The Mole Australia Watchdown: S1E01, or “….WHAT BLUE ENVELOPE?”

So I figured I’d take up another binge-watching challenge. I’ve always been a fan of the reality series The Mole, as it aired stateside as I was growing up. I always knew there was an Australian version, that sort of outdid the original in quality and in quantity.

So, today I’m cracking into season one of the Australian version, featuring Grant Bowler, future star of Defiance and future Lost recurring mate, as the host. I know absolutely nothing about this series going in. I have no idea who the mole is, and I have no idea who any of the characters are. I’m just ready to have a nice time. Also, no pictures for this one- it’s not like a panel show where it’s occasionally visual friendly.

The opening is true to the form of the original US season- mysterious, well-lit clip of Grant Bowler explaining the game in his ultra-suave manner. He really has the chops for this, though time will tell if he’s better than Anderson Cooper.

They cut right to all our contestants on a bus. Grant mentions that all but the Mole answered a newspaper article asking for people to go on an adventure, probably mentioning the whole ‘reality show’ part. So…they’re all going in blind. That’ll be fun.

THE CAST:
Rocky, 39, Marketing. A balding, larger set guy.
Linda, 28, Merchant. Younger, with a red bob.
Beverly, 55, Homestay Interviewer, the requisite little old lady.
Jan, 40, school services- bubbly blonde bob, not exactly showing her age.
James, 37, computer programmer- longer brown hair, reminding me a ton of Jim from US1.
Patrick, 48, winery manager- older with brown hair and a brown mustache.
Alan, 37, environmental officer- larger with brown hair, very smiley.
Abby, 18, student- our requisite blonde and beautiful kid.
Josephine, 35, aromatherapy consultant- dyed sandy blonde hair and lipstick.
Ben, 27, Hotel Manager- spiked brown hair.

Grant Bowler appears on an incredibly old TV screen in their van, explaining the game to everybody, and they’re all relaxed, going ‘OOOH’, ‘AAAHH’, you know, because they’re polite Australians that don’t know true terror (yet).

Funny moment- the second the taped bit ends, Rocky stands up and just flat out goes “WHO’S THE MOLE???” That’s…one way to get it out there.

First task takes place at the airport, worth 10,000 dollars, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s just the ‘Jump out of a Moving Airplane’ challenge that headed off US1.

Sure enough: “You are to fly to Tasmania, and you are to land before the plane does.” Solid way to start the adventure, by throwing everyone out of their comfort zones.

As Grant explains via VO, all ten contestants have to jump in order for the full money to be earned- It’s a bit weird that we haven’t seen any confessionals yet, but maybe they didn’t get to them until they landed in Tasmania.

Plane One: Abby, Linda, Patrick.
Plane Two: James, Alan, Beverly.
Plane Three: Josephine, who’s incredibly nervous and needs her own plane (DUN DUN DUNNNNN)
Plane Four: Jan, Ben, Rocky.

There’s a lot of emphasis on how scared these guys are, and as Grant explains, almost none of them have ever jumped out of a plane before. I think it’s gotta be less accessible to do that in Australia.

Everyone from Plane 1 is on the ground and they all notice that James is looking kind of nervous, a bit queasy, even though Bev and Alan are at the ready.

Patrick’s already making small talk and asking Abby who she thinks jumped first- she thinks it’s Beverly, and sure enough, Bev’s the first out of the plane. James and Alan do eventually make it.

Alan, as he parachutes towards the group, is acting like it’s nothing- just gives a ‘howdy folks’ as he reaches the ground. Patrick’s already screwing with Beverly, asking her how the adrenaline rush is. Bev’s cracking up. This is a very loose group so far (then again, they’re Australians.)

Josephine basically goes through a nervous breakdown up in the plane, but asks if the instructor is sure they’re attached, and musters the strength to go through with it. Josephine is already going on my radar, but if she’s not, this is a great character moment for her.

Although…it is pretty funny to see the guy getting Josephine to take her hands off the bar and go already. He even goes “you SAID yes…”, as she’s struggling.

Eventually the rest of the group lands and the money is earned- the shots of the folks down below watching them down is good bonding stuff, and they’re all pretty affable.

Like with the US version, they’d split up the group and have some take part in a secret challenge. However, probably the best shit is Jan just ranting to the camera.
Jan: “How do you explain to people when they ask you ‘where are you going?’ ‘I don’t know where I’m going.’ ‘What are you gonna do when you get there?’ ‘I dunno what I’m gonna be doing when I get there?’ ‘What do you mean you don’t know WHERE YOU’RE GOING or What you’re doing?”
Abby, absolutely deadpan: “I just want a coffee…”

The other five- Bev, James, Alan, Linda and Josephine, have to do a 5,000 dollar challenge, involving taking apart their luggage in favor of backpacks, and then taking apart the other five’s luggage. Back at the hotel, Ben starts grilling Jan about if she’s really telling the truth about where she works.

The challenge is that the home front crew, which would be Ben, Jan, Patrick, Rocky and Abby, have to guess which personal items of theirs the other five took out of their luggage.

Ben: “When you say bags, I have two of them, I have a main bag and a little day bag-”
Grant, ever the smartass: “No, you have one bag. It’s black, this size…”

Jan: ‘So what are they gonna rip off us next?”
Rocky: “…they’ve taken our dignity…”
Rocky, so far, has been the biggest source of levity on the show, with one-liners back and forth. He’s easily the most relaxed guy out there.

Linda’s taking, like, 10 or 12 food bars out of a blue backpack, saying “this guy’s like a food junkie.” Of course, they cut right back to Ben, as if they’re setting him up to fail.

Ben: “How, uh, how bad could it be?”
Jan: “…How bad could it be?? LOTS BAD?”
Ben: “How?”
Ben’s obviously being set up as an oblivious buffoon, and Jan’s just a bit too extroverted.

Rocky: “All my undies were in the back compartment.”
CUT TO ALAN HOLDING UP A THONG: “WHOSE DO YOU THINK THESE BELONG TO??”

Patrick, who guessed a black backpack was taken out, is deemed correct. Patrick seems to be one of the more serious, stern people in the cast so far, especially during tasks.
Ben’s guess of ‘tan boat shoes’ is also correct, though Ben’s edit so far is giving me some signs that he’s not the mole and he’s not long for this game.
Rocky guessed the EAS protein shakes, and those were correct as well, as we even saw Linda counting them out to Alan as she took them out.
Abby’s guess of black, slip-on platforms are also correct.
Jan’s is also right, but Grant has a nice way of screwing with her to make her think it’s wrong. He’s actually pretty damn charming here.

As the other five filter in, you can hear Rocky going “I bet we know each other a bit more closely now, don’t we?” Obviously referring to the thongs.

Oh, that makes sense- traditional reality show confessionals are ditched in favor of a video-diary, which acts as a block of confessionals, here pasted mid-episode.

Abby’s early guesses include Jan, James, Beverly and Patrick.
Bev actually guesses Abby. I’ll say that both tropes, the college student and the little old lady, would be prime for an actual mole revelation.

At dinner, it’s revealed that Bev didn’t pack Patrick any other shirts other than the one he’s wearing, a white shirt, which according to Patrick, ‘might change to a dull gray after a while.’

Before going to bed, all ten are supposed to choose who gets to be woken up incredibly early the following morning. What surprises me is that a lot of people, including James and Patrick, choose themselves. Abby gets a few votes. However, Patrick gets the most, for some reason.

I was expecting a loud alarm clock, but actually Grant comes over to Patrick’s room and wakes him the hell up at 3 AM. I guess more is less, so I’m happy it went the way it did.

Patrick, actually, is being taken hostage, and if I had money on this i’d guess that this is the infamous Hostage challenge from S1E2 of the US version, where poor Steven ended up stuck in an iron mask for the entire episode.

Best part of this is after being dropped off in the new place, fitted with a bedroom and everything, Patrick just goes right back to sleep.

Immediately, at the next breakfast:
Ben: “Has anyone noticed that Patrick isn’t here?”
Rocky: “Patrick who?…Oh OUR Patrick…”

Of course, it’s the Hostage challenge. They’ve got to split up and find where Patrick’s being held before noon, or else no dough. Always a favorite.

Car Group: Ben, Josephine, James.
Helicopter Group: Alan, Jan, Linda
Speedboat Group: Abby, Rocky, Beverly

Patrick’s actually pretty good at this, as he’s giving the helicopter group clues about which roads he came in on, and he’s got a nice attitude about the whole thing.

Patrick: “I’m in a….one, two three story house, I think-”
Linda: “…and you want us to SAVE you?”
Patrick: “…get off your ass, girl!”

More proof that Patrick’s the right sort for this task.
Grant, via phone: “Have you found the blue envelope yet?”
Patrick, stone faced: “…WHAT BLUE ENVELOPE?”

Rocky, Abby and Bev are stranded on the boat without a signal. After a beat, Bev goes “…anyone want any sunscreen for their arms?” Perfect little moment.

Patrick’s just cracking up whenever he finds something that dramatizes the situation- for instance, according to the “BLUE ENVELOPE”, only one of the keys the groups have opens the place.

Eventually everyone figures out that Patrick’s being held in Georgetown, though the shot of Josephine shifting through a gigantic map is great, especially by 2016 standards.

Good bit of suspense- Rocky, Abby and Bev’s phone has no way of working through most of the task, though Rocky eventually finds an extra battery sticking out of Abby’s back pocket. The suspicion continues. Still, eventually the speedboat catches up to the helicopter, somehow.

Great moment. Linda gets an idea to drop the speedboat group a bottle which contains everything they know…only when they drop the bottle the boat just speeds right past it, and doesn’t realize it until later- they have to go back in a few and grab it.

Another great moment-Ben’s car is tailed by the police, but he doesn’t stop- the cop car ends up pulling over the camera car following them, and the cameraman has to explain himself to the cop, who’s stern. It’s like something out of an Edgar Wright movie.

Eventually the car group makes it and everyone starts looking for their keys.

Note- the boat crew’s key is the one that ends up working. On the radar Abby goes.

Patrick is saved, and the money is raised. Grant stops the crew by saying “the good news is, you’ve won.” And the group goes wild, but the camera footage fades out before he could get to the bad news. I imagine it was “the bad news is one of our camera guys will be spending the night in a Tasmanian prison.”

Linda thinks Bev isn’t as dumb as they all think- this is superimposed on a clip of Bev saying that one person says they hated her because she’s too cheerful in the mornings. Wonder if these two are connected in any way.
Also, Patrick is beginning to suspect Bev as well. I honestly don’t think it’s her, but more power to ’em all.

James says that Alan might be a prime suspect at this stage, “but I like him…which is probably a bad move.”

Ah yes, in the end the police eventually come and take Ben to the station, which is a funny little ending to that storyline- that sort of thing couldn’t have happened in the US version.

Even worse, Grant can’t award the 10,000 dollars for the task while the crime is still open, so Ben has to explain himself to the team. For a second I thought they were gonna expel him from the game…which I’d still not mind happening, as he’s not the most likable character out there, but still.

I will say that Ben’s explanation goes well, and the group doesn’t hate him too much for it, though he does go “please feel free to throw something at me” as the commercial break begins.

Onto the quiz. To be honest, I don’t wanna see any of these guys go quite yet. Everyone’s been edited pretty well- other than confessionals we haven’t seen a ton out of James, and Alan has been laying low so far, but Ben, Jan, Abby, Patrick and Rocky had some pretty well edited shows.

As to who I think is toast…probably Ben, but it could potentially be Beverly or Josephine.

Note that Jan, James and Josephine get pre-execution confessionals. Not sure if these are noteworthy in any way.

Execution results:
Alan: Green
Rocky: Green. There was a second’s hesitation there and I got very worried, but he’s still here.
Josephine: Green. They were editing it so that it could have been her, so her survival’s a bit surprising.
Patrick: Green. He responds with a quiet “…well…”
Jan: Green. More long suspense. Like the editors knew we’d sort of be rooting for her.
James: Red. Wow. Wasn’t exactly expecting that.

James was pretty under-edited, did a solid job on the task and wasn’t very vocal- however, maybe if he was more vocal the boot would have come as more of a shock. Still, the Tommy Wiseau lookalike is toast after one week, leaving him pretty shocked.

Overall, that’s a pretty solid group, and a pretty nice way to start the season. The challenges are borrowed from US1, but they’re integrated well with this group, and Ben’s speeding ticket was a nice little wrinkle to it all. There are some great characters, and it’s kind of a relief that the one I wasn’t especially tied to got the boot first.

Best Gameplayer: Linda, for engineering the helicopter crew, and most of the other groups as well.
Best Character: Rocky, by far. He’s having a hell of a time.
Who do I think is the mole? Abby. She did the most sabotage this week.

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