Ashley shucks her coat and steps up to the scale, knowing she's going home if she goes below the yellow line. She started at 374, was 254 last week, and needs to have lost more than five pounds to guarantee her safety. And of course there's another ad before we find out. But when we do, she's at 248, for a loss of six pounds. Realizing she's safe, Ashley goes from relieved to heartbroken before our very eyes as she realizes what this means for Sunshine and O'Neal. She goes back to the group for her hugs from Bob and Jillian while Sunshine breaks down. Sami says, "Ashley, I know this is a bittersweet moment, but in fifteen weeks, you have lost a total of 126 pounds." Her percentage of weight loss this week is 2.36%, so the final rankings are Michael, Sam, Ashley, Daris, Sunshine, and O'Neal, with father and daughter together below the yellow line. Sami tells Jillian and Bob to say their goodbyes, and there are long, teary hugs before Sami tells Sunshine and O'Neal that one of them will be eliminated tonight. She gives them all an hour to talk about it, which they won't need.
Sunshine emotionally says she doesn't want to see her dad go, and O'Neal says he wants Sunshine to stay. He doesn't even want one pity vote for himself. He promises to go home and pursue this with the same intensity he had the first four weeks at home.
When Sami returns, Ashley talks at length about how much she admires the person she's voting for before revealing that that it's O'Neal. Sam is similarly respectful, but much less suspenseful, before revealing his vote for "Unc. O'Neal." Koli also addresses O'Neal directly, saying he hopes to be a father like him one day, and he was their inspiration, and that's why he voted for him. That's three votes, and O'Neal is not The Biggest Loser. He and Sunshine try to keep their shit together as they say their goodbyes. He thanks the others for respecting his wishes and for their kind words, paying back compliments all the way down the bar. Daris assures O'Neal that Sunshine isn't alone: "Just because her biological family isn't here doesn't mean she doesn't have family here." Sami finally tells O'Neal, "Look forward to seeing you again, O'Neal," which is a polite but unmistakable dismissal, and with a final hug, he's gone.
He's back home in Minneapolis 24 hours later, and as he drives to a welcome-home party (don't bother to look for me waving as he drives by), he tells us it's bittersweet, but he plans to continue his journey at home. He walks into the shindig and sees a big crowd fronted by his family in yellow TBL t-shirts. They talk about how great he looks, and he gives a speech about how he cheated death, and is in fact off all the meds he used to need. He says he was sad 24 hours ago, but now he's ready to continue.
Update: O'Neal is down to 250 pounds, down from his original 389. Now he can put on his own shoes, manage stairs with ease, has to move the seat in his car forward, generally feels better, can join mail carriers on their routes in his job as a Post Office station manager, and can get on his motorcycle without having to lift one leg with his hands. Plus his wife can get her arms around him from behind. So that's win-win-win-win-win-win-win, by my count. He hopes to create a foundation to combat childhood obesity. Look out, obese children!
Next week, makeovers for the final six. I say it's about time, and I've only been looking at them for two hours.
M. Giant is a Minneapolis-based writer with a wife, a son, and a number of cats that seems to have settled at around two. Learn waaaay too much about him at Velcrometer, or just e-mail him at m.giant[at]gmail.com.