'Dance Moms' Recap S4 E13 Decisions, Decisions: Payton Out, Kalani In

Abby Lee Miller in Dance Moms S4 E13
Abby Lee Miller in Dance Moms S4 E13, "Decisions, Decisions"

Previously on Dance Moms, studio owner Abby Lee Miller made sisters Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler compete against each other, and on-again-off-again Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) member Payton Ackerman was brought back to dance a lead role as a drag queen. This week on Dance Moms season 4, episode 13 titled "Decisions, Decisions," Kalani Hilliker is back in, and Payton is back out; Abby and Christi Lukasiak argue when Abby wants her to contact former member Kelly Hyland about returning costumes; the ALDC keeps their winning streak alive, despite the fact that they compete in Cathy Nesbitt-Stein's hometown.

Dance Moms S4 E13 "Decisions, Decisions" begins with Abby announcing that she has finally found replacements for Kelly Hyland and her daughters Brooke and Paige (who left the ALDC after a physical altercation between Kelly and Abby). At first it looks like Abby is going to say the replacements are Kalani Hilliker AND Payton Ackerman, but instead, Abby says Kira Girard (Kalani's mom) is going to replace Kelly, and that Kalani is replacing Brooke AND Paige. This upsets Leslie, because her daughter Payton is at the studio 4-5 days per week and does whatever Abby tells her to do, yet she is constantly passed over for a permanent spot on the ALDC Elite Competition Team.

Abby reveals her pyramid, the ranking system she uses for the girls of the ALDC. The pyramid is mostly based on the results from the previous week's competition (read our Dance Moms season 4, episode 12 "Sister Showdown" recap for details), but ego, favoritism, and clashes between Abby and the moms often color the results. This week's pyramid from the bottom up:

Kalani: "You're new; it's up to you to work your way up."
Kendall: "You were going through the motions; you have to give me more."
Nia: Was outstanding, but should have been better due to previous experience.
Chloe: Chosen to do a solo, but was beaten by a nine-year-old (Mackenzie).
Mackenzie: Performed Maddie's iconic "Cry" solo, but didn't give Abby the same feeling as Maddie.
Maddie: Highest scoring routine in competition; better than any Broadway show.
Payton: Lead dancer in the winning in the group routine
Kelly: Abby put Kelly Hyland's photo at the top of pyramid and said, "It's the only time she's going to get anywhere." I'm surprised Abby's lawyers allowed this. All of the moms laugh except for Christi.

This week the ALDC will be going for their twelfth win in a row when they travel to Canton, Ohio, and compete against Abby's nemesis, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein (owner of the Candy Apples Dance Center aka CADC), who will have the hometown advantage at the World Class Talent competition. The ALDC group routine will be a lyrical number called "Frost"; Kalani will do an acrobatic-lyrical routine called "Unless You Say You're Sorry"; Payton will do a contemporary solo called "Femme Fatale."

For the group number, Abby is set on re-using white costumes from a previous routine, but there's a catch: Kelly Hyland has two of the costumes because at one time, before all of the trouble, they were for Brooke and Paige. Since they are friends, Abby wants Christi to get the white costumes from Kelly, but Christi tells her, "Call her attorney, I'm not getting involved." While the girls rehearse the group routine, the moms head up to their loft and discuss the costume situation. Jill says Kelly doesn't answer her texts, Holly thinks her daughter Nia could be cut.

With two days to go until the ALDC leaves for the competition, Leslie is worried that Payton still doesn't have a white costume. Abby says she doesn't have time to deal with it and blames the issue on Kelly. Leslie is so determined for Payton to not be cut, that she leaves numerous phone messages for Kelly. Abby once again leans on Christi to call Kelly, and this leads to a quick but brutal exchange between them: Christi refuses and warns, "You'll be getting a call from my attorney too." Abby says, "Then we'll know his name." Christi shoots back, "You don't need to know my f---ing attorney's name." Abby is offended by Christi's f-bomb, so Christi lets it fly a few more times. Abby says if that's how Christi and her husband talk in their house fine, but not in her studio. Christi retorts, "You don't know what goes on in our house… because we don’t let trash through the door."

In group rehearsal, Abby is angry and upset and tells the girls, "You can all thank Christi for my mood. She stood at my front desk and said the eff word seventeen times. That's sickening!" Then she says, "Chloe, this has nothing to do with you. You're a wonderful little girl and everybody likes you." Up in the Mom's loft, Christi feels bad that she contributed to Abby's foul mood, and they all agree that Abby should leave her problems behind during rehearsal. Down in the studio, Abby tells the girls that the next time a parent uses the f-bomb, they will be cut from the team.

With one day to go until the competition, the costume situation is still up in the air. Abby says the girls who have costumes – Maddie, Kalani and Kendall – should do the routine as a trio. Dr. Holly (Nia's mom) says that Abby wants to make the team dance into a trio because she has no faith in the group's ability to beat Cathy.

Payton rehearses her solo. Leslie complains that Abby never acknowledges her daughter's talent, and says that Payton could also dance in the trio. Dr. Holly, who almost never gets involved in mama drama, tells Leslie that all she's doing is going on about Payton. Leslie thinks that's easy for Holly to say because Nia has a permanent spot on the ALDC team. Holly answers, "What is that permanent spot getting her this week? Does she have a solo? Does she have a group dance? At this point she has nothing so quite frankly, Leslie, I really don’t want to hear about you and Payton and 'boo-hoo' party."

Holly says, "There is no way I'm gonna let this group dance go to a trio without a fight." To that end, she has the moms bring in previous costumes so they can sort and share and come up with enough for the entire team to perform. When Holly tells Abby about this "Plan B," Abby responds, "Let me see what dishwater grey crap you have there." Leslie says none of it will fit Payton, and reminds Abby that she is the one who invited Payton to travel with the team. Abby points out that she can un-invite Payton. Then, Leslie says Abby didn't need to invite Kalani, and Kira says that Kalani is on the team, and that it's Leslie and Payton who are just guests. After that exchange, Abby dismisses Payton from the group dance.

The moms do come up with six beautiful white costumes, so they will all dance. Abby tells them that sometimes' people don't play fair and that's why she's tough on them. Then she drops some excellent competition advice on them: "It's a long ride home when you don't have the trophy on the bus."


While all of this is going on in Abby's Pittsburgh, PA studio, Cathy Nesbitt-Stein is in her Canton, Ohio studio with her Candy Apples Dance Center (CADC) team. They rehearse their "The Last Dance" contemporary routine choreographed by Erin Babbs – it’s the same number that Cathy pulled from the competition two weeks ago (in Dance Moms season 4, episode 11 "Blame it on the New Girl") because she knew it couldn't beat the ALDC. During practice dancers Nick and Zack bicker over steps.

Later, in front of the moms AND her students, Cathy makes fun of the ALDC moms and their voices. Then, in an interview she says, "I'm tired of losing to Abby; I'm tired of being second place... It's first, or nothing."

When Nick rehearses while Donna (his mom) watches, and Cathy reveals that last week, they lost their father/husband. Cathy hopes that dance will help them get over their loss.


Competition day arrives. It's not shown on the episode, but on the bus trip to Canton, Ohio, Abby tells the team that she's been invited to be a guest judge on Dancing with the Stars. Exciting news! When the team arrives in the auditorium, both Abby and Cathy have supporters with signs. Cathy welcomes the ALDC to her stomping ground; Abby calls Canton "the birthplace of the bitch."

Backstage, Dr. Holly tells the camera, "I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. We figured out the costumes, all of the girls get to dance, including Nia. I'm thinking, 'job well done.'" Still, all is not okay in the ALDC dressing room. Leslie states that she doesn't think Payton should fix her hair since none of the costumes fit her. When Abby asks Payton "We have bigger ones honey, why didn't you say something?" Leslie jumps in, "You didn't give her the time, you took all your time out on Kalani… You would have known this if you had done your work in the studio. "

And then, Leslie picks up a shovel, digs a hole and jumps in when she says of Kalani, "…she's not your student. She's gonna use your name and then leave." This, of course, starts a loud argument between Kira and Leslie. The CADC team can hear the fight though the dressing room walls, prompting Cathy to gloat that it "sounds like a rowdy bar fight" and that the ALDC is falling apart at the seams. When Abby tells Leslie that Payton should have said something, Leslie responds, "Abby, you are f---ing perfect aren't you." That is all Abby needs to hear; Payton is dismissed from the ALDC (again). As they leave, Leslie tells Abby, "Don't ask me back, ever."

In the next scene, everyone is seated in the auditorium waiting for the show to start. Cathy approaches the judges table, addresses a man by name – Frank – and asks him to wear a CADC jacket. This is a big non-no, it's truly scandalous for anyone involved with or employed by a competition to support a team this way, but Frank accepts the jacket with a smile.

The competition begins, and we see Nick perform first. He dances shirtless in black pants, and he is very good. His front walkover is effortless and amazing to watch. Kalani does her solo in a pretty periwinkle blue costume with a floaty skirt, and she is lovely. Abby compliments Kalani's performance saying she "came out there and did her job."

Before the CADC takes the stage for their group dance, there is a fight in the dressing room. It seems that in the midst of some idle chatter about the signs in the audience, Lucas may have called Gavin "f---ing stupid." This causes uproar in the CADC dressing room, and Joanne (Gavin mom) is losing it. Cathy starts to freak out a little too because, "Joanne's children [Gavin and Mackenzie Morales] are essential to this piece." Luckily, Cathy gives the Morales kids a pep talk and promises to talk to Lucas and his mom, so things calm down and the CADC gets to perform.

The CADC does their contemporary number with the boys in all black, and Mackenzie, the only girl, in red. The choreography is cool and well executed, so much so that Christi is nervous that this competition could be the end of the ALDC's winning streak. Abby is nervous too, because after all, they are in Cathy's home town.

The ALDC goes next with their lyrical routine, and of course, they all wear white. It's not noticeable, but the crowd is screaming so loud for them, that the girls can't hear their music. After their dance, the girls talk in the wings: Maddie says she missed her turn, and Nia says "we're going to get killed." Kalani advises the team, "We have to act like we are perfect, we are perfect guys."

Out in the audience, Abby complains to Frank that she feels like they were "set up," and she admonishes him for wearing a CADC jacket. When he asks her if she wants her team to do their routine again, Abby is firm that she does not. Having participated in hundreds of competition, I agree with her – unless there is some super-obvious mistake made by the production, it always looks odd for a troupe to go again.

The awards ceremony begins. In the Overall Solo category, Nick is awarded 3rd Place; Kalani wins 1st Place. Earlier, in the episode Abby said, "I want a twelfth up on my shelf," and she gets her wish: in the Junior Small Group Advanced category, the CADC gets 2nd Place; the ALDC wins 1st Place. It's the ALDC's twelfth win in a row – their winning streak continues. I always root for the ALDC, but this week I think the scores could have gone either way; the CADC was very good.

In the CADC dressing room, Cathy is a sore loser and tells her kids it's hard to clap for second place. In the ALDC dressing room, the mood is jubilant, and Abby and the girls do their victory chant: "One, two, three… We're Abby Lee! Four, five, six… You should see out kicks! Seven and eight... We are really great! Nine and ten… We just won again! Eleven and twelve, we have up on our shelf!"

Next week on Dance Moms season 4, episode 14 titled "Family Comes First," Abby tells the team, "My mother is dying; she's not going to get better," and she leaves the team to be with her mother, the late Maryen Lorrain Miller, who at the time this episode was filmed, was in declining health.

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For our Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition recaps click here.
Dance Moms airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on Lifetime
Photo courtesy of Lifetime

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Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2014