Credit: Lifetime

Look at how sunny Pittsburg is! The last time we saw our P-burg Dance Moms, they were livid. After star pupil Maddy forgot her solo and ran off the competition stage in tears, Abby Lee Miller was all out of screams. She ran out of screams to give. Her best tiny dancer had disappointed her, and frankly, she admitted, she didn’t care about the rest of them. She lied to BFF (and Maddy’s mom) Melissa, saying her mother was ill, and then ditched the moms altogether.

So obviously everyone was super excited to see her and give her hugs and kisses back in the Abby Lee Dance Company studio, right? Wrong! The moms are pissed, and they’ve made sure to instruct their daughters on how to look pissed, too. As Abby begins her version of an apology, itty bitty Mackenzie plugged her ears, and Brooke looked too cool for dance school.

We almost thought Abby Lee would get through her welcome back speech without losing it, but then The Screams let loose. We have to admit: we sort of missed them! Especially when they’re this obnoxious. As the moms asked Abby to just admit that she ditched everyone because Maddy messed up, Abby unfurls this Scream: “Some kids are just special!” Meaning, of course, that the moms were right. Abby plays favorites, and she isn’t even hiding it anymore.

Dance Moms Season 2 is back.

Credit: Scott Gries/Lifetime Television © 2011

On the bottom of the Pyramid of Doom this week are Paige (Abby reams her for messing up her jailhouse bar props), Mia (because she kept tugging at her leotard), and Brooke (she dared enter rehearsal without her pointe shoes!).

In the middle, unfathomably, are Maddy and Mackenzie (both Melissa’s kids). Um, did we mention that Maddy ran off the stage crying in the middle of her solo? Mackenzie gets the spot because Abby loves her adorable little charismatic face (and we do too!) Chloe is at the top because she won first place in the junior soloist division, and because she was offered a ritzy scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet.

This week, Abby explains, the tiny dancers are headed to the Nexstar competition in Los Angeles. She warns, “In California, the kids are just fearless,” whereas in P-Burg, the kids have little to no personality. Sweetness abounds in Miss Abby.

In the moms’ viewing box, Christi gets the moms’ blood roaring by pointing out that Abby “is a despicable person” for lying to Melissa, for ditching, and for not giving a ho hum about anyone on the team but Mads. Together with Kelly and Holly, Christi tries to passive aggressively convince Melissa that she should confront Abby. But Melissa, she of the winter season’s secret engagement and empty threats, will not be “bullied.”

Oh dear. Someone just mentioned Cathy, and we suddenly fear for our lives. Lo and behold, the Candy Apples/Beef Jerky dance studio is alive with the sound of…crutches? Cathy is overjoyed because she “beat” Abby’s team in the last competition. Time for a factual check-in: Abby’s girls came in 10th place, and Cathy’s came in 9th. Cathy has so few pleasures in her life that she takes this sad opportunity to celebrate with cake! Critically wounded Taylor makes a somewhat triumphant return to the studio, decked out in the required 8 pounds of purple makeup, on crutches with a boot on.

Credit: Lifetime

Then, just when we’re mid-cringe after seeing Justice (the baby boy dancer) reveal a bit too much bits in his shiny red pants, Cathy yanks Taylor’s boot off and says she never wants to see it again. Taylor sits down, and remains sitting, because she kinda needs that boot to get up again. Silly Cathy!

The moms all group together, place pensive fingers on their pursed lips, and attempt to confront Abby in the reception area. Abby tells them they’re all just jealous of Maddy, and threatens to call 911. Cut to: Mackenzie wearing a pink leopard print costume with ruffles on her behind and pigtails, practicing a solo called “Perfect Fit” with lots of “tricks.” Sure you wanna call the cops, Abs?

Abby physically illustrates “sass” to Mackenzie by jutting out her hip and snapping. That’s when we notice something: Abby Lee Miller has lost weight. Her waistline is defined, and we somehow feel proud. Our Abby!

The moms are mad at Melissa for not standing up to Abby. Kelly is complaining about the “stupid” choreography. “Where’s the technique?” she asks. Kelly looks to be on the verge of some kind of breakdown, but not the “nervous” kind.  More like the “sleepytime tea” kind.

There is a sudden dancer emergency, as little Chloe’s hip flexors are in pain. This just happens to occur moments after Abby has put an enormous amount of pressure on her to be the “new Maddy.” Then, in a strange, never-before-seen studio, Abby makes Maddy rehearse the solo she’d forgotten on stage. In a super top-secret, disastrous bit of scheming, Abby tells Maddy that she may have to bust that solo out again “when she least expects it.” What is this, Dance of Thrones? Since when are there so many secret allegiances and planned dance attacks? Dance Moms Season 2 has turned dark and twisty, just like Pretty Little Liars and Mad Men. Just like those shows.

Whaddya know? Maddy just happens to be listed in the Nexstar program for a solo! Maddy doesn’t want to do it, because, she explains, “I haven’t been so confident.” But Abby pushes her with some of that sexy hoarse purring she likes to use when she’s talking in confidence (on camera) to small children. It’s super-sexy.

On to the competition! First up is the trio dance, with Paige, Brooke, and Chloe. What’s this, no sparklies? That’s a red flag right from the start. Paige is unevenly spaced away from the other two girls. All three of them look out of sync, and then Paige forgets a kick, and Abby’s head is in her hands. Abby gives her some disciplinin’, and Christi sarcastically points out, “It’s Armageddon. You missed a kick.”

Credit: Lifetime

Next up is Mackenzie’s solo, and she is wearing a nude backless bodysuit with black lace. She’s jumpin’ like an Energizer bunny all over the stage, but then slow motion kicks in, and she slips on her sleeve, forgetting the rest. She explains to Abby, in tears, “It hurt and I forgot.” Abby “hates playing the good guy” when all she wants to do is unleash a few more Screams of Terror upon the small girl. Instead, this new “dark and twisty” Abby uses the opportunity to manipulate Maddy into performing her solo. Guess what? Maddy’s still not ready because she “feels like a failure.” Job well done, Abs!

Now it’s time for Chloe’s solo. Christi shows some (genuinely!) good parenting skills, by sitting Chloe on her lap and whispering sweet nothings. “If you forget, just make something up.” It’s cute. But then, the announcer calls Maddy’s name and Maddy winds up relaying a very important message for Children Across America:

“It’s hard when you feel two ways about something, because I don’t really want to do it, because I’m not really ready for it, but I think I should do it anyways.” Was Maddy a My So-Called Life staff writer in a former life?

Chloe is brilliant as usual, flicking her rail-thin dancer’s body from pose to pose gracefully, and we really wish Abby and everyone else would realize that Chloe can actually become a professional ballet dancer someday, and shouldn’t be wasting her time on a booty-pop dance team in Pittsburg.

The girls are back in sparklies, pink ones, with sparkly pink pillbox hats, for their group number about being spoiled rich kids. Chloe is the obvious star, and everyone is all worried about the “California standards,” which are apparently very high.

Time for results: Mackenzie wins 10th place for her petite solo. Chloe wins 5th place for her junior solo. Abby calls her “basic.” The trio wins 3rd place. The group wins 5th place. “Are you kidding me, 5th place?” It’s time for Abby to sweetly smile and condescend. Abby makes Brooke nearly cry by demanding she do 32 grand jetes. Kelly tells Abby that her choreography “sucks. You’re stale!” Abby responds, “My stale is better than your best day will ever be.” And then Kelly resorts to a fat joke: “Don’t eat me, Abby.”

The win goes to Abby tonight, and anyone who disagrees will get a large helping of Screams.

Dance Moms airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.

Molly Friedman is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @MollyFriedman.

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