The Biggest Loser recap: One Step Closer
Last night on Product Placement, The Series: Multi-grain cheerios were affordable and accessible! Brita made the tap water healthy and tasty! TD Ameritrade sponsored one challenge (reward: A TD Ameritrade account!) and the NFL sponsored another (reward: a free ticket to the Pro Bowl, also known as Not The Super Bowl.) An uncannily lifelike wax statue of Suze Orman came to life and taught us all a very important lesson about obesity economics. You can see the Suze Orman wax statue every weekend on her CNBC variety show, The Suze Orman Wax Statue Show.
Let’s get it straight: the product placement on last night’s Biggest Loser was egregious. The episode should have felt climactic. Instead, it felt like filler. It felt padded out. It felt, and I apologize for saying this because it sounds like a bad pun, flabby.
And there was so much promise! At the beginning of the episode, The Final Five were sitting in the living room, having just come from last week’s Rebecca vs. Rudy throwdown. Allen: ”That was… intense.” Amanda was not happy. Her friends were gone. The remaining contestants were allied against her. ”If I fall below the yellow line, I’m going home.”
Interesting. Dramatic. Unfortunately, that’s when Ali Sweeney stepped out from the shadows with a surprise guest: ”America’s favorite financial expert, Suze Orman!”
Financial Advice: Fat Man, Thin Wallet
Orman had lots of interesting statistics to offer (America spends $57 billion more on obesity than cancer), but her whole portion of the episode felt like a loud, obnoxiously tanned PowerPoint presentation.
There was one interesting moment. Suze asked Liz, ”You happily married?” Liz: ”We’re working on it.” ”Has money ever come between you?” ”Yes, all the time.” ”More than weight?” ”Oh, definitely!” We got a brief, tantalizing hint of Liz’ home life. People don’t just eat in a vacuum. (Right during this deeply personal moment, the bottom of the screen lit up: ”Watch the Suze Orman Show, Saturday at 9 PM!”)
Listen, I’m not asking that The Biggest Loser take us on a Dr. Drew-style journey through the contestants’ dirty emotional laundry. I just want to know more about these people. All season long, all we’ve ever heard about Allen is that he’s a firefighter. But on Leno, he explained that he had four jobs: County Coroner, Owner of a Catering Business, Firefighter, and some other mysterious occupation. How did we not hear this all season? This show is Two. Freaking. Hours. Per week.
NEXT: Are you ready for some football?
Even on an off-week, you can count on wonderful Rube Goldbergian Reward challenges. The Losers had to answer questions based on Suze Orman’s Financial Lecture. But they had to answer while running on a treadmill, and for every question they missed, the treadmill would run faster.
Clever! Fun! Unfortunately, Suze Orman ruined it all with the commentary: after Allen got his fourth question right, she said, ”You’re four thousand dollars richer, boyfriend!” Message to Suze: That is not how you use the word ”boyfriend.”
The second reward challenge was maybe the best one ever, so rich with irony and dark humor and farcically literal metaphors that I’m tempted to write a great American novel about it. At one end of the Football field, each Loser had a barrel holding ten footballs. Each football was weighted to represent how much they lost in a given week. (Danny: ”How did they get a football to weigh 28 pounds?”)
They had to take each football and set them on pedestals set in ten-yard increments across the field. How do you get to be the guy who thinks up these challenges? It’s probably the coolest job in the world, besides videogame screenwriter and dinosaur hunter.
Allen dominated the challenge right away, while Rudy suffered mightily from all the record-setting weight he lost. In a funny way, though, Rudy’s loss in the challenge merely added to his legend. He has become the Tiger Woods, the Pete Sampras, the Michael Jordan pre-Wizards: a golden god who can do no wrong, yet who’s also one-dimensional, especially compared to his closest competitor, Danny (this season’s Mickelson/Agassi/Barkley.)
Allen won the ticket to the Pro Bowl, but Danny won our hearts again, closing out this challenge with a proud speech: ”I’ve been coaching my kid’s football team for a few years now. Before every game, the kids run out on the field. I’ve always had to walk… Now I can’t wait for that first game. All those kids are gonna see their coach actually do what he’s been trying to teach them to do.”
Some Nice Personal Moments
The whole gang was hanging out on the couch. Danny had a guitar in his hands. ”I wrote a song about our time here,” he explained. The song was basically a Jack Johnson song without the badness. Rudy watched Danny play with wide-eyed caveman fascination. Allen’s eyes looked confused and sad, like he was listening to a sad song in a dead language. Amanda looked the same way she always looks. It was a real moment.
One thing that I always enjoy about The Biggest Loser is that the competitors’ motivations for seeking a healthier lifestyle are noble, mature, and adorably everyday. Rudy: ”This is my second chance at being the father I always wanted to be, and the husband my wife deserves.” Danny used the same emotional language: ”My wife didn’t sign on for 435 pound Danny, but she stayed with me.” Allen: ”I’ll go back and give my wife what she and I both want: to expand our family.”
NEXT: By the numbers
Then there’s Amanda, the last single person left on the show. Are there any Amanda fans out there? What did you think about her moment with Bob? She thanked him profusely for all his help: ”You’re not just a trainer, you’re a friend.” Bob: ”This season, I really tried to keep it professional. You caught me so off-guard. You became a mission.” Amanda gave him a note that she wrote to him. They hugged. It was strange.
A good night to skip the rest of the show and just watch the Weigh-In. Let’s run the numbers.
”My relationship with the scale has just been a disaster. I have a bad week, I have a good week!” This week was in-between. Liz lost 5 pounds, good enough to get her over the 200 hump into 198.
Rudy went from 308 pounds to 296, 12 pounds that cemented his record for losing the most weight in 11 weeks on the ranch. I’m trying to get a sense; do people out there like Rudy? He’s such a ridiculously dominant player that rooting for him seems almost offensive, like rooting for the Yankees or the Lakers.
He only had 13 pounds to make it to 100 pounds total lost on campus. He only managed 8. And so ended the Age of Miracles.
When Ali said, ”Danny, it’s your turn,” the awesomest Biggest Loser music started up. You know what I’m talking about: it’s the hard-pounding orchestral track which sounds a bit like the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. Appropriate, since Danny has emerged as the most interesting figure left on the show. He’s never beaten Rudy, but he’s come close; unlike Rudy, he’s full of great quotes.
Example: ”If Rudy and I make it through this week, we are the two to watch. We are the big bears on campus.” Pause to picture bears on a campus. ”We are the two elephants that are butting heads, fighting for dominance.” Pause to picture elephants butting heads. Actually, don’t bother, I’ve got it right here.
Danny had a mission: if he could reach double digits, he’d have seven straight weeks of double digit weight loss, setting a Loser record. He lost 16! ”I broke a record! I did it, Rudy!” Beware, Rudy, your fellow bear-elephant is gunning for you!
Surprise! She lost seven pounds, pushing Liz (duh) and Allen (no!) below the Yellow Line. There are three theories that I have come up with for how, exactly, Amanda has made it this far into the game:
She earned it. She had a much smaller starting weight than everyone else. While bigger contestants were posting big double digits and getting all the attention, Amanda has been consistently posting middle-of-the-road numbers. She didn’t make a big show of her alliance (like Daniel and Shay.) She plotted, but not enough to piss everyone off (like Tracey). There’s something to be said for just being a solid performer, and if Amanda looks out of place next to Rudy and Danny, her consistency looks impressive next to Liz’s schizophrenic numbers.
NEXT: Game play vs. friendship
The show is unfairly keeping her here. Pretty convenient that America’s Choice got so far while other, better competitors fell by the wayside, right? I’m not suggesting outright cheating, but certainly all the extra attention from Bob helped Amanda go further than, say, Tracey, who actually managed to post pretty decent numbers, but got no love from the trainers.
All existence is random. Rebecca carried the Pink team through the first round. The Pink/Orange Youth Alliance carried Amanda through the second round, and then dissolved before it could turn on her. She survived the destruction of Pink/Orange because no one really thought she was a competitor. She only really started losing weight late in the season, after fierce competitors like Allen had reached a possible limit. A series of meaningless events had left her alone with two Titans (and Liz.) There’s no such thing as fate. Chaos theory. Coincidence.
Whatever the reason, Amanda is in the Final Four. And she was the elimination swing vote. Amanda perceptively laid out the situation: ”Danny’s gonna vote to keep Liz here. Rudy’s gonna vote to keep Allen here. It’s in my hands.”
Allen took Amanda aside for a chat. ”You just have to look at what’s gonna be best for you in the end. Do you wanna compete against three people, or two people?” A strange tactic: he was telling Amanda that the competition would be easier without him, banking on the fact that she would want things to be more competitive. Wrong Pink player, Allen. ”Just wanted to give you things to think about, put a little bug in your ear.”
According to my calculations, Liz has now been under the yellow line exactly two trillion times. No mystery about her longevity: she made the right friends, and nobody really thinks she’s a threat.
Danny voted for Allen; how could he vote against Liz? Rudy voted for Liz; how could he vote against Allen? Amanda decided the time was right to give a speech: ”I could’ve gone the gameplay route. Or I could keep Liz, because of the friendship we’ve formed. My decision was based on my integrity.” And she sent Allen home.
Allen took his elimination better than I did, promising America that he would be ”a smoking hot firefighter on a calendar” when next we saw him.
Are you satisfied with the Final Four? Do you think anyone (Liz) doesn’t deserve (Liz) to have gotten this far? Did you stick around to see Allen on Jay Leno, where we all learned a valuable lesson about low sperm count? And who is going to win it all? As close readers know, I’ve been wrong every time I try to call the winner, from Coach Mo to Rebecca to Allen. I’m going to play it safe and call Rudy for the win, but that’s just because I want to curse him with my bad betting mojo, so that Danny can win.