ABDC: Season 6 Episode 4

Tonight we get Katy Perry as our Superstar of the night which should be fun. We have seven crews left.

The first two crews safe are: Phunk Phenomenon and I.aM.Me. (Phunk Phenomenon was one of the two crews voted to safety last week too.)

Phunk Phenomenon is challenged to create a roulette wheel while dancing to “Waking Up In Vegas.” It’s another action packed performance that never stops.
Judges say:
D-Trix: I love you guys even more this week. You created a whole story to it.
Lil Mama: The energy slowed down a bit, you are one of the most powerful groups.
JC: If you’re going to get low, get low. Gets a little cheesy.

I.aM.Me is tasked with the song “Peacock” and thus have to fan out like a peacock on stage. I like the way they tackled their change in the first second of their performance and then again later. I don’t love the small dancing its between their bigger scenes.
Judges say:
Lil Mama: this group always cease to amaze me. (I don’t think she said what she meant to say there.)
JC: Good for the asymmetrical finally. (JC is surprisingly the toughest of the judges.) Got a little clunky in the end.
D-Trix: Your challenge was hard, I thought it was awesome. This crew has an authentic style.

The next crew safe is…787 Crew. Meanwhile Request is once again in danger.

787 Crew gets “Hot N Cold” and need to create a rollercoaster. I like how sharp their moves are though I’m less impressed by some of their basic moves. Great tricks though. It is nice to see how they found a way to incorporate their injured dancer into the routine despite his wheelchair.
Judges say:
JC: You took a negative situation and turned it into a positive. Love the levels.
D-Trix: Puerto Rico brought the heat.
Lil Mama: Tremendous formations and high energy.

Iconic Boyz and Instant Noodles are both safe, meaning Street Kingdom are in the bottom two with Request.

Iconic Boyz get “Teenage Dreams” and need to create a wall that they knock down. They start the performance already in wall formation which seems like cheating but it is enjoyable to see their Glee-inspired gear (maybe it is just me but it makes me think of Finn and Sam).
Judges say:
D-Trix: It wasn’t that good. Being adorable isn’t enough. They aren’t as clever as the older kids. (such as with the wall)
Lil Mama: you’re my babies. You’re choreography is clean. You have swag. They’re like a boy band.
JC: Disagree with D-Trix. The wall was a bit ABC. The rest of the routine though…was high performance.
(JC and D-Trix begin arguing and LM stands up at one point to reveal the CRAZY tutu that is her outfit.)

Instant Noodles receive “Firework” and have to create a chain reaction that passes through the entire crew. Some of the moves were funny but strange (such as ballet) and perhaps a little slow at points (almost like they needed a moment to compose themselves). I didn’t really see how they incorporated the challenge.
Judges say:
JC: It’s fun but there seemed to be a lot of pauses.
D-Trix: I love the comedy.
Lil Mama: Utilized the stage well and opened up.

Time for the final battle between Request and Street Kingdom.

Street Kingdom are tasked with creating a spaceship while dancing to “E.T.” I didn’t love it this week. Not bad but didn’t blow me away either.

Request are given “California Girls” and must ride a wave on stage, which could be a cool idea if they manage it well. it wasn’t what I was imagining ultimately but it was interesting. The tough thing with this crew is they have no one who can do anything super exciting so while they are clean and sharp, there isn’t really a WOW moment.

Judges say:
D-Trix: That for real was the best performance I’ve ever seen in my life (he’s actually crying and I want to shake him and say “really?” I know they are the originators of krump but seriously).
JC: Great battle. THis is a perfect example of perseverance. You’re showing up and fighting off the competition. You show many styles and I love the visuals. Top notch.
Lil Mama: Street Kingdom boosted the energy in the room. Request definitely held it down. Both came out and were ready to put their hearts on the floor and say lets go.

The judges put their heads together to deliberate. It is pretty clear where D-Trix’s vote is going but what about the other two? The crew that will be staying is…Street Kingdom, which means Request will be heading back to New Zealand.


The Voice

Carson Daly lets us know that this show is better than Idol because it focuses only on talent. Before we even get to the contestants, we get a rundown of the judges’ (sorry, coaches’) fairly impressive credentials (Aguilera is easily the biggest name with more than 50 million records sold) and a performance by our illustrious coaches (I really wish they’d have used mentors instead), Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, and Adam Levine. I actually quite enjoyed the performance, if for no other reason than because it is nice to actual use the talent rather than just hear about them being good.

Now here’s how the competition works:
The judges keep their backs turned as they listen to the contestants sing. If they like it they turn around. If more than one coach wants a singer on their team, the coaches battle for the artist who then selects which coach they want. If no coach turns, the artist is out. The coaches then train their eight singers and nurture their talent. Phase two is the battle rounds, during which the teams are cut in half. The final performances are live.

The blind auditions start now. I am noticing that despite not focusing on looks, nearly every aspiring singer is attractive.

The first contestant up, Tarralyn Ramsey (age 31) has a slow start but once she hits the high notes, the battle is on as both Cee Lo and Christina turn around. Adam says he didn’t pick her because she’s a better singer than he is. Blake says she wouldn’t have picked him over Christina and Cee Lo and he didn’t want to waste his button. Christina liked that her confidence grew as she continued. Cee Lo agrees and it was a wonderful way to start off the show. (Meh. She wasn’t bad but Idol has always had SO MUCH BETTER.) Tarralyn starts crying, of course and she has all of Christina’s songs so she picks CA as her coach because she’s a “singer singer”.

Patrick Thomas (age 20) used to be a nerd. As is clear by his big cowboy hat, he is a country singer. Blake starts squirming in his chair almost immediately. But Adam Levine and Cee Lo are the first to turn. Blake comes eventually. Christina looks like she can’t decide what to do but ultimately, she remains the only one not to turn for him. Cee Lo loved his strong entrance. Christina thinks he’s a cutie pie and then asks him to take his hat (and jokingly his pants) off. She didn’t turn him around because she felt out of her depth with the country genre. Adam loves their differences and thinks he’s got great talent. Blake says he is the one best equipped to make him a country star. Not surprisingly, he opts for Blake.

Jared Blake, father of six, is three years sober. He’s more rock and roll and good in his specific genre but he doesn’t hit the chorus well. (If you like nothing else about Christina, check out her facial expressions throughout people’s auditions.) Sadly, none of the judges turn around for him. Blake thinks he might have been better suited elsewhere.

Vicci Martinez (age 26), came out to her family and had a tough time because her family is very religious. They try to let us get the same experience as the judges by hiding her face (though we can see her body so it is not really the same). Cee Lo turns, then Christina (noticing a pattern in their tastes). At first I felt iffy about her, but she slowly grows on me. Christina thinks she sang the “something censored on NBC” out of it. Cee Lo loves that song and he saw her fire. She inspires him and touched his heart.
Adam starts talking and Christina interrupts. He didn’t turn because he thought Christina or Cee Lo were better suited for her. She chooses Cee Lo because he said it touched his heart and that’s what is important for her. Christina looks a little sulky. (I think this is the better option anyway for her.)

Sonia Rao‘s family comes form India and she wants to prove that singing is a viable career. Is that a bit of a swoon from Christina in the early stage of the song? I don’t know, but in the end no one turns. Cee Lo was close but didn’t quite decide in time. (He makes a show of no pressing the button in time but he clearly chose not to pick her.) I don’t love her voice because it is a bit nasal.

Ellenowen is a cute married basement that lives in the Ellen’s parent’s basement. Ellen is a bit shaky at first but Owen’s voice is very Casey-esque. Blake turns pretty quickly, surprised by the duet. Cee Lo turns next. This pair isn’t even looking at the judges, they are so into each other while singing. Cee Lo thought it was wonderful. Christina points out how good looking they are (isn’t that not the point?). They ask what the coaches see in them. Cee Lo is more all purpose and general than Blake’s country. Blake says he will help them protect their relationship in the business. Ellen lets Owen choose and he selects Blake.

Frenchie Davis! NBC must have been thrilled to snatch up this former Idol contestant who was disqualified for posing nude. The most frustrating thing about this audition is that I know how much better she is than this. (I heard her live when she was in the ensemble of Rent.) Finally Christina turns. She is the only one but she is the best choice anyway. (Do we think Christina will end up with an all-female group?) Blake thought she might blow the speakers and thinks it is a great pairing. Christina thought she started shaky put picked it up. She represents never give up, Carson tells us.

Kelsey Rey is used to being judged for her looks (she’s pretty) but she’s glad to be judged by her voice instead. A video of hers has gone viral on youtube. Her voice is one I do not expect at all. Adam and Cee Lo turn simultaneously (I’m surprised it took this long). Christina seems to be really contemplating. (Love how she closes her eyes to listen, as though she’s shutting out the contestants she can’t see anyway.) At the last moment she turns too and Adam looks nervous. Christina says she should avoid the boys and would love to do great things with her. Cee Lo was impressed and thinks she is flawless. And she’s beautiful. Adam says she’s unattractive. He loves her voice and would be honored to have her. he has been so picky that you know he wants her badly. She has good things to say about all of her options but chooses Cee Lo in the end.

Jeff Jenkins is 22 but he looks like he’s 12 (think Jacee Boudeaux from Idol’s earlier episodes this season). Once again Adam and Cee Lo turn around right away (agreed!). Finally so does Christina. Blake debates and finally turns in the last moments of the song. Adam has never heard the song but he doesn’t think anyone else could sing it. He thinks he could give him a slightly new approach to his thing. Adam REALLY wants to work with him. Blake isn’t sure he is a country singer, he can do anything. Christina enjoys his masterly of the notes. Cee Lo says something that I can’t follow and the moment of truth…Adam because of how much he wanted to work with him. Adam is so happy he gets up to hug his new mentee.

Rebecca Lobey is homeless. She seems bubbly despite her problems. this is a weird take on the song she’s singing but it gets Christina’s attention. And Adam’s a little later. Christina found her inspiring. Adam loves listening to her sing. Adam is closer to what she does so she picks him.

Joann Rizzo is a mom from Jersey. Her rendition of “Say A Little Prayer” is better than Quinn’s on Glee but I don’t love it. Christina is close to pushing it but she doesn’t love the run and no one ends up turning. Blake is looking for raw more. The coaches didn’t feel like anything stuck out enough for them.

Shy high schooler Xenia Martinez wants to show her true colors. I like the quality of her voice but she’s not showing any range. Cee Lo finds something he likes in the low notes. Blake turns eventually too. Blake liked the vibrato at the very end and thinks her voice is cool. Cee Lo likes the raspy, twangy texture of her voice. Blakes warns her that Cee Lo will come dressed as Batman one day and Cee Lo can’t promise that he won’t. Xenia goes with Blake (who campaigns a little harder for her).

Tje Austin is a big goofy guy who we get the invisible treatment for. They do a better job of it this time but apparently they are over it before we are because they cut to him pretty quickly anyway. Cee Lo and Adam once again turn together. I like this guy’s low notes but less of his high notes. Christina is upset she didn’t turn. Cee Lo heard himself, their similar qualities. Adam likes his whole package. Tje picks Cee Lo.

Javier Colon has two adorable girls. I like his voice almost immediately (though he tries a little too hard). Again Adam and Cee Lo. He does a little high note and wins Christina. Adam can’t handle the fact that Blake isn’t turning and would turn for him if he could. Not to worry, he does turn at the last second. Cee Lo says it was perfect. Adam also thinks it was tasteful. Blake believes in him. Christina loves his vocal ability and how he made it his own. She knows it would be amazing to work with him. He asks Christina why she waited so long to turn. She wanted to get lost in his voice and see where he took it. Javier picks Adam (he does sell himself better than the other judges).

The last singer of the night is Beverly McLellan is your atypical TV competitor (bald, pierced, tattooed). Like her from the start but no one seems to be turning around. Come on people! Christina wavers and finally hits the buzzer. So does Adam. Battle on. Christina really appreciated what she did. That’s it Christina? Adam’s going to beat that sell any day. Adam liked how thoroughly she enjoyed herself. Beverly (how not a Beverly is she!) goes with Christina, surprisingly.

General thoughts about TV’s newest singing competition and NBC’s biggest hit since…well a long time:

  • I wish we could be blind to the contestants too but I understand this would make it tough visually. It is fun to watch the coaches hover indecisively over their “I Want You” buzzers.
  • I like that the auditions involve only the talented singers. No train wrecks for this show. I know that some people enjoy that part best on Idol, but I prefer the talent.
  • The show is most interesting when more than one judge is interested in a singer. Adam’s campaigning is particularly fun.
  • Blake and Adam seem to have the most personality with Christina occasionally being fun. Cee Lo, c’mon! You wore a freaking feathered outfit at the Grammys, can’t you be more exciting?
  • While I don’t think this show will do for Christina what Idol did for JLo it will help her look more put together than she has seemed of late. She is simply not as endearing as Jennifer.
  • What would happen if no one wanted to pick one of the coaches? That would be awkward…
  • The weird thing with this show is that eight is such a small number considering the number of contestants there are performing and if a judge picks too many in the beginning they could miss out on dozens of later singers (which is why I approve Adam’s stinginess).
  • I’m confused if those tweets at the bottom of the screen by the coaches are real/live or what, but they’re fun to read anyway. Nice way to incorporate random social networking.
  • Carson feels like the least useful host ever, second only to ABDC’s Mario Lopez.
  • Oh, and who is Alison Haislip?

What did you think? Worth watching? Overall I enjoyed though didn’t find it particularly mind-blowing.

ANTM: Cycle 16 Episode 10

As I don’t recap fake episodes (those recapping episode full of filler) or even watch them, I have been missing ANTM for about two weeks. Luckily there was some exciting news about the series to tide me over. The show will be doing an All Star season. It’s about time! I don’t know who I want back, but I can’t wait to see who they bring.

Morocco time for the girls! Alexandria’s feeling good after winning best photo. Molly is pissed because she always looks pissed. She blames it on her adoption. Alexandria morphs into a screechy teen. She did promise she could change colors, unlike her gecko. Kasia takes the opportunity to remind us that she is older and more experienced than the other girls. Brittani is used to killing, skinning, and eating snakes. What else would you do with them? Oh right, hanging them on the wall of the bar.

Monkeys jumps on the girls and Jay tells them to pose for a picture. They did not hit it like models and I can’t help but wonder if this will come back to bite them at some point. They love to tell the girls that every picture counts because the paparazzi will be stalking them.

The traditional Moroccan meal is less disgusting than many of the meals the models have been served through the different seasons.

Time for a walking challenge with some very ethnic clothes. Brittani walks well. Poor Kasia can’t find an outfit to fit. Molly can’t shed her sour face. Hannah is extra bubbly. Kasia finally finds an outfit and she is the only one with heels (finally her experience matters). Alexandria works it but somehow forgets to remove her socks. Andre Leon Talley tells the girls always to wear heels and says Brittani’s walk was best because she never put her hands on her hips.

Tea Time with Talley. Molly doesn’t understand the whole smile no matter how you feel rule and continues to hate on Alexandria. Most obvious statement of the night goes to Alexandria who says “it’s so not America”. Molly gets upset to have to share a bed with other people.

“You’ve made it this far but you’re not over the hump yet.” Alexandria did say she wanted to do a shoot with camels so this Tyra Mail should make her happy.

Michael Woolley is tonight’s photographer. The theme is a complete mystery but yay camels and desert!

  • Brittani plans to ride the camel across the desert and back but it turns out to be more difficult than she expected. After some advice from Jay, things go well.
  • Molly manages to force a bubbly smile and has no problems getting accustomed to the camel. She brought tension to the shot, says Mr. Jay.
  • Kasia plans to bring a lot of emotion and have great body shapes. So in other words…she plans to model. Unfortunately she gets to posey and can’t take in Jay’s advice. She has a heart to heart with Jay about being self-conscious but it is too late for the shoot.
  • Alexandria says some weird things to the photographer and has a tough time from the start. She is too controlled. Jay says she is being awkward and he wants something fresh and new. The photographers to stop directing herself so much. She stands up on the camel, like Brittani but straight up.
  • Hannah refuses to be forgotten today. She looks like a bull rider and they like it.

Alexandria is concerned about her performance, which the girls hope means she will go home.

Tyra looks like she is about to go horseback riding for judging.

  • Brittani– androgynous but still beautiful. perhaps too concerned with what is around her.
  • Alexandria– strong upper body, slightly awkward stance, face looks angry. she is warned not to upset the photographer. looks like a stubborn girl.
  • Kasia– eyes not soft enough,seemed self-conscious. lacks the energy needed.
  • Molly– solid shot, looks natural and shows off the clothes. elegant.
  • Hannah– very different, hand slightly awkward, edgy and natural, expression is maybe ok

Best photo goes to Molly. Brittani is the runner up. Hannah is safe, leaving Kasia and Alexandria in the bottom two.

The girl who will be staying is…Alexandria. Because she has stronger pictures.

Hellcats: This isn’t about cheating.

The new athletic director is more of a creepy leerer than he is someone who knows about sports. Whether he’s biting his lip and dancing in place as he watches the Hellcats rehearse for a fundraiser, talking about their tasty moves, or asking Vanessa about Red’s divorce, he’s sorta creepy. For some reason Marty is not rehearsing but only working. She’s just too good to practice?

Louis is about to get in trouble for cheating on a paper but refuses to defend himself. Marty takes it upon herself to get someone good to defend him so naturally she heads over to her law professor’s new office—Three Strikes Central—to get his help. He is still faculty on the student advisor court and she wants to be a defender. He agrees after she pleads her case.

Louis is MIA and Alice genuinely wants to help marty help him. Luckily, she knows where to find him. When he feels guilty he likes to beat himself up, so he boxes. Apparently, he never used the paper he bought.

Red confronts the new director for digging into his personal life. Apparently, the NCAA is digging into lancer and they don’t want to be surprised by anything. The director decides he dislikes red and is fine if he gets buried.

Marty and the prof are getting awkwardly close as he suggests that Louis might be covering for someone and that her job as a lawyer is to help the client not deliver justice.

For the most random cameo possible, Nastia Liukin MCs the fundraiser. Thing I find awkward: teachers/coaches partaking in overly sexualized dances/songs with their students. (I’m looking at you glee and hellcats.)

Savannah and Louis have been arguing and Alice and Marty wonder if it was Savannah he is covering for. She probably knew nothing about evolution at the time when Louis bought the paper and Louis owed Savannah for getting on the team. So naturally Alice confronts her and Savannah starts crying.

The real story comes out: Savannah was on her own for the first time and she didn’t understand evolution at all. The professor made fun of her in class. She refused to write the paper and Louis refused to let her quit so he said he’d help her write the paper and then bought one for her. He planned to use it as a reference. Eventually it got so late that they ended up using at least part of it despite their intentions. Louis blames himself because Savannah would never have done it. If he’s suspended the Hellcats lose a base before nationals, but losing Savannah—their captain and best flyer—would be a disaster. So what to do? Savannah opts to come clean.

Red panics about his ex-wife whose job is to help the school investigate. This could be awkward but she acts fairly calm. She may or may not have hired private investigators to follow them. Vanessa admits that they are together.

Marty is upset that Dan didn’t tell her the truth. She’s his best friend but Savannah is his girlfriend and had sworn him to secrecy. They swore their relationship had to be different after all.

Time for court. Savannah pleads guilty and Marty has her final say before punishment is decided. She opts for a speech about Savannah’s positivity. I’m not sure what this has to do with anything. I feel like there are better things she might have said in this instance (like mitigating circumstances and first time offense, etc). She asks for them to let her continue making things better at lancer—positive outcomes only.

Louis gets academic probation (technically he did nothing wrong, buying a paper is not wrong it is using it and plagiarizing that is).

Savannah’s punishment is reached quickly and they decide that all she will get is an F in the class she used the paper for. Louis is talking with Alice, Dan is with Savannah, and Marty sneaks off all sad and lonely, but not for long because she goes to her ex-professor’s (he is not teaching for the time being). Really Marty, you should know better! Sure enough, they end up making out a bit. (Note to TV writers: the student-teacher relationship thing has been done to death lately.)

Make It or Break It: Hungary Heart

This is a long one people so be ready…

Time to stop sucking.

Payson shows up at the Rock, the lights are dark but Kim is checking last minute boarding pass information. Payson spots a letter to Sasha and realizes he is in Romania! They’re sending him papers so they can validate Darby’s contract. So, there’s still a chance to get rid of her…

Steve gives Darby a “pep” talk about how she has to be a coach not a child. The NGO is questioning whether or not the Rock girls belong on the Worlds team. Payson overhears and Darby uses the opportunity to chew Payson out. (After so much good acting by Kell her facial expressions are sorta awkward).

Damion shows up at the Kmetko house as they are leaving to the airport. Why isn’t she returning his calls? She accuses him of doing something with Kayley. Being the whiner that she is, she accuses him of using her for sex and moving on. He asks her to trust him but she can’t have him messing with her head so she breaks it off. Emily, you’re kind of a moron. But that certainly isn’t news.

Hand me something to ensure I can act self-destructive please.

Steve gives Lauren a credit card with a $20,000 limit, “in case of emergencies” though Summer questions the good idea of this. Darby uses the time to lecture the girls about being the coach not their friend. Emily can’t handle “Coach Conrad” but Payson may just have a plan.

Kayley admits to having a problem that needs to be addressed. Her therapist is proud of her honest expression of her feelings. So why does she think she stopped eating? Kayley says to beat Gengi Cho but he wonders if this is the real reason. Maybe it was something else? Control, pressure, parents, boys?

Mopey McMoperson, why don't you stop whining?

Payson spots Emily crying on the plane but Emily deflects to see what Payson is busy with. Her plan: get Sasha back to the Rock. It is a complicated/risky plan. She chooses to finance this extra flight with Lauren’s credit card. Lauren thinks this is crazy but Emily is down with the plan. Payson says no way because she is already in trouble with the NGO. Lauren reluctantly agrees to join them. But the question is how to ditch the escort (Darby and the ‘rents). Lauren sets it up that Summer is called for a phone call. Then they tell Darby they are going to the bathroom in an attempt to ditch her but she decides to join them. They crawl out under the stalls while Darby pees (soundlessly–she also doesn’t notice their soundless tinkling). But of course, just as they get out, Kelly Parker shows up. She may be Kayley’s replacement. Darby and Summer realize the girls are missing and conveniently, Kelly Parker shows up to rat them out. Payson texts her mom “Trust me, will be back on time.” Right, like Kim would ever be cool about this kind of international spontaneity. Summer talks to Kim about flying after the girls. Darby thinks they are doing this to make her look bad. Summer takes charge. the plan is to tell the NGO that they missed their flight and will be there on time (like Kelly Parker will go along with this).

Recapping the plan, they have two hours to convince Sasha to return. Emily buys an energy drink that she can’t read the label and Payson points out that there could be banned substances in there. Apparently many energy drinks do, which is a bit disturbing. Emily says she wasn’t thinking and Payson lays into her. “You haven’t been thinking at all lately…” Emily announces that she and Damon broke up for real. Lauren figures out that she slept with him. She reveals her suspicions about Damon and Kayley and Payson and Lauren say Kayley would never do that.

Kayley writes about the things that happened around when she stopped eating when Damon comes in. He tells her that he and Emily broke up. Emily seems to think he’s the problem in her life. “Is gymnastics really that intense that you can’t trust anyone but yourself?” Kayley says for some people, distraction can have serious consequences. But maybe with Emily it isn’t the sport. Maybe that is just who she is. Kayley gives him a pep talk about not giving up on Emily. Kayley writes “Maybe it is not the sport” in her diary.

Why does it seem like we have suddenly come to the Wild West?

The girls show up at Sasha’s. Maybe. They are told no Sasha Belov lives there by some random woman who says she knows everyone. Lauren whines. Right nearby is Olimpia bar, where they go inside to figure out how to get back. Someone is cleaning the bar and it is Sasha! He works there. He tells them to go and when Payson says they won’t leave without him, he says he will never be coming back. You’re better than that Sasha! Quit sulking like a teenage girl! We’ve got enough of those at the Rock already. Payson thinks Sasha is just testing them and they have to wait him out. Sasha is still following their gymnastics, that might be a good sign.

Why do you think you can convince me of anything?

Emily takes a crack at Sasha first. She brings up the trust exercise they worked on. She said he promised he wouldn’t leave and died. Emily asks him what if she isn’t good enough.

Back at the Rock, Chloe, Steve, and Kim are freaking out. This could be the thing that gets Emily kicked out.

Lauren isn’t willing to play mind games (right, when has that ever been the case) so she takes a shot next. Lauren says Summer is over him so he can come back just for the gymnastics. Like that would make it better. He tells her he isn’t returning.

They decide to leave but Payson tells them to go without her. She insists because she thinks Sasha won’t let her go back alone. Lauren gives her Steve’s credit card to ensure that she gets back in time.

Damon and Kayley discuss Kayley’s feelings of pressure after winning and the high expectations placed on her. She felt guilty about complaining about that. About complaining that her life is “perfect” because she didn’t know who she was. She focused on winning instead. She won nationals but didn’t feel any better. She wanted to share this with him because he helped her realize all of this. She is the problem, no matter what she was doing, gymnastics or something else. Damon takes this to mean “And Emily is who she is” and he has to let her go, for both of them.

Payson sits at the bar, eating something. Sasha realizes she’s there but doesn’t approach. Summer comes in looking for everyone and says she doesn’t know who is more stubborn, Payson or Sasha. Sasha awkwardly ignores Summer. summer tells Payson she can’t always get what she wants and she can’t do anything to get Sasha to come back. Summer refuses to leave without Sasha. Payson takes in this speech, holding Sasha’s gold medal. It was about never giving up, among other things, but now all she thinks is that he quit on all of them. So she gives back the medal and leaves. Summer takes a moment to say Payson is angry and hurt. Sasha, looking like he is going to cry, asks if Summer is angry too. She says she understands why he did what he did but she disagrees. She says he isn’t doing his best in this stupid bar. (Payson’s speech was way better, but okay. At least it wasn’t another God speech.)

Kim and Steve are trying to calm people down. Summer and Payson have gotten lost but they have found their way again. Lauren and Emily made it back. Steve and Kim talk about how despite the many differences in their daughters, they are very similar in one specific way: bullheaded. Kim says the sport breeds it into them. Steve says he knows Lauren crosses the line and he is sorry. Kim invites him to watch the meet at her place.

Everyone has made it back in time for the meet but no Sasha. Darby snaps at Payson to sign in. summer hugs Lauren and Emily.

Damon is a real sucker for needy-messed up girls.

Damon has something for Kayley. A song that he wrote with her words. Magically, Kayley knows the tune and can sing to it despite never having heard it before. This song, unlike last week’s, does not show off her voice. She gets overwhelmed partway through the song because it captures her feelings perfectly. He gets it because that is how he feels too. his nationals was the radio contest and tour. He didn’t feel like a star even when he should have. He fought that until now, with her.

The girls are in bed when there is a knock at the door. It is Sasha, who says what they did was inexcusable and if he were their coach he would send them home. They lost to Pinewood because they have become lazy and self-indulgent and he has ZERO interest in being their coach. So…why are you here? Oh, he’ll be their coach if they can prove they aren’t wasting his time. They can do that by showing they can win. They’re in shock, but when he leaves they realize they’ve gotten what they want.

Morning of the meet. Sasha meets with the girls to say he shouldn’t have abandoned them. But they have abandoned the lessons he taught them He will commit to coaching them if they commit to living up to their potential. After a “Rock On!” the girls show up to the meet. Is that…Sasha? Steve agrees to let him back and Kim grabs some wine (uh oh?). Sasha says he must show everyone that Pinewood was a fluke since this is a tryout for the Worlds team.

Ivanka, the secret weapon.

Lauren is up first on beam, where she is the favorite thanks to her high degree of difficulty. She performs flawlessly (for once) though I am surprised to see such an easy dismount (one that Payson always does). Up second is Russia’s Ivanka, who has never performed internationally as a “secret weapon.” Will she beat Lauren? Everyone watches on in shock and nerves (even Kelly Parker looks worried). Ivanka’s dismount it 100x harder than Lauren’s. Sure enough, Ivanka has beaten Lauren and moved the Russian team into first place.

Sasha gives Emily a pep talk (say “I am the best and nobody can touch me”). This seems to relax her a bit (as relaxed as Emily can be anyway). She performs a routine that looks oddly similar to Payson’s and falls off in the middle. This drops them into third, behind Russia and Romania. The US coach decides to pull Emily in favor of Kelly, who has not competed since her injury. Sasha says Emily just needs to know the US coach believes in her but unfortunately, he doesn’t. The coach already goes to tell Kelly. I almost feel bad for Emily.

Kelly is up on vault where she sticks a solid vault. This brings the US back up again. A part of me is surprised Payson doesn’t do a vault but then again, Sasha is back and their thing together is floor.

It comes down to floor. Surprisingly, the announcers say the US and Russia have saved their best for last–Ivanka and Payson. While I personally love Payson, I would argue that at this moment she is not anywhere near the best on the team at this moment. (Certainly not if her mother won’t let her work on more competitive moves.) Who is taking flashing pictures mid-routine and why are the lights dim? Ivanka is very stern and intense but he seems to handle the high pressure of her first international meet well (for most gymnasts this is difficult the first time out–the equipment and the pressure are different). For Payson’s turn, Kim gets worried but Steve says Payson is great and will do great. Her floor music, which the Black Swan has made so popular right now, seems great for this moment. She does so well that Kim can’t help but jump up off the couch. The judges talk and…The Russians win, but only just barely. The US gets silver.

Kayley reads something to the group about just being Kayley. Just Kayley.

Darby confronts Sasha to say she could have gotten them there. Sasha says perhaps in time but they don’t have time. He is positive that he can do it while she can’t.

Sasha tells Emily the chairman of the committee would like to speak to her though they don’t know why. Could it be a certain sports drink? Emily looks confused for a moment but then says it was just an accident! But no! It isn’t about the drink, she hasn’t broken any rules. But…she is pregnant! Half of me didn’t see that coming (in so far as this show seems to be determined to avoid long term consequences much of the time) but the other part of me was waiting for this to happen considering all the obsession with sex. Plus, the Secret Life is already dealing with 3 babies, they can’t squeeze out any more for that moment.

Make It Or Break It: Life Or Death

Kayley mourns over the loss of Maeve and takes a hard look at herself.

This isn't stalker-y at all.

Meanwhile Chloe arrives at the Rock and is shocked that Dallas is coming to the Rock for a meet. Max takes pictures of Payson while she trains and Lauren comes up to flirt. Apparently they are some action shots for the meet. He says he’ll take pictures of her if she shows him something to shoot so she goes to smack talk Emily into getting off the beam. Emily cedes the beam and Lauren gets on it to pose. Not exactly an action shot.

Damon meanwhile serenades a picture of Emily that is on his laptop. Well, really he’s trying to write a song about her and not having much luck. Kayley sneaks in looking all thin and pensive. He thinks his song is bad but she assures him it isn’t. Damon came back to Boulder because his best songs are inspired by her but without being seeing her…Naturally, Kayley sings a messed up version of his song which he decides is better. He convinces her to work with him.

Payson’s training seems to be better than ever but Darby overhears Payson saying they’ve been slacking off with Darby as coach. But Darby has some bad news: Dallas canceled. The good news: Pinewood from Iowa agreed. They’re the worst ranked team in the country but it is better than nothing…She tries to put a positive spin on it though the girls really aren’t having it.

Payson starts working on a difficult vault and turns down Darby’s offer to help. Darby says she wants to work with her. She needs a friend to have her back with the other girls because everyone looks up to her. She reluctantly agrees. Everyone needs a friend right? They make a deal: if she can get people excited for the meet, she will help Payson up her difficulty value by .7 which is a lot.

Kim and Summer discuss Darby’s youth and thus inability to coach. Lauren wants to go shopping but Summer is not having it until she does her homework. Kim asks if Summer plans to move in. Summer likes being needed, which isn’t the same as loves Steve.

This is my sexy face.

Lauren flirts more with Max. She invites him over to the house after practice because they will be all alone.

Continuing the season’s theme of girls’ boyfriends bonding with girls who are not their girlfriends, Kayley and Damon’s music session seems to be going well. He has an upcoming performance. They are interrupted when Kayley gets a phone call from Maeve’s mother. Her mother wants Kayley to say some words about Maeve at the service because of what a good friend she was to Maeve in rehab. She’s scared to go to the funeral, she’s never been to one. But she doesn’t know what she feels. He can relate in a non life or death situation. He suggests she try writing to work out her feelings.

Max catches up with Payson outside. He’s offended that she didn’t call her back. Or really she didn’t ask him to take her headshot. She’s stiff and awkward so he gets her to laugh which makes it work. Kim offers him to stay for dinner, but unfortunately he has to be somewhere (certainly not somewhere better though). Kim runs in to find out what the story with Payson and Max go. Payson is nervous and Kim suggests she start by making a new friend and go from there.

Emily moons over Damon and he IMs her. That’s okay right? He is worried no one will come to his show. Chloe gives her another “you can’t go to Damon’s show” speech and takes some of Emily’s sniping.

Kayley starts adding to Damon’s song about how the moment has passed. Damon offers to go to the funeral with her. He knows from experience how important it is to say goodbye. She hasn’t told her parents about Maeve because they would freak.

Aww! Awkward Turtle!

Max goes to Lauren who seems to not understand what a head shot is. Finally Max tells her to be less expressive. She’s not feeling her slutty schoolgirl outfit and goes to change it. Just as she runs out of the room, Payson calls. She is super awkward but cute on the phone. He suggests coffee, she suggests running instead. It’s a date. I mean a plan. I mean…see you tomorrow. Just in time because Lauren comes in wearing lingerie. Max points out that he doesn’t think that look will fly with the mom’s at the Rock. She says she wants him to take pictures for her personal portfolio. Where is Summer? Naturally he does not knowing what to do and just in time, Summer arrives. About time! Summer is angry. Lauren begs Summer to keep it a secret, she told her father she would change. Lauren says she’s trying but she feels like no one loves her. Why doesn’t anyone want her? Summer promises not to leave her but how can she trust her. Master manipulator! Summer agrees not to tell Steve but on the condition that Lauren won’t ever do it again. Seal it with a hug.

Emily puts up a poster for Damon’s concert in the Rock and Payson asks why she isn’t working on her landings, which she hasn’t been sticking. She may not need them for Pinewood, but she will for Hungary in two weeks. Focus on your own career not Damon’s. So naturally Emily puts up more posters.

Lauren waits until Summer leaves to go up to Max. She invites him to Damon’s concert (apparently EVERYONE is going) and he asks if Payson is coming. Lauren tells him she thinks Payson is gay. Right, I don’t think he’s falling for that.

Payson lands the harder vault (doesn’t stick it but still lands it) and instead of being happy, Kim lectures her about how it is her job to set boundaries. Darby agrees to tell her not to do it because with her back she can’t let her risk it. It was the only reason she was excited for the meet. Darby tries to amp up the excitement with a sleepover, which means no one will be going to Damon’s. Lauren is upset because she had a “date” with Max. Poor Payson. Delusional Lauren.

Kayley and Damon are at the funeral. Even now Maeve’s mother is delusional about her daughter’s eating disorder. She doesn’t believe that is what happened to Maeve. (The bench outside this funeral looks like the one outside the Rock.) Kayley freaks out because she can’t pretend Maeve was getting better because she wasn’t and Kayley is doing just as poorly and she doesn’t want to die. Later, Damon suggests Kayley grieve by writing some poetry. He wants to sing the lyrics she added to his song on stage at his performance. She’s reluctant but he suggests she do it to say goodbye.

Is this the start of a beautiful new relationship?

Darby tries to get everyone excited with popcorn (aka “truth corn”). They are supposed to eat some and release their gripes. Payson says she’d rather be at home. Lauren would rather be at the concert and suggests they go as a team. So naturally Darby gives in. Payson is the only one who isn’t all for this plan. Once there, Lauren pretends she had a date with Max the night before and shows Payson the pictures, which only makes her more upset. Damon invites Kayley upstage to sing with him. (Emily seems to be a bit nervous.) Kayley spends the song staring at Damon because she is nervous.

Summer gets a call from Steve as she gets to the Rock to check in and finds it empty. Uh oh. Also there is Marcus, who has come to stop by the Kmetkos. Of course he just happens to be in town. He sees the poster Emily put up and figures out where they must be. Emily says she doesn’t care if she will get in trouble it was worth seeing him perform. Emily is upset when she hears that Kayley helped him co-write the song that was originally about her.

Summer drags Lauren away from Max. He asks Payson when they’re going running and she says never, she doesn’t have time for new friends. Summer also offers to help sneak Emily out before she gets in trouble. Marcus arrives before they leave so they hurry out the back while Payson distracts them. Which is of course when Darby approaches drinking a beer.

I think I can. I think I can.

The time of the meet comes and Payson gives them all a pep talk. Payson messes up on her beam. Lauren steps out of bounds on floor. Pinewood, the massive underdogs seem to be on the verge of winning. Emily on bars falls flat on her landing. As Payson gets ready for her vault, Darby tells her to do the harder vault. Payson is willing to try even though she isn’t ready. Kim knows exactly what she is doing and says if she puts Payson at risk she will regret it. Payson attempts the vault and lands on her back. (The funny thing about this is that yes, Payson should not have been asked to do this vault given the circumstances. However, Kim is holding back Payson’s career for no good reason too. Had she let them train the way they were planning to, Payson may have had that vault ready and safe. We were never given any indication that Payson’s difficulty levels should be limited and if they have to be then she has no chance in the gymnastics world. For some perspective, elite gymnast Rebecca Bross currently has a starting value of a 5.8. She routinely scores higher with errors than Payson’s starting value would be without this more difficult vault, which is a 4.8. Elite gymnast Jordyn Weiber has a vault with a 6.5 start value, giving her an almost two point lead over Payson from the start. Two points in gymnastics is HUGE since oftentimes scores are separated by less than a point to determine the winners and losers.)

Beware the Payson Death Stare.

The Pinewood girls are thrilled to have won. The Rock girls are unhappy. I would be lying if I said I was disappointed that they finally lost one. They seem to always pull off these lucky wins and its unrealistic that the Rock would NEVER lose. At the same time, a club where four of their elite members are on the national team would not lose to the worst team in the country even on an off day after a few weeks of poor training. Even with their falls. (Their start values should theoretically be considerably higher, allowing for the errors they made.) Darby says there is something to be learned and Payson says they need a real coach. Not a friend, a buddy. A real coach sets boundaries, is tough when necessary, does not take them to a party the night before a vault, does not have a gymnast perform a vault she is not prepared for. Darby runs out and Lauren points out that a real coach would never leave on that note. Whether or not she will come back, they are better without her. (You know, Payson probably could coach the Rock better than her.)

Kayley rips up the page where she counted her calories and instead starts writing an extremely elementary version of a diary. “My name is Kayley Cruz…” but she does add “and I am anorexic” so that is all that matters.

Game of Thrones

After all the advertisements and buzz, Game of Thrones finally premiered at the beginning of this week. Already it has been renewed for a second season despite ratings that were only decent for an HBO show. (Then again, HBO execs say they expect this to be a show that builds its ratings slowly in much the same way that True Blood did. Which makes sense since genre TV can be a bit trickier than regular shows.)

After seeing the pilot, I have sort of mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it was sort of very confusing. There were so many characters that we had not one but two incest-y scenes but the second almost went over my head because I wasn’t sure who the characters were. (I didn’t realize they were siblings until I read EW’s recap afterwards.) This issue could be resolved by people using each other’s names a little more for the first few episodes. This issue didn’t bother me as much as it does in other shows, if only because I understand how hard it is to establish the back story in a fantasy type genre, especially considering that GRR Martin wrote this story originally to be unfilmable. I figure I will pick it up over time and anything I miss I can pick up in recaps.

The opening sequence is a haunting, exciting bloody scene that gave a fantastic introduction to the creepy creatures that the main characters worry about. It did give the feeling of an entirely different show, when most of the rest involved talking and establishing relationships and politics. some people might find this frustrating, but I have a feeling the fighting and carnage is the kind of thing that will build as the series continues. After all, two armies are getting ready for battle and some creatures unseen for a long time have returned.

Of the characters, the one I am rooting for/feeling for the most at this moment is Daeneyrs, whose brother has forced her into a marriage with a barbarian in order to form an alliance that will allow him to retake the throne. The wedding night rape scene is utterly heartbreaking, but I have a feeling (having never read the books but intending to) that that Daeneyrs will go from this weak, forcibly manipulated girl to a surprisingly strong woman sometime in the future. At least I hope so because I think that would be an interesting transformation to watch.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the pilot was the cinematography. The show is expensive-movie-quality. (Which it better be considering that it was rumored to have a budget of over $60 million for the season.) The actors are also solid, fleshing out the world in an exciting and believable way.

I would say that if the pilot is any indication, the series will be as exciting as the many others that we have grown to love on HBO. I can’t wait to get to know the characters better and see where it takes us.