Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2010-09-21: And so it begins

So obesity is a serious problem in America. And The Biggest Loser is here to fix it. It's Season 10, and we're going around the country to gather up contestants. We're going to seven cities, and there will be three contestant hopefuls in each stop. We start in Detroit. Here, Bob puts a bunch of people - mostly obese - through their paces for a mass workout. Bob sees hope in the crowd as he tells us this season is about Paying It Forward. We won't actually see concrete examples of this theme in this week's show, but maybe things will pick up.

The first three people to meet are Jessie, Sophia and Aaron. Bob reflects that everyone in the crowd needs to be here, though. The show has brought back the humiliation/motivation of the very public weigh-in, and that's what the candidates have to do first.

Jesse is 27, a law clerk from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and weighs in at 369lbs. His mom was overweight, and his own weight is a fog that hangs over his life. He makes excuses not to go out.

Sophia's big goal is to wear a white dress without looking like a marshmallow. Her brother Edwin died in a car accident, hitting black ice and getting t-boned by a truck. Poor Sophia is clearly ripped up about this. Her brother's death shut her down. She's a counselor herself, but can't seem to work through this. She says a lot of admirable things after finding out she weighs 272lbs, and seems like a great person.

Aaron is married and has a three-year-old son. He's been trying forever to lose weight. His father was an alcoholic and Aaron picked up that addictive behaviour, but in the form of food instead of alcohol. He recognizes he's literally eating himself to death and needs the miracle that is being on The Biggest Loser ranch. At 468lbs, I have to agree with him.

Of course, getting on the ranch is never so simple. First, Ali announces, there will be a challenge, in which the three candidates will compete for two spots. Jesse immediately thinks he's toast. It's a step-up challenge, and the first two people to finish 500 step-ups get to go straight to the ranch.

Aaron busts it out right away to psyche Jesse and Sophia out, but can't sustain it and slows right down. Sophia takes the lead and stays there throughout, crying as she gets the first spot. To motivate her, she thought of what her brother used to say: "Do work, son. Do work." Her extremely young-looking mom claps in triumph. Jesse wants to quit but refuses to stop. He outpaces Aaron and feels great, delightfully surprised that he ended up having the strength. He and Sophia don orange shirts and head out, Sophia remarkign that maybe she could actually become skinny. Aaron has of course not made the ranch, but he takes a lesson from watching previous seasons of the show and refuses to quit. It takes him a while, but he gets to 500 step-ups. It's pretty touching. Sadly, though, he feels that he blew his opportunity. Bob has a heart-to-heart with him and says that he thinks Aaron is made of great stuff and knows Aaron can do it. They man-hug it out.

Onto the next stop, where we meet Adam, Ada and Montina.

Adam has been overweight for a long time, and lost his mother - a terrific and supportive lady - to an obesity-related heart attack. This has been devastating for him. His initial weight is 402lbs.

Ada is a first-generation American whose parents, not to put too fine a point on it, sound kind of evil. The family has gone through some awful tragedies - they lost one son to a drowning in a kiddie pool (Ada was there at the time) and one son to SIDS. They have blamed her for a lot of stuff - when she was in a car accident with her third brother in the car (she was driving), her dad yelled at her for trying to kill another of his sons. It's pretty clear that her parents have never made her feel like she could be successful, and as a result, Ada feels totally inadequate. It's also pretty clear, though, that Ada believes fixing her weight problem - she's 258lbs - will make her a success in her parents' eyes and thus solve everything. Boy, is she in for a surprise when she starts touching her deeper issues.

Montina is a backup singer. She has been pretty successful, even doing backup for Beyoncé. However, her 287lb weight makes her non-marketable in her business, and she doesn't want to be in the background anymore.

It's time for another step-up challenge. Adam sprints right off the mark and when he starts pacing himself, Ada takes the lead. She didn't want to be in second place because that runs the risk of slipping to third. Adam goes into a "deep place in his heart" and talks to his mom, asking her to help him. (Is it just me, or does everything Adam say come off as staged and insincere?) Montina's husband gives her encouragement, and she wants to respond, but her knee is hurting a lot and it's holding her back. Ada wins the challenge (which is great, the girl needs some successes under her belt), and Adam puts on a burst of speed to come in second. They get blue shirts and a limo ride on outta there. Montina goes home, but says she's going to work harder.

We are Ali-less at the next stop. Her hosting duties are taken over by Season 7 finalist Mike Morelli. He's put on a bit of weight over his freshman year at college, but still looks good. He introduces Corey, Burgandy, and Tina.

Burgandy is Super Mom. She's a military wife, has five kids - one of whom is autistic - and foster kids, too. She is too busy doing for others (ya think?) to do self-checks, and so she is overweight, to the tune of 231lbs. She's insecure and doesn't feel beautiful, so her relationship with her husband is suffering. Her goal for the ranch is to be ready to back home when it's time for her to leave.

Corey feels that he's letting his wife down with his 391lb weight problem and is angry with himself.

Holy cow, Tina's nipples could cut glass. She has 2 kids and grandkids. She was smokin' hot when she was younger. But her second husband cheated on her and she started gaining weight because she was upset with what was going on in her life. She is now 263lbs.

We're switching up the challenge a bit in this stop and will be doing a one-mile race. Burgandy manages to pass Corey and pulls further and further away. He feels, though, that he should be able to beat Tina because he's 30 years younger than she is, but she gets ahead of him. Refusing to be beaten, he catches up and passes her. Burgandy, however, is way out in front. She wants to get on the ranch because she believes she can't do it on her own. She believes this because she hasn't been doing it on her own. BUt she feels amazing and strong as she crosses the finish line. Meanwhile, Tina feels she's going to lose because Corey is ahead of her. She doesn't want to let herself down, so she pushes. Corey pushes back in response...and falls down 20 yards from the finish. He has apparently pushed himself beyond his limits because he genuinely can't get up. So Tina staggers into second place. This, naturally, is bittersweet for her, and she feels really sad because Corey was so close. (I would feel crappy in that position, too.) She and Burgandy get purple shirts and a free ride to the ranch. For his part, Corey feels awful. He hates that his body doesn't listen to him when he tells it what to do - not just for the one-mile race, but in general. He doesn't understand why his body won't listen when he tells it that something isn't good for it to eat. But on the bright side, this experience has him feel that there's no chance he won't succeed now. Bob uses Corey's body giving up on him as an object lesson, and encourages the crowd to change.

Ali returns to bring us to Atlanta. She tells us that nearly a third of the deaths in Georgia last year were linked to obesity. (Holy crap.) We meet one lady who was never able to get on the show, and lost a whopping 95lbs at home. Awesome! We then meet Patrick, Anna, and Rick, who get a big ol' stink-eye from Jillian.

Anna is 39, and her story is heartbreaking: she lost her 3-year-old son to cancer. We see pictures of this beautiful boy as she tells us that she was constantly there throughout his treatment. She fell asleep with him in her arms and when she woke up, he was gone. :( (Although, I have to say, that if your child is sick and dying, that is a beautiful way for him to go.) Now, Anna eats to drown her sorrow and doesn't take care of herself properly. As a result, she weighs 330lbs.

Rick is from Arkansas. He's been happily married for 32 years, and has 5 kids and 9 grandkids. He seems like an awful lot of fun, a real character. He wants to be around for his grandkids and knows that he hasn't modelled a healthy lifestyle for them. He wants to change that. He weighs 350lbs.

Patrick is a family man who weighs 400lbs. His kids are pretty young right now, and he wants to change before they really pick up on his unhealthy lifestyle. He is determined that this is it.

Time for another one-mile race. Rick is intimidated, as he hasn't run a mile in 25 years. However, he believes that a lot of this is heart, so hopefully his age disadvantage won't matter. Patrick just doesn't want to be last. Anna starts up pretty quickly with the drama and the moaning. Jillian tries all kind sof motivational techniques, but nothing works. This lady is absolutely determined to come up with excuses for not breaking out of her comfort zone. Unsurprisingly, the guys come in first and second and receive their green shirts while the drama llama is still wailing and gnashing her teeth in the back. But at least she finishes.

Did you know that obesity costs Arizona $1.5 billion dollars a year? (Again, holy crap.) Fortunately, Phoenix is up for the challenge of making a change. We meet Amy, who has lost almost a hundred pounds - way to go, her! Our three potential Losers here are Jessica, Mark, and Shanna. Also, it's really hot outside today.

Jessica - who bears a resemblance to Mary Murphy, I think - has always been The Big Girl. Her relationship with her mom became quite bad. Her mom said she wasn't going to find love because of the fat and then became physically abusive. So Jessica retaliated by eating. Wow. This girl has massive issues. This becomes even more obvious if you watch her interview videos on The Biggest Loser website - as part of her anti-mom retaliation, she became promiscuous in college, put herself in dangerous situations, and was sexually assaulted in her sophomore year. She weighs 282lbs.

Mark started getting bigger in high school because he was playing football, but then stopped working out in college, so his weight ballooned. Currently, the ballooning has hit the 421lb mark. His mom is overweight and has health problems and is miserable about it all. He knows how she feels, and wants to help her succeed.

At this point, my younger daughter cries out for help and I have to go miss some of the show. But I know we were introduced to Shanna, a breast cancer survivor who currently weighs 242lbs.

It's another one-mile run for these competitors. Mark's ready to go. Shanna's excited. Jessica is determined to be heading to the ranch. Shanna slows to a walk early and gets discouraged, but isn't ready to give up. Mark's got a good jog going and is absolutely determined to make the ranch, especially since his father is running the mile with him. Jessica doesn't want to let anybody catch her, and comes in first. She squeals girlishly with triumph. (Oh lord, the Mary Murphy resemblance goes beyond the face. Heaven help us all.) Mark's next as he sprints home. Shanna runs in, too, but is disappointed. She's still determined to do it at home, though. As Mark and Jessica get red shirts, Jessica reflects the Deep Symbolism of the fact that her father's name is Red, too. Bob then has a heart-to-heart twith Shanna and tells her she's a survivor. There's nothing she can't do. He tells her to take the power back whenever she feels things are too much.

As we go to commercial, Bob has a heart-to-heart with us, too. He tells us we can stay motivated and make changes at home, even without a gym. For example, plant a vegetable garden. This gives everyone a workout, saves you money on groceries, AND is good for the environment. What's not to love about this plan? Oh, but don't forget that when you're gardening, you need to drink lots of water. You know, filtered with a Brita water filter.

Yes, that would be our first product placement of the season. Arg. Brace yourself, there will be more. MANY more.

In Oklahoma City, we have Season 8 winner Danny Cahill filling in for Ali. He is resplendent in pink, which is awesome. The only downside is that he seems to have gotten a gut back. :( Although, I suppose it's possible that that's extra skin from all the weight loss, which is visible now because he's not wearing belly Spanx as he would have done at the finale? Anyhoo, he introduces Allie, Sandy, and Lisa.

Allie had lapband surgery as a teenager under pressure from her doctor...but she is still fat. She reflects that the surgery fixes your stomach, but not your thought. She talks about the complications from obesity that her mom is experiencing, and she doesn't want to go through that. She wants to break the cycle. She's very pretty. I can't wait to see what she looks like once she drops considerably from the 322lbs that she's at now.

Lisa's daughter suddenly lost her vision three months ago. Turns out, it happened because she was dehydrated. And she was dehydrated because she hadn't been eating or drinking. And she hadn't been eating or drinking because...she didn't want to be fat like her mom. Ouch. That's pretty devastating stuff. Lisa, who is 288lbs, reflects that if her children don't want to be like her, how can she raise them?

Sandy's brother tried out for the show, but 5 days later died in his sleep. She's doing this for him, herself and her family. She saw how devastated her kids were hearing that their uncle died; what if, she reflects, they heard that she had died? She has too much to live for. She is 259lbs.

So we have another step-up challenge. Lisa starts out slowly but Allie looks pretty fast. And indeed, Allie reaches all the milestones first and wins. Lisa, highly motivated by her daughter who almost killed herself trying to be fat, comes in second. Sandy wants to quit, but is determined to finish for her brother. And, like her brother, she isn't afraid to tell the world she's going to do it; she is determined to be healthy. Bob reminds us that pink is a colour which always kicks ass on the Biggest Loser ranch as Allie and Lisa get their shirts.

The last stop is Boston, where one viewer has lost 107lbs so far. I love these profiles of people who turned it around by themselves! Filling in for Ali today is Mark Kruger from Season 5. He still looks amazing, I have to say; good for him. He introduces Frado, Elizabeth, and Brandon.

Brendan has a very hairy back, but more relevantly, has always been fat. He lost a lot of weight as a kid, but after that, his weight yoyoed unbelievably. He is currently sitting at 362lbs. He was engaged to the love of his life, but broke it off because he didn't love himself. Okay, that's very sad. :(

Elizabeth used to be slender and happy. But her marriage was verbally and physically abusive. She felt ugly and her self-esteem was destroyed. Accordingly, she gained about 90lbs. She's now divorced, but at 244lbs, she doesn't even recognize herself, and wants to make a change.

Frado is as New York as you can possibly get. :) His health is not good - he's a Type II diabetic and is on a LOT of medication plus insulin. His doctor has said he'll be dead within five years if he doesn't lose the weight. 367lbs is a far cry from the ripped Marine Corps dude he was in his youth. He's married with three kids and has been very successful in his career, but that just gives him more excuses to "celebrate". (Translation: Eat lots.) His wife seems to be in denial, too, telling him that as long as he's bringing home a good paycheque, his chub is okay.

It's another step-up challenge, and Brendan is the first to the 50-step milestone. He has some kind of tattoo on his arm that talks about self-respect, and uses that to motivate him. Unfortunately, Elizabeth is not so successful, as she has an asthma attack partway through the challenge. She really tries to stay in there, but come on, it's a freakin' asthma attack! Jillian earns my enmity by actually trying to push her THROUGH it. Poor Elizabeth. Fortunately, the EMTs override Jillian's authority and give Elizabeth some TLC while Brendan and Frado cruise to victory. Elizabeth does not take the loss well. She feels like she's failed and like her life is over. Frado feels for her and gives her hugs and encouragement. Also, the show makes her go to the hospital even though she doesn't really want to (good for the damn show), while they give Frado and Brendan their black shirts.

And now that we've got all our contestants, you'd think we're headed for the ranch, right? Yeah, wrong. This whole cross-America 7-city tour has taken up our entire two-hour time slot, and all we've got time for is a quick preview of the upcoming season before we fade to the medical warning.

The first thing we're told is that the seven rejected candidates from the cross-country tour are going to get a chance to get back on the show somehow. Various shots show us that a yellow team is coming, which means that two of the seven are coming back in. We can tell from all these clips that this yellow team is going to be Aaron and Elizabeth, which means sayonara for Anna, Corey, Montina, Sandy and least for now. (Never rule out unexpected plot twists on The Biggest Loser.) Another preview video available at The Biggest Loser website shows a wide shot of multiple contestants showing all eight colours. This must mean that Aaron and Elizabeth get to come onto the ranch right at the outset.

Another thing we see in the quick preview before the end of the episode is Ali announcing a weigh-in where the yellow line is moved up, to the halfway point, meaning that half the people are going to fall below the yellow line. Close examination of this part of the clip shows that the number of spots on the board when the line is moving up is 16, which means this half-below-the-yellow-line weigh-in must take place at the end of the very first week. This may sound crazy, but remember that at no time does Ali say that the people who fall below the yellow line are going home. Perhaps they're in for something else undesirable...

...Like training with the Marine Corps, perchance? That's the next thing we see in the preview clip: training with Marines. I should have counted the number of losers shown on the screen training with the Marines, but I suspect that what is happening is that they're splitting up the teams - the half above the yellow line stay on the ranch, and the half below the yellow line have to go off with the Marines and train with them for who knows how long. This is very similar to the sort of thing they do on The Biggest Loser Australia, where every now and then people are sent off to train with The Commando, an Australian drill sergeant army-type dude who is set up to be this big brutal and scary thing.

Other things we can look forward to:

  • Patrick is told he has the arteries of a 65-year-old man.
  • Jillian psychoanalyses Ada.
  • Lisa gets a big dose of Bob telling her she's wonderful.
  • Rick gets a video from home.
  • Huge success on the scale for Mark. (A close-up of the shot reveals a tantalising glimpse of the leaderboard behind him: Ada in 3rd, Sophia in 4th, an unreadable name in 5th, Tina in 6th, and Aaron in 7th, with the yellow line immediately below Aaron.)
  • Sweat in the gym.

None of this, however, makes up for the disappointment that I felt in not seeing any weigh-in results this episode. I live for results, people! My spreadsheet has been denied! I had better start seeing some freakin' numbers next week, I tell you!

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