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'The Biggest Loser': '1-2-3, beat the black team'

March 10, 2010 |  8:14 am

Stephanie The thinning of the herd begins.

O'Neal emerged as a leader last night, and put it all on the table. Literally. Overjoyed to see his daughter, Sunshine, walk through the door, safe, having survived last week's elimination, the big man found himself with a new goal: to protect his daughter, himself and their team at all costs. He likened the blue team members to the individual fingers on his hand -- ultimately, everyone is in it for themselves -- but fingers on the hand come together as a fist. "1-2-3, beat the black team" was their rallying cry.

First up, the blue team beat black in this week's challenge, pulling a semi-truck (I know I saw it with my own two eyes but it still sounds insane), putting together a milk-crate puzzle and winning a year's worth of groceries.

With victory under their belt, the teams had a "work" week. Meaning, they had a taste of what life will be like back in the real world, when work and a commute compete with gym time and the need to prepare healthy meals. (I liked the "Groundhog Day"-esque editing involved there as the teams were up with the chickens, hit the gym, took a bus to work, put in some solids, and then did it all in reverse.) The message: If you could lose weight this week, you could lose weight at home.

Best of all: great insight into hunger in America, as the competitors worked for a Los Angeles food bank. Makes you want to volunteer for your local food bank, write a check for $5 or $10, and clean out the cupboard of stuff you know you won't eat but someone else will, right? Then, just do it.

Many of the players were deeply moved by the plight of folks lining up, even in the rain, for food. They said they felt ashamed for gorging and overeating at home while others went without. O'Neal, who is turning into this season's philosopher as well as its moral compass and Greek chorus, said he was grateful for the opportunity to work there and see that first-hand: It's proof, he said, that "this world is round, and what comes around goes around."

My question this week: Did you buy the whole "Sam-forgot-his-lunch-so-it's-a-good-thing-there's-a-Subway-nearby" thing? Yes, it is possible. But it felt kind of staged to me. (I even went so far as to wonder whether one could actually pinpoint the Subway they were at, and determine whether it is walking distance from the food bank.) Now, I know some people are bothered by the product placement on this show. But I'm not. The product placement doesn't make me want to run out, robot-like, and buy the products. I think they're helpful reminders of calorie-friendly alternatives -- protein powders, gum, healthy fast-food choices, etc.--when the munchies strike or you miss a meal. I know I'm being pitched to -- hey, TV shows do need to make money -- and I can take it or leave it. But I don't like being tricked into believing that the product placement isn't really product placement. Maybe, though, I am wrong and Sam is not a horrible actor and he did indeed forget his lunch.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... by the time the weigh-in rolled around, it was, as Jillian put it, "David versus Goliath."

We saw how Cheryl and Sherry bonded this week -- and how their woman's intuition told them that one of them might be going home. Turns out it was Momma Cheryl. Which made me sad, because you can just tell that she is a woman who gives her all to her family and leaves nothing to herself. Or, I should say, she used to do that. Now she is a screaming, hooting, hollering, boxing wildebeest in the gym, and she's continued to lose lots of weight at home. "I feel like I found my voice at the ranch," Cheryl said when interviewed back at home. And she said she is committed to her health, and loving it: "I'm going to live forever."

Can't wait to see you at the finale, momma!

Quote of the week: Bob, on Daris -- "I'm going to try to straighten his hair with this workout."

Runner-up quote of the week: Sam, talking about how he needs to "dial into the beast" when he hits the gym to pump himself up. He thinks of himself as a lion stalking his prey. This week, his prey was Jillian, as he tried to match her ferocity in the gym. Sam said he pounced on Jillian and brought her home for the family: "Eat up!"

From here on out, it's only going to get harder. As we saw with Sam -- he lost only 4 pounds, sending his team to the elimination room -- as these players gain muscle and get in better shape, it's going to be harder and harder for the smaller players to throw up big numbers on the scale. As a result: Is there any stopping the blue team now? 

-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch 

Photo: Stephanie hauls a truck. Credit: NBC Universal