The remaining four contestants participate in the hardest challenge yet -- running 26.2 miles in the inaugural 'Biggest Loser' marathon

By Jean Bentley
Updated May 06, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

The Biggest Loser

S7 E19
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‘The Biggest Loser’ recap: It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon

What can I say about this episode of The Biggest Loser that I haven’t said before? Answer: not much. But I’m going to try anyway. As in the previous two episodes, the producers seem to be struggling to generate enough actual content to fill two full hours, let alone three completely unnecessary episodes. We know everyone’s back story. We know how much they’ve struggled. We’ve seen the before and after pictures. Will you just show us the final results, already?

That said, there were three high points to this episode. First, we got to see the trainers visit the contestants at home. Second, Ron’s son/Mike’s brother Max got mad screen time as both Jillian and Bob offered to help him lose weight too. And third, the final four ran a frikkin’ marathon, y’all!

After limos escorted each player to a party where their friends and family awaited, it was time to get down to business — figuring out how to translate their Biggest Loser regimen to their old lives. Unfortunately, this was the biggest letdown of the show. Instead of their day-to-day activities — how they were able to integrate the diet and exercise — we got video diaries of the contestants talking about how hard it is to do so. Well…duh? Of course it’s hard. That’s why they’re on the show in the first place. What I want to know is how they managed to break out of their old habits. How did they adjust their schedules to fit in all the exercising they’re doing? What kinds of food are they buying at the grocery store? Quit it with the platitudes and vague, sweeping statements, people — what are some of the actual challenges you’re facing?

Tara and Helen both went to their old favorite restaurants, but we never saw what they ordered. Mike talked about how he was constantly hungry, but he never told us what he ate to curb his appetite. Five points to Mike for describing his hunger as ”voracious” — good use of those SAT words, buddy. Minus five points to Tara’s undermining friends — they said she was ”Too far gone for someone to tell her to start dieting.” Um, thanks?

However, things finally got interesting when the trainers visited their trainees at home. Jillian, despite her brusque attitude, genuinely cares about the mental health of her contestants. She sat down with each of her team members, discussed the specific problems they were having at home, and helped them work through the issues. Mike was having a hard time accepting his brother’s apathy toward losing weight — saying it was ”disgusting” to see him so fat. Jillian helped Mike realize that he was projecting his feelings about his old self onto his brother. Once Mike accepted the way he used to be, that anger would go away. (Props to the single tear running down Mike’s face as Jill whispered that he’d ”come through on the other side.”) Tara was worried because she didn’t feel in control anymore like she did on the ranch, and became particularly upset about a day when she worked out for six hours at the gym only to ”ruin” it all by eating pita chips. Jillian sat down with Tara for a glass of wine and helped her realize that indulging in a 100-calorie treat every now and then wouldn’t derail everything she’d been working for. Helen was having trouble balancing all her responsibilities and still finding time for herself (reminds me of a certain Jessie Spano: ”There’s no time! There’s never any time!”). Jillian used the wine tactic (lady likes her wine) to make Helen realize that she needed to take care of herself just as much as she needed to take care of everyone else.

NEXT: Max warms up to Bob

Although I appreciate Jillian’s drive, I don’t think I’d like working out with her. I’m more of Bob type of girl, so it pleased me to see how well Max responded when Bob visited the brown team in Michigan. He’s a Bob type of guy. Screaming and yelling doesn’t motivate everyone (ask my mom — it’ll more likely motivate me to do the exact opposite thing you’re yelling at me to do), so it must’ve been great for Ron and Mike to see Max become inspired and feel some of that ”I guess I really can do this” euphoria that comes from achieving something you didn’t think was possible. Seeing the contestants inspire their family members to lose weight is one of the most satisfying elements of the Transformation Moment packages at the end of each show, so to have such a substantial segment dedicated to Max was heartwarming — like a protein shake after indulging in empty calories all day.

Speaking of nutrition, the blatant product placement this week was wrapped up in a pleasant nutrition lesson for young Max. Instead of half a cheeseburger, a handful of fries, and two shot glasses of chocolate shake, he could go to Subway and eat an entire hoagie (I refuse to call them subs) for the same amount of calories (and save Chuck while he’s at it). Tara’s mom took the second place ”Family members of contestants I’d love to hang out with” award for her gahwwwwrgeous Lowng Oyland accent and the delightful over-enthusiasm/lack of script-reading capabilities when Tara made her turkey meatloaf using the Jennie O kitchen makeover prize. I mean, the lady read the following line like a robot: ”It’s great Tara, thank you for showing me this recipe,” then high-fived her daughter. Over meatloaf. Awesome.

Next, the contestants tackled the real challenge of the episode the fact that they had four weeks to train for a marathon. That’s 26.2 miles. I repeat: twenty-six point two miles! People train for months for these things, and they’ve got weeks. Not that we didn’t know it was coming, but how did that pitch meeting go? ”You know, it’s not impressive enough that these people have lost the body weight of an entire other person. Let’s have them run a distance that can fell even a lifelong athlete (and causes nipple chafing).” The upside was that we got not one but TWO marathon montages — complete with checking days off a calendar and running through various terrains.

NEXT: Ron finally follows through

The Biggest Loser marathon took place in Malibu, and the contestants had to run through farmland, mountains, hiking trails, then down the Pacific Coast Highway along the shoreline. If they completed the race, they’d each win $10,000 to donate to charity. Tara and Helen took off ahead of the brown team. Due to Mike’s sudden hip injury, which we saw via dramatic reenactment (and should’ve been blurrier/in slow-mo, like on Unsolved Mysteries), he ended up having to walk the whole thing. Select friends and family cheered the contestants on at different mile markers, and former winners showed up for inspiration. Tara unsurprisingly finished first, with a more-than-respectable time of less than five hours, and Helen followed an hour later. Mike wandered in after nine hours, but the real question was whether or not Ron would finish. His knee started to give out after only five hours, and he had a seemingly serious medical issue at the 16-mile marker. However, even as it got dark outside, Ron kept walking.

Finally, in the second-to-last episode of the season, Ron finished a challenge — and boy, what a challenge to pick! Unlike so many other tasks, he didn’t have a defeatist attitude from the very beginning. Instead, he kept saying that he’d finish. Slowly, patiently, but determinedly, he did. The former winners joined him in later miles, then Tara and Helen. As Ron walked along the beach toward the finish line after 13 hours, flanked by his entourage and the fractalating lights of police car escorts, tears of pride rolled down his eldest son’s face. They rolled down mine, too — finally, this man, who never actually seemed to care enough about his own weight loss to make me care about him, completed something he’d started. That moment, more than the literal ”climb these hills and cast off your old weight” challenge of last week’s show, represented why we watch The Biggest Loser.

At the final weigh-in, Tara and Helen managed to shut out the brown team from the top two spots. Helen lost seven pounds at home and Tara lost ten, but Ron and Mike couldn’t compete percentage-wise with ten-pound losses each, and fell below the yellow line. The voting, however, is up to America this week (I feel such a sense of responsibility!). Will you vote for Mike, who deserves to be there, or Ron, who’s there by default and wants you to vote for his son anyway?

What was your favorite moment of this less-than-original episode? I’m partial to Mike’s reaction when Jillian surprised him at the gym (”Oh s—!”). Were you glad to see that Max played such a large role in this episode? Were you also upset that we didn’t get to see how much weight he’s lost? We better find out next week, just saying. How cute was it that the contestants’ marathon numbers were the amount of weight they’d lost so far? Who are you rooting for to take it all next week? Who do you think will be the biggest surprise? The biggest disappointment? What did you think of the interviews of the contestants talking to their future selves? And how predictable was it that The Biggest Loser even had product placement on the finish line ribbon?

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The Biggest Loser

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