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 12, “The Twelfth Betrayal,” which first aired July 30, 2002.
Three players, two tests, and one final quiz: that’s all that remains in The Mole: The Next Betrayal. This season has been giving us a lot more insight into players’ coalitions and their suspicions, although without actually revealing either who was misguided or who the mole is.
Heather reveals that she and Dorothy planned to knock out Bribs and then Al, and succeeded in both tasks. She says that now they’re up against each other, which leaves one other player, Bill. While either of them could technically still be the mole, their successful coalition and the idea that they’re now competing with each other leaves me with the impression that they both think Bill is the mole.
The three players meet Anderson outside, Dorothy wearing a cat-eared hoodie, to play what Anderson reminds us “last year’s mole Kathryn called ‘a hideous game.'” Each player answers several false-dichotomy questions about the other players, and then the other two have to guess what that player answered.
The test does produce a few fun moments, like Anderson Cooper joking about littering (“What’s one little bag of chips on the highway?”), but fails to generate the same kind of emotional response that the season-one version did.
Heather does say “it was hard not to take it personally” when she and Dorothy have to decide which one of them Bill thinks is “more likely to sleep with someone to get what they want,” but none of them seem particularly hurt or affected. I suspect it’s because this final three are not friends in the way that the final three season-one players had become. Dorothy and Heather only recently formed their coalition; neither of them is particularly close to Bill; the people who’ve said they’re close to Bill have all been executed.
Bill’s answers, however, seem absurd, and his justifications are even dumber, which is another moment this episode is pointing directly toward him as the most-likely suspect—or a player who’s sabotaging tests in the most obvious ways possible.
The players fail all three, but have one final chance at $100,000. But Anderson introduces it to them as a race to get to a secret dossier about the mole. Each of them have a different path to that final point—kind of like the NatGeo show Race to the Center of the Earth—and they choose their starting points by selecting metaphoric desserts at dinner:
- Heather starts at a nearby pond, where a GPS is waiting at a picnic table
- Dorothy starts at a far-away field, where a GPS waits on top of a haystack
- Bill is pointed toward a faraway, mysterious tilted castle on a hill
I wish we could have seen a map of these routes, along with total distance, because it’s hard to get a sense of where they’re starting from (in relation to each other) or where they’re going. The players can hitchhike or walk along roads, or go on more direct routes and hike through brush that’s so thick at one point Bill lacerates his arms. Anderson says “you can use any means necessary to get to the top-secret location” but “you can’t do anything illegal.”
The race starts at 6:20 p.m., and eventually gets dark, and covers many, many miles. It’s no joke. Bill, who hiked 1,300 miles of the Appalachian Trail, is challenged by this. Heather breaks down with 4.3 miles to go, and it’s dark out and she’s already been hiking for hours.
Heather, who has been getting frustrated quickly with tests in these past few episodes, turns on the camera crew at one point: “Really sick of you guys not talking to me,” she says. “I’m asking you as from a staff, crew thing. Would you stop me if something was wrong?”
She eventually sits down and says, “I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do,” and looks at the camera operator and says, “Please stop filming me. I don’t want to do this any more.” A producer or camera operator says to her, “Are you quitting the game?” and “It’s OK to quit,” and that’s when some kind of animal starts growling and totally freaks out the crew. It’s a moment straight out of a horror movie, but is completely real. The subtitles are intense:
[animal grunting loudly]
[crew member] Get up!
Get over here!
[animal grunting grows louder]
[leaves and brush rustling]
[leaves and brush rustling]
[crew member] That’s good. Walk. Walk further [indistinct].
We never really find out what the animal was or what happened, though Anderson Cooper says in a voice over, “With heather in physical danger and the game over, she is finally brought to the castle.” Later, Heather tells the other players that, when she was 8 years old, she was attacked by a dog and required 30 stitches in her face. So even if it was just a dog growling at them—and it doesn’t sound like a dog to me, it sounds like a boar—that makes the whole thing even more terrifying for Heather.
Bill is the first to make it to the castle, where The Bachelor’s production designer stores all of their candles, and finds Anderson Cooper in a green room, where he shakes bloody hands with Anderson.
Anderson offers him the dossier—or, in the show’s final twist, $100,000 to the pot if Bill hands over the dossier without reading it. “I think I know who the mole is,” Bill says, and adds that because the final test was so hard, “I’ll be damned if I want to do that just to look at a piece of paper.”
“You’re pretty confident you know who the mole is?” Anderson asks. “Yeah,” Bill says, and declines, so the players earn $100,000, bringing the final pot to $636,000.
They then go to a windy location outside a stunningly lit castle to take their final quiz. There are 20 questions and listening to Anderson read them exhausted me, so I have no idea how the players managed to answer them. I watched the show from my couch and I would have scored maybe two, and one of those is question #20, Who is the mole? But the answer won’t be revealed until the reunion episode.