Every season, TBL trainers Bob Harper & Jillian Michaels try to discourage “gameplay” during this competition-based reality show. Jillian, who glows with the fervor of the true weight-loss/healthy lifestyle evangelist, is unwavering on her stand that playing for the $250K is a self-destructive waste of time. Bob, however, has lately been abandoning his yoga-loving vegan hippie persona and enjoying the inept machinations of his sugar- and fat-deprived charges. This ain’t Survivor, folks. If you want some nifty strategy moves to go with your starvation and extreme weight loss, you want CBS on Wednesday evenings.

Sometimes goodbye is a second chance

If you’ve already forgotten about the 5 potential contestants who were the remaining 3rd-place finishers from the first show of the season…well, you can be forgiven. After the ouster of the hair-bowed Sophia and surly Burgandy, host Ali announces that the game is once again about to change. She re-introduces us to Corey, the dreadlocked guy who suffered multiple falls during his mile run, Anna, the mom still mourning the passing of her toddler son some years previously, Sandy, another mom who lost her brother to obesity-related causes, Montina, backup singer for Beyonce, and Shanna, breast cancer survivor with a penchant for too much eyeliner.

The quintet will face off in a weigh-in showdown – the person with the biggest loss will earn a spot on the ranch. Without further ado:

Corey: Start weight 391, current weight 354. Down 37 lbs, percentage 9.46

Shanna: Start weight 242, current weight 221. Down 21 lbs, percentage 8.68

Montina: Start weight 287, current weight 270. Down 17 lbs, percentage 5.92

Sandy: Start weight 259, current weight 234. Down 25 lbs, percentage 9.65

Anna: Start weight 330, current weight 291. Down 39 lbs, percentage 11.82

The results delight Patrick, who assumes Team Green will now number 3 and have an advantage. Silly Patrick! Ali displays the Losers’ leaderboard, with Rick sitting at number 1 in loss percentage, and Anna falling somewhere in the middle – not bad for doing it all at home thus far. Before anyone can say, “Rick’s got a target on his back”, Ali tells everyone to drop their buffs. Ooops, wrong show…that’s what I get for writing this while watching CBS. It’s back to TBL status quo, which means Team Blue, led by Bob, and Team Black, led by Jillian. To twist things up a bit, new arrival Anna will pick the teams, with the odd person out to have immunity and land on the team who loses a member that week.

Sucking up to Jillian = ineffective strategy

The contestants circle Anna, with everyone begging to be placed with their favorite trainer/BFF, and are unanimous in advising her to keep immunity for herself. Which, of course, is the only sensible strategy. Is Anna sensible? Is anyone who strips down to a sports bra and spandex shorts on national TV “sensible”?

Anna’s team picks:

Team Blue/Bob – Jessica, Aaron, Lisa, Mark, Jesse, Adam
Team Black/Jillian – Rick, Ada, Frado, Brendan, Elizabeth, Anna (!!!!!)

Claiming she is THAT anxious to be trained by Jillian, Anna has opted for a black shirt and to give immunity to Patrick. Patrick is bemused by his good fortune but happy to accept it.

In the gym, Jillian is equally bemused by Anna’s choice but touched as well. And a little disappointed that she won’t be as motivated to chew on her ass during workouts. The newbie, predictably, struggles in her initial gym session, prompting Jillian to hang out her 5-cent psychiatric help sign and launch into a discussion of Anna’s son.

Post-workout, Patrick and Brendan pow-wow to laugh at Anna’s folly in neglecting to save herself. Brendan – who seems to have a thing for eyeliner himself - lays out plans to throw the week’s weigh-in in order to oust Anna from the black team and win Patrick as loser’s spoils.

Who’s the Stair Master?

Time for an elaborate challenge, and I must say the producers have outdone themselves. The teams will race through downtown Los Angeles to five separate food “stations”. Each station will have a food-related question. A correct answer by a team member will mean a free pass to the next station. A wrong answer will earn the team a red card and a physical challenge will have to be completed before going on to the next station. The winning team will receive 40 weeks’ worth of The Biggest Loser meal plan (apparently a Jenny Craig-like system of delivered weekly meals), and letters from home. Patrick, not yet assigned to a team, will sit out.

Station 1 features a delicious-looking crab cake and something called a “vegetable mosaic”. The team delegates must determine which has the fewer calories. Elizabeth scores for the black team by correctly guessing it’s the crab cake. Jesse blows it for team blue and is penalized with 50 step ups.

The black team has to half-carry a winded Anna to Station 2, where there’s a plate of French fries alongside some cheese balls. Anna correctly guesses that the fries have less fat that the cheese balls, but Aaron earns himself 20 forward lunges with his pick of the cheese balls.

At Station 3, teams must create an ice-cream sandwich from a list of cookies and ice cream. The catch is that they must pick a combo of ingredients that are the lowest in calories. Both Frado and Adam miss the mark – they each choose ginger cookies, but opt for cinnamon ice cream instead of plain vanilla. The boys are penalized with having to carry a large bucket of ice cream for the remainder of the challenge.

The fourth station has platefuls of chicken potstickers, buffalo wings, and calamari on display. Brendan wrongly guesses the calamari as the dish that has over 60% of the daily recommended sodium intake, and must swim a lap in a nearby pool. Walrus-like, he hits the water with a resounding slap, while Jessica scores for the blue team with her correct guess of potstickers.

Station 5 has only one luscious piece of meat lasagna on display, and the number of calories (within 100) must be named. Both Ada & Mark get it wrong (it’s 804, for those calorie-counters among you) and both teams in their entirety must climb 21 flights of stairs. It’s a harsh penalty, and soon nearly everyone is complaining noisily. Ada manages to rescue a lagging Elizabeth while the guys drag Anna along, earning the black team the win. Brendan, touched by mom Lisa’s tears over not getting family letters, donates his prize to her. Anna, Ada, and Frado follow suit, winning points with team blue members Jessica, Adam, and Aaron, who benefit from their gesture.

Ball-busting and blindsides

Back in the gym, Brendan tells Jillian that Bob is advocating the throwing of weigh-ins as a strategy move. Jillian isn’t buying it, as you can’t trust a guy from Boston who wears eyeliner. I mean, look at Steven Tyler. A smirking Bob denies the accusation but isn’t totally against it, either. An annoyed Jillian punishes would-be strategizers Frado & Brendan by working them into the sweat to end all sweats, and then warns the black team girls about the guys’ treachery. Frado vehemently denies that he & Brendan are plotting against Anna in order to win Patrick as a team member, which leads to an impromptu team meeting where the boys relent and promise not to engage in any throwing of weigh-ins. Frado and Brendan, however, are noncommittal about their promise in confessionals. THAT’S how scared of Jillian they are.

At the weigh-in, Ali (lovely in red and softly waved hair but ruined by black tights) confirms that Adam, holder of a 2-lb advantage, will hang on to his prize until next week thereby earning an additional pound. Patrick, being immune, is weighed first. He pleases both trainers by not squandering his freebie and losing 10 pounds, taking him from 356 lbs to 346.

As Patrick’s loss is not counted for competition purposes, the blue team leads the week’s weigh in:

Jessica 254 --> 248 -6
Mark 361 --> 352 -9
Lisa 260 --> 252 -8
Adam 346 --> 335 -11
Aaron 419 --> 407 -12
Jesse 321 --> 305 -16

Total team loss: 62 lbs, 3.16%

Team black’s turn on the scale, but not before Jillian busts Frado’s nervousness as being a result of his supposedly abandoned strategy. Frado sweats and stammers and swears his intentions are good.

Anna 291 --> 286 -5
Elizabeth 223 --> 218 -5
Frado 317 --> 308 -9
Ada 224 --> 215 -9
Rick 297 --> 287 -10
Brendan 315 --> 313 -2

Total team loss: 40 lbs, 2.40%

Uh-oh…someone fibbed to Jillian, but those numbers don’t lie. The black team’s loss has the desired effect of bringing Patrick aboard, and the straight-playing Ada earns immunity as the biggest loser on the team. The team adjourns to the ranch living room, where everyone tries to plead their case. Brendan insists his 2-lb loss wasn’t deliberate, but hints in confessional at a big upset coming at the evening’s vote.

The voting starts rather predictably, with Anna & Rick voting for Elizabeth, long considered a weak link. The tables turn rapidly, however, and in a surprise move, the remainder of the team casts votes for Rick. Calm in the face of the blindside, Rick hugs his teammates and gets the last laugh in his home video – he’s gone from a start weight of 350 lbs to 230 lbs, a stunning 120-lb weight loss. Aiming for the $100K at-home prize, he’s working out 3 times per day and still finds time to frolic with his grandkids and buff wife. Rick intends to drop to 170 for the finale, which would see him fitting into his wedding tux of years past.

Next week…well, I have no idea what happens next week, but two things are for sure – Jillian’s gonna rip those black team boys a new one, and AshleyPSU will bring you all the sweaty fun.