Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Mole

Go To
A spy-themed Reality Show that first aired in Belgium (on VRT) in 1999, hosted by Michiel Devlieger, and premiered on ABC in 2001. Nicknamed "the smartest reality show ever," it's considered to its fans as unique for its emphasis on brain rather than brawn, beauty, or sociability, as well as its audience interaction through hidden clues to The Mole's identity. The premise was simple: the contestants worked together to complete various tasks to earn a cash prize—usually up to $1,000,000—that only one of them would win. One of the contestants, however, was The Mole, a double agent hired by the producers themselves to sabotage the group's missions and keep money from the pot. (That's where the spy drama part got fridgy. It's like the CIA hired a spy to take out its own agents. Let that sink in for a moment...okay.) The winner was the player who survived all elimination rounds and figured out who The Mole was.

Originally a Belgian show, the USA version had five seasons and three hosts, the first and probably most popular one being eventual CNN reporter Anderson Cooper. It has quite a dedicated fan base that made two attempts to revive it: one by sending "lemon heads" (a season five reference) to ABC, much like what was done with the CBS show Jericho, and also by posting "Save The Mole" videos on YouTube to help advertise the show. Some former contestants and season five host Jon Kelley also got involved; a compilation of their videos can be found here.

By far the most successful version of The Mole, however, has been the Dutch series Wie is de Mol? that started in 1999 and is still going strong with the 20th season airing in 2020. The series is also notable for casting only Dutch celebrities after 4 civilian seasons, many of them Big Name Fans of the show.


The Mole provides examples of the following:

  • Adventure Towns: The players are always on the move, traveling from town to town (and occasionally country to country) to complete their various tasks. Averted with at least one Australian season, which stuck to the Gold Coast for its entire run.
  • Arc Number:
    • The number 7 showed up a lot in season 4 of the US series and 8 in season 8 of the Dutch series. They were both clues to the Mole's identity: the former pointed towards Angie who had a tattoo of 7 and the latter was a play on the 8th month of the Mayan calendar (in a season that took place in Mexico) being "mol", the Dutch word for mole, and made multiple appearances around Dennis.
    • The first US season had a few clues tied to the number 4, on the grounds that "Mole" has four letters.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: One game in Yucatan had Ahmad Rashad asking the players a series of questions taken from elementary school textbooks. During one question, Rashad had this exchange with Dennis Rodman:
    Rashad: On what continent would you find the South Pole?
    Rodman: We have to name it?
    Rashad: (Sarcastically) No, you just have to think it and I'll read your mind!
    • Later, Rashad asked, "What is 1/4 of 60?" and Rodman asked, "Do we write the name or the number?" making Rashad shake his head in disbelief.
  • Advertisement:
  • Asian and Nerdy: Dorothy in the second US season. Very much so, as she demolished the mental challenges, but gasped and wheezed at anything involving physical prowess.
  • Auction: Was held at least twice in the Dutch seasons, and both times they managed to somehow empty the pot. The first time was in Thailand, and the second one, in Oregon, was in particular littered with several Whammy Bids. (for jokers, nonetheless, the lowest tiering wildcard)
  • Back to Front: Seasons 11 and 15 of the Dutch version used this to reveal who the Mole was in their final episodes with the scene of the three finalists standing before the host being "rewound" to the very beginning of the season to reveal the Mole's face.
  • Beneath Suspicion: Invoking this is a favorite tactic of the best moles.
  • Big Bad Friend: The Dutch series has had several instances of the Mole becoming best friends with a contestant and thoroughly convincing them that they couldn't possibly be the Mole until their reveal in the finale, including Kees to Zarayda in season 13, Thomas to Diederik in season 17, and Jan to Olcay in season 18.
  • Bookends: The Belgian series' 5th season had its first and last challenges both feature a Big Red Button that the contestants could choose to push for an individual reward or not push to give everyone a benefit, albeit in somewhat different contexts.
  • Born Lucky: Four of the five US winners can ascribe a very, very large part of their reason for victory to plain old dumb luck:
    • Season 2: Dorothy had the lowest score on the quiz in episode seven and stood to be eliminated had the episode not featured an atypical ending; fellow contestant Elavia accepted a $50,000 "bribe" to leave the game instead, nullifying the elimination ceremony altogether. Later, Dorothy began to suspect Heather as the Mole, and the two later made the finals together. Heather herself caused Dorothy to suspect Bill as the Mole — meaning that if she hadn't, Dorothy probably would have taken the final quiz believing she (Heather) was the Mole, and would thus have lost.
    • First celebrity season: Kathy Griffin was convinced that Michael Boatman was the Mole. She likewise convinced her alliance partner Erik von Detten of the same. The two targeted Boatman in the penultimate elimination quiz, and Von Detten would have been eliminated had he not held a free pass that round — instead, Boatman was eliminated. If Von Detten had indeed been eliminated and Boatman remained, Griffin surely would have continued to believe Boatman was the Mole, and would thus have stood almost no chance of winning.
    • Second celebrity season: Dennis Rodman was in a similar situation. He was sure that Tracey Gold was the Mole, up until Gold was eliminated in the last episode prior to the final round. Rodman would have been eliminated that round if not for a free pass — that he received from Gold herself as part of the last challenge.
    • Season 5: Mark tied for the lowest score on the quiz on three separate occasions. This includes one where Victoria, who was eliminated, got a question wrong only because she inadvertently clicked incorrectly on the computer quiz. Had she chosen the answer she intended to, she'd have stayed and Mark would have gone home.
    • Jochem from season 17 of the Dutch series may not have won his season but he definitely had the goddess of luck beaming down on him, being clearly out of his element multiple times in the game and not once suspecting the actual Mole but being saved no less than four times by an exemption, joker, or being faster on the test than someone else. In the words of the man himself at the finale:
      Jochem: I dragged two alliances into the wrong hands, I think I lost 6,000 euros from the pot, I've lost my molebook, I lost my joker, and I put four questions in total on [name of the season's Mole]. Four questions out of all of them! It's by the hands and feet of God that I'm here.
  • Buried Alive: The very first challenge of the Belgian series' 6th season had all the contestants be buried in coffins and have to solve puzzles together to get out.
  • The Cameo: The Mole from the first season makes a brief appearance towards the end of the second season.
    • The Dutch series typically has cameos from previous Moles about once per season, usually as part of a challenge.
  • Carried by the Host:
    • For the American series, the Anderson Cooper seasons are by far more beloved by the fanbase than the Ahmad Rashad/Jon Kelley seasons and a large part of that has to do with Cooper.
    • For the Australian series, the Grant Bowler seasons are considered to be much better (with the exception of Season 4) than the ones with Tom Williams (5) or Shura Taft (6).
    • The Dutch series' longest-lasting host was Art Rooijakkers, and many fans consider him to be the best host too.
    • The Belgian series' revival seasons just wouldn't be the same without Gilles de Coster's deadpan narration and unflappable demeanor even while addressing contestants Covered in Gunge or being forced to perform ridiculous stunts.
  • Catch Phrase: In the Dutch edition, the host has multiple.
    • 'Get ready for test, and execution' at the end of the third challenge.
    • ' Mole?' note  at the end of the ninth episode.
    • In at least the first season of the US version, Anderson's opening monologue always included "[Name] was the Mole's [Xth] victim. And then there were [number of players left]."
  • Celebrity Edition:
    • The US has had two, both hosted by Ahmad Rashad.
    • The Dutch version became this with every season after the fourth one casting Dutch celebrities only. Strangely, unlike with the US celebrity seasons which all but killed the show, the Dutch celebrity seasons haven't had nearly as much of a negative impact on the show considering that the show has remained popular enough to go on for at least fifteen celebrity-only seasons.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin:
    • In a challenge in Season 10, episode 2 of the Dutch version, the players could give jokers to their 'friends' or keep them for themselves. Sanne tells Tim she can only give him one joker (a lie) whilst displaying an enormous smirk. This may even have caused Tim's elimination that episode.
    • This trope also gave away who won the Dutch season 11 earlier than the producers planned. They tried to build up the suspense about who the winner and Mole could be at the end of the 9th episode for the official reveal in the final episode, but the winner's inability to conceal a huge grin after the host revealed that another finalist was the runner-up completely ruined the suspense.
  • The Chessmaster: Stephen and Jim from the first US season could both be seen as this.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Tiny Bubbles room from season 2 of the US series. To put this in context, it was part of a challenge where Dorothy, Heather, and Al all had to endure a frightening situation for a certain amount of time; Dorothy had to stay in a small box with cockroaches periodically dropping on her, Heather had to stay in the same room as a gigantic python where the lights eventually went out, and Al... had to stay all night on a metal bed in a brightly-lit room where the song "Tiny Bubbles" kept on playing over and over. Al said after the challenge was over that he never wanted to hear "Tiny Bubbles" ever again.
  • Confession Cam
    • The Australian version had the Mole recording their own Confession Cams on occasion which were shown at the end of the series.
    • Australia's Season 5 actually used the Confession Cam as one of their clues for who the Mole was at home.
  • Covered in Gunge: The Belgian series loves having the contestants be the victim of a detonated paint bomb if they fail a challenge at least once a season.
  • Death by Genre Savviness: In US season 5, one of Bobby's perceived "gives" to the Mole's identity was the fact that host Jon Kelley had earlier greeted the players while eating an apple: Bobby interpreted this as signifying "The Big Apple", thus pointing toward Yonkers resident Paul. In fact, Paul was not the Mole, and Bobby paid for his error by getting executed in fairly short order. The punchline, though, is that the host's eating an apple was used as a clue back in season 2: it indicated true Mole Bill, a resident of Washington, whose state fruit is the apple. Bobby, a professed fanatic of the show, might very well have remembered that old clue and thought it was being recycled here, to his downfall. (However, the apple-eating incident wasn't mentioned in the season finale, leaving it unclear whether that was a mere coincidence or a deliberate Red Herring.)
  • Double Unlock: Very often when a player wins an exemption in a challenge, they have to play a second challenge to keep it.
  • Eliminated from the Race: At the end of each episode, the contestants take a quiz on The Mole's identity. The player with the lowest score is "executed."
  • Elvis Impersonator: In season 17, episode 2 of the Dutch series, Jeroen claimed that he spent the day he was "kidnapped" from the group acting as an Elvis impersonator and Roos claimed that she spent the same day in Las Vegas where she got to pose with two Elvis impersonators for a photo. They were both telling the truth and it was Diederik, whose story didn't mention any Elvises, who was the liar.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Done in season 17, episode 1 of the Dutch series when four contestants who got exemptions and then lied to the other contestants that they didn't get them were asked by Art if they would be willing to give up their exemptions to ensure that no one would go home that episode. Unbeknownst to them, they were being filmed and the other contestants could see them, exposing their attempt to hide their exemptions (though Roos already hadn't been the most convincing liar earlier).
  • Epic Fail:
    • Petrina, the Mole from S4 of the Australian version, wound up being one of the worst Moles the series had. On at least two occasions, she had vital parts that would've given the game away (a blank memory chip that she used to sabotage a challenge involving contestants taking footage of things and later on, a bunch of instructions from the show's producers) had someone discovered them, while the producers proceeded to make things worse by eliminating her and then "bringing her back" (which cost them MORE of the kitty) and she proceeded to attempt a blatant sabotage to the point where the winner actually caught her.
    • Season 15 of the Dutch series saw the contestants make less money than any other cast in the series (until Season 19), including casts in seasons where the pot was completely or almost completely emptied by a midseason challenge. The contestants couldn't even blame the Mole for many of the screw-ups that cost them money, the most egregious being two contestants walking right past an envelope in full sight which cost them the money at the very end of an otherwise flawlessly-played challenge.
    • In episode 6 of S8 of the Dutch series, the contestants are tasked to name all the tasks they have already completed in order, losing 250 euros and starting over from the beginning whenever one of them fails. They all fail. Then, having just been told the solution, they are asked to do exactly the same task again - and all fail AGAIN. The kicker is that at the start of both tasks they had to pick one of two envelopes, which either said 'you will lose 250 euros for everyone who fails' or 'you will win 500 euros for everyone who succeeds'. They picked the loss envelope BOTH TIMES, therefore losing 3000 euros.
  • Eureka Moment: Sanne from Season 17 of the Dutch series had one in episode 8 when she realized that if Jochem was telling her the truth about not being the Mole, the only way she and Jochem could have lasted so long while believing completely different contestants to be the Mole was if they were both wrong and the Mole was Thomas. She described it during the final episode as suddenly seeing the Mole's true identity in full color.
  • Exact Words:
    • One episode in Season 5 of the Belgian series had the host Gilles take the contestants to a pub during the evening and tell them that their next challenge wouldn't be until tomorrow. After many of the contestants had gotten drunk, Gilles returned and informed them that the time was one minute past midnight which meant it was now tomorrow and time for the next challenge.
    • In Season 7, episode 4 of the Belgian series, Gilles told the contestants after Eva had seen a red screen and left that they could save the eliminated player by entering a code. The catch was that he never actually said Eva's name in that speech because Eva was not the actual eliminated player due to him having lied during the execution.
  • Executive Meddling: Invoked; the game's "plot" is that production is deliberately trying to sabotage the players in order to minimize how much money they'd have to pay the winner. To be clear, the Mole is someone hired by the show - they are not part of the production crew. Sometimes they'll be put through the same screening process as the legitimate contestants to make it seem like the Mole is an actual contestant.
  • Fair Play Whodunit: The series always gave clues as to the identity of The Mole. Some were ridiculously obscure (such as the "dummy text" during S5 of the Australian version), but some were legitimate hints. For example, Jon Kelley never called the name of Season 5's Mole during the execution ceremonies.
  • Final Exam Finale: The last quiz covers The Mole's activity from the entire season.
  • Four Is Death: Four was often used as a secret number in clues because of there being four letters in the word "Mole." For example, US season one Mole Kathryn Price was the fourth player to arrive at the starting location in episode one
  • Friend or Idol Decision: A common Sadistic Choice for contestants is whether to cooperate with their fellow players to add money to the pot or sabotage them to gain an exemption or some other individual advantage.
  • Futureshadowing: In Season 11 of the Dutch series and Season 5 of the Belgian series, one of the tests the contestants took had unexpected extra questions asking about the outcome of a challenge they'd never done. The twist was that they would be doing that challenge right after they completed the test and needed to make their test answers retroactively right by making sure that the Mole did the same actions they predicted they'd do.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Charlie from US Season 1.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: In episode 7 of the Belgian series's 6th season, one contestant was told that the three other contestants would each unknowingly be placed in an awkward situation (getting joined in the sauna by two burly and loud men, having your chair and towel rudely taken by other people while swimming, or having a pretty woman ask for your phone number) with hidden cameras filming them and that she would need to correctly guess what they would do during these situations to earn money. What she didn't know was that the three other contestants had been told in advance about their "hidden camera" situations and would need to do the opposite of what she predicted they would do to actually earn money.
  • Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: Occurred in season 13 of the Dutch series when each contestant stood in the same (dark) room as the (completely cloaked) Mole and asked them three yes/no questions that the Mole answered by hitting certain keys at a piano; the Mole was naturally one of the contestants that was conveniently never shown in the same shot as the hooded figure at the piano and the final shot of the season even showed them talking to an empty piano bench. A very similar stunt was done in the Dutch season 8, with two candles instead of piano keys. Also occurred in another Dutch season when Patrick entered his name in a lottery for the opportunity to contact the Mole in spite of being the Mole himself and actually won the lottery, leading to some creative Manipulative Editing to show him "talking" to the Mole.
  • Hollywood Atlas: Thankfully, this is mostly averted.
  • How We Got Here: Many foreign versions of the show open this way, with the host/announcer saying that the finalists just took their final quiz now, but the results won't be known until you, the viewer, have watched the entire season.
  • Incessant Music Madness: "Tiny Bubbles" in a task near the end of the U.S. second season.
  • Informed Ability: When a contestant does poorly on a challenge in spite of their occupation or hobbies seeming to be perfect for that challenge, like Bill from U.S. season 2 being unable to tread water for long despite being a former admiral or Sam from Belgian season 5 getting exhausted after only a few minutes of running despite listing jogging as one of his hobbies. Sometimes it's because that contestant is the Mole deliberately performing poorly like with Bill, but other times it's just because the challenge was tougher/trickier than that contestant expected like with Sam.
  • Insistent Terminology: Candidates in the Dutch version are executed, not eliminated in a process called the execution, not the elimination. It's the only Dutch show to use execution instead of elimination. Both in the fandom and in the show itself it is very common to refer to it using this word (it may even be slightly scary to an unassuming new viewer).
  • It's Probably Nothing: Played completely straight in season 5 of the the American series. One of the other contestants realized that Craig's charmingly dopey demeanor would be the perfect cover for the mole. Even better, it was both uwittingly lampshaded and combined with Tempting Fate when said contestant joked that Craig could make a Sarcastic Confession and everyone would think it was hilarious. Craig was the mole.
    • Also played straight in season 8 of the Dutch series, where it became a Running Gag in the final episode for Patrick to repeatedly admit that he had witnessed suspicious behavior from the Mole but did absolutely nothing to act on these suspicions.
    • Initially played straight in season 11 of the Dutch series when Art muses during a Confession Cam if his ally Patrick freely giving him multiple jokers meant that Patrick could be the Mole because the Mole would obviously have no need for jokers, then laughs it off as impossible. Art did eventually wise up about Patrick, however; hence the "initially" modifier.
  • Knights and Knaves: The final challenge of the Belgian series' 4th season gave its winner the opportunity to know with 100% certainty who the Mole was, if they could come up with the right 'yes/no' question to ask one of two men without knowing if they chose the man who would tell them the truth or the man who would lie to them instead. Gilles, the winner of that challenge, managed to figure out the right question to ask — but given that he was the Mole, it was done just for show.
  • Like You Would Really Do It:
    • Invoked by the players when, at the outset, their bags of personal effects were thrown into an incinerator. The players were right, of course— the bags had been switched for fakes prior to destruction.
    • Averted in season five, when the players (sans Craig, who was ill from the last challenge) were instructed to find a volunteer to have his journal destroyed. When Alex reluctantly came forward, it was revealed that the whole exercise was a Secret Test of Character and that his journal would be spared while everyone else's journals would be burned. Mark was not amused.
    • In the first Celebrity Mole, the mole was supermodel Frederique Van Der Wal. When Stephen Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen returned for the second season, they had a conversation when they wondered if the producers would have a second supermodel (Angie Everhart, who had been acting pretty suspicious) be the mole again, or if that would be too obvious. She was, but Steven and Corbin apparently talked themselves out of it, and both were eliminated. AGAIN.
    • In season 14 of the Dutch series, the first episode opened with the contestants being told right after they arrived that they were going to have the test and execution on the spot. Any genre-savvy viewer will know that there's no way in hell that they'd actually send someone home before doing even a single challenge. Especially obvious, since the Dutch Mole pulled the same stunt all the way back in Season 5.
    • In Season 3 of the Australian version, one contestant was shown hooked up to a machine that would shock them if their colleagues answered a question incorrectly. Whenever they got a question wrong, the host would call to the person with the machine to increase the voltage. The contestants didn't find out until afterwards that the contestant hooked up to the machine wasn't actually being shocked at all - he was given a lesson by the person with the machine [actually an acting coach] on how to convincingly fake pain.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Pieter Derks from the Dutch version was the first to be executed in his season, and had not even seen any jokers. When he was a guest in the talk show connected to it, he first saw one and got to hold it:
    Pieter: So this is a joker.
  • Loners Are Freaks: One major giveaway to the identities of the Moles in the Dutch series' 12th and 16th seasons for both contestants and viewers was their reluctance/inability to form alliances with others which caused them to become the suspicious lone wolf of the cast.
  • Manchild: During the US Season 2's Three Questions Game, Dorothy describes herself as one of these in relation to the question of who would be a worse babysitter (between her and Heather) to Bill's kids.
  • Meaningful Name: In season 17 of the Dutch series, the Mole's first name — Thomas — meant "twin" and pairs/doubles of items were continually shown throughout the season, including a reflection of Thomas's face in the opening credits, to hint at Thomas's dual nature as contestant and Mole.
  • Metagame: Due to the elimination quizzes, there are three key elements to being a good Mole contestant.
    • Gathering as much information as possible about the players and their activities, whether by copious note-taking or by establishing an alliance with another player to share info (although this information is not always reliable);
    • Making the other contestants falsely suspect you by performing sabotage of your own;
    • Tracking who's suspicious of whom, so that when a player gets executed, you know the player they were suspecting is less likely to be the Mole.
    • The Dutch series has gone on for long enough that it's become an established practice for contestants to spread out their answers for multiple Mole candidates on early tests and then gradually narrow down their answers to just one person on later tests.
  • Mistaken for Evidence:
    • The first episode of the second US season had a brief view of the players' bags, one of which had the name "Michael" printed on it. Since there were apparently no players with that name, many viewers believed that this had to be a clue, and speculated on what it could mean. As it turned out, however, "Michael" actually was the name of one of the players, Michael "Bribs" Bribiesca, who preferred to go by his nickname only. Later, his bag had his preferred name Bribs written in marker on a strip of masking tape that covered up the 'Michael.' People also thought that was a clue.
    • Social media discussions around Season 6 of The Mole Australia also had many ridiculous ideas for "evidence", such as the camera zooming in on a contestant's bag during a challenge and the barcode on said bag had the last four numbers translating to "Mole." Aside from the contestant in question getting eliminated a couple of episodes later, it was later shown that the barcode was on ALL of the contestants bags and the numbers were identical.
    • During U.S. Season 1, some viewers insisted that Steven had to be the Mole, reasoning that a real undercover police officer would never appear on national television. They were wrong. Why exactly Steven did appear on the show, thereby making it impossible for him to ever do undercover work again, was never explained. But he was not, in fact, the Mole.
    • A similar event occurred during U.S. Season 2. Some viewers argued that it was impossible to be a skiing instructor in Texas, and therefore, Bribs had to be the Mole. This argument was largely shut down once the viewers learned that skiing - on artificial turf, not on snow-covered mountains - actually is a popular sport in Texas.
    • The Dutch series has a devoted fanbase who can interpret anything and everything as evidence about the Mole's identity. One example was many fans believing that Hind constantly wearing red clothing in season 10 was a clue to her being the Mole (which had been an actual clue in an earlier season) but it was just her really liking the color red.
  • The Mole: Well, obviously. The entire premise is that production has planted one of these among the players to undermine them, and it's the players' job to root them out.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Season 12 of the Dutch series had the contestants play a high-stakes game for an exemption to the finals. The game? Go Fish. Happens once again in season 18, where a game of Jenga decides who gets the jokers.
    • Happened in the sixth Aussie season, too (though in that case it wasn't a free pass, but rather the opportunity to reduce your time on the quiz by 30 seconds).
  • My Greatest Second Chance:
    • Stephen Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen in Celebrity Mole: Yucatan after having competed in Celebrity Mole: Hawaii. Neither star did much better — in fact, they both did worse with each of them going out one round sooner than they had the last time.
    • The fourth Aussie season played with this a bit, with two contestants leaving and then returning later on. One of those happened to be the mole.
    • The Dutch series also had some seasons where a contestant executed earlier in the season returned, usually because another contestant had to drop out due to health problems. Most of them didn't last for much longer, but the contestant brought back in season 7 became the winner.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The Belgian series is fond of this kind of challenge. Examples of this include:
    • The contestants needing to order a pizza for a certain person so that they could follow the pizza delivery to his address, only for the motorcyclist delivering their pizza to be joined by two identical-looking motorcyclists and even stopping to swap the pizza boxes back and forth with the other motorcyclists.
    • The contestants having to keep track of three dancers wearing sombreros in a square that gradually filled up with more and more people wearing sombreros too.
    • A pair of contestants being told by Gilles that they just had to follow the GPS provided for them in a car to find the location where the other contestants were, and then finding out that the car had seven different GPS inside.
  • Never Gets Drunk:
    • Hilariously subverted when a challenge in the second US season involved mashing grapes for wine. Anderson Cooper got plastered with the players.
    • Also hilariously subverted in one challenge in the Belgian series' 5th season where most of the contestants had to try to pull off a museum heist after getting drunk at a bar just before.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: In every season of the Dutch series, one contestant will be singled out as acting extremely suspicious and screwing up challenges left and right, such as Jochem from season 17 and Ruben from season 18. They will never, ever be the actual Mole.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Contestants screwing up on purpose, to make other contestants think they're the Mole and thus do worse on the elimination quizzes. Yes, it decreased the winner's take, but it increased their chance of being the winner.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Occasionally, a Mole will actually help the other contestants by accident, typically by being too successful at pretending to be a good contestant:
    • In Season 11 of the Dutch series, during a challenge where contestants on a beach had to somehow inform another contestant in a lighthouse of a number code, Patrick suggested that they draw the numbers in the sand, believing that the contestant in the lighthouse would be too far away to see them. However, that contestant turned out to have eagle eyes and was able to make out the numbers.
    • In Season 4 of the Belgian series, the Mole wound up inadvertently helping the contestants on multiple occasions. He rubbed a strong deodorant all over his body before going on a hiking challenge, knowing that two contestants would later have to try to match the shirts they wore during the hiking challenge with their owners by smell, but the deodorant's distinct scent actually made his shirt the easiest for these two contestants to identify. He also mistakenly thought during another challenge that a contestant had caught a "Bankrupt" tube that would cause no money to be earned for that challenge, so he did his best during that challenge to look non-suspicious and wound up earning the most money out of all the contestants for that challenge. Furthermore, he bought a map during the challenge where the contestants he was with had to drive to three landmarks identified only by songs played by two other contestants to strengthen his facade of being too fanatical a contestant to be the Mole, but that map wound up tipping off the contestants he was with about a planetarium being one of the landmarks that they would otherwise have missed.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: In the Dutch series, Roeland from season 5 and Manuel from season 10 (both became too ill to continue), Janine from season 13 (got injured after she jumped the wrong way during a challenge), and Jean-Marc from Season 18 (left for personal reasons). Just barely averted by Gloria in the second episode of UK season 1; she was too ill to actually participate in or observe the events of the episode, but decided to take the quiz anyway. Quite predictably, she scored lowest. A minor example of this occurred during Season 3 of The Mole Australia, where one contestant was exempt from a challenge due to health reasons.
  • Novelization: The Mole from the second US season wrote a book about their experiences on the show, appropriately titled Reflections Of The Mole. It can be found here (link contains obvious spoilers).
  • Nun Too Holy: Pieter, one of the contestants in season 6 of the Belgian series, was a priest and religious teacher who nonetheless drank and swore a lot throughout the season. He was also the Mole of that season and had no qualms about lying to and sabotaging his fellow contestants, pointing out that it was just part of a game.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: A tactic sometimes used by contestants, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.
    • Dennis Rodman stands out as an example— seemed like nobody could figure out if he was stupid, The Mole, or actually really brilliant. Turned out to be brilliant— he won the game! When they did the journal swap thing, it was discovered that he'd taken no notes, which led some to believe he was The Mole. He actually just had an amazing memory for details.
    • Other excellent examples are the Moles from Seasons 3 and 8 of the Dutch series who regularly rank at the top of "best Mole" fan polls because they were so good at painting themselves as too lovably goofy to possibly be the Mole.
    • And another example from the Dutch version is Rik from Season 15 who appeared to constantly fail spot checks and be duped or sweet-talked by other contestants into giving them jokers without getting anything in return. When he made the finals, many viewers thought that all of this behavior had to be a "playing dumb" act by the Mole. It wasn't, but it did help him become the winner.
    • Thomas, the Mole in Season 17 of the Dutch series, made this a habit. Every time Art explained something, he always sat there with a sheepish look on his face, and Sanne even remarked at the reunion that they constantly brushed off Thomas' suspicious behavior as him just not being too bright. Made especially apparent since there's a certain saying going 'incredulous Thomas' referring to the disciple Thomas not believing Jesus.
    • Eline, the Mole from Season 5 of the Belgian series had this as a tactic too. She made herself out to be not that smart or athletic, leading many contestants to think that her poor performance in challenges was just her being "the slow one".
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Ignoring the celebrity seasons, US season two is the biggest oddball — The Mole 2: The Next Betrayal. The other civilian seasons were simply called The Mole, although the fifth season is referred to on as The Mole 3.0 because of it being the third civilian season.
    • The bonus season of the Dutch version is called 'Renaissance' (lit. 'Rebirth') to both signify how it takes place in Tuscany as well as the return of former candidates. Made a little bit more meaningful in-universe since the candidates are 'executed', not simply 'eliminated', as if they died and then were reborn.
  • Off the Rails: In the Season 5 mission "Travelers", Craig was chosen to pick out modes of transportation for the rest of the group to reach a monument within a set amount of time, and was told he would be given an exemption if none of them made it. Going for the exemption, he chose modes of transportation that were... unhelpful, including stilts, scuba gear and a two-person llama costume (Bonus: He assigned the head and rear of the llama costume to arch-rivals Nicole and Paul, respectively.) Rather than participate in the game, the remaining contestants unanimously decided not to play this game right at the start and simply drove to the monument in the vans, forfeiting the money and netting Craig the exemption. This was Craig's most blatant sabotage of the game. Doubles as a CMOA for Craig, as despite single-handedly ruining that mission, not one person took it as evidence of him being The Mole.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • "Bribs," a.k.a. Michael Bribiesca in the second US season. He even wrote it on a piece of tape and stuck it over his real name on his bag.
    • Season 6 had "Mozzie" a.k.a. Jayden Irving. Unlike Bribs, everyone including the host addressed him by his nickname.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: The Dutch series did a non-videogame variant: Art Rooijakkers, after participating in Season 11 as a contestant, returned in Season 12 as the show's new host and hosted every season until Season 19 where he was replaced by another previous contestant, Rik van de Westelaken, who had participated in Season 15.
  • Prisoner's Dilemma: This was an element of gameplay. For the most part, it was better for contestants to work together and give maximum effort in challenges, because that increased the pot that they were playing for. However, since The Mole was sabotaging the game, and players who incorrectly guessed the identity of The Mole faced risk of elimination in the quiz at the end of the episode, contestants would sometimes sabotage challenges in order to draw false suspicion on themselves.
  • Public Secret Message:
    • Cleverly done in season 8 of the Dutch series as a clue to the Mole's identity: During a challenge in which the contestants could each ask the hidden Mole one question, Dennis asked what sounded like "Is Edo (another contestant who had been behaving suspiciously) the Mole?" but was actually "Is ego the Mole?", i.e. "Am I the Mole?", to which a "yes" answer was shown. Almost no viewers caught this.
    • Also done in season 7 of the Dutch series as a major clue to the Mole's identity (in this case, quite a few viewers did catch this, although no contestants did): Every time Inge posed for the group shot taken at the start of each episode, she discreetly formed one of her hands into the shape of a Signed Language letter. Putting all of these letter signs together over the span of nine episodes spelled out the message INGE DE MOL ("Inge the Mole" in Dutch).
    • One clue in season 6 of the Belgian series was the Mole blinking out the letters "verraad", the Flemish word for "betrayal", in Morse code at the executions.
  • Punny Name: In a late episode of the US season 2, host Anderson Cooper and the players are all eating McDonald's food as a reward. Anderson states "that all of this is compliments of Mickey D's". Aside from the fact that McDonald's was a sponsor of the show, that season's Mole was Bill McDaniel.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • The entire US show after Season 4. Four years went by before the 2008-09 WGA strike led ABC to revive "The Mole" due to a lack of new material to fill its schedule. The show was finally officially cancelled after Season 5.
    • The Belgian series was discontinued after 3 seasons in spite of its popularity, but came back in 2016 after a thirteen-year gap.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Besides the mystery of The Mole's identity, the other big part of this show's watchability is the sheer fun of watching the contestants try to complete the various tasks. Deliberately invoked in Season 6 of The Mole Australia - the show was marketed as casting people from various backgrounds and beliefs.
    • The contestants and the crew of the nineteenth season were seen by a tourist in Columbia, who immediately recognized some of them (as the Dutch version has been working with celebrities) and found them of such different natures that they knew that these people were probably the candidates of that season (which turned out to be right).
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness:
    • Lampshaded by host Anderson Cooper in the US season two. When the team was instructed to split up into people who wanted to cook and people who didn't want to cook, Anderson later informed them that the people who didn't want to cook would end up having to cook for their challenge, and the team that wanted to cook would be doing something else. He chided them by saying, "This is, like, Basic Mole!"
    • In season 5 of the Belgian series, Bertrand learned in the 3rd episode that he had a red screen but was able to avoid getting executed through a special bluffing challenge. The producers fully expected him to change Mole suspects following this because getting a red screen so early in the series almost always means that you have the wrong Mole suspect... but he didn't, and was executed for real in the next episode.
  • Red Herring: Present in some challenges.
    • In the US series’ second season, one challenge tasked the contestants with getting a car inside a greenhouse despite the car being too large to fit through the front door. The inclusion of tools made the contestants initially think they had to dismantle the car with the tools to get it through the door, but the tools were just red herrings and the real solution was to notice that there was a side door to the greenhouse that could be unlocked with a code that could be seen on the car’s dashboard.
    • In the Belgian series’ 5th season, one challenge included a key at the bottom of a long tube that the contestants had to retrieve. The tube was located close to a pen with goats inside and there was a sign found with instructions on how to milk goats, so the contestants were led to believe that they needed to milk the goats and fill the tube with their milk to get the key. However, nearly an hour’s worth of goat milking wasn’t enough to fill the tube even halfway, and it wasn’t until time was almost up that the contestants figured out they could simply use a hook and some string to fish the key out.
  • Red Herring Mole: Produced by Manipulative Editing, lies, or simply following the wrong clues. It's amazing the elaborate theories some fans cooked up, only to have them smashed at the big reveal.
    • Granted, part of the Metagame involves being a Red Herring Mole so that everyone erroneously suspects you.
    • This is especially prevalent in the Dutch series where every season has at least one contestant who comes across as incredibly suspicious and blatantly sabotaging and makes it all the way to the finals only for someone else to be revealed as the Mole instead. The winner of the 13th season even said during the reunion episode that EVERYBODY in the Netherlands, including their own family, was convinced that they were the Mole to the point that they received a ton of mail from viewers all saying, "I know you're the Mole!" Similarly, the winner of the 15th season received more votes than the other two finalists combined from the viewing audience on who they believed was the Mole.
    • This was also a tactic by the Mole themselves in season 11 of the Dutch series: Patrick gave Art jokers and kept on encouraging him to act suspicious because he knew that many contestants thought Art was the Mole and thus wanted to keep him around as a decoy Mole he could hide behind.
    • This was also particularly prevalent in fan conversations for the 6th season of the Australian series. Everybody else (apart from the final 3 contestants) thought that Hillal was The Mole, based on a bunch of clues that seemed to point to him (such as him doing badly on challenges or in one such case, a 4-digit number was given as a "clue" because it was his postcode. They were partially on the right track: it was a postcode, but not his). It was eventually revealed to be someone else and half of the clues that pointed to Hillal actually pointed towards the REAL Mole.
  • Retirony: If a contestant in the Belgian series gets an emotional scene of them talking about their family, it's a virtual guarantee that they will be executed at the end of that episode.
  • Reunion Show:
    • All five U.S. seasons had one. Season one was the only season where The Mole and The Winner were revealed through episode footage shown to the players at the reunion show.
    • All Dutch seasons have also had one where the winner and Mole was revealed to all players. Starting with Season 15, the reunion show became a live show where the contestants outside of the final 3 found out the Mole's identity at the exact same time as viewers.
  • Right Under Their Noses:
    • Season 11, episode 1 of the Dutch series started with the contestants all having to look for various things while riding in a bus. It wasn't until after this challenge was over that they learned that the Mole had been sitting in the same bus as them the whole time (albeit with a wig and sunglasses on) and none of them had realized it.
    • Season 18, episode 4 of the Dutch series had a challenge where each contestant was asked a series of questions starting with "Do you want to know who the Mole is?" Unbeknownst to them, while they were answering the questions, the Mole strolled right behind or past them in plain sight, their face completely uncovered, and still managed to go unnoticed by every single contestant.
  • Room Escape Game:
    • Done frequently in the Belgian series, usually with some unique twist such as being Buried Alive in coffins in the first episode of Season 6 or having to get into a boat with no ladder in the fourth episode of Season 7.
    • The first US season had one as well, placed as its final challenge. The final three contestants were each locked in a hotel room with clues to get each other out.
  • Sarcastic Confession:
    • In seasons 8 and 13 of the Dutch series, there was a test in the penultimate episode that would tell the contestants who the Mole was if they answered a series of questions correctly. When the Mole took the test in both seasons, they correctly identified themselves as the Mole even though they could have deliberately answered the questions wrong to get the name of someone else instead. However, since both cases occurred in the last challenge before the finale and no other contestants witnessed their "confessions," they were more like last-minute clues to the audience about the Mole's identity.
    • A straighter example occurred in season 9 of the Dutch series where the Mole answered "yes" to a contestant's query if they were the Mole in the hopes of confusing her. It's implied that this didn't succeed in dispelling her suspicions, however.
    • Another played-straight example occurred in season 5 of the Belgian series during an assignment where each contestant had to do an individual challenge to earn money and then had to decide whether to tell the truth or lie to the other contestants about what they did. If they fooled the other contestants about whether they were telling the truth or lying, they got 2 guaranteed correct questions on the test. Two contestants succeeded in doing this by simply telling the truth as the things they had to do were so ridiculous (the first contestant had to crowd-surf and grab money from the ceiling; the second one had to swat flies with pancakes in a glass box) that they knew the others wouldn't believe them.
  • Saying Too Much: Although possibly not intentional on the Mole's part, there was one instance in the first US season where they let something slip; and the finale highlighted it as a clue giving them away: when the group was trying to decide which of two watches was real and which was fake, Kathryn pushed them to make a decision and "pull the trigger". While the group knew that they watch they designated as fake was going to be destroyed, she shouldn't have known that it was going to be shot with a gun.
  • Scenery Porn: Almost all the time, as the players are always moving.
  • Secret Test of Character: Every US civilian season has had this in one fashion or another. But most famously was the second season, when the team traveling by bus were stopped first by a pair of pretty ladies, then later by an older woman, to fix a flat tire. They fixed both cars, and were rewarded. Had they just fixed the pretty ladies' car, they would've lost money.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Season 5's Paul and Nicole were this to each other.
  • The Show Must Go On: During Season 13 of the Dutch version, one of the contestants suffers an accident during a jump from a cliff, crushing one of her vertebrae. The show wasn't cancelled, and the contestant actually says during a 'confession' moment that she's happy the show wasn't cancelled.
  • Spoiler Title: The Dutch series' episode titles frequently serve as hidden clues about the Mole. For example, the title "Mirror Image" for a season 13 episode was a reference to the Mole's reflection being briefly shown during that episode.
  • Spotting the Thread: Often, a contestant will be tipped off to the Mole's identity by something the Mole says or does that doesn't make sense under greater scrutiny.
    • In season 5 of the Belgian series, the mole Eline did her best to convince Davey during the first episode to push a button that would make him safe from elimination if he was one of the five people who pushed the button the fastest, but would cause no money to be added to the pot. However, while Davey was successfully talked into pushing the button, he immediately became suspicious of Eline when she was slower to push the button than him and four other people — because why would she confidently tell him that she was pushing the button and work so vigorously to convince him to do the same to avoid elimination only to then not immediately push the button herself...unless she was the Mole more concerned with talking him into helping her keep money out of the pot than getting eliminated?.
    • In season 17 of the Dutch series, the thing that caused eventual winner Sanne to start really suspecting the mole Thomas was his claim during one challenge that his earplugs prevented him from hearing the other contestants yelling at him to turn back before he ran out of time, despite Sanne noticing that she had no problems hearing the other contestants when she wore the same earplugs.
  • The Stoic: Dorothy from Season 2 acted like this throughout the game, with not even losing the opportunity to reunite with her mother (apparently) fazing her that much. Naturally, that made her a prime suspect amongst the other players. Also, Michael from Season 2 of the Australian version. His lack of reaction to, among other things, tasks won and getting "shot" by a fellow contestant were stated as a clue to him being the Mole in the finale.
    • Art, the host of several Dutch seasons, had a habit of either being the Deadpan Snarker, or telling the candidates something shocking (like revealing that the Mole had been walking right in front of them without them noticing it) with a stoic face. After revealing said point, he had the guts to end with 'Good evening.' and walking away.
  • Straight Gay:
    • Jim from US Season 1.
    • Bobby from Season 5 as well. The only way you could tell he was gay was when he explicitly mentioned it in an early behind-the-scenes interview, stating that his "Gaydar" senses will help him get a feel of people's intentions. Otherwise, it isn't telling.
    • The Dutch series usually has at least one gay contestant per season and more often than not, these contestants' sexualities aren't obvious at all and hardly mentioned on the show. Examples are Frits from Season 12, Rik and Viktor from Season 15, and Jeroen and Thomas from Season 17.
  • Too Awesome to Use:
    • Jokers in the Dutch series, which can be used to negate incorrect answers on a test and can be hoarded for use on future tests. Many contestants have been eliminated with a joker or two (or even three!) in their pockets because they either thought that they were safe and didn't need them, or wanted to save them for later rounds.
    • Mostly averted in Australia's sixth season, which had a similar concept (they were called "freebies"). Players seldom saved more than one. Sam had four on him when they were decided by the group's treasurer Hillal to be exchanged for money, but this is because he hadn't had to sit the last three quizzes.
  • Un-Canceled:
    • Season 5 of the US series premiered 4 years after the previous season.
    • Season 6 of the Australian series aired 8 years after the previous season.
    • Season 4 of the Belgian series aired 13 years after the previous season.
  • Unreadably Fast Text: A few clues were quickly flashed during the opening sequences.
    • Season 5 of the Australian version had the contestants confession cam moments brought up as part of a "profile". During that time, numbers, text and braille would flash across the screen way too fast for someone to actively be looking for it. (Turns out that the numbers were a code, which translated to "The Mole is not_____" while the Braille gradually spelt out "The Mole is going to reveal himself tonight."
  • Wham Line: In season 18 of the Dutch version, which started with this. It opened on all of the players having to meet each other while walking around in a further undefined East-European looking city. At a certain point, Ruben and Olcay decide to call another pair of players, Jan and Jean-Marc. What happens right then is priceless:
    Jan: Do you know exactly where in Kiev you are?
    Ruben: Kiev?
    Ruben: We are not in Kiev, my friend! We are in Almaty, Kazakhstan!
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Corbin Bernsen and Stephen Baldwin in Yucatan were constantly looking for clues that weren't there.
    • Indeed, Corbin actually caught on to one of the clues (seven candles on the dining room table indicating that Journal #7 was held by the Mole), but he was such a scatterbrain that he didn't act on it.
    • Darwin from the second season fits this trope big time. While a smart player, he ultimately got all of his coalition partners as well as himself executed for targeting every single person on the quiz EXCEPT The Mole.
    • Daniel from season 13 of the Dutch series admitted in the final episode that he didn't really pay attention to other contestants' behavior because he was so focused on being an Action Hero during the challenges...on a show in which paying careful attention to other contestants' possible Mole-like behavior is absolutely essential to win. Fortunately for him, he happened to be on a season where almost everyone had a hard time figuring out who the Mole was, which enabled him to survive longer than he would have otherwise.
    • The Dutch series in general has coined the term "tunnel vision" to describe the extremely common occurrence of a contestant or viewer becoming absolutely convinced that a person is the Mole and interpreting everything they see as proof that their hunch is right even if it's actually dead wrong (i.e. getting so stuck in a mental "tunnel" that they can't see anything beyond it).
    • Mal actually weaponised this in season 2 of The Mole Australia. The challenge had him going to Sovereign Hill note  and being told to dress up in a disguise to avoid being spotted, being given the entire prop and costume wardrobe from the town. Everyone else had to try and spot him from a crowd. The remaining contestants picked someone who they THOUGHT was their man, except it turned out to be a lookalike. Mal had in fact dressed up as the cameraman filming him!
  • Wire Dilemma: Done in the season five challenge "Tick, Tock, Boom!"
    • Also done in a challenge during The Mole Australia-the Mole managed to successfully sabotage the contestants by stopping the person with him from looking at the case which held the wires (which had the clue).
    • It showed up too as part of a challenge in season 8 of the Dutch series - a contestant managed to solve it through sheer luck by randomly picking a wire to cut.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The best Moles are capable of quickly improvising a new plan whenever their initial plan of sabotage hits a snag or something unexpected comes up.
    • One example from season 2 of the US series is Bill learning that each contestant would have to swap notebooks with another contestant, realizing that his complete lack of notes would look suspicious and that he didn't have enough time to write them, and improvising by writing a sentimental letter to his wife about how he hoped he could do well in the game in his notebook. His letter moved the contestant who read his notebook so much that she ruled him out as the Mole and was executed soon after.
    • Another one is on the Hostage Rescue task of UK series 1, when David Buxton's sabotage of switching a digit on the phone their squad was using to contact the hostage didn't work and they got there anyway, the Mole improvised at the last second, and waved the car team the wrong way down a one way street up to the hostage house, making them lose automatically due to breaking the law. This also had the bonus of casting suspicion onto the person holding the phone, and the 2 people stood right next to the wrong way sign.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: