Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Biggest Loser Review, 2009/04/28

Welcome, everybody, to the feel-good love-in week here at The Biggest Loser! We're all going to get retrospective, philosophical, optimistic, and giddy with glee at how far we've come! Feel the love!

But first: gameplay crap.

I missed the beginning and haven't had a chance to watch that part of the tape yet (two sick kids), but DH watched from the beginning, and says that everyone thinks Ron orchestrated Kristin's elimination, and that nobody - even Bob - believes his line about having had nothing to do with it. Bob, in fact, seems to be realising the full extent of Ron's "ugly side" and has lost faith in him, although later on we find that this doesn't affect his ability to train Ron, nor his admiration for what Ron has accomplished. I'm pretty POed with Ron's behaviour, too. Wasn't he the very guy who complained a few weeks ago about despising people who look you right in the eyes and lie to you? Yeah.

On the other hand, I admit it, Ron is looking better and better without the beard each week.

Then we begin the happiness trek, with a trip down memory lane. The contestants gather in the gym to watch videos of themselves from just 17 weeks previously. And THIS is why I watch this show: it's rough going at first to see all these unbelievably unhealthy people struggling every week, but this close to the finale, it always pays off massive dividends. I love seeing the huge physical differences between then and now. I love seeing the healthy glow on the contestants' faces compared to when they first started (of course, a certain amount of that lack-of-glow from days of yore comes from the fact that they always show old footage in black and white, but still). And the contestants are similarly amazed and excited as they watch themselves. They have feelings of accomplishment (as well they should), they're excited about their new lives, and all is well. We top it off by seeing the contestants do the same kinds of exercises as in the old videos (although more advanced now, obviously) from the same camera angles, and then we flash back and forth between old and new to REALLY get an idea of how far they've come. That is good TV, my friends. I'm lapping it up.

Hilarious moment: Jillian musses up Helen's hair in order to get a more accurate "look" compared to her "before" video shots. Helen can't stand the messiness, but is working out and doesn't have her hands free. She cries out, "Jillian! FIX THE HAIR!"

Also, Ali has revealed that this is everybody's last week on campus. Everyone looks confused as hell, as well they should, since there are five of them left, not four. You can see them wondering how the hell this is going to go down. Stay tuned, cupcakes, all will be revealed at the weigh-in.

Tara and Helen then retreat to what I think is Tara's bedroom for a friendly little competition of "Any pep talk you can do, I can do better." Finally they get to the point of this little scene, which is to try on goal outfits. Tara apparently bought a little black dress in Europe some time ago, and tries it on. It actually looks a little too big, and I don't think it's particularly flattering to her, but she's still thrilled and Helen is suitably impressed. Then Helen goes to get her goal outfit on, and I have a serious omigawd moment. My jaw dropped, my hands flew up to my mouth, and I stayed that way for literally at least a minute before almost hyperventilating. Helen looked SO HOT in her goal outfit! It was unbelievably smokin'!!! She completely out-goal-outfit-ted Tara. :) I'm sure Helen and Tara must have broken into a few verses of "I Feel Pretty" off-camera after that. But finally they decide to take their steamy hotness show on the road and show it off to The Boys, who are all conveniently hanging out in the kitchen together. (At this point, they look so awesome that I don't care how staged this set-up is.) The guys are also suitably impressed and Mike is inspired enough to go and get his own goal outfit, which consists of a leather jacket that makes him look pretty hot. (DH on Mike and Tara: "Well, if they haven't done it yet, they're gonna do it now!")

Me, about the new ads for the Forte car: These are going to get real old real fast.
DH: GOING to?!?

The love-fest continues with a trip to the hospital for a visit with Dr. H. He has, of course, excellent news all round. We are treated to before-and-after belly shots of everyone but Ron. Upon seeing their "before" pictures, everyone is disgusted beyond all reason and has to suppress retching noises. Indeed, they're all pretty bad, with the fat and the stretch marks and the unhealthiness. But then we see the "after" shots, and what a marvellous difference. I think it was wonderful to be able to see them - usually beyond a certain point in the season, we don't see people's midriffs, as they're all hidden behind tank tops and muscle shirts. But this is really valuable stuff for the viewing audience at home! These people aren't "perfect" now - there's still some poochiness and in some cases, extra skin, but it's so refreshing to see normal, regular-people bodies; and people struggling with weight loss at home get a realistic picture of what success looks like. Well done, producers.

Helen also gets the good news that she's lost 106lbs of hydrated fat and that her biological age has been reduced by TEN YEARS from 60 to 50. Tara now has a beautiful waist-to-hip transition, and Dr. H tells her that she's "a model again". Filipe's massive gut has been reduced to just some love handle-ness. And Mike's middle (which used to be a staggering 65" at the waist) is looking unbelievably better now - some saggy skin, but it's really quite close to normal.

Ron, presumably because of his moobs (boy oh boy is he going to need some surgery to get rid of those), has a different kind of before-and-after visualization: we're shown the differences on his INSIDE. This is also very revealing (no pun intended), not merely because now he can actually FIT in the MRI machine. We can see how much the internal fat has been reduced, which is great since he used to have fat encroaching EVERYWHERE and messing him up inside something awful. He has normal blood tests, too. YAY. Ron's excited about his future! (DH: "Now you've GOT one.")

Challenge time! And with Kristin gone, we no longer have to listen to anybody talk about the week's "cheeyallenge". :) This is another great retrospective: in the first week, the challenge involved climbing over a big ol' hill of dirt. Sixteen weeks later, they have to climb over SIXTEEN big ol' hills of dirt, carrying the weight that they've lost. The extra weight comes in the form of a series of sixteen packages of varying weights, all stored in a duffle bag that they have to drag around. At the top of each hill, they get to toss out one package, which weighs as much as the amount they lost during the week represented by the hill they're on. So for instance, Tara lost 21lbs in Week 1, so at the top of the first hill, she'll toss out a bag weighing 21lbs. The prize is the same as last week's challenge prize: the choice of $10,000 or a one-pound advantage at the weigh-in. The twist this time, though, is that the person who comes in second gets whatever prize the winner didn't choose.

Filipe gets off to an early lead (oh, you Blue guys never learn about the futility of taking an early lead, do you?), followed closely by Mike. Tara struggles like hell over the first hill but manages to keep pace with Helen about one hill behind the leaders. Finally, Filipe lags behind and Tara catches up to him. (Surprise.) But Filipe encourages her to keep going, which is pretty sweet of him. Finally, at the hill representing Week 9, she passes Mike and goes on to win. Again. Unbelievable. At the finish line, she heaves her duffle bag over the ledge and down into the canyon beyond. It's very symbolic, although I sure as hell hope the show will be picking everybody's bags up after the cameras start rolling. Mike comes in second and actually thinks he has a chance at getting the one-pound advantage. Dude, please! Like Tara's going to give up a one-pound advantage in such a crucial week when she already won $10K last time!

It's then time for the traditional go-back-to-help-the-struggling-person part of the challenge; partly because this season, the contestants are pretty great guys, and partly because if they don't, they'll be out there all day, since Ron is still on the Week 6 hill. So Mike goes back to drag the weight for his dad, and Filipe soon joins them to give Ron extra support and pushes.

Product placement theme music! But wait,'s not a product placement at all! In fact, we are given a reprieve from them entirely this week (well, except for the little before-commercial "tips" segments, which can't be helped)! It's a miracle! By golly, it really IS the week of happiness and light! Cue the happy dance!

Jillian is all evilly gleeful at the prospect of destroying her people at the last chance workout, but the tables of glee are turned as Helen reveals that it's "Train the Trainer" day! Jillian's all pissed off and doesn't wanna, but Bob is really looking forward to seeing Jillian get tortured. And her team doesn't let Bob down. Tara screams Jillianisms all over the damn gym, and they end up making her do sits against the wall while both Tara and Helen sit on her lap. (I notice they didn't get Mike to join them, though; apparently there's only so much one person can take.)

Meanwhile, on Bob's side of the gym, he ain't enjoying Train the Trainer Day so much anymore. Filipe goes ghetto with his gloating and "Shut up, Filipe" becomes Bob's new mantra. :) Best lines:

Filipe: "You ain't doin' crap, boy!"
Ron, with suppressed giggles: "It's okay to cry."

Dudes, this is a GREAT week!

But then we get down to business and the trainers get to do their job again; this time with the added spice of REVENGE. I notice that Mike's boxing skills have stepped up. DH gets annoyed with Jillian getting Tara to make conversation during a high-intensity moment: "I would just say, 'Shut the f**k up, I'm busy.'"

Finally, we move to the weigh-in, which is crucial and very stressful, because everyone wants to make the final four, but the odds are freakish, since the numbers mean that 40% of the contestants will fall below the yellow line. I've been saying since last week that I thought Ron would try and throw the weigh-in to give Mike a better chance of being above the yellow line, no matter what he says in interviews. But he loses an excellent 9lbs, so maybe not. Tara, as I expected, chooses the one-pound advantage, which means Mike is $10K richer.

General thoughts on the weigh-in:

  • Jillian does her cute nervous nose-wrinkle.
  • Y'know, I think Helen would have hit a normal BMI long before this if she wasn't so well-endowed.
  • If I were a girl wondering if Mike liked me and wanted to ask me out, all I would have to do is look at his fingers. When he's nervous, they totally give him away every week on the scale while he's waiting for his number to pop up. If he was rubbing 'em together, I'd know I was in. :)
  • Filipe, on the other hand, apparently bites his nails when he's nervous. I prefer the finger-rubbing.
  • When it was Tara's turn on the scale, she must have been pretty damn glad she chose the one-pound advantage.

Actually, it's a great week all round. Milestones reached:

  • Ron moves from morbidly obese to clinically obese. (YESSS! Finally!)
  • Filipe passes 125lbs of total weight loss
  • Filipe passes the 1/3 total weight loss mark
  • Helen passes the 100lbs total weight loss mark
  • Helen, Mike and Tara pass the 40% total weight loss mark
  • Helen becomes the first person this season to hit a normal and healthy BMI on campus
  • Mike and Ron lose a combined total of more than 300lbs
  • Tara reaches 125lbs of total weight loss
  • Tara's BMI is just 0.1 away from being normal and healthy!

Despite losing 10 and 9 pounds respectively, Filipe and Ron are below the yellow line. Jillian is ecstatic. Her entire team is totally safe and Bob is screwed once again. Helen has had a particularly awesome week, way to go. Jillian highlights Helen's awesomeness by referencing what I've been saying since Michelle's win last season - Pink has never lost.

Back we go to the elimination room, where things are bound to get interesting. We've got Mike, Tara and Helen voting. Mike will of course vote for Filipe, but will Tara or Helen? I say yes, because Filipe is perceived as the bigger threat. On the other hand, Ron's been pissing people off and has more weight to lose, whereas Filipe's been struggling for a while. Tara has no clue what she wants to do. Ron points out to the house that he's not a threat. To counter this, Filipe brings out the always-the-last-kid-in-the-class sob story, and follows it up by pointing out that true glory comes from beating good competition, not taking the safe road. The sob story got me, I must admit; but the "to be the best you gotta beat the best" talk is totally wasted on Helen. Tara might buy it, but it's well established that Helen looks out for number one. With Filipe and Ron having said their piece, and Mike's vote being unswayable, it's pointless for the guys to hang around. They leave Helen and Tara alone to discuss. Helen enjoys the power like a true supervillain, savouring the feel of it in her mouth like a sommelier. :)

Into the voting room we go. Mike votes for Filipe, and of course Filipe has no hard feelings about this, which was nice to see. We move to Helen's vote, which of course is the real question. Alas, nobody can vote to eliminate the final commercial break, so we have to wait a while longer for results. Finally we return, and Helen delivers the killing stroke. Filipe is gone. He heads home and looks pretty damn fly in his leather jacket. His wife has thoughts-of-boinking-glee in her eyes. Then everybody chows down, Tongan-style, highlighting the desperate need for some Biggest Loser intervention. Filipe and Sione try valiantly to make things healthy by getting people to take the skin off their meat, but I don't know how much that'll help.

We then flash forward to however-many-weeks later at the pants-drop profile. Filipe has lost only 13lbs since we last saw him, but with good reason. He struggled after getting home, and then his dad had a stroke. Geez. However, after that, he started turning things around and had the freakin' GENIUS idea of doing free exercise classes at his house for the various Tongans in the neighbourhood, especially kids. (Hey, get 'em young and you've probably got 'em for life, right?) We hear that his dad is also attending the classes and is on the road to recovery. Phew and yay. Filipe's had another haircut and things are looking up. In the past few weeks we've been given some insights on Filipe we didn't have earlier in the season, and it's pretty clear to me now that he's got a lot of hurt inside him. I think he has very low self-confidence, little evidence in his life that he can be successful, possible issues about his relationship with his dad, and he uses humour (and used to use food) to cover it all up. I wish him all the best and really hope that he can learn to be happy about who he is and what he does. Looking forward to seeing him at the finale.

Back at the ranch, the "everybody's going home" deal is explained. There's going to be a beautifully symbolic 30 final days at home for the Final 4, during which they will try to lose as much weight as possible before coming back to the ranch for their last weigh-in before the finale. This is definitely going to be interesting. Tara's still the weight loss percentage leader, but only by 0.25% over Mike at this point, and Mike has much more weight to lose. Who knows what will happen! DH speculates that Helen is doomed, as she has the least weight to lose. We also don't know yet whether the third member of the Final 3 will be determined by a contestant vote or an audience vote. Here are the scenarios:

  1. Mike and Ron fall below
    If America votes, Ron is probably gone. If the contestants vote, Mike is toast.

  2. Mike and Tara fall below
    If America votes, I have no idea who will win. If the contestants vote, Mike is toast.

  3. Mike and Helen fall below
    If America votes, Helen is probably gone. If the contestants vote, it'll be a tie, so lowest-losing person will be out, which probably means Helen goes.

  4. Ron and Tara fall below
    If America votes, Ron is probably gone. If the contestants vote, Tara is probably toast.

  5. Ron and Helen fall below
    If America votes, Ron is probably gone. If the contestants vote, it'll be a tie, so lowest-losing person will be out.

  6. Tara and Helen fall below
    If America votes, Helen is probably gone. If the contestants vote, Tara is probably toast.

Next week, with 30 days between weigh-ins, look for these possible milestones:

  • Ron and Tara could pass 150lbs of total weight loss
  • Mike might pass 200lbs of total weight loss
  • Ron could drop below 275lbs
  • Mike could drop below 200lbs
  • Helen and Tara could drop below 150lbs
  • Ron could pass 40% total weight lost
  • Helen could pass 45% total weight lost, possibly even 50%.
  • Mike and Tara could pass 50% total weight lost
  • Mike could move from obese to overweight
  • Ron might move from clinically obese to obese
  • barring disaster, Tara will move from overweight to normal and healthy

Also next week: (SPOILERS)

The players go home for 30 days to learn to keep up their healthy lifestyles outside the ranch. Upon their return to campus, the players compete in the season's final challenge: running a full marathon. After the weigh-in, the final two are revealed, along with the two players competing for the third spot in the finale. Also: Former contestants Ali Vincent, Michelle Aguilar, Jim Germanakos, Heba Salama and Bernie Salazar turn out to offer inspiration to the players.

(DH never wants to hear these episodes previews, but I had to warn him that Heba was coming. I suspect he will refuse to watch the show live and instead watch the tape so that he can fast-forward through all the bits with her in it.)

Week after that: (more SPOILERS)

The winner of the $250,000 grand prize is revealed in the seventh-season finale. Also: the third finalist is chosen; the at-home players weigh in for the $100,000 prize; and two potential contestants for next season are presented for viewer voting.

This strongly suggests that we're looking at a viewing audience vote to determine the third member of the Final 3. This bodes poorly for Ron and Helen if they fall below, I think. The potential contestant vote sounds very cool. Also, we'll want to pay close attention at the finale to see if Aubrey's and Mandi's dad and Young Max look any smaller.

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