'Dance Moms' Recap S5 E28 Solo Battle, Round 1: Kendall vs. JoJo

Dance Moms star Kendall Vertes
Dance Moms star Kendall Vertes

Previously on Dance Moms, the power struggle between studio owner Abby Lee Miller and Kira Girard (Kalani Hilliker's mom) continued after Kira once again invited a choreographer into Abby's classes without permission. By episode's end, Kira and Kalani walked out on the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC). This week on Dance Moms season 5, episode 28 titled "Solo Battle, Round 1," Kendall Vertes and JoJo Siwa dance head-to-head in a bid to score a solo at Nationals; the the ALDC has a re-match against the Candy Apples Dance Center, who are now being led by Jeanette Cota (Ava Cota's mom), owner of the Broadway Dance Academy; Kira and Kalani return.

As Dance Moms S5 E28 opens, Kira and Kalani are no-shows for rehearsal. Holly (Nia Frazier's mom) opines, "I think part of the issue is that Abby doesn't forget, and she's spiteful, and she gets back at people when she wants to… It's unfortunate because I think Kalani was a vital member of the team." Once inside the studio, Holly asks Abby if she wants Kalani to return, and Abby replies, "No," because she feels like Kalani "walked out on an amazing opportunity."

The girls and moms line up for pyramid, the leaderboard for the ALDC. It is usually based on the previous week's competition results, and Abby reveals it from the bottom, up:
JoJo Siwa: Abby says her feet "look horrendous."
Nia Frazier: "didn’t stand out in the group routine."
Mackenzie Ziegler: did well, but needed a lot of corrections.
Maddie Ziegler: "It's time to knock you down a few pegs."
Kalani Hilliker: [next on pyramid but not discussed].
Kendall Vertes: "took some initiative in the group routine."

This week the ALDC will be in a New York Dance Experience competition in Escondido, CA. In addition to that, they are competing with each other for a solo spot at Nationals (three weeks away). To that end, Abby assigns the high and low girls on the pyramid to dance head-to-head, and whoever scores higher will be in the running for a solo. Kendall will do a contemporary jazz routine called "Immortal"; JoJo will do a Miley Cyrus-inspired jazz routine called "She Can't Stop." JoJo is thrilled because she's a huge Miley fan. The group will do a number called "Don't Fence Me In," and they'll be using a chain link fence as a prop.

Adding a third layer to this week's competition is the fact that the ALDC will have a re-match with the Candy Apples Dance Center (CADC), the team they beat last week. In Cathy Nesbitt-Stein's continued absence, the CADC is being led by another Abby rival, Jeanette Cota (if you missed last week's episode read my recap for Dance Moms S5 E27 "Abby vs. Kira, AGAIN"). This time, instead of dancing as the CADC, they will carry the name of Jeanette's studio, the Broadway Dance Academy (BDA).

The next day, as the moms hang in the studio parking lot while they wait for rehearsal to begin, Kira and Kalani return. Melissa (Mackenzie and Maddie Ziegler's mom) says, "Abby is not going to be happy about this," and Jill (Kendall's mom) suggests that Kira should have called Abby instead of just showing up. Kira says it was entirely Kalani's decision to return, and in a talking head interview, Kalani states, "I decided to come back because I want to finish off the last three weeks in LA and go to Nationals with ALDC. They're like my family; the team needs me and I need them."

The girls are thrilled to see Kalani, but she is rebuffed when she tries to approach Abby, who tells her, "I think you should walk away. Please walk away." Abby says, "As far as I'm concerned, Kalani's not even here."

While the moms observe the group rehearsal, they reiterate that Kira should have called Abby instead of just showing up, but Kira doesn't think it's a big deal. In fact, she thinks Kalani missing rehearsal because she walked out on the team is the same as when Maddie misses rehearsal to do a professional gig. Melissa stays silent while Jill schools Kira on the difference.

Kira wants her daughter in the group number though, so she interrupts rehearsal to plead her case. Abby says "no" because she's already set the routine, and she doesn't think the girls should have to practice harder and longer to work Kalani into the number. The moms (who are observing from the lounge) agree with Abby, and Jessalynn (JoJo's mom) says, "Sit your f---ing ass out of group dance for a week. Sorry, you're not in it. Get over it."

When Kira persists, Abby makes a phone call (To her lawyers? To the producers? I don't know.), and then when she hangs up she announces, "I quit," and dismisses the girls. When Kira returns to the mom's lounge, they all give her grief for being selfish. Abby does return the next day, though, and she asks Kalani what religion she practices. When Kalani answers, "Catholic," Abby tells her that not dancing this week is her penance.

Meanwhile, over at the International Dance Academy in Hollywood, Jeannette works with the CADC, now the BDA. She assigns the group a lyrical number inspired by a transgender activist named Jay, and says they will be collaborating with the Gay Men's Chorus of LA and the cast of It Gets Better, who will be singing live during the BDA's performance.

Competition day arrives. JoJo dances first with her "She Can't Stop" solo; she wears a short blonde wig and a two-piece red costume with a cutout bodice and marabou on the shoulders; it's designed to recreate the Bob Mackie-inspired ensemble from Miley's Bangerz tour. JoJo is a wonderful dancer, but in this case she forgets her choreography, so she improvs most of the routine. Once in the wings, JoJo says, "Abby is going to kill me." Kendall is next with her "Immortal" solo; she wears a two-piece, Grecian-inspired costume in white and gold with a laurel wreath headpiece. She does a beautiful job.

During a break outside, Abby asks JoJo, "What happened?" When JoJo tearfully replies that she loved the solo and wanted to do well and she can't explain what happened, Abby opens her arms and hugs her. It's a nice moment between them.

The BDP takes the stage for their "Run, Run, Run" routine; they wear pale pink baby-doll dresses with a bow at the bodice. They give a lovely performance. The ALDC follows with their "Don't Fence Me In" routine; they wear checkered shirts with shorts and head bands. The choreography is cool and they work well with their prop fence. Abby is happy that Mackenzie pulled the focus in a positive way.

The awards ceremony begins. In the Junior Division, Kendall gets 3rd Place; JoJo doesn't place. In the Group Division, the BDA earns 2nd Place; the ALDC wins 1st Place. Backstage, Jeanette tells her team, "It doesn't matter how many awards you win, it's about being an artist, and you touched many people's lives today."

In the ALDC dressing room, Abby congratulates the team and tells Kendall that next week, she'll be competing against Maddie. With Nationals so close, Abby makes a request from the team: "No more interruptions, no more chaos." When Jessalynn asks Abby and Kira, "Is everything gonna be normal between you two next week?" Abby answers, "I don’t know if anything will ever be back to normal."

As Dance Moms S5 E28 "Solo Battle, Round 1" closes, Abby says, "I think Kalani has certainly learned her lesson. Nationals are around the corner, and she is a good choice for this team, a good fit. Her mother? We can't pick our relatives, can we."

Next week on Dance Moms season 5, episode 29 titled "Baby Dance Mama Drama," it's Maddie vs. Kendall as the girls vie for a solo spot at Nationals. Also, Kira announces that she's pregnant.

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

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Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2015