With half its season over, Netflix’s The Mole episodes six, seven, and eight continue don’t change much about the game or the show. But they do add some wonderful drama—Who is the “shithole mole”?!—and some money to the prize pot. Let’s dive in to a spoiler-filled discussion.
Nothing has fundamentally changed compared to the first half of The Mole season six, which means its frustrating editing and lack of an identity are still with us, and so are its engaging tests and shocking moments.
There are three things that really stood out to me in this batch of episodes:
- The ADR of scripted lines is out of control—and now it’s not just Alex, but the contestants, too.
- The editing is what’s affecting my sense of who is the mole, or who is not the mole
- The dollar amounts for tasks are pathetically low.
Let’s look at that last one for a moment. At the end of episode eight, the prize pot is $69,500 out of a possible $203,000.
While direct comparisons aren’t exactly parallel, because of the different numbers of tasks and players taking exemptions or screwing up, here’s how that compares: episode eight was season one’s final episode, and the group had earned $510,000; season 2 still had three more episodes, but the pot was up to $346,000; and in season 5, which was also 10 episodes, they’d earned $368,500 by the end of episode 8.
In other words, Netflix has so far given away roughly 15 to 25 percent of the prize ABC did at this stage in their seasons.
$69,500 for eight episodes is not even close to the same prize output as Nailed It!, with its $10,000 per-episode prize. And at this point, it’s questionable whether or not The Mole’s winner will even get the same prize as The Circle’s winner, $100,000.
Let’s dive into the tests and eliminations. Here come the spoilers!
Episode 6 “Mountain Mole”
The episode-5 cliffhanger is resolved at the start of episode, with Joi deciding to not take the exemption.
The countdown clock suggests she cuts the wire with seconds to spare, but I stopped trusting the countdown clocks in this episode, which seem to be for our benefit and not the contestants. (I think they have time limits, but in the edit, I think of the clocks as similar to, say, The Great British Bake-Off, when the hosts announce there’s one minute left but we’re not actually seeing what the contestants were doing when they had one minute left.)
What’s super-weird about Joi’s decision to choose $15,000 for the pot is that there’s absolutely no talk about Joi’s decision. How can that be? Did that endear her to the group? Why don’t we ever get to see them interact?
After the quiz, Pranav is eliminated, which was a genuine surprise. I did not think he was the mole, but I did think he’d go far, in part because of how hard he was playing.
There was a weird moment when Casey asked why Pranav would be out while Avori was safe. While we know Avori didn’t share information with Pranav about Jacob’s miscounting, that may or may not have anything to do with his exit.
The answer, of course, is that only one person is eliminated. Two people can answer the quiz questions exactly the same—or get the same score—and only one will go home, based on how fast they answered.
By the way: I was fond of the new mobile phone red screen/green screen, because I loved the image of the player’s face turning red or green. The part where the player shows their phone to everyone is clunky, though.
But Pranav’s elimination was the first time it just did not work for me: the room they were in was so overlit that the visual effect was gone or muted. The players were also sitting in couches instead of at a table.
Once again, the production design isn’t helping to ratchet up tension or drama, and in this case is actively hurting the show.
Mountain hike and climb
For the next test, the whole group drove together with Alex. Yes, that’s how small the group is already: they fit in one van. Instead of showing us banter, though, the editors keep cutting away to suspicion talk instead. Sigh.
Their task in the mountains is yet another full-group challenge—I guess we’re not going to get smaller tasks with the group splintered—that’s both physical and directly connected to the game.
Everyone in the group has a backpack; only three of those backpacks contain $10,000, for a total of $30,000 possible—still super-low, but more than usual. The mole, allegedly, has decided which three players get $10K in their bags.
Throughout their hike, rappel, climb, and rope traverse, the players have to eliminate some of their own, so that only three players will end up at the end, hopefully with $10K in each one.
This task convinced me that Casey is the mole. She was yet again the first person to speak up about who should be left behind, and then on the hike, she kept stalling. She stopped to look around (“it sure is pretty up here”) and took time to chat with the safety person before traversing the final rope.
Even more suspiciously, she tried to eliminate herself twice.even though it turned out she was one who had money in her bag.
Meanwhile, Will was insistent that he go to the end, even though it seemed like a safe bet that the mole would expect him to get to the end, and thus wouldn’t put money in his bag. I’ll give him credit for the creativity of his argument, suggesting by some miraculous double-negative that the mole would expect that they’d all expect that, and thus put $10K in his bag.
My read of it was that Will just wanted to do these fun things, and/or be around to influence the group’s decisions, and who can blame him? But his frustration (“you guys don’t get it”) wasn’t going to convince anyone.
The location was spectacular, though the rope climb and rappel seemed relatively easy. Casey was the last to cross the gorge, and made it with 11 alleged seconds left, except no one was screaming for her to hurry because seconds remained, so again, I think those clocks are for us, not them.
It turned out Joi and Casey had money in their bags, while Jacob did not. The other cash was in Kesi’s bag, but she was left behind at the start. They won $20,000, which is not bad for this cast/season!
Chains of Love
Instead of going to a hotel, the cast went to a warehouse, where they were chained together, Chains of Love style—and The Mole season 5 style, as this challenge is from the final ABC civilian season.
The test: $20,000 and a night in a hotel if they all unlocked themselves. They could do that one at a time, with a key box opening up every 10 minutes. Also in the key box: an exemption. If someone took that, the rest stayed chained together all night.
That’s an easy $20K, and it seemed like even the mole might agree. (In the ABC version, they all freed themselves, with no one taking the exemption.)
The group voted for Kesi to unlock herself first, which she did—and then took the exemption and walked out without saying a word or looking at the others.
Joi’s scream was the same as my own. Wow!
Kesi’s logic, though, was sound: If she didn’t take it, she said, “someone else was” going to, and “the fact that people trusted me that allowed me to lie so well.” She did face them the next morning, as she sipped tea and they came to the hotel, bedraggled, but several of the players seemed understanding, perhaps because they, too, would have done the same thing.
Episode 7 “Spot the Fake”
At the elimination, the prize pot was at $49,500, and my jaw was on the floor when Casey was eliminated.
As a result of Casey’s behavior on the mountain task, whether she was trying to divert suspicion or just being herself, I realized the obvious: the editing 100 percent has the ability to shape my perception of who the mole is, and therefore trying to guess is practically useless. The producers are showing us what they want us to see; the actual mole’s sabotage will probably be included, but not enough to call attention to itself.
The next two episodes contain tests that are similar to previous American Mole challenges. “Spot the Fake” begins with a challenge reminiscent of season 1, episode 7’s art challenge, which had its players create art to try to fool an art critic.
The next two episodes also have an absurd amount of ADR or looping, which refers to audio recorded in post-production. The Apprentice used it to make Donald Trump’s firing logic make sense; other shows use it for more innocuous reasons, like add some explanatory information.
In the first five episodes, a lot of Alex’s dialogue was ADR, which is easy to spot because of the change in audio and the lack of footage of someone actually speaking those words. I suspected her ADR were network notes asking for more explanation so that viewers who weren’t pay attention would get it.
But in these episodes, there was a ton of contestant dialogue that was clearly added in post, and sounded so fake because they’re not actors who can plausibly deliver a line. I stopped taking notes after a while, but a few examples:
- Joi: “You know me and these exemptions.”
- Greg: “Kasi is still my top suspect, but I don’t think I can rule out Jacob just yet.”
- Joi: “I called Jacob out and got into Greg’s head. Time to play some more mind games.”
Would the producers have the mole record more ADR than other players? Hmm.
Two truths and a lie
The art challenge in Netflix’s Mole asked the players to first decide, individually, which of two paintings is fake and which is real.
One looked like a Jackson Pollock knock-off, with primary colors splattered on a canvas, and the other looked like a Banksy knock-off, with the word STOP spray paint stenciled into a red circle.
After everyone voted, the fake piece, which was compared to Banksy’s work, was shredded in its frame—just like an actual Banksy piece, a nice reference.
Kesi, Will, and Greg thought the fake was real, but Jacob, Joi, and Avori correctly guessed the fake, so they became the key players in the money part of the test.
Their goal: fool the other three players and all earn an exemption.
The losers’ goal: try to figure out which one of the other three was lying to win $20,000 for the pot.
The two truths and a lie came via stories the three told about their evenings—or really, a task they had to complete before going back to the hotel. We didn’t see what happened, so we got to play along, which was fantastic.
- Jacob ate a Witchetty grub
- Joi had a snake placed on her head for a few minutes
- Avori walked on fire
Each of their narratives had some suspicious moments. Joi mixed up which of her hands the snake was crawling in, but as Will said, “I freaking believe her.” Jacob scrunched up his face and added odd details and contradicted himself.
Avori was asked to take off her shoes to show them her feet, and her refusal was just odd: “I’m not going to take my shoes off in the middle of a conversation,” she said. Her goal was clearly to convince others she was being deceptive, but they saw through that.
Well, Will and Greg did, casting their votes for Jacob as the liar; Kesi stuck with Avori as the liar. They were right, and won $20,000.
We saw footage of Joi and the snake, which really did slither through her hair, and Avori and the coals, which really were basically nothing, because she literally took two steps in them and that was it.
This brought the prize pot to $69,500, and Alex told them “I will see you all later for dinner.”
Lo and behold, we got to see dinner! Or at least, drama dessert.
That’s because Joi chose chaos and decided to call Jacob out in the most hilarious and unexpected way possible:
“Jacob, you screw up in a lot of the missions, and you go unnoticed. No one ever points the finger at you. And I’m pointing the finger at you right now. … I’m calling a spade a spade: I don’t trust you, and my gut is telling me that you’re the shithole mole.”
Alex’s face when Joi said “shithole mole” mirrored my own face. Wow wow wow!
Episode 8 “The Bird Cage”
Another episode, another cliffhanger, more recap of what we just saw. Will said that Joi “KOed” Jacob but Jacob had a reply of his own.
He called Joi both “the bottom of the barrel for most missions” and “the shit on the bottom of the shoe for most missions—the complete screw-up of all of them.”
Joi, unfazed, continued by asking Jacob, “I want to know: What is your game?” and saying that “Greg and Will bring in the most money.”
While Greg has been edited to be annoying and/or mildly villainous, he’s also one of the few players who seems to understand what show he’s on, and he appreciated what Joi did: “She knew what she was doing,” he told us.
Avori, too, recognized the game play here, and Joi acknowledged it in an interview, saying her ultimate goal was to “confuse everybody” because she thinks Will is the mole.
At the elimination, Greg got the red screen. I never thought he was the mole, but I will miss Greg and his different hairstyles, which sometimes made me think he was a completely different person.
Alex told the group that, with their $69,500 prize pot, “you guys are winning big money.” Sorry, Alex, they are not; that’s less than the season-one cast got for jumping out of an airplane.
The final test of this episode—and this week’s batch—is a version of The Mole season one’s famous Man in the Iron Mask test.
In the original, it was worth $50,000; Netflix’s version offers the players just $10,000 to find one of their own hidden in Sydney.
Unlike the season-one version, a player wasn’t kidnapped, so the group had to choose their most-observant player. I like that version, giving the group responsibility.
When Joi volunteers, Will says, “I don’t like anybody who volunteers for anything,” perhaps forgetting he volunteers for everything.
They chose Avori, who did only a half-decent job. Considering how aware some of the players are that Avori is acting suspiciously on purpose, why give her the chance to do that again?
Jacob told us, “If [Avori is] the mole, I am going to look like the biggest fucking idiot.”
In the same way that Casey acted super-suspiciously during the mountain task, Kesi is the one who’s highlighted here. She and Joi went to a rooftop to look for clues, and after talking to Avori, realized they’re looking for pigeons circling.
Joi saw them immediately; Kesi saw a bird and insisted they check that out too. When they got to the correct pigeons, they were told they had to pick the right homing pigeon to follow it to Avori. (In reality, they followed a map.)
Avori’s bird cage cell had very few clues—I wish there were more—including a very obvious newspaper article about a prize pigeon that had a picture of it, and that photo matched one of the pigeons.
Once again, Kesi wanted to choose the wrong pigeon, but Joi won rock-paper-scissors and chose the right pigeon.
Meanwhile, Will and Jacob ended up at a pizza restaurant, and couldn’t figure out what to do. The edited version of their time there showed them basically sitting around after halfheartedly asking a question or two.
Jacob finally had an idea, which Will mocked as his only idea, that Avori’s empty pizza box meant pizza was delivered to her, so she should call and request another delivery.
But Avori told them “there is no number on the pizza box,” without actually looking at the pizza box. Eventually, though, she saw it, and called and placed the order taped to the outside of the box.
Will and Jacob got into a taxi to follow the delivery driver—and this where the test threw in its best, and only, twist.
As they drove, two more identically-dressed pizza delivery drivers on identical red motorcycles slipped into traffic ahead of them, meaning there were now three possibilities. They had to keep their eye on the correct driver as they drove through streets and then circled a roundabout.
They did choose the right driver, but ultimately arrived after time had expired, adding $0 of the $10,000 to the pot.
Jacob said that Avori’s missing the number “could have been sabotage, or it could have been just blatant ignorance,” while Will described it as “not even mole behavior, that’s idiotic behavior.” I appreciate what Avori is trying to do, but at the same time it is so obvious she’s trying to do it.
At dinner, before the next test, Joi apologizes to Jacob for calling him “the shithole mole”—and then chooses more chaos. She now calls out Kesi, saying “You’ve made so many bad decisions. I don’t trust you.”
Kesi says, “It’s always interesting to see who throws shade at this table.” We’ve only seen shade at the table twice, and both times from Joi. Has there been more?!
The episode ends on a cliffhanger to see if Jacob has been eliminated or not. This is nowhere near as good a cliffhanger as the previous batch of episodes, and I am very tired of having to wait for a new episode just to see an elimination. Television has episodes! Make television!
But after next week, no more waiting: there are just two episodes of The Mole season six to go.
The Mole recaps and spoilers
The Mole: recaps, analysis, and spoiler-filled discussion of The Netflix and ABC reality TV competition show that has one player working to sabotage the other players' attempts to earn money.
"Mole, noun," Anderson Cooper read 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.
The Mole: The Next Betrayal, also just known as The Mole season 2, premiered just seven months after season one concluded on Feb. 28, 2001. But after three episodes, it was pulled off the schedule, and returned in the summer of 2002, airing opposite American Idol. The Mole seasons one and two are now streaming on Netflix, so you can watch 14 players—Al, Ali, Bill, Bob, Bribs, Darwin, Dorothy, Elavia, Heather, Katie, Lisa, Myra, Patrick, and Rob—work together in tests while trying to avoid execution and figure out who among them is the mole.
My spoiler-free review of Netflix’s The Mole, which has thrilling tests, but no sense of identity, and underuses its terrific host, Alex Wagner, while under-developing its players. It’s watchable, yet also a missed opportunity.
Tuesday 18th of October 2022
I'm happy they brought this show back but unfortunately so far it's only ok-ish. Everything feels kinda clunky and heavy handed. I'm not sure how to describe it better. What do producers think the constant interruptions by pointless testimonials and re-telling of the obvious adds?
Sunday 16th of October 2022
I'm been all-in from the beginning of this season that Joi is The Mole. In fact it seems really obvious to me. Her commentary always sounds very scripted. She's a poor performer in challenges and has been very selfish in the game (except for the part where she knew she had to cut the bomb wire), but then she calls out people over dinner for the same behavior (which also feels scripted). If she is not The Mole then I will be shocked.
Sunday 16th of October 2022
@Creeping Jenny, The reactions do come across as unrealistic. I think most of us would have expected tempers to flare when Kesi took the exemption. But what we got instead were comments like "she's so savage", "I love you but you're suspicious now" and "well played". Really?!!! Nicole, Clay, Craig, Mark, Paul, etc. would have waged war on the culprit had this happened in S5 and rightfully so.
Will's clownish reactions to Joi and Jacob's squabble at dinner also looked fake....almost like the film crew told him to react after the fact for the sake of splicing it in.
Sunday 16th of October 2022
Agreed, the editing makes me feel like I'm not part of the game like I did in previous seasons. Also, why has no one mentioned Will's giant Joan Rivers pearl and gold statement necklace?
Sunday 16th of October 2022
I watched these last 3 episodes with a friend of mine. She did not watch the first 5 episodes. Her hilarious commentary got me through. She said Will must be a brand manager for The Home Shopping Network because he has access to their finest faux jewelry!
She also said she was expecting the host to breastfeed the eliminated contestants as she walked them to the car. lol! She thought the coddling of grown adults was too much.
Sunday 16th of October 2022
The thing about the "low" $69500 pot is it's actually fairly average compared to other Mole seasons with similar prize values. They're headed for about US$250k as a maximum, which puts it around the two UK seasons (£200k and £230k) and the first two Australian seasons ($200k and $255k). By episode 7 those season's pots stood at £100k, £71k, $95k, and $90k respectively, which seems higher until you realise those seasons didn't have players spending 25k on an exemption. Adding that 25k makes it $94,500 and puts it right in the middle there, which is doubly good because this season they've been doing slightly over half of the number of challenges that any of those seasons had (13 vs usually 21). The prize is fine; the issue is by not announcing it as $250k, people like you who've only had experience with the US version are expecting the sort of pointlessly huge prizes the ABC version used as a way to try and counter Survivor's million dollars. (The other thing worth noting is in the past US Moles have been startlingly ineffective - four of the ABC seasons ended with pots worth 49-57% of the maximum; in the entire rest of the world, only one adult season since 2001 has gotten above 1/3 of its maximum.)
Sunday 16th of October 2022
I have been in contact with 4 former contestants from the US version. 2 from Season 5. 1 from Season 2. 1 from Season 1. All 4 are in agreement that this is the worst season ever. 1 from Season 5 stated they are relieved they participated when they did. They wouldn't want to be part of the Netflix product even if given the chance to compete again. That says it all.
Sunday 16th of October 2022
@Michael Harmstone, Hello Michael. Thanks for responding to my post. I have not watched too many of the global editions but I believe this US season was produced by the same production company that produced Australia 6 [Stone & Co. Entertainment]. You would think Stone & Co. would have made vast improvements to this season based on their experience in producing the Aussie version but also based on all the previous global editions out there from which to gain inspiration. Challenges have been copied but watered down. This is why I think this is the worst season.
Sunday 16th of October 2022
@Xiu, It's not the worst season ever, but it is solidly mediocre. Worst season is usually considered to be either Australia 6 (this, but with over 20 episodes, and ripping off the Dutch Mole rather than Belgian) or Germany 5 (this, but with two-hour long episodes, completely irrelevant hosts and an insistence on ending every episode with a twist execution).
As I said last week, this is my 36th season of Mole worldwide and I just don't care about any of it, which is a really bad sign.