TBD9: Fear and Loathing —
Trigger warning: This post thoroughly discusses an episode The Biggest Loser, including the abusive bullshit as well as the weigh-ins.
I can vividly picture the brainstorming session that brought about this week’s challenge.
JD Roth at the head of the conference table.
“Alright you guys, we need a challenge for the very beginning of week 9,” Roth says, clapping his hands. “As you know, week 9 is Incredibly Stupid and Potentially Dangerous Challenge Week and we need some reckless ideas.”
“What if we have them wrestle a bear?”
“Or a box a kangaroo?”
“Nah, the ASPCA would be all over us.”
“We could have all the contestants try to stop a slowly moving train from crushing Gina who’s tied to the tracks.”
“Yeah, but then who’s Jillian going to scapegoat her sadism on?”
JD’s stroking his chin thoughtfully, as murmurs rumble throughout the boardroom.
“I’ve got it,” JD snaps his fingers. “We need something simpler, something subtler.”
“No, not elephants, you idiot,” JD snaps. “No, a race. A race where they have to carry an armful of bricks.”
“No, no, how about cinderblocks.”
“Yes!” JD leaps and clicks his heels twice. “Multi-colored cinderblocks. How heavy can you get them?”
“Around 30 pounds.”
“Shit, that’s it? Is that heavy? Would it be awkward?”
“Okay,” JD says, nodding slowly. “Have some interns run up and down the hall for about 20 minutes and tell me how many of them get hurt.”
Because, yeah, that’s what the contestants did this week.
The episode begins more abruptly than usual, although it always begins with a brief “Tonight on the Biggest Loser” prologue that sets the stage. Allison says, “You are all going to have to face your fears.”
Then we see Sunny say to her mom, “Like, my greatest fear is that you’re going to die.”
“You know, you don’t have to say that to me,” Sunny’s mom responds. “Instead of making me sad, you’re just making me angry when you say that.”
We then learn that Gina is afraid of enclosed spaces, just before we see them close a coffin lid on her and she begins to sob, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.”
And, of course, we get the sneak peek at what Francelina looks like this week, with yet another “through the arm-hole” shot that conveniently hides the person’s body.
And then the show begins immediately after Francelina leaves and everybody is so very sad, especially Jeff, who loooooooooooooooves Francie.
Allison, whose job often seems to be to deliver awkward or bad news to the contestants, says, “It’s scary to see Francelina go. It’s scary to leave this ranch. She’s not the only one leaving tonight.”
Dum dum dum music.
And everyone’s shocked.
We then hear from Gina and Alex who both talk about their fears of leaving. And Danni says, “Leaving the ranch is definitely a fear of mine because not being able to be at the ranch and have all the resources right in front of you is going to be really difficult. You’re going to have to face the same challenges as everyone else in America.” Except for the fact that your failure will be more public, but still.
So one person will have to leave the ranch for an entire week, and that person will chosen through a friendly competition.
Guess what that competition is.
That’s right, cinderblock races.
The “game” is that they have to stack the cinderblocks in front of a picture of each of the remaining six contestants. The first five contestants to get their picture covered are safe, and you cannot put blocks in front of your own picture.
“I instantly knew it was me,” Gina says. “I’m the biggest loser on the ranch and I’ve also been a raving bitch all week. It makes sense to get me out of here.”
As I’ve already pointed out in previous recaps, it seems more often than people are taking swipes at her over seemingly small things. It is true that during the previous week, Gina left the gym twice when provoked by Joe first, and then Jillian. Joe made a comment about how he hates lawyers within earshot of Gina, who is a lawyer. Then Jillian throws the world’s biggest hissy fit because Gina didn’t run long enough for her.
Yeah, Gina definitely fired back at Jillian, but she had it coming. Jillian’s new standard of going “beyond the scale” is essentially that anybody should be able to do anything at any time when Jillian asks. It’s no longer based on weight loss, but in something psychological they have to “break” in the contestants. You can see it in the satisfaction that all three trainers get from a crying, blathering fatty who’s spilling their innermost secrets on television.
One way you can effectively “break” someone is to tell them to do something that’s beyond their ability, then blame them for failing and use that blame to justify a litany of abuse. You get them to accept that they’re pathetic and weak, then you heap insult on top of injury by verbally assaulting them when they’re most vulnerable.
And an audience of around 5.75 million eats it up week after week. But the damage the show does ripples out for miles. When people want evidence that weight loss works, they point to Biggest Loser, and maybe say they wouldn’t be quite so strict. You know. a healthy lifestyle change.
But the only reason Biggest Loser gets the results they do is because contestants eat 1,000-1,200 calories per day and exercise 6 hours every day. Even regular weight loss attempts to get close Biggest Loser results, as I outline in this post. One in six Americans who have ever been overweight or obese have lost 10% or more and keep it off for one year. Just 4% lost 20% or more. And in pretty much every two-year study you can find, the numbers begin to drop precipitously. Five-years are even worse.
You can read about the prototypical healthy lifestyle change program, EatRight from the University of Alabama, the average weight lost was around 8 pounds, even after two years (PDF with affordable paywall, but first page visible).
So in the realm of managing expectations, Biggest Loser is the Biggest Dumbass. Not only do they butcher the truth about weight loss, they treat the contestants like the disposable clones in Parts: The Clonus Horror (which I urge you to watch tonight commercial-free instead of Biggest Loser). There is a willful disregard for the physical and psychological health of the contestants on this show. Of course, they will take adequate precautions after they’re caught doing something ridiculously dangerous, but they still push the contestants harder than is healthy or necessary, and they still give the contestants challenges that any rational person would say is kinda dumb.
Enter the cinderblock race.
And to sweeten the pot, the person who stacks the most blocks will win a one pound advantage.
Cut to Jeff talking about how much he hates Gina and wants her to go home.
Then Jackson says to the camera, “As soon as I hear that it’s a save your neighbor challenge, I immediately think of Alex. I know how hard she’s working, I know how rough week eight was on her.”
Wait, what? Alex working hard? Are you serious? Jillian went after Alex last week because “I have seen her phoning it in throughout the entire season and doing less than her best by a long shot.” I thought the reason Alex didn’t lose much weight was because she was such a slacker.
Anyway, Gina says, “I want to save Jackson because if anyone needed to stay, it’s him.” Poor Jackson.
So, the race begins and everybody’s lugging cinderblocks across a field. There’s a short pair of interviews with the camera where Joe and Danni talk about their rivalry. And then something totally unpredictable happened.Danni fumbles the cinderblock and hits the ground with a thud and an oof , as well as the empathetic groans of bystanders you can barely hear when you watch a clip fifty times to create a GIF. So she’s writhing in pain on the ground, gripping her stomach. And then we see grinning Joe talk to the camera.
“I didn’t see Danni fall, but I heard her,” Joe says. Then we see a clip of Joe running at the moment Danni falls.
“For a split second I wanted to stop and help her,” Joe explains, “but I said, ‘Oh, here’s my chance to win one of these competitions.'”
But Joe’s not done, and neither is the race. We see Danni writhing some more, then finally hear Allison ask, “Danni are you okay?” In all this time, not a single person has checked on Danni. Not a paramedic, not another contestant.
Then we see Danni tell the camera, “I had this adrenaline rush, it was like, ‘You need that one pound advantage, so just go as fast as you can.'” And we see her get up and rejoin the race as if nothing happened.
This isn’t the first time that Danni has expressed such a frantic desperation when it comes to advantages. She seemed pretty distraught over whether she made the right decision to not participate in the temptation challenge during episode 7. And there’s another challenge where she acts equally stressed over the advantage.
As Danni rejoins the race, Allison says, “Danni hustles back, obviously okay from her fall.” Yeah, obviously falling on a cinderblock is no big deal.
The first contestant to have his photo covered is Jeff. Meanwhile, we see Gina’s empty cinderblock rack.
“I don’t have any blocks,” Gina says. “I don’t blame them. I can’t be bitter about the fact that they weren’t going to cover me.”
Alex is next, then Joe, then Danni. That leaves Jackson and Gina, and clearly Jackson’s in the lead.
So, Jackson tells Danni not to stack in front of him.
“I realized my whole life I’ve been ruled by fear,” Jackson says to the camera. “Week 9 is Face your Fears Week and I am ready for it. I want the opportunity to see how I’ll perform when we leave all this behind. This could be a test to see how it’s going to be when I do have to go home.”
“I don’t want to be saved,” Jackson says, trying to persuade everyone to stack their cinderblocks on Gina. “It’s getting down to the wire and it’s between me and Gina. Everyone wants to see her go away for a week, and this is going to be a hard sell because my goal is to leave.”
“The next one to stack on my face never gets guacamole again,” Jackson jokes.
But Jeff, Alex and Joe are still stacking onto Gina’s posts. It comes down to the wire, of course, but Jackson gets his wish and gets to “go home. ”
We see Gina sobbing on the field as Jackson says to her, “Make me one promise, okay?” Getting all dramatic. “You won’t take a single second of this week for granted. Do not break down. Just be good this week.”
Okay, ya know, I like Jackson. He seems like a good guy. But that’s some patronizing bullshit right there.
Then Gina recaps what Jackson said to the camera at some later time. “Jackson said to stop being crazy and to get it done. And I promised him I would, and I will.” And if there’s some crazy to be stopped, you know Jillian’s going to be involved.
In the end, Danni carried 19 bricks, but Joe won with 20 and by being a douchebag.
And then, Joe has the audacity to gloat, “I beat you.”
Everybody seems appropriately disgusted by Joe, and Danni says, “Because I fell.”
Now, can anyone tell me why Gina is the most loathed person on this season’s Biggest Loser, but Joe is one of the first to get “covered” by cinderblocks? Joe has also gotten a reputation (deserved or not) for taking “breaks” because he claims he’s hurt or injured. So, why is not demonized by Jillian and loathed by fans?
Simple: Joe has already been broken. There isn’t a lot of scenes of Joe during the last few episodes because there isn’t much drama there. Joe does what he’s told and he ignores his injuries because he wants to win. Let’s not forget that aside from exploiting Danni’s injury for this “victory,” he was also the one who dragged Gina to her feet when she fell so they wouldn’t lose the sandhill challenge.
Joe’s an asshole, but he’s a broken asshole and there’s no real motivation to make him the bad guy. One bad guy is enough to channel the animosity of the other contestants and the audience.
So there’s a twist to the challenge’s “punishment”: Jackson has to take one person with him.
Jackson picks… DRAMA BREAK!
Francelina lost close to 100 pounds and she says, “I’m way more confident now and I’m genuinely happy. I can do this for the rest of my life. I’ve changed my life around.” Good luck, Francelina. You’re gonna need it!
Back on the cinderblock field, Jeff finally steps forward and offers to go with Jackson. And so we have the first of two gimmicks for the week.
After the cinderblock races, Jackson tells the camera, “It’s a good chance for us to show America that it can be done.”
The whole point of this first gimmick is to “prove” that living at the ranch is no different than living at home, which is, of course, bullshit. That’s why most of the contestants regain the weight, while the few who have succeeded are the same ones who have transformed their appearance on the show into a lucrative career. That’s the point at which six hours of exercise per day becomes more feasible logistically speaking.
But when Allison says that Jackson and Jeff are going home, what she meant was a home in California. Just like episode 5, the cabinets and fridge are bare. “I think we’ve learned that we can shop for food on a budget,” Jeff says.
“We’re on our own,” Jackson says. “We have money for groceries and we can go to the grocery store and we can pick out spinach or we can pick out donuts. It’s really easy to slide back into bad habits.” And Jackson is ready to say that he will never pick out another donut for the rest of his life because when you’re craving a donut and eat spinach instead, his body says, “Gee, thanks for the spinach Jackson, that’s so much better than a donut.”
My point is not to say that spinach is stupid and donuts rock. My point is to say that to deny the hedonistic pleasures of food entirely, rather than learning to normalize your relationship with food so that it doesn’t become the epic battle of Spinach v. Donuts.
They tour the backyard of the house, which has a small pool and two brand new bikes.
Once on the bike, Jeff says, “I don’t think it’s ready for all 308 pounds of me just yet.” That’s bullshit, obviously, as some bikes have weight limits but many do not, and I doubt Biggest Loser would provide bikes that couldn’t handle their weights. Clearly they wanted them to ride bikes for some footage of them exercising on their own, but Jeff’s concern pretty much squelched that option, and sent a message that 300 pounds is too fat for biking. Thanks Jeff!
Then Jackson explains how their “mancation” puts them at risk in the game. “Leaving the ranch is a huge risk. You’re competing against people who are having their food provided for them, who are working out with world-class trainers. That is an insane disadvantage.” Drama!
Then we cut to the living room scenes, which always means the trainers are going to video conference with the kids.
Dolvett, having come unstuck in time, returns from a dystopian future in the year 3137 k.c.
Well Lindsay, you know that this week is face your fears week,” Dolvett says. “I gotta ask you, what’s one of your biggest fears.” Gee, I wonder if she’s going to talk about her fear of bees.
“I think one of my biggest fear would have to be if I go into a doctor’s appointment and they just tell me, ‘You have diabetes,'” Lindsay says. You may recall that in episode 3, Dr. Splenda diagnosed Lindsay on national television as having pre-diabetes. I wrote then how pre-diabetes is not as scary as it has been presented:
As I summarized in my post on the work of Dr. Gerald Reaven, the man who brought metabolic syndrome to the forefront, pre-diabetes is essentially a worthless diagnosis. It’s predictive powers for either metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes are incredibly low, as the fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels can vary widely.
And then I stumbled across a study of Hispanic children with pre-diabetes. Lindsay is Hispanic, so this study seems particularly apt to Dr. Splenda’s prime time diagnosis. Their conclusion?
In this group of Hispanic children at high risk of type 2 diabetes, 1) pre-diabetes is highly variable from year to year; 2) the prevalence of persistent pre-diabetes over 3 years is 13%; and 3) children with persistent pre-diabetes have lower [β-cell function], due to a lower [acute insulin response], and increasing visceral fat over time.
In short, although the diagnosis of pre-diabetes may point to some issues, the actual state of being “pre-diabetic” fluctuates so wildly as to be essentially worthless at predicting the future state of the child. But being called “pre-diabetic” has become such almost a substitute for diabetes. If you’re pre-diabetic, you may as well be diabetic, even though that’s not actually the case.
To put it in perspective, 12 in 100,000 children have type 2 diabetes, while 2,700 children in 100,000 have an eating disorder. All Biggest Loser is doing is saving her from a small risk on a show known for driving former contestants to that larger one. And this season, they even had a contestant who admitted to being bulimic (Nikki, who left halfway through episode 1 after Jillian’s abusive tirades). I can’t believe I didn’t notice them say this in the show itself because I would have been gobsmacked to learn that. It’s in this recap as well, but it gets the basic facts wrong (Nikki quit, she wasn’t kicked out), but I honestly do not remember her saying she had been bulimic.
Anyway, sidetrack, back to Lindsay.
Dolvett asks her, “What do you know, Lindsay, about diabetes?”
“I know that, um, your body doesn’t handle insulin like it’s supposed to,” Lindsay says as Dolvett nods earnestly. “That’s all I know.”
Dolvett says to the camera, “Lindsay has been diagnosed with being pre-diabetic. It’s one of the first steps in the development of diabetes.” Yeah, in the same way that drinking beer or smoking pot is one of the first steps in becoming a crack addict. But, yeah, whatever.
“So even though she’s a kid, I can’t treat her like one,” Dolvett explains to the camera, “I need her to see what it’s like to live with diabetes.” I’m gonna inject her with insulin.
Dolvett tells Lindsay, “You realize that this is a sickness and an illness that can be prevented through exercise and proper diet.” Again, not entirely correct. Aging can trigger diabetes, while sedentary lifestyle and carb-heavy diet can speed up. But exercise and proper diet won’t necessarily “prevent” you from getting diabetes so much as postpone its onset.
But okay, let’s act like Lindsay’s a ticking timebomb of diabetes, sure. Dolvett is going to introduce her to someone with diabetes.
Then we see Bob meeting with Biingo’s mom.
“We know what your son is mostly afraid of, now, don’t we?” Corduroy?
As Bob asks Biingo’s mom in that smug, self-satisfied voice of his, we see Biingo stuffing his face with ice cream).
“Vegetables,” Biingo’s mom says.
Then, we see Bob wearing, for the fourth time, the exact same red and black flannel shirt.
“Biingo’s biggest fear in the world is vegetables,” Bob says, getting his outrage on. “That’s crazy to me, but let me tell you it is so common to millions of kids out there.” But only the fat ones, right Bob?
“Until just last week,” Biingo’s mom said, not realizing how it reflects on her, “Biingo thought that brocolli was made in a factory.
So Bob gets to make this face.After he finishes his Charlie Callas routine, he gets down to business. “Well we’ve got to do something about this, Michelle.” Bob’s moving in. “So I’m going to send you some recipes I want you to try. You’re going to blend the vegetables and put them into the foods when you cook them so he’s never going to see them.”
Yeah, because clearly that’s the problem: his eyes.
You know how you get a kid to eat vegetables? You offer them a selection, learn which ones they really like and get those enough to make sure they’re having some in their diet. Even if they won’t eat them, offer them with the meal. Don’t pressure them, that will backfire, trust me. But the kids aren’t gonna know where broccoli comes from, let alone what it tastes like, if it’s not offered. Offer them raw and get them something to dip them in if it helps. You don’t have to puree vegetables to get kids to eat them. You need patience and flexibility.
Biingo’s mom seems exasperated already, though. “I’m really hoping we can get Biingo to eat his vegetables without him knowing it. If this plan doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.” You can’t fool kids, I’m sorry. My mom used to try and sneak onions into my food. I hated onions with every fiber of my being (still do, mostly… I can stomach softer, sauteed onions), and when I would crunch down on one or see one mixed into the meatloaf, I would get pissed because then I had to pick them out.
I was just a finicky eater, but there were plenty of other vegetables I loved, including asparagus and Brussels sprouts (still do). I’m sure there are vegetables that Biingo likes, if you take the time to introduce them. But if Biingo thinks broccoli comes from factories, then it’s time to go to the farmer’s market to let him pick a veggie to try.
Finally, Jillian asks Sunny about her fear, which is clowns, and everyone completely sympathizes.
“Probably one of my greatest fears right now is losing my mom to obesity,” Sunny says. “The problem is that she’s my mom and the fact that she’s not getting healthy affects my journey to get healthy.”
“This is such a challenge when we decided to take on kids,” Jillian says to Sunny, putting on her amateur psychiatrist hat. “It’s so hard because so much of what’s going on, obviously with kids, is what’s going on in the home. And you can’t control all of these different factors. If you go to her and you tell her from the bottom of your heart how worried you are, my hope is that the pain that she’s going to feel in seeing you so hurt and so scared will be more overwhelming than the things she’s afraid of that are keeping her from making these changes. Does that make any sense?” No, Jillian, it doesn’t. The fact that her mom’s weight is determined by some undetermined fear Jillian hypothesizes about does not make any sense, mostly because she barely know this woman. But that’s Jillian’s MO: observe a person being fat and ascribe their weight in every instance to some underlying psychological issue. Perhaps some people gain weight because of psychological issues, but for Jillian it’s always psychological.
Then, because she hasn’t made enough shit up, Jillian says to the camera, “Sunny’s number one fear is Shaunti dying because she is so unhealthy and, quite honestly, it’s another reason that Sunny keeps her weight on because her mother isn’t taking the weight off.”
Up until now, we haven’t seen Sunny’s dad, so we don’t know if he’s thin or not. But leave it to Jillian to make the mother the scapegoat. It’s quick and convenient, and even takes some of the pressure of Sunny directly. If Sunny doesn’t keep the weight off after this show, then we know who to blame, don’t we?
We then go back to Jackson and Jeff who are at grocery store filming themselves because they’re on their own, right?
The self-shots are meant to drive home the point that Jeff and Jackson are totally on their own, just like real life. Unlike the contestants on the ranch, Jeff and Jackson don’t have a crew following them around, taking care of them. The only way we know what’s going on in their “home” is through the Blair Witch-style shots. Well, that and shots like this:
Back at the house, Jackson asks Jeff, “What do you think they’re doing?”
“I’m sure Gina’s talking to someone on the show about going home and quitting,” Jeff snarks. “Joe’s cramping up somewhere complaining about an injury.”
Jackson laughs and adds, “Taking a break.”
“Alex is probably walking… walking the mile,” Jeff continues. “And Danni is probably running a 10k somewhere.”
For some reason, Danni is the Golden Child of the show. Danni can do nothing wrong and she is perpetually pointed to as an example of diligence and hard work, both by trainers and contestants alike. No other contestant enjoys the benefit of the doubt quite like Danni. And it’s kind of irritating because while Alex is routinely praised for her hard work in spite losing small amounts of weight each week, she is also routinely raked across the coals by Jillian and Bob for not working hard enough.
Anyone who has followed these recaps knows that there is no logic to the distribution of praise or criticism. The real driving force behind the feedback contestants get is in forcing the very narrative that Jeff has just summarized. After all, the last time we see Joe take a “break” due to an injury was in episode 4. But once the narrative takes hold, it’s hard to escape.
Now Jeff and Jackson talk about their fears of going home, and how life was before the ranch.
“There were days back home when I would try to get out of bed as little as possible,” Jeff tells Jackson. “I would be happy if I didn’t have to leave my house one time for the entire day.” Considering how Jeff won’t even try riding one of the new bikes provided to him or the many times he’s described his deep self-loathing, it’s no wonder he didn’t leave his house. People act as though depression were a natural consequence of being fat, but it’s not. It’s a natural consequence of accepting the stigma placed on fat people. If the world tells you fat people are pathetic, worthless and weak, there’s a good chance many will succumb to that message and shrink from the world.
Jeff says to the camera, “To be comfortable in that type of scenario and to be comfortable in that setting, in that lifestyle, it’s disgusting.” I agree, it is completely disgusting that some people can be so afraid of being fat in public that they have to retreat to the safety and solitude of their own homes. But it happens, and it’s not because lazy people are all fat. There are plenty of skinny people who never leave their homes, leaving their beds as little as possible. But only fat people feel pressure to withdraw from society because they are deemed unworthy of a normal life.
As we flashback to Jeff’s lonely bedroom, we hear him say, “I just didn’t like myself and I think it’s hard to like anyone else or enjoy anything when you genuinely don’t like yourself and the person that you’ve become.” It’s also hard to like the person you are when the whole world is tells you that fat people aren’t worth liking.
Last week, Jillian did her damnedest to establish Gina as Season 14’s villain by throwing a nuclear tantrum while accusing Gina of half-assing it and not going “beyond the scale,” whatever the fuck that meant.
As you’ll recall, I mentioned that I noticed throughout the show that people made fun of Gina without her provocation, at least from what we’re shown. Yes, she’s an abrasive personality who would definitely grate on you if you were forced to live and work together in a stressful situation, such as gladiatorial dieting. But the producers intentionally choose someone with Gina’s personality to act as a tinder box for drama. They know that other contestants, as well as the audience, will eventually hate her for being so frank and honest. Nobody wants the contestants to admit that what they’re doing, the six-hour daily workouts they’re put through, are actually hard. Saying the workouts are hard or they’re exhausted or in pain is just asking to be mocked by trainers, other contestants and the audience. It doesn’t matter if the difficulty or exhaustion or pain is real, it’s the admission that is the real problem.
So Gina is the antagonist because she says when she’s in pain or when she’s exhausted or when the workouts have been just plain hard. This gives the trainers an opportunity to verbally assault her and treat her like a worthless worm. And Gina, being who she is, know she is busting her ass in spite of it all and doesn’t deserve to be treated the way she is, so she pushes back, which makes her a walking, talking target. Last week, Jillian shot that target all to hell. This week, she’s going to put the pieces back together in just the way she wants.
As the segment begins, we hear Jillian say, “Catch your breath. I just wanted to check in and just see where is your head at.”
Uh oh, I feel a Biggest Loser Moment (BLM) coming on. BLMs are the times, typically after a contestant is injured or accused of quitting, when the trainers pulls them aside to get to the “real” reason behind their inability to perform on command. BLMs always end in a hug.
“I feel very isolated here,” Gina says, immediately beginning to sob.
“The people here, in the very beginning, the cast members didn’t like my personality,” Gina admits. “And I’ve never been in this situation where people haven’t liked me. I mean, I’ve done everything I could to make people like me. I do do an enormous amount for people.”
At this point, we see Jillian smirk. And here’s the problem: I can’t do Jillian’s smirks any justice in this segment, and she makes many, MANY smirks and grimaces and knowing looks that seem to be in response to the confession Gina engages in (if you want to see them for yourself, watch on Hulu and fast forward to the third segment, after the second commercial).
One example is when Gina says that she does an enormous mount for people, Jillian raises her eyebrow just barely, as she seems tickled by her claims.
“And I don’t do it expecting anything back,” Gina continues. “But it seems that when my back’s against the wall no one ever comes out fighting for me.”
Now, Jillian gets to analyze her. “You’re telling me that you felt alone and when you needed people the most they weren’t there. There’s a throughline here. It is a pervasive feeling of being alone, being unsupported, being disappointed, and then exploding and then creating more loneliness.” Jillian has now effectively turned this around on Gina and made it entirely her own fault, her own problem that she has to solve. And Gina concurs.
“I’ve done that all my life,” Gina sobs.
“Okay,” Jillian says, seeming bothered by Gina’s effusiveness.
Then the words flood out in a squeaky gush. “But I don’t know how to stop. I don’t. I don’t know how to stop.” At this rush of emotions, Jillian makes a series of bizarre, uncomfortable faces that I can’t quite identify. It’s like a mix of amusement and disgust, like watching a stranger projectile vomit on a roller coaster: it doesn’t really affect you, but you don’t really want to be there to witness it either, and yet, it’s kind of funny to watch someone blow chunks in public.
“And I have a whole bunch of relationships that are gone because of that,” Gina says before ticking off her ruined relationships. “My brother. My nephew. My sister-in-law. My sister. I don’t have relationships with anyone anymore because of that, but I don’t know how to change it.”
Jillian summarizes the problem to the camera, “Gina feels like no one has her back. So she goes into a situation and she tries to win everybody over. She gives 100% of herself and when she doesn’t get that back, she gets disappointed, explodes and then destroys the relationship.”
Can anybody think of a recent example of this happening on the show? Oh! I know! Remember that time Gina said she was giving 100% on the treadmill, but Jillian treated her like she was the laziest bastard on the face of the planet, she became disappointed and then exploded at Jillian in response? The only difference is that due to contractual obligations, Jillian won’t allow the relationship to explode. She just demands that Gina change.
But isn’t it kind of odd that Jillian has identified that the “problem” is that Gina gives 100% and doesn’t get an appropriate response back, and that’s what triggers her explosions? So what is Gina supposed to do, give 85%? Or maybe she should tamper her expectations of what people are willing to give in return? Rather than explore this complex psychological problem, Jillian brings it back to what really matters.
“So the food is what?” Jillian asks Gina. “It’s there for you, it’s consistent, it’s comfort, what is it?”
“I’ve got some void in my life I’m trying to fill,” Jillian says. “It fills me up and I don’t like to be empty. I’ll drink 24 ounces of milk to go to bed at night so I won’t go to bed empty when I go to bed.”
Another smirk from Jillian and then we have a flashback along with depressing piano music as we watch Gina eat.
Then Gina says to the camera, “The talk with Jillian and the things she said to me, what she was able to pull out of me, it becomes very clear to me that I’ve had a destructive pattern my whole life, or at least the biggest part of my life. Running away because I had given and given and given to someone and they let me down and just severing that relationship.”
Jillian then gets down to her emotional appeal. “Everything that you give and do for other people, when you give and do for you, the emptiness won’t —” Jillian visibly and audibly pauses as she realizes that she fucked up her meaningful response ” — go away. It will go away,” she says, smoothing over her mistake. “Don’t worry, we’ve got time. We’re going to work on it. It’s going to be okay. There is an answer to this. I promise.”
“Thank you Jill,” Gina smiles, then it’s HUG TIME!
Then Gina says to the camera, “That pattern has to stop. And I hope I figure it out and it’s much more gracefully than been in the past week.”
I have quite a bit to say about this exchange because I understand all-too-intimately what Gina is talking about. I have a tendency to lose my shit when I feel like people are being unjust or unfair, whether to me or others. I also grow frustrated when I’ve gone out of my way to be nice and the . And maybe it’s as simple as they don’t like my personality (as is the case with Gina as well) because I’m opinionated and assertive and I will state my opinion when I feel it’s called for (as in the case with Gina s well).
And yeah, what Gina says is true: having this kind of personality can break relationships, and you end up feeling like Godzilla trying to tiptoe through Tokyo. It’s something that I have personally worked on my entire life, both with and without professional help. I’ve had some success at mellowing with age, but I’m still, essentially Godzilla. And I’m pretty sure that if all the gurus and experts I’ve consulted with on how to tone down my personality can’t help, then Jillian Michaels sure as hell won’t.
Another interesting coincidence between me and Gina is that I also drink probably 24 ounces of milk before bed. I have my entire life. And here’s what horrifies most people: I love skim milk. I’ve had several friends who have an equally passionate love for whole milk, and they accuse me of drinking water. But 2% and up is like cow mucous, and I want no part of it. In any case, perhaps Gina is trying to fill herself up, but I just want to defend the milk drinkers of the world who have a glass of milk before bed simply because they love it.
But under Jillian’s microscope, a person’s weight is always a psychological triggered. Solve whatever the trigger is and the weight stays off forever. Plus, I get the impression that Jillian gets off on probing contestants for mental distress. And it all goes back to the psychological profiles the show compiles in the run-up to the show. Who knows what Jillian already knows going into the BLM.
This gives her an advantage in the conversation, a confidence on the subject of the contestant’s psyche that wouldn’t otherwise be there. And the things that the contestants admit to during the BLMs is no doubt true, but it’s Jillian’s ability to make this the source and solution to a person’s permanent weight loss success.
Of course, the show hasn’t been successful but for a handful of entrepreneurs.
Jillian’s psychological street creds are crap. Jillian Michaels is barely two things: a trainer and a celebrity. Anything else is Jillian playing make-believe.
After the BLM, we briefly return to Jeff and Jackson who are being driven to a hiking trail.
Of course, they have their personal cameras in tow.
When the finally get to the top of wherever the hell they’re going, Jeff says, “It’s tough, but we’re embracing the challenge and hopefully the hard work that we’re putting in definitely reflects on the scale.” Yeah, because that’s been so reliable during the first nine weeks.
“Mm-hmmm,” Jackson says.
Then we’re off to Biingo’s house, where his mom is blending veggies to mush.
“The key to these recipes is the vegetable puree that you put into the food,” she says. She’s making a turkey meatloaf “integrated” with spinach, broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes and carrots. Fair enough, it could be delicious for all we know.
But the moment is so overwrought as to be ridiculous. The whole point of this segment is that Biingo’s going to eat his veggies for the very first time without him knowing it! Tee hee. Tee hee.
And it may have worked if this “ordinary dinner” didn’t include a camera crew trained on every bite of “meatloaf” you take.
In case you weren’t aware, The Biggest Loser has a second unit camera crew whose initial job is not only interview the contestants pre-show, but to get as many primo shots of gluttony as possible. They use the gluttony shots throughout the season to remind people of what greedy pigs they used to be. They’ve used Biingo and the ice cream twice, and Sunny and the M&Ms twice as well. Those are the ones they’re really proud of. So, this is who they sent to document Biingo’s newfound love for veggies.
In the end, Biingo eats some of the meatloaf, but not that much.
You see that mushy brown stuff he’s pushing around with his knife? That’s the meatloaf, and she didn’t give him a huge slice to start with.
Then her parents finally tell him what he’s really eaten and he says “That’s nasty” and makes a face.
Again, I sympathize with Biingo, but that kind of pressure is not good for a kid. Seriously. It’s bad enough when parents get into fights over what veggies the kid doesn’t eat, but to do it for an audience of millions?
But then Biingo says to his parents, “Of course, I want to eat them, I just don’t like them, so it’s like, if you hide them in the food, then I get them down somehow, it works, so…”
Later, to the camera, Biingo’s Mom says, “In the 13 years that Biingo has been alive, he has never eaten that many vegetables in one sitting. So this might be the answer to our prayers.”
Now we’re back to Jillian, who has recently told Gina, “Don’t worry, we’ve got time. We’re going to work on it. It’s going to be okay. There is an answer to this. I promise.”
Jillian has built trust with Gina and has offered to help her solve her personality problems. And then this happens.
Jillian asks Gina what she’s afraid of.
“I’m afraid of small spaces,” Gina says. “I’m claustrophobic.”
Then Jillian says to the camera, “There’s so much more going on with these contestants than the obvious. ‘I’m claustrophobic.’ No, no, let’s face down fears that are affecting your weight and the quality of your life.”
Jillian is a fat-seeking missile. You could stub your toe on a coffee table and she’d say, “You wanted to stub your toe because you wanted an excuse to lay in bed all day and eat donuts.”
There’s nothing a fat person can do or say in this life that is not responsible for or motivated by their fatness. And she’s a one woman army with a license to root out the secret causes of fatness. I’m sure she’ll have a training video series coming out soon on how to probe the mind of a fatty in 12 easy steps, which, of course, then makes weight loss possible and permanent.
Gina says to the camera, “I’m thinking to myself, if Jillian thinks I’m getting in that coffin, she’s has lost her mind.”
Jillian says to Gina, “Do you know why I chose this for you?” Because you’re an asshole? “Because you’re killing yourself and you’re killing your important relationships. I want you to get in this box and I want you to think about what you can do to change it.” I also want you to think about how nobody is going to come to your funeral but me, and that’s just to spit on your coffin, you worthless crapstain.
“I’m fearful of being in close spaces,” Gina says to the camera. “I hyperventilate, I sweat. I’ve gone into an MRI machine and had to be yanked out within less than five seconds because I couldn’t do it.”
But for Jillian, Gina climbs right in.
Jillian shuts the lid and says, “Okay, rest in peace.”
Then we only hear Gina’s voice say the following:
Cut to commercial.
When we return, we hear Gina say, “I have a second chance. I have a second chance.” Then the light comes up in the coffin.
“I can do this,” Gina says.
“How do you like it in there?” Jillian asks.
“I don’t like it very much,” Gina says pathetically.
“You know how many times you tried to walk out of this place? How many times have you tried to quit the show?” Suddenly, I have visions of John McCain grilling Chuck Hagel.
“I don’t know, I’ve lost count.”
“Yeah,” Jillian says smugly. “And what’s so funny about that is I think the show is the one thing between you and this box.” Not so much funny “ha ha” as funny “uh… thanks.”
“If I let The Process work it will save my life, I know that. I know that, Jill.” I recall Alex referring to “The Process” before, and I would love to know the exact definition, but I assume it’s something like 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day + 48 hours of exercise per week + humiliation and degradation = The Biggest Loser Process. And The Process eventually works for everyone who sticks with the show, whether you like it or not.
“Do you really know that?” Jillian asks.
“Yes. I do,” Gina sobs.
“So before you run. Think, stop and think about this moment. Do you believe you deserve to be happy.”
“I do,” Gina wails. “Because of the core of all this insecurity and crap I’m such a good person and I deserve to be happy.”
Then Jillian says to the camera, “I can hear her coming to terms with ‘Okay, I don’t want this. This is what I’ve created and this is what I don’t want. I do want something different.'” Different how? Different in what way, Jillian? She has lost the most weight on the show. What is it she hasn’t done correctly? The only thing I can think of — the one thing — is that Gina doesn’t put up with Jillian’s shit.
That’s what this is about. Jillian cannot tolerate the fact that Gina won’t just do whatever the hell she says to do. Notice that Alex was not harassed like this after she couldn’t run as long as Jillian wanted. Only Gina needed the BLM and the coffin treatment. Alex is off the hook. Gina’s the insolent one.
Then we hear Gina say, “I absolutely believe things can get better. I know without a doubt they can get better. This week has just been a small, [garbled word] example of that. I know it’s not going to happen every night, but I know it can get better. I have faith and belief it can get better, but it starts with me. It starts with me every day.”
Then it opens.
Jillian the savior?
Am I the only one picking up the weird religious vibe mixed in here? There’s the Buddhist ritual of lying in a coffins:
It involves participants lying in coffins while monks perform death rites on them as if they already passed away. Participants believe they are reborn after the ritual with all their bad deeds buried behind them. This ritual is also supposed to extend the life span.
The Christian ritual of baptism, particularly full immersion, has a death/rebirth connotation as well. Most religions do. Religions seek to provide guidance on death, so it only makes sense that rituals develop to reenact the process so as to ease our fear of the unknown. Like practicing death.
But what kind of religion is this? Or is it a cult? Is Jillian Michaels the new L. Ron Hubbard? Oh the possibilities!
She is giving talks around the country this summer. I hope she’ll do the coffin trick then too! She could invite people down to be reborn and shit. That would be awesome! I’m taking donations if anyone wants to buy me some front row tickets.
“What was on your mind in there?” Jillian asked.
“All the mistakes I made the week before last,” Gina said. “And how that really wasn’t something I was proud of and didn’t want that to be what defined me because I know I’m more than that. And I am going to be different, I already am different, this week has been different.” Different.
“I wouldn’t have lasted 20 minutes in a coffin before this, no way,” Gina says to the camera. “This week alone gave me the strength because I’ve proved to myself this week that I can get up and do what I need to do every day.” Um… I’m sorry Gina, but if you really have claustrophobia, I don’t think one week of strength training is enough to overcome that particular fear.
But who’s scrutinizing? It doesn’t matter because now, Jillian and Gina are best buds.
Lindsay meets with her school’s guidance counselor, who’s idea of giving guidance includes a “No Whining” sign on her wall.
Lindsay tells her, “I heard that I have pre-diabetes and I just don’t want it to get worse and I don’t know who to talk to.”
Her counselor says, “You’re right on in being afraid of diabetes.” In fact, you should let that fear rule your life.
The counselor then says to the camera, “Food was my best friend and that time and so I started eating more and more junk food.” We then see this picture, which proves how junk food was her best friend.
“Before I knew it, I was just not at a healthy weight and my doctor said, Norma, you have diabetes.” Just like Lindsay. OMG!
“How did you deal with it when your doctor told you that you had diabetes?” Lindsay asks.
“I was pissed. I like to eat, I like to cook, this was not for me. This is not fair, you know?” Remember kids, if you like to eat and cook, you’ll get diabetes just like Lindsay’s guidance counselor.
Then Lindsay talks about her fear of needles, so the counselor helpfully injects herself with insulin while Lindsay looks on in horror.
“It just scares me because what if I get diabetes and I can’t live through life like a normal kid and have to go every hour injecting myself with insulin.” She’s right. The fact that just 12 in 100,000 kids has type 2 diabetes would make her a pretty abnormal kid. Maybe she should just go with the eating disorder so she can be “normal.”
“At this point, you’re not there,” the counselor says. “And now, if you’re able to stop the junk food and all the sugar drinks, you have a choice. We can do this.”
The message? Junk food and sugar drinks will give kids diabetes. Forget the genetic predisposition that has to be there or the insulin resistance won’t become diabetes. But why teach moderation and a healthy relationship with food when you can paint in big, broad black and white brush strokes?
Now we’re to the challenge, where the contestants meet up on the roof of a seven story parking garage. The contestants must stand on a platform hanging over the edge of the building and hang onto a bar that holds 40% of their current body weight. If they drop the weight, they’re out. The last person who remains gets full immunity from the weigh-in.
“That changes this game dramatically,” Jackson says to the camera. “I’m terrified of heights, but I’m more terrified of going home. I just have to hold onto that bar for as long as I can and not look down because I need immunity.”
Then Danni says to the camera, “Immunity this week is crucial to me because last week I had a really good number. Everyone else kind of bottomed out and when you have a low number, usually you you’ll get a really good number next time.” Yeah, not really. Just ask Alex or Jackson.
When the weights are released, Jeff’s arms immediately go over his head, so he’s screwed. He falls off after five minutes. In the process, he gives us one of my favorite GIFs of the show.“This week we’re facing the fear of being off the ranch and that is huge,” Jackson says, referring to him and Jeff. “I think there are a lot of people who are looking for us to fail. So for one of us to not get immunity would really suck.”
Even so, Jackson’s the next to fall, then Alex, then Joe. That leaves Gina pushing down 72 pounds vs. Danni pushing down 77 pounds. And it’s at this point that you have to recognize that all the claims that Gina half-asses it is bullshit.
The irrational weight loss results are one thing: yeah, we’ve seen Gina get screamed at for not working hard, then go on to lose the most weight, and we’ve seen Danni get praised for being such a hard worker, only to lose a disappointing amount. The idea that hard work = weight loss has already been disproven week after week after week.
But this challenge right here proves that Gina has worked hard all nine weeks. Perhaps Gina has lost the most amount of weight because she has starved herself more (which is the real reason people lose vast amounts of weight), but you don’t build the kind of muscle that Gina has built up to this point by being a slacker. Gina has busted her ass, and this vindicates her entirely.
But Allison can’t help but do a play-by-play that casts Gina in a struggling light, while going easy on Danni.
Gina, slowly but surely, that bar has been climbing higher and higher, her hands shaking. Danni’s so close. Gina losing another inch, her face says it all, this is not an easy challenge. Gina digging deep, her hands shaking. Gina or Danni is going to leave here today. Gina loses another inch, it’s over her head now.
But in reality, Danni’s grip is clearly coming undone until she’s finally holding on by one hand.
Gina wins and she’s ecstatic.
“My whole life, I haven’t lived in the moment,” Gina tells the camera. “I never even stopped to appreciate the accomplishments that I’ve made, but my moment was today and that feels pretty good. I’m back. I’m back. The ugly Gina of last week is gone and I’m back. I’m back.”
Yes, that horrible, ugly Gina who has been repeatedly told that she doesn’t work hard enough is dead, while the new Gina has emerged from nowhere, capable of outlasting five other contestants who have all supposedly been working harder than her.
It is simply amazing to me how transparent flimsy the “Gina slacks” narrative is when it’s actually put to the test.
And now, it’s time for Sunny and her mom to have the talk.
“Yeah, what’s up?” Shaunti says. “You’re looking very serious.”
“Um, I was talking to Jillian.” This is never how you want a conversation to begin. “And she told me that the theme for this week on the Biggeest Loser is to face your deepest fears.”
“My biggest fear is losing my mom to obesity,” Sunny says to the camera. “I’m definitely not looking forward to this conversation. It’s not going to be easy to express my feelings like this, but I think it’s a conversation that I need to have with my mom.”
Sunny says the following, which is much more enlightening than it seems. “It’s hard to explain, but throughout the years you’ve gone on one fad diet after another and you end up kind of putting the weight back on and again and just a bit more weight as well.
Then to the camera she says, “My mom steadily throughout my life has gained and gained and gained and gained, and I really think that’s why I gained weight. I don’t want to see her miserable like this.”
I keep running across these people (particularly on reddit) who understand the dangers of weight cycling, but then ascribe weight cycling to “fad diets.” But that’s not what the research shows. The fact is, it doesn’t matter what kind of nutritional philosophy or lifestyle change you claim is the “real” solution, the evidence shows that they ALL result in regained weight.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that according to these skeptics, the only difference between a “fad diet” and a “lifestyle change” is that the latter works and the former doesn’t. That’s it. If you didn’t keep the weight off, then you were on a fad diet. If you did, then you made a lifestyle change.
This is why Sunny’s plea is so troubling. Her mom has made many, many, MANY efforts in the past to lose weight, and here she is being pushed by her own daughter to try again. And The Biggest Loser has put Sunny forward as this spokesperson who can help her mom do it “right” in such a way that she doesn’t gain the weight back.
You know, I’m scared that if you continue to gain weight, you know, you might just get really sick and I love you, and I want you to be there. I don’t want you to get sick. I want you to be able to experience all of the amazing things that you can’t experience when you’re overweight. You can’t go on roller coasters with me and dad. You can’t tie your shoe laces with ease, it’s hard for you.
I don’t fault Sunny, here. She has been sent to stage and intervention for her mom, and she’s using all the tools at her disposal, including shame. And her mom responds accordingly.
“You know you don’t have to say that ot me to my face,” Shaunti says. “Instead of making me sad, you’re just making me angry when you say that.”
“You know, you don’t have to tell me you can’t do this, you can’t do that, I know I can’t do it.” And this is what fat people have been saying since forever: we don’t need family and friends to tell us we’re fat and we don’t fit. We see it every single day, and getting reminders from others does not help.
Then Sunny tells the camera, “I’ve talked to her so often before and she knows that I really want her to lose weight and become more healthy. But it’s kind of as if the minute I start talking to her about these things she gets defensive and she thinks I’m criticizing her.” This is an accurate proxy for the War on Fat. When people say “We’re fighting obesity, not obese people” it’s a lot like Sunny saying, “I don’t understand why she thinks I’m criticizing her.” Regardless of intent, there is a war on fat people and pointing out that her mom doesn’t fit on roller coasters is criticism. Especially since she has struggled with her weight probably since before Sunny was born.
“My greatest fear is that you’re going to die,” Sunny says. “I don’t want you to get so heavy that you get sick and die.” So, here, go on this diet with me and lose weight again so you can gain that back and then some.
“It’s is a very scary thing for me to sit here and listen to you saying, talking about your fears,” Shaunti says to Sunny, “because a mother is supposed to console her daughter, and to take away her fears. To be the cause of those fears is something quite devastating.
The Shaunti says to the camera, “This is easily the most terrifying conversation I’ve ever had. Everyone knows that we come with an expiration date but still, to know that your daughter is scared by the thought, and she thinks that it’s a very real thing in your life, it’s very scary. You know,” she says, her eyes welling up. “I don’t want to die. I definitely don’t want to die.”
Shaunti then tells Sunny, “I realize it’s really a scary thing. I see what you’re saying. I really hear your fear. And I promise you that this time it will be different. And it’s not just me, your dad will support me and we’re going to do this together.”
How will it be different? What is she doing with this weight loss attempt that she has not tried in the past? We don’t know, but I’m sure she’s finally found the permanent solution that has escaped her all these years.
Finally, Sunny says to the camera, “Maybe something I said hit home and she really does want to make some drastic change.” As opposed to all those other times when she didn’t really want to make a drastic change?
Back at the house, Danni is sitting at the kitchen counter reading when Jillian comes in and says, “Hello pumpkin, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve summoned you today.” Yeah, I’d say when Lucifer summons you, you’ve got some questions.
But no fear, Danni, it’s just a commercial for Über energy bar by LÄRABAR.
We learn from Jillian that LÄRABAR is huge supporter of the Biggest Loser (so don’t buy that shit), and we also get to see Jillian being positively giddy, laughing and giggling, while describing the different flavors.
After the infomercial, Jillian tells Danni that because she’s afraid of singing in public, Jillian is going to have her sing at a club. We then get a flashback of Danni singing at home while preparing food for her fat face.
Then Jillian says to the camera, “Danni loves to sing, but she’s afraid of singing in public. I think she’s afraid of really being seen by people. Because if they see her for who she is, it won’t be enough.” Once again, Jillian misses the forest for the trees in trying to over-explain everything.
If Danni is afraid of being seen, it’s not because of some deep-rooted fear of not being enough. It’s about feeling too fat to put herself on stage where she can get criticized. But of course Jillian makes this about something more than stigma and shame.
“Fear can paralyze us or it can motivate us,” Jillian says to Danni. “How you choose to respond to your fear is really going to play an enormous role in the way that your life plays out, right?” For once, I agree with Jillian. But I would have given this advice to Danni before coming to Biggest Loser.
Then Jillian says to the camera, “But the reality is if Danni gets out there and sings in front of all these people, I think she’s going to realize she already is the woman that she wants to be.” And she was already that woman before she started The Process.
“The one thing I really love is singing,” Danni says to the camera. “It’s been something I’ve been avoiding for years just because I was the fat girl or the girl who wasn’t pretty enough, and I though those things outweighed what I could have performed on that stage.” Outweighed. Get it? And there ya go: it’s not about whether she’s “enough” it’s about how she feels too ashamed to perform as a fat girl or an ugly girl. That’s a fear based on shame and stigma, plain and simple.
We then see Danni get on stage, followed by a commercial break.
When we return, Bob and Joe are climbing on a boat to tackle Joe’s fear: sharks.
Bob tells the camera, “Joe is about to face his biggest fear. He thinks it’s sharks.” Here we go again. Contestant says, “My biggest fear is X.” Trainer says, “No, your biggest fear is Y.” And miraculously, by the time Joe gets to shore, he, too, realizes that he isn’t afraid of an animal with a reputation for eating humans, but something deep inside himself.
What better time to get him to face his real fears. I really do believe that it’s his need for control and I’m trying to tell him, don’t think so much and just lose the control, and the more control you lose, the more you’re going to gain control in the end. And let me tell you, we have never done this on The Biggest Loser. [emphasis mine]
You know, if I say I have a fear of dogs, it’s not because I’m afraid I can’t control the dogs and that I should just let go and allow Cujo to cuddle up to me. It’s because I’m terrified that the dog will bite me and/or kill me. If there’s some ulterior cause for that fear. Bob is not going to figure it out during a nine week game show, unless, of course, it’s a part of that psychological dossier. Of course, we don’t know for sure. We only know that Bob has transformed a pretty straight-forward fear of sharks into a metaphor for Joe’s past resistance to the trainers.
Bob takes Joe out 500 yards on a boat and Joe dives in.
We then see Joe say to the camera, after he has already finished the swim, “I guess the biggest thing that scares me about sharks is not being in control.” Oh gee, where could that idea have come from? “When you’re in the water, they’re the boss and if something happens, usually they win.” Oddly enough, that sounds a lot like the Biggest Loser trainers.
Back to Danni, she’s on stage and clearly nervous. We hear her tell the camera, “I think the thing’s that not making me run the other way right now is the fact that this is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life and here it is on this day and I know Jill’s going to be staring at me and that she believed in me, so I need to believe in me.”
Jillian gives her an awkward thumbs up.
Then there’s all this long, dramatic buildup where you’re not sure if she’s going to do it.
And then, Danni sings the National Anthem because, why not, it’s free since it’s in the public domain. She sounds pretty good and the audience looks thrilled.
Afterward, Jillian asks, “Why has all this time gone by and you haven’t pursued this? You love it so much.”
“I think I just felt I was never good enough to try and then my weight was always a factor.” We’re then treated to a flashback of Danni stuffing her face.“I always through t people would see the fat girl on the stage and not see me,” she continues. “And I didn’t feel it was a realistic goal to do. I guess I always focus on the negative parts of it, I never saw the good parts of it. I always thought everything had to be perfect?
See, this isn’t about Danni being afraid of people seeing the real her, it’s about them only seeing her weight and not the real her.
“Because I thought that was the only way I could be happy,” Danni explains. “And everytime I wasn’t happy, I was like ‘Well, it was because it wasn’t perfect.'”
“Has anything ever been perfect?”
“No,” Danni says. “And that’s when you feel like —”
“Consistently unhappy,” Jillian cuts in. “And that’s no way to live, sweetie. It’s never going to be perfect, that’s my point.” Says the woman who reamed Gina for not doing what she wanted perfectly.
Then Jillian tells her how proud she is and we’re so happy.
Back with the “sharks,” Bob says to the swimming Joe, “It’s going to be a good workout for you too. You’re going to need it, we’ve got a weigh-in coming up.”
And then I realized: we haven’t seen a single workout this episode yet. I’m sure they’re still happening, but this week the show’s focus has been on these “facing your fear” challenges, rather than the gym. Weird.
We then hear Joe say to the camera, “When I’m at home I’m in control of my surroundings, I’m in control of everything, but when you can’t see and you’re just swimming in open water, it gets nervous. I like to see what’s going on around me and I can’t see.”
Then Bob says to the camera, “If it works out the way that I have planned, Joe’s going to come out of this ocean a completely different man.” Yeah, he’ll be wetter.
“This is a really important lesson, and bigger than just being afraid of sharks,” Joe says to the camera after having swam with zero sharks. “The bigger lesson he’s trying to get to me is let go. Don’t just hold onto those things, those things you can’t control, be afraid of, or not do it because you don’t want to get hurt, you don’t want to do this. Let go and experience those things, and don’t always try to control everything around you.”
Ah, yes, this whole thing has been about Joe’s “injuries” and how he doesn’t trust the trainers to force him to “push through the pain.” Fuck sharks, Joe needs to overcome his fear of personal trainers.
Bob’s waiting on the beach when Joe finally finishes, and he knows his plan has worked. “When Joe came out of that water he had that big smile on his face. He felt stronger, he had that clarity that I was hoping he would have”
“What do you think you’ve learned from this Joe?” Bob asks, as Joe is still dripping wet.
“Fear is like pain, it’s weakness leaving your body,” Joe says. “Just let it go. Just don’t even think about it.”
Bob agrees, “That’s the lesson today, not letting anything hold you back. Just, like, jump into this new life I’ve got, and just approach today. I’m really proud of what you did today.”
So when Joe immediately leaves the water, his first interpretation of the challenge is that you need to let go of fear, but after his hair is dry and he has time to reflect, he’s suddenly spouting Bob’s theory. Weird how that happens, isn’t it?
Now we’re back at the house with Gina and Alex. Alex is eating something, while Gina snaps green beans.
“What do you think Jackson and Jeff are doing right now?” Gina asks, which is a great opportunity to compare with Jeff’s earlier, snarky answers.
“Probably playing a board game,” Alex says. Wow, you mean Alex and Gina aren’t going to diss Jeff for repeatedly arguing with Jillian or Jackson for throwing up once a week? Wow, that Gina sure is an asshole.
Then Alex says to the camera, “Gina and I, we were really close at the beginning, but we’re just not as close, only because of her outbursts and sometimes some of the way she acts.” This may be absolutely true, but as with the secret love affair between Jeff and Francelina that we learned about just minutes before she was booted off, this doesn’t come across in earlier episodes.
But it’s important to establish their friendship now, because Gina has some redemption to seek:
I’m going to talk to you about something selfish and personal. Um, I had a disastrous week and I’m sorry. I’m sorry if it affected the team. That wasn’t me last week. And I think you of all people know it wasn’t because you’ve worked out with me the longest. And I apologize to you. That wasn’t me and you won’t see that version again. That defiant, I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to do that person and I’m sorry for it.
“I completely understand,” Alex responds. “That’s why with me, when people are to me like ‘Gina,’ I’m like ‘Just let Gina be Gina. If Gina wants to have her moment, you just have to let Gina alone, you can’t be in her face, just let her be. She’ll come around.'”
“I have a few more apologies to make in the house,” Gina says, tucking her AA booklet back in her pocket.
In their pleasant suburban home, Jackson tells the camera, “This last chance workout is probably the most important last chance workout that Jeff and I have ever had. We have to prove that we’re ready to take this challenge on at home, and if we don’t show that it will just be devastating.” Like Hurricane Sandy devastating.
For their last chance workout, Jeff and Jackson run trash cans up and down the street, then do 20 jumping jacks and 10 squats, then do it again.
“Our key is going to be cardio,” Jackson explains to the camera. “We’re not going to stop moving. This is our opportunity to burn the last little amount of weight that we possibly can before we have to face the scale.” Yeah, because that’s worked so consistently in the past.
Meanwhile, back in the gym the trainers are pushing everyone hard. At one point, Jillian says, “Joe, give me the burn on your Body Media armband right now.”
“1,200,” Joe responds.
“That’s it?” Jillian scoffs. “Move your ass. Let’s go.”
Just for perspective, in order to burn 1,200 calories through exercise, a 180-pound person would have to run 6 miles per hour (the rate that Alex and Gina could not keep up the week before) for 90 minutes or else a 160-pound person would have to swim laps for 2.5-3 hours. A heavier person would burn slightly more, but the point is that 1,200 calories is a lot.
Dolvett then says to the camera, “That last chance workout is the dreaded fear of any and everybody who does this thing, so guess what: this is the biggest fear of them all.” Dolvett is also going for the Drama Queen of the Week award.
“Danni’s at a huge disadvantage,” Dolvett continues. “She pulled a big number last week, so Danni has to work twice as hard than anyone else just to stay above the yellow line.” And if she does stay above the yellow line, then the inverse assumption is that the other contestants worked half as hard as her, correct?
Gina and Alex are working out together, and Gina tells the camera, “I think the expectation of everyone is that I’m going to halfway do it because I have immunity. I wanted to make it loud and clear that I was here to work hard whether I had immunity or not.”
And Alex says, “I really gave it my all this week. I know that I’ve made a lot of physical changes this week. And also a lot of emotional changes and just hope that it all pays off.” So despite Jillian’s claim to the contrary last week, both Jackson and Alex have claimed that she busts her ass. But will it pay off?
First, a commercial for Brita: Drink 8 ounces of water 8 times a day, kids!
And now it’s time for the weigh-in, which has changed in one dramatic way. Last week, all of the women wore midriff-baring shirts and the men took off their shirts before the got on the scale. This week, no more.
“This week, I think you all have faced your fears, but tonight you face something that everyone fears,” Allison explains. “We all have a healthy fear of The Biggest Loser scale.”
Ah, so the takeaway this week is that fear is a terrible thing that must be overcome, unless it’s the fear of the scale. That’s a “healthy fear.” Personally, I would have put “fear of sharks” and “fear of laying in a coffin” into the “healthy fear” category, but what do I know.
Allison asks Jackson and Jeff how they did.
Jackson answers first, “We worked hard every single day. There’s literally nothing that we could have done differently.”
Then Jillian, because she can never be satisfied unless she has something whinge about, says, “I can think of something. How about don’t volunteer?” As she says this, she makes a series of bizarre gestures to punctuate her outrage.“How about that?” Jillian snarks. “Could that have gone different?”
“Well, let’s think about this,” Jackson responds. “In a week or two weeks, whenever it happens, we’re going home regardless. We’re going to have to face the real world. I wanted to have the opportunity to go out into the real world and see what I’m still struggling with while I still have the chance to come back and fix it.”
And this makes absolute sense. He wanted to test the waters and see if he could keep up The Biggest Loser lifestyle, which is pretty damned intense.
“I’m still not buying that,” Jillian snipes. “Because here’s what I think: if you were to go home tonight, what if it costs you an opportunity to be a finalist on the show.”
Okay, so Jackson goes “home” for the week to push himself into working as hard on his own as he has in the gym. He takes a risk, as he puts it, despite potentially jeopardizing his place on the ranch. In other words, he goes “beyond the scale.” But Jillian shoots him down. Why? Because Jillian’s expectations for Gina and Jackson are completely and arbitrarily different.
“It won’t,” Jackson says.
“Okay, I hope not,” Jillian says.
“I’m promising you,” Jackson responds again.
Then Jackson says to the camera, “We hadn’t even started the weigh-in, she has no idea how hard we worked, she has no idea what we’ve been through, and she’s running her mouth already and I can’t believe this is what we have to deal with before the weigh-in even starts.”
Remember how everybody in the house hates Gina because she’s so negative? There’s only one person more negative than Gina, and that’s Jillian. Because right now, she has told Jackson that he can’t do it. He shouldn’t have even tried. It was a stupid move.
And Jeff nails Jillian for this hypocrisy:
I kind of made the decision, kind of using Jill’s advice, to do something that I needed to do for me without worrying about how it’s going to affect anyone else or how it’s going to make anyone else feel. Not to slight anyone else’s fears here, but a lot of the fears that everyone faced this week are fears that they don’t have to do again. And the fear that me and Jackson faced is a very real fear that all of us are going to face as finalists or as eliminated contestants within the next three weeks.
Exactly. But Bob can’t let them pile on Jillian.
“I don’t like the idea of any of them being away from here, you know, most of all Jeff,” Bob says. “Jeff goes on these up and down weight loss. I want them to be here as much as they possibly can until they are being pushed out the door.”
I thought anyone can do what the contestants do. I thought there’s no difference between the ranch and our homes. I thought that if we try hard enough and are motivated enough, we can get the same results the contestants get. We don’t need to be sequestered and forced to work out by Jillian and Bob. Anyone can do what they do. But judging from the response they got from Jillian and Bob, we know what the trainers’ biggest fear is.
So Gina goes first and as long as she didn’t gain weight, she has immunity. One other new development is that instead of the belly-baring shirts, they flash side-by-side shots of them from their first weigh-in.
Gina loses 7 pounds.
“I got buried basically in a coffin and I came out a new person,” Gina says. “That’s a symbol of what this week has been like for me. Last week I was an ugly, ugly person and this week I was reborn and it feels really, really good.”
And now she’s a High Priestess in the Church of Jillian Michaels of Latter Day Trainers.
“We all saw a really big change in Gina this week,” Bob said. “We see that this girl has come in with a completely different vision, so it really showed, Gina.”
Then Jillian says to the camera, “Gina got up and got a really good number. I feel really good about where Gina is at. I think she is stable. And I think there’s hope there for the first time.” Jillian is confident that she has now broken Gina and she will no longer resist her efforts. But there’s still a few weeks left, so we shall see.
Jackson’s next, and he says to the camera, “If I have to go home because of a choice I didn’t have to make, I’ll be very upset.”
“I can see your nerves on the scale,” Allison tells him.
I’ve had weeks that I’ve worked really, really hard, to the point where I didn’t think I could stand up any more, and faced bad numbers on the scale. I just hope that that’s not a similar situation here because Jeff and I really did work as hard as we possibly could.
Notice how here Jackson says he’s worked hard and gotten “bad numbers,” and yet he still stubbornly clings to the idea that hard work = weight loss? That’s because, like this week, sometimes the maxim rings true because he loses more weight. This week, Jackson loses 11 pounds, and he’s ecstatic.
“This is proof that if I go home and I don’t have the equipment, I don’t have someone shopping for my groceries, I can do it,” Jackson gushes.
Dolvett is also seems thrilled.
“The whole point of training you is to teach you that you can do it,” Dolvett says. Then cut to Jillian.
“That’s a great number for you,” Dolvett says. “A great number.”
“Jill does not look happy,” Jackson says.
“No honey, I love that you got that number,” Jillian struggles to maintain. “I mean, I’m super-proud of you. That was hard and you proved yourself, but you did that as a martyr, like ‘I have it together, none of you do, I will fall on the sword.'”
Oh for fuck’s sake, Jillian, can’t you ever be wrong? Just wrong and that’s it? Can’t you just tell Jackson, “Great job” without further degrading him?
“This wasn’t about falling on the sword for anybody else,” Jackson said. “It didn’t matter who I was saving.”
“You gotta save yourself,” Dolvett chimes in.
“Thank you!” Jillian exclaims, throwing her arms as though they finally understand her point, rather than her gloaming onto theirs.
“You gotta save yourself,” Dolvett says again.
“That’s the problem,” Jillian can’t shut up.
“I think Jillian’s re-emphasizing the fact you make sure you do things for you first,” Dolvett explains.
Then Jackson and Jillian hug and she says, “Do you get it? Do you understand what I’m saying?” No, Jillian, nobody gets what you’re saying because you change what you’re saying every five seconds to suit your mood. Geez.
Jeff’s next and he says to the camera, “My biggest fear in life is failure, and if I fail and fall below the yellow line this week, it’s no one’s fault but my own.” Ah, yes, because we are in completely control of our bodies and if we don’t lose the weight we expect, it’s because of a failure on our part, except for all the times that it’s not.
“Does his good number help your confidence tonight?” Allison asks.
“I’m hoping,” Jeff says, optimistically. “I’m just really hoping that the hard work we genuinely put in pays off.”
Jeff loses 13 pounds, putting him under the 300-pound mark. Allison asks when was the last time he was under 300 pounds and he says he was 16, which is when his father died.
“Jeff had a point to prove,” Bob says. “And when Jeff has a point to prove this is what’s going to happen. I want this mentality you have right now taking you the rest of the way.” Except, remember week 4 when Jeff had a point to prove (and Bob defended him) because Jillian was being such an asshole, so he wound up losing “only” six pounds?
Allison says cheerfully, “You guys were obviously working out and eating right together because you are one-hundredth of a percent apart.” Obviously.
Unless, of course, that logic is about to break down.
Joe’s next and he loses 12 pounds, which makes him the first contestant to lose 100 pounds.
Then Jackson says nervously to the camera, “He pulls a 12 and that’s when it hits me: Yeah, they had all the advantages this week. They had their trainer. They had their gym. Slowly, I’m starting to realize that it may not have been the smartest decision to leave all that behind.”
So now what? Did Jackson prove himself, as Jillian finally admitted, or was there really a discernible difference between ranch life and real life? Next up is Alex, who has to lose more than 8 pounds to stay above the yellow line.
She loses 8 exactly.
Jillian rushes to her aid, “I mean, that’s such a great number, Alex.”
“But still not good enough,” Alex says, repeating her mantra of disappointment throughout the show.
“It is good enough, babe,” Jillian said. “I saw you working. And I saw a different girl, we all saw a different girl.” Although I find Jillian’s prescription of Alex being a slacker last week to be laughable, at least she seems to be trying to reassure Alex that losing 8 pounds is nothing to sniff at.
“You doubled your average,” Bob says. “Is it good enough right now? No, it’s not good enough, but man, for you specifically, it’s huge. alright?” Way to go muddy the message, Bob. Jillian just got finished saying it’s good enough and you come in and say, “Nope! It sucks! Except we’ll make an exception for you.”
“This is the part where you can shut out the outside world and say I don’t care, it’s good enough for me,” Jillian tells her.
“Yeah, I’m proud of myself. I really am,” Alex says without much conviction.
Then she says to the camera, “I’m okay with the 8 that I had because I know for me that was a major accomplishment.”
Danni’s last and she needs to lose more than 8 pounds
“That’s a tall order,” Jillian says. “Not to say she couldn’t do it, but it’s like unfair to ask it. It’s tough.”
Danni loses 10 pounds and Jillian is over-the-moon happy.
“This is like the tenth time you’ve gone up there and I’ve been like ‘You have no business getting that number,'” Jillian squeals like a schoolgirl. “I cannot believe it, you just lost seven pounds last week. I can’t believe it.”
Then Danni says to the camera, as she wears some bizarre yellow gloves, “Getting this 10 just shows I don’t need the safety net.”
That’s because Danni and Gina seem to have won the genetic lottery on this show. They have both had the most consistent losses throughout the show, even though Danni has been praised as the ideal contestant and Gina the nightmare.
It’s because of this that Danni gets to say, “I earned every inch of that 10 pounds,” while in weeks past, Gina has been treated like her large losses have been an aberration.
At the end of this weigh-in, we learn that Gina still has highest percentage of weight loss. We also learn that Alex and Jackson are below the yellow line.
If Gina didn’t have immunity, she would have been the lowest with 3.89% and Jackson would have been safe. But it also goes to show that for all intents and purposes, there was no difference for Jeff and Jackson (assuming the hard work = weight loss model still holds).
Even though they’ve proved this is the case, Jackson still tells the camera, “Being in the final two is horrifying. I left the ranch for a week already. I’m not ready to leave it for good.”
As we go into voting, another glitch (like Francelina’s bloodface last week) pops up that I just have to grab.
Interestingly enough, she now looks like the love interest from Clonus.
Anyway, the contestants vote and we learn that both Joe and Danni voted for Alex, which means she goes home. But not before Alex shares how ready she is to go home:
That emotional stress and drama that I had is what caused me to gain weight to begin with and now that I’ve overcome that here on the ranch, I can go home a more confident person. Alex can finally be proud of herself, and that’s where I am right now. I’m going home proud of myself.
But it’s kind of hard to buy this “new and improved” Alex, since she just nearly had a breakdown during this weigh-in because she still feels like she’s “not enough.” She seems to be going home on some pretty flimsy legs.
After Alex leaves, we learn that next week will be makeover week, which makes Jackson and Danni squeal with delight. They also learn that they will be going home “to reveal the new you to the people you love most.”
Finally, we get to see Alex once more, who has now lost 70 pounds total.
“Jillian would always accuse me of not giving it my all,” Alex says as we flashback to last week when Alex couldn’t run as long as Jillian wanted. “Jillian, I’m trying my best,” Alex says. Jillian answers, “No, you’re not.”
Then Alex explains how she has took even more weight off:
Since being home, I’ve wanted to show her that I can get out of my comfort zone and give it 200%. And I do that by staying at Planet Fitness six days a week, sometimes four hours a day. [emphasis mine]
How long do you think Alex can keep working out 24 hours a week? Because that’s how long she’ll be able to maintain that weight loss.
My life has changed completely. I don’t feel like anyone is judging me and I’m not judging myself. Before Biggest Loser, when I was out shopping with my mom, it was so embarrassing to know that your mom could dress nicer than you because she’s smaller than you.
Alex has mentioned her mom’s size before last week, when we see her submission video that includes Alex comparing herself to her mom and sister in swimsuits.
We then flashback to a shopping trip before Alex goes on The Biggest Loser. Alex is sitting in a chair watching her mom enter a dressing room. Alex says, “That’s cute, what size is it, small?”
Alex’s mom says with a smirk, “Yes.”
“But now, my mom and I wear the exact same size,” Alex says, as we see them shopping for clothes together.
“Girl, why don’t you buy this so I can wear it,” Alex’s mom says.
“There were moments were I would just break down and cry in a fitting room, but now the fitting room is my best friend,” Alex says.
We see Alex as she’s trying on a dress and she says, “I feel sexy, I feel good.”
Then, to the camera she says, “I now know I am more than just a pretty face. I’m strong. I am everything that a woman is supposed to be, plus more.”
After seeing this segment, Alex’s struggles make a lot more sense. To whom is constantly comparing herself? Why is she never good enough? Judging from these brief interactions, her mom seems to play a pivotal role in Alex’s perpetual disappointment. It’s only after getting to the same size as her mom that she feels like she is “everything that a woman is supposed to be.”
There may be more to it, obviously, but I’m sure most of our readers can recognize the dynamic I’m noting: the disappointed parent. I hope Alex’s happiness sticks, but if she continues to rely on her mother’s approval or an arbitrary dress size, I can guarantee it will not.
The Biggest Loser is not about finding true happiness or true inner-peace. It’s about changing the superficial things that cause others to hack away at whatever happiness and inner-peace we’re able to find on our own. Maybe if the critics are satisfied with the results of the physical transformation, some semblance of happiness can be achieved. But the thing about critics is that they don’t tend to stay satisfied for long. Perhaps you’re the right dress size now, but tomorrow, there will be some other problem they’ll pick up on to replace the body snark.
Hell, just look at Jillian Michaels, this week’s Biggest Dickweed. Even when contestants are busting their ass and losing enormous amounts of weight, she’s not satisfied. She will dig and dig and dig for some other reason that you’ve failed, even though by all counts, you have not. And the reason for this perpetual dissatisfaction is that Jillian’s only happy when she’s making other people miserable.