This episode of the Biggest Loser might have been the most dramatic of the season, because it was one designed to take six contestants down to the Final Four. There will be the usual Yellow Line but also an instant-elimination Red Line. Four out of these six contestants have lasted because of their strength: They are consistent in their weight loss and work hard. One, Elizabeth, has successfully "pulled a Helen" (I am applying for the trademark on that one) and succeeded because she is not a threat to anyone and has made some friends on the show who want to protect her. One, Brendan, has lasted because he has made strong alliances and has played the game well, with fairly good weight loss to boot. He begins the show by bragging about how perfectly he has set himself up. If there is one lesson we have learned over the seasons, the players who brag about how smart they are are usually set up for a big fall. Don't brag while the Scale Gods are listening, Brendan.
The focus this episode is on self-reflection for the contestants. How well have they set themselves up, not to play a game but to go home and be successful? Bob and Jillian have a heart-to-heart with them and we get to hear their thoughts about what lies ahead. We can see that most of them are worried about going home to the places and the situations that helped them get fat in the first place. Ada, of course, is especially nervous because she knows that when she goes home, her parents are not going to be impressed with her results. She says, "They will say, 'You look good but you could look better.'" Mark works in a bar, which sets him up for all kinds of crazy eating, drinking, and sleep schedules. Patrick is an unemployed family man, and is really nervous about how to balance all the things he needs to do: Prepare for the finale and look for a job, while still being there for his family. Elizabeth doesn't seem nervous but she seems like she should be. Even on the ranch, she has not had consistent or impressive weight-loss numbers. When she goes home to her work and her kids, how is she going to make it? Frado, of all the contestants, seems the most secure in his position. He has lost huge amounts of weight, has discovered his inner athlete, and has gotten off the 20 different medications he was using to manage his diabetes, plus we get the sense that he is the unquestioned patriarch in his house. If he goes home and wants to eat healthy, I feel pretty confident that his wife and kids will support him. It seemed like they were all worried about him but didn't feel like they could say anything to him.
This week we got the classic Biggest Loser challenge: The contestants had to put all of their weight back on with the help of a special suit with multiple pockets. They had to revisit what it was like to feel that heavy again. All of the contestants found this experience traumatic, and talked about feeling the pain in their ankles and knees that they had forgotten. Elizabeth, who struggled with asthma, notices the weight pressing on her chest and feels like it's harder for her to breathe. The winner of the challenge will get $10,000 from Subway. There was some random blonde gymnast from a past Olympics who was there to cheer them on.
Of course, the contestants now with the added weight aren't really the same as their old selves. They had to compete in a mile run or a step-up challenge to be able to get on the show in the first place. They all barely struggled through. This time, they get to do both challenges, wearing all of their old weight but with their new stronger muscles, bones, and hearts. They find it difficult to move with the added pounds, but they are strong enough to do the challenges this time. They do the step-ups first, taking off weights every 100 steps in the order that they lost them on the ranch. Week One was a big lost for most of them, and things get a lot easier after the first couple of weight drops. Then they run/walk a mile and drop off pounds at different stages. Ada comes out early as the easy favorite. She is one of the biggest losers on the show, but she still was never as large as the four big guys. She doesn't have to feel an extra 100 pounds on her knees as she does the step-ups. When it gets to the run, it's pretty clear that she has the race in the bag. I hope she takes the money and gets herself an apartment far from her family and near one of her new Biggest Loser friends (I think there have been some sparks with her and Brendan) so that she can have some support as she works toward the finale.
The last chance workouts gave the contestants one last chance for a beating with Bob and Jillian, and they take the chance to show each contestant how far they have come. We get to see clips of them from their first workout interspersed with what they are doing now. I am so impressed with the athleticism they develop on this show in just a few weeks. I would be terrified to work out with either of the trainers -- I can't do half the things the contestants do, and all of them are still larger than me. It goes to show that an overweight person can become incredibly fit, and that fitness is valuable in the weight loss process. The contestants who have paid their dues in the gym are the ones who are going to kick butt when they get home, because they have built themselves into weight loss machines.
The weigh-in is dramatic, as expected. All of the contestants are going home and all will come back to the finale, but the question is whether they are competing with three other players for $250,000 or competing with all of the other contestants for $100,000. If things go the way they have in the past, the final four will have one more weigh-in and then America will pick which of the lowest two contestants get to compete for the big prize.
Ada has a solid loss but is watching anxiously the whole time to see if the big guys will beat her. Mark has a disappointing loss and knows that he is in trouble. The players have shown in the past that they are more apt to eliminate "threats" than to set themselves up for strong competition. Elizabeth, despite a solid 4-pound loss, is in the bottom of the weight loss pile until Brendan weighs in. He is still a very big guy so he needs a huge number. He gets a 5. He did pretty good with his gameplay strategy but seemed to have forgotten that this is ultimately a weight-losing competition. He has been cast as the heel all season, so there was a satisfaction of seeing him below the Red Line. But I also realize that this is a guy who is not secure in himself, that doesn't seem to have a whole lot of friends and family at home to support him, and he has fallen into deep depressions before (he is the guy who regularly ate a sandwich called a Gravedigger before coming on the show). I was glad in a way that the games didn't pay off but I also hope he will be okay. All of the people on these shows start to feel like family. Brendan goes away in tears. The contestants get to decide between Elizabeth and Mark to compete with them in the final four.
I felt bad for Mark because he deserved to be in it with the others, but they predictably choose to keep Elizabeth instead. This is the second time Patrick seems to have sold out a friend to make things easier for himself, and at first I felt really angry at him for that. Then I remember he is an unemployed guy who has a family and has spent a bunch of time on this show instead of looking for a job. Only on a TV show would we expect his loyalty to other players on the show to outweigh his need to make his investment pay off by winning. Mark is upset, but I actually think he will be better off for this elimination. He is definitely the favorite to win the at-home prize. He would have had some tough competition from Ada, Frado, and Patrick if he were competing for the big prize. Also, except in a few cases, the winner of the show doesn't seem to be the one who is best off in the long run. The money has to be nice and the title might mean a little in endorsements and B-list celeb status, but it seems like the winners don't do as well in keeping the weight off long-term.
We get to see Mark and Brendan's reception at home. I was happy to see that Mark decided to move in with his cousin, who has been doing her own Biggest Loser program at home and has lost 100+ pounds, instead of staying with his parents and working at a bar. Since past contestant Sunshine also lives near him, they do a little spot together. We see a spot with Brendan working with some of the kids he coaches in weightlifting, which feels a little stiff and uncomfortable. I don't really know how excited these kids are to be hanging out with a former police officer who is a Biggest Loser contestant. I get the feeling that other than his mom, he doesn't have a whole lot of people in his life, and I'm hoping he manages to build a better support network for himself.
Next week we will get to see the other contestants' homecomings and then see them weigh in one final time, I think. Then the following week will be the big finale.
I didn't do a full review of it, but I recommend watching the "Where are they Now?" special on the NBC site if you are a fan of the show. If you have been watching, it's like catching up with a bunch of your old friends. I'm not sure what happened to Michelle, who was the only past winner who was not on the special, but she is looking pretty good in this Milk ad video. I teared up several times, especially when the contestants did an Olympic-distance triathlon (I know how hard those are!) and when Bernie was getting married (he's so adorable). It's a must-watch.