Friday, January 14, 2011

The Biggest Loser Season 11, Episode 2: The Home Team vs. The Away Team

In this episode, the team at the ranch is given a challenge: Beat the Unknowns working out with the Mystery Trainers in total weight-loss percentage, and win a week's worth of immunity for everyone on the team.  At first I wondered, why wouldn't the other team throw the weigh-in?  The answer? Both teams were also competing for $10,000 (to split, I assume, between the members of the team).

We get a few glimpses of the mystery team and the mystery trainers but we don't get to see their mysterious faces or get a great look at the mystery facility. Can you tell that I'm over all the mysery already?  We do get to hear the mystery trainers' voices, and the pseudo-Jillian has the annoying, girly shriek reminiscent of Kim from that one terrible season where Jillian was not on the show.  The pseudo-Bob didn't stand out as much to me.  There were the mandatory scenes of the members of the away team carrying Mystery Girl around as she screamed at them, plus lots of scenes of boxing-style workouts.  Everything seemed designed to make us forget that they are actually staying at a fitness resort, which is presumably pretty posh compared to the dorm-style accommodations on the Biggest Loser Ranch.  We do get a couple of touching scenes with the Gray Team but the producers are definitely emphasizing the Olympic-athlete-and-bounty-hunter partnership in the Yellow Team.

The one thing we find out about the whole mystery team is that they have a mean streak -- or else they were encouraged to do the macho-competitive jerky thing by the trainers and/or producers: They had two big boxes of donuts delivered to the gym.  Our home team takes turns stomping and jumping on the boxes, and that seems to be the end of it.  The players decide not to respond in kind, but to just work their butts off to win. Then everyone realizes that Arthur, the Biggest Player Ever in Biggest Loser History, is not in the gym with everyone else.  We get a glimpse of him outside with the donuts, actually seeming to consider whether to eat one of the flattened pastries, and then dumping the whole mess in the trash. I thought he was probably hamming it up for the camera, but he did manage to hit the right note of teasing regret as he said goodbye to the donut-pancakes.

I liked the scene with Arthur and Bob where we find out some of Arthur's backstory.  He was an all-around star athlete in high school, and sports were his life. Then he made the typical high-school bad decisions: Drinking, drugs, skipping school, sex, early fatherhood.  He said that he felt like if he couldn't do sports anymore, he didn't have anything to live for.  Bob actually says to him, "You were trying to kill yourself." And Arthur agrees, crying, knowing how selfish it is but realizing that it is true.  It was Biggest Loser at its best -- no artificial drama, just real-life misery that dragged Arthur into a passive, self-destructive rut.  We find out that he didn't even have to order pizzas anymore, they just called and asked him if they should send over the usual at dinnertime.  Just the notion that the pizza guy could always expect him to be at home tells us a lot about Arthur's life.

There are the mandatory check-ins with Dr. H., which, for some reason, do not seem to include the away team.  We are definitely supposed to be rooting for the home team, which seems odd if the new trainers are supposed to be taking over the show.  I thought the most interesting one of these was where he talked to the opera singer about the ways the extra fat could be compromising her voice. When he confers with the twin cops on the Black Team, he shows one of them the other's "murder weapon": A pile of cigarettes, sugar, and corn chips.  The fact that so many Biggest Loser contestants smoke should refute the popular notion that smoking is a good way to lose weight. It obviously didn't work for them, and now they have the health risks of both smoking and obesity.  Still, Dr. H is not great TV. He is too self-righteous and obviously has no clue of what the contestants are going through.  Jillian and Bob work because they empathize with the contestants instead of just screaming at them about how they are going to die (though there is still plenty of that).

The challenge between the two teams proves that teams that get along with each other are not necessarily as effective as teams that have a highly dominant leader.  The Yellow Team seems to be so dominant that they are able to get everyone else to just do as they say, and they figured out a great strategy to solve the problem:  Putting together rafts to cross a river and getting everyone across. They figured out that hooking together the rafts before putting them in would be easier than dealing with them in the water, and once the rafts were in place, it was easy to have everyone roll across. I was surprised to see them rolling and wondered why they didn't just crawl, but my husband reminded me of the physics of very large people trying to move on unstable surfaces over water.  They finished the challenge in record time.  The away team was informed of their time and then left to figure out the problem for themselves. Since no one emerged as a clear, confident leader, they tried all different strategies and had no real success. They tried to ferry the rafts across the sand one-by-one and then floated them out to the end of their unstable bridge instead of dragging the big piles closer to the shore. Rafts floated away, and no one seemed willing to jump in after them until too late.  People got tired.  By the time they had built the first half of their bridge, they had a hard time getting Arthur across it. They didn't even make it halfway across the river in the time that the other team had finished.  I think, to be fair, it's easy to forget that not everyone would have been strong enough to handle the huge piles of rafts as a group -- the away team had an Olympic athlete on their side, which gave them a huge advantage.  They won a three-pound bonus in the weigh-in.

Let's talk about that weigh-in: In the drama of the competition, I think we were misled a bit.  We were told that the Unknowns lost much more weight than the team at the ranch. We were not told, however, that the Unknowns had a higher percentage of weight lost, and even with the largest woman and largest man on the Ranch team, the Unknowns are probably heavier overall than the team at the Ranch. There were some great moments in the weigh-in, though. Courtney makes it under 300 pounds for the first time in forever.  We see Bob stand up for his team in a big way.  The confidence of the team grows, but will they beat the Unknowns? You will have to watch to find out...


  1. Thanks for the synopsis of TBL. I have not been able to watch this season, although I have the first two episodes on DVR. I find that I have lost interest in earlier segments, but my interest picks up toward the end.

  2. It was very interesting to me that the two police officers, trained in leadership and crowd control, did not seem to aid the raft process in any way. I realise they are NOT strong, but they could have directed.

    I didn't see the season where it was just Kim and Bob (season 3), but did watch when Jillian came back (motorcycle, black team in desert, season 4) and it was all 3 trainers. Kim was clearly in over her head in season 4. If you remember, she ended up down to one contestant. I remember very vividly he was using soy in his cooking. So, she was (apparently) not paying attention to his cooking/food, because salt is sort of health 101. But, in fairness, I did not have the impression Bob and Jillian were paying a ton of attention to food then either.

    One big difference (from the bits we have seen, this season) is the unknown trainers are not hung up on machine useage. And the ranch always seems to be mostly about the machines. (I personally use weights and bands and the like, I take lots of classes, but do not utilize machines. I feel more ownership of the process and push harder without the machines.) I had not thought about the machine thing until I compared the footage between the two locations. I wonder how these different approaches will translate in transitions to home/maintenance. I suppose an arguement could be made that the mystery team will be more dependent on the unknown trainers. And the ranch people will be able to go to their local gym and work themselves out independent of a trainer.

    enjoying your reviews. thanks for not posting spoilers.

  3. Hi Jen,

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    Awesome job on your success! YOU CAN DO IT GIRL!!
    See you soon,



"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07