TBD7: Valentine’s Day Massacre —
Trigger warning: This post thoroughly discusses an episode The Biggest Loser, including the abusive bullshit as well as the weigh-ins.
Several people commented in the last post about how they couldn’t believe that anyone would allow themselves to be treated the way that the Biggest Loser trainers treat them, especially if they’ve actually seen the show and know what they’re getting into.
And my answer is that they’re swimming in this culture of weight shaming and self-loathing that we are taught from cradle to grave. Everybody swims in this toxic, hateful soup, and if anything, it’s only contributed to the average weight of this country.
Every day, people are taught by our culture, our media, our society that if you are fat, then you have given up on life and that happiness and love can never be yours. That is, of course, absurd. The enjoyment of life is not limited by the size of your butt. It never has and it never will, unless you believe it is a foregone conclusion.
Right now, at 265 pounds, I could keep up with these contestants in their “seventh” week, or 60th day… whatever. Not necessarily the hours-long workout routines, but definitely in the challenges, like tonight’s, which was pretty cool. Honestly, the challenges are the only redeeming thing about the show. They could make a health-centric show that simply encourages people to work out and us similar challenges that measure the increase in their strength, endurance and flexibility.
Aaaaaaaaaaah… in an ideal world.
But what we’re stuck with is “Tough Love,” the theme of TBL’s Valentine-themed episode.
And tough love is the reason people join The Biggest Loser. It’s in every single Biggest Loser Moment (BLM): the contestant ultimately reveals their fear and low self-esteem, both of which they believe is caused by excess weight. The reality is that whatever negative feelings they have about their bodies is due entirely to the stigma attached to being fat.
But because the contestants believe that their body size is always their choice (as opposed to being a far more complicated equation), they also believe that their past failures to control their body have been due to personal weakness. Over a decade of witnessing TBL “success stories,” the applicants believe that the tough love offered by Bob and Jillian is the missing ingredient from their weight loss ambitions. So, not only do you have to work hard and engage in severe caloric restriction, but you need Jillian telling you that you’re worthless and weak.
To me, the fact that Biggest Loser has an endless supply of willing victims is a barometer for how effective the fatphobic brainwashing has been on this population. Even though it’s terrible to endure months of Jillian’s rancid hate breath on your face, it’s not nearly as terrible as being fat.
And a few people asked why contestants don’t push back. To say that they don’t isn’t correct. Jeff, Alex and Gina have all shown some backbone when trainers push them too far. Jeff, in particular, shows no compunction in telling Jillian to fuck off. So, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that they select the most docile candidates, but generally speaking, most of the contestants are complete punching bags, most likely due to their low self-esteem.
As the seventh episode begins, Allison Sweeney reminds us that “Last time, Danni dominated” and that “Meanwhile, Gina struggled with her emotions.” They intersperse this with a clip of Gina yelling at Bob, “You rip my ass to shreds,” which, as you may recall, was because Bob was being a dickweed to her yet again. Then Sweeney excuses Gina’s irrational outbursts by point out that “remained a top competitor for the Blue team.”
The reason TBL likes to point out when contestants get “emotional” is that their philosophy degrades emotions as weakness and any time they talk about people being fat, it’s almost always blamed on “emotional eating.” When contestants fail to maintain TBL’s unrealistic amounts of weight loss, what do they blame it on? “Unresolved emotional issues.”
It’s so convenient that the very thing responsible for making so many people fat and derailing so many diets is such an integral part of human experience. When the trainers see what they call “failure,” they immediately begin to probe the failed contestant for these “unresolved emotional issues.” And today, you actually get to see the process in action, as well as the way in which TBL Producers select contestants for maximum emotional fodder.
As the show begins, we learn that the show is now moving into Singles competition. The Red, White and Blue teams are disbanded and now it’s a free-for-all. We also learn that they’re going to introduce another new part of the contest: Temptation.
But first, a commercial break where we see a teaser of former contestant Lisa at a photo shoot. Sweeney says, “And in just a few moments, we’ll show you what Lisa looks like today” as we catch just a glimpse of Lisa’s upper-half through the arm of the photographer who is saying, “Very pretty.”
When the show returns, we see Mike in the kitchen cooking, which makes me excited because, as I have noted repeatedly, we don’t often get to see what the contestants actually eat. If my memory serves me well, I believe this is the fifth time we see them preparing or eating food.
When I saw this, I really wanted to know what was in the box, but zooming in didn’t help.
It looks like pasta, but in last week’s episode, Danni said that “The cheese ravioli and meatballs really threw me off because, you know, pasta’s aren’t really great for you.”
My hunch has always been that the contestants are put on a low-carb diet because it results in the quickest weight loss. Danni’s comment seemed to confirm that, but this box suggests something else. But without further details about the contestant’s actual diet, we’re left to speculate.
After the brief cooking segment, Allison hands out new shirts to each of the contestant as she explains:
From here on out it is up to you. You will weigh in as individual. And for the first time in this season you will face the yellow line. The only thing that matters now is the yellow line. That’s up to you.
During the weigh-in, the yellow line separates the two people with the least amount of weight loss from the rest of the contestants. One of those two people below the yellow line will get voted off the show by the remaining contestants.
Of course, this is a boon for Danni, who hasn’t had any team members for three weeks.
The next day, the contestants are led to the Temptation room.
Jackson says to the camera, “We walk into this room and we’re seeing chocolate, cupcakes and all of the things that got us on the ranch in the first place. Things that we haven’t seen for [approximately] seven weeks. This is going to be quite the challenge for us.”
No, what got you on the ranch in the first place, Jackson, is that you were so indoctrinated to loathe yourself that you were willing to puke your way through seven weeks of absurdly intense training. Whatever weight you put on over the years is due to more than just the sum of the cake you’ve eaten.One thing that jumped out at me, and you may have noticed it in the animated gif above, is that there’s a temptation in the mix that looks like a hockey puck turd.
Then Allison asks Mike what he’s thinking and Mike says, “This is heaven back in the day. Yeah, I would have loved this.” That’s because it’s normal to love cake and brownies and chocolate covered strawberries. It is abnormal to try and convince yourself that chocolate cake is something you don’t love.
But rather than teach moderation and integration of delicious treats, TBL teaches total abstinence which is about as effective for dieting as it is for fornication.
As if to prove the point, Mike says to the camera, “I remember a time in the not-too-distant past when I bought a half dozen cupcakes to share with other people and by the time I made it through the 30 minute ride, they were gone.” We’re then treated to a flashback of Michael’s gluttony.
And more gluttony…
“And that is how I’ve been living my life,” Mike says. “It’s crazy.”
Let’s assume that Mike spent his entire pre-TBL life being a slothful glutton who stops for a to-go box of fried chicken every night on the way home from work.
Even if that were the case, isn’t there some happy medium between being a human vacuum cleaner and Bob’s starving prisoner? Isn’t there some middle ground where Mike can exercise, eat a variety of healthy, fresh foods, AND enjoy a slice of cake for dessert?
Not in Biggest LoserLand. In Biggest LoserLand, all cake is bad, all sweets are the enemy, and health is measured in deprivation. And if that weren’t bad enough, the show’s Temptation segments revel in mixed messages.
Sweeney explains how the sadistic game works, by framing the issue in a way we can all understand:
The week leading up to Valentine’s Day Americans buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate. And that’s not even including all of the candy and cakes. It’s hard to resist, as you are about to find out.
Message? Chocolate bad.
So welcome to your very first temptation. As you know, ordinarily treats would pack on the pounds. But today it will help take them off. You will have 10 minutes to eat as many calories as you can and the winner of today’s temptation gets a two-pound advantage on the scale.
Message? Chocolate good.
It’s a stupid mixed message to be sure, but mixed nonetheless.
Finally, as an added bonus, whoever wins the challenge gets to give a two-pound advantage to the person of their choice.
As an added variable in the contest, the lights in the room are shut off, though Allison and the cameras have night vision to watch the fatties squirm.
Danni shares her dilemma to the camera:
This is definitely a catch 22 over here because at one hand I need that two pound advantage, but at the same time I have to face Jillian Michaels later and she will kill me if I touch a drop of this food, so I’m struggling right now.
Meanwhile, Francelina explains her rationale. “Listen, it’s two pounds, it’s worth it. Especially when it’s individuals now.”
At first, nobody makes a move, but then…
Alex, who has repeatedly weighed-in “low” at four pounds or so each week, decides to go for the two-pound advantage, since her current strategy of starving and over-exercising doesn’t seem to work. Also in the running, Francelina…
Of course, the cameras can’t get enough of Alex and Francelina shoving cupcakes and cookies into their faces, and since it’s in the dark we get to see great moments like this…
Amidst the shoveling, Gina scoffs, “They’re so stupid because the more they eat, those two pounds won’t make a big difference at the weigh-in.”
And Jackson explains the mindset of those who don’t take the bait.
All of us are so terrified because the trainers have been like “NO SUGARS!” and that has been so ingrained in us that just looking at this stuff is like “Oooh, back away. That stuff is scary.” That’s a slippery slope right back into our old eating habits.
Notice the fear in Jackson’s language? Is irrational fear the only real the alternative to unrestrained gluttony? According to Biggest Loser it is.
Mike decides to sit down, since he has decided to abstain. “In many ways, I’m sitting down to take a stand,” he states in hokey terms. “These items, I’ve let them have power over me and it’s not worth it. For me, this is just practice for the real world.”
Comparing Mike’s comment to Jackson’s, doesn’t it seem like the fear Jackson talks about has more control over them than the actual cupcake? I mean, when you can’t even look at a cookie without feeling a sense of dread, there’s an implicit lack of control in your relationship with an inanimate object. You’ve simply swapped the control of unrestrained gluttony for the control of hyper-restrained abstinence.
We thin get to hear Danni give her quack-tastic interpretation of how food works. Much like Jillian, who claims that a puking is a way to “purging toxins,” Danni ascribes a kind of mythical quality to sugar.
You know, I can’t tell if anyone’s eating, so if you just eat one, that gives you the advantage. But at the same time, I haven’t had any sugar. I finally feel like all these toxins are out. I made my decision, I’m not eating.
Here’s the thing: sugar is not a toxin. Yes, in people with a sensitivity to sugar, too much can lead to health problems. But it’s a matter of how much is too much, not “sugar is a toxin that I cannot eat.” Treating sugar like poison is absurd. Like virtually any substance, an excess of sugar can be unhealthy.
Instead of eating, Danni does some sit-ups to get a workout in.
The only other person who yields to temptation is Jeff, who says to the camera:
I’m not much of a sweet eater, so I’m not really tempted at all. But I’ve been here for seven weeks now, I might as well get a taste of some red velvet cake. Why not pop three of the lowest calorie items in the house. Why not throw my hat in the ring?
But Jeff was right, while Francelina and Alex were in it to win it, Jeff took one bite of cake and ate three turtles (little chocolate, pecan, caramel things) and that was it. Of all the people in that room, Jeff had the most rational approach.
Just listening to some of the contestants talk about the desserts set before them, you’d think that one bite would cancel out all the exercise. But quite frankly, I wasn’t really sure what would happen with Alex’s and Francelina’s weights in the end. Alex’s body seemed to resist weight loss, as half the weeks she wound up losing four pounds or less, which is small by Biggest Loser standards. She had an average six-week weight loss of 6 pounds, or 2.7%. By contrast, Francelina had never lost less than five pounds and she had an average weight loss of eight pounds, or 3.4%.
TBL does a pretty good job of misdirecting viewers so that they don’t notice the volatility of their weight loss. Not an episode has gone by where Jillian or Bob have talked shit about some slacker who goes on to lose the most weight that week or, conversely, praised someone’s hard work only to see them lose almost nothing. Biggest Loser isn’t a competition, it’s a genetic crapshoot.
That’s why Jeff’s decision to enjoy a bit of the bounty before him without sabotaging his efforts. Even if the other contestants weren’t going to try to eat the most, they could have at least had a few turtles like Jeff.
So after a commercial break, we see the contestants joking around with each other as the minutes tick down. Francelina (I think… it’s just a voiceover) says, “Gina hasn’t said one word.”
Then Mike says, “Gina’s halfway through the table” and a bunch of people laugh.
Then Gina says to the camera, “They’re so stupid because I’m diabetic,” she said straight. “There’d be no way I would eat any of this. I have made tons of progress since I’ve gotten here. This crap would put me in a coma.” I like Gina. As I stated previously, she is one of the ones less inclined to put up with Bob’s bullshit. But she seems to irritate the other contestants for some reason. One possibility is that she has had one of the most consistently high weekly weight losses. Until week 6, Gina hadn’t lost less than seven pounds. But not only does Gina seem to have a genetic advantage in the crapshoot, but she’s a schemer as well.
The more they think I’m eating, the more I’m playing it up. So I just start moving food around, picking it up, smelling it. Taking my water and as if I’m gulping down something and taking it in, and that’ll just force everyone that is eating to eat more. The more they eat, the more calories they take in. Those two pounds won’t make a big difference at the weigh in.
And apparently it worked because Franclina told the camera, “All around me I can hear people making noises, Gina munching on God knows what. It sounds like she’s eating pretty much everything that’s on the table, and I decide to keep going. And then I just go for the brownie and I’m just stuffing it and I could barely stomach it.”
Well played, Gina. Well played.
Alex is also making herself ill, as you might expect from a post-starvation binge on sugar. “I’m sitting here stuffing my face, trying to eat as much as I can,” Alex says to the camera. “I try so hard to eat this brownie, but it just tastes so bad that I just can’t get it down at this point.” They show her spitting out a hunk of brownie, and then the lights come on.
In the end, three people ate and five didn’t.
Allison took off her night vision goggles and addressed the group. “Jeff, we’re going to start with you. You ate three pecan clusters for 270 calories. I’m sorry to tell you that that is not enough.” But Jeff’s doesn’t care because he wasn’t in it to win it. “Francelina, Alex, one of you ate 1,150 calories. The other ate 1,036.” Everyone gasps.
Francelina says to the camera, “I took such a big risk that for me to lose now would be a disaster. It only works if I win.”
Then Alex says, “Please don’t tell me I’ve eaten all these calories for nothing. I am praying that what I’ve eaten is not in vain.”
“In the end,” Allison said, “the winner of this temptation is Francelina.”
Then Francelina said to the camera, “I took such a big risk and it was worth worth the investment. And now I have two pounds. At the individual level that’s such a huge difference.” That is, unless it’s a magic weigh-loss-cancelling brownie, as Danni and Jackson fear.
Then Allison adds insult to injury. “Alex, you got so close and, in fact, that brownie did make the difference. You ate half of it, if you had finished it you would have won.”
Mixed messages much?
Alex says to the camera, “Francelina wins and I’m completely devastated because I’ve eaten all these calories and took all this sugar for nothing.” I like how she says “took all this sugar” like she’s talking about a dose of strychnine. For the amount of fear-mongering over sugar, you would think that Francelina and Alex were reenacting the standoff between Westley and Vizzini in The Princess Bride.
So, not only does Francelina win the two-pound advantage for herself, but she gets to give one away and she picks Alex “because she took a high risk and I respect that.”
Allison gets this uppity look on her face and says, “The two of you definitely took some risks today. I know your trainers are going to have a little chat with you about how this unfolded.”
You asshole! You set them up!
So, not only do they have to worry about the toxic dose of sugar they took, but now they’re going to have Jillian barking down their snorkel? That’s total bullshit.
But Danni seems to regret not competing. “Now those two people out of eight have an advantage. For us, that’s a whole body percentage up on me and I’m just like, ‘Did I make the wrong decision?.’” In this particular moment during the Temptation? I don’t know. But in the decision to go on Biggest Loser, I’d say that’s a big FUCK YEAH.
Then Gina says to the camera, “Two pounds for Francelina is big if she can get this crap out of her system that she ate.” Because calories in, calories out and toxins. “But I’ll be shocked if makes a difference for Alex. I don’t think she works hard. She’s not a threat to me, and that’s all it’s about to me. I don’t know.”
Why doesn’t Gina think Alex works hard? Bob and Jillian have both consistently praised Alex’s hard work during the weigh-ins, despite getting disappointing numbers. Week after week, Bob and Jillian both seem flabbergasted by the gap between the work Alex puts in and the results she gets out. So, what explains Gina’s perception that Alex doesn’t work hard?
Could it be the fact that Gina is praised for losing so much weight each week, while Alex is pitied for the absence of significant losses? Could it be that Gina is jealous that Alex gets praised for her hard work, while Bob constantly gives Gina shit? I don’t know. It’s just a really bizarre assertion that isn’t supported by past evidence.
Back at the kitchen in the house, Mike asks Francelina, “Was it good?”
Francelina says, “No. It wasn’t. Surprisingly.” Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuullshit. At least at first it was good. I could definitely see how overdoing it would make you feel like crap after just severe restriction.
“You didn’t need to eat that,” Mike said. “You know you didn’t.”
“It’s a safety thing,” she said.
“I know, but you didn’t need to.” It’s kind of an odd moment, where Mike seems like he really needs Francelina to confirm that she didn’t need to eat the treats. Of course she didn’t need to, but it was a game, and she chose to play.
“I didn’t need to,” Francelina said, “but it was a calculated risk.”
Then Mike says to the camera, “One of my biggest rubs against her was you didn’t need that temptation. It just goes to show that there’s really no one that really feels safe. It’s like, all bets are off.” Nobody feels safe because nobody is safe. The weight loss seems arbitrary at best, plus a week isn’t really a week necessarily.
Then we see Danni and Gina in one of the bedrooms, and Danni says, “I’m kind of second-guessing it now. Should I have eaten?”
“No, you shouldn’t have eaten,” Gina said bluntly. “You don’t need to be consuming 1,200, 1,400 calories of crap no matter when and where you are. You need to earn your two pounds, you don’t want them to be given to you.”
Danni’s not convinced. “I think the biggest reason why I’m a little concerned, you know, is that Francie, her and I have been the exact same weight loss this whole time and if we pull the same number like we have been, she gets that two pounds. So I’m fearful that Francie kind of shifted things.”
“You’re not going to go home over this, trust me,” Gina assures her.
Back in the kitchen, Mike says to Francelina and Alex, “Among the girls, y’all are pretty competitive.”
“And I was thinking that too, everybody’s weight is so close,” Francelina said, “You’re pretty much giving two pounds to somebody else.”
“Exactly, you’re giving them two pounds,” Alex said.
“So maybe Gina who already loses nine pounds, that would be a disaster,” Francelina says. “A disaster.”
The conversation is kind of surreal. The weight between the girls isn’t all that close. Alex and Gina started out at 240 and 245 pounds, respectively, and they lost 42 and 61 pounds, respectively. Although Danni and Francelina are close, having lost 57 and 54 pounds, respectively.
Then we see Gina say to Danni, “There was no way I was going to eat. I was working on faking it and moving the food around.”
Danni laughs, “I’m like, ‘Damn, it sounds like she’s breathing the cake in.’”
Gina says to the camera, “I absolutely am more strategic than people think. Shhhh.”
Then to Danni, “I was hoping that people heard me and thought that I was eating and it worked.”
Gina says to the camera, “They have no clue. They really have no clue. They have no clue.”
We then see Mike and Joe in the kitchen talking about how Gina fooled them.
“Gina was killing it,” Mike said.
Then he says to the camera, “There are times when we’ve wondered if we made the right decision with Gina. I almost think we should have sent her home when we had the chance. I mean, she’s losing weight like a gangbuster, but her attitude is just toxic.”
Finally, Danni says to Gina, “You’re like the toughest one here, I think you just don’t realize it.” Don’t be fooled, Danni, Gina knows it.
“I think I’m just the meanest,” Gina grins.
After a commercial break, we finally see Lisa at her photoshoot, where she has lost a total of 79 pounds, which is 9 more than she had lost at the end of episode 5, when she was voted off. This is the fourth photoshoot I’ve seen with former contestants (three women and one man), and they’re all the same. The photographer shoots them like they’re supermodels and tells them how beautiful and amazing and wonderful they look. It’s just another reenactment of the Fantasy of Being Thin.
And then, of course, there’s the effusive praise for their new lives. Lisa is no exception:
I’ve learned that dreams come true and you can do anything if you put your mind to it… I feel stronger and more empowered than ever. I’m in charge and it feels great. My life was headed in one direction and I was just content. Now there’s a whole world of opportunities that I’m just starting to explore and it’s exciting.
After learning how life is all sunshine and roses for the newly-thin, we get to see the trainers consult with the kids again. The most shocking moment of this segment is when Jillian walks in wearing this:
So Jillian Michaels is a Christian now? That’s interesting, especially when you consider some of her former fashion choices.
The trainers have arranged some interesting stuff for the kids. For instance, Jillian says that she “set up” a Bollywood dancing class for Sunny, which makes it sound like there wasn’t one available in Sunny’s town until Jillian took the initiative. But at least this time Jillian seems to have chosen something Sunny’s actually interested in, as opposed to the time she took Sunny to join a crew team without getting Sunny’s input at all.
Sunny’s excited because her Indian friends are all doing Bollywood dancing except her.
“If all the other kids are doing it, why haven’t you?” Jillian asks.
“I just feel really self-conscious,” Sunny says. “Here I am stopping myself from doing things I want to do just because I feel as if I’m too big.”
Jillian says to the camera, “It’s so important that Sunny allows herself to be whatever she wants despite her weight.” YES! I am actually agreeing with Jillian. I feel all funny inside.
“No more sitting on the sidelines,” Jillian tells her. “It’s time for you to put yourself in the mix and see what happens.”
YES! YES! YES!
Except, this was possible before Sunny was encouraged to lose weight, better late than never, right?
Bob meets with Biingo, who says his rehab is going well. Six of the seven weeks, Biingo has worn one of those boots on his foot after suffering an injuring playing basketball. Bob informs Biingo that as soon as the boot is off, he can start training to try out for a baseball league he’s been wanting to join.
And Dolvett tells Lindsay, “The high school cheerleading team may make you an honorary member, but you’ve got to practice in order to make it, okay?”
Then Dolvett says to the camera, “It’s important for Lindsay to get out there because the only thing that’s holding Lindsay back is her lack of confidence and that has to change.”
Then he says to her, “Just keep working hard and I promise you all your dreams will come true.” The implicit message is that if you keep losing weight, all your dreams will come true, JUST LIKE LISA!
Finally, Lindsay says to the camera, “Last time I was on a cheer team I was made fun of. Even though cheering is something that I really want to do, I do have some fears that they’re going to make fun of me.”
And this is why Dolvett is completely detached from reality. He lays the failure squarely at Lindsay’s feet. But the reality is that Lindsay’s confidence seemed to allow her to achieve her goals just fine until she was bullied and harassed by other cheerleaders. Dolvett claims that the only thing holding Lindsay back is her lack of confidence caused by her weight, so the obvious solution is to lose weight.
The real problem is that socially-acceptable stigma encourages some young girls to shred the confidence of young fat girls until they withdraw from the things they love. The solution? End the stigma, asshole.
Later, we’ll return to see the kids achieving their dreams.
Meanwhile, back in the gym, JIllian asks the group, “What else happened today, though?” Because clearly she has no idea what’s happening on the show.
They explain the challenge and Francelina and Alex explain why they decided to compete.
Then Jillian says, “Oh, girl, really? I’ll kill you.” In response, Alex makes the exact face that she should be make upon hearing that comment.
With the teams broken up, the trainers divide the contestants: Dolvett takes Michael and Gina; Jillian takes Alex, Francelina and Jeff (because they did the Temptation); and Bob takes Danni, Jackson and Joe
As they prepare to workout, Jillian says of Jeff, “I’ve had my eye on this one for a while.”
Then Jeff says to the camera, “I’ve worked out with Jillian before. We’re both strong-willed, outspoken people and we have butted heads in the past.”
There’s a flashback to when Jeff, Jillian and Bob all went head-to-head because Jillian was being an insufferable douchebag. She was ultimately vindicated when that weigh-in Jeff lost only 6 pounds in a week, which is just plain pathetic, am I right?
As the workout begins, Jillian asks Francelina, “You have how many calories to work off today?”
“Oh good,” Jillian grins. “Well I’ll be happy to help you with that.”
To the camera, Jillian says, “I understand that she’s playing the game, I understand where she’s coming from, but it’s like, if you play, then you have to pay.” And by “pay,” she means that Jillian is going to ride her ass like Juan Valdez.
“When we are done with this workout,” Jillian shouts at her new team, “you will never think that you need to win a temptation to stay in the game. Isn’t that right baby girl?”
Yeah, why would anyone on the Biggest Loser try to get an advantage, rather than rely on the largely unpredictable and non-effort-based results they’ve been getting at the weigh-ins? That’s ridiculous.
Because as Jackson says to the camera regarding the new workouts, “We don’t have to worry about what everyone else is doing. Focus on your performance, do the best you can and the results will follow.”
Surely as the sun revolves around the earth, results will follow their best efforts.
Meanwhile, Dolvett pushes his team and gets frustrated when Mike steps off the treadmill.
“Michael, get back on that treadmill,” he scowls. “Get back on it Michael.”
“He’s really pushing my buttons,” Mike says to the camera. “And he is really pushing me to my limit and beyond.”
“I’m tired,” he says to Dolvett.
“No, you’re not tired. Your body can do this for another hour,” Dolvett snaps. “You’re not tired. Stop talking yourself out of it, Michael.” Yeah, since when does the human body get tired from working out when it’s fueled by 1,200 calories a day?
Then Dolvett says to the camera, “Mike’s afraid that he can’t. His confidence is gone. What happened to Mike?” What happened to Mike? Like the rest of the contestants, he’s been run through the wringer and pushed beyond any rational, healthy definition of physical fitness, that’s what.
“We both know you can do this. But something happens while you’re doing it. I can’t – you talk yourself out of it, brah.” And yes, he says “brah” like a dude-bro, and it makes me cringe. “You can’t do that.”
“I just get scared,” Mike says.
Then he says to the camera, “On the outside I’m a very confident person, but on the inside there’s a lot of fear. I’m scared of what is happening to my body at this very moment.” Mike is about the fifth person to talk about how scared they are in their real life. It almost seems like deep-seated fear is one of the prerequisites to joining Biggest Loser, along with having zero self-esteem.
“We’re going to get this right,” Dolvett says. “Get back on it.”
At this point, we see Dolvett standing by as he encourages Mike to keep going despite his fatigue. And this is when I notice something interesting. Before Mike begins again, we see multiple cuts of Dolvett from various angles.We then cut to Mike telling the camera, “At this moment it’s like ‘Michael, you need to make a decision, you’re at a fork in the road. Do you want to just be mediocre or do you actually want to go to the elite level?’ And I want to be in the elite.”
And the elite don’t rest! Not even for a minute!
Unless, of course, you’re on a TV show and you can disguise a 10 minute break as an instant recovery. Because during the time that Dolvett moves from the front of the treadmill to the side to the back to the front, Mike has magically recovered and gets back on the treadmill. And then we get this drill sergeant routing:
“Are you tired, Michael?”
“Can you handle it?”
“This is too much, isn’t it?”
“You can’t do it. You’re not tough enough, are you?”
“I got this.”
“I got this.”
“You’re not tough enough!”
Then Michael says to the camera, “Wow, this is just what I needed right this moment. I did not expect Dolvett to break through to me like that. I’m so thankful that I have this opportunity to work with him.”
When his treadmill time ends, Dolvett gives Mike a high five and says, “Good stuff.”
The scene is inspiring and makes it appear that through dynamic motivation and sheer force of will, Dolvett broke down the “fear” that made Mike feel exhausted. There’s no acknowledgement that sometimes a person can simply be tired and need a break before returning. It’s all mind over matter bullshit.
Yes, harassing someone into not stopping may work from time to time, but I would think that any trainer worth their weight in gold would encourage their clients to trust their body and to know their limits. But TBL promotes the exact opposite: your body lies and there are no limits.
Back with Jillian, Jeff is dragging her by a rope as she digs in her heels.
After struggling and struggling, he finally drops the rope.
“What part of don’t quit?” Jillian stammers. “What part of do not quit?”
“I can’t,” Jeff says. “I can’t push against it. It’s not because I’m tired.”
“Jeff, don’t quit,” Jillian presses him, as the argument escalates.
“I’m not quitting.”
“Then figure it out while you’re doing it.”
“I can’t —”
“Yes you can. Don’t say can’t. Just do it.”
“It’s not a matter of mind —”
“JUST DO IT!”
“— over matter right now.”
“Just do it. Stop thinking and stop talking and just do it.”
There seems to be something else going on with Jeff at that moment. He’s adamant that he’s neither quitting nor tired, but Jillian won’t accept that answer.
“Whatever she sees in me,” Jeff says to the camera, “I think she thinks needs to be fixed in order for me to win the competition. It’s just very difficult to deal with the banter the entire workout.”
Supposedly, this was the lesson Jillian learned after she drove almost her entire White team off the ranch. Her angry methods had been a disaster, so you’d think she would have learned not to be such an ass. Yet, here she is.
After arguing with Jeff, she then tries to force a Biggest Loser Moment:
“You feel like you’re a disappointment?” she asks Jeff.
“Maybe,” Jeff says noncommittally.
“So maybe a yes?” Jillian presses him. WHAT THE FUCK? This part really bothers me. In the past, whenever a contestant isn’t putting out the way she wants them to, she does this things where she starts asking about how horrible life has been for the contestant. But Jeff doesn’t roll over and become her lap dog.
“Okay,” Jeff says.
“What’s so disappointing about you?” Jillian asks, now that she got the answer she wanted.
“I guess that’s what I’m here to figure out” from Jillian, someone who know him on a very superficial level.
Then Jeff says to the camera, “Jill just keeps attacking me on such a personal level. And at this point I’m starting to get emotionally frustrated. It’s getting to a point where I’m about to explode.”
Then we see Jeff on all fours doing another workout, bu he’s struggling to do whatever the hell he’s doing.
“Jeff, what are we not doing today?” Jillian asks, getting down to his level.
“I’m not –” Jeff protests. “This is not about giving up. It’s not because I’m tired.”
“Yes you are,” Jillian corrects him. “But you are.”
“No, I’m not,” Jeff says, looking her in the eye.
“But you are,” Jillian insists. “Then do it. Then do it, babe. I’ve already heard all of the things that you can’t do today. And every single thing you’ve been able to do.”
Finally, Jeff says with increasing frustration, “Enough. Enough. Enough.”
Jeff gets up to leave.
“What?” Jillian asks. “What’s the matter?”
Then Jillian says to the camera, “This kid is carrying a huge burden and it makes him angry, it shuts him down and this is where he ends up.” You know what that huge burden is, Jillian? It’s you. It’s you that makes him angry and shuts him down. You, and only you, are responsible for the overpowering sense of frustration and futility that Jeff, and the White team, have felt under your direction.
“It has nothing to do with the difficulty of the pushup,” Jeff says, straightforward.
“Then what is it?” Jillian asks.
“I’m sick of hearing you talk right now.”
In response to that awesome takedown, Jillian makes this face.
“I’m not making excuses,” Jeff says.
“Then just do it.”
“You’re not understanding,” Jeff continues. “It’s not because I’m quitting, because I’m tired.”
“Then stop talking and do it. Just do it.” Jillian insists. She never actually asks him why he stopped. She just assumes he’s being lazy and the answer is to stop.
“Your rationale is just —” Jeff begins.
“You’re wrong,” Jillian interrupts. “And you’ve been wrong your whole life.”
And this is where Jeff would not be faulted in the least if he pushed Jillian to the ground and sat on her face. I gotta tell ya Jillian, although I know you haven’t seen footage from Jeff’s whole life to confirm that he has been wrong the entire time, there is ample footage of you making claims about health, fitness and how hard work = weight loss and nobody is wronger than you.
After a commercial break, it’s BLM time. Jeff hasn’t had a real BLM yet, so this is Jillian’s opportunity to knock the chip off his shoulder. As she loves to do, she frames this situation as her swooping in to the rescue:
The Jeff thing is going on in the back of my head. Because I pushed Jeff during our workout and he got angry and then he shut down. And I’ve wanted a chance to help this kid because I feel like no one ever has.
Jeff is sitting at the end of his bed alone, obviously waiting for Jillian. She knocks and enters, then says to him, “We left our conversation in kind of an intense place. And I just wanted to check in, quite honestly, and just see if you had a chance to think about any of it, process any of it.” She sits beside him.
“I’ve learned that you can shut feelings off and that it’s sometimes better to do that,” Jeff tells her.
“You’re a smart, good-looking kid who’s 25-years-old,” Jillian says. “What should life look like for you?”
“Very bright and optimistic,” Jeff says.
“And how has it looked up till now?” Jillian asks.
“Dark and dismal.” The immediate connection implied is that most 25-year-olds should have a bright and optimistic life, but fatty Jeff’s has been dark and dismal.
“At any point in your life, if there was a turning point that you think could have changed the course of things, can you think of one?” Now, remember, this is a spontaneous conversation. Jillian doesn’t know the answer ahead of time. It’s not like the details of Jeff’s life weren’t dredged up and placed in a TBL file folder.
“I think probably right after my dad died,” Jeff says, his voice starting to crack. “It was just me and my mom at home, so I had to try and make sure she was okay, but I felt that in order to do that that I couldn’t show any emotion. So I never cried when my dad died, ever. Not once.”
“And where do you think those feelings have gone to?” In his mouth, Jillian. They’re all stuffed down his gullet.
“I’m sure not a good place,” Jeff responds. “They’ve been trapped inside.”
“How old were you?” Jillian asks.
“Tell me about that.” And by “me” she means the country.
“We found out on Christmas Eve that he had lung cancer. And then six weeks later he passed away.”
Jillian whispers, “Six weeks later.”
Jeff begins to cry.
“I think what makes it worse is that he told me to be the one who takes care of everything, you know? I just didn’t know what to do.”
At this, we see Jillian attempting to emote, though it seems more like constipation.
“I don’t think at 17 I was prepared to even attempt to take on a task that large. And I just feel like I was set up to fail at that one task that he had given me.”
Could this be why Jeff’s life is dark and dismal? Not so much that life as a fatty is the opposite of bright and optimistic?
Based on these two photos, we see that Jeff has always been a fairly big kid, though he seems to have gained significant weight between the earlier photo with the Kid ‘n’ Play haircut and this later photo. Jeff didn’t gain all the weight because his dad died. Perhaps he gained more after he died, but he was already a big guy to begin with.
“Do you think that there’s a little part of you that feels so angry that your dad gave you that burden?” Classy. I love it when the trainers dabble with the emotional family memories of contestants.
“Um, sometimes,” Jeff says. “Sometimes I definitely feel like it was unfair to ask that of me.”
“Right. And that’s okay. You’ve got to let that go. You’ve got to let the shame and the guilt go. I’m not saying you’re not justified. You are very justified. But your response has got to be different so that we don’t end up — YOU don’t end up here.”
Then she says, “You’ve got to stop living to please everyone else and live to please you, and that’s going to be your compass.” So, does Jillian mean that Jeff can start ignoring her?
“That makes sense,” Jeff said. Cue the tinkly music.
Then Jeff addresses the camera:
After the conversation with Jillian I know that I need to not only work on the physical shape, but also the mental and emotional me. I’m very grateful that she cares enough to take the time to sit down and talk to me. It means a lot. Before I came here, my sister wrote me about how proud my dad would be of me. That he would be my biggest supporter with every pound lost and every weigh-in survived, he would be the loudest one in the room. And I think he would be. I think he would be proud of what I was able to do and I think he’d be proud of what I’ve accomplished.
And you know what comes next, don’t you?
It’s worth mentioning again that the Producers know all these details in advance. They know Jeff’s dad died when he was 17. They know David’s daughter has Rett Syndrome. And who knows what the other contestants are dealing with at home and which TBL gleefully exploit.
This gives Jillian ammunition walking into Jeff’s room. She knows exactly why he has a chip on his shoulder, but allows the audience to speculate until just the right moment when she can convince him to open up about his sorrow where the cameras can catch his tears.
Back with the kids, we discover that not only has Jillian “set up” a Bollywood dance class for Sunny, but she has apparently created an entire studio to host it!
As we watch some teenagers dance in colorful outfits, then Sunny having some trouble following along, she tells the camera, “Everyone picks it up like that [snaps fingers] and I’m standing in the middle of the room completely lost. I can’t seem to get it and I’m kind of struggling at this point.”
I wanted to shake Sunny and say, “THIS IS YOUR FIRST CLASS! YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP UP!” But Sunny says as much in the next breath.
I definitely felt like I stood out a bit, but another thing that I’ve realized on this show is that it’s okay to stand out. It’s okay to be unique. And it is my first time and these kids have done it before. And I didn’t let that get me down, which is something that I really would have done in the past.
Like I’ve said in past recaps, Sunny seems to have a really good head on her shoulders, and I think she’ll come out of this experience just fine.
Meanwhile, Lindsay joins the cheerleading squad for practice, then tells the camera, “I didn’t think it was possible to get out and feel good about myself with these girls, but I do.” Notice it’s not about her ability to keep up, but her ability to do it without feeling like crap. It just so happens that it’s easy to control the cruelty of a cheerleaders when you put them on TV. “It was just so easy, it was like slicing a cake. Or a vegetable that are steamed ’cause they’re yummy.” Vegetables are yummy, but they do not substitute for cake, Lindsay. Don’t buy into this “cake is yucky” lie that TBL tries to peddle.
Then we find out that Biingo’s foot is finally healed, which is awesome. “I’m going to start training for tryouts right away,” Biingo says. Go Biingo!
Back at the dance class, Sunny tells the camera, “Ever since I’ve been overweight I’ve always had like this little voice in the back of my head telling me you can’t do this and today I shut that voice up and I did exactly what I wanted to do. Right now I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
I hate to sound repetitive, but Sunny could have shut that voice up without The Biggest Loser. It’s simply a matter of perspective.
Finally, Lindsay sits with the two cheerleading captains who invite her to cheer during a halftime show at some point in the future, which Lindsay agrees to in absolute bliss.
Back at the ranch, the Challenge is pretty cool. The contestants are brought into an ice skating arena. Once again, Mike is quick to drop the fat jokes, “When we first walk in and we’re in an arena, what in the world are we about to do? Have you seen big people trying to ice skate? It’s not pretty.”
Although I don’t have a photo as I did in response to the claim that fat people can’t sled, I am a fat guy who loves ice skating. So on behalf of those fat people who can manage to do these things, fuck you Mike. We’re pretty as hell.
So the prize of the challenge is that the winner gets to bring one family member to the ranch for 24 hours. The winner also picks one other person to bring someone.
The game itself is a race. A spotlight will shine somewhere in the arena and the last person to reach the light loses.
And as an added bonus, the contestants get to wear these black-light track suits.
In the end, Danni wins and gives her bonus prize to Gina. Then, in an touching turn, Danni she gives her own prize to Mike so that he can see his wife and baby son.
Of course, Mike bawls.
Then Gina says to the camera, “I haven’t seen Chad in over seven weeks. I want him to see that there’s a difference and that there’s a reason for all the sacrifice he’s made.”
To illustrate the “difference” they show this picture.
This is followed by Chad’s sweet kiss.
We then get to see the reunion of the two couples.
While having a picnic of rice cakes on a scenic hilltop, Gina tells Chad, “I need to love myself because that’s what holds me back from loving you and the kids and everybody else.”
So, wait, is she saying she doesn’t love Chad and her kids, and that she can’t until she’s thin?
Then Chad gives Gina her wedding ring which she hasn’t been able to wear for two years and Gina tells the camera, “The idea that I got to the point where I couldn’t wear it, how shameful.”
No, you know what’s shameful? Not wearing your ring for two years because you don’t know how resizing works.
And across the ranch, Mike reunites with his wife and Little Mike.
It’s touching to see Mike take so much pleasure in his child, but then it reminds me what he’s missing during those weeks he has spent away. In the full context, it’s a fairly sad moment.
Dolvett takes Mike’s family for a walk and asks his wife, “Were you ever afraid for him as you saw him get bigger and bigger?”
“Unfortunately it was never something I verbalized so I take blame for that,” she answers.
Then Mike says to the camera, “To hear her actually say that she was scared for my life hurts me. It makes me feel ashamed.” So much shame and blame to go around. But that’s the self-loathing fatty’s creed.
After all this, a Walgreens infomercial about getting your blood pressure taken.
After the commercial, it’s time for the last chance workout where Jillian tells Mike, “You’re the biggest guy here, you need the biggest number.” Ah, so it’s hard work + size = big weight loss.
Then we see Bob harassing Alex because she was supposed to jump rope then carry it with her as she runs to the top of the hill. She doesn’t take the rope, though, because she thought there was one on top of the hill, so Bob turns into a whiny ass.
“I thought there was another jump rope up there,” Alex explains.
“Alright, but you know how I look at it?” Does anyone care? “You’ve got to burn a few more calories because you’ve already had —” Ah, yes, the Temptation which will undo all the hard work she’s put in this work. All those calories will no doubt result in Alex dropping below the yellow line.
“Bob, Bob, you already know how I am,” Alex says, the camera on her the entire time showing Alex simply stating this fact.
“You rolling your eyes and having that attitude with me disrespects me here.” At no point do we see Alex roll her eyes, and her attitude could be chalked up to the fact that Bob is being such a whinging twit. “And I will not take that for one second.”
Alex sighs, “Leave me alone.” I like Alex.
Then Bob whines to the camera.
Alex pissed me off. Like, what are you doing? It’s like “Alex, now is the time. Now is the time to deliver.” Show everyone what you’re made out of because what you’re showing us right now is not made out of very much.
Uh-oh, Alex is in big trouble now. First the Temptation and now she’s sucking in her workouts? She’s got a one-way ticket to Failuretown.
And now, the moment of truth.
At the weigh-in, Francelina goes first. Despite gorging on desserts, she says she’s expecting at least 6 pounds. But in the end, she loses only four. HA! Eat that, Cake Fiend!
But Francelina does not seem bothered by this. “I’m glad I ate,” she says, seeming happy with her weight loss.
But Jillian bursts her ballo0n. “It’s not a great number. No,” she says. “She’s worked really hard, I’m not going to say she hasn’t worked really hard. But it’s… you know…” Jillian trails off, her shame firmly fixed.
After Francelina returns to her spot, her eyes start to water. Alison says, “I see you back there.”
Francelina sobs, “I wanted so bad and I worked out so hard for the last week and I’m like what the hell four pounds, how is that possible? I mean, they see me, they know.” Oh no, it seems like everyone was right. That Temptation has undone all or most or some of her work! What a loser!
Next up is Alex, whose goal is to be into One-derland, which is Biggest Loser’s term for reaching the 100s. At 204 pounds, Alex succeeds by losing six pounds, which is a decent amount, particularly for her. That’s actually the third best result she got in all seven weeks. So much for the Great Cake Panic.
Then Jillian says to the camera, “Alex and Francelina both weigh in and they didn’t have great numbers. So, now it’s time for Danni to go up and Danni worked really hard, but so does Francelina. So that scares me and Danni doesn’t have a two-pound advantage.” So, wait, now Jillian wishes Danni had eaten and gotten the advantage? And if Alex and Francelina both had shitty numbers, partially due to eating cake, then why would she be afraid for Danni who ate nothing and has busted her ass. Surely Danni will wipe the mat with them.
Danni is also keen on getting to One-derland “It would be the best feeling ever to just see that one and to never be in the 200s again, ever.” Yeah, because that’s how large, long-term weight loss usually works.
At 207 pounds, Danni falls short of her goal by losing just 6 pounds, and she starts to sob.
To the camera she says, “There’s no way. There’s no way I worked as hard as I did and I only pulled a six. You know, the kick in the pants of the whole thing is, not only am I not in One-derland, but I’m not safe either. That was a number that’s not going to keep me here.”
So Danni and Alex lost the exact same amount of weight, yet Alex got to indulge in the Valentine’s treats. Who’s the big winner now?
Allison asks Jillian for an explanation of why Danni sucks:
Well, I didn’t really get some time with her this week, but here’s what I can tell you. Danni and I had to get really aggressive whenever it was just Danni. And I have been waiting for like, okay, when are we going to pay for this? And this could be the week that her body is, like, rebounding a little bit.
Wait a minute, Jillian previously said that she actually backed off Danni because she couldn’t be as aggressive. But I guess Jillian’s desperate to explain how the weak-willed contestants lost as much as the strong-willed one, and this is the best she’s got.
As Danni leaves the scale, we hear her voiceover say, “I’m almost to Jill and Bob to be like, ‘What did I do?’ I felt like such a disappointment like that kid that let their parents down. Like, I don’t know what I did.” Fascinating analogy, as it seems to reflect all of Danni’s self-loathing.
Next up, Joe needs to lose more than 8 pounds to stay above the yellow line and he loses 12. And Jeff needs to lose more than 9 pounds and he loses 11.
In response, Jeff says, “It’s not the best number, but I’m above the yellow line and I got to take that as a victory for this week.”
As Gina prepares to weigh in, she tells the camera, “I didn’t do myself good for the last chance workout, so I was just like, ‘This is going to be a disaster for me.’”
Gina needs to lose more than 5 pounds and she ends up losing 9 pounds.
“I worked really hard this week,” Gina says to the group, suddenly justifying her big loss. “The only time I didn’t give it my all was probably when I was with Dolvett and I have to apologize to him publicly.”
Dolvett tells her, “You found your happiness, your inner health that you really truly need on so many levels. Good job.”
When Jackson goes up to bat he tells the camera, “All I can think is, if I have another week where I’m at a one or I’m at a four or I’m at a two, I don’t know how much longer I can keep myself motivated. And it’s almost like, what’s the point of all this?” This is why people in the real world give up on healthy lifestyles. But fortunately, The Biggest Loser has the means to make it seem like those disappointing losses are just temporary blips.
Jackson needs to lose more than 8 pounds and loses 13 pounds Motivational crisis over!
In response, Bob says to the crowd, “I gotta tell ya, ya know, I’ve been here for a long time and not too many people surprise me, and Jackson, you really surprised me. There is such an athlete inside of you just waiting to come out and I saw a little taste of that athletic Jackson. You’re exactly where you need to be. You’re doing a great job.” Except those weeks he lost 4, 2 or 1. Those weeks, he was a shitty athlete.
Finally, Mike’s turn and he tells the camera about his thought process walking up to the scale:
I started going through my checklist. Did I do everything I possibly could do this week to assure my safety during this weigh in. And by the time I reach the top of the scale, I honestly had checked yes to every single one of those questions.
Mike needs to lose more than 10 pounds and he loses exactly 10 pounds. The final result is that the competition looks like this:
- Jackson — 4.66%
- Gina — 4.66%
- Joe — 4.12%
- Alex — 3.92%
- Jeff — 3.41%
- Danni — 2.90%
- Francelina — 2.76%
- Michael — 2.75%
Clearly eating 1,000 calories worth of cake has a direct correlation with how much weight you can lose in a week.
So Francelina and Michael are to be voted on, and while almost everybody voted Mike out, the shock (IMO) was that Alex voted for Francelina, who gave her the two pound advantage in the first place!
But what bothered Mike is that Jeff voted him off even though they made a pact the first week to not vote each other off. Even so, Mike leaves the ranch optimistic. And when they show Mike at home, he has lost a total of 124 pounds. He also explains that his motivation for continuing to lose is that he wants to win the $100,000 prize they offer to the contestant who loses the most weight after leaving the ranch.
We then see Mike and his wife take part in what he calls a “covenant ceremony to recommit to this new life.” They both sign a contract saying that they will never be big fat fatties ever again.
Finally, Mike says to the camera, “Before the Biggest Loser I was worried that I would die young and that my son will be raised by another man. Now I realize my son will be raised by another man. The happier, healthier, slimmer man you see sitting right here.”
I hate to burst your bubble, Mike, but you’re still the same guy. I hope that you will remain happier and healthier, but your odds of staying slimmer aren’t that great to begin with. I hope that as you continue on this journey, you’ll learn to accept yourself at whatever size you settle on, and that you teach your son to be healthy not because it will make him thin, but because it nourishes and strengthens your body.
Another week, another bunch of mixed messages and convoluted “proof” that TBL’s method works.
And this week I’m breaking the norm and awarding the Biggest Dickweed to Allison Sweeney, who seems to take a particularly sadistic pleasure in setting up contestants to win big by eating desserts, then chastising them for playing the game she arranged. What an ass.
- Prequel — Paging Dr. Dolgoff
- Episode 1 — The Biggest Dickweed
- Episode 2 — Reclaiming Worth
- Episode 3 — Crossfire Hurricane
- Episode 4 — Cognitive Dissonance
- Episode 5 — Abracadabra
- Episode 6 — Mystery Tramp