Group workouts in seven different cities yield 14 contestants....Or maybe more?

By Annie Barrett
September 22, 2010 at 05:00 AM EDT
Trae Patton/NBC
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This season of The Biggest Loser is all about “Paying It Forward.” Brian Williams and Michelle Obama are terrified for our future! So instead of gathering everyone up at the ranch fresh off their final bacon binges, trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels and host Alison Sweeney bopped around the U.S. to seven different cities for some mass workouts. I actually love this idea, because it weeds out the potential losers who have the faultiest joints, worst attitudes, and the tendency to black out soon after breaking a sweat. Then again, the scenes from next week suggest that at least some of the premiere’s also-rans will be showing up. So maybe the no-ranch-for-you business was all manufactured drama for a more compelling season premiere. On reality TV? You don’t say!

Even though, as Bob pointed out, the thousands of heavyweights who auditioned “ALL need to be here,” the producers had already sifted through packs of wannabe contestants to find the ones they wanted (read: the ones with the most tear-jerking personal histories). So what we saw tonight were the “first challenges” among each city’s three finalists. Only two from each city would be granted immediate status as a full-figured cast member. I’ll try to break this down in less than 500 steps with some nifty bolded categories. Here we go!

DETROIT

Largest: Aaron, 29, graphic designer

Best Sob Story: School counselor Sophia, 28, didn’t want to be “a fat cyclist” anymore and wanted to be able “to wear a white dress and not feel like the marshmallow fluff woman.” Which is sad enough, and also oddly aspirational, because as far as I know, there’s no definitive marshmallow fluff woman. But also: Sophia’s brother died in a car accident. His motto — “Do work, son. Do work.” — should come in handy when Jillian straps her to a treadmill and starts pulling out tufts of her hair.

Made It Through: Sophia and Jesse, a 27-year-old law clerk who has stopped answering his phone.

LOS ANGELES

Largest: Adam, 26, whose mom — a second mother to professional quarterback Matt Leinart — died from a heart attack at home.

Best Sob Story: Shockingly, not Adam’s. Instead, 27-year-old consultant Ada has a father who not only hates that she’s fat (ho hum) but blames her for the deaths of two siblings. There was a kiddie-pool drowning when she was 2 or 3, and a car accident when she was 16. (Another baby sibling died of SIDS.) Oh, man. Why am I doing these Sob Story blurbs? Worst idea yet.

Made It Through: Ada and Adam. Montina, 25, who’s done backup vocals for Beyoncé, ended up having a bum knee during the 500-step challenge. She needs to show up at the ranch so I can call her Fontina Cheese.

Next: Hey, Jillian, how’s this gonna work? “I manipulate her with every card I’ve got.”

PORTLAND

Largest: Cory, a 26-year-old life coach (?!?) with dreads who applies deodorant underneath his moobs

Best Sob Story: Burgandy, 25, mostly because of her first name, but she’s also a foster parent with five kids, one of whom is autistic. She deserves this vacation. (I get the feeling that for these moms who never “ask internal questions” or prioritize themselves, the BL ranch will feel like a luxurious spa, no?)

Made It Through: Burgandy and Tina, a 58-year-old grandmother. Cory suffered a brutal wipeout during the one-mile race, and had to be carted away on a stretcher. His final words should haunt us all when we’re in the last throes of a faceoff between our wagging tongues and a pint of Chubby Hubby: “Why, body? Why don’t you listen to me when I tell you don’t eat that, this is not good for you. Why do you do it? Why?” I think we can all relate to that. (“If it won’t put me in the hospital, why not?” is what I always think. That is so not a great reason to do anything. By the way, that Chubby Hubby was delicious.)

ATLANTA

Largest: Patrick, 27. “If I don’t do something quickly, my kids will look and think, ‘We wanna be just like Daddy!'” Oh god. This is tragic! Already crying.

Best Sob Story: Anna, a 39-year-old administrative assistant, had her 3-year-old son lose his battle with cancer…in her arms.

Made It Through: Patrick and Rick, a 54-year-old physical therapist from Arkansas. Anna seemed to give up during the one-mile race, but it’s crappy of me to say that because I’m sure she really couldn’t breathe and actually did feel like she was going to die. I’ve noticed that it’s extremely easy to pass judgment on the exercise failure of others from my perfectly still position on my sofa. Still, Anna’s antics frustrated me. But not as much as they frustrated Jillian! Classic Jillian line: “I manipulate her with every card I’ve got. Nothing works.”

PHOENIX

Largest: Mark, 30, bartender from New Jersey

Best Sob Story: Shanna, a 38-year-old teacher, survived Grade 3 breast cancer. After she was done with radiation, her doctor said “It wasn’t your choice to get cancer, Shanna, but it is your choice to be obese.” I would have gone with “congratulations” first, and then maybe followed up with the unvarnished medical smackdown.

Made It Through: Mark and Jessica, a 26-year-old wedding planner who has a very pretty face and is very aware of that. Of course, it’s hard to dislike someone whose mother grabbed her hair, slapped her, and punched her just because she didn’t like that her daughter was fat. “No one’s gonna love you if you’re fat,” said her mom. At times like these, I’d gladly give up the opportunity to hug the contestant for the chance to lunge at/possibly strangle the contestant’s parent.

Trainer Bob did some sort of weird Nalgene commercial. I zoned out, probably due to dehydration.

OKLAHOMA CITY

Largest: Allie, a 22-year-old student who had VGB surgery (Vertical Banded Gastroplasty) that didn’t change her desire to eat. “I did everything [my doctor] told me to and it hasn’t fixed me,” she lamented. Sounds like today is the day for someone to start fixing herself!

Best Sob Story: Toss-up: Sandy’s older brother died in his sleep five days after trying out for the show in a previous season, BUT, Lisa’s young daughter suffered a temporary loss of vision after depriving herself of food and water in an effort to not be overweight like her mom.

Made It Through: Allie and Lisa

Next: New York vs. Boston. Pizza vs. Pastries.

BOSTON

Largest: Frado, 43, commodities trailer from Staten Island

Best Sob Story: Elizabeth, a 30-year-old medical assistant, got out of a physically and verbally abusive relationship in which her ex made her feel ugly. (She was 90 pounds lighter a few years ago, and the weight gain seemed like a response to the terrible relationship, so I’m wondering if she can more easily lose the weight than some of the others.)

Made It Through: Frado and Brendan, a 32-year-old “human yo-yo” who’s gained and lost 110 pounds at a time. They saved the best for last — I really think Frado and Brendan will be the heart of this season. Frado’s the outgoing dad with whom you’d love to pig out at a NY Italian joint (no! no! wrong!), and he even went over to support Elizabeth (who blacked out during the step challenge) as if she were his own daughter. And Brendan works with kids, and lost the love of his life — who was BLURRED OUT OF A PHOTO — “because of my obesity and lack of love for myself.” The producers are gonna have a field day with Brendan’s tattoo that says “Self-Respect.”

Maybe they should just scrap the rest of the cast and make this season a Frado/Brendan battle? New York vs. Boston. Pizza vs. Pastries. I can see it. But I can also see some familiar faces trudging up that dirt road…..

‘Til next week, Biggest Loser fans! Did you like the new format of the premiere? Whose story made you sob the hardest? Who are you rooting for so far? Why, body? Why don’t you listen to me when I tell you don’t eat that, this is not good for you. Why do you do it? Why?

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

Contestants battle the bulge and each other in the competitive weight-loss series
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  • 10
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  • Bob Harper
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