We're introduced to Marti Perkins, a pre-law major at Lancer University who is straight out of Memphis. It's clear from the start that Marti is from the wrong side of the tracks: she rides her bike everywhere because times are tough for her and her mother, Wanda, and she's only able to attend Lancer because she has a full ride scholarship. Your typical "bad girl," Marti doesn't fit in at a school where football is God, and the cheerleaders (the Hellcats) do God's work.
Marti and her friend Dan are watching and mocking the Hellcats during one of their practices. As Marti pretends to shoot one of the cheerleaders off the top of a pyramid with a crossbow, she's amazed when the girl actually falls. While Dan finds this hilarious, Marti is concerned that the girl has hurt herself.
That night, Marti goes home to her apartment over a bar called Rollin' Tumblin' Blues. She's opening the mail and paying bills when she sees a past due letter from her school. She immediately goes to her mother's place of work, called Rathsekllar, a Lancer University Pub. When she confronts her mother about the letter, which says that Marti's scholarship has been canceled, Wanda seems less than concerned.
Back at the university gym, Alice (the cheerleader that fell off the pyramid) is told by the team's doctor (Derrick) that she's out of commission for six weeks, which means she'll miss the cheerleading qualifiers. She tries to talk him into just "shooting her up" so she can compete, but the coach (Vanessa, who is also Derrick's live-in girlfriend) agrees that Alice should take it easy. Alice is determined to get a second opinion. Vanessa wonders aloud whether the team is cursed, when the peppiest girl you've ever seen (Savannah) reminds her that pessimism is not allowed. Savannah makes a beeline to Alice and promptly writes 'healing' on Alice's injured arm with a Sharpie. Lewis (Alice's former partner) is quick to make fun of her new ink, but she doesn't take the joke too well as she blames him for falling in the first place. They start to argue when Savannah breaks it up, claiming the gym is a "no negativity zone".
Marti is mulling over her alternative scholarship options when she encounters Savannah in the financial aid office. Marti is amazed to find that cheerleaders qualify for scholarships and makes the epic mistake of calling Savannah a 'football groupie.' The situation quickly deteriorates and nearly comes to blows, but both girls gather themselves and leave before things escalate.
Now determined to make the cheerleading squad in order to stay in school, Marti rents Bring It On to prepare for auditions. She goes to the open call and is horrified to find out that not only is Savannah a judge, she's also the cheerleading captain. Marti's nerves nearly get the better of her during tryouts, but Coach Vanessa encourages her to relax and have fun with it. So Marti goes off-book and does a routine of her own making. The fresh new moves impress Vanessa, but Alice, who is also a judge, can sense her position on the squad could permanently be lost to this new upstart and votes against her. It's up to Savannah to cast the deciding vote. Opting to do what's best for the squad, she votes 'yes.' So now Marti has to move into 'Cheertown,' a dorm just for Hellcats. And even better news, Savannah is her roommate.
Coach Vanessa is called into the Dean's office and notified that the school is looking for a new football coach. They have someone in mind that is apparently going to cost a lot of money, so the cheerleading budget may once again take a hit. Vanessa takes this personally but the dean asserts that all unsuccessful athletic disciplines will be eliminated. In short, the team must place at nationals or they will be cut. To make matters worse, the prospective coach, Red Raymond, obviously has a history with Vanessa. She makes it clear to Red that she has a serious live-in boyfriend now, but she's obviously shaken.
In the co-ed cheerleading locker room, Savannah cheerfully greets Marti, saying she'll make her bed and leave an energy bar on her pillow. In the showers, Marti meets Patty Wedgerman (aka The Wedge) who seems to be 'one of the guys' and has the word 'strength' written on her arm in marker. She and Alice don't really get along, and The Wedge doesn't miss an opportunity to remind Alice that Marti is there to replace her. Alice, in no uncertain terms, lets Marti know that she is just a band-aid and will be ripped off and thrown away once Alice's injury heals. Alice takes Marti's robe while she's in the shower. Marti has no choice but to run naked around the locker room to find something to throw on, but just then the boys come in after their showers. She hides in one of the stalls, but unfortunately Lewis finds her. Showing mercy, he drops his own towel near the door where she can grab it and causes a diversion with the boys using the line, "Does this look crooked to you? I think I might have slept on it wrong." Once the locker room is cleared, Marti thanks Lewis for his help. It's obvious there's an attraction between the two.
At cheerleading rehearsal, Vanessa encourages the team to wing it and change up their moves since they're in a rut. Of course, Marti takes the lead and introduces some new, sexy moves to their routine. Savannah has issues with this new and Vanessa has to physically move her hips for her. Lewis seems to like this new which is upsetting to Alice, who is watching in the stands.
Back at Cheertown, Savannah is helping Marti by icing down her sore muscles. She asks Marti about her training background, and it's revealed that in the past, Marti's mom had a habit of bringing random boyfriends to Marti's gymnastic competitions while drunk and making a spectacle of herself. People would laugh at her and this caused Marti to freeze up every time, so eventually she stopped competing. Savannah asks if Marti has invited her mother to qualifiers because the team can't afford a disaster. Marti assures her that she hasn't. Savannah says Marti should feel free to invite her boyfriend (Dan) if she'd like, but Marti tells her Dan is just a friend. Savannah says that Lewis will be glad to hear that since he asked Coach Vanessa if she'd make Marti his permanent flyer. Marti asks about Alice, thinking that she and Lewis had a 'thing' going on. Savannah assures Marti that Alice knows the team comes first, and if they don't do well at qualifiers a lot of people will lose their scholarships.
Alice was standing at the door listening to their conversation, and Marti and Savannah exchange a look, wondering how much she overheard. Alice goes straight to the bar where Marti's mom works and asks her if she'll be going to see Marti's cheering debut at qualifiers. She talks Wanda into 'surprising' Marti there.
The episode ends with Marti saying some surprising people started as cheerleaders: Ronald Regan, Meryl Streep, Katie Couric, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Obviously, life can take us in unexpected places. The episode closes with the squad marching out to the stage for qualifiers, and Marti has written 'fly' on her arm in marker.