The Mole (TV series)

The Mole (TV series)

Infobox Television
show_name = The Mole

caption = "The Mole" UK Logo
genre = Reality, Game Show
presenter = ABC
country = BEL
language =
num_seasons =
num_episodes =
list_episodes =
producer =
executive_producer =
runtime =
network = VRT
first_run =
first_aired = 1999
last_aired = present
website =
imdb_id = 0270792
tv_com_id = 7968

"The Mole" is a reality television game show which was originally created in 1999 by Woestijnvis and broadcast on VRT in Flanders, Belgium, and won the Golden Rose of Montreux in 2000. It was conceived by Michiel Devlieger, Bart de Pauw, Tom Lenaerts and Michel Vanhove, and the format was later licensed in 40 countries.

Players in "The Mole" must work together to complete various physical and mental challenges to build up a significant cash prize for the winner. One of them, however, is "the Mole," a double agent hired by the producers to sabotage the efforts of the group. The Mole must be careful to avoid drawing suspicion. Using journals, players must track vast amounts of minutiae about the person(s) they suspect of being the Mole, such as seating positions, clothing colors, minor discussion topics, and so on. The quiz at the end of each episode tests players' knowledge of the Mole, and determines by lowest score (or slowest time, in the event of a tie) who is eliminated from the game.


Each installment of "The Mole" involves a number of contestants, averaging around twelve. During each episode, the contestants participate in a number of challenges, each assigned a monetary value. If the contestants, as a team, complete the challenge, that money is added to the final prize for the game. However, one of these contestants has been selected by production to be the Mole; his or her job is to try to prevent the other players from winning challenges without revealing himself to others. The Mole may be told ahead of time of how to do this or what challenges to expect, while at other times the Mole must decide whether to intervene or not.

At the end of each episode, the contestants take a quiz regarding the identity of the Mole and his or her involvement in the previous activities. The player who scores the lowest on this quiz, or was slowest to answer in case of a tie, is eliminated from the game. The winner of the game is the one that answers the most questions correctly on the final quiz given when there are only three players remaining (including the Mole), and is awarded the total amount of money won over the course of the game.

While success in the challenges is important in order to build up potential winnings, it is also critical to stay in the game by scoring better than opponents on the quiz, usually by attempting to draw their suspicions of the Mole's identity toward oneself. Since the Mole must use subterfuge to misdirect attention from his/her attempts to derail the team, disingenuous attempts to emulate the Mole must be subtle, while still noticeable and suspicious.


Like other reality shows, "The Mole" features challenges in which the players received money that was added to a group pot which only one person could win. However, unlike challenges in other reality shows, the ones seen on "The Mole" offered players ways to disrupt the game, as well as ways of disguising their betrayal. Below are some of the more popular recurring challenges seen throughout the series:

* Tandem Skydiving - Usually the introductory challenge in inaugural seasons, each player must jump from an airplane to win money toward the group pot. If any player refuses, the prize money is forfeited. (USA - Season 1, Australia - Season 1, UK - Season 1): "VARIATION": The majority of the players have the additional task of memorizing number combinations prior to each jump, while two others (who are not asked to jump) must predict who will or will not jump. (Australia - Season 4)

* Hostage Rescue - The producers abduct a player at night and then hold them hostage. The remaining players must find and free the hostage within a certain amount of time. The hostage is generally kept locked up in a castle or prison of a nearby city. The remaining players must split into groups and use different modes of transportation (car, boat, helicopter) to find the hostage. Within each mode of transportation is a hidden key, which, when combined with the other keys, can unlock the doors that imprison the hostage. (USA - Season 1, UK - Season 1, Netherlands - Season 3, Australia - all seasons)

* Library Game - Players are taken to a library, where they are given a series of clues. The clues point to specific books on the shelves which contain a ticket to ride a horse-drawn carriage. If they can find the book and take the ticket to a specific stop on the ride, they can board the carriage at that point. If all players get on board and finish the ride the challenge is won. (USA - Season 1, Belgium - Season 2, Netherlands - Season 2)

* Fortress Test - Players are taken to an abandoned fort and told they must defend it from trained aggressors. The target is a glass bowl, illuminated by two spotlights on the roof. The aggressor's objective is to either disable both spotlights or move the glass bowl out of the light. To succeed, the players must keep the bowl illuminated from sunset to sunrise, or shoot and hit all the aggressors, preventing further attacks. (USA - Season 1, UK - Season 2, Australia - Season 2)

* GPS Game - In variations of the game, contestants are given a Global Positioning System unit, and must simply utilize it to find a final destination. The UK version had the Mole sabotage the other contestants' units. The US version gave the contestants two options at the final destination: add the prize money to the pot or examine the Mole's dossier. In the Dutch version, the talking GPS gave strange directions, such as "Drive to Swiss" while the show was filmed in Mexico. (UK - Season 1, Belgium - Season 1, USA - Season 2, Netherlands - Season 8)

* Riddle Challenge - Logic puzzles have been used extensively across all editions of "The Mole", in several variations, usually splitting the players into teams.: "VARIATION 1": The contestants are split into two groups and taken on a tour. The first group is led to a room, where they must answer a series of riddles to earn money. They are then led to another room and can watch the other team try to solve the same riddles, only each riddle the other team answers successfully costs them money they just won. The first team must send one of their own to try and stop the other team from solving the riddles before all money is lost. (USA - Season 1, BEL - Season 2, NL - Season 2): "VARIATION 2": The contestants are split into two groups and must solve the same set of riddles. Both teams must complete the riddles within a shared time limit, but incorrect answers will cost them additional time. (UK - Season 1, Australia - Season 1, Belgium - Season 1)

* Language Barrier Challenge - A common theme in "The Mole", since players are frequently taken overseas. They attempt to complete challenges in cities and towns where they do not speak the language, and must find a way to communicate with the locals to gather information. For example, in a challenge from the US version, players are given two watches. One of the watches is genuine, while the other is a fake. However, players can't tell the two watches apart. From speaking with the local watch appraisers, they decide which watch to destroy. When time has run out, they go to a firing range, where a marksman fires a bullet through the watch they deem to be fake. If the fake is destroyed, they win money, but if the real watch is destroyed, they must pay for it with money from the pot. (USA - Season 1: Cartier Test, Laundry Game, Season 2: Pizza Test, Season 5: When Pigs Fly, Dress Code, Three To Tango)

* Three Questions - The "Three Questions" test has become a tradition in the US versions in the finale episode, before the reunion. By this point in the game, only three people are left; the exact amount required for this challenge. All players first fill out identical surveys where each question has two different answers to choose from. The answers are the names of the two other players. Later, the host leads one person to hide somewhere in the town. The other two must find their fellow player based on how they believe their teammate answered three questions taken from the survey. Selecting which route to take usually follows this premise: If Player X answered the question with Player Y, go left; otherwise, if the answer is believed to be Player Z, go right. Since no routes overlap, each question has to be answered correctly in order to win money. (USA - Season 1, 2, 3, Australia - Season 2, Netherlands - Season 4) A slight variation was done in Australia's Season 4, when it was done with four players, two questions apiece, and yes/no answers.

Quiz and Eliminations

The quiz is the primary device of eliminating contestants across all series. Traditionally between ten and twenty questions, the quiz asks the players to identify the Mole and several pieces of information regarding the Mole, including the Mole's activity in challenges, biographical profile, their fashion and/or culinary choices during the show, etc. The player scoring lowest on the quiz (and taking the longest time to do so, in the event of tied scores) is eliminated from the game. The US version saw a format change from twenty questions to ten questions from Season 2 on, usually with all questions available to the public. Season 5 of the Australian series had contestants answer five questions about the Mole (not filmed), plus a further five questions for the live eliminations. On two separate occasions, the live elimination computer quiz system malfunctioned and didn't record some contestants' responses. The rules stated that if this were to happen the elimination would be based on the five questions answered before the live show.

Depending on the edition, players have occasionally had the chance to alter their scores, and thus their chances of surviving the elimination. In Season 1 of the UK edition, players were given chips to replace incorrect answers on their quiz in one of the challenges. In the latest editions of "The Mole" in the Netherlands, players can earn "jokers" to be used at any point in the series to erase incorrect answers. In 2008 the show in the Netherlands introduced "topito's", a 1/8 piece of a full circle ("Topo"). If a player has a full topo of the same color or with 8 different colors, the player will get a free pass for the next test. Only the first full and correct topo will be rewarded with a free pass for the next test.

In most editions of "The Mole", however, players are usually given the chance at "exemptions" or "free passes". Should a player earn an exemption, he or she is not required to take the quiz and thus safe from elimination. Traditionally, an exemption must be earned by preventing the team from winning their challenges. Seasons 2 and 5 of "The Mole" in the US saw the most prevalent use of exemptions, with nearly one every episode, and multiple exemptions on occasion.

A standard elimination checks each player's status on whether he or she will continue to the following episode. In most formats, a computer shows a green screen to signify they are continuing or a red screen to show they have earned the lowest score. Poland used red and green feathers, and some versions have used an eye instead.

Many editions have seen special eliminations. A player, for example, may be given a second chance in the game, should they redeem themselves in a challenge. In one edition, the remaining players had a chance to stop the elimination, if they surrendered their prize money up to that point. There have been several editions where either no players or multiple players were eliminated. Buy-out offers, or "bribes," may also be presented during executions, in which a player may take a guaranteed monetary offer in exchange for voluntarily opting out of the game.


A staple of "The Mole" franchise includes the various obscure and subtle clues planted by the producers. For example, in one challenge on the second US series, host Anderson Cooper was eating an apple. Apples are the official fruit of Washington, the Mole's home state. Rumor has it that not even the Mole spotted this clue until it was revealed during the finaleFact|date=May 2008. Similarly, in the UK's first season, the first word that the presenter said in each episode was to be linked together to reveal the identity of the Mole. Some players in later series chose to seek out clues, most often in vain. Allegedly, this is what led to the demise of Corbin Bernsen in "Celebrity Mole Hawaii", as he was too distracted searching for clues that he didn't focus enough attention on the game.

Clues are generally planted for viewers to catch, rather than the players themselves. Some clues are only given to the viewing audience, added in during post-production. For example, two episodes of the second US seasons featured words quickly displayed in the title sequence. However, their cryptic meanings often remain hidden to everyone until they are revealed at the end of the season.

"The Mole" in Different Countries


"Main Article: The Mole (Australian TV Series)"

The Australian version of the program that aired on Seven -- hosted by former "Blue Heelers" star Grant Bowler -- began in 2000 and has since been followed by four more seasons.

The producers offered to tell Bowler who the Mole was, but he declined the invitation, believing that he could better host the show and play around with the contestants if he didn't know. Some reports, however, claimed that he was told the identity of the Mole in the fourth season.

Like the UK version, the first two Australian seasons included a 'special episode' which revealed all the clues as to the identity of the Mole and how close each player had been to finding them. Unfortunately, it wasn't particularly popular with audiences and so, in subsequent seasons, it was replaced by a five-minute segment at the end of the final episode in which all of the clues were briefly revealed.

In the second season it was decided to alter the structure of the beginning of the game by bringing in 16 (4 from Brisbane, 4 from Sydney, 4 from Hobart and 4 from Canberra) contestants with an early challenge deciding which 10 of them got to continue playing. This elimination process was not continued in later seasons. The second season was replayed during the day in December 2006.

In the third season, the contestants were spontaneously sent on a trip during the play of the game, but not knowing why. They were blindfolded for the entire trip back, and all was revealed when they found themselves at Seven Studios on the set of the Weakest Link. They had to play a game, as well as endure host Cornelia Frances, for a shot at $100,000 added to their kitty. In the end, they achieved $14,100, which was touted as the lowest amount ever won on the Weakest Link. However, as all amounts have been rounded off to the highest thousand, $15,000 was added to the kitty instead.

The program's fourth season, in 2003, was set on the Pacific island nation of New Caledonia and entitled "The Mole: in Paradise". In an attempt to steer any suspicion from her being the Mole, Petrina was eliminated in one episode but returned on the next episode after accepting an offer from the host to buy her way back into the game. While this worked for a short time, it was not as successful as had been hoped, with some of the other contestants even more convinced that she was the Mole. This series was replayed during the day in April 2007.

Poor ratings resulted in there being no 2004 season but in July 2005 "The Mole" returned to Australian TV for its fifth season, subtitled as "The Amazing Game". Tom Williams (Co-host of "The Great Outdoors" and winner of the Australian edition of "Dancing with the Stars") was chosen to take over as host from Bowler, as he was not available for the project due to family commitments. This was met with mixed reaction from fans. This season also introduced a new concept to the show - live eliminations. The contestants spent the weekend in New Zealand working on various challenges, and then their actions were broadcast on TV the following Thursday night, with a live elimination following directly after.



Italy took a very original approach to the game, modifying lots of the elements of the normal versions of "The Mole". First of all, the Italian version of the show wasn't recorded: it was broadcast live. Contestants were celebrities who had to live together for about 60 days in a home, called "Hacienda" in the first series in Mexico, and "Shamba" in the second series in Kenya: every day a 20-25 minutes recap of what happened the day before in the home was broadcast on TV. Then, once a week, there was a prime-time live show with the contestants linked from the location of the game.

Every week, contestants had to participate in various extreme challenges, where the Mole could act against the rest of the team to add money to her Loot: different types of games were classified in this way :
- "Missione Settimanale" - "Weekly Mission": usually a physically-based challenge recorded during the week
- "Notte della Talpa" - "Night of the Mole": a special long-resistance challenge recorded in a casual night of the week (generally contestants had to resist for some hours in a very particular and tiring position/situation)
- "Cerimonia speciale" - "Special Ceremony" (in the 1st series): a prime-time challenge where the contestants had to undergo a particular ceremony, traditional of the place hosting the game (for example eating a particular food or drink typical of the local tradition). If the Team passed a challenge of these, then some money were decanted from the Mole Loot to the Team Pot.
- "Prova d'accesso" - "Access-Challenge" (in the 2nd series): the corresponding of the "Special Ceremony" used in the first series of the game: the main difference between the two challenges is that in the first series this particular game was only proposed to the contestants, by a production crew decision, when the Mole Loot was reaching the same level of money of the Team Pot, while in the second series this was instead a fixed moment of the prime-time live show. Besides, in the second series this challenge didn't have a money value, but it was used to give an extra penalty to the Team in the Weekly Live Challenge, in case the Team didn't pass it, making the Live Challenge more difficult.
- "Prova settimanale" - "Weekly Live Challenge": this was the main moment of the prime-time live show, and was usually the biggest and hardest challenge the contestants had to face every week. It generally was a physical extreme challenge, studied by the production crew to put to the test the limits and the fears of every member of the Team.

Prime-time shows usually presented a half-an-hour talk moment, where contestants discussed about the topics of the week (also for example friendships/love stories developed into the home). Then it was time for the main moment of the show, the Live Challenge (preceded, only in the 2nd series, by the Access-Challenge). Then there were some extra-minutes of talk about the challenge, so it was time for the Execution: the Talpa Execution mechanism presented another big variation from the classic "Mole" system. First of all, a list of the most audience-suspected contestants was shown: in fact, people watching the show could vote by telephone or SMS which was their suspected Mole; so, the most suspected contestant became the first executable member of the Team. Next, it was time for the Team nominations: each of the participants had to nominate his suspected Mole, with secret votes: the contestant receiving most of the votes became the second executable Team member; in case of draw between some contestants, the one of them who received most of the votes by the audience was declared the Team suspected contestant. So, the 2 suspects had to answer a 10 questions questionnaire about the Mole identity: the contestant who got most of the answers wrong had to leave the game. In case of draw, in the first series the contestant spending more time answering the questions was eliminated from the game; in the second series, during the questionnaire contestants heartbeat was controlled by a "cardio frequency meter", so the contestant having the fastest average heartbeat was executed: that made the Mole executable too! In this eventuality (never happened), a new Mole had to be selected by the production crew. Another little special nature of the Italian "Mole" was that the Mole didn't know his role until the real start of the game: in fact, the Mole was only informed of his identity in the first prime-time show, with a particular ceremony: each contestant had to open a folder containing a secret paper with a "No" or "Yes" inscription: so, the contestant receiving the "Yes" paper could know to be the Mole. Then, contestants had to burn in a brazier that paper (Typical of the show the tag "Apri, leggi, e brucia!" - "Open, Read, then Burn!").

The series were presented by Paola Perego (the first one on the second Italian state network, Rai Due, the others on the private TV-channel Italia 1). The first series tag for the show was "La Talpa... altro che gioco!" (""La Talpa"... not simply a game!"); the second series tag was instead "A La Talpa niente è come sembra!" ("In "La Talpa" nothing is like it seems!"). The 3 correspondents for the show linked from the location of the game were Guido Bagatta (1st series), Stefano Bettarini (2nd series) and Paola Barale (3rd series). The series of the show were followed by an average 4/5 million people audience: that made the Mole format a big success also in Italy.

Talking about the "construction" of the show, we could say that in the first series the main characteristic element was the action-factor (challenges were really harder and more spectacular in first series than in the second), while in the second edition the key element was the plot of finding the Mole, giving the show a more thriller-like look. Famous, from the first series, became a challenge where 3 contestants had to release 3 other Team members buried into 3 very small "graves" under a thick layer of sand before they could finish their breathable air. The first series was broadcast in 2004 from January 30th to April 2nd (10 prime-time shows, every Friday); the second one in 2005 from September 20th to November 22nd (10 prime-time shows, every Tuesday).



In Spain "The Mole" was called "El Traidor". It was aired on Cuatro. The first and only season was hosted by Luis Larrodera and Sergio Muñiz.


United States

The premier season of "The Mole" on ABC in the United States debuted in January 2001. The second season, "", debuted in September 2001, but was put on hiatus after only three episodes following disappointing ratings in the wake of 9/11, and the poor Friday time slot. In June 2002, the second season returned, restarting from the beginning, running as a summer replacement series.

The third and fourth seasons featured celebrity contestants, and were collectively referred to as "Celebrity Mole". In late 2007, Stone and Co. Entertainment secured the rights to bring back the show, and the fifth season started June 2, 2008.cite news
url =
title =The Mole will return to ABC this summer with a “simplified” format
publisher =RealityBlurred
date = 2008-01-08
accessdate = 2008-01-08
] Jon Kelley is the current host. [ [ Official ABC Home Page for 'The Mole'] ]


Other Countries

"The Mole" has also been produced in Austria, Norway ("Muldvarpen"), Israel, Portugal ("O Sabotador"), and New Zealand.

ee also

* "Celebrity Mole"
* List of US television series
* List of UK television series
* List of Australian television series

External links

* [ "The Mole"'s Offical ABC Home Page (USA)]
* [ "Mullvaden" (Swedish "Mole")]
* [ UK Gameshows Page: "The Mole"]
* [ The Mole (Italy)]
* [,,20169920,00.html "The Mole" Returning to ABC"]
* [;adv=yes;group=;groupequals=;page=0;parentid=;query=Number%3A503118%20|%20Number%3A592567;querytype=;resCount=10 The Mole at the National Film and Sound Archive]
* ["Watch The Mole' online]


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