Tara Costa, Helen Phillips make 'The Biggest Loser's finale weigh-in
By Steve Rogers, 05/06/2009
Tara Costa, a 23-year-old finance manager and former model from New York, NY, and Helen Phillips, a 47-year-old retired retail manager from Sterling Heights, MI, were revealed to be two of The Biggest Loser: Couples' three finale finalists during last night's penultimate episode broadcast of the NBC reality weight-loss show's seventh season.
Home viewers will now decide which one of the season's two other remaining contestants -- Ron Morelli, a 54-year-old city councilman and retired food distributor from South Lyon, MI, or his son Mike Morelli, an 18-year-old student -- will become the show's third finalist.
Immediately following the conclusion of last night's episode, home viewers could begin voting via telephone of NBC's website for either Mike or Ron. The contestant who receives the most votes will be revealed during The Biggest Loser: Couples' live finale broadcast on Tuesday, May 12 at 8PM ET/PT.
The Biggest Loser: Couples' seventeenth episode began with the season's four remaining contestants leaving The Biggest Loser ranch and being welcomed home by their friends and families.
However after their welcome home celebrations ended, the contestants received surprise DVD packages in which The Biggest Loser host Allison Sweeney informed them that in addition to returning to the ranch for one final pre-finale weigh-in 30 days after they'd left it, they would be also have to run a full marathon in 26 days.
All four of the contestants were shocked by the news.
"No one has ever run a marathon on The Biggest Loser [before]," Helen said afterwards. "I'm freaking out!"
"Are you freaking kidding me!" Mike said. "The half-marathon we did [while at the ranch] was probably the most difficult challenge ever. And that was half this obviously!"
"I don't think I've walked 26 miles in a year," his dad Ron added.
"People train for marathons like a year out, six months out, and now I'm doing it in 26 days," Tara said.
Several days later, The Biggest Loser trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper visited the contestants in their hometowns to check on their progress, with Jillian visiting her Black team members Tara, Helen and Mike and Bob visiting Ron, his sole remaining Blue team member.
During their visits, the contestants also told both trainers about the new marathon challenge twist.
"Are you serious? I've never [even] done a marathon!" Jillian told Mike after he informed him of the twist.
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"Are you kidding me?" Bob told Ron after he told him about the marathon.
"I don't even know what to say about that... I don't think you should do it, but we'll see," Bob added as he explained he didn't think Ron's body -- and specifically his knees -- could handle the challenge. "You've done crazier things Ron."
During their separate visits to South Lyon, MI, both trainers also offered to help train Mike's overweight younger brother Max, whom Ron and Mike had repeatedly pledged to help lose weight but had been struggling to assist since returning home.
"Max is kind of like the third member of [Ron and Mike's] Brown team," Bob said after he'd put Max through an extensive workout that had ended with him vomiting.
"You know you're working hard when you puke," Ron joked to his son.
Jillian also spent a portion of her visits with Tara and Helen counseling both women to balance their post-ranch lives and not let their weight-loss goals become obsessions that overwhelmed them.
"You can't live in these extremes," Jillian told Tara.
"You've got to move into a balanced space, you've got to ease off a bit," Jillian told Helen.
After training for the grueling challenge and finishing their stays at home, the contestants then returned to the ranch for the marathon. However four days before the marathon, Mike had suffered a hip injury that resulted in the show's doctors only allowing him to walk the marathon's course like his father Ron and left Tara and Helen as the only contestants who were actually planning to the course.
After the first three miles, each contestant was joined by a friend or family member at the Mile 4 marker.
Tara was joined by her friend Michael while Helen was joined by her husband.
Mike and Ron -- who had walked the first three miles together -- were joined by Max and Ron's friend Phil, which resulted in Mike and Max breaking off and walking the next several miles at a quicker pace while Phil kept Ron company as he continued his slower pace.
Both Max and Helen's husband ended up completing the next several miles of the course before eventually leaving to meet Mike and Helen at the finish line however Ron and Tara's friends both proceeded to complete the rest of course.
All four contestants received an additional psychological boost at the Mile 15 marker when they were each joined by a previous The Biggest Loser contestant.
Tara was joined by fifth-season The Biggest Loser winner Alison Vincent while Helen was joined by sixth-season winner Michelle Aguilar and Mike was joined by Bernardo "Bernie" Salazar, the winner of The Biggest Loser's fifth-season previously eliminated contestant weigh-in. All three seemed to race several miles with the contestants before leaving them to complete the balance of the course on their own.
Tara, who was accompanied by Jillian for the course's final mile, easily won the marathon with a 4:56:24 time. Helen -- who was joined by both Jillian and her husband for the final mile, followed in second place with a time of 5:49:09.
Despite walking the entire course, Mike, who was also accompanied by Jillian for the last mile, finished the marathon with a time of 8:58:03.
Meanwhile, Ron's body began to give out on him as the miles continued, climaxing in a Mile 16 incident which paramedics had to summon The Biggest Loser doctor Wayne Huizenga to check on him. However the doctor eventually cleared Ron to continue the marathon if he wanted, resulting in Ron -- now accompanied by both his friend and Dr. Huizenga, who had also previously joined Ron for an earlier portion of the marathon -- returning to the course.
With the rest of the contestants having already completed the marathon, Ron's entourage proceeded to grow even larger as the miles passed, with Ali, Bernie, and Michelle all joining him at the Mile 17 marker along with Heba Salama, the winner of The Biggest Loser's sixth-season previously eliminated contestant weigh-in, and Jim Germanakos, the winner of The Biggest Loser's fourth-season previously eliminated contestant weigh-in.
Bob and Mike also joined Ron at the Mile 21 marker, however Mike eventually had to return to the finish line due to his hip injury.
Allison, Max, Tara, and Helen then all joined Ron's entourage near the end of the course, resulting in him crossing the finish line with a large crowd of well-wishers as Mike, completely overcome by the emotion of the situation, watched and sobbed.
"Good job dad," Mike whispered as he and an equally tearful Max shared an embrace with their father after Ron had finished well after dark with a time of 13:15:19.
Four days later, the contestants gathered for the final weigh-in that would determine which three contestants would get to participate in the season's $250,000 finale weigh-in.
After they arrived at the scale, Alison informed the contestants that, similar to the show's last two seasons, the two contestants with the highest weight-loss percentage would automatically advance to the finale weigh-in while home viewers would get to determine which of the two contestants with the lowest weight-loss percentage would get to join them in the finale weigh-in.
"The third member of the Final 3 will be chosen by a vote, only no one in this room will get to decide -- America will," Allison said.
Ron was the first contestant to weigh-in. He lost 10 pounds, giving him a weight-loss percentage of 3.46% and a total loss of 151 pounds since arriving at the ranch.
Mike weigh-in second. He also lost 10 pounds, giving him a weight-loss percentage of 4.46% and a total loss of 174 pounds since arriving at the ranch.
Helen was the third contestant to weigh-in. She lost seven pounds, giving her a weight-loss percentage of 4.55% and a total loss of 110 pounds since arriving at the ranch. Since she'd lost a higher percentage than both Mike and Ron she was immediately in the Final 3.
Tara was the last contestant and, similar to the competition's previous weigh-in, easily lost the highest percentage of weight and earned the second guaranteed spot in the finale weigh-in. She lost 10 pounds, giving her a weight-loss percentage of 5.92% and a total loss of 135 pounds since arriving at the ranch.
After learning that they'd finished as the two contestants with the lowest weight-loss percentage, Ron and Mike each got a chance to record a video and plead their cases to home viewers.
Similar to last season's situation in which Heba and her husband Ed Brantley were both also competing for same final finale weigh-in slot, Ron, like Ed before him, used his time to openly campaign for his son.
"My son Michael has worked very hard and he deserves this opportunity," Ron told viewers. "He's been a giver his entire life, he's had a couple of prizes [that he gave away]. He deserves this opportunity to finish this and I'm just begging America to please vote for me son to be part of the Final 3. Thank you very much."
However unlike last season's situation in which Heba had campaigned against her husband and openly boasted that he was "more than happy to step aside," Mike took a decidedly higher road with his plea.
"America, as you know, my dad and I fell below the yellow line this week and now you're voting on who's going to be in the finale," Mike told viewers. "I'm accomplished every single thing I've wanted to in this competition. I've lost 174 pounds. I set out to change my life [and] I've done that. It's just been a privilege being here. If you want to put me in the finale, that's amazing. If you want to put my dad in the finale that's great too, he deserves it, I love him. So America, thank you very much for your support and I'll see you at the finale."