SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the "Cut the Junk" episode of "The Biggest Loser" contains contestant spoilers.
There was nothing subtle about the takeaways from the "Cut the Junk" episode of "The Biggest Loser," but it was a particularly effective episode in showing the ills of making bad eating choices and of inactivity.
The teams -- five members on the Red Team, five members on the Blue Team, but just Pam and Danni remaining on trainer Jillian Michaels's White Team -- are led into a special room and given a statistic to start the installment: The average kid in America spends 4.5 hours sitting in front of a screen of some sort every day (TV, video games, etc.).
The room that the contestants are in, by the way, is filled with computers, video games, vending machines, and big comfy chairs, as well as trays and trays of junk food: doughnuts, cookies, candy, pizza, chips, and bottles of colorful soda.
And, bombshell, in keeping with one of the season's themes of tackling childhood obesity, the teams are going to compete in a trivia challenge, with the losing team forced to spend 4.5 hours a day locked inside the junk food room, not only tempted by the treats inside but also unable to exercise during that time.
The trivia bout itself -- testing contestants' knowledge of statistics on childhood obesity -- is one of the more boring bits of the season so far (and an argument against making the show a two-hour affair every week), but the point that the junk food room made clear is a valuable one.
Bob's Blue Team loses the trivia game, and throughout the episode, those contestants are shown lounging around the junk food room, sleeping, noodling on the computer, not indulging in any of the empty-calorie food but growing ever more lethargic by the hour.
The contestants talk about their guilty pleasures:
When their time in junk food jail ends and Bob leads them off to work out, they realize that their energy and motivation have been zapped. Sure, they skipped the bad food, which was no small thing, but over the previous two weeks they had gotten into the habit of spending their days moving their bodies. When they couldn't for long stretches of the day, it threatened to undo some of the good work they'd done.
Bottom line: Inactivity breeds inactivity, and a body in motion really is more likely to remain in motion.
On to the week's obligatory emotional backstory reveals, during which both Cate and Francelina talked to the trainers about the overwhelming emotional reactions that the competition was sparking in them.
Cate broke down as she told Dolvett that she was ashamed and angry at herself for the state of her physical health. Sharing sentiments and frustrations that most people who struggle with their weight can probably relate to, she told him that she beats herself up wondering how she allowed her weight to spiral out of control.
Francelina, a Red Team member who decided to work out with Jillian and the White Team one day, revealed that she'd had a complicated relationship with her late father, who would go through periods of being a great, affectionate dad but at other times would be mean and uncaring. Jillian quickly guessed that he was an alcoholic, which Francelina confirmed, and the two talked about how Francelina's weight issues stem partly from her inability to let go of the hurt and guilt she feels about her dad.
Checking in with the kiddies
During the weekly check-in with Biingo, Lindsay, and Sunny, the teenage contestants of Season 14, viewers meet Dr. Joanna, a pediatrician and family nutrition expert, who counsels the trio on good eating habits.
A quick perusal of their family kitchens and pantries reveals that they don't have them. Good eating habits, that is. In fact, Dr. Joanna finds lots of cookies and prepackaged sweets, as well as chips and candy, and she makes each of the teens open a garbage bag and start tossing a big portion of the snacks into it.
Dr. Joanna also shares some sobering news with Lindsay and her family: The teen's medical tests have shown that she's prediabetic and will almost certainly become fully diabetic if she doesn't get healthier. The "medicine" Dr. Joanna prescribes for Lindsay is being more active and eating more nutritious food.
The bubblegum pit
A giant pit full of the most perfect pink bubblegum, set in the middle of a carnival … sounds fun, right? But it turns out to be yet another metaphor, as the teams find out that they have to wade through the pink quicksand-like gum pool, retrieve a giant gumball from giant gumball machines, and crawl back through the gum pit to the other side. And they have to do it 20 times, with the first team to retrieve 20 gumballs emerging as the winner.
The gum pit, of course, proves most challenging to the heaviest contestants, who not only have to try to move quickly but also have to carry their extra weight, and the extra weight of all the gum that sticks to them, through the pink pit.
The Red Team wins the challenge -- with each team member earning a year's worth of free groceries as an extra reward – and the message is clear: Every day, in every activity the contestants engage in, they carry around a lot of extra weight. And it makes even something that seems like child's play more difficult.
The last-chance workouts
With the week-three weigh-in looming, all the contestants jump into their last-chance workouts, and Bob surprises the Blue Team by planning exercises in the dreaded junk food room. After hundreds of thrusters, squats, pushups, and burpees for the Blue Team -- and another emotional outburst and battle of wills between Pam and her White Team trainer Jillian -- everyone meets Alison for the showdown.
The biggest surprises: Michael and Jeff, despite the fact that they missed a lot of workout time while stuck in the junk food room with their fellow Blue Teamers, have lost 13 and 11 pounds, respectively.
The White Team, despite -- and maybe a little because of -- Pam's tiff with Jillian, wins the weigh-in, with Danni having dropped 6 pounds and Pam having lost an impressive 9 (and doing an enthusiastic in-your-face celebratory dance upon finding out her results).
But then there is the biggest surprise of all: The Red Team, winners of the first two weigh-ins this season, seems to have reached a plateau already. Joe has lost 9 pounds and Francelina has lost 5; but Cate, Lisa, and Jackson (still the most endearing contestant this season) have dropped just 2 pounds each, despite what even trainer Dolvett acknowledges were committed efforts to do well.
Without the red-line elimination this week, the Red Team's loss means that team members have to vote off one of their own, and the consensus is that Cate is the contestant most likely to have the support to continue working toward her weight-loss goals at home. She joins Nathan, TC, and Nikki as the Season 14 contenders who no longer have a shot at being "the biggest loser" this time around.
In a postepisode update, Cate confirms that she is sticking with her get-healthy efforts: She arrived at the "Biggest Loser" compound weighing in at 237 pounds and weighed in at 218 in week three. Since returning to her home near Niagara Falls, Cate has begun training to run in a marathon, and her current weight is 196 pounds.
See how Cate looks today:
Watch the full episode:
"The Biggest Loser" airs Mondays at 8pm ET on NBC.