Credit: Lifetime

Abby Lee Miller has gotten herself quite the reputation these days. From Dancing With the Stars pro Mark Ballas to the ladies on The View, her teaching style is under attack. Which is why we were so delighted to turn on a brand new Dance Moms and see Abby telling the girls to dance really well at the upcoming Fire and Ice competition in Pittsburgh.

Why? As Abby says, “I have a reputation to uphold.” Let the Hunger Games, er, friendly and easy dance classes begin!

PYRAMID
As we learned in previews, Kendall was put back on probation, and in the absolute bottom spot on the Pyramid of Doom. Sigh. We don’t know who to feel sorrier for, innocent Kendall or our own eardrums. What did we do to deserve the screams of Jill? Oh right, we fell in love with Dance Moms.

So Jill says “That’s ridiculous!” and makes threats to leave. Kendall cries painfully. Abby, clearly thinking about her reputation, tells us “I was devastated by Kendall’s reaction. I certainly don’t wake up in the morning to intentionally hurt a child’s feelings.” Mark Ballas, are you listening?!

Jill drags Kendall by her little hand out of the studio, and continues her tirade. “She doesn’t appreciate you! Somewhere else they’ll treat you with respect!” Kendall bottles it all in, and then tells us, “I don’t wanna go. I love to dance!”

Back to the pyramid. Paige, her sister Brooke, and Mackenzie round out the bottom. Abby tells Brooke that “this whiney mopey teenager crap has got to stop. Just smile.” Hey, that’s top-notch advice no matter how old you are. Mackenzie, who proves why she is the best at everything throughout this entire episode, is told that she needs ballet classes.

Chloe and Maddy are in the middle, and Christi makes an ominous declaration that these two are always neck and neck. And then, drumroll please. Nia gets the top spot for the first time in ever! All the girls adorably give her a group hug and all is right in the world.

Until Abby tells the girls that their group dance is about “falling in love and getting married.” You see, rumor has it that Melissa is newly engaged. So, Abby says, “As an artist, I draw inspiration from the world around me.” Basically this entire routine is an effort to get Melissa to admit that she’s engaged, since apparently she won’t ‘fess up to anyone.

Cue 7-year-old Mackenzie’s first shining moment, as she tells us, “Aren’t I too young to get married?” Yes you are, toots!

Credit: Lifetime Photo: Mackenzie and Melissa

UP IN THE MOMS’ BOX
The moms are all abuzz with hate-grieving Jill’s sudden exit. They’re all pretending to be polite saying, “Kendall’s a good little dancer,” and “I think Jill is going to regret leaving.”  But then we get a gift in the form of Jill’s text message to Melissa: “Kendall and I deserve better, I’m not coming back! Sorry to leave you to the wolves! I just don’t want this for k!” She even screams in her text messages! Jill even has the nerve to lie to us, faithful viewers, saying she’s just gonna hop back to her old studio.

Well, oops, because her first stop is the fantasy camp known as Cathy’s Candy Apples. As Kendall meets Cathy and shows off what she’s got, we can’t help noticing how selfish Jill’s comments are. “I’m not putting up with this crap anymore.” “This is exactly what I needed.” No one bothers to ask Kendall what she needs. Cathy is all hugs and leopard chiffon, until she tells us that she’s basically just using Kendall in an elaborate Eff You to Abby. Jill, in her way, confesses that she’s just using Candy Apples to get back at Abby.

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
Abby tries gossiping with Mackenzie and Maddy about their mom Melissa’s (we really hope Melissa doesn’t have other daughters named Megan, Maude, and Mourtney, we could never Keep Up!) recent engagement and upcoming wedding.

Abby only gets blank stares in return, as Maddy tells us, “My mom’s engaged, but she wants to keep it quiet.” Then we realize that Maddy is going to be one of those really popular girls in high school who knows all the gossip about everyone. Abby asks, “What do you think of the ring?” “Beautiful,” says Maddy, sounding uber-cool.

Abby mentions the wedding again, and Chloe pipes in tragically with “I love the story.” Abby is all over this! Maddy mutters, “Don’t say it,” while Abby tries to badger glorious Mackenzie into spilling the beans. Mackenzie tells us in a stage whisper, “We’re not supposed to tell Abby anything. She’s a blabbermouth.” But, what’s this? To Abby, she claims, “I don’t know what story they’re talking about.” Mackenzie!

Then she out-cutes herself by telling us, “I wanna marry dance, but I don’t. If I had to marry someone, I’d marry Justin Bieber.” That does it, Mackenzie wins the entire Dance Moms show forever.

BABETTE’S BRIDAL SHOP
There is an awkward scene where the Moms go to a bridal shop “for inspiration” for the girls’ wedding-themed dance. Kelly whispers to someone, “I’m not wearing any underwear,” and apparently Christi got wasted on bridal shop champagne because she utters “You should bring your vowels” from her seated position. 

Melissa continues to deny the engagement rumors to the Moms, and it’s kind of like when a little kid knows they’re getting more attention for NOT revealing a juicy piece of information than they would if they did reveal it? Yeah, Melissa’s doing that.

Also, we suppose we have to mention the moment when Abby tries out her sexy face on us, describing how the girls will be “holding nosegays, wearing garters…” Oh right, that’s what we had for dinner! Good to see it again.

Oh, fine. While we’re vomiting up our meals, we might as well mention the brief (thank goodness) conversation the Moms have about how forthcoming Melissa is about “her crevices,” how “clean-shaven she is down there,” and how she once told Christi, “When I think about sex, it throbs.” Excuse us while we go into a brief bout of cardiac arrest.

We’re back!

Credit: Lifetime Photo: Cathy and Vivi-Anne

THE FIRE AND ICE COMPETITION
Abby has a little white fuzzy dog named Broadway Baby, who has the worst tear stains we’ve ever seen. Oh, the irony. Meanwhile, we get our first glimpse at what goes on in the green room of the Candy Apples.

Jill: “I’m a little nervous walking in with Candy Apples. I’m afraid Christi and Kelly might come after me with a shotgun.” Cathy instructs Jill to add “wings and rhinestones” to Kendall’s eyes. Then when Kendall is spotted without bright purple eyeshadow smeared across half her face, Cathy tells Jill about its necessity. Jill says, “Purple eyeshadow? Really?” And when this woman, still carrying her miniature zebra print suitcase with pink trim, thinks you’re tacky, it’s probably time to remove one of your 7 layers of makeup

As usual, the Candy Apples are as enormous and tall as ever. Look, even for 16-year-olds those girls are tall. Are we really supposed to believe they’re the same age as Maddy and Chloe?

Then the (probably staged) inevitable happens. The Candy Apples are walking towards the Abby Lee Dance Studio team and it’s time for a grab-your-gun showdown. As Abby leads the pack with Broadway Baby, Cathy shamefully shouts “Look! She doesn’t have a kid but she has a dog in a stroller!” prompting her awkward group to nervous-laugh. Honestly? Cathy’s adolescent bullying is the saddest display of a desperate woman we’ve seen in a long time. She’s lost to Abby time and time again, is miserable about it, and decides to be a bitter, mean old lady in front of young girls looking up to her. Ugh, times ten.

Just before the solo performances, Cathy tells Jill “I don’t like to engage in Abby’s sloppy seconds.” Nia and Kendall talk, and we take note of how consistently pleasant, polite, and ladylike Abby’s girls are compared to the Candy Apples. Example: Kendall tells us, “I just want to see Abby’s face.” Nia, on the other hand says, “I’m a little nervous but I’m going to try very, very hard to make it my best.” We salute Abby, respectfully, for this.

Nia’s dad is in the audience and his name is Evan and man, is he handsome or what in his business suit. Holly is soaked with tears during Nia’s excellent lyrical acro solo. She even does some neck dancing. Abby’s smiling. “I think Nia did everything right on the money.”

Kendall is next. She wears orange sparklies (with purple eyeshadow! The horrors!) and does a perfectly decent jazz routine. Abby tells us, “Kendall’s a great little performer and the routine is certainly dynamic, because it’s MY routine, and MY costume. Cathy is a worm.”

Back in Abby’s green room, the girls are preparing for their wedding dance. Melissa confesses to us, “I’m excited because I just got engaged, so it’s fun for me.” Meanwhile, she tosses a fake bouquet to the tiny dancing brides behind her, and yikes! Sometimes we forget that our number one gal Mackenzie is basically a kindergartner. She cries because the other girls pushed in front of her. “I’m emotional.” We kind of wanted to cry with her, but then we wound up laughing with Melissa, because, well, as embarrassing as it is to admit, we are adults.

The group dance is adorable. The girls are perfectly synchronized and they just look happy and precise.

Then the Candy Apples come out, announcing, "This is a funeral.” The big amazon girls are all in black and dancing in front of a wooden coffin. “The problem is, they’re just old,” says Kelly. Vivi –anne and “her little friends” are just there “to bring the age down.” Abby judges Cathy’s dubious choreography and says, “Who runs into a funeral and does an arabesque? Vivi-anne.” We laugh for several minutes.

RESULTS
Abby Lee’s itty bitty brides win 1st place in the overall junior group category! But it’s not all smiles, as new rival Kendall wins 1st place for junior soloist, sending Nia into a corner to cry. Holly plays Mama Bear uncharacteristically and says, “My daughter’s not a pawn in their bigger game that they were playing at my daughter’s expense.”

There is a really touching moment as Nia weeps, “I did really want to win because my dad was there.” Papa Evan sits Nia on his lap, and tells her, through his own masculine tears, “You could not have been more beautiful.” Awww. 

Enter Abby! “Why are we crying and pouting? You go home, you cry into your pillow, you figure out what you did wrong.” Not so awww. 

Meanwhile, in the Candy Apples universe of vulgarity and rhinestones, Cathy presents Jill with a Candy Apples Dance Moms jacket. It is a shapeless denim jacket drenched in red and green jewels. It’s bejeweled, bewitching, bothersome, and we’re officially bewildered. Perfect for Jill!

Catch an all-new Dance Moms on Tuesday, March 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime. 

Never miss a SYTYCD update: Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.