'Dance Moms' Recap S5 E31 Season 5 Finale: Chaos at Nationals

Abby Lee Miller in the Broadway Baby Shoppe in her ALDC LA studio
Abby Lee Miller in the Broadway Baby Shoppe in her ALDC LA studio

Previously on Dance Moms, studio owner Abby Lee Miller had Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) members Nia Frazier and Kalani Hilliker compete head-to-head, supposedly for a solo spot at Nationals, but when Nia comes out on top Abby changes her mind. This week on the Dance Moms season 5 finale (season 5, episode 31) titled "Chaos at Nationals," Abby changes her mind again, and Nia gets a solo at Nationals, the team's most important annual competition. Also, Abby opens a new studio in Los Angeles, ALDCLA.

As the Dance Moms season 5 finale (S5 E31, "Chaos at Nationals") opens, Abby and the team are excited about the grand opening of ALDCLA, and also this week's Center Stage National Dance Competition in Lancaster, CA. In a voiceover Abby states, "This is the culmination of all the work the kids have done all year. This is a big deal. This is our fifth season to go to Nationals. We won all four times. We want it to be the biggest win yet."

At Nationals, the ALDC will be dancing against rival Jeanette Cota and her Broadway Dance Academy (BDA) team, which includes her talented daughter, Ava Cota (she was cut from the ALDC in Dance Moms S4, E30). Jill (Kendall's mom) says, "Since arriving in LA, Abby has been acting highly erratic, constantly missing practices… This is our biggest competition of the season, we really, really need for Abby to focus and lead this team to victory."

Abby goes over her pyramid, the leaderboard for the ALDC. It is usually based on the previous week's competition results (if you missed the episode read my recap for Dance Moms S5 E30: "Nia vs. Kalani, Winner Takes All"). Abby reveals the pyramid from the bottom, up:
JoJo Siwa: Abby repeatedly has to correct her on the same thing.
Mackenzie Ziegler: Needs to make adjustments for her size.
Kendall Vertes: Was good, should strive for perfection.
Kalani Hilliker: Came in 3rd in competition.
Maddie Ziegler: Did well in group dance.
Nia Frazier: Was overall high score winning soloist.

Next, Abby assigns the most coveted spots of the season: a solo at Nationals. Maddie will do a lyrical solo called "Someone Special"; and after a bit of back-and-forth with Holly (Nia's mom) and Kira (Kalani's mom), Abby gives Nia a contemporary solo called "No Matter What." The group will do a contemporary piece with a hospital theme called "The Waiting Room."

Much to the chagrin of the Moms, Abby doesn't stick around for group rehearsal (she heads out to get flooring for the studio), but in truth, Gianna "Gia" Martello (Abby's assistant) always does a great job, so they needn't be so worried. Still, Jill opines, "If we lose we have one person to blame, and that's Abby."

Nia and Maddie both learn their solos from Gia. This is the first time Nia has ever had a solo at Nationals; Maddie always does, except for last year because she was busy working with singer Sia (Maddie became a global celebrity after starring in three of Sia's videos: "Chandelier," "Elastic Heart" and "Big Girls Cry").

While the girls rehearse, the Moms head next door to Michelle's Natural Café and Bakery. Holly gets a phone call from rival coach Jeanette Cota who says, "Just wanted to give you a call real quick and see how you guys are doing." Jessalynn (JoJo's mom) inquires who will solo for BDA at Nationals, and Jeanette tells her that it's Ava. After the call, Jill says, "I swear to God, I still think Jeanette is trying to prove to Abby that Ava should be on this team."

Holly and Jess both say Ava will give Maddie a run for her money, but in a talking head interview Melissa (Mackenzie and Maddie's mom) says, "Absolutely not." It comes up again later when Melissa says, "I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Mackenzie beat Ava, Just saying." Ouch!

With two days to go until Nationals AND the ALDC LA grand opening, the girls are at practice and the Moms are once again at Michelle's. As she's heading into the studio, Abby passes them and snipes, "It must be nice to just sit on your ass all day and do nothing." Abby runs the routines, and when she gets to the solos, Melissa reminds Maddie to draw from the emotions she felt when Abby's mom – beloved dance teacher Maryen Lorrain Miller – passed away. Abby, Maddie and Melissa cry.

While all of this is going on with the ALDC, Jeannette is working with her BDA team. "Our target this week is beating ALDC and winning Nationals." BDA's group routine will be a contemporary number called "Moving Target"; Ava will do a contemporary solo called "Myth of the Mermaid" based on the original story of The Little Mermaid. Of course, the back-story for both numbers is that Abby rejected them, and later in the episode Jeanette says, "We are here to get revenge on Abby, and the only way to hurt her is to win Nationals." Move on, already!

Finally, it is the day of ALDC LA's grand opening; it's a large, well-appointed studio with lots of gold and pink. There is a line down the block and around the corner to get in; the band Wilson Phillips is even there.

Then, it's on to Nationals. While the ALDC girls are getrting dressed and running their routines, Jeanette and Ava unexpectedly (without knocking, even) pop into their dressing room. Abby says "Only an idiot would open a door when they heard music playing." Jeanette says she didn't hear it or she wouldn't have.

The competition begins. Nia wears a knee-length, flowing, lavender caftan-style dress with a matching head wrap. Nia and Holly are "meh" about it, but I LOVE it; it reminds me of costumes I see when I go to professional modern dance performances, and it moves beautifully. Unfortunately, Nia's music skips and 30 seconds of her routine was cut out, but as Holly points out, "despite that, Nia was amazing."

Ava is second with her "Myth of the Mermaid" solo; she wears a flesh-tone leotard embellished with pretty marine blue appliques that recall seaweed. She gives a lovely performance. Maddie follows with her "Someone Special" solo; she wears a brown and beige lace dance dress with a beige flower at the bodice. She is, as always, excellent.

The BDP takes the stage for their "Moving Target" contemporary routine; they wear black costumes with an assortment of cutouts. They are very talented. The ALDC dances last with their "Waiting Room" number; they wear outfits depicting accident victims (regular clothes) and hospital staff. Melissa describes it as a "moving" piece and says the people sitting behind her were crying.

During the awards ceremony, all hell breaks loose. In the Teen Solo Division, Nia gets 2nd Place. In the Junior Solo Division, the announcer awards a place to a girl who had already won in a different division, so that error has to be straightened out. Then, Maddie gets 2nd Place; Ava wins 1st Place. Abby exclaims loudly, "What is this? It's a joke!" In the Small Group Division, the ALDC gets 2nd Place; the BDA wins 1st Place. Abby turns to the audience and asks, "Did everyone pay to come to this or was it free?... You should all make a line and demand your money back for your kids' entrance fee as well as your fee to walk in here, 'cause this is a joke."

Abby instructs the ALDC to leave the stage before the show is over (WOW!), and then she and everyone except for Jessalynn and Holly exit the auditorium. As they're walking out, a different announcer is on the mic saying, "You can't leave, we've got one more award" [I've heard that in their absence, they were awarded "Best Studio"]. Abby responds, "You can't hold children against their will in the state of California."

In a talking head interview Jessalynn laments, "If we had a leader that was like 'Hey girls, it's okay, we had a great year, we went to Australia we came to LA, you did music, you did television, you did acting… Don't think about this second place trophy, think about the whole experience and that should be first overall in your life.' That's what we're missing, we're missing that leader."

As the Dance Moms season 5 finale closes, Abby's last words are: "I'm sure the whole world's gonna think poorly of me… The kids worked their butts off to be the best that they can be, then this happens?" She dissolves into tears for a moment, then adds, "The journey that we have been on has been overwhelming. I just opened a brand new studio here. What's gonna happen with this? I am scared to death."

Next week, Lifetime will air a Dance Moms season 5 reunion show.


Dance Moms airs on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Lifetime.
Photo by Bobby Quillard courtesy of Lifetime.

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Posted on Wednesday, August 12, 2015