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Catch ‘The Mole’

‘Survivor’ clone with a spy novel twist has good potential.

by Mark D. Johnson
January 9, 2001

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Catch ‘The Mole’_Mark D. Johnson-‘Survivor’ clone with a spy novel twist has good potential. For those who can’t wait for “Survivor II” later this month, you might want to give “The Mole” a try. Sure, the premise is a transparent rip-off of last summer’s tropical island castaway hit, but there is enough variation to hold interest, and the production style is nearly equal to the “Survivor” standard.

Here’s how it works: ten “real” people of mixed ethnicity, age, and gender, work together to complete tasks around the globe in order to increase the prize money total. One of the contestants is a mole, however, who is working to sabotage the group’s efforts. At the end of each show, a test is given with questions about the mole (male or female? what did the mole eat for breakfast?). The person who gets the most wrong answers is “executed” and must leave the game. At the end of the show’s nine week run, the winner could walk away with one million dollars.

The episode’s first task: all ten must parachute from a plane at 10,000 feet above New Mexico (they all succeeded for $75,000 added to the pot). Next, in southern France, they were given an ATM card and had two hours to crack the pin number using numerical information they had to quickly absorb about each other (they succeeded). Like “Survivor,” private interviews with the contenders are interspersed throughout the show. Suspicions about the mole’s identity surfaced early on among the group, but no one is certain who it is (except, of course, for the mole).

It’s difficult to get to know the cast in the first episode, but at first glance, this is a likeable bunch. The show’s host, whose name I’ve already forgotten, is well-cast. His serious demeanor and secret agent look works well for this premise. One interesting difference in “The Mole” from "Survivor" is that the contests are held in different locations around the world, adding to the intrigue. Also of note is that the person “executed” each week is not done so by the other contestants voting him or her off the show. While the “Execution” sounds worse than the “Tribal Council,” it is actually more humane. Yet there is plenty of opportunity for conniving and strategy among the players. With a mole in the group, however, it seems unlikely that a Richard Hatch-style alliance will form.

I found the whole set-up a little confusing at first because they jumped into the first task almost immediately without much explanation. This was a good move, however, as things become clear as the show goes on, and the producers probably wanted to avoid the overkill rules and regulations that got CBS’ “Big Brother” show off to such a boring start.

Sadly, the first to get executed was Manuel, a seemingly good guy, well-liked by the group. His departure drew tears from several of the women.

If you liked “Survivor,” chances are good that you’ll like “The Mole” as well. Better start watching next week though, so you’ll know what everyone’s talking about when the big finale comes around.

“The Mole” airs Tuesdays at 8 PM/ 7 Central on ABC. See the show’s official website at abc.com for more details, player profiles, and more.

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