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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 of a Four-Girl Ensemble of teenage female gymnasts training at The Rocky Mountain Training Club (known as "The Rock") in Boulder, Colorado in hopes of making the US Olympic team. The first season follow the girls in preparing for Nationals and the fallout afterwards. Season 2 focuses on preparations for Worlds and the Rock's conflicts with the National Gymnastics Organization. The third and final season follows the girls at USA Training Center, where they await selection for the 2012 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:

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  • Payson Keeler: The Determinator and former top girl at the gym, who was poised to become the national champion until a back injury nearly ended her career. Later, she reinvents herself as an artistic gymnast and slowly warms up to the idea of mixing gymnastics and romance.
  • Kaylie Cruz: the Spoiled Sweet Girly Girl whose wealthy parents are founding members of The Rock. She was in a Secret Relationship (dating is forbidden at the gym) with male gymnast Carter before he cheated on her with Lauren. Kaylie eventually becomes the national champion and develops an eating disorder to cope with the pressure. She gets better and enters a relationship with Olympic gymnast Austin Tucker.
  • Lauren Tanner: the Alpha Bitch, oh, so very very much. Daddy's Girl, Spoiled Brat, constantly cheats and Blackmails to get her way...never stops with the troublemaking, really. She has severe Parental Issues that provide some sympahty, or at least a Freudian Excuse, for her actions. Carter cheats on Kaylie with her and the fallout temporarily destroys her friendship with Kaylie.
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  • Emily Kmetko: New Transfer Student, who was discovered at a 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 eight 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 and deciding to end her gymnastics career.

This series contains examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Lauren, of course. Kelly Parker also qualifies. 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, former national champion and from the rival Denver Elite club, to the Rock girls.
  • 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 Magaña 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 before getting 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, prior to her official retirement.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Lauren tells the other girls about Ronnie Cruz's affair with Coach Marty, which Kelly Parker overhears and uses to psych out Kaylie at the Nationals practice.
  • Bitchin Sheeps Clothing: Wendy
  • Break the Cutie: Almost all of the girls qualify.
    • Payson experiences a near-career ending injury at Nationals and her family goes into severe debt to pay for the experimental procedure that allows her to compete again, her father is forced to take a job in a different state to pay their bills, she is publicly humiliated when a heavily edited video of her kissing Sasha leaks, and she injures her ankle during a crucial moment at Worlds, nearly costing the US team gold and losing an endorsement deal.
    • Kaylie's boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend Lauren, ultimately dumping her. Then her parents separate after her mother's affair with Coach Marty comes to light. Her biggest triumph of becoming the National champion is quickly spoiled by everyone dismissing it as a fluke and she develops anorexia in her attempt to land difficult moves. She goes to rehab and her only friend there dies of heart failure.
    • Emily's had a difficult life, with her flighty mother frequently forgetting to pay bills and moving the family around to escape bad boyfriends, causing Emily to assume adult responsibilities at a young age. She finally gets the chance to become an elite gymnast but she is almost bullied out of the Rock by Lauren. After many ups and downs at the Rock, she loses her scholarship after she's found out for having a job and almost loses her spot on the Nationals team when she is arrested for stealing medication for her sick brother. She finally makes the Worlds team by the skin of her teeth... and then she learns she is pregnant and decides to quit gymnastics entirely.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Emily is shocked that she got pregnant after having sex with Damon only one time and having only one period in her life.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Played straight in "Pilot", in which Lauren changes Emily's vault height in attempt to sabotage her but Emily manages to flawlessly executes her second vault, beating out Lauren for the third-ranked spot at the Rock.
    • Played with in Season 1, when Kelly badmouths Payson for taking cortisone shots (which technically are legal and not cheating), implying that they are basically steroids. Even after learning Kelly is a hypocrite who takes cortisone herself, Payson forgoes one last shot and breaks her back. Kelly suffers no consequences for talking Payson out of the shot.
    • In season 3, Wendy tries to sabotage Kaylie's bid for the Olympics team by giving her drugged smoothies and almost succeeds before Lauren finds proof that exonerates Kaylie and gets Wendy disqualified.
  • 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 crew Payson's friends at Taft High.
  • Disappeared Dad: Emily's father, whom she describes as "not the type who sticks around" and describes Brian's father the same way.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lauren seems to be a huge fan of this.
    • She changes the equipment settings on Emily's vault because she fears Emily could take her spot at the Rock, not seeming to care that she could have gotten Emily paralyzed. 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 attempts to expose Kaylie's relationship with Carter and nearly gets the two of them expelled from the gym in attempt to reclaim a top spot at the Rock.
    • She accuses Emily of "stealing" her choreographer (when really, Lauren procrastinated making the booking and Emily simply called the choreographer first) so to prove that she's better than Emily, she steals Emily's floor routine and embarrasses her at an exhibition meet.
  • 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" (aka breaking her back) 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. Payson also insists this of Nicky and Max, respectively.
  • 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 the Keelers meet with a Swiss doctor with an experimental miracle cure.
    • Similarly in Season 3, initially averted when Lauren is told her heart condition requires major surgery and she will be unable to recover in time for the Olympic trials. Then Payson finds a doctor with an experimental procedure that allows a quicker recovery.
  • 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 breaks her back and nearly ends her gymnastics career.
  • 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: Emily with Razor, Payson with Nicky, and later Payson with Max. Payson and Max briefly date but they eventually break up.
  • Karma Houdini: Lauren always seems to bounce back somehow, no matter how atrocious her behavior is. 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.
    • In Season 1, Lauren has gotten away with changing Emily's equipment settings (and nearly causing Emily to severely injure herself); helping Carter cheat on Kaylie; stealing Emily's dress at a fashion show; stealing a necklace Carter gave to Kaylie (a gift from his deceased mother) out of jealousy; breaking up Summer and Steve's relationship; exposing Kaylie's relationship with Carter; and humiliating Payson and nearly ruining Sasha's career by sending a heavily-edited video of Payson kissing Sasha to Ellen Beals.
    • In Season 2, she ruins Emily's custom leotard, steals Emily's floor routine, attempts to blame Kaylie for the leaked kissing video, manipulates Summer into helping her break up Chloe and Steve's relationship, and attempts to sabotage Max's romantic interest in Payson—all with very little consequences.
    • Hand waved in "I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me" in which Summer asks Sasha if he will discipline Lauren for stealing Emily's floor routine and 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 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. Additionally, Summer decides she cannot marry Steve and become Lauren's step-mother after finding out Lauren sent the kissing video.
  • 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: In Season 1, it's Emily/Damon/Razor and Kaylie/Lauren/Carter.
    • Arguably Kaylie/Nicky/Payson qualifies, although Nicky decides to Take a Third Option and leave the Rock to avoid romantic drama.
    • In Season 2, there is Kaylie/Austin/Emily (though it's pretty clear that Austin's had his eye on Kaylie from the get go) as well as Lauren/Max/Payson and Emily/Damon/Kaylie.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Oh, Lauren. Take a drink 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, Steve Tanner.
    • Or Ellen Beals.
    • Or Kelly Parker, who also learned it from her mother, Sheila Baboyon. It's a wonder anyone has time to practice with all the scheming.
  • Miracle Rally: Frequently played straight. No matter how bad it looks for the Rock girls, they almost always find a way to pull through and score high in competitions, if not winning gold outright.
  • Missing Mom: Lauren's mom is a drug addict who abandoned the family years ago due to Steve threatening legal action to keep her away from Lauren. Lauren initially claims she's a humanitarian in Darfur to save face amongst her friends.
    • Carter's mother passed away due to unknown circumstances when he was a kid.
  • The Mole: In Season 3, the girls suspect Jordan is sabotaging them but it turns out to be Wendy.
  • New Transfer Student: Emily to the Rock, Payson at Taft High.
  • No Bisexuals: Averted with Max, who openly refers to himself as bisexual. However, his storyline is cut short as Josh Bowman left the show to star in the drama Revenge.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The girls all risk not making it to Nationals in order to make sure Kaylie competes alongside them.
  • 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. And then Kaylie ends up becoming the one who defeats Kelly.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Denver Elite, the rival top gym (which also stole several Rock members and a coach), which has Kelly Parker. On an international level, China and Russia.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Lauren initially refuses to accept Steve's relationship with Summer, especially since he kept their relationship a secret. When he later dates Chloe, Lauren refuses to accept her and attempts to push Steve and Summer back together.
  • Parental Substitute: Summer tries her best to do this for Lauren, who is totally ungrateful 95% of the time... until Summer helps track down Lauren's biological mother. Then Lauren spends most of Season 2 trying to get Summer and her father back together.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: In "Pilot," Emily has a very scary fall on vault thanks to Lauren sabotaging her vault and insists on completing her second vault.
    • In Season 2, Payson injures herself on the vault at Worlds and insists to Sasha that she will stick a one-footed landing.
    • In Season 3, Lauren insists on competing in the Olympic trials despite having recently undergone 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 leaves to go tour in Europe and constantly comes and goes as he builds his music career. For Payson, Nicky decides to train at another gym and Max decides to break up with Payson in order to figure out his true passion.
    • Then Emily gets pregnant, much drama ensues, and she literally takes a bus herself at 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.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In Season 2, Chelsea Hobbs became pregnant with her second child and thus the writers had Emily also become pregnant.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Payson gives Darby, their replacement coach, one of these after the girls have their well-shaped rear ends handed to them by formerly unfancied rivals Pinewood and calls out Darby for trying to be their friend instead of their leader.
    • Kaylie gives Lauren a very short but scathing one when she finds out about Lauren and Carter had sex at the kegger. It drives Lauren to tears.
    • Lauren's grandmother gives Lauren one in Season 2 after she tries humiliating Emily and her mother during a family dinner party. Like Kaylie's, it drives Lauren to tears.
  • Serious Business: It's the world of elite gymnastics, in which gymnasts have a limited window to make the Olympic team and get a chance to win a gold medal. And if you mess up even just a little bit, it could be the difference between winning gold or even making the Olympic team in the first place. Serious business indeed.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Ellen Beals, oh SO much. Her "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 in which the girls scare off some cat-callers with tumbling passes.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • As mentioned above, Nastia Luikin makes several cameo appearances.
  • Stage Mom: Played with, depending on the Rock parents.
    • Chloe Kmetko, Ronnie Cruz, and Kim and Mark Keeler are very down to earth and supportive of their daughters' careers and are careful not to push them too far.
    • Meanwhile, Steve Tanner and Alex Crux frequently butt in with coaches or take charge of their daughters' training. Steve attempted to take control of the Rock's board to further push Lauren's career and Alex is implied to be reliving his baseball glory days through Kaylie.
    • Played utterly straight with Kelly Parker's mother, Sheila Baboyon. Kelly mentions Sheila gave up Kelly's amateur status at age nine.note 
  • Straw Hypocrite: In "All That Glitters", as mentioned above, Kelly Parker denounces cortisone shots as being basically a form of cheating but is later revealed to be taking cortisone herself.
    • Summer Van Horne pretty much all the time. Special mention to "Like Mother, Like Daughter, Like Supermodel" where Summer criticizes Steve for not telling Lauren the truth about Lauren's 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 3, 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 former ballerina Ayla Kell do her own dance routines.
  • Taking the Heat: Carter and Lauren claim they were the ones in a secret relationship in order to save Kaylie from getting in trouble.
  • 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 out Marty when Kaylie tells him Marty had an affair with her mother; he works closely with Payson for her comeback to gymnastics; and he tends to go Papa Wolf if the girls' merits aren't recognized...
  • Team Mom: Payson's mother Kim manages the gym. After Kim goes on leave, Summer takes over the role.
    • Payson frequently serves this role, something that's lampshaded by Kaylie.
    • In Season 2, Kaylie takes over as part of her trying to take more responsibility as the National champion.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Kaylie and Lauren when they are fighting over Carter.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Payson makes a full recovery after her back injury in Season 2 and in Season 3, Lauren recovers from heart surgery to compete for a spot on the Olympic team.
  • To Win An Olympic Medal: The ultimate goal of all of the girls.
  • Training from Hell: While this sort of thing is threatened frequently (everyone has to start practice at 5 a.m.! 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.
    • In "Sunday, Bloody Sasha, Sunday," as a punishment for going to a kegger, the girls spend all day doing extra training and cleaning the mats. And if any of them get caught talking, they have to start all over again.
  • Training Montage: Frequently used, especially when the girls are learning a new skill.
  • 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.
    • Emily is the underdog gymnast at the Rock and she eventually makes the National team and later, the Wolrds team.
    • True even when the main cast aren't the underdogs as seen when the girls lose to Pinewood - the WORST club 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. First there's a kegger in season 1 and then Austin's lake house party in season 2.
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