A long, long time ago, there was a reality show on ABC called The Mole. It wasn't as rough as Survivor, and it didn't cater to the lowest common denominator like Big Brother. It was presented as a mystery, where players would compete to put money into a pot. The twist: there was a mole in their midst, a saboteur that would subtlety thwart their efforts. At the end of each episode, the players would take a quiz about the Mole's actions. The person with the lowest score would be "executed," and sent out of the game. There were two seasons to start, hosted by Anderson Cooper, before he joined CNN and broke out as a household name. With low ratings, ABC converted it to Celebrity Mole. The biggest reason why there was a second season was due to Kathy Griffith, who brought the intentional humor (in contrast to Stephen Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen) on the way to winning. After Celebrity Mole: Yucatan (won by Dennis Rodman; best not to dwell on that), ABC buried The Mole. Thanks to the writers' strike in 2007-08, ABC dug it up, dusted it off . . . then let it languish without any fanfare before buruing it again and pouring concrete on top of the coffin.
I've blogged about The Mole last year, and I reposted my interview with Dorothy Hui, who won the second season (titled The Next Betrayal). My original plan for bringing back my material from Reality News Online was to cover my four seasons recapping Real World/Road Rules Challenge. With Bill's birthday (a young 74!), I'm going to make an exception.
Quick background: By the time I wrote this essay, it was generally accepted that Bill was the Mole. The producers' clues were a little too obvious, at least to folks that would obsess over clues. Those in the know on the show's forum on Mighty Big TV (later Television Without Pity) even dubbed themselves the "Billuminati." Because I had to be contrary, I tried to point out suspicious behavior from the final three players: Dorothy Hui (whom I had followed after we briefly met during auditions), Heather Campbell (the nice girl whom bad stuff always happened to in the second half of the season), and Al Spielman (the "fun uncle" from Long Island who rubbed a few viewers the wrong way). Thanks to the clues, we knew they were playing to win, especially after Elavia Bello (whom was practically wearing a "I AM THE MOLE!!!" sign throughout her run) took a bribe to leave the game. You'll have to seek out the episodes to get context, but I like to think it holds up on its own.
Mole 2: What If It’s Not Bill?by Jason Borelli -- 07/22/2002
So, you’ve decided to live in denial.
You’ve watched The Mole every week. You’ve seen the clues, both hidden and obvious, and you have determined that it simply cannot be Bill. He is not the Mole. Pisces sign on the floor? Cracking open Rudy the Gnome to get the exemption? An older gentleman playing the saboteur in the second season of every other version of the show worldwide? The telegram with the phone number that spells out “THE MOLE IS BILL”? Nope, you won’t let that ruin your fun, and you would need a far greater sign in order to snap you out of rebuffing the facts:
“Hello. I’m Anderson Cooper, host of The Mole. While there are only a few episodes left, it’s safe to say that Bill is the Mole. So you can change the channel. No sweat off my back. I’m on CNN now anyway, so I could care less about ABC. Seriously, change the channel. American Idol is on now, and you’ll look like a dweeb if you’re not talking about that show at work tomorrow morning. So once again: Bill is the Mole. Now please go back to watching less intelligent television programming… most of which, ironically enough, is on ABC.”
The situation is not hopeless, though. Along with Bill, there are three other contestants. Unlike Bribs, the choirboy Texan who was executed in the last episode, each of them has shown shady behavior throughout the series. So don’t be surprised if Bill gets the red thumbprint in the next few episodes. The indicators can be seen in the games themselves and in some of the hidden clues that can be seen throughout the game.
Looking for a Mole suspect to rival Bill is a challenge in itself. Trying to put Al in that spot is a challenge squared. He exhibits a lot of his personality, some of which can grate on other people’s nerves. But there are ways to frame him as the Mole.
Going back to the first episode, Al had trouble on the Pulse Rope Walk. Wearing a heart monitor that would beep anytime a certain rate was exceeded, Al had to stop frequently when the alarm went off. He managed to finagle his way into the heart of two games: Little John/Little Jane and Rappelling, losing the chance to add $35,000 at the end of the latter. With LJ/LJ, he earned an exemption and the right to give another player an additional free pass. In my mind, the exemptions are key to eliminating players. When Al gave an exemption to Katie, he took the players’ odds of getting executed from 11-to-1 to 9-to-1, and he saved the person whom was considered to be the weakest (somewhat ironic, given that Katie would stay on for five more episodes).
The most glaring of Al’s flubs came during Gladiator. While protecting Dorothy, he was the only contestant to be “killed”; the “egg” on his armor broke, spilling red dye and knocking him out. However, his mortal wound was not cause by an opponent’s sword. Rather, he broke his egg with his own shield. Clumsiness? Or an effort to put the pressure on his fellow contestants?
The hidden clues make for a more compelling case. In the second episode, Al used the phrase “burned my apple” in reference to the deception with Bribs and Ali over supposed exemptions. Four episodes later, Anderson is seen drinking apple juice and biting into an apple. Before one execution, a black cat is shown for no good reason. According to the Mole Fan Club (www.themolefanclub.com), Al is the only player remaining to own a cat. But the Bike Game offers an odd clue. At one point, the following phrase were scrawled on the road in different colored chalk (read it from bottom to top):
That’s ten red letters, five yellow and three blue. Later in the episode, a door number was shown: 153. The room’s occupants? Al and Darwin. All that has to be done is remove the zero, and you have 153. Or count “you” as one word, count the letters in yellow, and show how many lines are chalked in red.
Conclusion: Al is a dark horse to win and a longshot to be The Mole. One thing is for certain: if the latter is the case, the producers will have to deal with a very upset Katie, since Al wouldn’t be able to leave no matter how much she wanted it.
At first glance, Dorothy appears to be the anti-Mole. On two occasions, she won money for the group with some genius-level thinking. But as you dig deeper, you start seeing signs of Moleness.
As I said before, exemptions can help a Mole drop the hammer on other contestants. When she and Lisa lured Darwin and Katie out of their rooms, not only did the roommates get exemptions, but $2,000 was also taken from the pot. Lisa was the lucky one, as Anderson originally approached Dorothy for the exemption. What did she do? She grabbed the last piece of cake, the only slice without a blueberry. It could have been a coincidence, a usually picky eater indulging herself. Or she could have intentionally dropped the voting from twelve people to eleven.
Dorothy winning $50,000 highlighted the Dumb Vs. Smart game. But she pulled two answers out of thin air, including taking letters to form the word “mistrustfulness,” earning exemptions for herself, Bill, and Rob. If she was the Mole, she increased the chances of elimination from ten to eight. And who would think of her as the Mole after such a heroic effort?
There are other indicators. For one thing, she went oh-for-two playing the Relative games, not earning $30,000 and becoming the only player not to spend time with her loved one (her mother). Her lack of stamina has made her a liability in physical tasks, forcing the others to work around her. For instance, during Think or Sink, while she was lost trying to find the number of stairs leading to the top of the hill, Katie and the remaining swimmers guessed the answer for themselves. Finally, during Pass the Ball, Bill’s exemption was nullified when Bribs knocked the ball out of turn. But it turned out that Darwin let Dorothy hit the ball instead of him, costing the group $40,000. Did lack of thinking cloud their judgment, or did Dorothy see a chance to sabotage the game?
The hidden clues to implicate Dorothy are hard to find, with nary a ruby red slipper to be found. The black cat could be a reference to her eyeglasses. Two clues made possible reference to her cake eating: the telegram that ended “ready for a second helping” and the message of “Are You The One?” covered under blueberries. And Anderson eating the apple and drinking apple juice could refer to New York, the Big Apple, which is Dorothy home city.
Conclusion: Don’t count her out. The “second helping” could also refer to another twenty-something woman being the Mole (after Kathryn Price). If Dorothy is the Mole, then she did a better job of it than coalition partner Elavia pretended to do.
If you want to deny yourself the prospect of Bill as the Mole, Heather is your best bet. Bill himself called her a “sneaky Texan” during Evader, and perhaps that expression could fit her more accurately than we think.
I mentioned the “second helping” reference before, and Kathryn and Heather do share some traits. For one thing, they’re both presented as hard luck cases. Kathryn did a fair share of crying during her season. Heather finally broke after losing two chances to get exemptions during Evader. Kathryn was engaged during her season; at one point, she refused to have her head shaven bald in order to win money. Heather wasn’t engaged coming into this season, but was proposed to by her boyfriend midway through. That probably wasn’t planned, but it would be a nice parallel.
Her actions have been very Mole-ish, going back to LJ/LJ where she slipped and fell into the water without being hit. The sextet in the Bike Game won $20,000, but $10,000 was taken from the pot after Heather touched a bike prior to the contest, even though Anderson had specifically told the group not to do that. And during Relative Disguise, she failed twice while looking for Katie’s father and Dorothy’s mother.
Her lack of exemptions might be a smokescreen. She has had four chances, and she has failed to earn one. It was understandable when she passed on a free pass in order to spring Al and Myra from jail during Get the Key; they were due to chat with their loved ones back up. Gnome Home was a little more suspect. If she knew that an exemption was in the gnome, why run the obstacle course first and let Bill crack it open? Perhaps she figured Bill would figure out Anderson’s “Romancing the Stone” clue and fake stumbling on to it. And in the first Evader game, she gave up when Al spotted her. With all due respect to Al, Heather might have been able to outrun him with ease. Getting caught by Bribs was easier to swallow.
Conclusion: If the Mole isn’t Bill, it has to be Heather. Should Dorothy, Heather’s current coalition partner, get executed in the next episode, then it has to be Heather. Also, compare the money unearned by Bill and Heather (games such as Buy and Sell and Pass the Ball, where the entire group can win or lose money are not included):
Episode 2: Bill refuses to put on a baby diaper in Lotto Clothes; cost $18,000 (would have doubled the money).
Episode 3: Heather falls off plank without taking a hit in Little John/Little Jane; cost $5000.
Episode 4: Heather takes part in losing Rappelling game; cost $35,000.
Episode 5: Bill can only tread water for eight minutes during Think or Sink; cost $20,000.
Episode 6: Bill eats unauthorized ice cream; group penalized $10,000 (with Darwin and Heather). Heather touches bicycle before Bike Game starts; group penalized $10,000 (with Bill and Darwin).
Episode 7: Bill breaks gnome in Gnome Home game; cost $30,000.
Episode 8: Heather cannot find Katie’s father or Dorothy’s mother during Relative Disguise; cost $10,000.
Episode 9: Heather screws up Wine Wager; cost $5000.
Total Amount Lost: Bill -- $78,000. Heather -- $65,000.
So either Heather is the Mole, or she would have made almost as good a Mole as Bill (or the other two for that matter; Al lost $75,000 under the aforementioned criteria, while Dorothy lost $50,000).
In conclusion, there is hope. There is the possibility that Stone-Stanley Productions, in an effort to duplicate the Survivor rumors where Gervase was supposed to win the million bucks, have smacked us in the face with red herring. There is the chance that the most obvious clues were overlooked, and that we’ve been suckered. Al could be the Mole. Dorothy could be the Mole. Heather could be the Mole. Maybe Bill is just a guy from Washington who wants to win a six-figure pot. I’ll be rooting for that in the coming weeks, along with snow in July, winged pigs, and everybody on reality shows getting along during their entire season.
Seriously, find the episodes . . . especially the penultimate round that followed his essay, where the gang had to play in "Anderson's Fun House," which led to roaches raining down on Dorothy, Heather balking at the thought of sharing a dark room with a snake, and Al forced to stay on a bed overnight, while "Tiny Bubbles" played incessantly. Also, I think Anderson ranks as one of the best reality show hosts in the history of the genre. I know, he only did it for two seasons, and he didn't bother mentioning it in his autobiography, but I'd rank him favorably to folks like Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan. And once you go through The Next Betrayal, read Bill's book on his experience, Reflections Of The Mole. It makes for a good read for diehard fans, and most of the cast contributed commentary. I'd be demanding that another network acquire the series, revamp it, and make it worth watching . . . but I'm saving my strength trying to do the same for The Amazing Race, which hangs by a thread at CBS. I'd suggest ABC . . . but they still air The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. No thanks.