Make It or Break It Down: Season 1, Episode 18

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.

S1E18: The Great Wall

We open with Damon and Emily at the Pizza Shack, and it’s sooo awkward. He decides to alleviate the tension by saying, “You think I’m a loser like all the men your mother ever dated.” Emily gives him the stink eye, but really… Where’s the lie? 

Because this situation wasn’t cringe-worthy enough, Leo shows up! He’s back in town to support his mom and Kaylie since their family is in shambles. Leo orders a ham and pineapple pizza; Damon rings up the order and promptly chucks Leo’s platinum credit card back at him like an absolute badass.

Speaking of the Cruzes’ crumbling home life, Kaylie’s mom interrupts her doing homework with an offer to make dinner. Kaylie refuses because she doesn’t accept food or parenting from adulteresses. 

Despite Kaylie and Emily being left off the team competing at the unnamed yet Very Important Meet in China, Sasha’s still pushing them exceptionally hard and making them run miles on rugged, uneven terrain. Not sure how them doing distance running is going to help improve their gymnastics… 

When Kaylie points out this folly, Sasha says, “Know what was great about Payson? She never complained.” Well, Sasha, she also broke her back because she didn’t complain.

Speak of the devil, Payson comes breezing up the hill and across the finish line an entire minute faster than her previous post-op PR. “I can do better, I’m going again.” Sasha inexplicably rewards this behavior by saying, “Now that is the attitude of a champion!” DUDE! That is the attitude of a teenager who nearly paralyzed herself and engaged in a felonious conspiracy to steal prescription drugs, but I’m sure things will be different this time!

Turns out Sasha is pushing the girls so hard because Team China is coming to The Rock. National Champion Kaylie is superconfident because she’s increased her “DoDs” and when she wins, “The national committee won’t be able to play politics anymore.” 

Oh my, the Keelers are FIFTY FREAKING THOUSAND DOLLARS in debt thanks to Payson’s non-essential surgery and have to sell their house. The realtor tells Kim, “Well, the market is garbage, but you might get enough to be able to pay off your loan. It could be worse; you could have two mortgages!” 

At Chateau Cruz, Summer is leading a meeting with The Rock moms to figure out how to raise $30,000 to pay for all of the Chinese team’s expenses so they’ll come to Sasha’s ego meet.  

Kim notes that Fake USAG is against this whole thing, suggesting, “Maybe we should just be careful before we go alienating the entire gymnastics community.” (Seattle Pacific admins take note; this is solid advice.) Ronnie goes on a weird rant about her affair with Marty, which amuses Chloe (and me, if I’m being honest).  

Payson’s at the PT, and he asks how her back’s feeling. “I’m as loose as Paris Hilton!”

That somehow convinces him to clear her to resume training, but only “A-level skills” for the first week. *foreshadowing*

At The Rock, four time Olympic gold medalist Sasha is doing chin ups on the uneven bars with flexed feet. Alexei Nemov would never… 

Summer interrupts him to say that she won $1,500 playing Bingo at her church.

Oh OK, this actually is relevant to the plot. She thinks they should have a Bingo fundraiser for the China vs. The Rock meet, but TWIST! Sasha hasn’t even invited the Chinese to come yet. He’s banking on them being hyper-competitve and annoyed that the U.S. team didn’t send their national champion to the sanctioned meet. Summer scolds him for being dishonest. Like, she actually wags her finger at him. 

At the Pizza Shack, Emily is unloading on Damon because she spilled some salt when Kaylie, Leo and Ronnie walk in. They tell Emily they’re there to scope out the restaurant because they’ll be having The Rock’s Bingo fundraiser there. “They’re having it here? Who’s idea was that?!”

Ronnie thinks this place is “too working class…” Ronnie, you’re literally hosting a Bingo fundraiser. 

Kaylie promises Emily that they won’t let Sasha find out she works at Pizza Shack, that only Ronnie knows. Oh, but they did invite Mrs. Keeler to this scouting visit. And Summer (who definitely doesn’t have the hots for Sasha, has no moral objection to either lying or rule-breaking and has no history of blabbing other people’s secrets). 

Summer doesn’t take kindly to this description, to which Ronnie says, “Maybe next time you want to consider keeping your mouth shut.” Chloe chimes in, “Or your legs!” I literally cackled out loud.

So, Leo is shockingly cool with Carter cheating on his little sister and their mom cheating on their dad. He thinks Kaylie should forgive both of them for “not being perfect” before she ends up alone. 

Emily confronts Damon for being shitty to Leo since they aren’t even together. He says, “I can’t feel good about being with you if I don’t feel good about myself.” Touché. 

The next morning, Summer is pissed off at Sasha because she didn’t tell the moms the whole truth about the invitational being entirely theoretical at this point, and it’s weighing on her soul. “You have your own ‘unique’ value system, but I answer to God!” 

They turn on the actual U.S. vs. China meet, and—oh em gee—the U.S. is leading halfway through the first rotation. “We could be watching one of the biggest upsets in gymnastics history!” 

The girls are wondering how Lauren, Kelly Parker and the rest of the U.S. team fared at the meet. That’s the cue for a dejected Sasha to stumble out of his office and confess that this meet they’ve been training and fundraising for is totally theoretical. However, it turns out the Chinese utterly dominated the U.S. team in the remaining 3.5 rotations, so he’s confident they’ll now agree to come.

Kaylie invites Payson and Emily over to watch the Winter Olympics so they can figure out the best way to win the meet. The Winter Olympics. (I’d include this in The Balance Check, but there’s a solid chance Shawn Johnson has said this or something similar.) 

The next day, Sasha gives a press conference apologizing to the Chinese coach for how much “shame” he must be feeling for beating an anemic U.S. team. He graciously offers to let him “save face” by coming to The Rock to face “the real U.S. dream team,” which as far as I can tell is just Kaylie, Emily and maybe Lauren if she gets back from China in time? Bold move. 

Flash forward to everyone pitching in to decorate the Pizza Shack for Bingo. Given that Ronnie’s main complaint was that the restaurant is too déclassé, I’m not sure why she chose this aesthetic.

Damon and Emily sort of have a heart-to-heart where he asks her not to give up on him (except he just told her 12 hours ago that he couldn’t be with her until he’s a rock star). Kaylie and Emily follow it up with a talk about sabotaging relationships. 

Uh oh, Payson found a For Sale sign in her front yard, forcing Kim to come clean. Now Payson needs to get a job at Pizza Shack, too. Kaylie overhears her discussing this with Emily and offers to share some of her endorsement money. Payson refuses the offer because in addition to being Focused, she’s also Proud. Honestly, this shit’s kind of heavy… Thank goodness Chloe Kmetko arrives to lighten the mood. 

She floats the idea that they rig the Bingo game so that the Keelers win. “You call it cheating, I call it charity.” To be fair, it’s not the worst idea she’s ever had. 

Back at The Rock, Sasha’s flustered because the Chinese still haven’t responded. Summer gives him a little pep talk and tells him to pray on it.

Later on at the fundraiser, Kim apologizes to Summer for giving her grief over keeping Sasha’s secret. She then asks if there’s anything going on between them. Summer admits he’s a very attractive man but they don’t share the same beliefs. Also, she thinks it’d be sad for Lauren. 

Kaylie forces a reluctant Kim to play for the $10,000 jackpot, which unbeknownst to her, she’s guaranteed to win. It’s a good thing this lady is helping them cheat because Kim is stunningly bad at Bingo. It’s a dauber, Kim, not a “neon thingie.” 

Sasha gets a threatening call from some Fake USAG lady. She had a little chat with the Chinese federation and, “They don’t want to piss us off. They won’t be coming to your little ‘challenge.'” She also says there will be “serious consequences for your little stunt.” As he’s leaving The Rock in disgrace, we hear the phone ring again… 

At the fundraiser, the plot is going smoothly until Chloe spills her drink—that’s definitely just water and not vodka on the rocks—on the napkin with Kim’s Bingo numbers written in Sharpie on it. Kim is only two numbers away from winning and starts shouting repeatedly, “Gimme some G love, baby.” 

Chloe improvises wildly as Ronnie finds out what number Kim still needs. I shit you not, she thanks Jesus in Heaven and Marie Osmond because she’s a little bit country, and He’s a little bit rock ‘n’ roll? 

Chloe finally gets the intel she needs to call Kim’s final winning number. Kim starts screaming and Payson throws a drink, which I kind of love. 

Summer goes to Sasha’s trailer to see if he’s heard from China. Sure enough, his plan worked and they’ve accepted. She and Sasha celebrate by doing this. 

Back at the Pizza Shack, Kaylie decides to throw her mom a bone and compliments her on pulling off a great fundraiser (and those classy decorations). Ronnie surprises her with a copy of her spread in Seventeen magazine. 

Apparently that’s all it takes to thaw Kaylie out, and she and Ronnie hug it out. 

Meanwhile, Emily and Leo talk about the scariness of a Yurchenko one and a half. He offers to help her figure out the landing, so she hugs him. Obviously, Damon sees this and gets angsty over it. 

Carter walks in while Kaylie’s scrubbing dishes. They throw suds at each other and then start making out. 

Kim gets home and has a voicemail from Payson’s PT saying he gave her the go-ahead to start training again over a week ago but never heard back from her. Cut to The Rock. Payson’s there, in the dark, trying to make herself get back on bars but she just can’t do it. 

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 Sasha Still Not Knowing that Emily Works at Pizza Shack

  • Chloe Kmetko coming up with a sick burn AND a successful plot in the same week. Minus 3. 
  • Sasha telling Emily she shouldn’t have any problems competing a Yurchenko one and a half with little-to-no training because “all you have to do is add an extra half twist and a blind landing.” I mean, technically yes, but… Minus 2.
  • Elderly Bingo players agreeing to let someone else win. I’ve worked in enough assisted living facilities to know that would never, ever happen. Minus 9.   

Total: -14

Realer Than U.S. Commentators Being Needlessly Hyperbolic

  • Summer rejecting Sasha because he’s not religious, but eventually kissing him anyway. Plus 6. 
  • Payson getting the yips. Plus 3. 
  • Kaylie and Carter’s on-again/off-again relationship. It’s a classic TV trope for a reason, folks. Plus 4. 

Total: 13

Like The Rock team while Lauren’s in China, this episode is minus one. 


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 Claire Billman

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