Season 14 of “The Biggest Loser” kicks off with host Alison Sweeney introducing the “three people who will change everything”: children.
Lindsay, Sunny, and Bingo will participate in this season’s “Challenge America” to tackle childhood obesity. “I’m here to change the way I live and the way my family lives,” says Bingo. “I’m here to change America.”
The eighth grader describes his struggles to keep up with his more active friends, and opens up about being picked on by his peers. “Down in my heart, it really does hurt. And I know I can do something about it, but I haven’t,” Bingo says. “I feel like I can be this good athlete, and my weight is just holding me back so much.”
Sunny, a 16-year-old AP student talks about childhood obesity as a taboo topic. “It’s just a touchy subject and nobody wants to go there,” she says. “But I think it’s time that we went there.”
Trainer Jillian Michaels returns after two seasons away and says the childhood obesity issue hits close to home. “I do have two kids and I appreciate the issue in a really different way now,” says Jillian. We learn the three kids will spend one week at the ranch, then continue to work from home, checking in regularly with their trainers and returning to the ranch for special workouts.
Sweeney begins to introduce the 15 contestants, chosen from thousands of applicants, as anxious hopefuls standby listening for their name to be called. One of them is TC Poole, weighing in at 376 pounds at 30-years-old. TC has tried on to make his way on the show for two years after injuring his own son in a car accident. Because of his size, when the family’s vehicle was impacted, TC’s seat broke and smashed into his young son. The boy underwent emergency brain surgery and suffered a broken eye socket and broken skull. “I promised him, I promised God … I’d lose the weight for him,” TC says.
The contestants are assigned to teams:
White Team (trainer: Jillian)
Red Team (trainer: Dolvett)
Blue Team (trainer: Bob)
The first workout is not without drama. Two contestants slip right off the back of their treadmills, one going unconscious, all the while being shouted at by Jillian, leading one contestant to ask, “What did I get myself into?” Jillian kicks contestant Nathan out of the gym after he falls for a third time, as medics attended to Jackson.
Jillian defends her tough demeanor, saying, “I have to push them. I have to confront them. It’s do or die time for these guys.”
Meanwhile, the kids take part in a baseball-based workout with trainer Dolvett Quince outdoors. As contestants continue to puke and pass out in the gym, trainer Bob Harper puts the kids through their paces outside, with Bingo saying, “My body is definitely screaming at me right now.”
Back at the gym, Jillian accuses TC of being addicted to his victim mentality, then kicks him out when he gives up and falls off his stair-stepper.
Bob takes a slightly softer approach with his contestant, Michael, who is on the verge of giving up his burpee workout. “This is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your entire life,” Bob tells Michael. “You are over 400 pounds. Your son needs you. Get up!” When we first met Michael, we learned his biggest fear is “that my son will not have his dad to raise him. It’s do or die right now.”
Nikki, another contestant on Jillian’s team who struggled with bulimia — forcing herself to vomit multiple times per day — gets kicked out of the gym by Jillian for dropping out of her step-ups over knee pain.
Jillian later meets with the three team members she kicked out, and tells them, “I don’t have time for your pathology. I will not waste my time, or take energy away from people who will utilize it.” She threatens to kick them out of the ranch altogether if they don’t get it together.
The hard-nosed trainer does a quick 180 when she joins the kids outside, convincingly playing the sympathetic softy. Jillian opens up to the kids about her experience being bullied as an overweight child. “I promise that when you choose to stop believing the things they say is when it will all stop,” she says. “Right now, you don’t believe in your own value, do you?”
It’s a tearjerker moment as the kids participate in a group therapy of sorts, with Jillian as their caring leader.
Back at the house, contestants Cate and Nathan have a bonding session as she builds him up with a heart-to-heart, and Nikki laments the unexpected emotional experiences in the gym.
Next up is the first team challenge, where the contestants must crawl through a playground-style ball pit to find letters spelling out “The Biggest Loser.” The kids — who feel empowered by their lead positions on the teams — coach the contestants from suspended mobile perches high above the ball pit. The white team — Jillian’s — wins the challenge, gaining a five-pound advantage at the weigh-in.
The kids are sent home from the ranch with new mountain bikes, tons of training equipment, and iPads to communicate with their trainers.
The teams hit the gym again with the trainers for a “last chance workout” before the weigh-in. Jillian won’t let her contestants rely on their challenge win, and lets them know she’s going to continue to be a drill sergeant.
It’s quite the scene as Jackson pukes off the side of the rowing machine, all over teammate Joe, who then struggles to hold in his own vomit. As all the contestants struggle, we see Nikki drifting off, and contestant Gina — the oldest in the group — takes a tumble off the treadmill. Bob gives her a pep talk, and she regains confidence.
Nikki continues to waver under Jillian’s strict rule, and finally breaks down. “This experience isn’t just physical,” says Nikki. “And it was my naiveness that thought it was. It’s more emotional than anyone can ever imagine.”
Jillian gives Nikki the choice to confront her emotions or “there’s the door.” Nikki replies, “I’m gonna take the door,” and she leaves. Bob and Jillian argue over whether Nikki will come back, and Jillian points out the obvious. “As sad as it is, she’s just not ready.” Jillian then asks her team if anyone else wants the door, and says she’s “not gonna have ‘the door’ conversation again after today.”
The white team has a new resolve, but worries the loss of a teammate will hurt their chances at the weigh-in.
When the teams approach the scale, the contestants find out the person with the lowest percentage of weight loss from the losing team will be eliminated automatically, and people begin to panic. “If you didn’t give it all at that last chance workout,” says contestant Francelina, “then pretty much … you’re done.”
The white team has lost a total of 69 pounds in the first week, equaling 5.61 percent. That means the red team — Dolvett’s — has to have lost 80 pounds to compete. With Cate only having lost 12 pounds, it’s up to Joe to lose at least 11 pounds. He lost … wait for it … 26 pounds. The red team’s total weight loss is 95 pounds, for 6.59 percent.
The blue team — Bob’s — needs to have lost more than 91 pounds to beat the red team, and Bob thinks even with the two oldest and the two biggest contestants on the team, “It’s anyone’s game.” And he’s right. His team lost a total of 94 pounds in a week, totaling a 5.79 percent weight loss, making Jillian’s the losing team.
TC breaks down in tears and the other contestants stand in stunned silence, as they learn TC lost the lowest percentage of weight and will be sent home. Jillian gives him a touching speech, encouraging him to keep fighting.
“I changed this week. I am a changed person,” says TC. “I hated Jillian day one, and wished I never had her as a trainer.” But in the end, he says Jillian was just what he needed. “She showed me that I had to fight for myself. The real me was there. I’ve been burying him for so long,” TC says. “Feels good to let him out. America, next time you see me, I will have fulfilled my promise to my son.”
In a look at TC’s life now, we see he has lost 40 pounds, and is living a more active lifestyle with his family. “That’s how important the ranch was. I got home and I kept going.” TC has committed to drop down to 245 pounds by the season finale.
Tomorrow night (Monday, Jan. 7) is part two of “The Biggest Loser” season 14 premiere, when the teams are met by some pretty intense outdoor gyms designed for them by their trainers, and meet Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers for a special football-themed challenge. We’ll also see more from Sunny, Lindsay, and Bingo, as another red line elimination looms. Who will go home next? Watch NBC at 8:00 p.m./7:00 central to find out.
Photo/Video credit: NBC