'Dance Moms' Recap S4 E12 Sister Showdown: Maddie and Mackenzie Compete

Sisters Mackenzie and Maddie Ziegler, stars of Lifetime TV's Dance Moms
Sisters Mackenzie and Maddie Ziegler, stars of Dance Moms

Previously on Dance Moms, studio owner Abby Lee Miller invited 11-year-old Fallon Chapman to dance with the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) on a trial basis: she was considering Fallon for her new Elite Competition Team, but it didn't work out. This week on Dance Moms season 4, episode 12 titled "Sister Showdown," Abby has the Ziegler sisters – Maddie and Mackenzie – compete against each other, and Payton Ackerman returns to be featured dancer in this week's Kinky Boots-inspired group routine.

As Dance Moms S4 E12 "Sister Showdown" begins, Abby congratulated the girls for their winning streak – they won their 10th competition in a row last week - then she reveals her pyramid, the system she uses to rank the dancers of the dancers of the ALDC. The pyramid is mostly based on how well each dancer did at the previous week's competition, but quite often the results are colored by ego, favoritism, and strife between Abby and the dance moms. The pyramid sessions are often filled with eye-rolling and protests, but on this episode, the drama is even more tense when Payton flees the studio in tears after Abby's critique. This week's pyramid from the bottom up:

Mackenzie: wasn't in last week's competition
Nia: facial expressions were over-the –top but they weren't correct
Payton: Referring to a competition where Payton cried in the dressing room, Abby tells her, "You can't be a baby." Leslie (Payton's mom) chimes in, "She just wasn't happy," but Abby counters with, "I know but we don't care if she's happy." As they go back-and-forth, and Payton starts to cry and leaves the room. Abby follows after them and tells Payton, "You represent the Abby Lee Dance Company tremendously… but you don’t understand the big picture." Payton says she loves Abby, the studio, the kids and teachers, and says, "there's nowhere else I want to be than in this studio." Abby tells her, "That's wonderful," but cautions her that when she goes to auditions in NYC and LA, the casting directors aren't going to tell her what she can do better next time, "They're just gonna cut you." Abby and Payton return to the studio, and the pyramid resumes.
Chloe: was great in the number, but Abby thinks she'd be even better if she was home schooled
Maddie: outstanding, off the charts
Kendall: received the technique award, which reflects well on Abby. YAY Kendall!

This week, the ALDC will be traveling to Rockville, Maryland for a new competition called World Class Talent. The group will do a musical theater number called "Lift You Up" inspired by the Broadway show Kinky Boots, and Payton will be featured dancer; Maddie will do a tap solo called "The Game of Love"; Mackenzie will do one of Maddie's old lyrical solos from 2011 called "Cry"; Chloe will do a contemporary solo called "Follow You." This will be the first time that Maddie isn't the featured dancer in an ALDC group number, and also the first time that sisters Maddie and Mackenzie will compete against each other.

While the girls rehearse, the moms hang out in their loft and dish. Melissa says, "Okay, Leslie, what the heck?" and Christi says, "I've never seen somebody piss Abby off that fast in pyramid." Leslie says that Abby expects her "to sit back and allow her to talk to my daughter like that... you feel like a bad mother if you don't remove your child from that situation, but your child refuses, and they don't want to leave." Christi points out the double-edged sword of being featured dancer: it's a compliment, but you have to dance that much harder.

Down in the studio, Abby tells Chloe that she has the advantage over Maddie this week because Maddie will be doing a tap number and judges usually pick a lyrical or contemporary dance for 1st place. She also reminds Chloe, "Maddie is still my number one, go-to girl no matter what." Christi disagrees that her daughter has the advantage, because "Maddie has always been a tapper," and if Abby wants her to win all she has to do is give her choreography that can’t be beat.

Next, Chloe's rehearses her "Follow You" solo. Abby thinks that Chloe follows Maddie, and she wonders if Chloe will ever catch up with Maddie or always be two beats behind. I don’t think Chloe is two beats behind anyone.

Mackenzie rehearses "Cry," and Abby tells her, "You are going up against your sister, and if you don't step up to the plate pretty soon, you're never going to catch up to Maddie, ever, ever." Later, when they rehearse again, Abby finds Maddie's old "Cry" costume for Kenzie to wear, and says, "Mackenzie needs to embrace her inner Maddie if she's ever gonna out-dance her." Maddie arrives to help Kenzie with a few steps for the number.

Up in the mom's loft, Leslie asks Melissa, "What do you think of Mackenzie dancing under Maddie or in the same category, right up against her? And, she's doing her old solo!" Melissa says that's how it is now because they are in the 9-11 age division. Down in the studio Abby tells Kenzie, "When Maddie dances she's a breath of fresh air. You're like the stuff we spray in the bathroom." Abby tells the camera she's pushing Mackenzie hard this week to motivate her to win big and be a name.

Chloe and Maddie report for their solo rehearsal. Chloe's routine isn't finished, but they barely run it before they move on to Maddie's already completed tap routine. So much for Chloe having an advantage. Christi asks Melissa how long Maddie has been working on her tap solo, and Mel says one day, but Christi's not buying it because, as Jill (Kendall's mom) brings up, even Abby says you can’t learn a solo in a day, which is why she doesn't assign them more often. Meanwhile, down on the studio floor, Abby tells Chloe and Maddie that Mackenzie has the advantage over both of them because she can go online and watch Maddie's "Cry" solo.

With one day to go until the ALDC leaves for the competition, Chloe is rehearsing, and Abby compliments her: "Chloe is an outstanding representative for the ALDC; she is a beautiful dancer. She has the lines, she has the body, that's a shoo-on for the win." Upon hearing that, I am thisclose to crying happy tears for Chloe.

Up in the mom's loft, they question if the drag routine will go over well, especially if this new competition is conservative. Leslie wonders why Abby chose Payton for this routine, and Christi jokes, "Because Payton looks like a drag queen." Leslie shoots back, "Bitch!" Then Jill joins the teasing with, "Speaking of drag queen look-alikes" and she gestures toward Christi. Christi pats Jill's hair and says, "Settle your pouf down."I said this in last week's recap too, but it's SO nice to see the moms getting along and joking.

The moms join the girls in the studio to meet drag queens, Miss Lola and Blade; Abby enlisted them to give the team tips on presentation and how to own who they are. They give Payton a fab makeover that includes an Afro wig and dramatic eye makeup.

Next, Maddie gives Mackenzie some sisterly advice: "You need to show Abby you can do more than just cheesy jazz and cutesy dances, you have to do lyrical and emotion." Mackenzie says she knows, but that Abby keeps telling her that she has to do it like her (Maddie), "but I'm not you." Maddie says, "I know, but you need to do the faces like me, because you don't have face." Maddie answers, "Yeah, but I don't, I don't have the Maddie face, I have the Kenzie face." Maddie concludes, "Well, I hope you do great, but I hope that you don't beat me." Kenzie says, "Well, I'm gonna win."

While the team travels to Maryland on their bus, Abby offers them chocolate cake with whipped cream. I am happy that things seems to be getting back to normal, but it kinda seems like we took off in Abbyland and landed in Bizzarro-world where Abby likes Chloe and everyone is happy. If that's the case, I'll take it, but it is odd.

Backstage at the competition, Abby asks Mackenzie to do her "Maddie face," and says "the whole country can do the Maddie face." Kenzie does her best, but Abby isn't overly impressed stating, "they all look the same, Mackenzie, Mackenzie, Mackenzie." Jill says "Abby should stop and not make Mackenzie do Maddie's face."

Through this whole episode, Melissa is silent and never helps Mackenzie deal with the constant comparisons to Maddie. Instead, it is Christi who steps up, puts her arm around Mackenzie and whispers, "You go out there and you be Mackenzie, you don't need to be Maddie. Right? You can be Mackenzie, Mackenzie is just as good. And it's better 'cause you're your own special self. Okay?" Christi is so sweet that Mackenzie almost starts to cry. Christi tells the camera, "If Melissa's not going to comfort her daughter, I am more than happy to say to Mackenzie, 'You know what, Mackenzie? You don’t need to be Maddie… Mackenzie is just fine enough.' Because you know what? I think I've had the same conversation with Chloe a time or twenty."

The competition begins. Maddie does her "Game of Love" tap solo in a red bikini top and tie with man-tailored slacks. Maddie is a good tap dancer and it's a cute routine. Mackenzie is up next with her "Cry" lyrical solo. She wears Maddie's old powder blue costume with white puffy sleeves. She does a lovely job with the routine, and Melissa gushes, "I didn’t think of Maddie one time when Mackenzie was doing the "Cry" solo." Chloe dances third with her contemporary "Follow You" solo; she wears a cool two-piece costume in dark purple (or maybe it's black) with an asymmetrical skirt and a dramatic scarf on one sleeve. Of course I love when Chloe does lyrical routines, but I especially enjoy watching her do contemporary choreography; because Chloe has such a strong ballet background, she can do anything, and she looks amazing at doing the edgier, more angular moves.

Backstage, Leslie says she's proud of the girls, and that Mackenzie didn't need Maddie's costume or solo to be a good dancer on that stage. She goes on to says that it was "awkward," and that Abby is trying to clone Maddie, and she wonders if Mackenzie "was worried about doing Maddie's face the entire time" she was on stage. Melissa says when you go on stage "you do what you have to do, just like Payton does." Then, Melissa grabs her temples and says they are driving her crazy.

Abby arrives in the dressing room and says that Mackenzie did a nice job, "not outstanding, but sweet." When Christi asks if she's worried about the group number, Abby admits that she wishes Kalani was there instead of Payton and that they were doing a lyrical dance instead, because there are several really good lyrical dances in the show. As the girls put on their wigs and makeup, Abby reminds Payton that if they don't win, it's her fault. She also says she thinks they should have saved their drag queen number for New York or New Jersey. Abby coaches the girls, "If you get a bad vibe from the crowd, go harder."

The ALDC takes the stage for their "Lift you Up" musical theater number in big wigs and go-go boots; everyone is in hot pink one-piece skirted costumes except for Payton, who wears a red two-piece costume with high-waisted boy shorts. It's awesome to see Payton do her thing; she very, very good . The number ends with everyone except Payton doing a death drop, and then Mackenzie bunny hops off stage. It's a fun number.

The awards ceremony begins. For the overall solo scores, Chloe place 3rd; Mackenzie places 2nd; Maddie wins 1st Place. In the Junior small group division, the ALDC is awarded 1st place. Abby says Payton was a star, and adds, "If I had a Tony I'd give it to her right now."

Abby tells the moms she thought Payton was outstanding in the group dance, but that she couldn't take her eyes off of Mackenzie. Because Payton was the star of the group dance, Leslie is annoyed and says "So now we no longer just have Maddie, we have Maddie and Mackenzie put on a pedestal every day."

Before a argument has a chance to break out, the girls burst into the dressing room with their trophies and Abby asks them, "Are you in heaven?" because they've won eleven times in a row now, and "eleven is Heaven." When Abby and the girls leave the room to go thank the judges, the conversation about Abby favoring Maddie and Mackenzie resumes, and Melissa says, "These moms are so screwed up in the freaking head, they love to pick on me for everything." As the episode ends Melissa says, "F!@$ you, Leslie," and as she storms he storms out of the room she yells out, "You're so screwed up in the effing mind! I'm so sick of it!"


Before I go, last week I told you I would be appearing on The Urban Woman Radio to talk about Dance Moms. Simone Perry, the host, has invited me to be a regular on the show, and it’s great fun: we both have strong opinions about what happens on Dance Moms, and we don’t always agree. The Urban Woman Radio airs on Sundays at 10:00 AM (and it's available online afterward, too) and it's a call-in show, so get your questions ready and join the discussion about Abby Lee Miller and the Abby Lee Dance Company.

Next week on Dance Moms season 4, episode 13, titled "Decisions, Decisions," the Abby Lee Dance Company travels to a competition in Canton, Ohio, the hometown of Abby's nemesis, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein and her Candy Apples Dance Center. Meanwhile, Abby is asked to decide once and for all if Kira Girard's daughter, Kalani Hilliker, will be joining the ALDC as a permanent member.

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Dance Moms airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on Lifetime
Photo courtesy of Lifetime

Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2014