The episode title said it all: "Face Your Fears," and the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" found out that facing up to the things they feared the most was key to them being able to continue on their paths to healthier lifestyles.
For Jackson, still our favorite Season 14 contestant, that meant taking a break from the safety and support of "The Biggest Loser" ranch to see if he could keep himself motivated. The episode began with a challenge in which contestants had to stack 25-pound cinder blocks in front of giant photos of each other. The contestant who had had his or her photo covered by the blocks last would be sent away from the ranch for a week, left to eat healthily and train solo.
After a week of riding around on her huffy bike (and admitting she'd been a "raving" beeyotch), Gina almost certainly would have been the contestant her fellow players would have kicked to the curb, but Jackson begged his pals not to block his photo and keep him safe. He wanted to test himself away from the ranch, and in the final seconds of the competition, he got his wish.
But host Alison Sweeney wasn't done; in another twist, Jackson had to choose another contestant to join him away from the ranch for the week, and before he could pick, Jeff volunteered himself.
Jeff's biggest fear, he said, is failure, waking up one day years from now, still unhealthy, having squandered away opportunities to improve his health and his life. Testing himself away from the ranch was also his chance to face that fear, so he and Jackson set off for what they called their "mancation" from the "BL" hacienda.
Francelina was the player who left the ranch last week, and a check-in revealed just how well she's doing on her own. She started the competition at 267 pounds, and she's lost nearly 100 el-bees during the show's nine-week run.
See Francelina on "Today":
That's worthy of a celebration for Francelina and her boyfriend, Jeff … yes, the same one who's still in the "BL" competition, though not in the house this week. Jackson and Jeff were packed up and shipped off to a private residence, where they were greeted with an empty fridge and some dough to go shopping, a pair of bikes, and a treadmill. In other words, no fully-equipped gym with super trainers, and no huge kitchen stocked with healthy foods. The fellas had to go off to the grocery store themselves, and Jeff admitted that the chips aisle was calling him.
He was strong in resisting the salty snacks, though, and he and Jackson returned to their temp home with bags of healthy foods like fresh produce. As Jackson prepared a spaghetti squash dinner, Jeff talked about his formerly sedentary lifestyle, the one in which he didn't even like to get out of bed each day, let alone leave his house. He once watched nine seasons of a TV show, he said, in less than five days (which, OK, sounds fun, though certainly not physically healthy), and he's determined not to slip back into those patterns.
Teen contestants Sunny, Lindsay and Biingo were also challenged to face their fears, with Sunny approaching her mom with her concerns that her mom's own weight issues will lead to some disastrous health problems. Though the conversation started off on shaky ground -- Sunny's mom was initially defensive -- Shanthi came around to see how worried her daughter is about her, and her position changed. Mothers are supposed to console their children and take their fears away, she said, and her health is her daughter's biggest fear. She promised Sunny she would make the commitment to improve her health and that of the whole family.
Lindsay, meanwhile, met her biggest fear head on, too. The 13-year-old has already been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and she's well aware of how important it is to prevent becoming a full-blown diabetic. Dolvett paired her up with someone dealing with diabetes in her life -- her school guidance counselor -- who talked to Lindsay about the challenges and impact of diabetes in her life, including daily pills, blood glucose monitoring, and a daily insulin injection, which she administered to herself in front of a wide-eyed Lindsay.
And then there was Biingo, whose biggest fear may sound comical, until his parents talked about the huge impact it's had on his health and their family diet: Biingo is afraid of vegetables. So misinformed is he about them that, his mom told trainer Bob, he thought broccoli was "created" in a factory. Bob's solution was to send Mama Biingo some recipes that contain "hidden" veggies (remember those cookbooks with hidden veggies recipes Jessica "Mrs. Jerry" Seinfeld released a few years ago?) in hopes of fooling Biingo. Mom whipped up a meatloaf that included a hidden blend of several veggies -- more than Biingo has eaten in his entire life, his mom said -- and the teen ate a healthy serving before his relieved 'rents revealed the hidden ingredients. He looked shocked, but it quickly sank in that this was a good way for him to eat veggies without dreading it, and he agreed to try more of the recipes Bob passed along.
And still more fears were faced by the other ranch contestants, including Gina, who, in a heart-to-heart with Jillian, admitted that she fears being alone. She gives people 100 percent, she says, and when they disappoint her or fail to give back in equal measure, she gets angry and blows up the relationship. It's happened with her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and nephew, she said, and she knows her patterns are pushing people away. She resolves to stop, especially after an exercise in which Jillian makes her spend a half an hour inside a coffin. Sidenote: We get Jillian's whole "This show is the only thing standing between you and this box" metaphor, but considering that Gina has consistently been one of the biggest losers at every weigh-in, a coffin may have been a bit harsher a visualization than she needed at this point.
Danni, who loves to sing, faced her fear of singing in public (a fear tied to her weight) when Jillian took her to a bar and tasked her with singing the national anthem, while Bob and Joe boated out into the ocean, where Joe had to jump out and swim to shore to face his fear of sharks (and his fear of not being in control at the same time, Bob said).
Then the whole gang met up atop a seven-story building to face a common fear -- of heights -- in the second challenge of the week. Each contestant was harnessed and had to stand on a platform -- hanging out over the edge of the building -- and hold on to a giant weight that was equal to 40 percent of their body weight. If they let go it, they were dropped to the ground below and eliminated from the competition. The last person standing for the week would earn immunity from elimination, and after Jeff, then Jackson, then Alex, then Joe, and then Danni fell, Gina and her new attitude won the game and was insured she wouldn't go home in week nine.
The first to lose 100 pounds
After a big push by everyone in last-chance workouts -- Jackson and Jeff cleverly used household items at their off-campus home to add heft to their workouts, including pushing full garbage cans up and down the street while they sprinted -- it was time for the weekly weigh-in, where one contestant was about to become the first to lose 100 pounds in Season 14.
The weigh-in started off with a tense conversation between Jillian and Jackson, as the trainer chastised Jackson for volunteering to go off campus for the week. He defended his position, saying he wanted to test himself and see what challenges he would face away from the ranch, while then having an opportunity to return to the ranch and work on them.
Jillian pointed out that was a risky move, and potentially moot if he was sent home this week, but Jackson felt confident he'd made the right decision. And it turned out … he did. He lost an impressive 11 pounds for the week, while Jeff lost 13, proving to everyone that they've been paying attention throughout the season, that they can motivate themselves, and that they know how to continue taking care of business even away from the "BL" ranch.
Gina lost seven pounds, superwoman Danni was shocked to find out she'd dropped another 10 pounds, and former NFL player Joe lost 12, becoming the first Season 14 contestant to hit the 100-pound loss mark (he's lost a total of 103 pounds in nine weeks).
And then there was Alex, whose eight-pound loss was totally respectable, but who was sent packing when her fellow contestants had to vote to send either her or Jackson home.
The good news: In a postscript, we learned Alex has lost a total of 70 pounds, and hopes to drop another 30 by the finale (and she looks fantastic, by the way).
The bad news for Alex is that she just missed making the top five, which means makeovers. The final five -- Jackson, Jeff, Joe, Danni, and Gina -- were told they're heading home next week, where they'll get Tim Gunn-directed makeovers and reveal their incredible, inspirational weight losses to their family and friends.
Watch the full episode:
"The Biggest Loser" airs Mondays at 8 PM on NBC.