Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Biggest Loser Review, 2009/05/05

Hey, a different theme song! Do you suppose they lost the rights to the old one, or is this special for the penultimate show?

Right off the bat, we're sent into retrospectives, complete with horrific gut shots and horrific puns. ("On an epic SCALE"? Ugh.) How thrilled do you think the contestants will be when they see this episode, with the close-up belly shots? Think they knew they were signing up for that when they agreed to be on the show? Yikes. Tara interviews that she's actually surprised she made it to the Final 4. Still underestimating herself, I see.

Bring on the limos, it's homecoming time! Everyone's thrilled to see the contestants, who explain about the 30-days-at-home twist.

DH on Mike: "He's gonna get a culture shock when he goes to university. Because even though he's eighteen, he's way more mature than most of the kids in there." Dude has a point. Think about it: could you have held your own in a crowd of "grownups" when YOU were eighteen? I sure as hell couldn't've. No wonder we saw Mike barely ever talking for the first five episodes or so. Yet he came out of his shell and held his own very decently. That is one lovely young man, I must say.

Turn on the home cams! Ron looks like he's growing back the beard, but future scenes show us this was just a tease. Mike, meanwhile, is worried about falling back into old habits. He points out the irony of having a gym across the street from the fast food place he used to work at. Needless to say, he spent a lot of time at the fast-food joint and no time at the gym. Now, fortunately, the reverse is true. Helen goes through her closet and is gobsmacked at how huge her clothes were. Goodwill is going to LOVE her.

But project #1 for the Morelli family is Max. No pressure, eh, kid?

Cut to Tara, who goes to her favourite restaurant looking IMPOSSIBLY glam. Seriously, WOW. She tries valiantly to be happy about drinking water when the rest of her friends (who confess that they knew she was unhappy but never said a damn thing about it) are boozing it up. We also find that Tara has given the kitchen makeover prize that she won at the sideways-walk-over-the-canyon challenge to her mom, which is REALLY sweet. Tara's mom now has granite countertops and my eternal envy. DH astutely observes that Olympia Dukakis absolutely MUST play Tara's mom in Biggest Loser: The Movie.

DH: I've never heard of Jennie O Turkey. Have YOU ever heard of Jennie O?
Me: Only because I've been watching The Biggest Loser.
(Must be an American thing.)

After checking in with everybody, it's time for the traditional let's-screw-with-the-contestants-at-home twist. Doorbells ring all over Michigan...uh...I mean, the country, and Biggest Loser staff cut and run before anybody can make it to the door. Ron sums it up: "What torture are we going to be in for now?" Torture, indeed: everybody has to run a full marathon! Cue the looks of horror. Mike reveals that after the half-marathon, he was destroyed for days, so the full marathon is truly going to suck. Ron gives a pep talk to his knees.

Since merely following the contestants around in their workaday lives isn't interesting enough for television, the show sends in the trainers. Jillian's on the warpath and visits her contestants, starting with Mike. She threatens death if he's not at the gym when she gets there. Big talk. Fortunately, he is, and by some miracle, Jillian has picked exactly the right gym to go looking for him in! Not set up at ALL, people! So there are Max and Mike on the treadmill, looking like a before and after shot. (Note: Max is chewing gum. I'd be willing to bet my entire family fortune that it's Extra Sugar-Free. Quelle job of product shilling, Mike and Ron.)

Mike reveals to Jillian that all is not going well. The marathon is stressing him out. Jillian freaks right out upon hearing what the challenge is, and then attempts to refocus Mike's mind. The sweat begins to pour. Jillian tells us the staggeringly surprising information that the way to train for a marathon run. A lot. Ya think? But back at home, Mike is disgusted by Max's apathy. Jillian takes a page from her psychotherapist mother's book and analyses Mike. The problem: he's identifying too much with Max. Jillian tells Mike that the way to get through this is not to make Max thin, but for Mike to acknowledge his OWN feelings. Y'know, Jillian is a complete hardass and she does make mistakes, but I have to say, damn, she's good. Indeed, the tears start to flow down Mike's face as he realises she speaks Truth. Jillian offers to help Max so that Mike doesn't have to worry about it anymore.

Then Jillian bops over to Long Island to surprise Tara. But I'm thinking that maybe the camera crews hanging around the outside of Tara's house were a bit of a giveaway. Jillian's invited in, and they head to Tara's room. It's pretty messy and Jillian is appalled. (If clothes strewn on the bed set Jillian off, I can tell you right now that she'd totally lose her shit if she saw MY house, boy howdy.) Jillian says that Tara's messy room is representative of her inner turmoil. (Deep.) Tara confesses sobbingly that she RUINED EVERYTHING the other day by having PITA CHIPS! The horror, the horror! Fortunately, Jillian snaps her back to reality and tells her she's being ridiculous. Having a healthy lifestyle does not mean never having pita chips again! Clearly, Tara still has not found balance. Jillian offers to take Tara out for a workout and a drink to prove her point.

Back in South Lyon, we finally see Bob, come to visit his last remaining contestant. Ron is tickled to see him. Big hugs for Mike and Max, too. Ron tells Bob that shopping is the hardest thing about being home, and then talks about the challenge. Bob, like Jillian, is appalled at the idea of a full marathon. I'm appalled at his plaid shirt. (Bob is an extremely aesthetically pleasing human being, but "ranch hand" is not a viable look for him, sorry.)

Then we move on to the Max Reclamation Project. Max says that there are all the right foods in the house now, which is good; and he's working out now, which is good; but Mike says he's no trainer and they totally don't know what they're doing. (There's a bonus clip at of Mike helping Max work out, and indeed, he is definitely the wrong person to be training Max. The dynamic there is CLASSIC older-sibling-with-younger-sibling, which is absolutely not the way to get Max on-side.) So Bob adopts Max as member #3 of the Brown team. Max looks scared as SHIT. :) But I think that at this point, Bob is the better trainer, emotionally, for Max than Jillian would be. Max sums it up beautifully: Bob has some quality that makes you not want to let him down. Sure enough, Max pushes so hard that he upchucks. Ron: "You know you're working hard when you PUKE." Max looks entirely unamused. Poor kid. But he's started the journey, which is definitely the important part.

Bob then does a food demonstration for Max. Max's assignment is to go out and buy whatever he'd normally get of a weekend. He brings back a burger, fries, and a chocolate shake. Bob says that the appropriate calorie consumption for a meal at this time of day is 600 calories. He then proceeds to winnow down the burger, fries, and shake to 600 calories worth of food. It's a pathetically small amount of grub. Bob then takes them to a magical land where you can get LOTS of food worth 600 calories: Subway! Oh, Biggest Loser, you're now using the angst of underage children to shill your advertisements. Have you no shame. However, everybody gets their fill on delicious, low-cal subs, and Max interviews that it's better to hear this kind of stuff from Bob because it's so easy to tune out your brother and dad. And it's so true. DH points out another good thing: Bob knows that if he puts Ron's mind at ease about Max, Ron will focus on himself. Way to go, Bob.

Time to focus on Helen! She and her husband Russell are out at a restaurant that Helen "got fat in". She's reading the menu and freaking out, and Jillian comes in. Helen sobs with relief. Jillian's goal on this visit is to get Helen to cut out the Superwoman crap. Jillian observes the home life and apparently, Helen is manic. She's always "doing for other people". Jillian forces some wine down Helen's gullet. (Is it not kind of a bad sign that Jillian's ultimate solution for all of her over-21 contestants is plying them with alcohol?) Helen says that she's so tired, but doesn't want to let anybody down. Jillian points out that this Superwoman behaviour means that the person Helen's failing is HERSELF. Once again, Jillian has hit the nail on the head. Whether this translates into a behaviour change for Helen is anybody's guess.

Once everyone's had a chance to have an epiphany, it's time to profile the marathon preparation. Ron's even trying to run. Unfortunately, four days before the marathon, Mike has stabbing pain in his hip. We don't know exactly what's wrong, but we do hear that the doctors have told Mike he can't run, so he'll be walking the marathon instead. Tara, meanwhile, is having dreams about not finishing the race. Everyone's nervous as all hell. Well guys, I guess this is why they call it a "challenge". Finally everybody gets to head back to California for 26.2 miles of torture. Ali tells us they'll be running through all kinds of terrain. Happily, though, this is a challenge that everybody can win - each contestant who finishes gets to give $10,000 to the charity of their choice. That is pretty damn cool. DH says that if it were him, he'd split his money between the Cancer Society and Heart & Stroke, because both of those diseases owe him big-time. (His parents.) And hey, as long as we're fantasizing, I'd give my $10K to the Kidney Foundation. (My brother. Who, fortunately, unlike my in-laws, is still with us. And by the way, are you an organ donor yet? No? Get the hell on that, please.)

I note at the outset that everyone's contestant number corresponds to their individual weight loss poundage thus far. So Helen's #103, Tara's #125, Ron's #141, and Mike's #164. And they're off. With Brown confined to walking only (Ron's even using a cane, for heaven's sake), it's the ladies who are really competing here. We soon find out that goodies await the contestants along the 26.2 mile path. At Mile 4, Tara is greeted by a friend from home, and Helen by her husband. They all start running together. Much later, Mike and Ron are met by Max, and Ron's buddy Phil. Max walks for a really long time with Mike, which is terrific, before pooping out. DH and I both think Max looks smaller, which is awesome.

Ron's knee screws him around Mile 5. Dr. H takes a look at him. He keeps going.

Tara's treat at Mile 15 is to run with Ali Vincent, who tells Tara she's an inspiration. (Damn straight!) Ali of course still looks ridiculously small. Helen, meanwhile, feels really lonely, but in between Mile 13 and 14, there's Michelle! This is a great pick-me-up for Helen, who is dripping with sweat and has that horribly haggard look of the marathon runner.

Tara interviews that around Mile 21 or 22, she got that "keep going" voice in her head. You have to know that things are going to end well for Tara after you hear that, because that little voice has won her scads of challenges. Seriously. I looked back over the season. For EVERY PHYSICAL COMPETITION they've had on the show, with the exception of those a) that were stacked against her (i.e. the football challenge, where everyone was able to take out the biggest threats right off the bat), b) where her full potential was held back by her partner, or c) were balance-related; she either won outright; or was part of the team that won. Want a list?

  • Week 2: the kayak/walk up the mountain
  • Week 3: jumping over the rotating bars
  • Week 8: up-downs in the mud
  • Week 8: 24-hour bike-a-thon
  • Week 9: team relay at the gym
  • Week 10: wall sits with a medicine ball on the lap
  • Week 10: pack food for the homeless
  • Week 11: half-marathon (which technically she didn't win, but that was only because of the sugar cookie penalty; if you go by pure finishing times, she won)
  • Week 12: car pull
  • Week 14: stadium stair climb
  • Week 15: sideways walk across the canyon
  • Week 16: hold up your own weight in a suspended cage
  • Week 17: carry your own weight up 16 dirt hills

Unbelievable. I'm telling you, if anyone deserves to win this whole thing, it's Tara. She's competitive and hard-nosed and has issues coming out the wazoo, but I love her to death, she's amazing.

Okay, back to everybody else. Mike gets to meet up with Bernie from season 5, who is also still teeny tiny. Mike is bummed out about not being able to run this thing, but Bernie tells Mike to stop being down on himself; running or no running, he's still DOING A MARATHON. At Mile 25, Tara sees Jillian, who, like the rest of the viewing audience, I'm sure, is unsurprised that Tara's winning. As Tara finishes up, we see that The Biggest Loser has added insult to injury by making the last bit of the race go over SAND. Shitheads. Tara's finishing time appears to be 4:55:11, which is unbelievable. Soon after, Helen heads towards the finish line, screaming that she's a marathon runner. You scream all you like, lady! That is a staggering accomplishment! Her finishing time seems to be 5:48 and forty-something seconds; she's completely gleeful. Mike makes it in at 8:58:03. They brought in the Mile 26 sign with them, which made me nervous that Ron pooped out. Indeed, he's back at Mile 16 with some problems. His circulation is screwing up and he's shaking. Blood pressure is 202/90. They want to take him to the hospital, but for some bizarre reason, he's given a medical go-ahead. He continues on out of nothing less than pure guilt. I think he's freakin' INSANE.

His reward, though, is to be greeted at Mile 17 by Ali Vincent, Michelle, Bernie, Jim from season 4, and Heba from last season. (I personally would tell Heba to go the hell away...but that's just me. :) At Mile 21, Mike does his usual come-back-to-help-Dad-through-the-challenge thing, and Bob comes with him.

Cue the inspirational music. Even Helen, Tara, Ali Sweeney and Max show up to walk with Ron past the finish line, with Max doing his signature ugly cry. Mike is now waiting at the finish line (I presume, with his injury, that he didn't want to walk any more than he had to), and he's tearing up watching Ron approach, eventually full-on crying. Even without the schmaltzy music, it's a desperately inspirational moment. Ron swats the finish line out of the way with his cane. 13:16:19. Best. Finish. Ever. I absolutely didn't think Ron could do it. Morelli Man Group-hug.

One nifty thing about this challenge is that, as they crossed the finish line, we got to see all the contestants getting "hooray for you" messages from themselves, pre-taped at the beginning of the season. Cool stuff.

Finally, we go to the final weigh-in before the finale. Will Bob be shut out of the Final 3? We may not know immediately, as Ali reveals that the third member of the Final 3 will be determined by America voting.

Milestones achieved:

  • Ron passes the 150lbs total weight loss mark
  • Ron passes the 1/3 total weight loss mark
  • Mike moves from obese to overweight
  • Tara moves from overweight to healthy
  • Tara passes 45% total weight loss
  • Helen drops under 150lbs

The numbers are actually kind of disappointing, considering they were home for 30 days. However, I think I remember reading or hearing somewhere that marathon training is not the best way to lose weight, although of course it's fantastic endurance training. So perhaps now that everyone can get back into weight loss-focused routines at home, we'll see better results at the finale. I hope so, anyway.

Anyway, the end result is that Helen and Tara are definitely in the Final 3, and America has to choose between father and son. Mike feels like crap about this. He and Ron both go into the confession booths to make their cases. Ron, of course, asks America to vote for Mike, and points out what a great guy Mike's been during the season. Fair point. Mike, for his part, gets beautifully humble. Seriously, I don't think he could have done a better job, it was a perfect appeal.

I'm not sure which way America will go here. Last week I thought people would vote to keep Mike around since I think he's vastly more popular than Ron. However, DH pointed out two monkey wrenches to that way of thinking:

  • people who hate Ron because of all his scheming may vote for Ron to stay in the Final 3 in order to foil Ron's plan
  • people who love Tara (and I'm sure they're legion) may vote for Ron to stay in the Final 3 to give her a better chance to win

So now I just don't know. I hope, however, that if America votes Ron into the Final 3, that Mike doesn't take it personally, but understands that it's a combination of reaction to his dad's behaviour and love for Tara. (Unlike last season, where the overwhelming vote for Ed to stay in the Final 3 was clearly a result of the virulent hatred for Heba/Vicky.)

Anyway, I cannot WAIT for the finale!!! Squee! Really looking forward to seeing all the at-home people, particularly Dan. For reference, here's where everybody was the last time we saw them, in reverse order of when we last saw them:

  • Jerry: 285lbs; total weight loss of 22.76% (84lbs); BMI of 35.6 (clinically obese), down from 46.1 (morbidly obese)
  • Damien: 307lbs; total weight loss of 19.42% (74lbs); BMI of 42.8 (morbidly obese), down from 53.1 (super-obese)
  • Daniel: 353lbs; total weight loss of 22.25% (101lbs); BMI of 53.7 (super-obese), down from 69 (super-obese)
  • Carla: 292lbs; total weight loss of 22.96% (87lbs); BMI of 44.4 (morbidly obese), down from 57.6 (super-obese)
  • Joelle: 252lbs; total weight loss of 18.45% (57lbs); BMI of 38.3 (clinically obese), down from 47 (morbidly obese)
  • Blaine: 279lbs; total weight loss of 23.56% (86lbs); BMI of 30.6 (obese), down from 40.1 (morbidly obese)
  • Shanon: 198lbs; total weight loss of 30.04% (85lbs); BMI of 39.6 (clinically obese), down from 47.1 (morbidly obese)
  • Dane: (at-home weight not given during profile) 312lbs; total weight loss of 24.27% (100lbs); BMI of 38 (clinically obese), down from 50.1 (super-obese)
  • Mandi: 179lbs; total weight loss of 31.94% (84lbs); BMI of 29.1 (overweight), down from 38.8 (clinically obese)
  • Cathy: 215lbs; total weight loss of 26.62% (78lbs); BMI of 32.7 (obese), down from 44.5 (morbidly obese)
  • Aubrey: 181lbs; total weight loss of of 34.54% (68lbs); BMI of 30.1 (obese), down from 41.4 (morbidly obese)
  • David: 347lbs; total weight loss of 11.7% (46lbs); BMI of 47.1 (morbidly obese), down from 53.3 (super-obese)
  • Estella: 197lbs; total weight loss of 18.6% (45lbs); BMI of 30 (obese), down from 36.8 (clinically obese)
  • Nicole: 164lbs; total weight loss of 39.03% (105lbs); BMI of 24.9 (healthy), down from 40.9 (morbidly obese)
  • Sione: 235lbs; total weight loss of 36.83% (137lbs); BMI of 31.9 (obese), down from 50.4 (super-obese)
  • Laura: 208lbs; total weight loss of 27.02% (77lbs); BMI of 30.7 (obese), down from 42.1 (morbidly obese)
  • Kristin: 228lbs; total weight loss of 36.67% (132lbs); BMI of 36.8 (clinically obese), down from 58.1 (super-obese)
  • Filipe: 221lbs; total weight loss of 39.29% (143lbs); BMI of 30.8 (obese), down from 50.8 (super-obese)
  • Ron: 279lbs; total weight loss of 35.12% (151lbs); BMI of 37.8 (clinically obese), down from 58.3 (super-obese)
  • Mike: 214lbs; total weight loss of 44.85% (174lbs); BMI of 29.8 (overweight), down from 54.1 (super-obese)
  • Helen: 147lbs; total weight loss of 42.8% (110lbs); BMI of 23.7 (healthy), down from 41.5 (morbidly obese)
  • Tara: 159lbs; total weight loss of 45.92% (135lbs); BMI of 23.5 (healthy), down from 43.4 (morbidly obese)

See you on the other side. :)

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