Back in 2007, our beloved Suzanne Yoculan—or Suzie Yocks, as no one calls her but me—woke up one morning and said, “I can’t believe you think I like attention!” and invited cameras into the gym to profile her team’s preparation for the 2008 season in AFI’s #1 all-time best film ever, Under the Lights: Georgia Gymnastics. Directed by Suzanne’s hair, produced by Suzanne’s heels, it costars Suzanne Yoculan and Suzanne Yoculan.
The team opens proceedings by gathering around a giant G so that Katie Heenan can ominously threaten us that we’re about to go Under. The. Lights.
Is this like a waterboarding?
“Hey Katie, could you do another take, but this time make it 64% less Guantanamoy?”
Next, we meet Suzanne and some other nameless rabble who are here to tell us how awesome they are. They’re pretty awesome.
Suzanne’s like, “Pretty awesome???”
She gives us her best recruiting spiel about Georgia’s pedigree of champion awesomeness while surrounded by all her most comforting and supportive trophies, including what appears to be a glass foot because of the reasons.
For…Best Performance by Heels on a Competition Floor?
Meanwhile, Jay Clark goes, “We’re the best team, we’re always going to win the national championship, and I can’t imagine anything possibly changing that ever.” Me neither.
And then Grace Taylor invents Snapchat three years too early.
I know she’s saying “snapshot,” but she’s absolutely saying “Snapchat.” Grace doesn’t have the best time with words throughout this EPIC FILM EXPERIENCE. In telling us that Georgia will 100% dominate again, she reveals that she doesn’t care what’s going on at other trash schools like “Florida, or Alabama, or Utah, or Fanger.”
Is Fanger a school?
YOU GUYS WE’RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN FANGER.
Grace maybe just…get some rest. You have a meet against Fanger tomorrow.
Distressingly, we’ve now heard from three consecutive non-Suzannes, so it’s time to get back to the only reason I’m here.
“For some reason, people think she’s really, really mean,” Kupets volunteers. It’s the cheekbones. Also the murders.
Anyway, we’re assured that Suzanne isn’t actually mean in real life (BUT I THOUGHT SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE OUR LEADER), while Cassidy McComb simultaneously almost bursts into tears the second Suzanne looks at her. Unrelated.
This also marks our first one-on-one session with obviously-Suzanne’s-favorite, Tiffany Tolnay.
She’s on beam being obviously Suzanne’s favorite. Suzanne assures Tiffany that she’s the perfect gymnast to win the all-around at nationals. Cut to Kupets going, “Suzanne say what?” while sharpening her meat cleavers.
Through a series of interviews, training clips, and aggressively NCAA “personal growth/mental life lesson” feelings-circles, we learn that Suzanne has changed everyone’s life by being an inspiring strong leader mother family love amazing. Or something. To reinforce this amazingness, Suzanne reveals that Georgia has never had anyone transfer. Ever.
(See above re: murders.)
Training montage! Success in training comes down to one thing.
Continuing her struggle with words, Grace Taylor slips up and says that Georgia is “one of the strongest teams in the nation” and then has immediate shock-diarrhea and panic-corrects herself to “the strongest team.” Phew. Close one. There was going to be trouble. Suzanne was already borrowing Kupets’ meat cleavers. Grace immediately falls on a 2.5. PUNISHMENT.
Though it is refreshing to hear Georgia’s team speak with such unequivocal confidence. It’s one of the things that endeared them to a lot of fans during this era. The attitude is “we’re going to win because we’re the best team, done, go away” and not “well, we’ll just try to hit four-for-four and trust in the self-consciously fake humility of no regrets to see what happens, bleep blop.” NO.
For some reason, we now have to travel back to 1941 for our official introduction to Doug McAvin and Jay Clark. There’s an aggressively “But girls?????? Doing sports??????” tone to the line of questioning, like female athletes are some kind of novelty or departure from the norm. Ugh, we’re still doing that?
Doug informs us that coaching women is a challenge because of lady feelings. You know, they might get hysterical during a routine because their lady parts were thinking about babies or chocolate.
For his part, Jay declares that he doesn’t care if you’re a woman. That is, unless you’re trying to exercise your basic right to reproductive healthcare. Then he suddenly super cares. (That was my first one, you guys! I’ve been doing really well.)
But wait! These gymnasts are also students (ish)! Kupets is majoring in like…tracing or something? With a minor in I’m Courtney Kupets Beyotches. It’s really hard.
Meanwhile, cotillion’s Katie Heenan has put on her best pink sweater and most wholesome earrings and has stopped running for president of the Key Club long enough to say, “I’m in a 7th grade social studies class.”
Oh, Katie…it’s OK. Some people just learn at a slower rate than others and it’s…oh, you mean you’re teaching the class. That’s probably better.
As Abby Stack informs us, there’s a lot of pressure on college athletes to have a good GPA and do their makeup at the same time (SO HARD). Suzanne agrees, and then later that very same sentence also says there’s no pressure. OK? Contradictory statements about pressure are SO college gymnastics. Coaches always say things like, “We don’t feel any pressure, and we learn about managing that pressure.” Wait, what? Are you a sphinx?
But Suzanne would like you to know that it’s not just the championships that make Georgia special. “It’s the people and the girls.” The people AND the girls.
You see, Georgia is different because everyone on the team loves each other. “It’s a huge difference between us and other schools, because I don’t think other schools necessarily say that.” Literally every school says that.
To reinforce this unique sister love that absolutely no other school has, Suzanne invites all the people and the girls to her kitchen-palace to do some sort of setting-the-table competition (unexplained) because of team-building.
I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT FLATWARE!!!!!!!!
Unfortunately, all this team-building didn’t take because prior to the opening meet against Utah, we’re treated to a montage of a billion successive falls punctuated by Tiffany balking on a vault run.
You guys are training like Fanger around here.
When even best-child Tiffany is struggling, that means it’s time for Annual Big Angry Wake-up Call Speech. HOORAY.
It stars my 2nd-favorite Suzanne: Furious-Pause-for-Effect Suzanne. She is out to play tonight. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been.
I must commend the team here for doing an excellent job displaying all three of the traditional reactions to the time-honored “YOU HAVE TO GET SERIOUS NOW” coach/director scolding after a bad day of training/rehearsal on the eve of the season/opening:
1) Actually taking it personally/emotionally for some reason
2) Kiss-ass nodding in agreement
3) So over it.
Well done, everyone.
Good news! Suzanne’s scolding automatically turned everyone good again because now we see nothing but hit routines. Amazing how that works out.
Georgia will begin the season away against Utah and Stanford (a.k.a., THE MOST DIFFICULT SCHEDULE ANYONE HAS EVER HAD EVER). A delightful development in the competition-season segment of the show is Jay’s transition into Buffoon of Dramatic Irony as everything he says is demonstrably wrong and foreshadows the exact opposite.
Jay: “The first two meets will be fine.” NOPE.
The journey! I love how the trip is constructed as 95% bus rides, and we spend only about a half-millisecond with the team rolling in tiaras aboard Suzanne Force One.
We just see them getting off the plane going, “That trip was so hard, you guys.” Meanwhile, the Cal team is huddled under a tarp sharing a can of vegetable broth in the rain.
Once in SLC, we’re treated to a bizarre bit of editing where Suzanne gathers the people and the girls to perform Compassionate Loving Speech 3B, which is then followed by a scene of her planning that very speech earlier in the day with the rest of the coaches. It’s super weird.
Anyway, the gist is that everyone has experienced a lot of adversity this season (like remember that time you didn’t have enough tiaras?), which is inter-cut with shots of everyone laughing their way through Salt Lake City because of all the adversity, while Kupets explains that the cool kids go shopping before the meet. BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR INTERIOR DESIGN HOMEWORK ADVERSITY?????
Before the meet, Suzanne individually summons everyone to her inner sanctum to host a reality show with the goal of seeing if she can make anyone cry about the floor lineup.
Thankfully, Abby Stack comes through in the clutch. Before Suzanne can even say, “Hi,” Abby runs in and says, “I CAN CRY ABOUT THE FLOOR LINEUP,” instantly becoming the origin story of how the Mediterranean Sea came to be.
Suzanne proceeds to ask Abby if only two designers can go with her to fashion week, which ones would she take?
Or, I mean, whether she thinks she’s good enough to be in the floor lineup. That.
Abby goes, “[Mucus]” which I think is a yes.
Also, Suzanne hands Tiffany a rose, proposes marriage, and orders a set of towels that say Mrs. Suzanne Tolnay.
To the meet! Everything is going fine until foreshadowing monster Big Jay Blunderpants says, “We’re definitely going to hit beam.” Oopsie!
Georgia heads to beam in the final rotation and…Tiffany has already fallen. Suzanne goes, “Oh Tiffany, that was the most beautiful fall in the whole wide world. I love you so much.” This is followed by a series of aggressive closeups of Kupets to indicate that it’s probably going to be fine.
It isn’t. Kupets falls on her super-difficult mount series because of SO MANY FEELINGS THAT NEED TO BE UNPACKED LATER IN DEPTH.
“We were leading the whole time. We really were better today,” says the president of the Gracious Loser Foundation.
As McCool finishes off the meet, Kupets searches through her devastation bag for a roll of shutupandleavemealone. But it seems she left that at home because Suzanne comes right over and says, “You don’t have to win every meet, she lied. I mean…just…you don’t have to win every meet.”
Suzanne tells the team that losing is OK as long as you learn a lesson from it………..”and we’re going to learn it tonight.” Bum bum BUMMMMMMM. Talk about 64% too Guantanamoy.
So, the team heads to San Francisco to feel like failures (you’re part of a tradition now), but not before half of them nearly fall into the bay while posing for handstand pictures.
Eventually, Suzanne gathers the team so that she can be dressed in red while everyone else is dressed in black. STAR. She reaffirms that no one actually knows what adversity is, adding,
Moi? Oh, do go on.
First of all, Tiffany is allowed to fall because TIFFANY. So that fall doesn’t count. TIFFANY. “It’s like a cough. Where did it come from?”
What is that, a riddle? What’s the sound of one Tiffany coughing?
Kupets’ fall, on the other hand, was not like a cough. It was like a barf, and everyone needs to start crying about it like NOW.
“Do you want me to tell them how you’re feeling?” Suzanne asks, quoting the subtitle of the book Things That Are Never A Good Idea.
Fortunately, Suzanne decides to allow Kupets to conduct her own indecipherable storm of tear-words. Something about doubting. And having doubts. And the way she was thinking. And Suzanne. And then she didn’t. And I thought. And I didn’t know. And maybe. And doubts. No one caught more than 36% of those words.
It’s bleak, but being the champion coach that she is, Suzanne soars to the rescue by somehow blaming the fall on everyone else on the team: “I think that fall is as much your responsibility as it was hers, because you doubted her too,” which is some peak Jedi mind-coaching bullshit. Mad respect, Suzanne. Yep, that fall was all Lauren Sessler.
Next, Suzanne turns to some painfully accurate coaching call-and-response that I’m obsessed with.
-“Do you guys feel like she let you down?”
Reason #685 I could never be on a college gymnastics team. I’d just be like, “Yes…”
-“Who here can feel when a team has confidence in them?”
Mentality solved! Now, we can move on from this performance of Did Kupets Let Everyone Down in B Major and turn to MOTIVATION PLATITUDES.
“This is our team. This is our year. This is our drive. We play it out the way we want to play it out. We decide how it’s played out. Not Utah, not Stanford, not Florida, not Alabama.”
BUT WHAT ABOUT FANGER????
Suzanne declares that she needs to see everyone’s heart through their eyes, which is a little too SVU for comfort. Um…ow?
But still, because of winner’s hearts, and eyes, and deciding how it plays out, Georgia implied-defeats Stanford, a story told through the medium of individual voice-over declarations of fundamental GymDoginess, each with its own personal spin. Hilary Mauro records hers from inside a well, presumably because that’s where she’s kept, and Marcia Newby does this thing where she was allowed to speak for the first time. WOW.
All that’s left is for Suzanne to conclude with the moral of the story, “Georgia gymnastics is a team of winners.”
Jay adds, “AND ALWAYS WILL BE.”