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'Biggest Loser': There are three winners in the house, and a question is popped

December 8, 2009 |  9:07 pm

Winning Danny Cahill, the former rock 'n' roller who felt like he woke up one day and found himself weighing 430 pounds, won $250,000 and the Season 8 title of "Biggest Loser" after losing 239 pounds -- or 55.58% of his body weight.

The happy-go-lucky Danny, who was a rock of support to Liz and other contestants this season, was virtually unrecognizable in his new, trim body. He handily edged out his next closest competitor, Rudy, who started at 442 pounds and ended up losing 234 pounds, or 52.94% of his body weight.

The third berth in the finale went to Amanda: Once again, fans of the show voted her into the final weigh-in for the grand prize, just as they telephoned their support to give her a spot at the ranch in this season that was all about second chances. Pretty in pink -- in keeping with her team's color -- Amanda was glowing at 163 pounds. She started at 250 pounds and lost 87, or 34.80% of her body weight. And she didn't really care that she wasn't really in the running for the grand prize. She got something better, she said: I got my life back.

The at-home winner turned out to be Rebecca, who looked completely transformed thanks to a sleek new physique -- and a short-cropped blonde 'do. She started at 279 pounds, and lost 139 pounds, or 49.82% of her body weight. For her troubles, she won $100,000. Asked how she felt, she quipped: "I feel like $100,000" and did a little jig.

But there was a third check tonight, for fan favorite Shay, a 30-year-old Newport Beach social worker who arrived at the ranch at 476 pounds -- more than any other contestant, man or woman -- lost 172 pounds, pleasing Bob and Jillian, who more than once voiced concerns about her morbid obesity. It wasn't enough to come close to winning the money. But Shay's bright eyes and kind demeanor, untarnished by an abusive upbringing at the hands of a homeless, drug-addicted mother, also caught the eye of show sponsor Subway. In a surprise move, the health-oriented fast food chain has offered to pay Shay $1,000 for every pound she loses between now and the Season 9 finale in May.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night wasn't really a surprise at all: Antoine got down on one knee and proposed to Alexandra, who managed to capture his heart despite being on the ranch just all of one week.

She said yes.

In addition to a wedding on the way, this season of second chances saw a new baby girl born to Sean, who named her Jillian after you-know-who. There were new starts for Abby, who inspired a nation with her will to go on after a speeding motorist killed her husband, daughter and newborn son, and Liz, a 49-year-old grandmother who spent years taking care of three children and nine great grandchildren and losing herself in the process. And there was Daniel, who returned to the show for a second season to finish what he started.

But Season 8 was also marked by controversy. The contestants in this season had a challenge before they ever arrived at the ranch: They were asked to race a mile. It was supposed to be a wake-up call for the contestants. But one contestant, Tracey, collapsed and had to be airlifted to a hospital, where she stayed for several days. It led some, including the New York Times, to wonder whether the NBC show pushes people too far, placing entertainment ahead of health. Was it just a matter of time before someone died?

The contestants on hand Tuesday rejected that premise, saying that the show had in fact saved their lives. "'The Biggest Loser' places our health above everything else," Rebecca said. "They definitely do not push us beyond what they know we can do."

Tyrant-trainer Jillian Michaels said the criticism stems from some past disgrunted contestants, and said that it overlooks the fact that many of the contestants would have dropped dead were it not for the show. She said that the show takes every precaution available with the contestants. "The show doesn't benefit from making people unhealthy, that would be absurd," she said. "The results speak for themselves."

-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo credit: NBC Universal