By Jean Bentley
Updated January 28, 2009 at 04:31 PM EST
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It’s a testament to the relatability of The Biggest Loser that even a so-so episode with a not-at-all surprising outcome could make my eyes misty more times than Mandi cried the past two weeks combined. After last week’s elimination shocker, in which the well-liked Damien got the heave-ho instead of the universally disliked Joelle, the contestants remembered why they were toiling away in sunny California instead of pushing paper at their real-world jobs — they’re in a competition, not NBC Happy Fun Healthy Eating Land. Just because you’re buddies with someone doesn’t mean you should have ’em stick around when a large sum of money is at stake. Considering the urgency of this final win (do well and your loved one comes back!), it’s a shame the episode was so anticlimactic — the producers laid out exactly what was going to happen in the freakin’ previews at the end of last week’s show.

With the final weigh-in before reunification day fast approaching, the ranch-side contestants predicted how their home-side compatriots were faring. Last week, we saw David eating fried chicken at a buffet, and it seemed that behavior didn’t stop — we saw more shots of the 23-year-old eating unhealthily and smoking cigarettes — hardly the stuff of a lifestyle change. Unfortunately, David’s consistent half-assedness would portend what was to come.

addCredit(“Mitchell Haaseth/NBC”)

In not-so-shocking news considering how much the producers focused on her drama for the past two weeks, Joelle really did seem to renew her resolve and actually, you know, try during the workouts (my teary-eyed moment number one).

The first challenge was Super Bowl themed (in time for this Sunday’s big game, but surely a little jarring for the contestants when the episode was filmed last year). Armed with a little more healthy eating knowledge than in their pre-show lives, the players had to guess how many calories were in three unhealthy football-watchin’ foods. The players — minus Blaine, who flew home for the birth of his fourth child — were joined by Aussie chef Curtis Stone for the Price Is Right-style game.

First to the finals was Dan, who guessed 191 calories below the 991-calorie Buffalo wings with Ranch dressing (though everyone knows normal people choose blue cheese dressing for such a snack). Then came Kristin, who guessed closest to the 1,165-calorie bread bowl with chili and sour cream (though Tara pulled the classic hope-everyone-guesses-too-high $1 bid), and finally Helen, who was 255 off the gigantic, 1,755-calorie bowl of seven-layer dip. (I guessed 1,600, so I totes would’ve won. Did anyone else guess better than the contestants?)

As the rest of the contestants shuffled off, Dan, Kristin, and Helen got a private cooking lesson from the dreamy Mr. Stone, making honey mustard chicken breast cubes on rosemary skewers and guessing the calorie count. Dan aced it — 10 calories off the actual 230 — and won a much-needed two-pound weigh-in pass and a private in-home cooking lesson with Chef Stone for his buddy David.

The Aussie winged his way to North Carolina, where he schooled David on actually using his kitchen and helped him navigate the wilds of the produce section at his (conveniently located and economically priced!) neighborhood Wal-Mart.Back in Malibu, the challenge was an American Gladiators-style game where contestants had to fill their opponents’ containers with footballs before theirs filled up, an idea that sounds promising on paper (because American Gladiators is awesome, obvs) but turned out kinda boring in practice (the players’ exhausted jogging after the first couple of rounds wasn’t terribly exciting). Blending in was rewarded in this challenge, because tough competitors like Tara and Dane were targeted first, leaving the unremarkable (Helen) and non-threatening (Joelle) to duke it out for immunity, which Helen finally snagged.

On to the weigh-in: Ron and Mike went first, losing a disappointing-in-Biggest-Loser-but-not-in-real-life combined 16 pounds. Filipe, who is on the fast track toward becoming my new favorite, lost 13 pounds (teary-eyed moment number four or five?). Joining the brown team under the yellow line was Dan, who lost 12 pounds. Combined with his teammate David’s general ambivalence about the competition (”My commitment is here but my heart is not” — uh, dude, what does that even mean? I don’t think it’s actually possible.), Dan was the tough-but-clear choice to go home this week.

The good news is that his weight fell below 400 pounds before he had to head home, and it was his second week of double-digit losses in a row. During the post-show update, we learned he’s already lost 101 pounds and went off his diabetes medication. Not too shabby — can’t wait to see how much more he can lose before the finale!

More of this week’s highlights:

Biggest Loser: Dane, 15 pounds

Best of the five times I got teary-eyed: Blaine surprised his wife in the hospital, then proceeded to break down while remembering why he went on the show in the first place — to get healthier for his kids. If moments like these aren’t one of the main reasons you watch this show, please check to see if your heart has been replaced with a lump of coal.

Blatant product placement of the week: Tied between the Fiber One cereal segment and Jillian’s ”Trainers Tip” to chew Extra gum.

Swoony music overkill of the week: Jillian kept pushing Dan to run for five minutes, but he broke down because he could never imagine a life not being fat. Sure, I cried a little (again), but chill with the swelling orchestra, pal — this ain’t Titanic.

Did this episode exercise your tear ducts as much as it did mine? How do you think this week’s drama-free episode compares to last week’s Joelle saga? Were you as un-shocked by the outcome as I was? And how bummed are you that we don’t get to find out how the at-home partners fared until next week?

Episode Recaps

The Biggest Loser

Contestants battle the bulge and each other in the competitive weight-loss series
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