daughter’s injury. “I let myself hope,” Kim sobbed.