It’s the 10th season of The Biggest Loser – and who saw that coming? but then again, who doesn’t love an extreme makeover type of show – with a pay-it-forward theme. Paying it forward, I’m given to understand (according to Wikipedia, anyway) has to do with having a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. How this applies to TBL is a head-scratcher, and neither host Ali nor trainers Bob & Jillian have any explanation for us either. But hey, it sounds good and takes the edge off of the sanctimonious opening clips that warn us about America’s obesity epidemic!
Hey producers…the ‘90’s called and they want their step aerobics back
The long, long, long season that is TBL is opening with an audition show of sorts. The show’s personalities – Ali, Bob, Jillian, and a couple of past contestants – will be taking turns visiting seven cities across America. Three people from each city, or anyone living reasonably nearby who turned in a good audition tape, will take part in a challenge. The hopefuls who place 1st and 2nd in the challenge will be given TBL team shirts and a visit to the ranch. Loser gets a bus ticket home and if they’re lucky, a pep talk from Bob. (Fourth place – TWO pep talks from Bob.)
First up is Detroit, Michigan. The outdoor events are being held outdoors and attended by the 3 hopefuls and a crowd apparently comprised of family members and TBL fans, who are decked out in identical colored shirts. Detroit is glow-in-the-dark orange. Ali, blonder, fitter and more enthusiastic than ever, gets in a plug for Ford Motor’s cancer charity run and rattles off some more daunting statistics about the rounding up of America. Trainer Bob Harper is also in attendance, and he leads the crowd in a round of calisthenics and encouragement. As will be the case in all the audition cities, there’s a few interviews with crowd members – some hoping to shed pounds, others showing off recent weight loss. Then it’s down to business, and Ali and Bob look on solemnly as the first 3 contestants get ready to clamber on to the scale of shame, for a humiliating public weigh-in.
Jesse, age 27, from St. Paul, Minnesota, is first on the scale. Jesse admits his obesity has turned him into a bit of a hermit, and he racks up a start weight of 369 lbs. Sophia is a pretty 28-year-old from Maryland, and she starts off the
sobbackstories with a tale of a brother who died in a car accident. Folks, not to belittle these fine people’s losses…but be warned, there are a plethora of dead relatives among these contestants. If you’re a compassionate type, that’s why you don’t recap reality shows. Kidding, kidding. Seriously, if you ARE a compassionate type, go get that jumbo box of tissues that you keep under the couch for your weekly chick flick now. Sophia’s starting weight is 272 lbs. Next is Aaron, a married 29-year-old with the cutest son, whose baggage comes in the form of an alcoholic father, and whom Aaron believes he inherited an addictive personality from. Aaron tips the scales at 468 lbs.
As mentioned, we’re not waiting to get to the ranch to prove to the contestants how out-of-shape they are – instead, they will participate in a physical challenge right off the bat with the top 2 performers getting the limo ride to the TBL ranch. It’s a 500-step challenge, and some aerobic steps are dragged out from Bob’s cellar from underneath the Jane Fonda workout videos, dusted off, and fitted with counters. First two to hit 500 steps win. Aaron starts off strong, but it proves to be a poor strategy as he loses steam quickly. Sophia handily beats both of the boys, and Jesse coasts to second place with Aaron a distant third, but triumphant in at least finishing the challenge. Sophia & Jesse are rewarded with orange team shirts, and Bob takes Aaron aside and urges him to carry on with an at-home program.
We’re bounced over to the west coast to a lovely beach in the Los Angeles area, and a sea of blue t-shirts cheers Ali’s introduction of trainer Jillian Michaels. The three competitors are Ada, 27, whose family has lost two of her brothers and who feels responsible for the death of one of them. Ada’s starting weight is 258 lbs. Adam, 26, tells us about his obese mother who recently passed away from a heart attack. Needless to say, that was his personal motivator for trying out for TBL. Adam weighs in at 402 lbs. Montina, 35, has the very cool job of being one of Beyonce’s backup singers, but she’s tired of being in the shadows and wants a shot at the spotlight. Did she take the wrong turn and end up here instead of the American Idol auditions? After all, Simon isn’t there any longer to tell her she’s too fat to make it in the music business. Montina’s starting weight is 287 lbs.
The steps have been carted on to the California beach, and the trio takes their turns huffing out 500 climbs. Adam is another sprinter, but Ada takes it slow and steady and easily bests her competition. Montina unwisely stops altogether and by the time she gets her second wind, Adam has locked up 2nd place. American Idol still awaits, Montina.
Who needs the ranch when you can get an ambulance ride during the auditions?
Winding our way up north, we hit Portland, Oregon and gray shirts. Young Mike from season 7, maintaining his trim physique, is on the scene with Bob. The next threesome begins with Burgandy, 35, of Utah, insecure mother of 5. Burgandy’s start weight is 231 lbs., and no, you were not the only ones who thought, “Hey, she’s not THAT big.” Perhaps there is something to this obesity epidemic after all. Corey is a dreadlocked 26-year-old Alaskan who puts deodorant under his moobs. He weighs in at 391 lbs. ‘Nuff said. Tina is a 58-year-old former hottie with a cheating husband who’s now a divorced grandma, and a start weight of 263 lbs.
We’re switching up the challenges – the steps have temporarily been replaced with an invigorating mile-long race. Bob, who already looks beaten down with the effort of paying it forward, laments that “we should all be able to run a mile, right?” Well, yes, probably. Burgandy and granny Tina can, as it turns out. However, young Corey wipes out – twice – as he nears the finish line, and ends with a medic slapping on an oxygen mask, netting him the first ambulance ride of the season. The ladies receive purple team shirts while Bob sternly admonishes the crowd to think of Corey the next time they open the cupboard and reach for the Doritos.
The TBL roadshow is now in Atlanta, Georgia, with Ali and Jillian revving up the green-shirted crowd. I’m reaching for the Kleenex myself after hearing the home interview from 39-year-old Anna, who tells a heartbreaking story of her 3-year-old son dying in her arms from cancer. Anna’s start weight is 330 lbs. Rick, 54, is a likeable Arkansas native with a large brood of kids and grandkids. Rick weighs in at 350 lbs. Patrick, 27, hails from Mississippi and is dad to two little guys. He tips the scales at 400 lbs.
It’s another mile race, and a determined Rick laps young Patrick. Jillian runs alongside a slowly disintegrating Anna. Jillian alternately berates and shouts encouragement to Anna, who is having none of it. (Incidentally – people who shriek, “I can’t breathe!!” clearly CAN breathe, and would just prefer to waste breath complaining instead of running. I started off feeling sorry for her, but now she’s just annoying me.) Unsurprisingly, Rick & Patrick are the winners of the green shirts, while Anna dramatically staggers to the finish line on the arms of her oldest son and the TBL doc.
Who wants to run in 100 degree weather? No thanks, not even for a TV appearance with Ali and Bob. Everyone is sweltering in Phoenix, AZ, but the chosen three are game for a race. Jessica, 26, is an exceptionally lovely young lady who suffered from abuse at the hands of her mother. Jessica starts off with a weight of 282 lbs. Mark is a cute-as-a-button 30-year-old from New Jersey. He’s a former high school athlete with an ill, overweight mom and a starting weight of 421 lbs. Shanna, 38, is an Arizona native and a recent breast cancer survivor – and props to her for tackling her obesity so soon after her recovery. Shanna weighs in at 242 lbs.
However, Shanna’s not up to running a mile, and she manages only a steady, quickish walk. Jessica comes on strong and sprints to a first-place finish, and Mark chugs to second without much competition from Shanna. Bob whisks Shanna away for a talk and some deserved recognition for being tough enough to endure cancer treatment and take on her own weight-loss challenge.
The power of pink…and mmm, clam chowder
Season 8 winner Danny is pink-shirted and looking positively magnificent in Oklahoma City with Bob. Danny introduces us to Allie, 22, whose gastric band surgery at 14 was clearly an abysmal failure. Allie is one of the heavier ladies, with a start weight of 322 lbs. Lisa, 31, gets no home interview but tells us during weigh-in that her young daughter was hospitalized with symptoms of anorexia, because she didn’t want to be fat like her mom. Ouch. Lisa starts out with a weight of 288 lbs. We don’t get told Sandy’s age – like Gwen on Bachelor Pad, it must be some shameful secret – but I’d guess around 35. Sandy’s brother tried out for TBL, then died in his sleep mere days later, presumably from weight-related issues. Sandy weighs in at 259 lbs.
The dreaded steps are back, and all three ladies start out at a sensible steady pace. Allie emerges victorious, and a close final two has Lisa pulling ahead of Sandy. The duo receives pink tees – remember now, if you’re a betting sort, the pink team always seems to be bestowed with magical finalist powers.
Boston is in the black, with Mark from season 5 remarkably fit and tear-free, doing hosting duties with Jillian, fiercely cut in a black tank. Jillian jokes about Bostonians eating too much clam chowder and Boston cream pie. She forgot baked beans, but those are healthy, right? (Mmmm…baked beans.) The clam chowder-loving lucky three are Brendan, 32, who has the accent and the Irish name, so no surprise he’s a Boston native. Brendan’s a lifetime yo-yo dieter who is mourning his lost love, a girl he dropped because of his weight. I don’t quite get the logic behind that, but I’m sure we’ll get the full story – over and over and over again – in the course of the season. Brendan starts off his journey at 362 lbs. Elizabeth, 30, has a yucky scar on her tummy, possibly due to weight-loss surgery, and is a divorcee as a result of an abusive marriage. Elizabeth weighs in at 244 lbs. Finally, Frado, 43, is a jolly Staten Islander, married dad, Gulf War vet, and insulin-dependent diabetic. Frado rocks the scale at 367 lbs.
The competitors are stepping once again, and Elizabeth ends up in an asthmatic danger zone early on. Jillian coaches her, hands her puffers, and even hangs on to her hands, but Elizabeth collapses and the medic rushes in with an oxygen mask. In the meantime, Frado goes on to an easy win and Brendan is a shoo-in with Elizabeth out of the game. Danny assures the crowd that Elizabeth is OK – “OK” being the equivalent to “conscious” in this case – but the boys are getting the black shirts and the trip to the ranch.
Next week, Bob & Jillian visit the week’s third-placers, and sure enough a couple will be joining the fun at the ranch. Meanwhile, the yellow line gets moved up to halfway up the board, the marines are called in, the trainers commence kicking ass, and Ashley PSU will be here to bring you all the tears and tantrums that ensue. So strap on those overpriced running shoes and commence the commercial-break push-up challenge, sailors! Jillian is watching you through your TV screens! And we know she’s tougher than any marine.
Also acceptable is the commercial-break sit-up challenge. Cursing Jillian or Bob during this activity is acceptable and even recommended. It’s just like being at the ranch!