The Biggest Loser: Special Edition, January 4 – Family vs. Familyby Brian Towers -- 01/05/2006
Welcome to the initial episodes of The Biggest Loser: Special Edition. This series pits two teams of overweight contestants in a competitive struggle to lose weight and, in the process, regain control of their lives. This “Special Edition” version of the show features small teams with some kind of special relationship, and the entire story arc plays out over just two episodes.
Tonight, both episodes are being run back-to-back. The subsequent stories will be presented as two one-hour shows, airing one week apart.
The show opens with Caroline briefly introducing the teams. I’ve augmented this with some information from the website. Tonight, the two teams are southern families of three (father, mother, and an almost-twenty daughter).
The Red Team is the Muha family, from Tampa, Florida. It consists of father Otto, age 43; mother Shaun, 41; and daughter Erica, age 18. Their son is a soldier who has been stationed in the Middle East for almost two years, and they have used food to deal with the stress and depression.
The Blue Team is the Samuels Family, from Atlanta, Georgia. They are father Don, age 44; mother Melony, 43; and 19-year-old daughter Ravee. They have used food to compensate for fear about Melony’s bout with cancer a couple of years ago.
After some teasers from the show to come, Caroline completes her preview with a reminder that there’s a $50,000 prize ahead. OK, on with the show!
We next meet the families in more detail. The father of the Muha Family feels he has let his family down by not trying to keep them fitter. Mother Shaun fells badly for daughter Erica, who has a high GPA but no boyfriends. Erica would like to join the Air Force, but knows she’d never make it through Boot Camp. They all miss their military son greatly, and they are not coping well with his absence. He hasn’t been home for over a year.
One Sunday night the Muhas get a special delivery. It’s a DVD message from trainer Jillian telling them they’re going to be on The Biggest Loser: Special Edition. Cool! Although opening it in front of cameras (which were present even before the delivery) had to spoil some of the surprise, this is still cool. Dad Otto has that “What have I gotten myself into?” look about him, but the ladies are squealing appropriately.
We also get to meet the Samuels Family in more detail. They call themselves, “Team Showtime.” Wife Melony used to be a size three and be a beauty contestant. In fact, she was Miss Black Atlanta in 1983. Daughter Ravee is a singer with the voice but not the look. Shortly after husband Don lost his job, Melony was diagnosed with cancer and although she’s beat it, it remains a part of her life. Suffice to say, the last couple of years has not been a bed of roses for them.
The Samuels also receive a DVD, and amusingly, it comes to them as they chow down at their favorite soul food restaurant. They learn from trainer Bob that they, too, have been selected for the show. They are all really happy about it and dance the chicken.
Some time later, both teams have been assembled at the ranch. Caroline offers them one last chance to say goodbye to their favorite foods, and a large table of tasty looking (read: unhealthy) food has been laid out. Otto is licking his lips but most of them, especially Don and Shaun, are repulsed by the massive layout. That’s a good start for Don and Shaun!
To the chagrin of all participants, it’s time for the initial weigh-ins. Caroline tells them that they probably won’t like what they see, “But if you work really hard at the ranch, this is the last time that you’re going to see… “that number.” That’s pretty funny and completely untrue – we know that their initial weights will be repeatedly mentioned throughout the rest of the show until we’ve almost memorized them!
Caroline tells us that after eleven days at the ranch, they will return home for “several months” to work out, then return for a final weigh-in to determine a winner. And in case we’d forgotten, the winners will win $50,000.
First up is the Blue Team, the Samuels family. Father Don is 243 pounds and thought he was about 230. Next up is Melony from the Blue Team. She’s disgusted at her 197-pound weight, and so is her daughter Ravee, at 177 pounds. Their total is 617 pounds.
For the Muha Family, father Don starts off at 259 pounds; mother Shaun is 232 pounds and daughter Erica, 233. Don thinks he’s gaining weight just standing there and says, “This is more than looking good in a pair of pants. It’s life and death.” Besides feeling bad that they are so heavy, all three feel very badly for each other. The Muhas’ total start weight is 724 pounds.
Everyone is so depressed that Caroline mentions that in eleven days, there will be another weigh-in and the winning family will win five nights at a spa in Utah. If the Muha family wins, let’s hope they don’t ask for an opinion about Utah from their state-mates, The Weavers from The Amazing Race: Family Edition.
Back in their living quarters, there are older pictures of the family members back when they were fit. In a concerned tone Melony says, “Ohhh, they shouldn’t DO that!” All six are both depressed and motivated.
Both families decide that when they first meet their trainers, they ought to be on the treadmills. Nice start, but it’s a pretty sedate pace they’re moving.
Bob takes his charges on a hike. It’s tough, especially for Melony. But eventually, all make it to the top of the hill.
It’s time for a reward competition, and they’re in “the middle of nowhere.” The winners get a digital camera, computer, and a printer.
There are sundaes nearby. Actually, two ten-foot planks are covered with a whole row of these cool and tasty delights. I think some competitors are hoping for a speed-eating task. But no, they have to carry the sundaes across the dessert while being chased by an ice-cream truck toward a finish line that surely looks like an oasis in the distance. The planks are fixed with handles; two near the front on opposite sides and one at the back. Both teams decide daddy should be at the back. As the teams are started, Shaun mutters, “This isn’t going to be easy.”
First the Muha Family stops, then the Samuels. Both change their set-ups, with the daughters going to the back. As the trek continues, both teams stop to rest and/or change configurations. With about fifty yards to go, Muha father Otto will not let his team stop again, and they cross the line ahead by a fairly substantial margin.
Caroline reminds everyone that the winner of the upcoming weigh-in will win a vacation. Everyone admits they have no desire for ice cream at this point. Mind you, it’s probably all melted.
Back in the gym, Jillian notes that Shaun is more focused on her daughter Erica than her own workout. Erica says as the last child at home, she is over-protected. Shaun eventually gets it that she has to let Erica do it for herself.
Jillian and Bob meet with their teams for The Dreaded Biggest Loser Pop Quiz. The winner gets a $25,000 shopping spree. Sample questions are, “How many strands of spaghetti in a serving?” and, “One pound of fat is how many calories?” They have the means to look up the answers and twenty minutes to complete seven questions.
I’m unclear how to recap the excitement of watching people look stuff up in a book and write it down, so I’ll just say that it happened and we’ll jump ahead to the answers. After six questions, they are tied at five correct. The answers to the ones above were, “32” and “3500.” The final question is, “What does your BMR tell you?” and the Muhas get it right (how many calories you burn at rest). They win!
The Samuels are disappointed they’ve lost twice, and the Muhas, especially Otto, are flushed with success and getting cocky. This guy is almost as driven as Biggest Loser 2 winner Matt.
But there’s little time to be depressed, it’s time for the last-chance workout before a weigh-in. Don feels the urge to talk smack to Jillian, so Otto challenges him to a treadmill challenge. Melony just wants Don to be quiet. It evolves into a footrace of what I’m guessing was a couple of hundred yards. Otto leads early, but Don pulls ahead and wins by about ten or twelve yards.
Don figures he’s inspired his team. With the weigh-in imminent, I’m not sure how much it will matter and it might have been better if the rest of them were running as well, instead of holding down the fence rails. But since that’s what all four ladies do, no harm there.
As they go to the weigh-in, Otto is still upset he lost the race. Lord, really? Don compares his family to Mohammed Ali, who was always an underdog in his earlier days (when he was known as Cassius Clay). And here’s how they did.
Red-team daughter Erica is up first. She’s lost 15 pounds, very nice. Shaun adds another 18, and Otto tops them all with a 25-pound loss! With a total of 58 pounds, that translates to an 8.01% loss.
Because they are all smaller, The Samuels will only need to lose more than 49 pounds to win. Daughter Ravee gets them off to a great start with a loss of 18 pounds. Mother Melony is second, and she’s lost 14 pounds herself. This means that Don needs to lose over 17 pounds for them to win. And his number is… 23! He quotes Ali and calls himself, “A ba-ad man!”
They end up with a loss of 55 pounds, or 8.91%. With that very impressive victory, the Samuels win the trip to Utah!
As the teams pack to go home, they’re all very focused. We see lots of smiling and sweating clips with the inspirational theme song (Heather Small’s, “Make Me Feel Proud”) pounding in the background.
Hmm, we’re 59 minutes into the show. I guess NBC is preparing to rerun this show as two single hours, because after an interminable number of commercials (including one for Weight Watchers), the next several minutes a recap the last hour. If you want to take this opportunity to scroll back to the top and reread all that I’ve already written, please feel free to do so, but perhaps a half-second reflective pause shall suffice. Ahh, yes… that did it for me!
OK, moving on… the families arrive at home. More previews of this hour to come. Within it, voiceover guy tells us they will be at home for “almost five months.”
As each team arrives home, they learn the show has provided them with exercise equipment and new kitchens, including appliances stocked with only healthy foods. Very nice! In addition, both trainers left inspirational messages for their teams.
Trainer Jillian hopes the Muhas have learned what they need to do it on their own, and Otto knows their team has to motivate themselves. Trainer Bob also hopes the Samuels can stay focused.
We get a lot of footage of the families working out in a determined fashion at home. They make video diary entries as well. Both teams are finding it harder to keep losing weight without a demanding/inspirational trainer hovering nearby.
Don knows that his work environment is part of his problem. He enlists his co-workers as his personal police force to keep him from cheating on his diet. They organize a walking club for lunchtimes.
It’s time for one of Melony’s regular follow-up appointments for a cancer check-up. Naturally, she’s nervous and it brings back bad memories. She gets a good report from the doctor – yay!
The missing Muha (soldier Ryan) has come home from Iraq for a visit. Sister Erica meets him at the airport – she’s missed him terribly. The family is overwhelmed to see him and frankly, their weight is not really an issue to Ryan right now.
It’s nine weeks until the final weigh-in, and everyone is making diary entries. Erica is finding that she keeps buying clothes, but then losing more weight so they don’t fit for long. Melony tells us that the Samuels have hit the 100-pound mark as a family. Don is sure if he raced Otto again, he’d smoke him “like smoked ham.”
One day as his lunchtime walking club is on their walk, Don is surprised by a visit from their trainer, Bob. The two of them go to the gym to surprise the girls. Let me say, both are looking great. They celebrate by having Bob put them through an intensive workout.
Similarly, Jillian visits the Muhas. The differences are again quite noticeable. Jillian gives them an intensive pool workout.
Back in Atlanta, Ravee sings for Bob. She’s got some talent, with the right songs choices she could take a shot at American Idol. After this adventure, how intimidating could Simon be?
The trainers leave behind motivational DVDs that include the family’s initial application videos. It’s so upsetting to Erica that she can’t even watch it. The Samuels insist, “We’ll never go back to that again!”
Erica tells us that when she first went to her Air Force recruiter, she was told she had to lose about fifty pounds. She’s lost about forty pounds so far, so she returns for another appointment. Success – her application is now accepted!
In an interesting twist, both teams are sent a “Biggest Loser-gram.” It contains before and after pictures of the other team! Changes in Otto, Shaun, and Ravee are particularly noted by the other team. Both teams use the indications of their opponents’ success as motivator.
It’s now four weeks to the final weigh-in. All make inspirational video-diary entries. Shaun says that her husband Otto is doing so well, it inspires her to keep up.
The next scenes are of the teams packing suitcases to return for the final weigh-in. Don has bought a small size shirt for the first time in a long, long time. All six look pretty good. The videos segue fairly smoothly to Caroline, live in front of a Hollywood studio audience, welcoming us to the weigh-in.
The audience cheers as the families are brought out. They stand on opposite sides of a dividing mirror. Then, the mirror is lifted and the teams see each other. From their reactions, I think the majority of them think the Samuels will win. Otto says they’ve already won, because they are closer as a family, they feel better, and will live longer. Very true!
The trainers are brought out to observe the weigh-ins. Then, complete with a ton more flashbacks, we get the final numbers. The Blue Team – the Samuels – are up first. And, their numbers are pretty impressive.
Ravee has gone from 177 pounds to 136, a loss of 41 pounds. Melony has gone from 197 to 149, down 48 pounds, and Don has gone from 243 to 188, a loss of 55 pounds.
This is an overall loss of 144 pounds, or 23.34%. The Muhas must lose more than 169 pounds to win. Wow, that sounds like a lot.
Erica has gone from 233 to 181, a loss of 52 pounds. Otto is up next, he’s gone from 259 pounds down to 170, an amazing loss of 89 pounds – WOW!! This means that Shaun must lose over 28 pounds to win, and in all honesty, it seems highly likely that she has. She started at 232, is now 154 and in fact has lost a totally amazing 78 pounds!
So, the Muhas win the $50,000!
As the show ends we are brought up to date on what the families are up to now. Otto is planning to run a marathon. Erica has been accepted into the Air Force and has a boyfriend. Shaun has gone from size 16 to size six. Newly-confident Ravee has auditioned for an off-Broadway role in a production of The Wiz. Don is taking classes to become a personal trainer. And most importantly, Melony is still cancer-free.
Next Week – I dunno, there was no preview.
OK, I remember. The show reverts to the 9-10 p.m. ET timeslot and we will see part 1 of “The Engaged Couples,” couples trying to lose weight before their upcoming weddings.
My Own Thoughts: This mini-version of the show doesn’t have the strategic and emotional voting-off process. There weren’t any Temptation Challenges, either. And the dozens of flashbacks of things I saw maybe an hour ago, that loses any potential impact real fast.
That being said, this was an entertaining show. However, you just can’t form the same kind emotional bond with contestants that formed over several weeks of the regular show, and that’s why these “Special Editions” come up short.
Everyone seemed so surprised by their weight loses, they must discourage the use of scales at home similar to the way mirrors are forbidden in The Swan.
Well, that’s it. Join me here each Wednesday for a recap of all the action, sprinkled with my own reactions and opinions. Let me know what you think at the eAddress below!
Brian lives in Toronto where he can be reached at email@example.com. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email.
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