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Offline puddin

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Behind the Scenes blog
« on: June 03, 2008, 11:12:26 AM »
Episode 1
My name is Matt O'Brien and I’m one of the producers of Digital Content this season on The Mole. Each week, I'm here to give you the skinny on all the behind-the-scenes action that went down on location.  From blow-out fights to off-camera shenanigans, this season was a two-month thrill ride that took us to some of the most spectacular places in the Americas. 

Upon our arrival in Chile, orientation began with a casting tape of our 12 players.  I have to say this season's cast seemed like an absolute dream.  It was a veritable menagerie of classic archetypes: Paul, the Utility Worker from Yonkers – Yo!  I DJ on the weekends and love the Yankees!  Liz, the spunky senior (who, incidentally, has the filthiest mind of any sexagenarian I’ve ever met).  Craig, the funny fat guy who does a killer Chris Farley impression.  Kristen, the femme-bot scientist … I mean, I could go on and on.   Who did I dislike the most?  Probably Mark.  He just has that manic, gleaming chompers chomping on a piece of chewed-up gum intensity that rubs me the wrong way.  Then again, I have a habit of loving the people I hate, so I’m not writing him off just yet...

At times, even our staff and crew seemed to come out of central casting.  Our Director of Photography was a fastidious German with an eye for detail and ambient light.  Our Swedish Set Manager carried three walkies on a gunslinger belt and barked out orders with a cigarette dangling from her lips.  With three different languages being spoken at any given moment, it sometimes felt like we were in the middle of a Benetton ad.  And the local crews?  Well, they took it to another level.

Most of them were vastly hipper than any Americans in a fifty-mile radius.  Picture a chain smoking twenty-something reading a beat-up copy of "The Savage Detectives" in a vintage '69 VW Beetle.  "What are you going to do after the show wraps?"  Takes a long drag.  "Probably heading to Punta Vista.  My friends have a cottage on the coast."  If you’ve ever seen "Y Tu Mama Tambien," that movie pretty much sums up the vibe (even though it’s in Mexico).

If that wasn't enough, most of the S.A. crew wore uber-hip retro sneakers with uber-hip colorful ultra waif jackets with tons of zippers and hangy stuff.  And they all drove stick-shift cars with detached authority.  Long story short, make way Williamsburg, Silverlake and all hipster havens in between -- in a few years, a bumper crop of stylish South Americans will be nipping at your heels.

Back to our orientation ... after we screened the casting tapes, Executive Producers Scott Stone and Clay Newbill played a little game that’s sort of become a Mole tradition.  Before the first mission, they asked all of us (about 100 in all) to write down our top Mole suspect, based solely on first impressions.  Each season, they do this exercise to help gauge whether their Mole choice is, perhaps too obvious or maybe completely under everyone’s radar.  Both approaches have their merits.  Believe it or not, the winner of our pre-game straw poll was, once again ... Marcie.

In retrospect, when the players chose her as their lead suspect, it wasn't such a bad guess.  She ended up having some strange picks in “Over the Falls" (i.e. leaving Kristen and Bobby with fake cash).  And some of her items in "Crusoe" made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  But that's the tough part about this game: sometimes it’s hard to tell who's just terrible at missions and who's the actual saboteur.  It's just ironic that the top Mole suspect was the first one to go home.

To this very day, only a handful of people actually know The Mole's identity.  Even our host, Jon Kelley, is completely in the dark.  In fact, the entire selection process is shrouded under a veil of secrecy ... and I work at the production company for the show!  Over the next 10 weeks, you’ll begin to learn more and more about the players: their strategies, their strengths and their foibles.  Slowly but surely, you’ll begin to put the pieces together.  Just like you, all of us on staff are obsessed with clues, slip-ups ... anything to give us a hint as to The Mole’s identity.  Everyone has their own theories.  The camera operators, for example, were convinced they’d catch one of the EP’s sending messages to the Mole during one-on-one interviews.   "How do the EPs communicate with The Mole if s/he doesn’t have a phone or e-mail?  It’s GOT to be during the interviews," they’d say. 

The best advice is to stay tuned and keep your eyes and ears peeled ... the clues are out there.  The real question is: can you find them?

Offline georgiapeach

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Re: Behind the Scenes blog
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2008, 11:23:18 AM »
Love this! Thanks puddin!  :hearts:
"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality." ~Walt Disney

Offline puddin

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Re: Behind the Scenes blog
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2008, 12:07:53 PM »
Episode 2
In my mind, there are two basic approaches you can take as The Mole.  You
can fly under the radar, befriend everyone and try to sabotage with subtlety
and grace.  Or you can screw up missions so badly that no one will actually
think you're The Mole ... because it's way too obvious.  I'm starting to
think Bobby falls into that second category.

He's been so completely inept that I can't help but wonder if he's taking
the "I'm acting SO ridiculous that I couldn't possibly be The Mole" route. 
But what if he's just doing that to make us think he's The Mole?  But what
if he really IS the Mole?  Clearly, the mind games have begun.

When we arrived at the soccer field, I have to say -- I totally agreed with
the "Goal Oriented" players:  I thought they were going to DESTROY those
kids.  And I wasn't alone.  More than a few of us thought it might turn into
an anticlimactic cakewalk.  In my mind, they'd pass the ball to CLAY who
would barrel Will Farrell-style through a sea of helpless adolescents.  If
it took longer than 60 seconds, I would've been shocked.

Fourteen embarrassing points later, it ended up being a trouncing of epic
proportions.  On a small, dusty field in Santiago ... America got served.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the mountain, Mark and Kristen
were just trucking along.  I loved their little exchange around the halfway
point.  Mark:  "I swear this is one of the hardest things I've ever done."
Kristen:  "I'm alright, actually."  Mark:  "Umm, you're not pushing the bike." 
He had a point.

But then Kristen innocently called him out: "Want me to push (the bike)?"
Mark's reply was a gruff, "No."  Did someone just get emasculated?  That's a
rhetorical question.  I think Mark was fully aware that Kristen could've
easily grabbed the bike and huffed it all the way up the hill.  I just don't
think his ego could've handled it.

When the mission was finally over, Paul went pitbull on Bobby and
deservedly so.  After all, Bobby DID say he was a soccer player.  I started
to notice that Bobby is one of those people that has great zingers -- but in
the heat of the moment --  he often comes up short.  I can sympathize because
I'm exactly the same way.

Perfect example:  when Bobby and Paul traded barbs at the execution.  Bobby's
burn on Paul?  "You can be competitive in this game and still be classy. 
Some people are competitive but not very classy."  Uhh, ok.  That's aight. 
The construction is a bit clumsy so I'll give you a B/B- on that one.

Paul's response?  A+  "Riding in a wheelbarrow, letting a woman push you
around is real classy ... let me tell you."  SNAP!  He just took you to
Yonkers, boy!  That being said, Bobby still has some of my favorite lines of
the season so far.  Like his take on Alex: "He's just so cocky and arrogant. 
We get it - you know Spanish ... but you suck at life."  I love that one. 
You suck at life.  It really doesn't get more straightforward than that.

When the execution finally rolled around and Liz was axed, I think we were
all a bit sad.  Sincerely.  Everyone really loved her spunky, "can do"
Grandma attitude.  Not to mention, she was probably one of the biggest
flirts on the show. I'm not even kidding.  Liz, don't be surprised if I show
up at your doorstep one day with a bottle of Chardonnay and Centrum Silver.

It's really too bad she went home so early because she would've had a field
day with next week's mission...

Offline georgiapeach

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Re: Behind the Scenes blog
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2008, 12:35:45 PM »
Would that have been Liz in the underwear? Oh my! :lol:

Thanks puddin! :hugs:
"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality." ~Walt Disney

Offline puddin

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Re: Behind the Scenes blog
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2008, 01:47:16 AM »
Episode 3
Whether you're a player or a producer, secrecy on The Mole is a top priority.  At many hotels, we'd run into Americans who were attending Some Random Conference With A Large Acronym (SRCWALA).  Riding up the elevator they'd ask, "What are y'all shooting?"  To be safe, we were told to say, "a documentary about whales."  Simple, boring and strangely effective.  In contrast, my explanations were often elaborate and involved either Mia Sara, Balthazar Getty and/or a race against time.  I mean, if I HAD to lie, why not make the most of it?  Seriously, what ever happened to Mia Sara?

Our first mission ("Fruit of the Luge") took place at a quirky amusement park called the "Rodelbahn" nestled in the mountains above Santiago.  The owner was this old German guy who relocated to South America years ago.  Don't know what he did before opening the amusement park, but the luge was definitely scary.  I went blindfolded and literally flew off the track at 50 mph.  I'm not even kidding.

Then it was on to "Dress Code."  As we waited outside the restaurant for the teams to arrive, we learned that a local news crew was spotted trying to film spoilers of our cast.  Rumors quickly spread that one of our local crew had tipped off friends in the Chilean media.  Apparently, even our production had a Mole.  A few minutes later, I spotted them across the street hiding behind a van with a shaky camcorder.  Since the players were about 5 minutes away I had to, as Jon Kelley put it, "flex" on them – which really just involved me standing in front of their cameras until they finally went away.

When Craig, Bobby and Nicole walked down the street, it was truly a sight to behold.  What you didn't see was when one local started yelling  "Pig" "Pig" "Pig" as Craig sauntered by.  It felt like junior high school in slow motion ... so bad it was almost surreal.  "I had the strangest dream last night -- I was walking around in this foreign country and all of my clothes were gone.  This one guy kept pointing and calling me a 'Pig' while I was followed by a camera crew."  Kudos to Craig for keeping his sense of humor under some pretty tough circumstances.

That wasn't the only strange moment during "Dress Code."  How about when that guy ripped off his shirt for Ali, Victoria and Kristen?  Honestly, it looked like we planted a male stripper in a small, Santiago suburb.  I don't know about you, but if 3 cute girls ever ask me to take off my shirt in the street, I really hope I do it like that guy ... with class.

Finally, it was time for an execution.  The location was definitely in my Top 3 for the show.  Mostly because I can’t wait to have this conversation: "Matt, have you been to the Eiffel Tower?"  "Of course, but my favorite Eiffel is the old Central Station in Santiago.  It’s absolutely magnificent."  I live for moments like that. 

Although you got a small glimpse on the show, Nicole really made quite a spectacle when Jon offered the bribe.   She'd stand up, look around, tap her foot and be all, "Oh, wow.  I think I should ... hmm.  Err.  $20,000?  For real?"  More consternation.  There was so much needless drama (and if a reality show guy is saying that -- it's saying something!), one of the EPs finally said, "Okay.  Here's the deal:  if your butt leaves the seat, you have accepted the bribe.  Everyone clear on that?"  When the cash hit $30,000, Ali popped out of her chair like she got pricked with a startle stick.  And that was that.

Would I have taken the money?  No way.  Think about it -- half of that goes straight to taxes -- so you’ve got $15,000 to play with.   Thanks, but no thanks.  If you make it to the final three, with hotels/meals/travel – I'm thinking you're probably close to $10,000 in expenses right there.  That's not even counting the value of the missions and, believe me, there are some big ones coming up. 
It's cliché, but the experience was priceless ... not to mention giving up a 1 in 9 chance of winning $500,000.  Odds or no odds, Ali's decision was just plain crazy. 

I mean, unless I was Bobby ... then taking the bribe makes total sense

Offline puddin

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Re: Behind the Scenes blog
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2008, 11:07:05 AM »
Episode 4
This episode, we were staying in a small town called Uspallata, Argentina.  It was tiny and quaint.  In fact, portions of the film "Seven Years in Tibet" were filmed there and it seems to have made quite an impact.  Small towns are like people in that regard.  Sometimes when they meet celebrities, they just can't stop talking about it.  What people/towns don’t realize, is that it's much cooler to feign indifference: yeah, Brad Pitt stayed here.  So what?  Better yet ... who is he?

Behind the scenes, all of the chatter was about our hotel.  It was very reminiscent of "The Shining" and had a "Dirty Dancing" meets "dictator's private retreat" vibe.   Rumors swirled about mysterious creatures dangling from shower ceilings and strange welts discovered by morning light.  You'd hear a creaky playground set in the distance and see a limping dog dragging her teats on the dirt road.  I mean, it was real.  Not to mention freezing cold.

Midas Rush was a tough one.  I'm a runner and the altitude really made an impact.  It's almost like you're having an asthma attack -- for some reason, you just can't get enough fresh air into your lungs.   I did the "Race to the Summit" run and to me, this was about 3x as hard.  When they wheeled off Craig, I was worried for the big guy.  At least, he finished the mission before succumbing to the elements. 

Victoria was fun to watch this episode.  At "Midas Rush," it was a bit strange when she didn't even fight Clay for the exemption.  That was very red flag for me.  But what seemed very Mole-ish, ended up being nothing more than apathy.   I also enjoyed Victoria's comment about Nicole during "Who Said That."  There's no question it rankled Nicole.   Later, Nicole mentioned off camera that Victoria’s "fame" dig was a typical put-down from one woman to another ... and didn't go unnoticed.   Nicole knew what was up.  Uh-oh.  I just hoped that wasn't code for someone dying in their sleep.

Naturally, I kept my eye on them.  They seemed to get along, but in that forced "we're acting so nice to each other we couldn't POSSIBLY hate each other!" way.  It's too bad Victoria went home, because I was really looking forward to seeing their passive aggression kick in to high gear.

At "Burn Journal Burn," Mark was livid.  No question.  There was even some tension between Mark and Jon for a few minutes!  It was all in the heat of the moment, but it was a fascinating dynamic to observe.  On any reality show, there's no doubt that the host interacts with the players in different ways.  But just like the secret inside jokes between a Jimmy Kimmel and his guest going to commercial, it's interesting to get a sneak peek.  Thankfully, by the next day, Mark had made his peace with the mission (and with Jon).  It's probably better that way since you never know what tricks Jon has up his sleeve...

As an amateur pyrotechnician (I earnestly pursued the craft as an adolescent), watching the set up for the journal burning was fun.  They had all sorts of gels, liquids, foams and powders that they put to use in setting up that blaze trail.  What you didn't see was that once the fire reached the table, of course, the books didn't catch right away.  We had to break for a minute to throw more fuel on the pile.  After that, it worked like a charm.

Long story short, the Andes were stark, harsh and gorgeous.   A perfect backdrop for an international espionage thriller.  And if you thought this week was tough, the next mission pushes the cast right up to their breaking point.

Stay tuned...

Offline puddin

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Re: Behind the Scenes blog
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2008, 07:03:53 PM »
Episode 5
The Andes were brutal.  Without steaming heads, snow or frosted breath, it's
hard to convey the temperature ... but it was really, really cold.  Needless
to say, we were all really invested in the "All for One" outcome.  If the
players hit a impasse and chose to stay all night, most of us would've had
to stay as well.  It's amazing how freezing temps and chains can help
facilitate compromise.

Then, of course, we had the infamous lemon incident.  Wow.  Let me say that
Clay absolutely deconstructed Paul in that van.  No question.  I used to
practice law and Clay's method was the direct consequence of his training.   
Just like soldiers, lawyers are trained to take someone's arguments, find
flaws and dismantle them.  Clay zeroed right in on Paul's insecurities and
exploited them, i.e. his lack of higher education.  Paul responded in kind
with claims of hypocrisy and questions about Clay's moral character.  And
things just went from there...

For me, this fight was one of the high points of the game.  Ultimately, The
Mole is about getting inside someone else's head.  It's a chess match and
these were two fierce competitors tussling over mental supremacy.  Once Clay
threw the lemon, however, I'd say he lost some cool points.  Of course, Paul
had thrown money at him first so I suppose they were even...

When we finally arrived in Mendoza, it was a sight for sore eyes.  Wine,
sunshine, breezy linen, casinos and tree-lined cobblestone streets.  Known
as the Napa valley of South America, Mendoza's reputation is truly
well-deserved.  If you happen to be in the area – you MUST check out Francis
Mallman's 1884 (ranked #7 in the world’s top ten restaurants).  It was

After the lemonhead fracas, when "Travelers" rolled around, the players were
still pretty testy.  We'd gone from sub-Arctic conditions to resplendent sun
and 90 degree temperatures.  Throw in some scuba gear, a donkey and a llama
suit and things were bound to get heated.

At least the tension lead to one of my favorite quotes of the game so far:

"I'm not going to be an ass in an ass."  Nice!

Congratulations, Paul.  You’re now officially neck and neck with Bobby's
"You Suck at Life" in my Quote of the Season contest.

As far as the players' revolt, there was something poetic about it happening
at the foot of the Cerro de la Gloria ... since it's a monument celebrating
independence from the Spanish Empire.   Either way, it was exciting to see
the players completely flip the script.  It just goes to show you that you
never know what to expect in this game.  From flying lemons to revolutions,
things can change in an instant.  Even kind-hearted Craig got caught up in
the fever when he transformed into a ruthless "transpo captain" during
Travelers.  Maybe he was just channeling the spirit of the tyrannical
Spanish conquistadors...

Clearly, the stakes were getting much higher.  There was almost a palpable
sense of panic amongst the players.  Everyone was desperately looking for an
edge, of any kind, over the others.  Craig was gunning for the exemption.   
Paul and Clay were trying to get each other kicked out of the van (if not
the show!).  Even Kristen thought she'd try a novel strategy: going straight
down the line for one person on the quiz instead of playing the odds.

Oops.  Her decision to go all in obviously was a bust.  So that leaves us
with Nicole as the last woman standing.  Interesting.  Verrry interesting...