At last, the two-part second-season finale of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT sent the Rebels of the Rock to Rio, where they represented the USA at Worlds. It was not exactly the team roster that anyone expected – with spitfire demoness Kelly Parker stepping in for the pregnant Emily – but it was evidently the team that was needed to pull off a miracle on the mats that would make the Harlem Globetrotters envious.
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?
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.