The Mole (2008) – “Episode Four”

“Episode Four”

June 23rd, 2008

As I become more and more convinced that I know who the Mole is, I’m also becoming convinced of something much more important: ratings be damned, this is turning into a great season of The Mole. And the main reason? Because my main suspect got booted from the game.

Now, it is not an unequivocally great season, don’t get me wrong: there are still some quirks here and there in terms of the quiz and interpersonal dynamics, but the one task in this episode focused solely on that conflict was either edited less dramatically or finally featured these players realizing that this game is actually probably a lot of fun.

And this episode was just that: the first task had numerous twists and turns, the journals were finally put into play, and while there’s plenty of drama with injuries and missing persons, it felt more like a show that plays mind games with its players as opposed to attempting to put them at each other’s throats. The result is perhaps the best episode yet, with a good story and a reason to keep watching – if only millions more were doing the same.

The two crises at the center of the episode, maybe, might have been able to calm down Paul and Nicole and their insanity. Craig’s altitude sickness/hypothermia is as good an icebreaker as any for these two, and the show is smart not to live too long in those unsavory moments such as Mark’s meltdown.

The first task is a nice little adventure that combines physical struggles with strategy and Mole-like behaviour. While I was apprehensive early in the season about these tasks with so many moving parts, they’re growing on me: here teams had to decide how much to carry, pick which scale they thought was best, and eventually decide who would get an exemption from amongst themselves. In reality, of course, it was never a race: Craig’s struggles were going to keep the team behind regardless, and thus the Selfish team was going to make it to the top.

What makes the challenge great is the questions it raises: why, then, did the Selfish team take so few bricks when they knew that they would beat the other team to the top of the mountain? You don’t throw it in Craig’s face or anything, but taking 15 less blocks seems a bit excessive. No one was ever going to take half, but the 23 number seemed more than a little bit low (And Clay knew it).

It’s a real pity to see Craig actually get to the point of hypothermia AND altitude sickness, so I’m wondering whether or not the game was tested by someone near his size. They usually test these events, and it just seemed like this really took something out of Craig. I did love his attitude thought: that he’s playing against himself with this stuff, and that he’s sad Bobby isn’t there because he would have done ever worse. It’s a sharp sense of humour, so it was really sad to see him laid up.

But the game took a few twists that, as it turns out, Craig probably would have opted to sit out if he could. The journals, too often ignored as insignificant parts of the game in the Celebrity seasons outside of making fun of Corbin, returned to the focus as a short challenge used pullquotes from the journals. This was fun, although some were too easy, and Nicole’s sabotage was so obvious that it couldn’t possibly have been an honest (or dishonest) mistake. I’m impressed, though, that they got some of the tougher ones (Kristen’s “vibe” comment, for example), so it was a nice glimpse into a more civil side of these people (Even if Nicole threw a hissy fit at what Victoria said about her being there to “get famous”).

But the real hissy fit came when Mark had to watch his intricately prepared journal, with notes on every single contestant based on every single past quiz question, go up in flames. In one of the game’s most cruel twists, Alex won a rock/paper/scissors match as someone who was willing to sacrifice their journal, and then his was saved (the ultimate irony) while Mark and everyone else (but Craig, who was at home resting) saw theirs burn in a fiery explosion.

Now, I will agree with Mark in that it seemed unfair, but it was a perfect twist: these players are so obsessed with exemptions that they will jump at any possible hint of a twist as being a potential one. That in this instance someone being willing to put themselves out there so clearly screwed over everyone else is a big message to send, and while it may seem harsh it also is quite realistic.

And Mark was certainly more than a bit overdramatic; the guy even had Paul supporting him, and yet he still seemed far too visibly upset over it. I understand he’s there for his family, but still: when he actually did a Talking Head where he was upset that Craig had been exempted from the burning when the guy had hypothermia was a sign that he needed to calm down and put things into perspective just a little bit.

This was all quite good though, in that it was mostly game-related drama. The quiz was a bit of a mixed bag again this week, to be honest: questions 3 and 4 will both be answered entirely the same based on who you think the Mole is, and the 7th, 8th and 9th Questions are all either one or two people vs. everyone else questions. Still, the one about their standing order or their pants colours were at least a little bit tough, and with no one having journals I’ll forgive the easy questions for just a moment.

Learning that someone is going home based on 5 seconds of time on the quiz goes to show you how close this game can be, and it’s also a solid sign that these people are playing the game. That it was Victoria, though, totally shocked me: I was convinced she was the Mole, as her overacting was getting to the point of satire in this episode, and her talking heads were always the most canned to me. I don’t know if the editors did this to mislead us on purpose, but either way I’m completely thrown for a loop again.

And that’s a good thing: it means I’m engaged, interested, and damn excited. Here’s hoping ABC resists pulling the plug on the low-rated series and makes sure we get to the end of this journey.

Cultural Observations

  • While he’s still no Anderson Cooper, I thought Jon Kelley was really good this week with his banter at dinner or his explanation of the journal burning part of that challenge. He’s really settled into the role, and is certainly walking that fine line between friend and foe (Even if, as they pointed out, Jon is fairly mean when he crosses into Argentina).
  • Speaking of Argentina, nice to see them get out of Chile. I am going to presume that they’re going for a low budget series here, considering that they’ve yet to even get on a bus as far as I can tell, so chances are they’ll be sticking around South America. That’s fine by me, as they’ve found plenty of unique tasks (With historical connections), but those looking for a lot of diversity might want to wait for The Amazing Race to return.

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