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Interview with Mole 2’s Magician, Rob Nelsonby C. Brian Devinney -- 08/01/2002
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His execution from the game was memorialized by two players mimicking his trademark spiky hairdo. But now, almost a year after he actually played the game, the spikes are gone. Rob Nelson, the Mole's fifth victim, remains a favorite not only of the fans, but also of his fellow players.
In speaking with other mole players, they have all commented on the videographer-cum-magician and his impeccable performance abilities. Fellow player Darwin Conner regrets that the Michigander didn't receive more air time to show off his magic prowess.
"We were in this restaurant in Italy and he started doing some magic tricks. He wound up performing for the entire restaurant," Myra Brown said. "He was amazing." (Click here for my previous interview with Myra.)
Although his performances made him a favorite amongst the players, he didn't have the one trick he needed most - the identity of the mole. Recently, I talked to Rob from his home in Michigan regarding his experience on the ABC reality series.
His decision to do the show came on a spur of the moment. The tape he sent in with his application had him interspersed into scenes from movies such as The Sixth Sense where he was answering questions from Donnie Wahlberg as to why he would not only make a good mole player but the actual mole.
Soon, Nelson found himself in Switzerland as the youngest player among fourteen cast members. It was not what he expected.
"I didn't think there would be so many really young castmates," he said. "I was expecting there to be a few of us in our twenties and the majority of the cast a bit older than that."
The differences in age between Nelson and his fellow castmates was of little difference. He was so well liked that 58-year-old Bill and 33-year-old Al took to spraying their hair into spikes in honor of him at the sixth execution.
Nelson was immediately thrust into the spotlight by being drafted into the first portion of the three-part opening challenge – a summer biathlon of sorts involving bike riding and crossbow shooting. It wasn't something that he was looking forward to or felt he was qualified to tackle.
"I remember telling them that I didn't really exercise, but they put me there anyway. Bob and Bribs talked to me after they had completed their part. They were shooting low and to the left but I chose to aim high and to the right."
His choice of aim proved to be beneficial as he hit the bulls-eye on his first attempt. However, in terms of sabotage, Nelson didn't have many opportunities to focus suspicion upon himself.
His most notable moment came in the blackjack game where $20,000 previously won by the group was removed from the pot in order to gamble in a St. Moritz casino. The group's objective was to double the money and add another $20,000 to the pot. As the last player standing with any money, Nelson opted to bet his final $4,000 on one hand, ultimately losing the money and the full $20,000 for the group.
"I thought it would work in one of two ways for me," Nelson said. "Either I would win the money back and be a huge hero or I would lose it all and people would think I was the mole."
His second attempt at sabotage happened during the physically draining "Sink or Swim" game. He admits to this being his only deliberate attempt to undermine the group's efforts. Thinking that misspelling his answer by one mere letter would be enough to draw suspicion upon himself, if not ruin the mission entirely, Nelson gave the wrong answer to his leg of the mission while three of his compatriots were treading water valiantly in a pool.
"I thought that misspelling that one word would be just enough to draw some attention my way. Apparently, it didn't happen," he said.
Nelson's strategy in the game didn't involve coalitions. While those around him were forming alliance upon alliance, he turned down the opportunity to join one with Bribs and Al, as he felt there were too many trust issues involved with forming and maintaining coalitions. Instead, he opted to go out on his own and play the game by his own rules.
"I have no regrets about forming coalitions. You couldn't trust who would get you more info. Paying attention would."
However, he does admit that he completely missed any secret clues that were possibly planted.
"The hidden clues were much better than last year but in real life it was much harder."
Back in Michigan, Nelson's friends and family are proud of his efforts and, as with most players, immediately suspected him of being the mole. The initial pressure to keep the show's finale a secret lessened as time passed waiting for the show's return this summer.
"I think I represented Detroit well," he said. "My mailman called me up to tell me that he thought I did well."
C. Brian Devinney is a human resources consultant and huge Yankees fan based in New York City. He is the author of his own blog, "Tales From the City" and is currently writing his third play, Poker Night. He can be reached at TheRealityFactor@aol.com.
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