The Mole first aired 20 years ago and is finally streaming again thanks to Netflix, which is filming a new season with American contestants. This summer, I’m re-watching the first two seasons, and recapping, analyzing, and discussing each episode, continuing today with The Mole: The Next Betrayal. This is season 2, episode 11, “The Eleventh Betrayal,” which first aired July 23, 2002.
The Mole season 2 may have started with a series of challenges that failed to reach the level of season-one’s games, but this final stretch of episodes are really delivering: drinking with Anderson Cooper, epic hide and seek, and now the most iconic season-two challenge: “Tiny Bubbles.”
First, there’s a cameo from The Mole season one mole Kathryn Price, who’s now a crew member, and shows up to breakfast to deliver a present: a box of grubs, one of which ends up swimming in someone’s water glass.
The players are invited into “Anderson’s Funhouse,” where his “girls”—some creepy old dolls—sit on an old couch. There are two tests. The first is a card game that’s basically War, which means it involves no skill, but it’s a way to create some suspicion and imbalance.
Each player has a $25,000 chip; if they have the high card during the round, they can either add that money to the pot or send someone to sit with Anderson’s girls. The last player standing gets to go back to the hotel; the others have to stay in the funhouse. All four decide to put money into the pot, though Dorothy hesitates a long time, a decent way to attract some suspicion.
Bill ultimately wins, so he gets a night of comfort. The other three players have to earn the $100,000 by staying in their assigned rooms.
Dorothy has to sit in a small, screened cage for 30 minutes. A handful of cockroaches fall from the ceiling, but it’s by far the easiest challenge, and absolutely nothing compared to bug challenges on other reality shows, such as Fear Factor. Also I live in Florida and cockroaches basically rain on us daily, so maybe my perspective is distorted. She succeeds—and hilariously times the game herself, so when her watch beeps, demands the producers get her out.
Heather has to stay in a small room with a giant boa, which seems doable until the lights go out. She bails immediately. I don’t blame her, especially because she’s not given a time limit like Dorothy. Staying in a locked room all night, with a massive snake, and not be able to see it? No thanks.
Al is taken to an oddly decorated room with a bubble machine and a metal bed that has no mattress, just a wire frame. Anderson Cooper offers an amusing demonstration of what it means to stay on the bed all night long. It’s not until after Anderson leaves that the real test begins: Don Ho’s “Tiny Bubbles,” played all night long, at high volume and varying speeds. It’s horrible, and especially mean that the producers leave Al there all night even though Heather opting out means the test is over very early on.
All three of these seem relatively simple, but they are psychologically demanding, with the added challenge of not knowing what’s happening to the other three players. It’s simple and ridiculous and a little mean but altogether perfect.
Anderson shows up to breakfast singing “Tiny Bubbles,” and says, “None of you guys seem to have enjoyed my funhouse.” He introduces one more component, and I’d forgotten about this but think it’s a smart part two: The players have to tell Bill about their night, and two of them have to lie. If Bill identifies the person who’s telling the truth, he gets an exemption; if they successfully deceive him, they’ll win $50,000.
Al, Dorothy, and Heather smartly decide to have Dorothy and Heather swap stories, and that strategy works. While Bill gets to see brief videos of both the snake and bug rooms, but doesn’t see Al’s room. Bill doubts that Al couldn’t sleep through the song, and also questions Dorothy’s description of the snake hissing, so he picks Heather as the truth-teller, and the pot grows by $50,000 to $536,000.
The players have their final group dinner, and it’s huge platters of McDonald’s food that may just have inspired a future president. “For one of you, this is your last supper, compliments of Mickey D’s,” Anderson Cooper says.
Before the quiz, we learn that Al thinks Dorothy suspects Bill as the mole, and Heather says she’s suspected Bill from the beginning. But Heather also says, “I’m almost positive I’m leaving tonight” because she ended up guessing on the quiz. It’s actually Al who is executed, and as Kathryn said at the start of the episode, we’re now left with a winner, a loser, and the mole, who have two final tests to attempt in the next episode.