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'The Biggest Loser' shocker: Rulon abruptly quits, and it's anyone's game

April 27, 2011 |  9:38 am

Whoa! I didn't see that "Biggest Loser" twist coming. Did you? Rulon Gardner just up and quit.

The two-time Olympic medalist who was seen by many as the frontrunner in the bid to become the Season 11 winner of "The Biggest Loser" and take home the $250,000 pay day just abruptly said he was going home and provided very little explanation for his actions. (Maybe he was peeved that Tara beat him in the pulling-a-car challenge?)

This week's weigh-in was just about to begin when host Ali Sweeney noted that Rulon had something to say. He did a light jog up the stairs, took his place on the giant scale and announced: "This is my last time on the scale. I'm asking to leave 'The Biggest Loser' for a personal reason. That's it." He then jogged back down, hugged and kissed the trainers  good-bye and headed out the door.

Interlude: I'm interviewing Ali and Jillian Michaels at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this weekend. Join us! Do you have any questions for Ali and Jillian? Leave them in the comments section below.

Rulon later added this much in a camera aside but still left many questions unanswered:

"Tonight it became clear that I needed to go home for personal reasons. There's things that need to be addressed in my life back home. I feel that my personal goals have been reached here on 'The Biggest Loser,' and it's my time to go home. I got my health back, I got my fitness, and I got my life back. That was my real reason for coming to 'The Biggest Loser.' I'm happy. I'm going to go home and see my wife and be the husband that she deserves, and I am going to be a person who is accountable for my actions."

Mmmm. OK. But WHY? Why, when you were so close? (Gardner walked onto the ranch at 474 pounds and lost a stunning 188 pounds at last count, averaging a 15-pound weight loss each week.) I got word from NBC on Wednesday morning that Rulon would not take part in Wednesday's media conference call, where departing players take questions from the media. Until we get some answers, chew on this interview with Rulon, headlined: "Rulon Gardner makes no excuses."

Even Bob was shocked, acknowledging Rulon's front-runner status: "I was so taken aback because Rulon was set up to win this show; this guy was on a roll. Well, that's a 'Biggest Loser' first. Now, it's anybody's game."

Adding to the mystery of Rulon's departure: I interviewed him several times, and he told me that he looked at "The Biggest Loser" as a vindication of sorts, an opportunity to prove to himself and others that he could once again master his body and achieve greatness. But one of the things Rulon was forced to grapple with was that the life of an athlete (and particularly a wrestler) can be one of extremes.

Either they are dieting and working out like fiends to hit their weight target, or they are giving their bodies a break by lying on the couch each day and rewarding themselves doing nothing. All the trainers said that Rulon's key to weight-loss success in the real world would be striking a balance and finding a way to enjoy the occasional cheeseburger with his wife without turning it into a binge.

Do you think Rulon achieved this balance? It seems like just yesterday that Jillian was giving him what for when she found out he was sneaking food into his room. Do you think he can maintain the weight loss? Aren't you disappointed that we didn't get to see him weigh in one last time?

This also serves up a twist for the final four. As Jay put it, this puts everyone one step closer to a coveted spot in the final four. (There are only six players left.) Who do you think it will be? Should they just hand the check to Irene and call it a day?

And possibly the single most important question of all: Does this mean next week is makeover week?

Final thought: I know I gave Kaylee a hard time because she irritated me so much and seemed to be taking it all for granted. Well, Kaylee, I'm sure you're happy to know that I am going to let bygones be bygones. Very happy to see you striking up some romance with Vance since your departure. (How did that happen? Do they live in the same town?) I hope you both find lasting health and happiness. Awwwwwwww.

--Rene Lynch
twitter / renelynch 


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Photo: The final seven, all looking slim and trim, right before Tara beat them all. Credit: NBC