Friday, August 21, 2009

Season 1, Episode 1

In which we realise for the first time just how great reality TV can be.


Since it's now almost ten years since the debut season of The Mole aired, I thought I'd make some celebratory anniversary recaps for said premiere season. I'll do this for the future seasons as well, with the exception of that already-recapped season four episode. Hopefully by 2015, when the final season is officially due to be mocked for its woeful inadequacy -- not that I won't be doing it plenty in the meantime -- it will have made its way onto Youtube or some such somewhere, because I don't have a copy of it, and can't be arsed downloading a torrent for something that crappy.

Previously in The History Of Competitive Reality Shows: A few Dutch shows, and the original Belgian version of this, but nothing in the English language. Literally.

Disclaimer: The episodes I used for these recaps were repeats, and as such have been edited slightly from their original broadcast. Sigh. Don't they know you can't mess with perfection?

It's nighttime. From in front of a church or some such, one Grant Bowler (you may remember him from Ugly Betty and Lost and a bunch of other awesome things, but not from the final season of this show, and he's very happy about that) tells us in a hushed voice that "this is the report of a journey taken by ten Australians. Ten people, five men and five women, set out for an unknown destination. Many of them would not arrive. Most of them would be eliminated. Of the three that would make it to the end, one would walk away with nothing, one would win a great deal of money, and one would be revealed as a traitor, a saboteur. One of these ten people is The Mole." While he's speaking, a graphic tells us that it's Day 18 and he's in Port Arthur, which ruins the whole "unknown destination" bit, but does at least remind us that Channel Seven were once competent enough to wait for the season to finish filming before chucking it on television.

Commercials, for some reason (stupid Prime). If you can show me any village that contains both a cowboy and a headdress-wearing Indian, let alone construction workers, sailors, soldiers, and a "leatherman", I will eat all six hats.

We return to find an Ansett Australia plane taxiing around in what looks to me like it's Melbourne Airport. God, this show is old. I bet they had CC's and or Aeroplane Jelly on that plane. (Seriously, what happened to CC's? They used to be everywhere in the late 90's. Samboy, too.) Over Grant's next voiceover, we see the ten people arriving and each reading some letter from the production people. "Nine of the ten people were selected from the hundreds who answered a newspaper ad." Isn't it amazing that they were able to get such a great cast out of a simple newspaper ad, compared to all the wacky selection methods Big Brother used to get their annual onslaught of himbos and bimbos? And wow! Linda's holding an Amazing Race clue envelope, over a year before the first season was even filmed! "The tenth person, the Mole, was hired by us as a double agent. The contestants don't yet know there's a Mole amongst them, and they don't yet know each other, but they very soon will."

Just pause for a second here. He's actually right about this -- Australia was the first country outside of Belgium to make this show, so this actually probably would be completely new to them. (And given that we probably all know how this season ended at this point, though I'm at least going to try and keep it a little bit secret, because this isn't Petrina, I find it hilarious that Jan's shown over the "there's a Mole amongst them" bit.)

Anyway, "in the coming days they'll work together to complete a series of challenges." Thanks to the editors for only using challenges that are actually in this episode so as to not give anything away. You'd be surprised what usually gets spoiled through stuff like this. "Every challenge they succeed in will earn money for the group's kitty." That's gonna be one pampered cat by the end of this. "To succeed in the challenges, they'll have to trust each other, yet one of them is their enemy." Dun-dun-DUN!

Credits. I'm not going to actually get a chance to introduce everyone anywhere else, so here goes: Rocky is a 39 year old ad exec. And if you don't believe him, he even has the Token Douchebag Shades to prove it. Linda would have trouble getting people to believe she's only 28, given she already looks like she's in her mid-40s. Guess being a full-time famewhore will do that to you. Beverley is your token Old Person, and she's a homestay interviewer. Jan is 40, and is essentially a teacher's aide. James is a computer programmer, and also has the Top Gun Shades Of Douchebagginess. Patrick is a winery manager who again looks pretty old but really isn't. He's only 48. Alan's 11 years younger, and an environmental officer. Emphasis on the "mental", I think. Abby is a cheerful 18-year-old student, who manages to look pretty without looking like a whore, unlike most students today. (Oh, I went there. I went there, took photos, and came back already.) Josephine is an aromatherapy consultant, and was probably inhaling something a little unorthodox if she thought she'd be the most popular person here. Our final player, Ben, is a hotel manager. Between you and me, I suspect Ben might be a bit of a wanker. Just a hunch.

The players are now seated together in a bus, not even filling up three full rows of seats between them. Al Gore would have a fit if he saw this. A graphic tells us that it's still Day 1, and we're still in Melbourne. Thanks, graphic! Grant voices over that even though they're all happy now, the mood is about to change. Suddenly, the television turns on, all ready to release a plague of black balloons upon the world, and Grant appears. That's not changing the mood, that's just making the women horny! He greets them, a couple of the contestants talking back to him (as you do). Since I'm going to have to recap this every season, I'm giving you the skinniest version I possibly can here: 18 days. Challenges. Success earns money. Can win more than $200,000. (This, of course, was back in the days when it was considered a big deal if someone won a holiday to Ballarat on The Price Is Right, and as such is a huge incentive to not fuck up.) (Also, Ballarat rocks.) There's a Mole. People get eliminated.

While Jan tries to figure out whether the identity of the Mole changes from week to week (heh), Rocky asks who the Mole is. Right, like that'll work. I thought I left all the stupid gameplay behind with Australian Survivor. Ben points out that figuring out the identity of the Mole "is a bit of a guessing game". What he says in entirely correct, of course, at least in the beginning, but the way he says it just makes me think he didn't even know what he was saying when he said it. As you'll soon learn, this is not particularly surprising coming from him.

The bus arrives at a hangar, which Grant tells us is at Essendon Airport. Patrick acts like getting out of the bus is the end of the world. Abby laughs nervously, because what else are you going to do when confronted with a guy like that? I like Abby already.

Grant gets out of his own vehicle, and neglects to introduce himself, or to answer any of the team's questions. It's time for the very first challenge, which is going to be worth ten thousand bucks. All they have to do is fly to Tasmania, and "land before the plane does". I would have quit at the exact moment I figured out he was saying the word "Tasmania", but that's why I'm not a contestant on this show. And also because I was nine years old when this was filmed. (Feelin' old yet?) Grant doesn't explain anything else about the challenge, but does tell the players that there are people in the hangar who will help them. And then he leaves for Tasmania. Why, we have no idea.

Cut to Josephine being thrown out of a plane. Unfortunately, the plane is still on the ground, but it's nice to see that I'm not the only one who dislikes her. Grant tells us about the actual task over shots of everyone putting on their harnesses. Two things: Firstly, it's a tandem skydive, and all ten of them have to do it in order to win. Secondly, I never need to see crotch close-ups of Alan putting his harness on again, thank you very much.

Grant fills us in on who's flying where in the four planes. In the first plane are Abby, Linda, and Patrick. James, Alan, and Beverley are in the second plane. The third plane consists of Josephine and no other players, because they're all sick of her already. She tells her instructor that she doesn't even like small planes. Good thing she won't be staying in one, then. The other people - Jan, Ben, and Rocky - are in the final plane.

Josephine is still whining to her instructor about how she probably won't remember all the instructions she's been told. She says she's more afraid of that than dying. Well, she is blonde. Linda calls the flight to Tasmania "a one-way ticket to hell". One point for Linda. Abby looks nervous, and somebody talks as though they're on helium. Probably Josephine, connected through the radio.

It turns out that Launceston (WhoreBoy shoutout!) is only an hour away from Melbourne, which on the one hand is not nearly far enough away for my tastes, but on the other is a decent choice, given the alternative was probably New Zealand. Turns out that Abby, Linda, and Patrick were all sane enough to have never jumped out of a plane before. Until now, that is. Patrick jumps, and the Percussiony Music Of Near-Amazingness kicks in. Abby jumps. Linda's instructor gives us the thumbs-up as they jump.

We learn that the planes are leaving ten minutes apart, and that the people on the second flight already think Jan is the Mole. Grant reminds us that if anyone bails, the team loses, and everyone else has jumped for nothing. The catch here, of course, is that nobody will find out who else jumped until everybody lands. Linda lands first, squealing that she wants her mum. Her mum wants peace and quiet, is what she wants. Abby lies on the ground in an awkward position, with a big grin on her face, and tells Grant that is "was nothing like [she] expected". Double entendre alert! Woop woop woop!

Second plane. Alan's done it before, Bev wants to, but James doesn't. Drama!

At the landing zone, Linda tells Grant that James was "looking a bit white". Well, yes, he doesn't look particularly black, aside from his clothing, so I'll give her that, I suppose. Patrick begins to fill in the rest of the colour spectrum, telling us that he looked "a bit green, at one stage". Grant, for some reason, is wearing a t-shirt, a ski vest, and a crappy hat, which I officially dub Ye Olde Bowler Hat. (GROAN.)

Bev jumps, helping Abby to win a bet against Patrick. James jumps. Alan jumps. Wow, that was an exciting debate about James jumping. Grant reminds us that six have jumped, but because six does not equal ten outside of a nonsensical Mensa-devised test, they haven't won the money yet.

Josephine is still freaking out.

Alan and Bev land, and Patrick decides to interview Bev so Grant doesn't have to. Or something.

I feel sorry for Josephine's instructor. And their pilot. And the cameraguy. And the sound guy. And any stowaways on that plane. Grant reminds us that because there's only one winner, Josephine's probably doing all this so someone else can win money. Heh.

On the ground, everyone else watches.

Josephine checks to make sure she's attached to the parachute or something, and her instructor tells her that they're going to attach themselves now. It seems almost as though she just foiled his ingenious plan. After a brief interlude in which we discover that the players on the ground think she'll jump, we return to find her having to be comforted about remembering everything. When asked if she's going to jump, she says nothing. The instructor repeats the question, and she snaps "Yes!" at him several times just so he could get the message. It's like, "Of course I'm ready, but if you can't read my mind, then I'm not going to waste the extra energy trying to put my thoughts into speech!" Shut up, Josephine.

Josephine jumps, whining all the way to the edge of the plane.

On the ground, people think she's excited to jump. Clearly, they've never met her before this day. Again, another decent thing about this show compared to American reality shows, in which people either meet up through pageants (TAR 5), or went to high school together (TAR 12), or frequent the same LA day spa (Survivor Micronesia). Go, competent casting!

Josephine lands on her legs, but her instructor remains standing. Blunt metaphor alert, woop woop woop! Josephine moans that it was the scariest moment of her life. Whatever.

The final plane is ready to go. Rocky's done it before, but neither of the others have. Bev tells us that Rocky and Ben are going to be pushing Jan out. Kind of hard to imagine, given that she's on the far side of the plane and they'd have to pull, but that's not important right now.

We don't get to see any of these three actually jump, because we're too busy counting the jumpers from the ground. All three jump.

On the way down, the skydiving cameraman (where do they find those guys, anyway?) reaches out and shakes Rocky's hand. Then, he starts playing Eye Of The Tiger on his air guitar.

After they land, Grant tells them that the team won. And just like that, the Mole has a 100% failure rate. Even the crew want to get involved in the happiness. (Remember when it was okay for the crew to break the fourth wall on reality shows, because it meant we could tell the shots weren't faked? Damn you, Survivor.)

Commercials. Crap. I lost the game.

We return to see Rocky, Patrick, Abby, Jan, and Ben driving. Grant tells us that these five are going to their hotel, but everyone else will be completing the next challenge before they arrive. On the roadside, Grant and the Bowler Hat tell the players that it's going to be worth five grand. He wants these five - James, Bev, Alan, Linda, and Josephine - to grab all the luggage out of their vehicle. Ew. I hate this challenge, and they do it every single fucking season.

We cut to the hotel, where everyone else is walking in. Jan rants to the camera about how it's hard explaining to people what you're doing when you don't know. She would suck on Thank God You're Here. Abby has the most perfect tone of voice possible when she responds to Jan shutting her trap for a second with "I just want a coffee". Three points, Abby. I get the feeling I'm going to wind up thinking that Jan is just like Josephine, except competent.

Back on the roadside, Grant hoists a couple of empty backpacks out of the crew car. He tells everyone that it's time to "make things a little more economical". But the bus was already empty enough! Why would you bother with this? As the players begin the task, Grant voices over: They have to repack their luggage into a small backpack each. Whatever doesn't fit gets sent home. But apparently, there's another twist to this challenge. Figures. There always is.

Hotel. Under absolutely no pressure from the producers, I'm sure, the players relaxing there are discussing who they think the Mole could be. Everyone else seems to be taking this whole "OMG!MOLEZ!!1!" situation seriously, but Ben quite clearly is taking the piss as he asks Jan every possible question he can think of. We learn that Jan doesn't have an agent but would love one, which is apparently not what she told the group before. Famewhore!

Outside, the repackers finish their repacking. But the challenge isn't over yet. Now, it's their turn to repack everyone else's stuff. Intrigue! Suspicion! Cheap laughs!

Suddenly, Grant and the Bowler Hat have magically teleported back to the hotel. Grant, all dressed up for a fishing trip with his great uncle Cyrus, finds out that everyone else is happy after they won the money. I suspect the only reason he got this answer is because Josephine is in the other group. Grant tells them of the prize money and holds up another empty bag as an example. He then gets to the meat of this task -- the others are repacking their crap, and anything they leave out of the backpack will be sent home. Each of these five has to accurately name one item that wasn't packed.

Simple, right?

Ben doesn't seem to think so, because he tries to explain about how he has two bags with him. Grant shows exactly why he pwns the frigging universe by shutting him down even before he gets the rest of his question out, reiterating the concept of "a small backpack like the one I just showed you and am still holding" to him. Jan has a bemused expression on her face as she confirms that the other people got to see all their clothes. Would have been funny if they weren't able to see it. "Where the hell is my other tube sock?!" "They were tube socks? I thought they were arm-warmers!"

As we return outside, Grant takes the opportunity to tell us how the Mole could fuck it up. Turns out they can either pack stuff that makes no sense, or guess stuff that makes no sense. Thanks, Grant! (No, really. Chesty McBogan would have explained this three times to make sure we understood.)

Inside, Rocky claims that "they've taken our dignity". And his extra-small condoms.

Linda finds a stash of chocolate in someone's bags. Wonder how they got that through security at the airport? Inside, we learn that they were Rocky's. Figures. He complains that they won't get to eat any of them, because they'll all be heading back to Sydney. Linda's also found two large tubs of muscle-growth tablets. Again, probably Rocky's. Even Josephine is laughing, that's how stupid this is.

Abby is pissed. Ben asks how bad it could be that the others are ransacking their stuff. Jan points out that it could be "lots bad", and it's here that we learn exactly how bad the Victorian education system was back then. Sadly, "lots bad" would be downright verbose by today's standards. Ben asks why, and he obviously wasn't the person in this room who packed an item we see seconds later, which appears to be a silver vibrator.

Alan realises that someone brought a spatula. Just in case there was an emergency barbecue-cleaning challenge.

Rocky explains that he thinks they might have missed all his undies. Which they didn't because Alan is now holding a very skimpy men's G-string. Grant, now back with everyone else, does not appear to point out that Alan is holding them back to front.

As they finish, Josephine claims she would kill someone if they did it to her. Quick, someone get Kyle and Jackie O to rifle through her things!

Grant explains to these five about the guessing game bit.

In the hotel, Grant goes to find out what everyone thinks was taken away. Patrick thinks they got rid of a smaller backpack. Abby thinks someone turfed her black slip-ons. (I, of course, misheard the word "slip-ons" the first time she said it. Sigh.) Rocky has trouble explaining the protein shake he thinks is missing. Ben's lost a pair of boat shoes, which are "um... tan?" in colour. Jan is hoping they took her gold dressing gown. Grant tells them that he has a record of everything taken, on the brick of a video camera he has in his non-backpack carrying hand. He's going to go outside and check, because he can't stomach being around these people for very long. Good thing he left the show when he did, then.

Commercials. Honk ten years ago if you're a time traveller.

Grant returns and gets straight down to business, without any of this Tom Williams-esque crap about re-explaining the challenge. Love you too, Grant. I'm lazy, and this isn't very interesting, so let's just tell you that they won, and skip forward. God, even Petrina managed to keep some money out right from the beginning. The repackers enter the hotel, Josephine now wearing Alan's akubra for some reason, and learn that they won.

We learn for the first time, almost twenty minutes into the episode, that the contestants must make nightly video diary entries. Rocky steals the first confessional in the show's history away from any of the nine more worthy people, reminding us of the last challenge and of how he feels "violated". Clearly, he has never watched an episode of Oz. Linda apologises to her mother for doing the one thing she was told not to do -- skydiving. Obviously, her mother doesn't care if she dies, just as long as she doesn't leave the plane before it lands! Josephine whines like a nervous twelve-year-old who's upset that her dad won't let her leave the house in that outfit, young lady, and as long as you live under this roof you have to live by my rules! Abby goes through her list of Mole suspects -- Jan, James, Bev, and Patrick, in that order. Bev tells us that it could be Abby, because she seems so innocent, and has had training in her background (which the show does not yet deem to tell us is in psychology). James tries to explain that it'll be something very subtle which slips them up. Oh, for the love of criminy. This isn't an Agatha Christie book, this is a game show!

Over dinner, Grant tells us that everyone learned that Patrick no longer has any shirts, because of Bev. Why couldn't she have taken Ben's bag? (At least she didn't have Rocky, who would probably walk around naked given the chance.) Bev explains that the shirts got lost in the rush, which does make a sort of sense, and Patrick takes it in good humour, pointing out that his one white shirt, which he's wearing, might not be so white in a week's time. Heh. One point for Patrick.

Before the players go to bed, they were apparently each taken aside and asked which of their teammates should be given a very early wake-up call. Alan and Linda vote for Linda. Jan and Ben vote for Abby. Rocky and James vote for themselves. Patrick and the three remaining girls all vote for Patrick. We don't find out why anybody votes for who they do.

At 3:07am in the morning, Grant wakes Patrick up. Wow, that is early. So early, in fact, that Patrick doesn't have anything else to talk about, and asks what the weather's like. Grant sounds like Hannibal Lecter as he explains that he's being woken up for a challenge. Thank God he explained that, because otherwise this scene would have had some weird homoerotic undertones that I'm not sure even I want to explore. And usually I love slash. Outside, on a cold, cold Launceston footpath, Patrick is blindfolded and driven away. We learn that he's being taken hostage. Sigh. At least we get my two least favourite recurring challenges over in the first episode this time. Obviously, the blindfold is so he can't see what's going on (or possibly to help him catch some extra shut-eye), but he also hasn't been told what's going on yet, either.

45 minutes and some unnecessary shots of lights taken through the car windows later, Patrick arrives at this season's Dungeon Of Deadly Doomedness, which is some sort of white manor. Inside, Grant guides him into his cell and removes the blindfold, Chesty-ising that he can see again. Just, you know, in case he hadn't noticed by all the things flashing before his eyes that don't fit under the oft-seen category of "his life". Apparently, Patrick gets three beds to sleep on, and not a whole lot else. Grant tells him that he'll be given a phone in the morning, and that he has to answer it. It is not stated one way or the other whether his answer will be "Yes, I would be interested in purchasing a Foxtel subscription", but I suspect that wouldn't have been his answer anyway, because this was filmed back in the days when free-to-air TV networks were still displaying a modicum of competence. After Grant leaves, Patrick gives the middle bed to his hat and stretches out in the farthest one, apparently not caring that his legs stretch out way beyond the edge of the beds.

Morning. The other nine players are busy having a big breakfast at the hotel. Patrick consumes his bread and water, snarking that they had better find him soon, or Grant's not going to have any gonads left. (Okay, he doesn't actually say that last part. But you know he was thinking it.) Ben eventually asks the others if they've noticed a big, Patrick-sized blank space in the big, Patrick-sized empty seat. They haven't, but that's because Josephine's the only one who would look directly at the empty seat, and... well, it's Josephine. 'Nuff said.

We learn from Grant that the players at the hotel found some maps with their breakfast. (The maps provide 100% of their Recommended Daily Intake of Mappitude, but considerably less sugar, fat, and flavour.) Someone points out Tamar River Cruises, but fucked if I can be bothered rewinding for a piece of information that small this late at night, and Abby points out that the hotel is marked on one of the maps. That's convenient. Less impressive is the close-up we get proving that the hotel has indeed been marked on the map by some poor schlub in production with a black marker.

In their orange and black Land Rovers, the nine non-hostage players pile out and walk over to Grant. Grant has ditched the Bowler Hat and has instead grabbed some sunnies that make him look like a long-lost member of the Warne family. Tom Williams can expect an abusive text message any minute now. Grant confirms that Patrick has quite obviously disappeared from the face of the earth. And... again. It's Tasmania. What do you expect to happen? For some reason, Jan is holding three large bottles of lemonade or something, and Abby has turned her short shirt into a cheerleading uniform of some kind.

Grant wants the nine non-vanished players to divide into three groups of three. We don't get to see who's in which group, but we do learn that each group will be given a phone, which they can use to contact each other -- and to contact Patrick. It's ten in the morning right now, and the groups have until midday to free Patrick, but they still don't know where he is. One group will travel by helicopter, one by boat, and one will have to drive themselves. Boy, that's like giving one group truffles, one group caviar, and one group a toasted cheese sandwich, isn't it?

Commercials, apparently. Which: Surely this couldn't have been a commercial break the first time around, right?

We learn for the first time that Patrick has been taken 45 minutes away from the hotel, so there's not a lot of wiggle room for the team to fuck up on this particular challenge. As it turns out, this means Patrick could be anywhere within sixty kilometres from Launceston -- an area of ten thousand square kilometres. What is it with Australian reality shows trying to convince us that boats can reach areas far away from water? It's bad enough when it's Australian Survivor, it's even worse when it's a show I like.

Anyway, the only clues the team will be getting, aside from their maps and instructions, are whatever Patrick can see from the window of his holding chamber. There's some water, because, as it turns out, this isn't Australian Survivor after all, as well as a big tree, and supposedly a couple of radio towers obscured from view by said tree. On my little three-inch-wide downloaded video, I can only make out one of them, but thankfully they get a spotlight graphic to reveal them for us.

Patrick's phone rings, as I notice it looks like a shoe because it's so thick. It's Linda calling him from the helicopter, and Patrick tells her that he's somewhere on the coast, even though he thought he was on the Midlands Highway. It'd probably be much harder to keep someone held hostage like this on a busy highway anyway. Not that I've tried or anything.

In the boat, Abby, Rocky, and Bev seem to have a broken phone, and they can't get a connection to anyone else. Does this mean Telstra is the Mole? It wouldn't surprise me.

Patrick is still talking to Linda. He tells them he thinks he's in "a three-storey house", and Linda incredulously asks whether he wants to be saved or not. Heh. Patrick's reply is nothing more than a cheerful "Get off your arse, girl", and misogynistic though that may be, it was also damn funny. DAMN funny.

The boat trio still suck with their phone. The car team -- James, Ben, and Josephine -- have managed to get in touch with the helicopter. At some point, Patrick must have told Linda that there were two roundabouts, and that he travelled for "about an hour and a half", because this is the information she and Jan communicate back to James. The car drives along incredibly fast -- you can barely even look in shop windows at the speed they're going -- and Josephine and James tell Ben to slow down. Fine. One point for James. And (ugh) Josephine.

Grant is also being driven somewhere, and voices over that the teams are going to need one more little thing to rescue Patrick. Is it "a clue"? Because most of these people don't have one. He calls Patrick, and asks whether Patrick has "found the blue envelope". Patrick has no idea what he's talking about, and... like, he's locked in a small room with not much to do. How has he not even bothered looking yet? It's a good thing they didn't lock him up in the Hitchcock Hotel. He'd never escape! Grant stresses that he needs to find the blue envelope, and hangs up. If I haven't said it enough already, Grant is awesome. You just know that if Chesty was involved, he'd have explained what was inside the envelope, why he needed it, and what he could do with it.

A chopper flies over the car team, stopped on the side of the road to look at their map, and Ben decides to stare at it, because he totally has attention deficit oh shiny. They ask a lady for directions, and she quite logically asks them where they're going. I'd say the more important question is where she came from, considering the chopper shot showed them on an empty stretch of road. Ben artfully dodges both questions.

Patrick finds the blue envelope, underneath one of the very thin-looking mattresses. If it was me? I would have stacked those three mattresses on top of each other on the floor, and slept on them instead, especially given the slattedness of the beds, but that's another reason why I'm not a contestant on this show. Inside the blue envelope is a hot pink piece of paper, because the producers are that colour-blind, apparently. The paper reads "Your rescuers have three keys between them. Only one key will unlock your prison." Patrick immediately calls the chopper, and cottons onto the fact that he's going to need all three of the groups to reach him to be guaranteed of winning. Right on cue, Abby wants to sunbake in the non-moving boat, and Bev asks if anyone needs sunscreen for the arms. Because she's OLD. Got it, show. Move on. Meanwhile, Patrick finally notices the radio towers and tells Linda about them. Linda soon works out that Patrick "has to be" in Georgetown.

In the car, James asks the person he's on the phone to to "talk up", because he's been deafened by Josephine's shrieky voice already. As soon as he repeats the word Georgetown, Josephine reaches for the folded-up map and starts looking. Was she really hoping to find Patrick without having to use a map? Did she think he was going to be in the middle of the road? Because it might have been a bit hard for the boat people to get to.

Patrick can hear the chopper all of a sudden, but takes a second to see them. He begins giving the chopper pilot exact directions so that they're flying directly at his cell, because he is just that awesome. He explains that he's stuck looking out from a skylight, helping to narrow down the search even more, but not helping enough to stop Linda from asking if he can see her wave. Linda sees Patrick's skylight-window thing, and tells him that they're going to need to find the "entrance to the town", so they can tell the car and the boat where they're going. I'm not sure what she's thinking, really. Since the boat will probably come in from the water, only "three hundred metres" away, it's pointless trying to figure that out yet, and it'd be easier to, say, land the helicopter, walk to the intersection next to the house, and direct the car group to that intersection, no?

The boat group is still doing nothing, hoping that that will make their phone work. Suddenly, Rocky accuses Abby of hiding an extra phone battery inside her pants. Abby is understandably appalled by his indictment. I have to think that if Abby was going to put batteries anywhere near the inside of her pants, they wouldn't have let this show on the air in the first place. Shut up, Rocky. The car people are heading in the right direction, at least according to Josephine (so, obviously, a second opinion will be necessary). Bev hassles Abby to put the damn battery in the phone. As she does, the phone begins ringing almost immediately. Grant voices over that the boat group has been doing fuckall to find Patrick for over an hour, and now only have 38 minutes to get to Patrick if they want any chance of winning this task. Abby finally gets the Georgetown information. Meanwhile, the plane group have decided to throw a message in a bottle overboard in an attempt to get the same information across to them. As they see the boat, Bev repeats the word helicopter like it's the only one she knows. Eventually, the chopper gets low enough and close enough that Linda can try throwing her rubbish at the boat, but they miss it and have to turn back. Way to save time, guys.

The phone rings at the same time they get the bottle, making the entire thing pointless. Abby reads the message anyway, and tells their boat driver to follow the chopper. Grant hopefully and helpfully informs us that there's 24 minutes to find Patrick, but they've still got to get all three groups together, get to Georgetown, find all the keys, and release him. Will they make it? WILL THEY?

Commercials. Is it wrong to imply that the American media calling Australia "racist" over the Jackson Jive skit is like the pot calling the kettle black? Because... really. Before you go waving words like that around, you'd better make DAMN sure you're not treating minorities (like, say, Muslims, or your assorted native peoples) like shit. We're one of the most accepting, most multicultural countries on the planet. You? Just alienated one of the only allies who stood by you through the Bush presidency. Sure, the routine was offensive. But to call the entire country racist? Fuck off.

To answer our little cliffhanger, they won't be doing it without a fine. Grant tells us, while police horns blare, that Ben has failed to stop for a police car. The "camera car", of course, has stopped, and the policeman, who looks a little like the construction worker from the Village People, doesn't seem to understand that it's hard to keep track of the contestants if they drive off. Meanwhile, said idiots are asking for directions again. Never mind that they have a map, and appear to be in the right town. I'd blame it on Josephine navigating, but she's the one getting the directions, which makes it even more depressing.

The chopper and boat teams meet up on the beach, and Alan, who has been missing from this entire challenge up until now, reminds the boat team that they need to find their key. Ben is speeding again, but Alan and the boat team seem to be taking their sweet-ass time searching for their keys. As Alan takes apart the chopper's back seat, and Rocky does the same in the boat, Grant voices over that there's only thirteen minutes left. Good thing Ben's speeding, then. It might be the only chance of a team getting to Patrick on time at this rate. Both Rocky and Alan find their keys soon afterwards. The car pulls up next to the beach, sound guy right in the middle of the camera shot, and Abby and Linda explain what they have to do. That sound guy gets in the shot again, just before they find it. Everyone runs to the manor, where Grant tries to stall them by asking if they have the keys. They do, and they have to use all three of the keys to find the right one. Everyone rushes upstairs to Patrick's cell, where he's busy trying to impersonate a duck or something. They find him, and Grant tells them that "the good news is that you've won". We do not yet get to hear what the bad news is.

Bev waves to her video diary, and begins blabbering about how this is so much fun and blah blah blibbedy-blah. Thankfully, Grant interrupts soon afterwards, reminding us what the reason for the video diaries is, before Bev tells us that she was pissing "one person" off because she was "too cheerful in the mornings". Firstly, she's only had one morning with them, and secondly, she's lucky that's the only reason she's pissing people off. Linda is that one person, apparently, and she thinks Bev is acting stupid. James and his hat tell us what the organisational structure of the car team was. He seems to be under the impression that not only did we not get to see Josephine doing the navigation (barely, but still), but that we didn't get to see the car team at all. I don't even like Josephine (you may have noticed), but even so, shut up, James. Rocky seems to think the Mole had something to do with their phone not working. Abby does not blame people for suspecting her, and seems happy that they might. Just between you and me, she's not doing a good job of being the Mole if she is. Especially since, at this point in the episode, the Mole hasn't managed to keep a single cent out of the kitty. Bev also tells us that she's now a suspect, just in case she wasn't before. Patrick still thinks Bev is the Mole, even though he has nothing to go on except her trying to deflect suspicion away from herself after the phone battery deal. Abby considers Patrick, then gives us a perfect pregnant pause before coming up with " annoying!" Hee! James thinks Alan could be the Mole, but doesn't want him to be, because he likes him.

Grant voices over over the end of James's video diary that Ben is down at the police station, dealing with his whole not-pulling-over thing. As Ben walks down towards a questioning room of some kind to explain himself, we fade to black. Later, back in front of the camera, the cop tells Ben that his "manner of driving's not tolerated here", as though it would be back in Sydney. A subtle dig at New South Wales? Go Tasmanian cop! Outside the police station, Ben tells a waiting Grant (who really would have felt at home inside) that it's his "first rap across the knuckles for a while". Ben gives a half-arsed explanation of what happened while he was driving, and Grant asks whether the ticket he's holding means Ben broke the law. Ben proudly confirms that it does. Grant points out that even if he's a contestant on a reality show, he's not exempt from that pesky "no profiting from crime" law, and so he has to take away the $10,000 the team earned in the hostage challenge. As you do. Ben thanks the camera crew for the second time in a minute or so, and I get the feeling he's trying to blame the camera guys for what happened. In which case, shut up, Ben. It's not their fault you're a twit.

An hour later, Ben enters the hotel where everyone else is being kept, and explains what happened. Even Josephine -- part of his team in the challenge -- does not appear to know, which surprises me. Then I remember that it's Josephine, and the status quo is restored. Ben's final words in this scene are "feel free to throw something at me". If only he were stripping, and then that something might not be a brick.

Commercials. Isn't it telling when the only decent thing that anyone's said about Couples Retreat amounts to "at least I can admire the scenery"?

Wow, old computer. Grant voices over that it's time for the questionnaire. For some reason, we are shown that one of the contestants is not familiar with the highly complex act of double-clicking. Grant tells us that "there are twenty questions about the identity Mole, and what he or she has been doing over the past couple of days." Obviously, since the Mole has done fuckall this episode unless it's Ben, the questions we see revolve around things like whether the Mole is married, and what their star sign is. You know, the important stuff. As always, the person with the worst result will "be leaving tonight". Grant does tell us the procedure for tiebreakers, in that whoever takes the longest amount of time to suck gets the boot, which makes me think there was a tie in this episode we weren't told about otherwise. Linda thinks it might be Bev or Josephine. James thinks Bev is either too "schizy" to be the Mole, or else she could give Grant some acting lessons. Patrick thinks it's Rocky, Abby, or Bev. Jan interviews that she wants to stay to the end, but if she had to be eliminated, she doesn't want to be the first person out. Who exactly does want to be known as the Guy Who Was Good Enough To Get Cast But Not Good Enough To Last Two Episodes? We cut somewhat foreshadowingly to James, who tells us Josephine has been whining because she thinks it's her. Josephine tells us she's expecting to be eliminated at some point. Good. I suppose that means I won't have to recap her being surprised if and/or when she does.

Room Of Impending Doom. Grant tells them that the Mystical Computer of Questionnaire Taking knows the results, and that they've managed to earn $15,000 between them (out of a possible $25,000, remember), but that someone isn't going to be able to help the group win any more. One at a time, Grant is going to type to contestant names into the computer, and then the monitor facing the teams will change color. If it's green, they stay; if it's red, they go. Just like bullfighting. There will be "no time for goodbyes". Harsh, but fair. Alan is first. Green screen. He looks like he's going to cry. Rocky does not show any emotion when he gets his green screen. Josephine, name spelled without the capital letter for some reason, is the next to be saved. Since she's the first person to get a close-up of her name being typed in, can I once again state -- as I did in the Australian Survivor recaps -- that Comic Sans MS is possibly the worst font you can choose when you're trying to give off the impression of anything except "doo doo doo-dee-doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo"? Patrick is safe. Jan is too, and is visibly relieved. She really doesn't want to go back to her actual job right away, you know! James gets the red screen and is eliminated. I wish they would have found a sound effect that didn't give away the red screen before it happened. They had five seasons to find something better, and this is the one thing they never got right. Shame, really. (Admittedly, they got a hell of a lot wrong with the last two seasons, but this is pretty much the only thing that sucked about the first three. And, yes, I'm still bitter about it, ten years after the show began. Shut up.)

It turns out that there really isn’t time for goodbyes at all, and James actually does leave straight away. The group looks sad, as though Grant just ran over their favourite puppy. Outside, Grant has to point the car out to James, who manages to walk past it somehow. Not noticing little things like that is probably what got him eliminated. Grant, ever the professional, thanks him for playing, but tunes out as he prattles on about how he never thought he could skydive. Grant wishes James a safe trip, and he is driven away. Grant points out that since James was eliminated, he's obviously not the Mole. Remember when "eliminated contestants" and "the Mole" were mutually exclusive? Petrina sure doesn't.

End credits. I miss the electric guitar theme. It's really one of the best TV themes I've ever heard. (Here, the Australian Survivor Irish jig raises its middle finger in my direction.)

So, there you have it. A season premiere in which we learned nothing about the contestants' backstories, outside of the opening credits, and yet were still able to develop feelings for and against them. See, The Amazing Race? It is possible to make people care about contestants who don't have hooks like "He's a dwarf/deaf/a hippie/Miss USA/a twin/a recovering drug addict!" (It's also possible, as Australian Survivor demonstrated in one of its many moments of underrated kickassiness, to edit people three-dimensionally, with both good and bad characteristics throughout. Just... you know, in case you want to start trying again.)


  1. Great recap as always! Before the first ad break of this pilot episode, I just knew this was my favourite show of all time, and it pretty much still is.

    I completely agree about the red screen noise, I HATED that, though to be fair to the hsow, there were a few episodes where they didn't use it, but the majority of them did.

    What kind of edits were there from the original airings to the repeats? I didn't have the originals on tape myself, but I did watch the repeats and not notice anything glaringly obvious.

    Abby is awesome, I also liked Ben and Linda, and I loathe Josephine, as well as Rocky. Bev annoyed me too.

    Lastly, I'm calling shoutout! Ballarat does rock!

  2. That was totally a shoutout!

    This episode didn't have too much missing from it -- I think it was only Josephine talking about how she didn't want to skydive before they knew they were going to, and the fallout from that. It gets really obvious later on, though -- the It Had To Be You package (always one of the best parts of the finale) is completely missing from this season, for example.


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