Note: There will be a few spoilers here. Since I'm a little late with this, I'm assuming you've had time to watch the recordings.
This week's episode was only one hour long. I usually like the show in its shorter format, but this time, since it was Favorites Week and they had brought some of my favorite players from past seasons back, I would have enjoyed a little more time with the alums. I suppose it would have just been in the form of a Subway integration, though.
Even with the shortened format, there seems to be plenty of time showing Austin's reaction to his dad's elimination. It doesn't seem to take long for him to realize that even though he feels sad that his dad is gone, this may be the first time he has had the chance to make decisions on his own. As I have said before, it always seems to be a good thing when a contestant's parent goes home. I'm sure all of these parents are trying to give their kids what they need, but as Bob and Jillian said in this week's episode of The Jillian Michaels Show, the parents are almost always sabotaging their kids, either through enabling behaviors, excessive criticism and attention on their weight, or more likely, both.
This week we finally get a little bit of camera time with Irene, who is this season's Biggest Loser so far and who is only two pounds away from her 100-pound milestone. I'm not sure why she gets so little attention on the show. She is beautiful and also seems to have a really great, sparkling personality. She does seem a little shy, but every now and then she seems to light up and we see how great she is. Her smile is genuine as she leafs through photos from the New Zealand trip, realizing how much her life is changed. She also has some one-on-one time with Jillian, who finally gets her to realize how much she is selling herself short and not seeing all of the progress she has already made, whether or not she hits an artificial 100-pound milestone. Jillian also challenges her to fight for herself. I'm not sure if she just means on the ranch or whether there is a situation at home where Irene is not fighting for herself. I suspect the latter, especially after reading in Irene's profile that she gained 90 pounds in a year and a half. I actually got a little scared seeing Irene suddenly getting so much attention, because that usually signals that someone is about to go home, and despite the show's neglect of her, I really like Irene, and if there is bad mojo to deal with at home, I'd like her to be able to put it off for as long as possible (and maybe have a nice cash prize to cushion the blow).
When the contestants get to the gym, they are greeted by Ali Vincent (Season 9) and Sam (Season 10). We learn that Sam is now a trainer at Fitness Ridge, and Ali is a motivational speaker. The contestants work out with the alums, and they also get a couple of recipes, a really tasty-looking quinoa and black bean salad and a wrap with the ubiquitous Jennie-O turkey.
The challenge this week is even more fun, because Tara (Season 8?) is back to compete with the contestants in a classic challenge: Contestants race while pulling a car (with driver!) on a racetrack. The winner will get a cash prize, their picture on a Wheaties box, and also get to go to a NASCAR race as a guest of one of the drivers (I didn't recognize him but I don't follow NASCAR so he might be really famous). Tara has started a foundation to (what else?) combat childhood obesity. [Side note: I have nothing against the concept of fighting childhood obesity, but it seems to me that as soon as we declare something to be a "crisis," it suddenly gets even worse. I don't notice any really helpful outcomes of this latest "War on Fat," just a lot of unwelcome attention on kids who are probably already feeling enough pressure.] Tara is one of my favorite past contestants, so I can't help but root for her against Rulon, who seems to think he has this competition in the bag. It comes down to a photo finish, and Rulon is visibly upset that he lost.
I can't help but think that this latest disappointment helped prompt Rulon's decision to leave the show for "personal reasons." He is suddenly filled with the need to go home and be a good husband. As Bob says, Rulon was set up to be the star of this season, but he hasn't ever seemed completely on board with the program. Between the secret eating in his room and his occasional outbursts at the trainers, I don't think he has really made as much progress on the internal work of weight loss as he has on the external part. He is only 15 pounds from his goal weight and since most of his original Red Team buddies (besides Kaylee and Austin) are gone, I think he saw the writing on the wall and decided he didn't want to open himself up to future potentially-embarrassing experiences like getting beaten by a woman in an individual challenge. We don't get a "Where is he now" video on Rulon so it's hard to tell what was going on in his head.
Even with one person voluntarily removing himself from the show, there is still a weigh-in and elimination to deal with. Austin does really well in his first post-Dad weigh-in. As I feared, Irene is one of the ones up for elimination, even though she hits her 100-pound milestone. Sisters Hannah and Olivia are in the #1 and #2 spots. Kaylee is the other player up for elimination, with a two-pound gain. Considering the previously-established alliances, the best Kaylee can hope for is a tie, and since she has the lowest percentage of weight lost, she goes home this week. Considering her goodbye nuzzle with Austin, I was really shocked to see that when she said she was going out with someone that she thought we'd recognize, it turned out to be Vance from the White Team, who was brought on for one show and just as quickly sent home. There is a cute story on her new romance on PhillyBurbs.com. She seems to have gotten a handle on her weight loss while on her own, and also said she has moved to a new state. I was not at all surprised to see that her aspiration was to become a mixed martial arts trainer.
It's official, I saw Tim Gunn in a Cinderella-style pumpkin carriage, so next week must be MAKEOVER WEEK! We will finally see Austin without the scruffy beard (though it looks from the preview that he kept at least some of the curls) and get to see the girls all prettied up. I am hoping next week will be the full two hours, because this show combines the two reality genres I love most, The Biggest Loser and makeover shows. I want to see every behind-the-scenes detail I can, and if we have to watch Tim Gunn chewing Extra Gum or digging into a cup of Yoplait Light to see that, so be it.