Make It or Break It Down: Season 1, Episode 7

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.

S1E7: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Emily walks into the gym and is kindly greeted by Lauren, who reminds her that her fall last week cost the team the invitational. Emily points out that Lauren had a fall of her own. Geez, if I wanted to hear nitpicking about whose fault a lost meet was from 10 years ago, I’d have gotten on Twitter for the 2008 Beijing team final replay.

“The only rock she belongs in is the one she crawled out from under.”


Lauren is quickly distracted by Kaylie’s big rock of a new necklace from Carter, which she says is so cheap that Kaylie’s neck “might turn green right away.” Let me try my hand at one of Lauren’s bad insults: “The only thing that’s green here is your jealous heart.” ☕🐸

Payson’s pissed that her dad’s forgotten to take off work for nationals, about which he asks, “Is that a big deal?” He was joking, but…

Sasha introduces a mysterious sports agent figure to the girls, who promises she’s gonna make them all stars. She’s a consultant with the show’s equivalent of USA Gymnastics, so my fight-or-flight reflexes were instantly triggered. The “girls” here are everyone except Emily, who’s been relegated to chalking up alone.

But even THAT sad state isn’t acceptable punishment for Sasha, who kicks her out of the gym. Way to sabotage your own gym’s success by throwing out a star gymnast for the sheer fact that she exercised her own autonomy. I love when people I don’t like let their pride get in the way of their success.

She sulks off to the pizza shack, where…it pains me to finally use his real name…DAMON asks why she’s at work during the day for once. When she tells him about her ouster, he suggests breaking into the gym at night to train and impress Sasha. Can’t wait for the James Bond-esque stunt scene this will surely inspire later.

Further interrupting her from her work duties, Payson, Kaylie and Lauren saunter in to make fun of her for being gainfully employed say they’re sorry Sasha is such a little brat. But the fun is interrupted when Payson notices a familiar face:

1) Payson’s dad looks like Bob Odenkirk and 2) we kind of have to stan this pizza place for giving second chances to people who need a job? Like I get why that could backfire for you with some people (see: Chloe Kmetko), but props to them for acknowledging that some people just need a leg up.

Back at the Keeler compound, Payson’s mom isn’t so moved. She freaks at dad for not telling her about his new gig. Payson’s sister (I guess…?) says it’s all Payson’s fault for having a dream she wants to achieve. It’s Payson’s turn to have a “wistfully sit on the bed and reflect” moment.

Kaylie calls Lauren to tell her that cute necklace Carter bought her has gone missing. Lauren’s like…

…and we see she STOLE it all along! Swiping Emily’s look at the fashion show, now this? Is kleptomania a side effect of spoiled brattiness?

Speaking of being a brat, Summer tries to be nice to Lauren but as always, she’s not having it. Summer is nonetheless kind and offers a compliment to Lauren on her necklace. I instantly love her more for unintentionally throwing the shade.

Emily and Damon begin their quest to infiltrate the gym under cover of darkness. Emily muses she wouldn’t be the first in her family to go to jail, and Damon is like “The more I learn about you, Kmetko, the more I find intriguing.” Yup, inherited family trauma is so intriguing!

After Damon successfully passes the gym’s intense security system by picking the lock, he bounces up and down on the rod floor wearing SHOES. If Sasha wouldn’t have already lost his shit, this would be the time for him to do it. Because Teen Drama and Sexual Tension, the result of their bouncing becomes:

The heavy breathing in the background right there…be thankful I’m the one that had to hear it and not you. Nothing actually happens here (Freeform’s like 😉🙈), but Emily further ramps up the tension by describing her “full-in back-out” dismount to Damon…you know, to make sure he can spot her since there’s nobody else there to do it.

Speaking of sexual tension, it’s clear there’s a little something something going on between Sasha and MJ as he walks her through which gymnasts are the best in the gym.

(I have to wonder…of all the romantic interests in the show, did the writers just want these two together because of their shared British accent or their mutual hotness? Because otherwise, the chemistry is just…yeah, what’s chemistry?)

Emily continues the trend of being more mature than her mother by getting ready to go out in a look fit for an interview at the local credit union.

Chloe implies Emily should seduce Sasha to get back into his good graces because that’s legal! She seems almost excited when Emily says no, not because it was an unreasonable idea, but because she, Chloe, gets to try it out herself.

Kaylie enlists Payson’s help to scrounge through the bushes to look for her necklace. Lauren watches, bemused; not only did she get to screw over a friend, she gets to watch her perform backbreaking labor. And now, a visual representation of the compassions she possesses:

Emily’s mom’s attempt to entice Sasha goes about as well as you’d expect. Shocking, considering the sexy outfit she donned for the occasion:

Because nothing says “clandestine affair” like a suit a First Lady would wear to her husband’s inauguration. Sasha turns to his true love interest, Miss MJ. They have another one of those fake flirty exchanges before she says he’s too old for her. Based on what I thought both their ages were, this was my reaction too.

Payson approaches MJ and asks her to be her agent so she can make money and singlehandedly bring her family out of the red. Delighted, MJ presents her with this binder of intel she prepared in a not-at-all weird way without Payson’s knowledge. Shady back room dealings…now THIS is the gymnastics I know!

Since Summer hasn’t had much luck with one would-be daughter, she tries her hand with another vulnerable young individual.

Kaylie crying in the driver’s seat of her car might be the most relatable moment of this show thus far. She remains forlorn about her lost necklace, which, upon description, Summer starts to realize is a very familiar design.

She saves face, but it’s clear she’s connected the dots. Let’s see how this model of Christian charity plays her cards next.

Payson reveals her plans to hit the cover of Sports Illustrated (or something) to her parents after her dad reveals he’s going to commute from Denver to Minnesota to make ends meet.

If you have to cross over a whole Nebraska to get somewhere, is it worth doing?

That idea apparently still sounds attractive enough to her parents that they dismiss Payson’s plans. Plus, she won’t be able to get a scholarship to college. Sad to see a missed opportunity for discourse on goofy NCAA rules that PROBABLY would have been a thing if this show was produced now.

Back in the Rock After Hours™️, if this isn’t a Balance Beam Situation, I don’t know what is.

Emily decides she wants to really up her bars difficulty by adding a Jaeger to her routine. THAT will show him…Sunisa Lee levels of difficulty right there!

Another *wink wink nudge nudge* moment ensues between her and Damon, but Emily determines she just can’t with men at the moment and turns her attention to “more practice.” Which she needed, because the next day she’s back at the Rock ready to wave it in Sasha’s face.

She walks in a bit like this…

…and does what’s implied to be flawless bars routine, “flawless” being she hit the Jaeger and dismount. (I counted two missed handstands, but whatevs!)

Sasha refuses to to accept this mastery and makes a big show of getting really close to Emily and whispering while everyone’s watching to prove his point.

He then refers to her as a “dog that won’t listen” (EW PUKE OH MY GOD) and casts her off. I’m vomiting. MJ, are you hearing how your boy toy treats women?

No, you just want to get the best angle for media consumption? Great!

Emily apparently still has a stomach after this little talking to, because she pulls herself up and runs away to the sound of angsty music.

As if one intense montage wasn’t enough, we watch Emily perform basic skills in frankly poor form off various toys on a playground. This is also how I blow off steam when I’m pissed. She even gears up for that recent Tik Tok challenge eleven years in advance.

Summer reveals she’s shadier than she lets on when she waltzes into the Rock and threatens to Lauren that she’ll tell Kaylie about the necklace. The only way she’ll keep the secret is if Lauren listens to another of her sanctimonious monologues about “earning a space in her friends’ lives” that frankly doesn’t seem to hit on the message at hand here. But the point is made, and Lauren walks away, definitely about to repent for what she’s done.

Emily apparently had a LOT of steam to blow off because she’s still at the park at night. Chloe, who I guess decided it might be worth looking into her daughter’s whereabouts, has found her, and it looks like the two are about to square up.

Chloe gets that she’s in a testy mood and is feeling done with gymnastics, so she offers a way out: The two of them could go to work together at her friend’s nail salon in Las Vegas. This terrifying scenario was the motivation Emily didn’t know she needed, so she’s like…

…all the way to Sasha’s trailer, during which time she got caught in the pouring rain. She begs him to take her back right then and there.

Cinematic parallels: This scene and the ending of the classic Reese Witherspoon rom-com “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Sorry, I had to.

Sasha’s impressed that Emily was willing to mess up her hair in the rain own up to her mistakes, and they go right into the Rock to train. Perks of living directly in front of your workplace!

The ensuing scene is honestly too ridiculous for words. So I’ll let their dialogue do the talking. Sasha tells Emily she needs to submit to him, Emily says she’s needed him more than she’s “ever needed someone in [her] life” and this happens.

You already know how creepy this is. We’re moving on.

Me watching Emily have more sensual encounters in a gym under the cover of darkness than I’ve had at any place at any time of day

Having decided Payson won’t be selling her soul to the athlete promotion industrial complex, the Keelers watch as their patriarch gets ready to ship off to the dark trenches of Minnesota.

Seriously, why are they acting like he’s joining the army in World War II? I thought the idea was that he’s “commuting?” I guess when there’s a whole Nebraska between you, you just look at life with a new, more clear-eyed perspective.

The next day, like your cat bringing a dead bird to your doorstep, Lauren presents Kaylie with her missing necklace. In another display of safe gymnastics practices these people seem to be known for, Kaylie puts it on immediately.

Emily then heads back to the pizza shop to inform Damon she won’t be working day shifts anymore, and they share one last tender moment where she asks him the totally relevant question: “What are you afraid of?”

My face at what feels like the 50th “will they or won’t they” moment that doesn’t culminate in a kiss. Y’all have bowed down to every cliche in the book at this point, why not this one? It feels goofy at this point, but somehow I feel like this won’t be the last opportunity for a kiss on this horny-ass show.

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 a Gymnast Being Kicked out of a Gym for a Bar Dismount

  • Why is Payson the only person who actually looks like she just came from practice when they visit Emily at the Pizza Shack? Lauren has a full-blown head of curls happening. Minus 2.
  • So does The Rock just not have security cameras, or a sophisticated system of locks, or…? I know it’s 2009, but we did have technology then, guys. Minus 3.
  • I know that Emily was likely homeschooling, but how does she have all this free time even without practice? Does school exist? Minus 1.
  • This entire conversation between Chloe and Sasha is making me all kinds of uncomfortable, and does not bode well for later scenes between Emily and Sasha. Minus 5.
  • “I don’t want questions. I want obedience.” mmmmmmNOPE Sasha, that ain’t it. Especially when you’re demanding your gymnast to just fall backwards off a beam. Minus 3.
  • And on that note, we’re gonna get into this whole surrendering/obedience theme that is happening. If you have a teenager with trust issues because she has spent her entire life being uprooted and needing to be the responsible adult in her family, you have a teenager who has undergone major trauma in her life. You do not treat her like a horse that needs to be tamed. Maybe this is a reflection of how much light has been shed on that kind of culture in recent years, but oof. Minus 10. 

Total: -24

More Real Than Crying in Your Car Over a Boy

  • OK, I know Lauren is not the best human on this show, but her frustration at Summer acting like a stepmom is completely valid and relatable. Plus 3.
  • Damon having his mind blown by the spring floor. Realistic boy energy. Plus 1.
  • “I wish I could lie like that,” Lauren says while smirking and looking at her nails. Plus 2.
  • HOLD UP, the Keelers are from Minnesota originally? Mrs. Keeler’s personality is 100% Minnesotan. I don’t know how I missed that is where the Keeler’s were from, but as a Minnesotan I can say yep, very accurate. Plus 6.
  • The conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Keeler about the significance of their child taking endorsement deals was actually very grounded and realistic. I appreciate that they addressed the fact that they didn’t want Payson to feel the burden of financially supporting her family, which I’d imagine can be a pretty tempting thing for many folks given the expense of training. Plus 5. 

Total: 17

Like a trust fall that just missed the mark, this episode ends in the negative category with -7.


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 and Kalley Leer

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