Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Biggest Loser Season 11, Episode 20: The One Before the Finale

Note: All kinds of spoilers here.

This was one of those episodes where it's a good idea to have a box of tissues handy. Though the players are still fighting to win, the gameplay is long gone and the Final Four contestants have a genuine affection for each other.  They know that their time together is limited so this final episode is one big lovefest.  Hannah remembers Olivia telling her on the first day that even though they were a team, she was going to have to stand on her own.  She has become so confident that it's hard to imagine that she was the sister who felt so hopeless that Olivia had to drag her in.

What's interesting is that two of these last four contestants originally came on the show to support someone else.  Irene said she came to the ranch for her mom, who was eliminated in week one.  Irene said she walked on the ranch thinking her weight was no big deal, but now she realizes that she used food and her weight as ways to avoid facing some things in her life that really needed to change. Jay seems to have come on the show for his daughter Jen.  He had some serious weight losses early on, but when Jen was eliminated, he seemed to lose a little of his drive. Just last week he seemed to get it back.  Bob reminds him that he should continue his habit of writing his goal weight on his arm where he will see it every day, even when he's just maintaining instead of trying to lose.

There won't be an elimination this week, exactly. There are two secure spots, and two people who will be below the yellow line, and those two players have to put their faith in the fans, who get to vote on which one will compete for the prize.  The players seem to give it their all this week -- Jillian and Bob can try as hard as they can to deliver the beatings, but the players just keep on smiling through it all.

There is time for one last Jennie-O Turkey integration, a contest to design the best turkey burger for a group of tough critics -- kids.  Olivia tries to get creative with a bright green yogurt "slime" burger (predictably not a hit) but the rest play it safe by sticking to cheese and other more traditional flavors.  Jay reminds us that he is a brand consultant, and he plays it safe with ketchup and cheese but makes his "volcano burger" cool by making it in the shape of a cone and having the fillings spill out the top like lava.  He wins the $5000 prize easily, and he also gets to send the person of his choice for a two-week stay at The Biggest Loser Resort.  Jay says his wife will be excited at the chance to get jumpstarted on her own weight loss.

I was happy to see that there was no Biggest Loser Marathon this time around. It seems like that challenge just invited injury and trouble.  The final challenge this week is a Biggest Loser classic -- contestants simulate putting all the weight back on to drop it week by week, retracing their weight loss steps. This time the challenge is on a golf course and I have no idea how they made the little flags that they used weigh up to 16 pounds, but they managed somehow.  Players instantly remembered how physically difficult the weight was to carry. Irene's back and knees start hurting right away, and Jay feels like he can't breathe.  Hannah tearfully pushes through it to win a $15,000 home gym. The real prize is that she finally wins her first challenge of the season.

The weigh-in is only the halfway point of this show -- the real fun is seeing the contestants go home and reunite with their family and friends.  But weigh-in they must.

Irene starts off. She originally weighed 255 pounds, and weighs in at 144 -- 111 pounds lost.  She is thrilled even though she knows her 3 pounds this week may not be enough to be guaranteed a finale spot.  Though the prize money would probably change anyone's life, losing 111 pounds is a pretty amazing prize in itself.  I am guessing that her goal may be to just maintain or maybe lose a few more before the finale. She looks amazing.  She is also the Biggest Loser on the ranch, and I think has a good chance of winning the vote for the finale. I voted for her, at least.

Jay has the furthest left to go of all the contestants and by all rights, should have a big number this week.  He loses 4, which he knows will not be enough. Still, he got to the ranch at 400 pounds, and he's going home 158 pounds lighter than when he started.

Olivia has a great weigh in, down four to 149. She is pretty tall so that may be her goal weight (I'm not tall, and I would be thrilled to weigh 149).  She started at 261 pounds and has lost 112.  Like all the women on the show, it's hard to imagine she was ever heavy because she looks gorgeous.

Finally, Hannah weighs in.  The sisters' goal has always been to finish together. Hannah steps on the scale as the only one who has not lost at least 100 pounds. She loses 4 for a total of 102 lost, and is also in the 140s at 146.  Again, I'm not sure if her goal is to lose any more or to just maintain for the finale.  She looks beautiful even with her blonde hair, which is starting to grow on me (but not the bangs, which Hannah doesn't seem to like either since she keeps them pulled back most of the time). Olivia and Hannah get their wish -- the Purple Team pulls the two sure spots for the finale.

It's fun to see everyone go home, but as soon as I see Hannah's homecoming, I think, "Everyone around you  is fat. Move away as fast as you can!" She has expressed before that she is concerned about going home to live with her parents and I would be too.  Irene says she has "some changes to make" and I wonder if the boyfriend we see her hug might be one of those changes, since he never appears again in the rest of the episode.  Irene's mom has lost weight at home and looks incredible.   Olivia's husband has also lost a lot, and looks like a young James Carville (not my type, but maybe Olivia likes the look).  I am hoping that Jen will provide Jay some support when he goes home.  Maybe they can work together for the finale.

They all get a video to watch, and at first I'm afraid they will sneak the marathon in, but instead, it's a video to help their family and friends realize how much is at stake -- not the prize, but the pain the contestants have shed along with the weight. I think the NBC execs hit on this as a way to combat the "just this once" temptations that family and friends might otherwise present.

I am really going to be sad to see this season end.  For the last several weeks, the show has been flawless. No stupidity and games, just a bunch of great people supporting each other.  Still, I can't wait to see how everyone looks at the finale. I also can't wait to see which of the two remaining contestants gets America's nod for the number three spot.  There is still a little time to cast your vote: Who will it be, Jay or Irene?


  1. I have done a lot of bar work over the years (short and long) and when I saw those golf bags, I knew it was going to be the toughest 'carry your old weight' challenge ever.

    The difference between 8lb hand weight and 8 lb bar is HUGE. I am in pretty good shape and know I would not be able to carry my lost weight (80 lbs) for any distance at all in a bar form.

    I now think that Hannah picks her own dresses because this one was nearly as unflattering (in my opinion) as the last one. I am belly fat sensitive so I am sure that is part of my perception, but again, Olivia weighs more but looks thinnner because of clothes choices.

    I saw the home coming and thought the opposite - hoped Jay had enough motivation to get Jen going.

    Most of these contestants are going to need to make major changes to their environments in order to finish their weight loss and have successful maintenance. I noticed some of the ones you have mentioned over the months, and others.

    I also think the tone of this season (both from editing and contestants viewpoints) was much better than other years. I too will miss it and will also miss your posts. You have done a very good job and it is the only place I have to discuss this show, no one else in my (real or blog) life watches it.

  2. I think those ladies are just looking great! My friend went to last season's finale and is waiting to hear if she gets in to this season's (she is a seat filler).


"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