Make It or Break It Down: Season 1, Episode 19

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.

S1E19: The Only Thing We Have To Fear…

The girls are sleeping over in the gym to simulate the Chinese gymnasts’ definitely real lifestyle where they sleep in the actual gym. Not sure where he got any idea of this stereotype since it’s not like the media perpetuates and even exaggerates those ideas in a wild attempt at othering.

Sasha hears them talking and having fun and quickly puts a stop to that. Sasha, you sanctioned a literal sleepover as a team activity…you can take the teen rite of passage out of the typical environment, but you can’t take the fun out of the teen rite of passage.

He goes into the office where we see he’s subjected Summer to this misery too.

I feel like they made her wear this to appear sexy and inviting, but it looks like the sleeveless version of a tunic on the clearance rack at Chico’s.

We get a little flirtation between them but she seems to want to keep things strictly business.

At the Pizza Shack, Carter gloats about getting Kaylie back while Damon’s like, “Yeah, I’m out of prison, that’s enough of an accomplishment for me.” They wish their relationships didn’t have to be kept secre—and I can’t say I blame them—but once they start throwing around the term “Rock Girls,” I get skeeved out.

The next day, random national team administrator Ellen comes in and threatens Sasha with taking the Rock girls off the national team if he doesn’t swear allegiance to the organization. Exercising one of his few commendable traits, Sasha blows off the establishment.

Artistic parallels:

The administrator decides on other tactics to mess with Sasha and decides to mess with the gymnasts one by one: first comes Emily and asking about her family’s financial status. This is definitely done out of the kindness of her heart and not with the intention of finding juicy details to incriminate her later.

If someone told me they cared about my well-being while wearing a sky blue tracksuit, I’d ask them if it was MY well-being they should really be concerned about.

Sidebar: can we talk about how this show employs women as high-ranking officials within “USA Gymnastics” but then uses them as surrogates to do the show’s dirty work and be evil for no reason? There’s a stereotype called “Trinity syndrome” that explains the phenomena quite well.

Citing distractions, Chloe breaks up with Steve in the parking lot. Girl, if you were worried about distractions, why’d you wear both those patterns in one look?

This happens right as both of their daughters exit the doors of the gym and see it. Lauren doesn’t believe they’re actually breaking up because there’s no way a pauper like Chloe would leave a man of Steve’s stature. In other words:

When Emily can’t figure out a blind landing on her vault, Sasha implores Payson to help her instead of the far-too-challenging option of…changing the vault she competes.

Me assuring my professor that my 10 page paper will be done tomorrow as I stare at the half page of work I have done.

Lauren comes home to Carter in the attic and informs her of her and Kaylie’s truce: They’re not going to let guys come between them anymore. That’s all well and good until Carter tells her that he and Kaylie patched things up.

Lauren at every moment in which she’s in Carter’s presence.

Emily arrives at Pizza Shack and is instantly verbally harassed by Damon, who announces he’s entered a music contest being hosted by NPR. The prize is to open for Green Day on its tour. Given that he has the access to hijack famous bands’ tour buses, does he really need this exposure? Yet another white man taking a platform from someone who needs it more.

Lauren forces Kaylie to open up about Carter and promises to never let a guy come between them again, for real this time. Repeat “last words” GiF from above. Hopefully the next “guy” in question isn’t as clingy as this weirdo.

The meeting is interrupted by slimy agent MJ, who implores Kaylie to withdraw from the disgraced upcoming meet. She threatens pulled sponsorships and loss of revenue if she goes through with it. Ah, the things they pulled sponsorships for in 2009 were so quaint.

Damon and Emily make up as Emily explains why doing a vault with a blind landing is kind of like a metaphor for their relationship. Because things could go horribly wrong and someone could end up with a broken neck?

So of course Damon makes it all about him because if Emily can take a chance on a blind landing, she can definitely take a chance on a future music superstar like this guy.

He then goes to put his arms around Emily with those squeaky clean hands. I’m gagging.

Kaylie’s mom receives divorce papers in the mail, so Kaylie misses practice the next day to go to her dad’s hotel room as her mom’s surrogate and begs him to take her back. Her dad says she needs to focus on gymnastics instead of trivial matters like her personal life, and implores her to listen to her heart when it comes to competing at the meet. Struggling with the equal weight of her decision and the down jacket she’s wearing, Kaylie struggles.

Payson tries to help Emily with her vault, but between feeling all Pepé Le Pew about Damon and stressed because Kaylie isn’t there, Emily’s sucking hard.

Speaking of Damon, he intelligently quits the pizza shop when he finds out that, against all odds, he’s won the music contest. Because why quit a steady stream of income when the chance for fast cash is being dangled in your face like a carrot?

In an effort at relating to Emily via mutual trauma, Payson confides in her that she’s allowed to train and has been lying about it because she’s scared. They encourage each other to release their rational fears inhibitions and just…go for it.

And doesn’t she look confident about doing it.

Sasha oversteps his boundaries for the millionth time this episode and goes to Kaylie’s house to convince her to still compete. She goes on a little diatribe about standing up for herself then eventually just says yes. Kaylie, you always fly so high, but when it comes to the landing…you balk. Have you been commiserating with Emily?

Having exhausted all possible options of psychological warfare, random national team administrator Ellen tells Sasha she’ll be mounting a case for Emily to be disqualified from the national team because she’s…gainfully employed at the pizza shop and thus isn’t eligible for her scholarship. In a related story, Ellen will tell us how her internship with the NCAA prepared her for life in the big leagues.

Sasha pulls up to the pizza place on what happens to be the busiest night of the year, which just so happens to be the night Damon said bye Felicia. The owner of the shop makes fun of Emily for not being able to keep up with the tables and Sasha goes all Hulk-smash mode on both her and Emily in their very place of employment.

Sasha looks like he’s coming out of the club bathroom after refreshing himself, ready to rally for part two of the evening.

He yells at Emily for concealing the job but then gaslights her and tells her that money is more important than competing, so she doesn’t have to do it. That’s cue for Emily to switch tracks, too; she’s going to compete anyway, money be damned.

Damon tries to call Emily from new venture into musical fame but is immediately rebuffed by her newly “I follow all the rules so I’m ditching men” persona, and she hangs up on him. I’d have thought the camera would have then panned onto Damon at the scene of his gig, but the producers didn’t have that in store for us, so it probably wasn’t as impressive as he made it seem.

Emily then mopes home and tells her mom about it, who helpfully offers the fact that they’ll “figure it out.” Thank God we have Chloe’s analysis.

Let’s check in on two other clowns:

Lauren tells Carter she loves him in spite of all his assclownery, but she loves Kaylie all the same and wants them to be happy. Then they hug and it’s not at all awkward. It would really be too bad if Kaylie walked in on them in this moment. Oh, hey, that’s exactly what happened!

One more episode to resolve all this crap.

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’s Chemistry with Summer

  • Genji Cho. That’s your Chinese gymnast extraordinaire. Do better. Minus 15.
  • If Summer was REALLY a chaperone, she’d have been right down there in the trenches with the girls instead of on the office couch like a princess. Minus 4.
  • The money you get for being on national team isn’t a scholarship. Minus 5.
  • Yet again, the customers at the Pizza Shack seem way too willing to accept the obnoxious antics from its employees in the back… If Yelp existed at this time, the bad reviews would be popping out. Minus 9.

Total: -33

Realer Than Damon’s Pedestrian Referral to Gymnastics as “Flippy Things”

  • “Not letting a guy get between us…except THAT guy” is one of those conditional statement we make to salvage friendships that feels all too real. Plus 4.
  • Steve greeting Chloe with “seems like you’re ignoring me!” Men really save their moments of clarity for the times it’s needed least. Plus 6.
  • Manipulative members of the gymnastics national team staff…never seen that before! Plus 8.
  • Having to host national team events in clubs…of course they did it here for different reasons than the real USAG, but the foresight was there. Plus 5.
  • The fixation on beating the Chinese remains, and it still sucks. Plus 6.

Total: 29

MIOBI earned a -4 in its penultimate episode. As in, what is this all (negative) for?


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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