The Mole (2008) – “Episode Five”

“Episode Five”

June 30th, 2008

First off, happy Canada Day to my Canadian bretheren! I’ve been out for the day, but wanted to get a chance to catch up on the summer’s most high quality reality series that in recent weeks has been working extremely well. I won’t say it’s on the level of the other seasons of the series, but there is something that feels right about the overall purpose of the series. Or, felt right.

In this episode, it’s all about the psychological on first glance: the first task is entirely mental, demonstrating the emotional breakdown of a contestant who was once most confident in his game. The second task, though, seemed like it was about ingenuity or will but ended up being a giant mind game that demonstrates that these players are really just spoiled children.  It was an episode that showed these players at their worst, and while I saw semblances of the real story for the most part it was just reality show drivel that needs to stop.

And hopefully, as the game wittles down, it might – but losing one of the sane people isn’t going to help much.

The first task is a solid exercise in trust, or more aptly in testing the contestants’ willingness to abandon the group mentality in favour of an exemption. This season’s biggest issue is how often it has been willing to toss an exemption into the mix, something that happens much too often (Although apparently half of the players have no idea who the Mole is, so maybe they’re necessary?). That the game was a constant battle between a will for an exemption and the money in the pot makes it perfect sabotage or, in the end of the mission, a difficult choice between the social game and the game itself.

And the unfortunate thing about the second half of the episode is that it was exactly the same situation: Craig was quite literally given an exemption after the ludicrous task wherein he was given the opportunity to embarass and destroy his fellow players. The issue is that both of these tasks were all about bringing out the worst of these contestants, rather than actually displaying their intelligence or lack thereof within various tasks. The tasks did nothing to test these players in anything but their anger management skills.

And that’s the part of the show that feels the most off compared to previous years: I don’t know if it’s that reality show casting has changed that much, but these players just seem to hate each other. And while I think that eventually, when we learn the Mole’s identity, some of this may come into perspective, for now it’s just annoying. Clay and Paul’s ridiculous fight was quite frankly one of the lowest moments in the show’s history, a pathetic display by both men. Paul was being his usual ridiculous self, but Clay was being even more ridiculous: his explanation of why he threw a lemon at Paul was something along the lines of “I was trying to increase the shock factor,” at which point I question his decision making processes.

It’s just annoying at this stage: we get that these people are kind of awful to each other, but why must the game play into that? I actually thought that there was some really interesting character stuff in the episode, like Mark’s complicated new game play strategy or news that Kristen was taking the test focusing on one individual (A certain portend of her eventual doom as soon as she uttered it), but the editing and the game are focusing so heavily on the other parts of the game that they don’t seem to matter anymore. It wasn’t that bitchy gameplay that caused Kristen to be eliminated, but rather different strategies and a single second between her and another one of our contestants. The game needs to realize this, and adjust accordingly.

And this was a step back as a whole: not only did it have the wrong view, but it even had a task that the contestants mutinied against. It would have been an easy fix: say that Craig was selected at random based on a particular word (Which his use of does raise his profile as a potential Mole), but don’t reveal what it was or what it gets him. Then, privately (key part of this), tell him that before selecting the various tasks he should know that if all three teams fail to make it he gets an exemption. It’s similar to the task from Season One, where Charlie and Kate are offered exemptions if they kept Jim’s team from getting to the right destination – there’s an exemption at stake, but not all of the players know about it, and they might actually be willing to do the challenge.

The challenge was poorly conceived as it was: Walking on stilts for five miles? Or riding a unicycle of all things? It was built too much for the person with the exemption to perform well, although I’m guessing Alex and Mark probably could have made it if not for Mark’s mole-like behaviour. It just frustrates me that the episode was bad enough as it was in terms of how it portrayed these people, and then the producers had to make a fatal error and rob us of a task in the process.

So, a step back for The Mole; the ratings won’t be garnering a return after this point, so hopefully the show can step up as it heads towards its finale.

Cultural Observations

  • At this point, I’m ready to call Paul and Alex this season’s equivalent to Jim and Steven. Not only are they both playing some of the better games (ignoring Paul’s douchebaggery), but they have this weird control over everything and a really smart strategy on Alex’s part never to actively make a decision. So he’s Steve to Paul’s Jim…and I’m really sorry to Jim for that comparison.
  • The question, though, is who is their Kathryn? I’m still torn on who the Mole is, but I’d say that Craig, Mark and Clay all remain suspects. This leaves only Nicole on the outskirts as someone who has been too outrageous to be The Mole, and if she’s actually playing the quiz by averages she’s going to have to keep on her toes as the weeks wear on.

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