Here we are for another week of Shaq’s Big Challenge, and I’m truly delighted to be a TVgasm staff writer so I can officially cover this! This show reminds me of many things, particularly my biggest pet peeve: people who glom handfuls of food in the grocery store. Recently I saw a woman stealing Italian garlic mushrooms from the salad bar, slurping right off their ladle. There’s never an excuse for being that piggish, but now when I see sights like this, I wonder how the Challenge contestants would react. Sadly, they’d probably say mushrooms for everyone; it’s Shaq’s Big Challenge!The opening is pretty similar to last week’s, save for a few extra clips from the premiere. The clip of Walter gassing all over Shaq remains, as does Kevin calling himself pretty. They could show that for an hour and I’d be happy, but we must move on. Apparently they’re one month into the program now, even though they were finishing Week 2 in the last show. This is moving at a staggering pace, which leads me to believe we’ll only have maybe four more episodes. Sad panda!
We open to Shaq driving, mocking the kids for their poor performance. While he talks, the camera zooms in on different places outside the vehicle, like a bar and grill. Maybe that means Shaq has been getting his drink on. He says he was rooting for the children for weeks, which seems pretty accurate. Whenever I hear him say “the Bad News Bears of fitness,” I always think he means it in a positive and loving manner.
At the training center, Kit encourages Walter and James to get up. What are you supposed to be doing in a gym, she asks? James replies, “Sit down and relax.” Really? James should write a book. Shaq announces from his car that he’s called a meeting with the parents and kids, and he reminds us that he’s never failed at nothing in his life, so he’s very very disappointed. Shaq failed third grade English, but apparently that doesn’t count.
Kit punches Walter on the arm and he reacts like she just shot him. Seriously, he recoils so severely. At first I thought she was giving him a titty-twister, so I understood the reaction, but now it’s clear Walter is just a pansy. Shaq enters the building while the kids pummel each other with exercise balls, and James’s mom chortles as she sips from a Styrofoam cup. James’s mom is drunk.
Shaq’s entourage, a crowd of random children, follows him into the gym with Dr. Colker. After closing the gym entrance in the kids’ faces, Shaq orders all the contestants to bring their balls to him. When he’s handed a basketball by Kevin, Shaq promptly stabs it and takes all the air out. Kevin is understandably upset. He loves balls in his hands. Walter figured Shaq had a reasonable explanation for destroying the balls, but he couldn’t think of why. Walter has forgotten when everyone bounced the balls off his jiggling mound of stomach.
As Shaq continues his reign of terror, Kit says she got really nervous, like “Oh no, what do we do?” She feared he would try to deflate her. James wonders if he’s popping the balls because he’s giving them new ones. I would’ve expected this to come from Walter, but James is surprising me today. Shaq says the kids let him down and mumbles something about Kevin hitting Ariel in the face and almost “hocking her eye out,” as we saw last week. I stand corrected, by the way – I attributed that to Chris, and I should’ve known it was the gay kid. He was just jealous that Ariel’s hair looked better than his. He scolds Kevin and then reminds the group that they’re all on the same diet, so he feels the same pains they feel. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, since they’re used to eating Cornish game hens as a snack between breakfast and lunch, but Shaq’s always right. Dr. Colker is in charge now, and he has a crazy trainer who reportedly doesn’t like kids. You can only imagine how he feels about morbidly obese ones, so this should be good!
They haul themselves to their feet, and Shaq tells Walter he’s proud of him. Shut up, don’t play favorites just because he’s retarded. Dr. Colker introduces himself to the parents again and brags about his accomplishments. He says he’s never seen such a terrible effort exercising, but I highly doubt he’s been training 300 pound children before, so that seems inconsequential. Colker says Chris is a liar, the worst of the bunch, just to bring the boy to tears. Shaq looms over the kid and whispers to pick his head up, but it doesn’t really seem too reassuring. I imagine Shaq has very bad breath. Chris whimpers more because Shaq’s mouth smells like a whaling ship.
The doctor rags on Ariel and James, coming to Kit next, who has a trail of spittle on her lip. This is totally what you’d expect from an enormous child, to be drooling uncontrollably, and Kit fits the bill. As Colker tells Kit she has to power through the activities because she’s not that fragile (because she’s fat), her mother shoots her the dirtiest look. I love when parents turn on their kids. Not to worry, he yells at the parents next, and Kit’s mom and her mustache feel very sad.
I spy with my little eye: a goatee!
While Shaq goes to fetch the trainer, the parents denigrate their children. Chris’s mom is especially upset because Chris broke his promise to try 110%. Naturally, his mom weighs 400 pounds if she’s an ounce. Hypocrisy at its best! Chris says it’s worse having his mom mad at him than it is Shaq, to which the whole world answers, “Go fucking figure.”
Tarik Tyler, the trainer, comes in and is easily mistakable for a buff Wayne Brady. He immediately warms the cockles of my heart by exclaiming, “I knew these kids were gonna be fat, but I didn’t know they’d be THAT FAT.” Word! He harasses the kids instantly, proclaiming that they’ll call him Mr. Tyler because they’re not on a first name basis. That kind of puts Shaq in his place, doesn’t it? Kit cries, or mayhaps breaks into a sweat from the sheer exhaustion of sitting. Tarik describes their mandatory training sessions, and Ariel’s mom thinks this is what the kids need. We see a montage of what’s to come after the break, and Kit collapses into a dazed heap, prompting Shaq and Dr. Colker to argue about whether or not she was close to a heart attack. Looks like you were wrong, Ariel’s mom.
When we come back, Tarik orders the kids to get to steppin’, and demonstrates how to race to a certain line on the gym floor and run back. It’s sort of like sprinting forward in a crabwalk; it’s difficult to explain, but hilarious when you accidentally watch it in fast-forward on the Tivo. Shaq says the kids deserve this punishment because he got bamboozled. If Shaq’s not happy, no one’s happy. The kids take off crabwalkin’ and Ariel’s limbs flail about as she tumbles to the ground. Tarik squeals, “Yep, knew that would happen!” with an unrivaled amount of glee. Walter provides color commentary on the workout. “The first thing I thought was, ‘Uh-oh.’ That’s what I thought. ‘Uh-oh.’” Oh, Walt, if only you could write these recaps by my side. Walter and Bailey ’til the end!
Tarik says he’s hard on the kids, but that means he cares more about them. Unfortunately, we know he’s lying. He wants to take these kiddies out back and roast ‘em like a sucklin’ pig. They finally finish, with much effort, and Kit’s whole face glazes over. She starts to panic while the rest of the group takes off on some new activity, which is basically holding their hands behind their head while they squat and walk. It doesn’t sound funny, but they didn’t prepare me for it and all of a sudden Walter’s breasts were bouncing towards my face.
Tarik comments that Kit was “like, visually, like, afraid” and his whole voice fills with laughter. Tarik loves to see kids collapse, which she then does, with some sort of gagging grunt. She hyperventilates and he tells her to just keep going, which is helpful. Her mom cries and absorbs her tears with her mustache. Tarik tells Kit to take some deep breaths, and Dr. Colker goes to check on her too. He tells her “I believe in you” and I’m sure that comes as a real comfort when she’s about to vomit six bowls of Froot Loops onto the linoleum. He babbles on about how he just needs her to believe in her, and Walter stares nosily from across the gym. Walter will totally grow up to be a secret peeper.
Colker tells the camera he’s not feeling particularly hopeful for Kit, but then he joins her mom and says she has to be strong for her daughter. You know, since he won’t be. He says that will help Kit, so Mom composes herself and Kit wheezes and nearly spews once again. If she throws up, I’ll throw up, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that all her Loops stay down below. Kit forces herself to her feet, clutching her chest, and Colker cheerfully tells Mom, “Strong, strong!” While the kids gawk, Kit crumbles again and Mom just sits on a bench and watches. How strong! Kevin’s dad explains to Kit’s mom that this is the time where Kit needs her, and her mom smiles and nods but makes no effort to get up. Maybe she’s thinking about the best method for waxing her soul patch.
Kit can’t take it anymore, and Dr. Colker says she’s not responding properly, so they lug in a stretcher. The EMT emerges and asks “How ya doin’?” casually, and it’s great because you know he’s thinking, “How fat and lazy can she be?” Colker reports that she isn’t suffering from a physical disease; it’s just that her mom thinks her daughter will fail and fold up. I would put the blame more on the Zebra Cakes she’s been consuming, but so it goes. Kit is carried away, while Colker says her fear and anxiety has crippled her. Sadly, as she’s carted off, she passes Shaq’s entourage of children and that must be embarrassing. It’s one thing to be obese, but to need numerous firefighters to lift you out on a stretcher because of it is pretty mortifying.
The teammates cry about Kit leaving, and Ariel says, “She made everybody happy.” Guys, she’s not dead. Colker guesses the hospital will find exactly the same results he found, which appear to be that A) Kit’s fine and B) Colker’s awesome. Clearly he’s taken tips from Shaq on loving himself long time.
Back in the gym, Tarik sends the kids home and Kevin’s parents yell at him for hitting Ariel in the face that time. He says it was an accident, but it’s all on tape, bud. They show it again and he specifically aims for her head, so he’s just Liar McLazy. Once Kevin understands his mistake, his family gets into their car and it sighs beneath them.
Colker and Shaq enter the gym, and suddenly I’m very aware that Colker has the most ridiculous twig legs I’ve ever seen. He’s a grown-ass man and his legs are like twee little toothpicks. Shaq is pissed, but I can’t tell you exactly what he’s mad about because his mouth is stuffed with cotton. From what I can gather, he thinks Tarik shouldn’t kill the kids on the first day. Yes, I’d say that’s a good rule to live by. Colker clarifies, “Nobody’s killing anybody, Shaquille. It’s not about killing them.” Did Shaq seriously think the point was to have a reality TV death? I was giving him too much credit for a minute. Shaq says if something happens to that little girl, it’s his ass, not anyone else’s. That’s what we like to hear; he’s just looking out for himself as always. Colker says she had an anxiety attack, and Shaq retorts, “I’m not a doctor but it looked like she was about to have a heart attack.” Okay, but Colker is a doctor, so why isn’t Shaq listening to him? God. Shaq’s eyes fill with rage, as they do whenever anyone contradicts him. He does a one-on-one interview but I don’t know what the hell he says, except that he’s trying to win a fifth championship. He also adds, in the words of his father, “Once you start, you finish, or else.” Shaq’s father was quite the poet.
At the Miami Children’s Hospital, Dr. Muinos gets a call from Colker about Kit’s condition. She’s absolutely fine, so they wonder back and forth if her anxiety is due to her parents. Meanwhile, Shaq preaches about how only 6% of schools have mandatory physical education programs. I wonder if maybe this is just in Florida, because I always had gym class in both the states where I went to school, as did everyone I spoke to in the last few days. This percentage seems off, but this is Shaq we’re talking about, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he just made up those stats. He says if we have enough money to send children to war, we should have enough money to send children to mandatory P.E. classes. Those things seem pretty different, but okay.
Shaq enlists his college basketball coach, Dale Brown, to aid with the mission. They’ve known each other since Shaq was 13, and right away we find out Dale is also a buffoon. They gather at a restaurant and he speaks while gesturing wildly with a fork, carelessly waving the tines at everyone. He claims he always knew Shaq was the best with children. “I can still see those little mites climbing on your leg,” he says dreamily. Hold the phone – mites? This show makes me sad inside.
Shaq waxes poetic about the things he learned from Dale, up until the waiter sets down a breadbasket. Right away Shaq barks, “No bread, we’re on a diet” and makes the waiter take the basket away. God, can he shut up for two minutes? Must he make everyone’s life unbearable? After they embarrass that man at his workplace, they discuss the world’s epidemic and head to Olsen Middle School.
Apparently all the Challengers go to this school, so Shaq will be visiting them and their classmates. He hears that James is spectacular in class, but he’d threatened to kiss James if he misbehaved, so Shaq goes in for a big smooch. “Spectacular” is such a big word, you can’t fault Shaq for not knowing the meaning. He stops by Walter’s class next, where a girl literally does the wave by her lonesome.
Say hey! Say ho!
Shaq tells Walter he spoke to Britney Spears, and she’s divorcing K-Fed and then coming to see Walter. He already hooked it up, he’s taking care of ol’ Walt! The entire class bursts into hysterical laughter. God, this is so humiliating. In another classroom, he asks how many kids take P.E. and only a couple raise their hands. One girl who looks 25 says she broke a nail. I’m not sure how that relates.
Future Baby Mamas of America
Colker and Dale greet several obese kids, whose daily exercise routines consist of things like getting the mail or walking to the kitchen for Fritos. They put up subtitles for one girl’s remarks, but meanwhile Shaq speaks and we’re left to fend for ourselves. He meets another boy named James, who confesses he’s sad and wanted to kill himself due to the teasing he’s faced about his size. That’s terrible but admitting this on television isn’t going to make it better. His entire school will see this and tear him to shreds. Shaq offers some words of comfort but it sounds a lot like the whirring of a blender. He tells the camera he’s been an outsider all his life. I can’t imagine why, it’s not like his stupidity makes people uncomfortable.
Shaq chats with Frank Angelucci, the athletic director, who he calls a powerful powerless figure. This means he has a lot of clout with children but can’t make anything happen towards getting mandatory P.E. in schools. Shaq looks so proud of this ridiculous phrase, you just want to poke him in the eye so hard. Frank offers suggestions about required gym classes, with an option to test out, but all signs point to failure.
Just in time, the kids have their monthly weigh-in at the hospital. Ariel loses a pound, and Chris loses four. James drops six, but the doctor clearly says “James didn’t lose six” right after. Everyone on this show is constantly puzzled. Dr. Muinos doesn’t see a lot of change in James, even though he says he only eats junk food on Fridays. Celebration! Walter also loses six pounds, for which he thanks dodgeball. I guess that means when everyone ricocheted balls off of him. Speaking of, Kevin actually gained three pounds and says it was muscle, which is a standard fat kid response. Dr. Muinos smacks him down, and in his confessional interview Kevin mutters that he should shut up. The interview seems to be conducted from his bathroom, while he is on the pot, but I can’t verify. Everyone weighs in except Kit, who couldn’t attend for unknown reasons. We’ll assume she rested against the hood of the car and crushed the engine. Dr. Muinos thinks the past month has been a disappointment.
It’s Week 2 of the second month, and the kids report to the gym for a supervised workout. Kit still hasn’t shown up and Chris has a baseball game, so Tarik says they’ll have to compensate for their absences, which is both ridiculous and awesome. The kids stumble around and Tarik argues that they have no right to be tired. Then the sound on my TV blanked out, so I’m going to pretend he broke into a swearing spree. Use your imagination for all the insults he launched at them! Walter says the trainer has a lot of exercises he’s never heard of before. Considering Walter is 279 pounds and never leaves his recliner, this doesn’t really have the oomph he thinks it does. That said, Walter believes these exercises will make him at least 90 pounds lighter. Lofty goals, my boy.
They show a clip of Chris playing baseball, and it’s the same exact footage they aired last week. Interesting! During the drive home, he talks about how he hates working out with Tarik. Predictably, he’s hanging out on the doorstep when Chris arrives home, and Chris collapses into a case of the weepies. He’s forced to do the entire workout while Tarik ridicules him. He says sweet things like “Smell that fat a-burnin’!” and eventually Chris falls all over his mom in sweaty tears. His mom seems vaguely disgusted but kisses his head anyway, aw. That’s what moms are for. She loves him even though he’s wet like those Gatorade commercials.
Next we see some random clips of Shaq playing basketball, at which point he receives a call from Dr. Colker, who reads off the script in front of him. Colker shares that Kit quit the program, which may be because of her parents. Shaq doesn’t know what to do, so he needs a couple of days or hours to think about it. He glances to the heavens for help, but maybe he just saw some dust floating about and got distracted.
The kids arrive for their next workout but Tarik isn’t there. They sit down to wait, when Walter suddenly announces he has something important to tell everyone. He breaks the news that Kit says goodbye and won’t be returning. What the hell? Why would Walter present this information? Why is Shaq straining his noodle over this when Walter’s got all the deets? This is completely ridiculous. Ariel crumples into tears and says that without Kit, she probably wouldn’t have made it this far. Considering she only lost one pound, I’d say she’s screwed. Kevin wants her to know they’ll always have her back, and she says no matter what, they’ll all be friends forever. Just not with Kit.
Walter’s bummed because Kit was starting to become his best friend, and he’s sad to see her go. But obviously they’re still keeping in touch if he got the news from her, and they’re all at the same damn school anyway, right? This segment is weirdly dramatic. Kevin tells Walter to take it and keep going. He wants them to get a whole lot closer now that Walter’s up for grabs. Kevin is gay.
Nutritionist Joy Bauer (I’m always tempted to write Behar) shows up to Shaq’s house to discuss the food logs and video tapes she’s collected from the kids. Right off the bat, James inhales four slices of pizza soaked in a garlic butter sauce. Hello, Papa John’s Pizza! James, of course, pissed away his one night of junk food right after the nutritionist’s visit. Apparently he was going to order broccoli with his pizza, but the restaurant was closed, so he settled on having a coronary thrombosis. Joy asks Shaq how many slices of pizza he eats at a time, but he just laughs at her. Shaq never learned to count.
Back on the tapes, Kevin walks on the treadmill while eating mints, figuring he can burn them off during his exercise. Chris complains about only getting a schmeer of mayonnaise on his sandwich. Shaq bitches about how he doesn’t get any mayo at all. What a cruel, cruel world! He and Joy part ways after a bizarre combination of handshakes and signals.
Joy heads to Chris’s house because his family misses their traditional Cuban feasts, and she’s found ways to enjoy those meals with less calories and fat. She tells Chris how much nutrition is in a pepper, and he gags all over one slice. They cook together with the new ingredients, and to everyone’s surprise, the food tastes just as good as the original recipes. At this point a new character is introduced, named Chris’s Dad’s Mole. We shall call it Consuelo. Look at that baby shine!
Shaq teams with Colker and Dale to discuss mandatory Phys. Ed with the principal. The three stooges make an unfunny joke about why they’re seeing her, something revolving around “He threw the rock! I was just there!” Oh ho ho. What a chuckle I am having. She shoots them down right away, explaining that it’s pretty much insane to extend the whole school day just so the kids can have gym. For their specific school, it would cost $650,000 to extend their staff’s salary by an hour. Shaq could probably donate some money towards this cause, but just watch, his wallet will mysteriously go missing. The principal says it’s one thing to talk, but they need a real plan. Shaq stares blankly before telling the principal he hopes to make history with her. The meeting ends as most do for Shaq: the woman laughs in his face.
As everyone leaves school for the day, Shaq says goodbye to all the kiddies and then gets on a megaphone. He berates Walter for walking home slowly as all the school busses start to pull away. In Shaq’s mind, it’s reasonable for an obese 14-year-old to travel at the same pace as a moving vehicle.
They loiter and wait for Kit to trudge outside, and Jesus, she appears in some kind of kimono and goggle combination. Shaq says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you” and everyone giggles internally because she’s like a beacon in the night.
Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight
She wants to come back to the program, but her dad is very strict and always angry because he loves her so much. You would think he’d want her to be less of a cow then, but I suppose he loves every inch and ounce. She’s praying to re-join because she’s over her fears and she misses her friends in the program. Um, they all go to the same middle school. Just slip a note in their locker or meet up in the cafeteria for some chow, it’s not like you’re really going hungry. Shaq promises Kit he’ll show up at her house one day. He’ll be there when she least expects it, he says, which terrifies me deep down in my core.
Next time on Shaq’s Big Challenge, he goes to her home and Kit’s dad tells him to get the fuck off his property. Kevin lies to James and says he lost nine pounds. Tarik swears he’ll get on the kids like a tick on a dog’s ass. Shaq smashes a weight with his mighty paw.
Shock? Awe? Leave your thoughts!