Make It Or Break It Down: Season 1, Episode 4

The abrupt end to the 2020 NCAA gymnastics season was a shock to everyone, us included. And while we understand and support the measures being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it means that a lot of us are suddenly left with extra time on our hands…

Which is why we’ve decided to embark on an important journey, one that will take us back through one of television’s most important series to date: Make It or Break It. Every Saturday (and a number of other bonus days) from now until the 2021 season, our editors Katherine, Kalley and Claire will be breaking down and recapping each episode of everyone’s favorite gymnastics show. 

Want to watch along? You can find MIOBI on Hulu and the Freeform app, all you have to have is a subscription/cable login. You can also buy the DVDs or purchase seasons or single episodes on various platforms, like iTunes. Join us in the cheesiness and the early 2010s TV gymnastics by using the hashtag #MakeItOrBreakItDown on Twitter as you watch.

You can read our S1E1 recap here.

S1E4: Sunday, Bloody Sasha, Sunday

I have not pressed play yet because I’m still processing this title. Literally WHAT is this show.

Alright, I’m going in. As Lauren sits in church and pays close attention by going through her phone, the pastor shares a cute monologue about God cleansing us of our “impurities” and “forgiving our sins.” This diatribe, which definitely isn’t coded slut-shaming directed at Lauren, is the gateway to a montage in which we see Lauren, Kaylie and Carter in various stages of guilt about their previous night’s activities. Except Lauren and Kaylie both seem distressed while Carter is unbothered, shirtless and showering. STANDARDS.

In related news, we find out the very important information that Lauren’s Daddy has not “been intimate” with Summer. Is that supposed to make Lauren feel worse about herself? She got to hook up with (what some would consider) a hot guy while her dad is basically arm candy getting paraded around a church. You win this round, Lauren.

Everyone’s (or at least Lauren’s, Kaylie’s, Payson’s and Emily’s) chill Sunday morning is interrupted when they get calls from The Rock to come in. Is nothing sacred? They all wonder what that could possibly be about until Sasha walks in with his trademark…chipper smile and a bag of beers?

The joy in his eyes…someone call the cops??

“Get in ladies, Broncos pregame starts in an hour.” Doesn’t he just look like the guy in the stadium parking lot who just showed up for the tailgate with a knockoff jersey over a sweatshirt?

The offering alcohol to minors and shotgunning on a Sunday morning is all a long way of saying that Sasha is PISSED they went to the kegger (really wish they’d gotten that word into his lines). They all feebly try to make excuses and Lauren flat-out denies she was there, but Sasha ain’t fooled. They’re all like:

Sasha throws a little tantrum because clearly the fact that they spent a few hours at a party negates all their years of hard work and they must not want to be Olympians after all.

And he’s ready to leave because of it. “Give me one reason I shouldn’t get on a plane and go home.” You probably don’t have internet access in the backwoods marsh of Northern California? Also, you probably signed a contract to be here? Just some thoughts.

I wasn’t sure if the series would be over after four episodes, but never fear: He decides to stay! (At least for tonight; he needs internet to stream Sunday Night Football.) But his memory is like an elephant’s so he’s placing the girls on “probation,” which basically starts now. “It’s one thing to say you’re sorry, but it’s another thing to feel it. And after this, you will.” One…NOT how I want a coach describing a workout I’m about to do? But two…I’m turned on?

Quarantine sucks, OK?

Later, Emily’s mom shows up to the Pizza Shack to announce her daughter can’t work that day and somehow gets roped into working in her stead. This place is basically an “essential business” in the time of COVID-19; it will literally take anyone. Speaking of which, hey Deadbeat Guy No. 2! He saunters in, looking crestfallen that Emily isn’t there, but seems just as eager to flirt with her mom. Which like, no shaming age differences here, but…

In other news, did you know that the Cruz family lives in the hotel from The Shining?

Carter pops in to provide Leo with the information he was dying to know: He cheated on Kaylie with Lauren. So, narrative-wise, Lauren should feel guilty about having sex because it’s impure but Carter should feel guilty because he has other girls banging down the door to do it too? *checks notes* Got it. 😡

Leo wants to protect his sister’s naive heart so he promises not to tell her. But not before getting in a punch that definitely did some damage to Carter’s flabby self. He plays along.

Me when the guy I’m talking to on Tinder inevitably ghosts and I pretend to be surprised.

Back at The Rock, the girls are in the midst of an intense workout as they repent to Sasha. And by “intense workout,” I mean “what I do on the floor of my room when I want to pretend like I’m a gymnast even though I’ve never done any form of gymnastics at all.”

“Someone must have told him…that this has no exercise value. Wait, he doesn’t have a degree or any background to understand this? Never mind.”

Sasha, meanwhile, does this.

“How do I love torturing people? Let me count the ways.”

Next, in a scene that’s basically cut from “The Sopranos,” Lauren’s Daddy shows up and has some shady backroom dealings with Sasha while the girls do…whatever strenuous work that can be done with your hair down like this.

Tanner basically begs Sasha to let him back into the gym’s good graces because he “built the place.” Because he, of course, did the workouts and competed and won the medals.

Me trying to have fun and write this recap while also grappling with the all-too-real stereotypes of the gymnastics world popping up.

Sasha thinks intently about this while not-at-all shadily disposing of some questionable files in the trash outside. Let’s hope the files include the contact information for whoever makes this gym’s god-awful leos. What’s this, another man showing up when he has no business being there? Color me surprised!

Carter is dying to get inside to talk to Kaylie, where he’ll undoubtedly be open and honest with her about last night’s behaviors. He makes lame excuses for his presence in broken English, which everyone’s favorite cockblocker Sasha doesn’t believe. Weird! That won’t stop Carter, though.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m not talking about breaking into the gym. Attempting to use a pay phone, even in 2009, is not for the faint of heart.

Back in the gym, it’s time for some team bonding. Displaying foresight I didn’t realize he possessed, Sasha senses tension between the girls and urges them to write out their feelings on notepads. Then…

What is this, “Pretty Little Liars?” Lauren, ready to spill the tea, lays it all out there. Here’s a sneak peak at what she said.

OK, so forget EVERYTHING I said about foresight. Sasha is a shady bitch that lives for drama because he is READING these aloud himself. The little darling promises to make them anonymous, though, so it’ll be extra difficult for these girls who know everything about each other to discern whose was whose.

This reminds me of on Drag Race when Ru asks all the queens to name the queen they think should go home. And boy, does it deliver on the drama. We learn that “someone” resents her best friend because she got her kicked out of the gym, “someone” wishes Sasha would realize she’s better than everyone else (mood), and “someone” resents that she isn’t being made to feel welcome.

Not sure about y’all, but I remain unsure.

Because the girls couldn’t possibly want anything other than to be together at that point, Sasha has them all stay and clean the mats, which doubles as saving money on expensive cleaners (never mind being thorough). Team bonding AND gym financial issues solved all in one day!

The girls get pissy and trash each other for various reasons, from slutty behavior to being a bad sport; it’s basically a Bachelor Women Tell All special. Leave it to Emily to put things in perspective and bare her soul.

Apparently the prospect of having a job scares the other girls into submission, because they get right to work on cleaning.

Let’s see how things are going at said job without her.

In addition to this academic level of Spanish, Emily’s mom also has a propensity for keeping secrets, which she puts on display as she tells Deadbeat Guy No. 2 all about Emily’s life as a gymnast. Deadbeat’s intrigued until the boss breaks up their powwow, to which he says…

Ever seen this chart? These two and all their interactions are peak chaotic neutral.

Back at the gym, the girls are back to bitching as they clean the mats with industrial strength…wipes. It has Lauren feeling existential as she starts asking those important questions…

Can’t say I haven’t wondered the same.

In a rare display of compassion, Kaylie tells Emily she should leave and go to work while the other girls cover for her. Only problem is, how will she get out? Sasha’s nearby, the doors apparently…don’t work and there’s the subtle matter of explaining, you know, where Emily went. But as the quote goes, “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

An instance where the lyrics most certainly do NOT match what’s happening on screen.

I haven’t felt this much suspense since Nicholas Cage tried to steal the Declaration of Independence.

In the midst of the fanfare, Sasha comes perilously close to discovering the plan, and we hear that he’s on the phone with Kaylie’s dad, who seems to want to dissuade Sasha against choosing Lauren’s Daddy to head the gym. The stage is set for a power struggle, but for now, let’s catch one last glimpse of Cinderella and the stepsisters as they cheerfully sing “Happy Working Song” from Enchanted.

That just looks…so effective.

Later, Payson’s mom swings by to pick up Payson from her time on the chain gang in the gym when she notices a new addition to the parking lot.

Yup, Sasha was missing backwoods life so much that he shipped that monstrosity of an airstream trailer to Colorado. After he and Payson’s mom have a fruitful discussion about the virtues of camping (kidding, it was a little more meaningful), he decides he likes her enough to offer her the gym manager position that Kaylie’s dad and Lauren’s Daddy have been fighting so cattily to get. Oooh, inverting the trope of a man with no experience taking a woman’s hard-earned position—here for it! But also…wait, she has no experience managing anything but a household?

Emily finally shows up to the pizza joint, conveniently as her mom is referring to her with this cute little nickname:

The “He” in question is Razor, who Emily’s mom has astutely recognized as trying to make a move on her daughter. So, she says, Deadbeat Guy No. 2 better back tf off. Love medieval-era ideals of the parent picking her daughter’s knight in shining…pizza shop uniform! Let’s get back to a less toxic relationship situation.

You thought! Keys in tow, Carter heads to the gym to intercept blabbermouth Lauren and keep his fragile situationship with Kaylie preserved.

He might be too late. The girls are pondering what other secrets Emily has when the topic turns to what secrets THEY have. Didn’t we just see how bad things turn out when deep, dark secrets get shared? No matter, because it’s time for Lauren to tell all.

And the ensuing conversation about sex is…actually pretty positive for a late 2000s show! They normalize the fact that it was painful for Lauren, Lauren defends her right to go out and do what she wants (and that it’s OK that she “didn’t know him” which…if it wasn’t a lie, yes!), Payson clarifies not everyone their age is having sex…we love girls supporting girls! And then:

Yeah, this got said. Putting those homeschool biology lessons to the test, Payson proceeds to declare she won’t be having sex until she wins an Olympic gold medal because she can’t grow “hips and boobs” until then.

I’m a liberal arts major so I should probably plead the fifth on this one, but…

Kaylie, maybe feeling a little insecure, is like…

…and reveals she has a boyfriend, and it’s Carter! Lauren grits her teeth and Payson doesn’t have much to say on this one, so she’s like “alright, guess I have nowhere else to make friends.” So the three of them make up, tears are shed and Lauren picks a truly hygienic way to wipe them.

But do her eyes (freshly mixed with mat residue and sweat particles) deceive her? Nope, it’s Carter walking into the gym! Kaylie, no longer having to hide her prize, goes up and gives him a very showy kiss. Hey Carter, her eyes are up here.

That would be an aghast Lauren he’s starting at. I’m sure that was a totally friendly stare and won’t represent any further conflicted feelings between the two.

Back at the pizza shop, Emily wants to haul ass and get back to the gym, but she has to keep entertaining Deadbeat Guy No. 2 by sharing even more details of her life than her mother already divulged. She goes on about moving from place to place and how her father “never stuck around, like most guys.” Like the incel he secretly is, Deadbeat only picks up on that detail and asks:

Buckle in, sweetie, you haven’t even read one of my recaps.

Deadbeat shares that he wants to run away and become a rock star, and Emily laughs nervously. Deadbeat says he’ll “cover for her” (isn’t he already covering for someone else?) if she does a standing back tuck before she leaves. Which she does, and the restaurant is like, “Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.” Her keeper permits her to leave, but not before she waggles an eyebrow and offers “you should see my standing full twist.”

Emily makes it back just in time for Sasha to arrive and see the hard work all four girls just put in. He makes yet more innuendo and finally sets them free. Emily WOULD celebrate, but…

Hopefully Emily doesn’t have hopes of joining an NCAA program. The girls all saunter out of the gym, with Emily and Payson reuniting with their moms while Lauren stares off at her dad and Summer, who are loitering around Sasha’s trailer. Don’t they know she’s been cleaning mats for hours and is ready to get the hell out?

Carter pops up out of nowhere once more (was he…waiting outside?) and greets Lauren in a really sweet, meaningful way.

Bruhhh OK unpopular opinion but…no matter how illicit it was that you did, you never say it was “awful.” Especially a guy to a girl. I’ll be taking further questions on my hot take opinions on relationships after the show! (I wish.)

Lauren brushes it off, though, because “it wasn’t her first time” (which is only something someone would say after it was their first time). They both decide to bury the hatchet and forget about it. This can only go up from here.

I literally cannot imagine where this thing will go from here.

Balance Check

Every week we will break down the little moments that stood out as being extremely on point and those that wobbled a bit too much. Shout out to Vulture and its Gossip Girl Reality Index for providing the template for our version. 

Faker Than Coaches Trusting Gymnasts to Deep Clean The Gym

  • Kaylie being able to practice while hungover. You would not get me out of bed. Minus 6.
  • Emily’s mom having a punch card she can use after working one shift that she wasn’t even scheduled to do. Wasn’t it supposed to be a busy day? Minus 4.
  • Emily is working out in cargo capris. Again. Why? Minus 3.
  • The ropes being close enough to the windows for Emily to escape. Also, gyms having big windows. Granted, I’ve never set foot in one, but this one seems weirdly open. Minus 3.
  • While we are talking about Emily, why does she insist on leading such a secret life? What does it matter to her coworkers that she is a gymnast? And if her family is that strapped for cash, I’m guessing that’s something you should be talking to your coach about. Minus 4
  • How often the girls say “have sex.” There are better, more fun euphemisms, and most teen girls are too awkward to use that one. Minus 5.

Total: -25

Realer Than White Moms Who Show Off Their “Spanish” With Words Like “Rápido”

  • Hint: It’s not much. Courtesy point of plus 1.
  • The lowkey conflict between Lauren’s and Kaylie’s dads. Dad conflicts and subtle male rage are a fascinating yet under-discussed phenomena in the sociology of parenting. Plus 3.
  • Steve Tanner actually believing that every ounce of success achieved by the gymnasts of The Rock being the direct result of him. Plus 3 because WOW THE RICH MALE EGO IS REAL.
  • Sasha not being able to constructively manage this conflict because, of course he can’t, he’s never dealt with meaningful group issues. I mean, can you blame these people for not having interpersonal skills? Plus 5.
  • Payson the Focused™ being resentful for Sasha not realizing she is better than everyone else. Plus 1.
  • “Team bonding” resulting in feelings getting hurt. It almost always does. Can you tell this episode hit home? Plus 3.
  • Plus 5 for Lauren and her entire outlook on sex. A) she is the most knowledgable (far more so than Payson, my god) and B) for having that much confidence in herself and her decision making abilities about her own body.

Total: 21

With weird relationship behavior, toxic masculinity and stunts to make James Bond jealous on display this week, MIOBI had an uncharacteristic wobble with a -4.


1: The Feeling After You Find Out NCAAs Is Cancelled (Too Soon?)

2: The NCAA Banning Chalk Blowing Choreography

3: Brandie Jay’s Accidental DTY

4: Kelly Garrison Squeal After a Stuck Oklahoma Vault

5: It was beautiful, it was lovely, we went out there and ENJOYED THIS

Recap by Katherine. Weaver

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