The contestants compete as individuals in a strongman-type challenge, and the drawn-out weigh-in sucks all excitement out of the show's pacing

By Jean Bentley
Updated March 25, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
Kristin Cathy
Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC
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Mazel Tov, Biggest Loser viewers. Over the past few weeks, our dear contestants have been struggling to prove themselves during a life-changing time. Last night, however, after months of preparation, it was finally time for them to come into their own. Yes, our contestants are grown-up men and women now, responsible for making their own decisions (like choosing their own trainers) and being held accountable for their actions. It’s no longer a team competition — these babies are now competing for themselves.

Okay, it wasn’t exactly a Bar Mitzvah when Alison brought everybody outside and handed them their old colored team shirts to wear, but there are some similarities: months of training with an experienced figure who helped them complete a daunting task, and somebody who walked away much richer (in sweet prizes) than everybody else (unfortunately, the challenge losers didn’t get their own personalized ”Biggest Loser 7” CD holders). It makes sense, because really — isn’t middle school a lot like reality TV? Manufactured drama, ganging up on perceived threats, and a constant stream of unnecessary tears — am I right, or did you go to middle school with the most well-adjusted kids ever?

After twelve weeks of team competition, it was about time some people lost the ability to ride their teammates’ coattails through elimination from week to week. While Bob might’ve been the only trainer with contestants up for elimination yet again, it’s no longer the obvious outcome it once was. And with each person picking his/her own trainer, Bob was able to gain back his loyal team members.

Of course, we couldn’t have the contestants make a decision without taking a spirit walk-type stroll through the BL ranch grounds while discussing how hard it would be to choose a trainer, even though it was obvious how everyone would vote. Jillian wound up with Tara, Laura, Helen, and Mike, and Bob got Sione, Filipe, Kristin, Ron, and Aubrey (the only surprising choice, since she started out training with Jillian).

The challenge this week was a two-parter: first, in a game Kristin called ”Let’s See How Much Everyone Else In the House Hates You!,” the contestants had to handicap their opponents for the second half of the challenge by distributing the amount of weight they’d lost among everyone else. Smartly, most people chose to impede Tara, and puzzlingly, Helen. Though Helen good-naturedly laughed her way through the process, Tara got extremely pissed off and later threatened to sabotage her weigh-in and send herself home.

Though Tara’s become increasingly bitchy from week to week (her incredulous ”Did you really think you would beat me?” to Helen last episode was almost the last straw), I managed to remain on her side until she became so defensive that she blew off Aubrey’s attempts to boost her ego and started crying because the mean kids on the playground wouldn’t let her on the monkey bars. For someone who prides herself on being such a strong competitor, Tara really cracked when faced with an obstacle she wasn’t sure she could beat. Combine that with several mediocre-to-bad weigh-ins in a row, and Ms. Thang’s confidence was sorely shaken. Which is a good thing, because her ego needed a healthy dose of fear to realize she wasn’t the only person in the competition with a chance of winning the darn thing.

Though it probably surprised the contestants, part two of the challenge wasn’t much of a secret to anyone who saw last week’s previews: the contestants had to pull cars a half-mile around a racetrack. It was kind of like those strong man competitions they play on the secondary ESPN networks after the spelling bee. Some NASCAR driver dude came and told the contestants that being successful is about setting goals and reaching them (duh), then he told them that not only would the challenge winner get immunity at the weigh-in, they would also get VIP passes to an upcoming race.

NEXT: NASCAR trumps Biggest Loser in product placement

While Laura and Kristin sat out (due to injuries, probably), the rest of the contestants were strapped to beat-up cars airbrushed with sweet portraits of them and loaded with their opponent-imposed handicaps. Ron had 37 pounds, Mike had 53, Filipe had 67, Aubrey had 72, Sione had 92, Helen had 215, and Tara had a whopping 257. Mike and Sione pulled into an early lead, while Helen struggled in the back. Tara, however, slowly crept up on the leaders, passing Mike and eventually Sione.

Lesson learned: don’t piss off Tara, especially now that she’s back in her green shirt. Green Tara angry! Green Tara destroy competition! Green Tara ride in fun Cheerios race car after win! I’d call that yellow Cheerios-branded race car egregious product placement, but it’s NASCAR. That’s kind of their thing. I would, however, like to know about the super slick sunglasses Alison Sweeney was wearing (maybe I’ll ask my friends over at Style Hunter).

After the usual grunting-and-sweating montage that is the Last Chance Workout, it was time for the weigh-in. Unfortunately, the show reverted back to its old let’s take an entire hour to show you weigh-in results for nine people, which actually could’ve taken about ten minutes, or twenty if we really wanted to stretch it out format. Instead of the streamlined process we’ve gotten used to over the past few weeks, it took the entire second half of the show to tell us that Aubrey and Filipe fell below the yellow line.

I’ll admit, the weigh-in wasn’t completely devoid of suspense. Tara and Kristin were both on the verge of becoming the first woman to lose 100 pounds on the ranch, but Tara only managed a three-pound loss this week, falling one short. Kristin, however, lost eight pounds! Go Kristin! Kristin was psyched about her 105-pound total loss, but I was a little weirded out about how she and Bob were talking about Cathy like she was dead. She’s back in Wisconsin, not deceased. Sione and Filipe also crossed the 100-pound mark this week.

In the most frustrating moment of the weigh-in, Ron, who lost ten pounds, was disappointed in his success because he was afraid Mike would be up for elimination this week. I’ll be happy if Ron continues to step up his game and drop big numbers, but I’ll be even happier if he falls below the yellow line and someone self-righteously announces to the group ”It’s just his time to go” when they’re discussing who should be eliminated. Can we say karma?

Since we were back to the ”beat the dead horse” format, Alison was back to repeating the count after each vote (as one commenter put it a few weeks back, it’s like she has to explain math every time: ”Filipe, that’s two votes for you, which is one less than three, and the only even prime number. If you get two more votes, you will have four total, which is the same as two squared and half of two cubed.”). Ultimately, Sione must’ve effectively plead Filipe’s case, because Aubrey was sent home. Sadly, after Aubrey’s initial reunion with her family (cute bangs, Mandi), we learned that she gained nine pounds in her first three weeks back at home by putting her sizable family ahead of herself. However, she’s since snapped out of that mindset and lost 10 pounds.

Were you as upset as I was to learn how easily Aubrey slipped back into her old ways? And as pleased as I was to learn that she figured out how to balance her time and take care of herself? Did Tara’s temper tantrum annoy you? Were you ready for the individual competition to begin? And are you as excited as I am to see old faces return to the ranch next week?

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The Biggest Loser

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