This episode had a few interesting elements. Most puzzling was during the weigh-in, where Jillian was scolded for giving her team caffeine supplements the week before (she has a relationship with EBOOST) and her team was penalized four pounds. Worse yet, the Blue Team, which was looking vulnerable this week, got to keep their immunity from last week. Ruben is coming back as a result. This is why we didn't get his "Where are they now" segment at the beginning of the episode. Jillian, when asked to comment, said that it was her "professional opinion" that the supplement was "healthier than unlimited coffee."
Jillian might be a lot of things, but she isn't dumb. She knows, and has discussed on the podcast, that TBL has a strict anti-supplementation policy, especially if the supplement company hasn't paid for the right to be part of the show. It seems like it could have been a weird plot device to let Ruben leave for a little while and then come back, except that TBL is a game show, and game shows can't cheat.
Jillian has always been a strong proponent of caffeine as a performance enhancer. Her advice to callers on her show has always been to take a caffeine supplement about 45 minutes before a weight workout, not just as a stimulant, but because it can help with pain tolerance and endurance during a workout. She has alternately suggested a caffeine and aspirin "stack" supplement, guarana with white willow bark, and now that she is an investor and brand ambassador (her official title is "Chief Energy Officer") at EBOOST, she has switched to recommending that. She used to say that organic, shade-grown coffee was okay as long as it was run through a paper filter to remove the cholesterol, but her new line is that too much coffee is bad.
Other than that weirdness, this was a fun episode. There was a cook-off, judged by Sam Kass, Senior Policy Advisor to the White House on Nutrition Policy and the kids from last season. I think there might have been some kind of unspoken requirement that the recipes had to include tortillas, because all three teams made a variation on quesadillas. That seems too weird to be a coincidence. There was no specific product tie-in, though.
There was, however, another tie-in to Jennifer's poor daughter and how overweight she is. I feel so bad for this kid, who did not sign up to be part of the show. I am sure we are going to get a big reveal at the end that this daughter has lost a lot of weight, but it seems an unfortunate amount of pressure to put on a 10-year-old who has to go to school with kids who have watched her mother crying on national television about her weight. I think it is very unfair, and could lead to lifelong problems for this girl. There are plenty of weight-loss bloggers whose parents weighed them and put them on diets, which made them self-conscious and unhappy and did not lead to long-term weight loss. Courtney from Season 11 should be a cautionary tale -- her mother's attention to her weight only made her feel unloved and rebellious.
The weight loss numbers this week were phenomenal -- double-digits all around. Either this was a longer "week" than usual on the show, or the contestants are finally hitting that point where they have developed enough muscle to work out longer and harder and drop weight more quickly.
We didn't get a lot of new insights into the contestants this week, just more of the same people. There are some contestants who are still complete unknowns to us -- I loved Margo's commentary on Cowboy-Hat-Guy on her last podcast episode, and how we don't know anything about him except that he wears a cowboy hat. He is still just Cowboy-Hat-Guy, though he actually spoke this week. We saw Tanya take to her bed with a mysterious illness and make up for it with a solo workout (I suspect a migraine). There was a little workout segment with the Red Team and a group of cancer survivors, which queued up the tape of David talking about losing his first wife (I think this is the first time we found out that he is remarried) to brain cancer. Holley wore another weirdly bright lipstick shade at the weigh-in, but remained mostly mute.
Next week promises to be all about Ruben's return -- I wonder if he had time to go staff his music camp in the interim. I would be very unhappy if I spent the money for my kid to go to a music camp with a celebrity and that celebrity was not there. I would also, if I were an NBC producer, feel cheated if I brought on someone who had become famous on a reality show on another network with a bunch of fanfare, only to have him eliminated in the fourth week.
Anyone else have conspiracy theories? What TBL Mystery Contestant are you hoping to hear more about next week? Do you have a bet on what color lipstick Holley will wear next? Is Cowboy-Hat-Guy bald under his hat? I'd love to hear what you think.