Note: This is the finale review, so of course there will be spoilers.
This week's finale was the end both of my favorite season ever of "The Biggest Loser," and also marked the end of Jillian Michael's association with the show. This was also the first finale with four trainers. It was also the first time Jillian seemed truly happy and confident in her finale outfit. All of these factors meant that this was going to be a really big night for everyone involved. After American's vote for Irene was revealed, it also marked a Biggest Loser first: This was the first time that three women were the three finalists competing for the big prize.
I don't think anyone would have expected this, in a season with so many big guys with strong personalities and lots of weight to lose. Interestingly, most of those guys chose to train with the new trainers, Cara and Bret, and only one of the contestants who made that choice made it to the final five, and none made it to the final four. Rulon, the former Olympic athlete who was set up to be the favorite, dropped out of the show unexpectedly in Week 17, citing a desire to "go home and be a good husband." He did not return for the finale, suggesting that there was more to his decision than that. Austin was the only one of these big guys who made it all the way, and I think it was because he was young and amiable and not as tied up in the whole "Red Team Family" mindset of the rest of the group. Jay, the only man in the final four, worked with Jillian and Bob except for the times that Arthur, through temptation challenges, was able to make him work out with the Red Team. Jay had been a weight-loss machine at first, but in the last few weeks he seemed to lose focus, and he did not make his stated goal at the finale.
I won't detail everyone's weight loss here, but there is a great table on the Season 11 Wikipedia site. Because there were so many contestants this time around, the whole show was rushed. Not all of the contestants got to talk. Allison seemed to spend more time talking to the people who had lost the most weight. One thing I noticed was that a few people had seemingly stalled or even regained some weight when they left the ranch. My husband and I agreed that a lot of it had to do with how much support they had at home. Courtney, presumably still running her family's Dairy Queen, had not lost any more since going home and had regained a pound. Kaylee, who had said that her dad talked her into eating things she knew she shouldn't even when she was on the ranch, had regained 14 pounds since going home and also seemed to have withdrawn back into herself, which is a shame because she had developed such a sparkle on the ranch. I wondered if dating Vance, the White Team member who still weighs more than 300 pounds, had anything to do with the relapse.
The thing it was easy to forget is that even the contestant with the lowest percentage of weight lost, Q, at just over 20%, had lost a significant amount of weight, enough to be life-changing. I just hope that those who seem to be regaining find a way to stop the upward trend and find their way back to the lifestyle they learned. Others, though, did amazingly well. Twins Dan and Don, who hadn't done much on the show, got positively skinny at home. Sarah, who was never a very memorable contestant, looked stunning. She was almost unrecognizable, and it looked to me like she had had some cosmetic dentistry. Her mother, Deni, lost a lot at home and won the at-home prize, beating out favorites Austin and Jay.
The three finalists, Irene, Hannah, and Olivia, had all done very well. All three took their makeover week looks and tweaked them a bit:
Irene played it very safe with her outfit, going with a cute pink strapless dress with a full skirt. She had gotten her highlights warmed up a bit and had also gone a little shorter. I thought the effect was really cute.
I wondered if Hannah would keep her blonde hair or go back to her brunette roots. Though I was disappointed to see she didn't rejoin the Brunette Mafia, I thought Hannah looked much better with the heavy bangs softened a bit, and her color made warmer and more realistic-looking. Hannah has been my favorite all along, but I did not particularly like her choice of dress -- it looked like something from Star Trek, very short and tight and red with some unusual detailing and a sheer panel on the top showing a lot of cleavage. She said on another episode that she hardly ever wore dresses, and I think she was taking her cues on what to wear from Allison, who often does the short-tight-cleavage combo.
Olivia's finale look was really fun, a kind of retro sunburst dress in black and white. She had gotten her hair cut even shorter, into almost a pixie cut, and it showed off her beautiful face. Once I saw the three finalists, I knew Olivia would win. It was closer than I thought, though, with less than 2% difference in the percentage of weight lost. The finale moment was very anticlimactic, as the show had run out of time, so the credits rolled as soon as the confetti flew.
I think it may also be the last season I follow closely, though I might tune in here and there next season. I am not expecting to be doing reviews. The reason is NBC's priorities when choosing female trainers for a show that is supposedly designed to help severely obese people.
The last time Jillian left the show, in Season 2, the producers replaced her with Kim, who had no experience training obese people. She was presumably chosen just because she was blonde and pretty. At the beginning of this season, the producers chose Cara, a pretty boxer with no experience training overweight and obese people listed on her press releases. For next season, they have decided that Anna Kournikova, who also seemingly has no experience training obese and overweight people, would be a good choice for the next trainer. Anna Kournikova never won a major singles title, and became famous more for being hot and inspiring an Internet virus than for her athletic prowess. And by now, NBC should also know that athletes, even former Olympic athletes, aren't necessarily experts on fitness and nutrition for regular people.
I find this continued focus on female trainers' looks to the exclusion of all else offensive. The male trainers don't seem to have been chosen for looks alone, they have serious credentials. There have to be thousands of trainers out there who would be more qualified to train the kind of contestants who make it on the show. Several of the former contestants have become trainers, so they could have even just closed the circle and chosen someone who intimately knew the methods used on the show with so much success. When Bob and Jillian are working out the contestants, it's obvious that they put an incredible amount of creativity into designing workouts and working around people's injuries. A trainer with less experience is not going to be able to do that. A trainer with no experience working with the kind of severely obese people who make it onto the show will also have no resources to deal with the non-mechanical side of weight loss, the problems that caused people to get overweight in the first place.
I think even in the best of circumstances, this season would have been a tough act to follow. I fully expect it to be a train wreck now.