Not to be overly cynical here, but if it weren't Maddie and Mackenzie Abby was supposed to be supervising, if it had been kids that Abby depended on less to make her reputation, and/or if she wasn't being taped for a television show, I wonder how conflicted Abby would have been about staying with the kids as opposed to going to see her mother. And, again, I'm not entirely clear on this, because I missed about the first ten minutes of the show, but where were they when Abby found out about her mom? I thought they were still at the studio in Pittsburgh. If so, couldn't another teacher have been sent with the girls or couldn't she have contacted Maddie and Mackenzie's mom and told her she couldn't supervise them and someone else would have to be found, because she had a family emergency? They'd portrayed Abby as being fairly close to her mother before--when the troupe was in Florida, her mother entertained them at her home. But now Mom's in the hospital and yet another dance competition is more important? I have a hard time swallowing that.
And yes, Maddie is very talented, but she gets favored in ways that are extremely unfortunate. When she places second, it's not her fault and she's encouraged to believe that second is okay. When Chloe (I think it was Chloe) finishes fourth, Abby makes a point of saying in front of everyone else, students and mothers, that fourth isn't good enough--especially not for Chloe's mother, which seemed to honestly astonish Chloe's mother, who'd said nothing of the sort. If Chloe's given a solo on a week that Maddie isn't, and she doesn't win, she's failed in her one chance to prove how good she is. It's just not a good way to treat students--or anyone for that matter. Chloe may not be as good as Maddie, but she's not a bad dancer either, and if her mother (or any other mother) decided to switch her child to another studio, because of Abby's obvious preference for Maddie, then Abby's going to lose out financially too. If her studio is struggling financially, it doesn't make sense for her to put all her eggs in Maddie's basket, no matter how good she is, because while her success might draw new students to Abby's studio, they also might not stick around once they find out that not everyone gets the treatment Maddie does. Abby seems to be living through Maddie's success to a degree that's not good for either one of them.
I completely agree that the group of students performing together seems forced, particularly since the groups they've performing against don't seem to have such a significant age range in their dancers. It also just heightens Brooke's feeling that she'd rather be doing something else--what thirteen year old wants to spend a huge chunk of her free time with nine year olds as opposed to girls her own age, even if they do have dance in common?
I wonder sometimes if Kelly's issues about her daughters may have something to do with unresolved issues between her and Abby dating back to when she was her student. Abby's already made it clear that she thinks that Kelly sold out somehow, because she got married and had kids and decided on a life that didn't include a dance career, that she threw away her talent. Kelly may or may not feel that way, but now Abby's suggesting the same thing about Brooke, because Brooke's becoming less enchanted with dance (and her body's breaking down due to its demands). For that matter, since Abby's said she realized early on that her talents better served dance behind the scenes, so to speak, maybe she's even holding onto some resentments that Kelly had a chance she didn't have in terms of pursuing being a dancer longer than Abby could or did and made a different choice. That whole relationship just seems so volatile that I think everyone would be better off if Kelly's daughters studied elsewhere (and maybe if Brooke were allowed to switch to gymnastics or cheerleading, which seems to be what she wants to do).