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 6, “The Sixth Betrayal,” which first aired June 18, 2002.
The Mole’s players have yet to work together to accomplish a single task, and they are yet again split up for their first episode-six test, but at least they are all working toward the same goal: making dinner.
The three people who love to cook get to bike instead—and bike straight uphill. In two separate teams, they’re able to trade off, but have to either pedal or carry the bike all the way to the church at the literal peak of town. Along the way, they’ll pick up two bottles of wine for dinner, which are also worth $5,000 each for the pot, plus $10,000 if they all arrive at the church within the time limit.
The people who hate to cook have to actually cook three pizzas, having first acquired 14 ingredients from different homes in the small Tuscan town of Barga.
An aside: I feel icky watching reality TV challenges that ask American contestants to beg for things from people. Sure, we see a lot of really generous people help the players out, including a teenager who agrees to be their translator, and there are some charming moments.
But it’s not like the townspeople are volunteering helping people who are legitimately in need; they’re helping people competing for up to $1 million on a show that will earn ABC millions of dollars. I just hope a producer follows behind, thanks all of those generous people, and compensates them for their time and the resources they’ve given up.
Myra, Bill, and Katie label themselves as those who hate to cook and get assigned that task, which earns them soe Anderson Cooper shade: “Don’t you guys know how this game works?” he asks. “If you say you don’t like to cook, you’re know you’re gonna end up cooking. …This is, like, basic Mole.”
Anderson sure is sassy this season! And we haven’t even seen him sitting in the back of a chase vehicle, telling Elavia, who’s struggling to peddle a bike up an incline, “Don’t worry—it’s all uphill from here,” or sipping on a cocktail while Bribs struggles: “These hills are a bitch.”
The hills really are, and it’s a grueling physical task, especially considering one of the bikes is older and has just one gear. But they make it, and so does the pizza team, so they earn $40,000. They also get to feast on pizza that has mysterious flecks in the dough. “If I’d have known that was all we were going to eat, I maybe would have washed my hands, you know, before making the pizza” Myra says in an interview.
They’re all starving, and as they’re waiting to get into the vans, Darwin and Bill go into a store and buy ice cream. This earns the group a fine, as does Heather touching one of the bikes after Anderson told them not to.
“By the way, this is your dinner,” Anderson says, but does not tell them they cannot eat anything else, at least not on TV. Yet that ice cream is considered a major infraction.
“I could be fining you for each individual action,” Anderson announces, but says he’s “giving you a break, fining you all as a group.” The fine: $10,000, and it comes with a warning that “the next fine you get will be $20,000.”
The producers have really gone exemption-happy and fine-happy this season, which is curious because those felt like such asides last season. The fines really benefit the production, of course, since it’s less money that they have to pay out to the winner. I don’t mind holding the players accountable, but the ice cream thing seems like an after-the-fact decision. And in terms of ambiguity, it’s similar to Anderson Cooper inviting Darwin and Katie into Dorothy and Lisa’s room and then telling them they broke the rules.
The second test is just, well, mean: The players have to rank each other from favorite to least-favorite. The season-one players did a version of this, too, and that information was used to determine who they trusted the most (Steven), who then became the point person for a trust-focused test.
This season, they just poll the players to find out who they like the least, Elavia, and then Anderson tells her that. It’s brutal and pointless. The “test” part is that Anderson offers her the choice between an exemption or $5,000 for the pot. Let’s see: Help the team that just said they dislike you, or protect yourself.
I was impressed that Heather declined an exemption after the prison-cell escape room test because the alternative was punishing the people who’d just helped her in the test. And I was also impressed that Elavia took the exemption instead of trying to make everyone happy. Elavia’s alternative was adding a paltry amount to the pot. She also declines Anderson’s increased offers of $10,000 and $15,000, too, though later tells the group that she would have taken $30,000 for the pot. That may be true or it may be a useful fib. Either way, screw them, take the exemption!
When Anderson Cooper gathers the players to reveal what happened, Heather asks Elavia, “Did you learn anything else about the list?” Elavia says, “Just that you guys hate me.” It’s a crushing moment, and makes it clear how unnecessary this test has been—even if it has consequences that ripple through the season.
Before the execution, we do get more information about who the players suspect the mole to be, and I appreciate the game-talk that this season is providing. Darwin, for example, thinks it’s either Dorothy and Elavia, with the blueberry test contributing to his suspicion.
Al tells us he thinks he’s reading people well, and suspects Elavia as the mole, and says, “I could be wrong. Somebody at home right now is going, You ain’t reading nothing well. You’re way off—it’s Bill!” That is basically what everyone at home was thinking, yes!
Bill tells us “Darwin would be my number-one choice,” in part because of the fine—except Bill was also involved in getting fined. It’s really obvious that when Bill points a finger, four more point right back at him.
After the quiz, there’s yet another tie, and this time, it’s Myra who’s executed, having told us she answered as quickly as she could, with one player in mind. Of note is that Myra is the first name Anderson types into his computer, and the first time that’s happened in two seasons of the mole. It’s the biggest surprise of the episode, and I will miss Myra and her eagerness.