‘The Biggest Loser’ finale recap: Purple <em>is</em> the new pink; a new trainer; saying goodbye and more

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‘The Biggest Loser’ Season 11 finale busted all records. Trainer Jillian Michaels made her last appearance. Rulon was a no-show, becoming the first contestant to skip the finale. And also for the first time, a new trainer was announced at the finale: Tennis beauty Anna Kournikova. What do you think about that choice?

Photo gallery: Before-and-after pictures of the Season 11 contestants

But all that pales in comparision to the gutsy determination of four women who simply would not give in or give up. Remarkably, they did it without falling back on the now trite ‘women can do anything!’ platform, trading it in instead for the far more empowering and inspiring ‘I can do anything!’ message. So let’s get to it, starting with the purple machine, sisters Olivia Ward, 35, who came in first place, and Hannah Curlee, 32, who came in second and proved that pink isn’t the only lucky color for the ladies.


‘No. 1 and No. 2, what else can you ask for?’ Hannah said. A jubilant Olivia offered up this tip for success: ‘Do not be afraid to ask for help. In the past we were afraid to ask for help. But we decided that we needed the help, we didn’t know what we were doing, and we asked for help and this is where it got us.’ No surprise, they also attribute their partnership to keeping them afloat. Stay tuned for more from these two, including a new blog, and a public speaking tour. (Aside: Was Olivia’s black-and-white number the single best finale dress ever in ‘Biggest Loser’ history? I told you there were lots of ‘firsts’ in this finale. Hannah’s wasn’t too shabby, either. Both were from the BCBG line.) Olivia started the competition at 261 pounds and lost 129 pounds, or 49.43% of her body weight. Hannah started at 248 pounds and lost 120 pounds, or 48.39% of her body weight.

Do those percentages sound incredibly close? How about this: The top six losers all lost over 45% of their body weight -- this could have been anyone’s game. And 13 of the 23 competitors present for the finale lost over 40% of their body weight. A truly determined lot.

Hannah and Olivia are lovely, larger-than-life personalities. So let’s make sure they do not overshadow, but share the spotlight with the Denise ‘Deni’ Hill. Remember Deni? She left so early in the show that I almost forgot her until she strutted on stage with her ‘kick butt and take names’ demeanor. This is the mother who joined the cast on behalf on her daughter, Sarah, but was elimated early on in the show.

Now, let’s pause for a second to remember that Deni, a 59-year-old mother of eight who, in this youth rules culture, arguably had no business being a competitor at the finale. Good thing no one convinced Deni of that. So what did Deni do when she got tossed from the ranch? What else was she going to do? She went home and lost all the weight on her own, thank you. And for that, she walks away with $100,000 for the at-home prize.

And that brings us to Irene, who coaxed America into giving her the third and final spot over Jay, paving the way for another first: An all-female final three. She was the reigning ‘Biggest Loser’ champion at the ranch, but in the end she did so well on campus there was little left to lose. Making her transformation all the more amazing -- she started at 255 pounds and lost 116 pounds, or 45.49% of her bodyweight -- was that she did it alone. (Well, not alone, but her mother and partner, Ana, was eliminated at the beginning of the competition). But competitors at the ranch are taught to turn their weakness into a strength, and Irene followed suit. Tuesday night, she said it forced her to stand on her own, and allowed her to spend her time at the ranch addressing her overly close relationship with her mother. ‘It all worked out,’ she said.

Asides, tidbits, observations and more:

-- I remember meeting Olivia and Hannah during a media day at the ranch, when the cast was introduced. I remember being impressed by their spark and drive, but at that time I also remember thinking: ‘Maybe. But you’re going to be up against an Olympic gold medalist,’ because I thought it was just a given that Rulon would make it to the finale. Lucky for them, they had Bob Harper’s advice ringing in their ears: Trust the process. The rest will take care of itself.

-- Who poured Alison Sweeney into that stunning fuscia bandage dress? It was a fantastic dress, but I still have to rank it behind that magenta bandage dress she wore for a finale a while back. I notice a trend here: She can rock a bandage dress.

-- There were so many stunning transformations. But I think I have to give it to Dan and Don. I truly did not expect them to come to the finale posting big weight-loss numbers. Their ‘tude at the ranch just didn’t signal that. But that’s exactly what they did. Congratulations, guys.

-- Great guns! As in, Marci’s arms. Way to go, momma! Lock and load.

-- Art and Jesse need to take their comedy-and-dance routine on the road. ‘Look at my boy!’ Jesse crowed while he was in the spotlight, waited a beat, and then opened his suit jacket and added: ‘Look at me!’ Keep it going, guys. We want to see Arthur back at a future finale, with all the weight off.

-- Our hometown team made us proud: Ken of Pasadena started at 377 pounds and lost 158 pounds, or 41.91% of his body weight. Son Austin started at 396 pounds and lost 174 pounds, or 43.94% of his body weight (Luckily, Austin did not lose that lush curly mane in the process.)

-- The audience seemed to react ... strangely to Courtney’s weight loss numbers. They clapped, but were also confused. It’s easy to see why. She started at the ranch at 323 pounds, having already lost over 100 pounds on her own. Then, she lost another 100 pounds at the ranch. But her total weight loss was 110 pounds, or 34.06% of her body weight. That suggests that she didn’t really lose all that much weight on her own at home. (Important to note that she didn’t gain any, either.) I think viewers were expecting bigger numbers.

-- The audience leaped to its feet to bid farewell to Jillian, who is now being mentored by Dr. Phil, joining ‘The Doctors’ as a special correspondent and waiting to adopt. Jillian said it was not a bittersweet moment for her, but a joyous one. ‘I’m happy, I’m happy for everyone here and the great job that they did, and I’m happy to be moving on to new challenges.’

-- Bob Harper says there’s no way Kournikova can replace Jillian. ‘No one can replace Jillian,’ he said. But he added that he is looking forward to working closely with Kournikova and said he hopes the two of them will get to work together (instead of on opposing teams). ‘She’s a competitor. She can bring that spirit, that drive, that determination. I just don’t know what she knows about weight loss.’

It might not matter. I think men all over the world are adding ‘Biggest Loser’ to their ‘must record’ list.

For the record, 11:50 a.m. May 25: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed Ken’s weight loss as 219 pounds.


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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch