“Mole, noun,” Anderson Cooper reads from a dictionary entry. “A spy. A double agent who establishes a cover long before beginning espionage.” With those words, and then the sound of wind whipping across the Mojave Desert, The Mole season one began in early 2001 on ABC. Ten players—Afi, Charlie, Henry, Jennifer, Jim, Kate, Kathryn, Manuel, Steven, and Wendi—had to figure out who among them was the mole, in order to avoid execution and win the pot.
Although I watched and wrote brief stories back in 2000, I did not recap The Mole, mostly because I didn’t write full recaps in the early years of reality blurred. So, I’m doing that now, 20+ years later. Recaps will be added to the list below as they’re written.
A note: During my Survivor re-watches I discussed the outcome of the season as part of the recaps, but I’m going to try not to do that here. While I don’t think a 20-year-old show can be spoiled, I also recognize that The Mole and its contestants were not as famous as Survivor’s first two winners, nor have they been discussed frequently since then. Also, the identity of the mole is integral to the experience of watching and playing along. I’ll do my best to focus on what’s in that episode, not what’s to come. I will, however, include occasional spoiler paragraphs at the end, so be vigilant if this is your first time watching. Whether it’s your first time or your 30th, enjoy The Mole!
A recap of The Mole season 1, episode 1, “Part the First,” now streaming on Netflix, which premiered 20 years ago in the wake of Survivor Borneo, but before Survivor The Australian Outback. It's remarkably fully formed for a show that arrived so early in reality TV history.
In The Mole season 1, episode 2, Steven is kidnapped by the producers and imprisoned where the Man in the Iron Mask was held, and the players have to find him. Later, they examine a Cartier watch while Anderson Cooper throws shade, and then play a game in a cornfield.
On The Mole season 1, episode 3, players traveled to Spain, where both a bull and a dice-rolling challenge knocked them off their feet, while Anderson Cooper asks three players to do everyone’s laundry for $10,000. Plus: thoughts on the executions.
In both of the tests on The Mole season 1, episode 4, there are twists, both of which have the potential to drain money from the group’s winnings: Kate is given yet another exemption offer, while Jim tries to stop players from winning money.
Reality TV's first visit from loved ones came in The Mole season 1, episode 5, which tests the players in two ways: challenging them to find their hotel rooms for the night, and to see if they can identify how their loved ones described them.
Who is The Mole? Is it Jim, Kathryn, or Steven? The Mole’s final episode is a tiny bit of episode that reveals that information, and a lot of reunion and recap, which offers a lot of fascinating information and context about the mole's game, plus some alleged clues.
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Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.
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