Welcome back, Mole fans. This week we watched the long anticipated “Craig in an ambulance” scene that we’ve been hinted at the whole season, but luckily it looks like Craig was able to continue in the game. Yeah Craig! We’re rooting for you to make it to the end. I’d love it if Craig were actually the Mole as it seems all of the other contestants are big fans of his, it would be such a shock. That leads me to this week’s theme: unusual strategies for the Mole.

Once again we are treated to the “so long, it was about time we got to know you” execution foreshadowing editing. In episode two, we heard more from Liz than pretty much anyone else, and boom, she was gone. This week for the first time we hear Victoria tell us all about her strategy. I knew she was a goner about ten minutes into the episode. I won’t be surprised by any executions this season unless Clay and Alex leave hand in hand, as they’ve been my top picks all along. Let’s check out the strategies contestants seem to be employing if they are in fact the Mole, and their strategy mentors:

Mark’s Mannifesto

Not since the Unabomber has someone been so caught up in his own writings as Mole contestant Mark. He hasn’t gotten much love from the fans on the website, but I’m a native Wisconsinite so I’ve been quietly hoping that Mark has what it takes to win the show. However, I would be completely shocked if he actually was the Mole, even though Mark has cost the pot money in nearly every episode ($35,000 in episode 2 for winning the bike race exemption, $5,000 last week for not even attempting the clothing challenge, and this week he left behind some gold bricks on the way up the mountain). He seems like such a competitive person and is so gung ho about getting money into the pot, if he is the Mole he’s covering brilliantly with his “I’m in it to win it” attitude.

Mark’s obsession with his journal seems a little contrived. Unless he’s auditioning to be Gollum in a new Lord of The Rings production, his offer to throw himself onto the flames to protect “his precious” journal seems over-acted. Maybe he just wants everyone to think that he’s completely dependent on the journal and can’t remember what he ate for breakfast unless he writes it down (or looks on his shirt and sees the maple syrup). It may actually work to his advantage, because he’ll be taking the quizzes faster now that he doesn’t have the temptation to thumb through his journal to verify each answer. Who knows, he could have beat Victoria by a mere 5 second tonight – but I think that distinction belongs to Nicole.

I’m a Thespian!

Folks old enough to remember Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live may recall his “I’m a master thespian” character, whom Nicole seems to be channeling. Nicole thrives on acting like the Mole, or just acting like a jerk anyway. She seems like a perfectly reasonable person about half of the time, and the rest of the time she “remembers” that she wants to act Moley so she pitches a fit and refuses to sleep outside, or she says the word “apple” twice and costs the pot some cash, or she blatantly hints during this week’s “Who said that?” challenge and costs the pot another $2,000 with her blinking and coughing. Yes, when Nicole gets her Mole on, she acts like she has Tourette’s syndrome. I didn’t say that it was high quality acting – merely acting.

She has stated that this is her strategy, to direct attention towards herself instead of the real Mole. Frankly I believe her, as she isn’t doing a very effective job of actually sabotaging tasks, but she does get lots of attention when she wants it. This week she could have threatened to cost the pot ALL OF THEIR WINNINGS from both teams from carrying the gold bricks up the Andes if she had refused to go along with picking Clay for the exemption. Over $14,000 at stake, and she didn’t bother to get her diva mojo cooking. She doesn’t really want to cost the pot money, but she likes acting like she’s doing it. So Faux Mole.

What, Me Worry?

Alex’ role model for being the Mole appears to be Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman, famous for not worrying. Mad Magazine is probably right around Alex’ reading level, as he may have found little use for his journal because he’s not a big reader. Why would he use his journal to keep copious notes about people and events when he can write jokes in it and leave it behind for Bobby to read? Hilarious, right? And who has time to write notes when you’re busy composing a song about the Mole to serenade other players. That song was pretty lame, so Alex, don’t give up your day job – oh that’s right, you don’t have one.

Laid back Alex may be the anti-Mark on the stress continuum because he is in fact the Mole and doesn’t have to pay attention in order to get paid. Or maybe he’s the Ying to Mark’s Yang, and plays the game very casually because that makes him seem suspicious, or cool at the very least. And all the girls think unflappability is just as important as money, right? The Mole doesn’t really need to know the answers to the quiz questions, but should certainly get them right because they’re all about YOU. Am I [the Mole] male or female? Tough one. What team was I on? What was I wearing? Yup, you don’t need to pay as much attention if you’re the Mole.

The PITA Strategy

I’m not talking about delicious Greek bread that goes awesome with hummus, as PITA in this case is an acronym for Pain In The A$$. Think about a loud-mouthed reality show contestant whose very existence serves the purpose of annoying and distracting his competitors (and viewers). Ok, there have been several, but Johnny Fairplay from Survivor springs to mind (as does Omarosa, but we’ll stick with Fairplay). Speaking of Johnny Fairplay, such a PITA, did you know you legally changed his name to that, as his last name used to be Dalton. Watch out, I’ve heard Danny Bonaduce is coming this way.

Paul’s PITA “strategy” consists of sporadically picking fights with other contestants, hoping that will cause them to lose focus. I think it is more likely to cause Paul to lose some teeth. He calls people names and makes fun of them. That’s mature. He also doesn’t take many notes in his journal, but that’s probably due more to literacy than strategy. Notice how quickly Mark recognized Paul’s “This is to [sic] easy” quote from the “Who Said That” challenge. Paul’s use of this PITA strategy is rather haphazard though, as was very quiet this episode. Maybe he was working so hard on climbing the mountain he forgot he was supposed to be a royal pain.

I Would Walk 500 Miles and I Would Walk 500 More (For An Exemption)

Kristen is a tough competitor and a very athletic woman. She seems quite willing to go pretty darn far to get an exemption. Maybe she should do ads for Klondike Bars after the show finishes. She cost the pot $35,000 in the uphill biking challenge, and was more willing than Mark to entertain the notion of the taxi ride for more of a hit to the pot to increase their odds of getting that exemption. On their hike up the mountain, Kristen and the rest of “Team Selfish” were very willing to sacrifice all of their winnings to gain an exemption.

Someone on the other team, however, pointed out that Kristen had personally carried up more gold than the rest of her team combined. That sounds about right. Kristen is a competitive person and she wants to win this game, even if that means sacrificing some of the pot to gain herself an exemption. But she also wants to build up the pot, and has helped considerably in some challenges where other members of her team have been slacking, lying about in wheelbarrows, etc. She comes off as a total work horse, and if she is really the Mole, she’s got folks fooled.

Suicidal Tendencies

Craig has the worst strategy ever for being the Mole – try so hard at the challenges that you nearly kill yourself. Magician Harry Houdini reportedly died during a trick that he attempted after he’d been in a fight and wasn’t in the right physical condition to complete the task. Hopefully Houdini is not Craig’s mentor. In the first episode, Craig almost hung himself going over the falls. Even though he is clearly in the worse shape of all the competitors, Craig hasn’t always been the weakest link. It was Liz, not Craig, who was slowing down the parade when trying to get the soccer team to the gondolas. Then it was Bobby, not Craig, being pushed in a wheelbarrow - too feeble to walk around town looking for piggy banks.

Craig goes all out, risks hurting himself to land money into the pot, and scares the pudding out of the producers when he develops hypothermia hiking in the Andes. Notice that Mark was the only one on the Selfless team to leave behind gold bricks (when Mark was adding the 20 pound scale to his load). Craig had plenty of reasons to drop some of his bricks to lighten his load, but didn’t. He pushes himself very hard and his fellow contestants appreciate this in him. It would be a completely unexpected strategy to find out he’s actually been holding back this whole time.

Juris Prudence

Clay has probably the best strategy going this game. He goes all Perry Mason on his competitors only when it best suits his strategy. As a lawyer, Clay has a Juris Doctorate degree, and training in the art of persuasion. Kristen felt the after-effects of Clay’s silvery tongue when she realize that she had done the most work to earn the exemption, yet Clay had talked his way into getting it by unanimous vote of the jury, er, his team. Clay only carried 5 bricks up the mountain. All 8 contestants carried a total of 57 bricks up the mountain, with an average of over 7 bricks per person. A man in reasonably good physical condition carries only 5 bricks and earns himself the lone exemption. Nicely done, counselor Mole.

Last week Clay had pointed out the potential improprieties of walking the streets of Santiago in his boxers and not only opted out for himself, but also convinced “fast stripper” Mark to do the same in the name of prudence. In this week’s “Who Said That” challenge, I think the unclaimed quote about Alex taking control of the game was actually from Clay’s journal, as none of the other quotes were from Clay (or Alex, but it would be really odd for Alex to write that about himself). Alex hasn’t made any blatant moves to try to manipulate other players, but has made some subtle moves that made him my top Mole pick for 2 weeks so far. For Clay to be suspecting Alex, I think Clay’s either going to win, or he’s the Mole. That would be Mole, Esq.

Count It Down

For everyone who has been following the spoiler threads here at the FORT, tonight’s elimination was probably a little surprising. Victoria wasn’t ever my top pick for the Mole in any of my weekly columns, but I certainly hadn’t ruled her out as a possibility. Let’s count it down for Week 4:

12 – Marcie – out

11 – Liz – out

10 – Ali – took a bribe and left

9 – Bobby – out (the only man out of the game so far)

8 – Victoria – eliminated tonight, after having tied for the low score but answering the quiz 5 seconds faster than another contestant who is equally clueless (my guess, Nicole, as she had mentioned taking the quiz quickly to beat someone in a tie).

7 – Nicole – she seems to be flying by the seat of her pants. Coughing and winking to get the prize money disqualified during the “Who Said That” challenge, yet not putting up a respectable fight for the exemption when Clay stepped forward to claim it. Nicole seemed legitimately concerned about completing the quiz quickly so that she could win a tie if she had the bottom score. People confident in their quiz knowledge don’t need to finish quickly.

6 – Mark – he seems so lost without his journal that Mark may not be long for this game any more. Maybe it is a brilliant strategy for him to seem to come unglued at the loss of his journal, but he doesn’t strike me as acting (other than acting like a 3 year old when he “disappeared” on his group after the journal burning). Mark should get an Emmy (or at least a Razzi) if he is actually the Mole.

5 – Craig – I’d seen clips of Craig and the ambulance airing before the series began, so mentally I’d ruled him out as a top suspect based on his health. Is that all a ruse? Well, not all of it, as we did see him walking the streets of Santiago and going down the waterslide, so he’s not “faking” being overweight. Now that we’re past the known health situation, Craig could theoretically move up in my rankings, but he’s been doing such a bang-up job on challenges, I really don’t think it’s him. I like him though and hope he sticks around.

4 – Paul – he’s still there, somehow. He is my second suspect for who had the other low score on the quiz but completed it 5 seconds faster than Victoria, just because he also seems like someone who would be speedy with the quiz. If that’s the case, then he may not be long for this show. I liked Paul more this episode than the two prior shows, and actually thought his lemonhead dude was cute. Maybe his whole grating personality is a cover because he is the Mole. He and Nicole could open a school for the art of sporadic over-acting.

3 – Kristen – as the sole female that I think has any possibility of being the Mole, I still think she’s playing this game to win it, and stands a good chance of that because she’s intelligent and seems to get along with people. What keeps happening to all of the women around her though, as female contestants are dropping like flies. Or perhaps she’s misleading them into suspecting the guys when really she’s not trying as hard as she looks.

2 – Alex – again this week Alex landed money in the pot, except he did not know who made the comment about him taking over the game. Process of elimination indicates that it was likely Clay, so maybe we’ll see if Alex has enough initiative to go ask Clay whether it was his quote. Or maybe Alex doesn’t care - Because he’s the Mole and he doesn’t need to know stuff. Or maybe Craig was right when he opined that Alex wasn’t the Mole, he just isn’t very smart.

1 – Clay – no-one doubts that Clay is very smart, and persuasive (just ask Kristen). Clay gets his way even more often than diva Nicole. How is that possible? It’s because he’s subtle when that will work, and direct when it doesn’t. Watch Clay, because something is going on with this guy.

Until next week, don’t believe every chocolate massage spoiler you read on the internet folks . . .

If you want to comment on this column, please click here: FORT Smack-A-Mole Column - Week 4