Make It or Break It Down: Season 1, Episode 20

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.

S1E20: We Are Family?

We made it to the last episode of season 1! Right off the bat, I love that the episode is called We Are Family? with a question mark.

It’s China versus The Rock week and there are So. Many. Reporters. Domestic and international reporters at that. One from China is interviewing Emily because she thinks she’s someone else. She finally realizes who Emily actually is and says, “Oh, Emily Kmetko… You’re the one everyone thinks doesn’t deserve to be on the national team!” 

Sasha and Summer are frantic because Kaylie is MIA. We learn that MJ has talked her out of competing because this is a non-sanctioned meet that could jeopardize her status on the NT and her endorsements. Also, this is an individual quest for gold and she doesn’t owe anyone—including her teammates—anything. I mean, those arguments are kind of solid? 

Meanwhile, Kim is giving the other girls tips on how not to offend the Chinese by making prolonged eye contact or shaking hands too vigorously.     

The Chinese team arrives and is dressed like the girls from Madeline.

 Lauren calls them “little gym bots” and offers a thoroughly offensive narrative about Chinese gymnastic culture.

Ellen, the Fake USAG official with the fierce track suit game, shows up to tell Sasha that Kaylie ain’t coming so she can crow about his ruined meet. It’s so damn petty, I literally expected her to say, “FACED!” 

Sasha then announces to the press that Rachel will be competing in Kaylie’s place, which understandably pisses off the Chinese coach because they didn’t travel 7000 miles to face the second string team. Sasha assures him they’ll still put up a good fight. Coach answers, “I assure you, we will bury your team. And then I will bury you!”  

I cant handle this poorly-CGIed Pizza Shack sign. I’m guessing the SFX budget ran out a few episodes ago.  

Carter and Damon are debating whether or not he should reach out to Emily and let her know how he feels before leaving for six months on his music tour. Carter convinces him to write her a letter and leave it with her paycheck, which Damon does. On an order pad. Love it. 

Lauren and Carter show up at Kaylie’s and look appropriately ashamed of themselves.They go through the whole sob story about Carter living in Lauren’s attic and how there’s nothing going on between them, but Kaylie is unmoved.

At The Rock, Emily is still sitting her (tucked) Yurchenko one and a half as Leo looks on uselessly. She’s also lost her scholarship for having a job, which is a bummer. I like how she also casually mentions, “I also shouldn’t have gotten caught dating someone…” as she walks away from him. You can see Leo’s hopes dashed in real time. 

They stop at Pizza Shack to pick up Emily’s paycheck and Leo sees Damon’s note. He takes it while she’s in the back. Classy move. Also, point of order: I was working in restaurants in 2009; this is not how we got paid.

Ronnie asks Sasha if he can come over and give Kaylie some fatherly advice since her own dad is AWOL. Instead, Sasha tracks down Alex and gives him a talking to. (First, Alex is a bazillionaire; why is he staying in this claptrap? Like, this place makes the Budd Motel look like the Ritz Carleton. Second, why does Sasha know where he’s staying?) True to form, Alex doesn’t respond well to people calling him out on being a shitty father. 

It’s the day of the meet. Summer and Sasha have made up. She says, “I’ve got to admit, going rogue is kinda fun.” 

Emily’s decided she’s going to “go back to her old landing.” Payson nods in sympathy and admits that she still can’t do bars. Emily, in turn, confesses that she said, “I love you,” to Damon. Payson says if she can do THAT, she can certainly do a blind landing.  Also, these warm-up suits are ON POINT. 

Ellen is at Chateau Cruz for a friendly chat. Ronnie says Alex won’t be joining because he was suddenly called out of town.

As though he was waiting for the perfect moment to make Ronnie look like an idiot, Alex walks through the door. They talk and Ellen says Kaylie’s an asset to her country and the team. Uh huh… Where’s the “but?” 

She claims they kept Kaylie out of Beijing because there’s no way she’d come out a winner there. She then strokes Alex’s ego to a disturbing degree. He’s totally into it, but Kaylie is not. (Let’s take a beat to appreciate this cinematography. NONE FOR RONNIE CRUZ!)

Ah, OK, good. As soon as Ellen leaves, Alex calls her a pompous ass and asks Kaylie why the hell she isn’t competing. Kaylie admits she doesn’t think she can win and prove nationals wasn’t a fluke, so Alex tells her to suck it up and face her fears. This may be the first time I’ve liked him. 

It’s the day of the big meet. The Chinese sashay into The Rock with BDE (Big Dutch Energy).

The commentators claim they’re not only the best Chinese team, but maybe the best team ever (the 1992 Unified Olympic team would like a word).

Gotta say, I’m impressed the casting director found an actress who looks so much like Tim Daggett. 

Ha, Ellen’s there and has brought Kelly Parker to throw shade at The Rock team. Sasha’s giving a racist pep talk when Kaylie marches in and announces she’s going to compete. Poor Rachel’s like, “COME ON!” 

Alex tells Ellen his daughter doesn’t make deals with the devil. Sick burn, my dude, well done. 

Kaylie gives the team another fabulous and not-at-all racist pep talk. She says fear is cool because it means you have passion, plus they’re basically a family. How very Miss Val of her! They’re starting on floor and vault with gymnasts from both teams competing in mixed groups on both events because Reasons. 

The Chinese team’s superstar Genji Cho (#AuthenticChineseName) won every gold medal in Beijing at that lame ass meet with six people competing. Good for her. She does her floor routine and the commentator says, “I’m speechless… A three and a half twist, who does that?!” Uh, definitely not Genji “My Opening Pass was a 2.25” Cho.

Poor Kaylie has to follow Genji, her “first appearance at a competition of this magnitude since nationals!” You mean this intrasquad meet at her home gym? Just making sure we’re on the same page. Anyway, Kaylie nails her routine and earns the silver, just behind Genji. Genji congratulates her by saying, “That was very good for you being so old!” Glad to see the age-shaming works both ways in the MIOBI universe. 

Next up is Emily on vault. After a pep talk from Payson, she busts out a laid out 1.5 of Kyla Ross-ian proportions to win the bronze. Not too bad since we’ve been watching her sit the tucked version for approximately half a season. 

Here comes Genji on bars and “it’s as close to perfect as you’re gonna get!” Is it? Again, Kaylie follows after Genji, but this time Lauren is simultaneously competing on beam. Shake ‘n’ Bake! 

OUUUUCH. They both stick their dismounts, but Lauren rolls her ankle (and I’m pretty sure whoever did the stunt work actually rolled her ankle. I felt that in places where my ankle ligaments used to be… 

Everyone’s so enchanted by Lauren taking the lead on beam that they don’t notice her limping off the mat and then collapsing in a busted heap. This complicates things, because even with her solid routine, Kaylie can’t snag a bars medal. With Lauren now out and everyone else being veritable garbage, that just leaves Payson and Emily.

Payson, the one who’s just a few months post-op from near-paralysis and major back surgery.

Payson who hasn’t done bars since her devastating fall at nationals because she has the yips.

That Payson.

Sasha explains this is a good idea because even if she doesn’t medal, it will inspire her team. THAT’S NOT THE POINT, SASHA!

She does a very lovely level 9 routine that gets bonus points for having a 1.5 twist dismount. The crowd—even asshole Ellen and Kelly Parker—are suitably inspired and give her the standing ovation she deserves. 

The only person unaffected by Payson’s fabulousness is Genji, who turns in a beautiful beam routine that supplants Lauren in the top spot (how sad for her).

The last competitor on bars is Emily. Her routine is so awesome that even Lauren Tanner yells, “That was awesome!” and hugs her. Remember when Emily first came to The Rock and Lauren tried to murder her during their intrasquad by messing with her vault settings? Glad to see they’ve put that behind them. 

Emily’s silver on bars erases anyone’s doubts about her worth as a gymnast/human and restores Sasha’s honor because The Patriarchy is like that.

The final competitor for the day is Kaylie on beam. If she gets a medal, The Rock will have earned more medals than that stupid team handpicked by Ellen and Fake USAG.


Sasha tells Kaylie to throw in the triple twist dismount that he’s “seen her try” so she can prove that she’s the best in the U.S. and one of the best in the world. He is really nailing this coaching thing! 

Because television, the gamble pays off. She nails the triple and ousts Genji from the top spot (pushing Lauren into third is just a tasty bonus). Kaylie is apparently the first gymnast to beat Genji in years. In the immortal words of Carly Patterson, “Aw, that’s too bad.” 

Steve Tanner is so happy he hugs both his exes, Summer and Chloe (he’s inexplicably sitting in between them like that’s a normal thing to do). Kaylie’s parents also hug. Good gymnastics will clear your skin and repair your crumbling romantic relationships. 

The commentator says, “Someone at the national team has a lot of explaining to do…” We’ll just let that line speak for itself. 

Ellen goes over to Sasha and says, “I still don’t like you.” “Yeah, well you don’t have to.” BAHAHAHAHA.

Afterward, The Rock crew is celebrating at the Pizza Shack because of course they are. Emily and Leo are at a table together. She thanks him for all of his help and support, which guilts him into giving her Damon’s letter. I’m surprised and delighted that Emily tells him it wasn’t his call to make and leaves. 

Why is Lauren icing her ankle on a table people eat off of?!?! 

Kaylie goes to check on her, and Lauren gives her attitude for winning gold on beam. She then calls Kaylie back and tells her that even though she can’t trust her, she can trust Carter. 

Emily comes in and demands Carter turn on the radio. Aww, remember radios? Damon’s giving an interview and gushing over her. Emily looks about as uncomfortable as I would be. 

Damon announces that he’s going to sing for the first time in public on the radio because love has given him wings, even though he’s bummed Emily’s moved on. “I love you, Emily, wherever you are…” The song’s really not bad. 2009 me would have been In. To. This. 

Emily gives Chloe her blessing to bang Steve Tanner before rushing off to catch Damon before he leaves. Inspired, Kaylie calls Carter and leaves him a voicemail telling him she loves him and that he should come to her bedroom tonight. Emily arrives at an empty radio station. The DJ explains that the interview and set were pre-recorded. 

In the final montage, we see Kaylie in her room waiting for Carter. Poor Emily is asleep and still wearing her silver medal. Payson has no boy drama; she’s in one of her infinite pairs of cute pajamas rearranging her trophies, and clears off a space for First Place 2010. 

Lauren goes into Carter’s apartment to find it seemingly empty. Carter walks in and this happens to close out Season 1. 

Balance Check

Faker Than Sasha’s Coaching Choices

  • A U.S. male commentator who isn’t Our Blessed Bart Conner being moved to tears by an inspiring routine. Minus 2.
  • All that media coverage for a glorified domestic meet that doesn’t count for anything? Minus 5 (but like, I wish though)
  • Sasha deciding not once, but twice to have his gymnasts perform skills (or in Payson’s case, an entire routine) that they weren’t even remotely ready to do. Minus 9.
  • That competition format was… interesting. Minus 3.
  • Emily’s whole scholarship situation still doesn’t make much sense. Why are you punishing an athlete for needing money? Minus 7.

Total: -26

Realer Than American Gymnasts Making Racist Comments About the Chinese Gymnasts Not Looking Their Age

  • A reporter asking Lauren how she’s going to bounce back after “having one of her worst performances ever last month!” Plus 5.
  • A gymnast learning she’s going to be competing in a high stakes meet when the coach announces it to the press. Plus 2.
  • A guy justifying his terrible behavior by saying he was just “trying to protect you.” Plus 8. 
  • Alex Cruz doing the right thing for once and telling Kaylie to face her fears and compete. Plus 4.

Total: 19

Despite some great moments, MIOBI earned a -7 on the reality index in its season finale. That being said, it still holds up as one of our faves of the season because Reasons.


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 and Kalley Leer

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