The Mole 2 is clever and loosey-goosey. Fourteen players wing off to Europe to complete ”games,” such as carrying a greased gnome while riding a bike (see — you already regret missing this show, right?), that win them money (up to a cool million). Among them is a ”mole,” a ringer thrown in to disrupt the competitions and inspire vicious paranoia. At the end of each episode, the contestants take a 10-question quiz (”What is the Mole’s favorite food?”); whoever answers the least number correctly is ”executed” — sent packing.
We’re now more than halfway through ”Mole 2”’s run, but you can still get on board. Host Anderson Cooper, currently reestablishing himself as a journalist by getting up early with Paula Zahn on CNN, is exquisitely ”Mole” droll; his deadpan stares as players blubber and sweat through challenges are wittily devastating. Cooper’s weekly voice-over — ”Watch for the clue to the identity of the Mole” — is silly: As we learned in the first ”Mole,” the clues are more absurdly convoluted than an Agatha Christie mystery on LSD. But this denseness is what gives ”Mole” its charm. (For the record, I think bespectacled, serene, well-muscled Darwin is the Mole — even his name suggests a survivor of the fittest.)
ABC has jerked this series around in its schedule, failing to realize that like CBS’ ”Big Brother,” it has far more potential to become a cult fave with mass appeal. Maybe the real mole is actually an ABC programming weasel, doing his or her best to kill off the series.