Episode 9: The mole, the Coop and the dupes

The worst reality show on television comes to a merciful end.

Published March 1, 2001 6:30PM (EST)

The scariest, most disturbing image of "The Mole" comes, after eight episodes, at the very end of the last broadcast:

A casting call for "The Mole 2."

News reports say that the producers will be making the new one "less complicated."

This is not the show's problem. No one cares that it's complicated.

We just think it's bad.

The show was structured wrong. The mole was supposed to be impeding the group's progress by screwing up the challenges the group has to meet to increase the winnings.

But the mole couldn't be too obvious. So a lot of the time, the mole helped, rather than impeded.

And the other members of the group had to try to act like the mole to mislead the other players.

So basically, the mole was the one person who wasn't acting like a mole.

And, well, the result wasn't much fun to watch.

This was the last episode. Steve, the stolid undercover cop; Kathryn, the nondescript lawyer; and Jim, the guy with the chain hanging out of his pants, are the last players.

Host Anderson Cooper, who despite extensive speech therapy is still largely unintelligible, has assembled the previous seven players who've been kicked off the show back together for the finale: Jolly Kate, doughty Jennifer, Charlie the woman-hating creep, and ... four other people we didn't really care much about.

Charlie is the old guy, a retired cop, who got into the habit of referring to the other players with sobriquets like "You fat bitch." We'd kind of like to see Charlie fall into a big pothole, and figure the other players, who had to spend more time with him than we did, do as well.

But Charlie preempts everything by apologizing to Kate straight off. He's a little Clintonian in his apology: "In retrospect, I gave you a hard time, I lost my temper on one occasion ..."

He doesn't apologize to Jennifer, whom he went after as well.

The final show takes place in a studio and cuts to taped footage from the bullring we saw last week. All of a sudden, it looks a lot like "Big Brother," which was up until this benighted TV season the worst reality TV show ever.

We wonder, briefly, what that minx Julie Chen is up to.

Coop polls the players; most of them think Steve is the mole. Two say Kathryn. Jennifer says it's Jim.

We get a quick look back at all the very suspicious things the three have done.

Then we go back to the bullring where we were in the last episode. Coop is going to bring out the loser first.

He goes through the whole red-fingerprint parting ceremony but we don't see who the player is until the last minute.

It's Jim, the guy with the sideburns.

"What can you do?" Jim asks.

What can you do? say Coop's eyes, in sorrowful reply.

Jim's bounced off the show, just like the others. Coop's so affected he even carries Jim's duffel bag for him.

"You played very well," Coop says.

"Not well enough," snaps Jim.

Then we cut back to the studio, where Jim comes running in like a contestant for "The Price Is Right."

That leaves Kathryn and Steve.

Back in the bullring, Coop brings Steve out. The fingerprint goes green.

"Congratulations, Steven, you're the winner," Coop says.

There's some big brassy movie music.

Steve doesn't know that Jim's already been bounced, so it's supposed to be dramatic when Kathryn comes walking out into the ring in a long, black coat.

But remember, Steve got here by answering questions about the identity of the mole, so he must have already known who she was in order to win the cash.

If the show wanted to create drama for its viewers, it would have revealed the mole first and then let us bite our fingers over who took home the money. Instead, we got the mole and the winner in one deflated moment.

That's OK, at least we have Coop's scintillating post-win interview with Steve, right?

"How do you feel?" Coop asks him.

"I don't know -- I've never won $510,000," Steve replies.


Everyone reunites back in the studio. Now Kathryn, the imp, is the star. Turns out she auditioned for the show just like everyone else and was under a lot of stress the whole time -- she even broke down once!

"I could never be myself," she says. "I had to lie 24 hours a day!"

"You're a lawyer -- aren't you used to it?" Coop says.

That's a line she's never heard before!

There follows a very long and tedious explanation of all the mischievous little things Kathryn did to impede the game. It all looks good in retrospect, but a tape of similar doings could have been made of Steve or Jim -- or even Charlie.

It's clear that Jim, Steve, Charlie and Kate all knew the mole was Kathryn. It turns out that Charlie had Kathryn pegged the very first day of the show.

Then we get a sequence of how Steve had flirted with just about everyone, men and women, to get information from them. There is even a great shot of him stroking Jim's sideburns in a car. (Jim is gay.)

Those undercover cops -- you can't trust them.

There follows the all-time lamest "Mole" sequence, which is saying something. Coop tells us that careful viewers were given clues as to the identity of the mole. At one point, Coop picked up a duffel bag that had Kathryn's name on it. He once used the phrase "pay the price." (Kathryn's last name is Price.) Coop also tells us that the word "mole" has four letters and that Kathryn was the fourth player introduced on the show.

Coop then wraps up a few loose ends.

Kathryn really did faint during the hatchet-throwing sequence.

Jennifer says the best part for her was "just getting on the show."

Jim wouldn't do anything differently.

Kathryn says she still feels bad.

"You were a mole with a heart," Coop says.

"Everything about it was so great," Kathryn says.

Easy for her to say.

(Bill Wyman)

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By Salon Staff

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