Charlie gets mean

Episode 6: Psst! Wanna buy a naked picture of Anderson Cooper?

Published February 14, 2001 5:41PM (EST)

" ... And then there were five ...," Anderson "Coop" Cooper is saying.

Last week he said, " ... And then there were six ... "

You can probably guess what he said the week before that and the one before that, and what he will say next week.

Coop is nothing if not consistent.

Last week we related some very interesting news about Coop. We said that the host of "The Mole" is the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, of jeans fame, and that his mom had recently moved in with him after having yet another set of financial problems.

It turns out that the story, from the highly reliable People magazine, was true but woefully out of date, and that intrepid ABC news correspondent Coop hadn't taken the "The Mole" gig, as we posited, out of a desire to get out of the house.

It leaves unanswered the question, though, of why in fact he did take "The Mole" gig.

In researching Coop's incredible career online, however, we found an interesting fact: That last year a 1969 photograph of Coop taken by Diane Arbus -- the photographer famous for snapping pictures of people with Down syndrome, wrinkly nudists, twins, midgets and grotesque normals -- was put on the auction block at Butterfield's.

It sold for $4,600, and if it was, as we suspect, a shot of the then 18-month-old Coop bare-assed on a bearskin rug, the person got the deal of a lifetime.

But back to less happy subjects. This episode begins with the news that the show's producers tell the group to stay in their rooms that night. We're then informed that Jim and Kathryn ended up in Steve's room, where they were discovered during a "surprise bed check."

Threesome city!

That violation, Coop mumbles to the assembled group the next morning, costs the players $60,000 out of the pot.

This woefully obvious contrivance is not leavened by the news of who exactly the ringleader was.

There's a quote from Kathryn that makes it seems as if she was the instigator, but you can't really tell; we don't hear Steve's or Jim's side of the story. And we don't get to see how the other players reacted -- whether any of them made inquiries into whose bright idea it was to break curfew.

We're sure "Survivor," say, isn't telling us the whole story either, but at least the editors there have an extremely strong ability to create and maintain story arcs, crafting them a beginning, middle and end that makes the show seem fulfilling and gives it a patina of coherence.

"The Mole" you don't trust at all.

We're told that Jim and Steve have had an "alliance" since the beginning of he show. But it's not clear, in "The Mole," what good an alliance does.

And then we get this soundbite from Steve: "I am and will be induced to playing the game below my moral and ethical standards."


But if Steve is the mole and has been fooling Jim the whole time, Jim would probably have been kicked off the show, since his guesses about the mole would have been 100 percent wrong.

The first challenge today is called "Capture the Flag." The players are told to protect a glass vase on a pedestal in an old fort against an invasion of attackers.

Since the attackers are ABC operatives, we know where this is going. The group always gets scorched in these match-ups.

There's some dull footage of the group practicing shooting with the paint guns. Shouldn't a paint gun create a cool splat of paint? We don't get to see anything like that.

"Not everyone seemed comfortable with the weapon," Coop tells us ominously -- and we see Kathryn acting as if she doesn't understand how to fire a gun.

Gosh -- foreshadowing!

Anyway, now the group has to guard the fort against the late-night assault. Once it finally comes, it's all so confusing that you can't really figure out what's going on.

Flares keep getting sent up into the sky. The group doesn't seem to be setting them off; so it must be the attackers -- but why would they send the flares up to illuminate the area and let the group know they were planning their attack?

There are four attackers. We see one crawling through the weeds, but then we see Steve telling the others that there are still four people standing next to an SUV.

You can't really tell if it's something that matters, or just bad editing.

Kate, up on the roof, spots someone and keeps telling Charlie to go get him, but Charlie just wanders around aimlessly.

Then someone gets into the fort's courtyard and -- surprise surprise -- Kathryn can't seem to get it together to shoot him with her paint gun.

It's never clear if that is the guy Kate saw or someone else entirely. It's also not clear where the other players are.

Also, the show gives us a map of the setup at the beginning, which makes it look as if there's only one entrance to the compound; but from the conversation it sounds like he came in somewhere else.

Since part of the game is that the nonmole players have to do disruptive things to make themselves look suspicious and mislead the others, watching the mole is an exercise in tiresomeness.

The only good part comes after the group's inevitable loss.

Everyone gets mad at everybody else. When Jim points out that it's really not that hard to shoot a gun, Kathryn gets all riled up and says "You're gonna blame me for this? Fuck you!" (The show bleeps the obscenity.)

Kathryn goes and cries big crocodile tears on Kate's shoulder. "I just lost us $80,000 today," she sobs.

Charlie, meanwhile, again displays his tendency to pick on women. Kate tells the others that, as we saw, she told Charlie to chase the attacker but he ignored her.

"Listen, you bitch," Charlie rages. "You don't know what you're talking about, you fat bitch."

Last week, we got to see many of the players' significant others. Charlie had a wife named Bernadette, to whom he'd been married for 39 years.

They were acting all huggy-huggy on the show, but after watching Charlie methodically berate the women contestants the way he does, we've decided we'd be surprised if his wife hadn't seen an awful lot of the same treatment over the years of their marriage.

We suddenly started feeling bad for old Bernadette.

The second challenge is one of "The Mole's" pointlessly complex ones. It's a chore even to describe.

There's a carriage wandering through the streets of the town. (The group is still in Spain.) The players have to find a series of tickets, one for each of them, that allows them to board the carriage at different stops.

The game starts out in the town's library -- the catch is that the tickets are tucked away in books, and the books are of course in Spanish. But it's not really that hard, because the questions are mostly about famous horror novels.

The clues are beyond tedious: "Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins starred in the film based on this book"; "Find the classic book featuring a blood-sucking predator who loves the nightlife."

Most people would simply go to the "H" section, for Thomas Harris, or the "S" section, for Bram Stoker," to get their tickets, but nothing is easy on "The Mole."

The group spends most of its time looking through the card catalog.

The intense drama in the library is intercut with heart-tingling footage of a Spanish carriage trundling around the town and gussied-up Spaniards drawing chalk X's on the sidewalk. (The X's designate the carriage stops, we finally figure out. )

Then we get some screamingly dull footage of Charlie wandering around the library looking for "Frankenstein."

How hard can this be?

He finally finds it.

"It's now a race against time," Coop says, in that enticing, syllable-swallowing way he has.

In the end, they win the test.


Again, we find it suspicious that the tests always appear to end with seconds to spare.

Next we get the pre-execution comments.

Jim wants Charlie out of there, basically because Charlie's such a jerk.

Charlie says he's not going to apologize to Kate: He meant every word he said, he tells us.

Charlie's a real prince.

"There's been a lot of verbal abuse by one of the players," Kate says. "I'm just tired of it. If I were to go and he were to stay in it would just make me sad. It just doesn't seem right."

Kate's crying.

The execution part of the show is getting short, because there are only five players left. Coop's unimaginative, boilerplate execution speech is a snooze. It leaves us plenty of time to analyze his speech patterns. He really does see to be able to swallow not just syllables, but whole words and phrases sometimes.

As we've noted before, the profession of on-air TV personality is one that doesn't have too many demands, but this is a little ridiculous. Doesn't enunciation matter?

ABC works in mysterious ways.

Laugh as you wish at Koala Jeff Probst and the "Survivor" tribal council.

Over at ABC, the executee is decided after Coop hunts and pecks at a tiny laptop computer keyboard. There's no smoke, no drama, no cheesy lighting on top of a massive waterfall in the middle of Australia.

Only this: The loser this week is ... Kate!

We'll miss you, Kate. Time for the slo-mo look back at your progress on the show, all those zany moments we had together.

Like the time you got bounced on your ass by the cow.

(Bill Wyman)

Back to "The Mole" home page

Back to the "Temptation Island" home page

Back to the "Survivor 2" home page

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------