Earning a key to the gym proves to be a disadvantage for one team, while outdoor workouts push others to the limit

By Jean Bentley
Updated February 18, 2009 at 05:00 PM EST
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Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC
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Even after just five short minutes, it was clear that last night’s episode of The Biggest Loser would prove far more exciting than anything in last week’s drama-free clunker. When a show starts off with workout-induced vomiting, contestants seeking spiritual guidance, and all but two teams losing access to the gym before even making it past the first challenge, you know you’re in for a treat.

Blaine’s ouster last week made the black team the first one to split up for good. The decision really disappointed Bob, who urged his team to send Dane — the bigger threat — home instead, but I maintain the contestants made the right choice. Blaine had a newborn at home, and keeping him from the baby instead of honoring his wishes would’ve been cruel no matter how much prize money was on the line.

It will be interesting to see how Dane handles being on the ranch alone, since this is the first time the black team has been split up. The most obvious benefit of Blaine’s absence is that it has reaffirmed Dane’s verbal skills — in previous weeks, the producers all but completely edited out his dialogue every time he spoke more than one-word phrases. It was good to hear that he could form complete sentences.

When the teams arrived at the gym the morning of their first post-weigh-in workout, they found two giant padlocks on the door and a smirking Alison Sweeney. Only two teams would be able to access the gym that week, and they would win the right to do so by correctly plucking one of two working keys from a board of 130 on top of the mountain behind them. The contestants hustled up the hill, bringing back keys one at a time, testing them, and tossing the non-working ones into a nearby fishbowl, making it look like The Biggest Loser was hosting the biggest swingers party a Southern California ranch has ever seen.

Sione and Tara (she of the aforementioned workout vomit) gave particularly strong performances and lapped the other contestants, but it didn’t matter how hard they worked since they didn’t pick the right keys. Shanon, however, chose the less competitive but more spiritual approach and decided to stroll, not jog, up and down the mountain and use her yoga ”third eye” to choose one of the two working keys. Surprisingly, the Zen approach worked, giving the pink team one of the gym spots. After NBC’s 250th reminder to us attention span-less viewers that Ron is competing with two bad knees, Mike found the second key and ensured that he and his father wouldn’t have to endure the sure-to-be grueling outdoor workouts.

Bob didn’t seem daunted by the horror of working out in the great outdoors, but we’ve seen his team outside before. Jillian, however, whined like Nathanial Marshall during Hollywood Week — the lady really likes her gym. The contestants were understandably freaked out by the prospect of losing the machines that let them know exactly how many calories they’re burning, but Laura worried about being eaten by a mountain lion while outside — a fear I’m sure we all have when faced with leaving the comfort of our multi-million dollar indoor gyms.

Jillian turned the living room into an air-conditioned workout studio and made her team do some retro ’80s workout video moves, while Bob got creative outside and made resourceful use of wooden benches — his team used them as steps before lifting them up and bench-pressing the actual benches.

NEXT: When the trainers are away, the teams will play

Tara struggled to find the motivation to stay with her workouts, but her spirits lifted when Kristin and Filipe initiated the least erotic mud-wrestling scene ever committed to film (fewer bikini-clad girls, more actual wrestling), which evolved into war movie reenactments. Playing in the sprinklers? Now that’s a workout regime I can get behind.

Meanwhile, the pink and brown teams were left unsupervised in the gym. The brown team seemed to get down to business, but the pink team used the lack of adult supervision to continue their playful streak (accompanied by a whimsical Harry Potter-like score) and turned Jillian’s half of the gym into a lounge, complete with fresh fruit, green tea, and handmade ”Members Only” sign. Not to spoil the weigh-in results, but any time you use the word ”lounge” in correlation with a place where you’re supposed to be literally working your ass off doesn’t seem like the smartest of ideas.

This week’s challenge was another test of endurance — the teams competed to see who could maintain a consistent pace on a rowing machine for the longest period of time. If they rowed fast enough, the pillar behind them would light up green. If they slowed down, it would turn yellow, and if they didn’t speed up in time, it would go to red and their team would be out. Yet again, the brown team clocked out first, with yellow, pink, purple, and blue following until green and black remained. Dane had the advantage since he didn’t have to worry about anyone but himself, and Laura’s constant inability to live up to Tara’s expectations kicked in once more and the green team lost.

Bob took his team to the beach for a particularly intense-looking last chance workout (I’ll just observe from my sofa while eating some sugar-free Jello, thanks), where they did some obstacle course-looking things like jumping over barrels, carrying giant logs on their backs, and crab walking down the beach. Jillian, on the other hand, took her team outside for a combination of boxing, hopscotch, and aerobics videos.

At the weigh-in, Kristin and her mother went first. After gaining last week, Kristin dropped below 300 pounds for the first time in eight years — but her mom only lost a pound, landing them on the bottom of the list for most of the weigh-in. The pink team, the first gym-bound team to hit the scale, posted some less-than stellar numbers (Shanon lost three pounds, Helen lost six), taking the purple team’s position at the bottom. Though NBC had been teasing the brown team’s potential downfall for the past few weeks, the father and son posted a respectable 17-pound loss and secured their places on the ranch.

In a bit of twisted logic, the pink team asked that Shanon be sent home since she did okay on her own before (everyone else wondered why she didn’t ask to stay since she had more weight to lose), and the other teams complied. When we saw the Michigander at home, she was an almost-svelte 198 pounds and training to compete in the roller derby. Can we say ”Coolest post-show workout regime ever?” And I thought Blaine’s Iron Man goal was pretty neat…

This week’s moments:

Biggest Losers: Laura and Tara with eight and seven pounds respectively

Teamwork Award: Goes to everyone for helping Ron up and down the hill during the key-finding challenge

Egregious Product Placement of the Week: The ever-so-handy TRX Gym in a Bag. You can use it anywhere!

Obvious Trainer’s Tips of the Week: Don’t run too fast when you’re first starting out, and eat whole grains. Duh.

Magic Threshold: 300 pounds — after Blaine and Filipe cleared the number last week, Kristin and Sione joined the 200s club this week

In the first exciting preview in at least a month, we see the teams being split up by the flip of a coin and Bob crying. Count me in! To tide you over, check out the bonus footage below, and weigh in with your two cents about this week’s episode on our message boards. Was the correct team member eliminated? Do you think the right team fell below the yellow line? Will you miss Shanon’s unexpectedly hilarious one-liners? And how freakin’ excited are you for next week’s epic two-night extravaganza?

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The Biggest Loser

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