Wie is de Mol? is a popular Dutch reality TV game show broadcasted every year in The Netherlands in January, February, and March. The program revolves around 10 candidates, all known Dutch persons, who have to play several games or assignments together each episode (10 episodes in total). With each well performed assignment, they earn a specific amount of money. At the end of the last episode the winner receives all the money. There is however a mole among the participants; one of the participants has the goal to sabotage the completion of the assignments without the other participants discovering who that is.
As the name suggests, the program is all about discovering the mole’s identity. The winner is not the person who performed best in the assignments, but the one who made it to the final episode and discovered correctly who the mole is. At the end of each episode, participants are asked to fill in a questionnaire about the identity of the mole. They have to answer what the mole did during that episode and the participant whose answers are least correct will be send home. In other words, Wie is de Mol? is one big game of the participants trying to lure and catch the mole, and the mole trying to hide and sabotage everything. However, if we analyse the program closely, we can see a form of plays happening on several layers beyond the cat and mouse game between the mole and the participants.
The assignments are the games that the participants have to play, specifically designed so that they have to collaborate or compete against each other. They have to trust each other to complete the games, but this also means that they can be deceived. For instance, in the most recent season (2017), participants each had their own two cellphone booths and were asked to ask and answer questions about each other, and then communicate it through the cellphones.The goal of this game is of course to obtain as many correct answers as possible within the time limit, because with each correct answer, they would gain 100 euro. The assignments’ goals are usually pretty simple and easy to understand, but difficult to play. In this case, participants had to run back and forth between their cellphone booth to communicate to someone and the booth to receive questions and answers from. Though that is difficult enough in itself, since they might miss questions, some participants discovered that the booths were connected in a circle: they would always and only hear one certain person aksing question. As it goes, they deducted that they also provide answers to only one and the same person, albeit a different one. Simply said: if Jochem asked a question to Thomas, everyone had to communicate that question until it reached Thomas. Then Thomas’ answer had to be communicated through every until it reached Jochem. Participants have to trust that everyone will discover this set-up and if they do, that every participant will communicate their answers and questions. Naturally, this provides plenty of opportunities for the mole to sabotage the game.
Participants are very suspicious of each other, but due to the assignments they also need to work together. Those moments are very similar to the drama depicted in reality television. They are constantly trying to figure out who the mole is, but since they cannot keep an eye on every participant during every assignment, it is strongly recommended by the game makers to have a collaboration with someone else – even if that person might turn out to be the mole. These so-called “bondjes” might last maybe one episode or in the case of Thomas and Diederik in 2017, the collaboration lasted almost the entire season. A “bondje” allows the participants to participate in separate groups during the assignments without being afraid of missing out on information when they are apart, as well as being able to keep a close watch on their own team member.
However, drama also happens. Most participants that collaborated in Jochem van Gelder’s bondjes ended up to lose the episode and were sent away. It caused many participants to stop trusting him, as he might as well have been the mole himself. Other times, participants refuse to make a “bondje” or plainly betray their team member by collaborating with a different participant. It is interesting to see how the relationships between the participants change with every episode.
The cat & mouse game between mole and participants
The layer on which the most play occurs is of course between the mole and the participants. There is always a cat and mouse game going on. The participants’ two inter-related goals are to obtain as much money as possible and to discover the identity of the mole in order to win that money, while mole is continuously trying to hide his or her identity and making sure that the participants obtain as little money as possible.
To reach their goals, participants have to get to the last episodes, but only three of them (including the mole) will be able to do so. Every episode, someone will be send away, while the mole, posing as a participant, stays. A joker, a special affordance to be won in some assignments, allow participants to continue to the next episode without being send away. A joker is thus a highly valuable object. Participants might go to extremes to obtain them, as one episode in season 2017 shows in which two participants had to forge the jokers themselves without anyone noticing.
But participants also go to extremes to reach these goals. They might steal from each other if someone does not pay attention to his belongings. In the 2017 season, a joker has been stolen by Thomas (but he later returned it), and a so-called “molboekje”, a small note book that every participant carries with him or her to note down their information about the mole, was also stolen. Both objects though belonged to Jochem who had not been careful with his belongings, though it is generally acknowledged by the participants that stealing is a low move.
While most of the layers involve only the participants of the program, that is not to say that the audience who watches it does not play. As the name of the program suggests, the question of who the mole is is also addressed to the audience who can speculate about who they think it is. The episode titles usually contain hints about the mole’s role or background. For example, the episode title “De teugels in handen” (to hold the reins) apparently referred to the mole who was holding the reins of a horse during that episode. Furthermore, in previous seasons the poses that the mole would assume in every episode photo could also hint to who it is, though I hardly remember this (I usually do not pick up these hints or engage with them for that matter).
Recent years, watchers can express their speculations on Twitter through for example the hashtag #widm, but of course social media websites such as Facebook also make sure different watchers can interact with each other. The network Avrotros that broadcasts Wie is de Mol? also has a website with a poll where watchers can vote for who they think the mole is, which usually gets discussed in a special discussion program after a Wie is de Mol? episode. In other words, also the audience is invited to play!
Wie is de Mol invites play both on the sides of the participants, but also on the side of the audience if they wish to do so. I usually do not engage much publicly with guessing who the mole is, but I would lie if I was not excited to bits to discover who the mole of season 2017 was! To watch all the episodes (which are public, but in Dutch) look here.