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Series / Make It or Break It

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Make It Or Break It is a series that ran on ABC Family from 2009-2012. It follows the lives and fortunes of a Four-Girl Ensemble of teenage female gymnasts training at "The Rock" in Boulder, Colorado. The first eleven episodes follow the girls in the two months before Nationals, and then picks up afterward. The third and final season follows them at the training camp for the Olympics.

The show was created by Holly Sorensen who, along with Paul Stupin and John Ziffren, served as the show's executive producers. The stunt doubles were former elite, Olympian or NCAA champion gymnasts.

The girls are:

  • Payson Keeler: The Determinator and former top girl at the gym, rival to the former national champion and likely to overtake her... that is, before a back injury at Nationals nearly ends her career.
  • Kaylie Cruz: Current National champion and the daughter of the gym's founder and owner. She was in a Secret Relationship (dating is forbidden at the gym) with male gymnast Carter before he cheated on her with Lauren. Now in a relationship with Olympic gymnast Austin Tucker.
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  • Lauren Tanner: the Alpha Bitch, oh, so very very much. Daddy's Girl, Spoiled Brat, cheater, does Blackmail... never stops with the troublemaking, really. Enters a relationship with Kaylie's boyfriend Carter, causing the two of them to break up and destroying her friendship with Kaylie.
  • Emily Kmetko: New Transfer Student, whose previous gym was the Fresno YMCA. Her family lives in Perpetual Poverty, forcing Scholarship Student Emily to maintain a job at the local Pizza Shack (also forbidden at The Rock) while still training 8 hours a day. She meets a lot of cute boys there. Put on a Bus (literally) towards the end of season two due to becoming pregnant.


This series contains examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: Cassie Scerbo in "The Great Wall" - justified in-universe, as her character Lauren is competing in China in that episode.
  • Alpha Bitch: Lauren, of course. Ronnie Cruz also shows some shades of this in regards to the condescending way she can treat Emily and Payson's mothers.
  • Arch-Enemy: Kelly Parker, former national champion.
  • Artistic License – Sports:
    • Floor music is not under any circumstances allowed to have lyrics, particularly not at the World level. This rule is blatantly broken at Nationals and Worlds due to Rule of Cool.note 
    • For the sake of their own timelines, the writers take a lot of a artistic license when it comes to the gymnastics calendar, such as the lack of 2010 Nationals in Season 2.
    • Apparently, in this universe, no one had ever performed a triple back dismount off the uneven bars before Jordan Randall. In real life, Svetlana Kozlova of the Soviet Union debuted the skill in 1990. Brenda Magana of Mexico performed the dismount at World Championships in 2002 and got it named after her as a resultnote , and Shantessa Pama of the United States also successfully competed it several times.
    • The show exaggerates the difficulty of quite a few tricks. For instance, Kaylie's triple twist from "Worlds Apart" is actually a standard level of difficulty for international competitionnote , while Emily's Yurchenko 1.5 is today barely adequate at the elite level — to compete and win on the international stage, a double-twisting Yurchenko or similar difficulty is the minimumnote .
    • The chances of anyone being able to teach themselves elite-level skills without an experienced coach is only a hair above zero. Emily would have been far more likely to put herself in the hospital even trying those skills than to get a scholarship to a gym like The Rock.
  • As Himself: In the season two episode "All or Nothing", Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin appears as a commentator at the meet the Rock girls attend in France. Apparently, she doesn't compete anymore.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults
  • Bitchin Sheeps Clothing: Wendy
  • Break the Cutie: This depends largely on whether or not you regard Payson as The Cutie (she is, of all of them, the most idealistic of the girls and we later discover a penchant for lost puppies). The writers do seem to have it out for her: breaking up her family, monetary woes, public humiliation. And then they break her back at Nationals and her ankle at Worlds. Seeing a definite trend here.
    • At Worlds in her first time competing after signing a sizable endorsement deal which is based on her performance, she does poorly, and had the team failed to qualify for the finals she would, more than likely, have lost her the deal. Then in the finals she sprains her ankle trying to stick a vault landing. She redeems herself in everyone's eyes, especially her sponsors, when she attempts to vault with a bad ankle and sticks a one-footed landing.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!! Emily
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Kelly badmouths Payson for taking cortisone shots (which technically are legal and not cheating), implying that they are cheating. And after listening to her, Payson forgoes one last shot and breaks her back. And in the final season Wendy tries to sabotage Kaylie's bid for the Olympics team by giving her drugged smoothies and almost succeeds. In the series finale, Wendy is disqualified.
    • In the pilot episode, Lauren changes the height on the vault in an attempt to take Emily out of the running for the National Team. While Emily does get injured at first, she manages to flawlessly execute her routine on her second try, beating out Lauren for the third spot on the team - something Kaylie rubs in Lauren's face.
  • Cool Big Sis: Emily is one to Brian, her younger half-brother.
  • Childhood Friends: Kaylie and Lauren have known each other since they were six and been on the same team since they were eight. Payson became friends with the two of them when she was twelve and her family moved to Boulder.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Kaylie somehow manages to defeat Kelly Parker and win Nationals after Payson is out of the competition, something nobody would have expected unless they picked up on the hints the writers were dropping all episode.
  • Dating Service Disaster: An online one fixes up Chloe Kmetko with Steve Tanner. Their old/fake photos didn't help any. Surprisingly, they actually seem to hit it off.
  • Delinquents: Ike and his friends.
  • Disappeared Dad: Emily's father, whom she describes as "not the type who sticks around." And Brian's.
  • Disporportionate Retribution: Lauren seems to be a huge fan of this.
    • She changes the equipment settings on Emily's vault out of feelings of jealousy, not seeming to care that Emily could get paralyzed due to this. Later on, she gets her father to hire a private investigator to try and get Emily kicked out of the gym for the same reason.
    • She nearly exposes Kaylie's relationship with Carter and nearly gets the two of them expelled from the gym after Kaylie points out that Emily beat Lauren fair and square on the vault.
    • She steals Emily's dress in the fashion show because she was angry at Summer for not letting her wear whatever she wanted to wear.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Very silly version of this: After Sasha implies that whoever got the most applause for their routine at the open house gets something, all anyone gets is extra practice on Sunday "because you've been working on your silly routines all week."
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin especially after Payson "breaks it" at Nationals.
  • Fake Guest Star: Neil Jackson (Sasha Belov) is consistently credited as a guest star despite playing a character important enough - and appearing often enough (in 36 out of 48 episodes) - to count as a regular.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Carter, to Lauren.
  • Going Home Again: Emily does this after getting kicked out of the gym.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Kaylie is forced to say this about Carter repeatedly, given their Secret Relationship.
  • Happily Married: Mark and Kim Keeler.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted when Payson goes to Los Angeles to meet with a specialist, who tells Payson that her back injury is inoperable. Then played straight when Swiss doctor who has a miracle experimental cure
  • Heel–Face Turn: Lauren is constantly lying and blackmailing people and trying to steal Carter from Kaylie. She pretends to repent but then goes back to her dishonest ways.
  • Honor Before Reason: The main reason behind Payson's choice to not take the cortisone shot. As a result, she broke her back.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Chloe Kmetko. Although she is only a bartender at the strip club, Emily considers her job to be just as disreputable, even though she is only doing it to pay for Emily's training at the Rock.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Payson after breaking her back. Ronnie Cruz also acknowledges this, especially when her One-Hit Wonder comes up in the conversation.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Emily seems to emit pheromones to attract every available male on the show, but given the casting and makeup standards of all the young actresses on the show it's hard to believe the idea that Emily stands out that much.
  • It's Always Spring: The show takes place in Boulder, Colorado yet the show seems to only take place during the very short spring/summer season. We never ever see it snow or even see the characters wearing jackets (although winter there isn't as severe as non-Colorado residents think).
  • Just Friends: Payson and Nicky for now, though they both seem interested. However, Nicky leaves the gym because of too much drama at the Rock.
    • And now Max and Payson. Not to mention Max and Austin.
  • Karma Houdini: Lauren always seems to bounce back somehow, no matter how atrocious her behavior is.
    • As of Season 2, Lauren has gotten away with changing the equipment settings before Emily's vault and risking her getting paralyzed, breaking up Chloe and her father's relationship, manipulating Summer into breaking up with Steve and Sasha, getting Emily benched in France so that she could compete, stealing Kaylie's boyfriend and lying about it, stealing the necklace Carter gave Kaylie (a gift from his deceased mother), deliberately exposing Kaylie's relationship with Carter to Marty and Kaylie's parents, humiliating Payson and ruining Sasha's career by sending the kissing video to Ellen Beals, ruining Emily's custom leotard, stealing Emily's dress in Season 1, and stealing Emily's floor routine in Season 2, just to list a few. She does something every episode that in Real Life would almost certainly make her friends openly wonder why they keep hanging out with a complete sociopath.
    • Hand waved in one episode in which Summer asks Sasha if he will discipline Lauren for stealing Emily's dance routine for worlds. Sasha responds "No, I think it's pretty clear who won that battle, I think she's learned her lesson." She didn't.
    • Finally subverted in the middle of Season 2 when Carter not only starts calling her out on these things, but eventually has enough of her horrible behavior and breaks up with her.
  • Leotard of Power: Lots of teenage girls walking around in leotards every episode. This is pretty much Truth in Television for competitive gymnastics.
  • Lingerie Scene: Lauren has one, in keeping with her being as close to a Ms. Fanservice as the show gets.
  • Limited Social Circle and True Companions: Justified when you spend all of your time at the gym with the other gym rats.
  • Love Triangle: Emily/Damon/Razor, Kaylie/Lauren/Carter
    • also arguably Kaylie/Nicky/Payson, although maybe not as Nicky intends to leave the Rock because of all the distractions he sees there.
    • A slight one with Kaylie/Austin/Emily, though it's pretty clear that Austin's had his eye on Kaylie from the get go.
    • And now it seems to be heading towards Emily/Damon/Kaylie and Lauren/Max/Payson.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Oh, Lauren. Try drinking every time Lauren plays head games with one of her supposed best friends or her father's romantic partners. You will black out.
    • She probably learned it from her father.
    • Or Ellen Beals.
    • Or Kelly Parker. It's a wonder anyone has time to practice with all the scheming.
  • Miracle Rally
  • Missing Mom: Lauren's mom is a drug addict who abandoned the family years ago due to Steve threatening her with an arrest if she kept trying to see Lauren. Lauren claims she's in Darfur.
    • Carter's mother passed away due to unknown circumstances when he was a kid.
  • The Mole: In season four, Jordan - or so the girls think, except it turns out to be Wendy.
  • New Transfer Student: Emily to the Rock, Payson at Taft High.
  • No Bisexuals: Averted with Max. Bar Max's assumed absence from Season 3
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The girls all risk not making it to Nationals in order to get Kaylie on that bus.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: In Season 2 episode 6, most of the jokes are about the time Kaylie got absolutely plastered at a party and did a keg stand all the way back at the beginning of Season 1. This winds up being lampshaded by Kaylie herself.
    • —>Kaylie: Yes, I did a keg stand, which evidently was way more memorable than the gold I won at Nationals!
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Payson to Kelly. Or so people think.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Denver Elite, the rival top gym (which also stole several Rock members and a coach), which has Kelly Parker. Also China.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Steve Tanner proposes marriage to his assistant Summer. He kept their dating a secret from Lauren, then after promising her he wouldn't propose, immediately proposed to Summer. Later dates Chloe and Lauren continues to make with the drama about it.
  • Parental Substitute: Summer tries her best to do this for Lauren, who is totally ungrateful 95% of the time... until Summer has news about the whereabouts of Lauren's biological mother. Then she spends most of Season 2 trying to get Summer and her father back together.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: In the pilot Emily has a very scary fall on vault thanks to Lauren moving the positioning of her spring board but then she's magically fine and repeats the vault.
    • Payson after she, like Emily, injures herself on Vault at Worlds.
      • And later, Lauren after her heart surgery.
  • Put on a Bus: Constantly happening to various love interests, particularly those who love Emily. First Razor leaves Boulder to go work as a roadie. Then Damon who leaves to go tour in Europe and also Nicky who leaves to train at another gym. Then Emily gets pregnant, much drama ensues and she literally takes a bus herself near the end of season 2.
    • In fact, the male gymnasts at The Rock seem to be on a bus for a good portion of the season, only showing up when needed to cause drama.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Payson gives Darby - their coach (replacing Sasha) - one of these after the girls have their well-shaped rear ends handed to them by formerly unfancied rivals Pinewood.
    • Kaylie gives Lauren a very short but scathing one when she finds out about her and Carter having sex at the keggar. It drives her to tears.
    • Lauren's grandmother gives Lauren one in Season 2 after she tries humiliating Emily and her mother during the dinner Steve Tanner was hosting. Like with Kaylie's, it drove Lauren to tears.
  • Serious Business
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Ellen Beals, oh SO much. "Oh, btw, I'm gonna fire your coach so I can take over as coach!" is particularly outstanding.
  • She-Fu: As cited in the trope example, the gas station scene.
  • Shout-Out: When Payson vaults on an injured foot in the Season 2 finale, it is an obvious homage to Kerri Strug's medal-winning vault in the 1996 Olympics. Explicitly.
    • Kelly Parker's mom seems to be a major shout out to Rose Thompson Hovick and overbearing parent managers everywhere.
  • Special Guest: The season 2 finale has Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci as commentators. As far as Big Names In Gymnastics go, it doesn't get much bigger.
    • Except maybe Bela Karolyi guest starring as Sasha's Romanian coaching legend father, Dmitri Belov.
  • Stage Mom: subverted in this show, the parents for the most part are sane and want what's best for their kids, and aren't horrendously pushy.
    • While Emily, Payson and Kaylie's mothers are very down to earth and supportive (but even Kaylie's mother has her moments sometimes), both Kaylie and Lauren's fathers are stageparents to the max. Kaylie's father especially wants to relive some of his glory days through his daughter.
    • Played utterly straight with Kelly Parker's mother. Kelly mentioned being exploited for her talent by her mother since age 9. To the extent that Kelly finally cuts her off.
  • Straw Hypocrite: In the extended eleventh episode, Kelly "Say No To Drugs" Parker is shown getting a cortisone shot of her own. "We all lie sometimes."
    • Summer Van Horne pretty much all the time. Special mention to "Like Mother, Like Daughter, Like Supermodel" where Summer criticizes Steve for not telling her the truth about Lauren's biological mother, while keeping her own relationship history from him in return.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Razor is replaced by Damon, and then Razor returns and Damon leaves, then Damon returns...
    • And in season three, Jordan Randall is pretty much the new Emily Kmetko.
  • Talent Double: Very obvious use of doubling since none of the actors are gymnasts. Not only that, the skills the talent doubles are doing are usually much simpler than what they're stated to be onscreen, as anyone actually capable of doing those tricks is going to be busy competing on the actual US National Team, not talent doubling for a TV show. The routines are shot to hide this, but it's obvious to anyone who actually knows gymnastics. But at least they let ballerina Ayla Kell do her own dance routines.
  • Taking the Heat: Carter and Lauren both do this to save Kaylie.
  • Team Dad: Sasha cares deeply for his gymnasts: he threatens to ruin Carter's career if he makes a move on one of his girls; he wonders if Lauren has someone to talk to the moment he sees her; when Emily's trust issues are revealed he promises her he's not going to leave; he punches Marty when Kaylie tells him Marty had an affair with her mother; he works closely with Payson in regards to her back injury, her rejection of her femininity, and her switch to an atristic gymnast; and he tends to go Papa Wolf if the girls' merits aren't recognized...
  • Team Mom: Payson's mom Kim manages the gym. After Kim goes on leave, Summer does the job.
    • Payson starts out as this to the girls in Season 1 before her injury, something that's lampshaded by Kaylie.
    • Then once Season 2 starts, Kaylie takes over.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Payson's goal, and in the final season Lauren's.
  • To Win An Olympic Medal
  • Training from Hell: While this sort of thing is threatened frequently (everyone has to practice from 5 a.m. on! With no days off!), it doesn't seem to happen. In the real world the gymnasts would be training instead of standing around the gym talking. But then again, Sasha does get very pissy if he catches the girls standing around and talking.
    • It winds up happening on the fourth episode of Season 1. As a punishment for going to the keggar, the girls wind up spending all day training and cleaning the mats. And if any of them get caught talking, they have to start all over again.
  • Training Montage
  • True Companions: The girls might not even be friends most of the time, but they're teammates and that's bigger than friendship. Or so they say.
  • 24-Hour Party People: the gym is full of extras who never interact or talk to the main characters.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Ellen Beals, who apparently now runs every Olympic committee in existence and throws her power around constantly so she can dictate the lives of all gymnasts, coaches, parents, etc.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: After several Rock gymnasts are left out of international competition against China, Sasha Belov "goes rogue" and challenges the Chinese team to compete against the Rock.The Chinese team still wins but the Rock team wins more medals then the official United States team, proving Sasha's point. Also Emily is the underdog gymnast at the Rock and she barely makes national team by the skin of her teeth (had Payson not been injured she wouldn't have made it)
    • True even when the main cast aren't the underdogs as seen when the girls lose to Pinewood - the WORST team in the country.
  • Unwanted Harem: Emily's varying love interests—and she's not even supposed to be dating.
  • Wild Teen Party: Two, in fact.

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