The Biggest Loser Special Edition: Restaurant Families, Episode 1 – Maid-Rite vs. Emilia’sby Brian Towers -- 01/26/2006
Welcome to the next episode 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. This week, both teams are families of four engaged in the restaurant business.
The red team is the Sapienza family from The Bronx, New York. They are three cousins and a daughter and are being called The Little Italy Family. Their restaurant is Emilia’s, and they serve 300 meals a day, usually with pasta. The chef is Robert, who tastes the food before it goes out to make sure it’s right. The rest of the tasting by the other family members… well, that’s a big part of why they’re on this show.
The blue team is the Senti family from Peoria, Illinois, where they run the Maid-Rite Diner. I’m sorry, I couldn’t find a link but I did learn they’re located in the Peoria Metro Center. We meet father Scott, wife Tammy, and their two daughters, Emily and Kelly. Together they’re being called The ‘50s Diner Family. At their diner, they find it far too easy to snack on chips and other diner delights and are desperate to break their cycle of bad eating habits. Tammy wants a better life for her daughters, who are not happy in their current lives. For example, teenager Emily has always had a hard time at school. However, the whole family knows they need help.
As usual, trainer Bob is going to lead the blue team. He calls the Senti family to give them the good news, and they’re happy. Jillian performs the same task for her charges, the Sapienza family, who are talking so loudly she has to hold the phone away from her ear.
The teams arrive at the ranch and meet both series hostess Caroline Rhea and each other. As usual, Caroline shows them a table full of foods they can say goodbye to. The table is split, half pasta and half diner foods. It seemed improbable to me that the teams would be very tempted by food they probably prepare better themselves, but they comment that it looks good.
They have little time to think about it, as Caroline quickly hustles them into the initial weigh-in. Emily mentions her discomfort in wearing the traditional women’s costume, the saucy, shape enhancing sports bra-and-bloomers outfit (available in two stunning colors) with bare midriff. In fact, no one is looking very comfortable at this point.
Caroline tells us that after ten days, they will return home for several months to apply what they learned at the ranch, then return for a final weigh-in to determine a winner. The couple with the better combined percentage of weight lost will win $50,000.
The Sapienzas are up first, and cousin Robert leads the way. After seeing his weight is 276 pounds, he nervously giggles at that big number and gets the whole family laughing. Cousin Toni follows, and she’s a sobering 213 pounds. “I’m not laughing now,” she says. Daniela is third, and she comes in at 163, which, she tells us, is what she weighed the last time she was pregnant. Alexa, only 14, is Toni’s daughter. She checks in at 191 pounds, and Toni cries because the family has let their weight get so far out of control. The team total is 843 pounds.
To get to the scale one must walk past the tables that are still piled high with the temptation food. Not only is no one is admiring it now, but they’re not even looking at it.
First up for the blue team is father Scott, who checks in at 265 pounds. Wife Tammy follows with a weight of 215 pounds, a number that disappoints her. Elder daughter Kelly will start off at 211 pounds, and Emily, age 16, is 250 pounds. Tammy cries and says it is her (Tammy’s) fault. Their team total is a hefty 941 pounds.
Caroline tells the teams that at the end of their stay at the ranch there will be another weigh-in, and the team that does best will win a Caribbean vacation in Curasel. Nice!
Back in their living quarters, each team finds pictures of themselves in their current large size. All are disgusted, but determined to do better.
It’s the next day and the Sapienza Family decides to take a walk. It’s not long before Toni says, “I’m breathing like an obscene phone call.” Jillian surprises them mid-stroll. To no one’s surprise, the pace is increased dramatically.
Similarly, Bob finds his team doing warm-up stretches. Bob has a loftier goal – the top of a nearby hill. It takes a while, and Tammy has a bit of trouble, but the objective is achieved. Post-climb, Bob educates the family about ways to eat diner-style food better. He has them taste a turkey burger that is not deep-fried. I don’t think they’re too convinced just yet, and Tammy looks at her turkey burger like it just spoke to her in German. Better learn to love ‘em, folks, because that’s the last deep-fried burger on your plate you’re seeing for a long, long while!
Jillian asks Alexa what her goal is, and it’s to be able to go to a mall and buy clothes instead of just accessories. Currently, most off-the-rack clothes are all too small. Jillian sees some of herself in Alexa and I think she’s determined to help her reach her goals, and beyond.
During the next workout, Jillian thinks Robert is being “all melodramatic” and she isn’t going to indulge him. When he stops an exercise early, she assigns him additional treadmill time. She says Robert has, “a barrel of heart-attack fat strapped to his waist.” She also calls him “a walking time-bomb.”
In the other gym, Emily is taking a lot of water breaks. No one’s being fooled, including Kelly and Bob. Bob is a little worried that team commitment is lacking.
Back with the red team, Robert is also being dramatic, but Jillian shows us an eye-roll. We know she’s going to have a solution, and she does – she handcuffs him to a treadmill! Ha!
A little later, Bob tells us that both teams are having trouble with their workouts and they are all called outside for a meeting. As a surprise, in walks Gary Deckman from the first season for some inspirational support. Gary tells them that they need to use their family as strength to get through what is ahead. Gary has another surprise for them – they’re going for makeovers! I’m surprised too - are glamour makeovers now part of the show?
Kelly tells us her mom “definitely needed a makeover.” And sure enough, her gray hair is dyed and cut. Scott’s moustache is sacrificed, and everyone gets better haircuts. Toni, Daniela, and Kelly have much nicer hair. Well, let’s hope it washes up nice, because Jillian and Bob are going to see those fancy coifs as a challenge!
With six days left on the ranch, Emily and Alexa (the two teenagers) take a walk together and have a chance to exchange stories. Neither currently has anyone their age they can talk to about being overweight. They share stories like shopping and wearing black or jeans and hoodies so no one knows how big they are. Yeah, that works. But seriously, it looks like their friendship will be a source of strength for both.
The families have been at the ranch for about a week, and it’s time for a challenge. They’ve been told to bring a water bottle, so that’s not a good sign. The way it works is that each team has 90 minutes to amass as much distance on a treadmill as possible. Each team has one walker at a time, and must tag out by hitting a “stop” button. Danger - hit that button twice and the machine resets to zero. The prize will be an extra week back at the ranch with their trainer before the final weigh-in.
Robert and Kelly start things off for their respective teams. Daniela steps in for Robert, who’s trying to urge her on. Both sides progress as they continue to swap walkers, but the one consistent factor is Robert’s shouting. From what we saw in the intros, that may be the family dynamic, but he’s always there and at full volume. Ten minutes in, he thinks Alexa accidentally double hit the stop button (she hasn’t) and while he’s hollering at her, his reaction is so over-the-top that both teams start laughing at him.
A bit later Robert and Toni are arguing again, and Daniela says they look like “the Italian Osbournes.”
After 20 minutes, Tammy Senti makes the mistake we all saw coming – she double hits the button and they lose all their accumulated distance, which was 1.23 miles. They are now 1.35 miles behind! She’s shocked and upset with herself. They think they’re cooked, but Scott is determined to do his best to catch up. Tammy says to him, “I didn’t know you were so strong. I’d marry you all over again.”
With three minutes to go, Robert decides Daniela should finish off the last few minutes. And sure enough, she brain-farts, double-hitting the stop button and wiping out almost 6 miles of work! Oops! That’s a fatal error, there’s no time to catch up, and the blue team wins an extra week on the ranch with Bob.
Had I been on the blue team at that point, I’d have set the speed to 0.0 and stood there for three minutes. Daniela feels just sick about what she did, but Tammy says, “Wouldn’t that be a horrible way to win?” Tammy, it’s okay for you to think that, but never say it out loud!
Later, Daniela is despondent over letting her team down and won’t let Robert into her room. She says he likes to keep things “right on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” In fact, she’s talking about quitting.
There’s only one possible way to fix this – Jillian to the rescue! Jillian knows that these are strong people with a lot of potential, but tells them that they don’t know how to support each other. She tells Robert he put too much pressure on his teammates, but also tells them that they have to accept Robert’s drive to succeed. Well, Daniela is still locked in her room, but the rest are beginning to see the light and appreciate Jillian’s efforts.
It’s now just three days until the weigh-in and we’re meeting with the blue team and a doctor associated with the show. We learn that in the pre-show exams, Emily was diagnosed as being in an early stage of adult onset diabetes. She’s only 16, so this is not trivial news as it could take decades off her life. However, what she’s doing is exactly what she needs to be doing (namely, getting the weight off). This should be a big incentive for her, both for the time after they leave the ranch, and well beyond the scope of this show.
It’s almost time for the final weigh-ins for this episode, where the trip will be awarded. But first we have the last-chance workouts. All four are going at it pretty hard, and the blue team is really being pushed hard by Bob… and, panic.
As they arrive for the weigh-in I note all the ladies are wearing tank tops or tee shirts with sweaters - it’s evening there and it must be a little chilly. The following chart (enhanced with some of my own calculations) shows how they did.
When their turn comes up, the Red team has to lose more than 51 pounds. When Emily steps up, they only need a two-pound loss from her, so there isn’t much suspense.
After her numbers are announced, Kelly is happy to be under 200 pounds for the first time in a long while. Caroline humorously credits Scott’s big loss to shaving his mustache.
Now, I would never belittle anyone’s weight loss for even a single pound matters, but neither team’s percentage number matches up to the results of the last two weeks. But that doesn’t matter, circumstances are different and the main story tonight is that the Senti family won the challenge and the nice family vacation.
We’re pretty much done at this point. Accompanied by the series’ inspirational theme song (Heather Small’s “Make Me Feel Proud”), all eight have positive things to say about their experience at the ranch and are confident they can continue their successes.
Next week – part two of “The Little Italy Family” versus “The 1950s Diner Family” to see who wins the big prize. Of all the teams, these guys are going to have the biggest temptations on a daily basis. We’ll see if trainer Bob can finally pull off a victory.
Although Bob’s team finally won a weigh-in, I note that the second team onto the scale has still won every weigh-in.
I noticed that in the opening, it concluded as usual with Caroline telling us that the winners will get a $50,000. It’s interesting that she did it on the final weigh-in stage, and in front of a live audience. I wonder when that was taped.
Well, that’s it. Join me here each Thursday for a recap of all the action, sprinkled with my own reactions and opinions. Let me know what you think at the email address below!
Brian lives in Toronto where he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email.