abigailrike thebiggestloser s8 290 'The Biggest Loser': A new record, face off week, and Derek Jeter    on video!This week’s “The Biggest Loser” finds the Black team psyched for the face-off challenge, fighting hard to beat the Blue team for the first time, and Derek Jeter offering some words of inspiration — via scoreboard video.

On to the challenges in a minute, but first: seriously, NBC? I get why you’d want to hype an appearance by Derek Jeter — a real appearance that didn’t involve Skype. Come on.  

So we find out early on that this week the competitors go head-to-head in a direct challenge to see who can lose the most weight. Rudy’s really motivated, because he’s just 13 pounds away from losing a whopping 100 pounds in just seven weeks. The team that wins the first challenge gets to pick the face-off pairings, so a lot is riding on it. In the challenge, the players have to bob under a bar, reach up to touch a team-colored disc, then weave back and touch the other one for a point. The first team to complete 500 points wins the challenge. Each player is only allowed one turn. Just contemplating this makes my aging back ache, but it’s hard not to be impressed by how hard-core Amanda and Rebecca are.

Daniel sticks with it until the end, even though Rebecca brings it home for the Blue team, and you have to admire that. “I love winning!” exclaims Rebecca, master of the obvious. And the matchups are:

  • Tracey (202 lbs.) vs. Abby (204 lbs.)
  • Allen (270 lbs.) vs. Danny (357 lbs.)
  • Rudy (355 lbs.) vs. Shay (411 lbs.)
  • Liz (228 lbs.) vs. Daniel (277 lbs.)

jillianmichaels thebiggestloser s8 290 'The Biggest Loser': A new record, face off week, and Derek Jeter    on video!Then we move in for the weekly ass-kicking sessions, brought to you by Jillian and Bob. Bob puts the Blue team through their paces in the pool, while Jillian takes the Black team for their punishment in the gym. Jillian is fascinating — she looks like she could not only put a hurtin’ on me, but she’d like it too. Perched up on the treadmill while Amanda struggles to run, she looks like a little hardcore Tinkerbell. But boy can she come up with the good inspiration pep talks. Amanda’s cracking under the pressure of feeling like she’s always failing, and with a camera in her face too, but Jillian just keeps pounding away, telling her she can do it, but she’ll need to be brave. And she seems to keep it together pretty well when Amanda bolts out of the gym.

In the next challenge, the teams have to shag balls in the outfield of a baseball stadium — 2,535 balls, or the number of hits Derek Jeter has gotten in his first 13 seasons in the majors. Virtual Jeter, who says he’s just left one of his 24-hour fitness clubs — explains that the contestants must grab as many as possible and throw them at larger-than-life-size photos of their competitors. When a target accumulates 316 balls — 316 being Jeter’s batting average — they’re out. The winning team gets Curtis Stone to cook lunch for them — and a 2 lb. advantage.

Now I can see why people want to punch Tracey, with her “I’m the biggest fan” nonsense — and it’s not a bummer when she’s chosen to sit out to even the playing field because of the sidelined Abby. And here’s where strategy definitely makes up for physical shortcomings: the Black team is taking down one target at a time — all of the teammates focus on taking out Allen first. Then Rebecca takes Amanda out.Then Shay and Daniel take Rebecca out, and Rudy takes out Daniel. One by one the Black team takes out each member of the Blue team, and finally after an hour and 20 minutes, it’s down to Liz on the Blue team vs. Danny and Shay — and Liz gets taken out.

After a delicious Curtis Stone-prepared lunch of turkey burgers on portobello mushrooms instead of buns, it’s back to the gym for more whuppin’. Jillian’s gets Abby to open up, and she has the saddest story I’ve ever heard. A couple of years ago she lost her husband and two children in a car accident, and has made a decision to start to live again rather than just exist. It’s hard not to be moved by all this woman has been through, and even Jillian looks shaken up. Later, Jillian gets Shay to focus on taking care of herself and trying to let go of the ghosts of being the child of a heroin addict, and for a minute I think I’m watching some tough-love show on A&E.

But then there’s Bob, with his sunny disposition, who gets Allen to jump onto a three-foot step, which would have completely killed me.

rudypauls thebiggestloser s8 290 'The Biggest Loser': A new record, face off week, and Derek Jeter    on video!Then it’s on to weigh-in, and the Black team is struggling again. Amanda has the 2-lb. advantage but still only manages to lose 4 lbs. on her own, compared to Rebecca’s 9. Abby loses just 3 lobs, while Tracey loses 5 — and Jillian looks unhappy. Danny scores a win for the Blue team, losing 12 pounds to Allen’s 8. But Liz totally outdoes Daniel, losing 7 lbs. to his 5. Shay loses 9 lbs.s, but it’s not enough to beat Rudy, who drops 14 and sets a new record! Woot! Even former record-holder Dane shows up to cheer him on, which, Rudy notes, would be embarrassing if he didn’t make it. Everyone’s proud of Rudy, but Jillian seriously looks confounded as to how the Black team keeps losing — and her bad side is not a place I want to be.

But now it’s up to the Black team to eliminate someone, and Abby practically volunteers to go. The thing is, she’s so positive and so much more together and at peace than she was when she arrived (I know this because they told me like three times), it’s almost not even sad to watch this woman go back to a life she now seems ready for. We see her being a motivational speaker, talking to students about the importance of never giving up, even in times of tragedy, and we learn that she’s ultimately lost 80 lbs. Nicely done, Abby.

What did you think? Did Tracey’s crazy seem to be dialed back a little bit in this episode? Is Allen always like that? And am I crazy to think that Jillian would be a great therapist too?

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