The only thing I enjoy more than dancers who can’t act is gymnasts who can’t act or Touched By an Angel 3×29, “A Delicate Balance”

All right, so I was really going to try and get a Sweet Valley book recapped, but I got distracted by the awesomeness that is Touched By An Angel 3×29, “A Delicate Balance.”  After writing my last blog entry I got inspired to track it down, and I wasn’t disappointed.  SVH fans, take heart–this show (or at least this episode) is really Sweet Valleyish, with a bit of Center Stage thrown in.  Meaning it’s awesome.

I’m recapping this Agony Booth-style, which means it’ll be long and slightly image-heavy, so I’ma cut this for those of you on dialup.

I’d only seen a couple of episodes of TBAA, so I don’t really know much about it, and had to resort to imdb to remember the main characters’ names.  But I do remember the basic premise, which is that they’re angels sent by God to help people.  Remember those “Liz rescues a classmate in need” Sweet Valley books?  It’s kind of like that, if Liz were sent by God.  Which is a truly frightening thought.

So the episode opens with two of the main angel characters, Monica and Tess, in a gym (I keep capitalizing angel and having to go back and fix it… thanks, Joss Whedon, thanks a lot).  Monica’s trying to learn a bar routine, and they are using highly technical terminology like “swing” and “flip.”  OK, I’ll excuse people who have lives for not knowing, but if you’re going to pretend to be a gymnastics coach for a week, it might behoove you to be aware that there is no actual gymnastic move called a “flip.”  Just sayin.’ Special guest stars Bart and Nadia walk in (please tell me I don’t have to clarify further who I’m talking about), apparently here to commentate at the big meet.  Another angel, Andrew, apparates in, and we learn that the angels have been sent to help a family that’s barely hanging on.  The family in question walks in.  It consists of a mother with a really spiky, ’80s-tacular ‘do, a boy of about twelve, and a teenage daughter, the gymnast.  The daughter, whose name we later find out is Rebecca, is dressed in workout clothes and is really eager to start practicing before Nicole, her rival, gets here and hogs the bars.  And here I must nitpick and say that any elite gym worth its salt has more than one set of bars.  Even my college gym had more than one set of bars. And I’m clearly putting far too much thought into a throwaway line of dialogue meant to establish that Nicole is our resident bitch, aren’t I?

“Stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s never going to happen!”

Credits, and now we’re at Rebecca’s hotel room.  She and her friends, including Nicole the bitch, walk in.  Nicole is played by Kerri Strug, whose acting skills are about what you’d imagine.  Apparently, Kerri’s “bitch” mode consists of looking bored and rolling her eyes a lot.  She’s also wearing this hideous 80-licious outfit, which makes the fashion major in me emo. The plastics would never let her sit with them at lunch.  The other girls are all excited because one of their competition is injured, but Nicole rolls her eyes and heads out to pick up more Kal-teen bars.  I have to comment how weird it is that Kerri’s voice sounds so… normal.  What happened?  Did she undergo a sudden voice change since the Olympics?  It’s wigging my shit out, man.

I have way too many thoughts.

“Don’t have sex. Because you will get pregnant and die.”

Cut to the gym, where the coach is giving them a pep talk.  He’s this big linebacker-type dude who sort of reminds me of Shayla Worley’s (scary) coach.  We pan slowly over all of the girls, who are all in spandex and stuff, except for Kerri, who for some reason is in a track suit.  Not sure if the plastics would approve, even on Friday.  The girls disperse to practice, and the coach gives Monica some background on the girls.  Obv, Nicole’s the HBIC that everyone expects to win.  Rebecca’s the underdog, and she’s really struggling. The coach ominously says she wants to win if it kills her, and it just might.  Meanwhile, Nicole’s media whoring it up with Bart and Nadia, while Rebecca and the third friend who’s name I’m not even going to bother with look on enviously.

Time for our b-plot!  Kid brother is at a skating rink with another gymnast’s younger brother.  He wants to prove he’s badass like the other guys so he tries to do some x-treme skating move on the ramp.  Another kid chucks his helmet at him and of course he wipes out and they laugh at him. Andrew, who is posing as an employee at the rink, tends to kid brother’s scraped elbow and warns him about the dangers of practicing without proper gear.  When his back is turned, kid brother (I can’t be arsed to remember his name, either) steals a bill from the cash register.  My “acting out because big sister gets all the attention” subplot sense is tingling.

“That’s Rebecca. Everywhere she goes, drama follows.”

Back at the gym, Rebecca’s practicing while her Mom is on the phone with Rebecca’s publicist.  I like how there’s a conveniently placed pay phone right next to the gym floor.  Ahh, the days before cell phones.  Nicole’s still being Lauren Conrad in a leotard, which makes Mom and publicist resentful.  She beckons the producer over, and it’s Tess, the third angel.  She complains that everyone’s all Nicole Nicole Nicole, and Tess responds by telling off the publicist.  Heh, I like her.

Meanwhile kid brother and his friend use the stolen money to take a cab to kid brother’s old house.  Apparently, the family used to live there before the moved to Cali.  The camera goes all soft-focus and the colors are kind of muted and pale, so we know we’re in for a flashback.  It’s kid brother and his Dad, who’s teaching him how to ride a bike.  End flashback. Kid brother gets mad and throws rocks at the window.  He and the friend run off, and Andrew shows up, looking all concerned and Liz Wakefield like.

Back at the hotel, Rebecca’s Mom is on the phone, apparently getting the news that Rebecca’s been dumped by her sponsor.  Rebecca overhears, adding to her many pressures.  At the gym the next day, Rebecca’s Mom is on the phone frantically trying to find a new sponsor.  The brother tries to get his mother’s attention, and she finally sends him off to the skating rink, telling him to be back in an hour. At the rink, kid brother runs into Andrew again, who knows he stole the money.  He makes a deal to let him work it off that afternoon.

“I have this theory that if you shaved off all of Nicole’s hair, she’d look like a British man.” (OK, I’ll stop with the Mean Girls quotes already)

Back at the gym, Monica’s all Liz Wakefieldy with Rebecca.  For a coach, she never actually does much of anything.  I never see her spotting Rebecca, just kind of standing there watching her, which is mildly creepy. Rebecca is all scary-intense at practice, insisting on practicing everything till she gets it perfect.  Nicole stops media whoring long enough to ask Rebecca if she wants to warm up with her (um, if Rebecca’s practicing, why does she need to warm up?)  Be careful, Rebecca–this is how it all starts!  Next thing you know you’ll be puking on your boy toy’s shoes and accusing your teachers of being drug pushers!  Rebecca blows Nicole off and Nicole’s like, whatever, and rolls her eyes.  Tess talks to Mom, and we get the lowdown on sponsors–basically, if they foot the bill for a gymnast’s training, they get first dibs on her when she goes pro.

Back at the skating rink, Mom charges in, having finally realized that one of her children’s been missing for hours.  She finds out that he’s working off the money he stole, but he won’t tell her why he stole it. Back at the hotel, Rebecca’s lifting dumbbells in front of the mirror while Mom argues with kid brother.  Kid brother makes a pointed remark about how all Mom cares about is Rebecca and runs off.

Mom is at the gym with sponsor dude, who’s reminding me of a used car salesman, cheap suit and all.  Rebecca still hasn’t shown, and Mom’s trying to stall him.  But he’s a busy guy, and he can’t be standing around forever waiting for some gymnast who can’t be arsed to show up.  I’m pretty sure Nicole’s name is evoked at some point.  I’m starting to think that if you chant her name three times she’ll appear.  And probably roll her eyes at you.

We find out where Rebecca’s disappeared off to–like her brother, she’s gone to see their old house.  We get another pastel-y soft-focus flashback, this time of her father helping her do a back tuck on the front lawn.  Um, isn’t that kind of dangerous?  End flashback and we see Rebecca gazing tearfully at the house, before she turns around and runs back to the gym.

Have no fear, Liz Wakefield’s condescending shoulder pat is here.

When she gets there, however, sponsor dude is already gone.  Mom chews her out for missing him and flounces out.  A dejected Rebecca talks to Monica, and we find out the deal with her father.  Shortly after he died of cancer, Mom sold the house, and they lived this nomadic life traveling from motel to motel for Rebecca’s competitions.  Rebecca also harbors guilt for barely seeing him as he was dying, and not having a chance to say goodbye.  Monica offers comfort and a Liz Wakefieldian shoulder to cry on.  Meanwhile, who should show up but Bart and Nadia, in time to do an impromptu gymnastic pas de deux reminiscent of an especially cheesy interpretive dance.  This is rather… bizarre.  Rebecca and Monica watch, and Rebecca smiles, remembering when gymnastics was fun and not a job.

Meanwhile, kid brother’s at the skating rink, all badass rollerblading without a helmet.  I am disturbed that I used the words “badass” and “rollerblading” in the same sentence. For some reason I’m reminded of that One Tree Hill ep when Nathan’s suddenly a racecar driver, and he’s careening around the track and tries to commit suicide by crashing… oh man, I love that show.  Can an Olympic gymnast get a guest spot on that one, please?  Anyway, kid brother tries a big stunt on the ramp, which is hilariously cut in with Bart tumbling across the mat at the gym.  While Bart raises his arms in triumph, however, kid brother wipes out and cracks his head. Wow, I’d have never that one seen coming.

Mom rushes to the hospital, where kid brother is currently in a coma after a bad concussion.  Andrew is there and explains that he couldn’t get to the kid in time.  He’d tried to get him to wear a helmet, but he wouldn’t listen.  Mom explains how kid brother never listens since his father died.  Rebecca arrives soon after, and she and her mother keep vigil by kid brother’s bedside.  Not to be nitpicky again, but… Rebecca’s got a big competition coming up.  Yeah, I know her brother’s in the hospital and all, but would they really let her skip out on training for that long?

Mom goes back to the house while Rebecca stays with her brother.  We’re treated to another flashback, this time of Dad measuring the kids’ heights and making a mark on the garage door.  Hey, we used to do that, too!  Except our marked-up wall was by the kitchen.  Tess shows up and informs Mom that she’s an angel sent by God.  Mom takes this surprisingly well–if it were me, I’d have started backing away slowly.  Either that or demand proof.  Come on, apparate or something!  Tess calls Mom on using Rebecca’s career as a crutch to run away from the past.  And just like that, Mom has an epiphany, and vows to stop pushing Rebecca so hard.

Mom returns to the hospital, where she and Rebecca have a heart-to-heart.  She tells Rebecca that she can’t be there, but gives the usual cliche’d pep talk about doing it for herself, blah blah. They hug it out, bitches, and Rebecca is off to compete.

“Yeah, I’m #1. Let’s see you bitches do a vault on one leg.”

It’s competition time, and I am ridiculously excited, because I always love the big competition scene.  Rebecca’s friends express sympathy about the sitch with her brother, and Rebecca’s all like, it’s not your problem.  Nicole gets her Kristy Thomas on and assures Rebecca that they’re her friends, so it is their problem.  After all, she wouldn’t be ranked number one if not for her hard work and her friends.  Just what we needed, a little BSC in here, complete with bad acting!

“Note to self: never do LSD before a gymnastics meet.”

We get our competition montage, during which Kerri/Nicole does nothing particularly cool on bars or floor.  I’m still amused that she’s like a foot shorter than everyone else.  Rebecca’s big moment comes on the beam, but predictably, she falls.  As soon as she hits the mat, the gym goes dark save for a single spotlight, and everyone’s gone except for her.  Monica appears, perched on the beam in a flowing white dress.  She informs Rebecca that she’s an angel and pep-talks her, giving Rebecca the courage to get back on the beam.  The lights go back on and everyone’s back, and Rebecca gets back up and finishes her routine.  Everyone cheers and Bart goes on about how she’s the most courageous girl at the meet.

Rebecca and family move back into their old house, and the final scene shows Monica still trying to learn bars while the angels banter.  And that’s it.

So what did we learn from all this?  Don’t do it for the money, do it for yourself.  Always practice rollerblading with proper equipment.  And I have somehow found a way to reference Center Stage, Harry Potter, Mean Girls, Laguna Beach, One Tree Hill, Sweet Valley High, and BSC all in the same recap, which clearly indicates that I need a life.  But we knew this already, right?

One thought on “The only thing I enjoy more than dancers who can’t act is gymnasts who can’t act or Touched By an Angel 3×29, “A Delicate Balance”

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