I missed "The Biggest Loser" during its Olympic hiatus. The only good thing was that I got to sleep early last Tuesday night.
This week's episode of TBL was jam-packed. First, we had the unfinished business of The Dumbest Challenge Ever. When we last saw Cheryl and Darrell, they were squatting under bowls of fire holding "torch stems" on their heads to keep the flames lit. It was pretty obvious that Cheryl had the advantage -- she is shorter and Darrell has bad knees. Still, Darrell managed to hold out for 6 minutes before dropping out. He and his daughter Drea seemed pretty broken up when he left, but in his "where are they now" video, he seemed happy to be back in his real life in Ann Arbor (hey, we're practically neighbors!) and was down a total of 120 pounds from his starting weight of 413 pounds.
This was also the week that the contestants split up into Black and Blue teams. There was a Memory-type temptation challenge to determine who got to choose the teams, and also allowed that player to choose one person to have immunity. If you have been watching TBL for a while, you know that a lot of players find the power to make decisions like this very tempting. There was a huge memory board with cubbyholes covered by identical blue TBL-logo cards. Inside the cubbyholes were either food items (like candy, muffins, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches) or two "Golden Tickets" that would allow the player to make up the teams. There was also a huge pile of chocolate-chip cookies. If the player found two matching food items, he or she got to make the other player eat that food item, and also got another chance to make a match. If the player found the two golden tickets, the game was over with that player as the winner. If the player found two non-matching items, then he or she had to eat one of the chocolate-chip cookies.
Only two players, Drea and Michael, decided to play the game. At first, of course, no one was making matches, so they were eating a lot of cookies. It was interesting how several weeks of clean eating had changed their tastes. Both Drea and Michael said that after the first few bites, the cookies tasted disgusting to them. It was obvious that Drea was better at playing the game than Michael, and she made him eat a lot of junky food. Michael got lucky, though, and found the golden tickets, and had all the power. He was then told that, since there were 13 players, that he would have to choose 6 players for each team and one player to have immunity. That odd player out would be put on whatever team had someone eliminated in the first Black vs. Blue week.
There are a couple of ways to draw up the teams. It's probable that no matter what he did, he would have made a lot of players angry. That, I think, was why many players chose to sit out the temptation -- it's just not worth having that target on your back. To minimize the damage, Michael could have divided the teams as evenly as possible and then put himself as the immune wild-card player. That would have assured him the chance to stay another week and would have also given him the best chance of keeping the other players friendly. To make even teams, he would have probably had to split up couples, like the indestructible Tongan cousins, so some people would still have been upset. Instead, though, he stacked the Blue Team with the biggest players and put himself on it: Koli, Miggy, Sunshine, Lance, and Daris were all on his team. He put Sam on the Black Team, probably to avoid having a voting block on his own team. The other team members were Stephanie, Cheryl, Drea, and Pink Team members Sherry and Ashley. O'Neal, who is a big guy but also doesn't seem like a big threat to anyone, was given immunity and was the wild card.
The thing that set me off was Michael saying he was doing this because, "for the first time in my life, I have to put myself first." I know there is a mythology of the selfless fat person, but Michael doesn't seem to fit that bill. He seems more like the guy who has never taken himself or anything else seriously, and is in deep denial that his actions have consequences. He is, of course, shocked that people think he was being unfair, when he admits in his interviews that he purposely set things up to make it easier for himself.
Jillian, of course, had a fit when she saw that yet again, her team was stacked with the smaller players and was mostly women. Every season she seems shocked that people competing for a huge cash prize don't play fair when given the chance to make choices. But to me, the two teams did not seem as unevenly matched as everyone thought. Stephanie is small but she kicks butt week after week. Cheryl is quiet and no-drama and also works hard. Drea is still pretty big and very motivated. Sam is a total stud -- he is the stronger of the cousins in challenges and even though he doesn't look like a fat guy anymore, still has some weight to lose. The former Pink Team has plenty of weight to lose and hasn't been trying very hard so far. Jillian's "We Are the Underdogs" routine might have been exactly what it took to light a fire under them. Blue Team, on the other hand, was stacked with big guys who don't ever seem to make the percentages that they should be able to in weigh-ins. Michael and Daris especially have not been very motivated this season -- they are both huge and should be able to pull big numbers. Yes, Michael is on track to set a weigh-in record, but he's also the biggest player ever to be on the show by almost one hundred pounds, so he should be! Lance is good in challenges but also has a serious lazy streak, and Koli seems to have a major confidence problem. Sunshine and Miggy, who are probably percieved to be the weakest players on the new Blue Team because they're women, are probably the most motivated ones.
Somewhere in here, there was a segment with Dr. H. and his new "Know Your Number" system with two of the players, Ashley and Sam. They have both improved their "Inner Age," but I think it's because both of them were heavy drinkers and smokers and TBL forces them to quit when they get on the show. I wasn't all that impressed with this segment.
There is a challenge where, to play into Jillian's narrative, the Black Team is at a huge disadvantage, because they are basically playing tug-of-war with a huge banner, hauling it up to the top of a building. It is set up to favor upper-body strength, and those huge guys can also just lean back into the ropes to pull up the banner. The Black Team misses out on letters from home, but Sam says, "We're here to lose weight, not to get letters. If you want letters, go work for the post office." That was the moment when I was sure the Black Team would win the weigh-in.
There was plenty of foreshadowing during the weigh-in to show that the Blue Team had been overconfident and that the Black Team could really catch them. Michael pulled a huge number and set his record, but the rest of the men on the Blue Team disappointed, and didn't even get 2% losses. Miggy had a low number, but I think she lost a higher percentage than Lance or Daris. Lance's percentage was the lowest by far. When the Black Team weighs in, most of their numbers are solid. It comes down to Ashley, who has to lose at least 8 pounds to catch the Blue Team. She hits a whopping 10-pound loss, so the Black Team wins the weigh-in, to the shock of the Blue Team. When you look at the numbers, though, both the percentage lost and the total weight lost were pretty close, so the Blue Team was not as much heavier than the Black Team as it seemed. Michael keeps crying and saying "it shouldn't have been us." He has immunity, so he knows he won't go home, but he seemed shocked that his sure-fire strategy failed him.
The elimination comes down to gameplay -- Lance has lost the least, but he's a strong competitor in challenges. Since Miggy's raw number is the lowest -- and since Michael is the only one who seems close to her -- she is sent home. She seems philosphical about it, and in her "Where are they Now" video, we learn that she is doing well and has started meditating to relieve the stress that she believed was sabotaging her weight loss.
O'Neal is now a member of the Blue Team with Sunshine. Next week promisess to be another exciting episode. Who needs the Olympics when you have Olympic weight loss?