The Biggest Loser recap: Heartless
Two hours of The Biggest Loser per week means that, by this halfway mark in the season, we know every single player very well. Look at Tracey, Shay, and Allen — on any other show, they would be the one-dimensional Villain, Victim, and Hero, but we know what drives them. We see them at their best, and we see them at their worst. It may be better for people who get eliminated early on the show — they leave before we can see them betray themselves.
With that in mind, let’s start off this recap with the contestant who, with her elimination, effectively ended the ”see them at their best” portion of the season:
Last night kicked off with the Black team walking into the Biggest Loser living room, sans Dina (and avec Daniel.) The Blue Team was surprised, even shocked. ”There’s no good choice and there’s no good answer,” Abby said, by way of explanation. Blue didn’t believe her, and Abby didn’t believe herself.
It’s been a difficult season for her. After getting benched by Dr. Huizenga for bad legs, she’s never really been able to participate in the challenges. But last night’s most thrilling moment belonged to Abby. Usually, when Jillian gets people to breakdown mid-workout, she forces them to cry by screaming at them.
But she approached Abby with reverence. ”What’s it like to lose everything you’ve ever loved?” asked Jillian, looking a lot like a robot asking a human child what emotions feel like. Abby: ”You can’t dream it in your worst nightmare.” Jillian’s tear ducts opened for the first time in centuries. ”I’m strong,” said Abby, ”I’m gonna live. I’m gonna make it, and I will be all that I’m supposed to be.”
In that moment, I think that Abby won this season of The Biggest Loser. You knew right then that she was going to take the first bus home to her adorable parents and to the little neighborhood kids holding ”I HEART ABBY” signs. Because Abby was never here to win a contest; she was here to save her life. She did. And now the contest can begin.
It was Face-Off week, which meant that each contestant went one-on-one against another at the weigh-in. Ali announced that whichever team won the first challenge of the night would get to decide who faced off against who. Tracey’s eyes shot wide open at the promise of power. It makes sense that she ended up facing off with Abby; the two represent two very different sides of The Biggest Loser.
This is an inspirational show about people saving their own lives: hugs, noble tears, and celebration dances. But it’s also about how normal people are corrupted by their own good intentions. Several commenters have said that they dislike the second half of every season because it becomes more about the gameplaying than the weight loss. For those people, last night had to be dispiriting. With Abby gone, Tracey’s gameplaying spirit reigns supreme.
NEXT: Rebecca steps it up
Even when Amanda cries, her mouth is smiling and her eyes are scowling. I ruled her out after the first few weeks, back when everyone but her was posting double digit. But Amanda’s made friends with the right people, and last night, Amanda had an impressive showing in the first challenge. There were two discs hanging down on opposite sides of a limbo stick, and the Losers had to dip back and forth beneath a limbo stick and tap the two discs. First team to tap 500 times won.
During the challenge, Amanda said, ”I can see Danny struggling. Before we know it, the blue team’s up 16.” She seemed to be licking her lips, anticipating the knife she would stick in Danny’s back. But then she tagged in, and cut Blue’s lead in half. Hooray! But then she tagged out, and Daniel tagged in. ”I’m gonna win this for the black team,” he said. Blue won quickly.
Even worse for Amanda: the Jilliandroid needed a way to release all its anger before it sat down at Abby’s knee to learn about the thing we humans call emotion. That meant forcefully inducing a nervous breakdown in Amanda. A rough transcript follows:
Jillian: Why are you so attached to being a failure?
Amanda: I don’t want to fail.
Jillian: There’s a difference between quitting and failing!
Amanda: I’m done with this!
And so Amanda left the gym. She tried making amends with Jillian later, but Jillian seems about ready to wash her hands of her. My bet: Amanda will keep voting with Shay and Daniel, right until they vote her out.
Amanda’s former Pink teammate, conversely, is becoming more of a competitor every week. In fact, last night I think she emerged as a potential favorite. She basically won the Discs challenge for the blue team, and then declared a face-off with Amanda. ”I wish no ill will for Amanda,” she said, ”I’m just going to beat her.”
Rebecca is something of a rarity this season: she enjoys the competitive side of the contest, but only because it drives her to lose even more weight. She selected Amanda as her Face-Off, specifically because she loved the thrill of fighting her friend. (When she beat Amanda soundly, she consoled her opponent. Now that’s class!) Rebecca’s emerging as a third power player for Blue. Which is a good thing, because…
…the primary power player on the Blue Team had a tough night. Allen is this season’s demi-god, and like Hercules, his only weakness is hubris. The usually-reserved player showed his cards before the first challenge. ”Rudy and I are the two tallest guys here at the ranch. You know this is gonna hurt.”
But the Discs weren’t just about brawn — Rudy and Danny both flailed. Allen attacked the discs like it was his job, carrying Blue to a win, but then everyone on the Black team was gunning for him. The second challenge of the night was a reward challenge: the Losers had to pick up baseballs scattered all across a baseball field, then throw those baseballs into boxes representing every contestant. When one contestant’s box was filled with 316 balls, that contestant would be out. Last team with a contestant standing won a meal with Curtis Stone (who?)
Allen was the first one to the outfield. But the Blues strategically concentrated their firepower on Allen. So Allen was the first one out, and the Blue team drowned.
NEXT: Did Shay sway you?
Danny is miserable. Without immunity, his teammates would have eliminated him twice over. But he’s their only real power player. If he doesn’t deliver in a challenge, his teammates blame him for the loss. But if he does deliver, his teammates usually don’t, and so it’s back to the chopping block.
Last night, Danny went out onto the baseball field wearing the number 73 on his jersey. It represented the number of pounds he’s lost so far this season, but there was a deeper resonance. ”It was my high school football number.” Turns out the former rock star is also a former state champion. Perhaps spurred on by the memory, Danny was getting into the spirit of Blue/Black competition. Jillian stoked the fire: ”Who are you gonna kill, Danny!?!?!” Danny, without hesitation: ”I’m gonna kill Allen.”
He did, but Danny was the only Black contestant to beat a Blue. So yet again, there he was in the elimination. Safe, but for how long?
While the Black team tried to explain why they voted off his old teammate, Rudy silently got up to leave. He’s a lonely man now, on a lonely quest for perfection. He was only 13 pounds away from being the Loser to reach the 100-pound mark the fastest. He wanted that 100. He didn’t care that Blue lost the reward challenge. This guy gave up seeing his family; why would he care about a meal with Curtis Stone (who?).
By the time Rudy stepped up for the Weigh-in, his team had already triumphed. To heighten the moment, the reigning 100-pound record holder, last season’s Dane, stepped out. Rudy only pretended to be nervous. He managed 14 pounds. Allen shed a tear, for if a mere human can perform such a divine achievement, then the old gods are truly dead.
This season’s most divisive player didn’t change any minds last night. If you like Shay, you were happy. She was all competitive gusto (to Rudy: ”You’re not that tall.”) and tragic-triumph inspiration: Jillian completed her Tearful-Breakdown Hat Trick by forcing Shay to say the following words about her childhood and her drug-addicted mother: ”I figured out how not to die when she was shooting up heroin in front of me. I figured out how not to die when she had men in the hotel room and I was in the closet.”
If you can’t stand Shay, last night proved your point. She keeps acting like the Black team is the underdog, and the Blue team is the evil empire. ”There’s one thing the Blue team always leaves out: courage and heart,” she said. ”And that can triumph over brains.” But besides Tracey, the Blues are all courage and heart; the Black team, meanwhile, is a brainy snake that can’t wait to devour itself.
NEXT: The Jillian and Bob face-off
She saw through Team Black: ”They come in acting like they’re all teary-eyed over Dina. Oh, kiss my ass. You knew when you left the gym what you were gonna do.”
She was matched up with Daniel, and said, ”The chances of me competing against Daniel are slim to none.” But she had victory in her sights. So when he stood up and posted just 5 pounds, she almost guffawed. ”All week, I’ve heard, he’s 20 years old, he can do this, he can do that. Well guess what, Granny can do it, too!”
After last week’s one-pound gain, Daniel seemed primed for a big number this week. If you check his stats, he’s always done better on odd weeks (he’s like the Star Trek film series in reverse.) Last night broke the trend. Jillian seemed angry enough to destroy reality: ”You’re on the same program as Danny, but in two weeks, you lose four pounds. Something is wrong.” Just what is going on with Daniel?
As last night’s breakdown trifecta proved, Jillian is essentially Benjamin Linus from Lost crossed with Jigsaw from Saw: She likes to push people past their physical and mental endurance points, and claim she’s doing it for their own good. (Who’s excited for the spin-off?) Jillian had the line of the night: ”Why are these contestants so freakin’ difficult this season?”
One of his players (Tracey) went under 200 pounds, while another (Rudy) beat the record 100-pound record. It must have felt especially sweet: the old record was set by Jillian-trained Dane.
The Special Surprise Guest
Derek Jeter appeared (by satellite) to shill his 24 Hour Fitness Club, give a shout-out to Daniel, and tell the Black team to step it up. See, the Baseball challenge was actually a Jeter psychodrama. There were 2,525 balls on the field, ”one for every hit I’ve accumulated,” and people would be eliminated when their boxes were filled with 316 balls, ”My career batting average.” Thanks, D-Rock!
Overheard on commercials for other fine NBC programming
”She was smuggling heroin in her breast implants.”
”Cancer is terror that we are at war with.”