Forget The Mole - What’s the Deal With Stephen Baldwin?
Well, it had to happen eventually. Every other game show on television has had its very special celebrity editions. There’s dumbed-down Jeopardy! and anyone-who-wants-to-can-scream-out-an-answer-so-the-celebrity-in-The-Hot-Seat-doesn’t-go-down-in-flames-until-they-have-at-least-32-G’s-in-the-bag Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? The next logical step, of course, would be to haul celebrities into a reality show. Celebrities besides the Osbournes, I mean. You know, throw some honest-to-goodness almost-famous people into an established reality show’s game framework and see how they fare. And if you’re going to pick just one reality show as the initial testing ground for the notoriously prickly egos of pseudo-celebrities, you gotta go with The Mole. They feed you, they house you, and you can’t get stabbed in the back. The worst that can happen is you fail a quiz, which is no great shame to many of these folks and may even have been the reason they got into show biz in the first place. At any rate, welcome to Celebrity Mole Hawaii!
The show opened with – thank goodness – a quick explanation of how some of these people met the very loose definition of “celebrity” in the first place. I honestly didn’t recognize about 1/3 of the contestants. For example, I’m certain Erik Von Detten delivered a pizza to my house last week, but I’m told he appeared in a movie and a television show or something like that so I guess he’s actually a celebrity. All of the others have similarly been captured on film at some point in the past so I guess they’re celebrities, too. I recognized Frederique, actually, but only after she removed a few articles of clothing. The best thing that can be said about the cast, I suppose, is that the producers elected not to give a slot to one of those aging child stars who completely disappeared after their show was cancelled (anyone seen Tina Yothers recently?).
After getting a quick flavor of the white-hot celebrity status of our contestants, we are next introduced to the new host of The Mole, Ahmad Rashad. The first words out of his mouth are awkward and self-conscious: “Mole-oha.” Instantly, I hate him. I mean, I’m sure he’s a wonderful fellow, and I remember when he could catch a football with the best of them. But as the host of a clever little spy show like The Mole, he stands out like a guy in Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls at the Senior Prom. Sure, I used to tease that rascally old Anderson Cooper, but in truth, I really liked the little elf. He always maintained the proper balance of seriousness and impishness, and the game was very clearly in his control. He was a terrific host. I keep thinking a freaked-out accountant-looking dude is going to show up with a clipboard and inform Ahmad he’s on the wrong set. Maybe that will still happen. I can hope, can’t I?
At any rate, Ahmad gathers four strong people and three people who “just want to hang out.” The hanger-outers apparently have never seen The Mole before because nobody gets to just lounge around in a game. Instead, they get hitched up to this zip-line apparatus thingie so the strong folks can move them back and forth into a big waterfall. They’re supposed to fill up buckets of water from the waterfall itself and transfer that water into another bucket, which, when full, will haul this money bag into the air. The strong people have two folks working the winch, one person operating the up-and-down joystick, and one person standing at the base of the falls, just waving their hands around and mumbling vague instructions to the other three.
First person on the zip line is Stephen Baldwin, and we get our first look at his unique dementia. Like all celebrities, he’s partial to cracking off one-liners to ease his feelings of tension and awkwardness. Unlike some celebrities, his one-liners are pretty weak. He also sports a perpetual loopy grin that makes me understand quite clearly how he was selected to portray Barney Rubble in the Flintstones movie. But his behavior is the real weird part. Through much of the show, he appears to be mainlining some Valium-and-Scotch cocktail that causes him to say bizarre things while appearing completely unfazed by the strange words flying out of his mouth. To his credit, he does manage to complete the waterfall task by screaming contradictory “Up!”, “Down!”, and “Stop!” messages to the strong people, all while dangling upside-down in the waterfall and inhaling gallons of water through his nose. He garners $10,000 for the group and instantly assumes the top position on the Least Likely To Be The Mole leaderboard.
Next to appear in the harness is Frederique. Apart from some cryptic instructions to her team to “Give me some leadway,” whatever that is, her effort was completely undistinguished. It was evident within just a few seconds that she’d be unsuccessful. Erik-on-the-joystick apparently could not distinguish up from down, and nobody could communicate. In fact, the whole thing was a clinic on why The Mole should just do nothing. Most of the time, the combined ineptitude of the contestants is sufficient to lose the game without Mole intervention. The only humorous part of the whole Frederique adventure was her attempt to pull the legs of her already-pretty-short shorts down a couple more millimeters before getting started. Just for future reference, dear, we’ve all seen that particular band of skin before.
Finally, Michael Boatman took his turn. The Spin City guy actually did quite well. Not well enough to supplant Stephen from atop his perch, though. Not when Stephen is writhing in anguish on the sidelines and yelling instructions to nobody in particular. Still think he can’t possibly be The Mole. Anyway, Michael bests Stephen’s time and secures another 10 large for the group. Total pot: $20,000.
After that exhausting adventure, we get treated to an insider’s look at what celebrities do when they’re all hanging out together for some much-needed down time. Turns out it’s the same thing they do whenever the camera is rolling: they crank up the ham factor and try to one-up one another in the humor department. Yawn. Ahmad tried to get them to share their most embarrassing moments, and I’m certain everything they came up with was completely fake. Probably happened to some non-show biz pal of theirs or something so they filed it away for future plagiarism should they ever get approached for Celebrity Mole participation. Lucky break!
The next game takes place on one of the many Hawaiian sheep farms. Ahmad is waiting for the group, wearing a pretentious cowboy hat to compensate for his lack of charisma. The contestants, for their part, apparently paid a quick visit to the “Yup, You’re In Hawaii” store and got the volume discount on black floral shirts. They look ridiculous. But that’s perfect because the game is pretty silly. Ol’ Tex (Ahmad, I mean, in the big funny hat – ha, ha) is going to draw two cards and form a blackjack hand. The Molers will then have to form a hand of their own using live sheep, each of whom is wearing a cute little playing card outfit. When I used to raise sheep, by the way, we used those little suits to keep the sheep’s wool clean. That’s obviously not a concern for these folks as they lunge after the sheep, trying to tackle them and drag them through the dirt to their pens. Each team of two gets a shot at $5000 if they can capture two sheep whose value beats Tex’s hand.
Only Erik and Frederique manage the feat. Kathy Griffin and Michael retrieve no sheep, which is odd, given Kathy’s excellent scarecrow-in-the-distance herding technique. Corbin Bernsen and Kim Coles get one sheep and lose one sheep, and Corbin also pulls off the rare daily double by falling down and scraping his arm up. Of course, we saw the fall about fifteen times before it finally happened so some of the surprise was definitely gone. I was amused, however, at Corbin’s continual reference to his “injury” after scraping his arm. Seriously, I see more blood than that when I floss my teeth. And yet here he is receiving medical attention and getting his arm bound in some sort of gauze?!? Is that really what it’s like to be a celebrity? If I were to, say, spill a glass of milk at the dinner table, would my handlers be on the scene immediately, issuing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and evaluating my fingertips for wrinkling? I want some of that. May I be a celebrity, please? I’ll be good, I swear.
Well, anyway, Erik and Frederique score $5000 for the team, and they get the honor of doubling that total again if they secure yet another winning hand. Of course they do, easily, and Erik shoots to #2 on the Least Likely list. Can’t quite knock off Stephen the top dog, though. Why? Because Stephen, as the odd man out in the three groups of two partnering, was given a shot at exemption and a double-or-nothing contribution to the pot if he could capture the sinister dressed-all-in-black Mole sheep. Point of contention here first, if you’ll humor me. Usually, the person with the shot at exemption must actually sacrifice money for the group by accepting the temptation of being exempt. For whatever reason, celebrities may have their cake and eat it, too. We’ll double the pot and give you an exemption. What kind of knothead wouldn’t take that offer? At any rate, Stephen does manage to gather the Mole sheep, but only after blowing about half of his allotted time just being weird: closing all the gates first, offering his fingers to the Mole sheep, giving the sheep his telephone number for after the show, and so on. Once the sheep is in the pen, though, the group ends show #1 with a cool $50,000. Yeah, Kathy was right. They’re not taking it easy on the celebrities at all!
Finally, it’s Quiz Time. And I have to say I am very pleased that the rumors of the celebs not getting booted at the end of each show were false. That would be absolutely intolerable. Part of the appeal of the show is watching people get the boot, and the pleasure factor is tenfold greater when a cheesy quasi-celebrity is eliminated instead. Anyway, Ahmad sinks a few more notches on my approval meter by using lowercase lettering when he types in the contestants’ names. Yes, I’m hyper-critical, but I like to see the names screaming out at me in all caps when the quiz is done. Anderson, come back! Please? Just think. If you’d have been here for this one, you could have seen Kim get executed, which – granted – would have had no emotional effect on you, just like it didn’t for the rest of us, but at least it’s an execution. And the soundtrack is still completely intact, right down to the her-departure-leaves-a-gaping-hole-in-our-hearts piano melody at the end of every show. Sound tempting, Anderson? It should. Come back. Please come back.
Before I sign off, I feel I should offer my own prediction as to who The Mole is. I always make my guess immediately after the contestants are presented for the very first time at the beginning of show #1. I correctly chose Kathryn that way in the first series, but I went with Darwin for Mole 2. For Celebrity Mole Hawaii, my Mole Sense tingled when I saw Kathy so I’ll go with her, even though Corbin really behaved liked the second coming of Bill the Clumsy Mole in the first episode. We’ll have to keep an eye on those two.
Until next time, may the sheep you gather form a winning hand.