And then he watched his heart get broken.
Harper's prime-time declaration -- while not exactly a surprise -- was still shocking for its simple and resounding declaration. It will no doubt reverberate far beyond the set of "The Biggest Loser" or even the show's devoted fans. Much like the "It gets better" project, Harper's coming out on TV will be profound solace to countless men and women struggling to come to grips with their sexuality.
"I'm gay... Being gay doesn't mean being weak," Harper said. "Being gay doesn't mean that you are less than anybody else. It's just who you are."
Harper's comments were all the more poignant because he was talking to one of his competitors, Bobby. Raised in a strict Catholic family, Bobby has been hiding behind more than 100 pounds of excess weight in part because he struggles to keep his sexual orientation from his parents, particularly his father.
While Bobby is not the first gay competitor on the show, he is the first to reveal such turmoil.
Here he is, an accomplished young man, a lawyer, and yet he cowers at the thought of his father's disapproval. The exchange offers powerful insight into how difficult it is for some men and women to reach a turning point of peace and truth within their own hearts, and within their own families.
It was against this backdrop that Harper decided to help Bobby break through this air of repression by opening up himself, and drawing on the similarities between their shared histories.
"I haven't talked about my sexuality on the show -- ever," Harper told the audience in an aside. "Now meeting Bobby, I really do believe this is the right time [to discuss it]... "I want to show Bobby that he doesn't have to live in shame."
It's a lesson that will benefit many more than just Bobby.
Hopefully, though, audiences will see the rest of this story line.
Bobby's parents made an appearance on the show this week, after Harper's blue team sealed victory in a challenge that won them a visit with loved ones. While we just had a glimpse of Bobby's mom and dad... his dad especially seemed moved emotionally by his son's weight-loss success and new-found happiness. Here's hoping it won't be much of a stretch for dad to accept all facets of his son's life.
Harper, though, was the one left crushed and broken-hearted by the end of the roller-coaster episode.
The blue team, which has been such a dominant force so far in the competition, lost the weigh-in for a second week in a row. Last week, Harper saved one of his competitors facing elimination by using his one-and-only trainer save.
Boy, could he have really used that save this week.
On the chopping block, seemingly inexplicably, was Olympian Holley Mangold.
The power lifter who is a powerhouse during workouts lost only three pounds this week, sending her below the dreaded red line, facing immediate elimination.
Holley and Harper had developed a fast friendship, and sometimes it was hard to tell who was coaching whom. (Harper enjoyed learning the fine points of power-lifting techniques from Holley.) At the start of the season, Harper said he was looking forward to proving to Holley that she can lose weight and improve her health, but still be a powerful and competitive athlete as she vies for a second Olympic appearance.
Harper looked like he'd been punched in the gut at Holley's elimination, and had tears in his eyes as he doubled over in heart break.
"You have made my whole season," he told her, adding that it has been a joy to work with her and that he considered her a "peer." We'll talk more to Holley during a scheduled media conference call later Wednesday morning.
What was your take on this Harper-centric episode?
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