Episode 8: "The Mole" burns us again!

On the penultimate show ... nothing happens.

Published February 28, 2001 3:51PM (EST)

Last week we figured that "The Mole," down to its last three players, would dispense with one of them Tuesday night, the series' last show. With two players left, the results of the game would be apparent -- we'd see who the mole was, and who the winner was.

But we were fooled. Darn that mole!

ABC is drawing out the last episode into two -- not, we suspect, by popular demand, but because it has nothing better to do.

The final episode will be shown Wednesday night.

With luck it won't be on at the same time as "Temptation Island," the tawdry and degrading Fox reality TV show that is "The Sorrow and the Pity" compared with "The Mole."

We would have told our readers about this earlier, but we never could ascertain any information about the show on the incomprehensible ABC Web site.

We admit that ABC may have vouchsafed the info to its viewers at some point, but we try not to watch ABC if we can help it.

We once accidentally saw part of "The Geena Davis Show" and ended up with a mild seizure.

But we're avoiding the truth:

It all means another hour of "The Mole."

One more hour of syllables swallowed by Anderson Cooper, our very gray host.

One more hour of pointless games, odd challenges and forgettable exchanges.

One more hour we'll never have again.

Coop has the raw on-screen presence of an elderly bellboy with a speech impediment.

A sometimes impetuous bellboy off camera, we will admit -- one, it turns out, who is not as respectful as he should be of his betters.

Here's Coop quoted recently in the New York Daily News: "You have to watch this show closely. It's a who-done-it, not something elementary like watching 10 people get along on an island."

To which we say:

Coop, we know Jeff Probst. Jeff Probst is a friend of ours. And Coop -- you're no Jeff Probst.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The three players left are Kathryn, a legal instructor; Jim, a lawyer turned helicopter pilot; and Steve, an undercover cop. Much is made of a friendship the three supposedly have.

But it doesn't really matter who's friends, right? You stay in the game by guessing who the mole is; you can be as nice or as nasty as you want.

Coop thinks there is tumult bubbling beneath the surface.

"Friendship can be a weapon," he says.

And love is a battlefield.

The first test is yet another "wander through the streets of a Spanish town" test. Sometimes "The Mole" is positively Kafka-esque in the recurring nightmares of entertainment it presents us with.

Three times, two members of the group have to find the third by answering a series of questions. After each question, Coop leads the pair up a street, one way or the other, depending on the answer; if the pair answer all three correctly, they find themselves back together with the third, and win some money for the pot, now at about $500,000.

The questions are all supposed to be based on answers to a quiz all three took -- and be a little juicy.

"Some of the questions are downright offensive," Coop exclaims, or would exclaim if he were capable of such emotion.

Most of the questions are pretty pallid. If one of you was bitten by a snake, and Steve had only one dose of anti-venom, who would he give it to? Who would sneak a peek at his birthday present? Who is less likely to pick up the tab in a restaurant?

In the first round, Jim and Kathryn don't find Steve. It turns out at the end that it's probably because he answered all the questions randomly -- or so he says.

In the second round, Jim and Steve find Kathryn. And on the third, Kathryn and Steve find Jim.

During the last round, one of the questions is which of the two (Steve or Kathryn) would be more likely to cheat on his or her significant other. The pair guess that Jim would have said Kathryn, which turns out to be right.

But this gets Kathryn all upset. She starts crying, and Jim has to go comfort her. It's only a game, he tells her in one of many rationalizations. He had to choose someone. Steve is married and she isn't, so naturally Steve would be less likely to cheat.

"You're gonna make me cry," Jim finally says.

"The victory came at a price," Coop intones.

Kathryn finally calms down. The three go to a restaurant and play with dominoes.

We find it difficult to believe that sentient beings filmed, edited, produced and broadcast this footage.

The second test tonight is the most elaborate one thus far. Al three go back to their hotel, only to find that they're locked in their rooms; each door has a lock with a numeric keypad.

They have to get out, using only a bunch of clues that are strewn around them.

Kathryn's room has a stationary bicycle and a pair of binoculars, the number "1019" written on her shower curtain and other things. Steve has a laptop that doesn't work and a locked suitcase and refrigerator.

Jim's room is blacked out: We get to watch him through some "Big Brother"-style night-vision cameras. He peers around and discovers a xylophone, of all things. Occasionally some black lights come on and he can see that the walls of the room are covered with weird messages in fluorescent paint.

After a while the three get in touch with one another by phone and discover that the bicycle powers the lights in Jim's room.

Kathryn gets out when, using the binoculars, she sees a date painted on a truck outside her window; that date, turned into numbers, works in her numeric lock.

This test has far too many red herrings for the small minds of our heroes, much less us the audience.

The trio fails miserably.

Among the dozens of words on the wall are the names "Juan Valdez," "Juan Carlos" and "Juan Guerrero." The group is supposed to have figured out that Valdez is the Colombia coffee mascot, and Carlos the king of Spain; if they'd called the front desk and asked for Guerrero, they would have gotten a box that had a key in it.

The xylophone, we learn later, was for Jim to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on, though that doesn't explain how that would have gotten him out the door.

Next we get the trio reflecting on their experiences.

"Would I do it again? Yeah," Steve says. "Would I do it differently? Probably so."

Would we do it again?

Well, we would, you see, but actually, we have a prior appointment to have our fingernails removed, so we can't.

Jim natters on about "the game," as he does on every show.

Kathryn doesn't say anything memorable.

"First there were 10; now there are three," Coop tells us after the break.

"One will win, one of them will lose and one is the mole," he says, with his irresistible knack for stating the obvious.

The four of them are standing in the middle of a bull ring at night, with a few spotlights casting shadows.

"You guys have played a great game!" Coop mumbles to the trio.

It turns out that the mole will not be revealed until the next show, which will be broadcast Wednesday night -- not next Tuesday. ABC wants to get the last episode of the series on the air during sweeps month.

Big-time television programming isn't pretty, kids.

But for now the three have to sit down at tables in the middle of the ring and go through their last test on the mole.

The three all get to deliver a few last thoughts. Steve thinks it's Kathryn. Kathryn thinks that Steve thinks it's Jim. Jim thinks it's Kathryn.

"But I almost have a crush on her," he says.


We think it's Kathryn, too, but really don't care. As we've said before, the set up of "The Mole" is irritating.

Everyone's encouraged to be ineffectual, and it's irritating to watch fecklessness, week after week, on national TV.

We can get that on "The Spin Room"!

-- Bill Wyman

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By Salon Staff

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