Exclusive: Clay Cauley talks about his 'The Mole' experience
By Christopher Rocchio, 07/23/2008
Clay Cauley claims he wasn't as focused as he should have been prior to taking The Mole's most recent quiz.
The 32-year-old criminal litigation attorney from Philadelphia, PA paid the price for being distracted, as he became the eighth player executed from The Mole's fifth season during Monday night's broadcast of the ABC reality series.
On Tuesday, Clay talked to Reality TV World about why he was distracted an unfocused; how telling his first lie during the competition only days before the quiz he flunked might have thrown him off his game; his various thoughts on the four remaining players; and why host Jon Kelley's description of him as a "quiet storm" is accurate.
Reality TV World: Were you confident heading into that quiz that saw you get executed?
Clay: No. I will say I was distracted. I was focused on the fact that my wife was there and I think it was close to her birthday. I think I was off keel a little bit. That kind of played a part into it. You would think coming down to the wire you're a little more focused, but ironically I was probably not as focused as I should have been.
Reality TV World: That's interesting. Was being distracted something you were aware of as it was happening in the moment?
Clay: Yeah, definitely. It's the same when I take tests or I prepare for a trial. It's funny, but I kind of know going into it -- almost have an indicator of how I'm going to do. I didn't feel as good. I didn't feel as confident. But I still felt like maybe there's somebody else out there who's less confident. (laughing)
Reality TV World: Prior to your execution, you commented that everyone you had previously suspected of being The Mole's saboteur had been executed and thought it would be wise to change your strategy. What was your strategy in taking the quiz and why didn't you decide to ever change it?
Clay: My strategy was to focus on one player every single week. I think I said -- and they aired it -- that I tend to be a very obstinate, stubborn person. Sometimes if it works once, it feels good, give it another shot. Fortunately for me, it kept working. (laughing) Maybe my luck ran out, but I kept doing it.
[Editor's note: Due to the nature of The Mole's format, ABC would not allow Reality TV World to question which player Clay had believed to be the season's saboteur.]
Reality TV World: You seemed to have a good relationship with Mark right from the start. Why do you think you two got along so well and explain how your coalition formed?
Clay: In my line of business and just if you're around long enough on this earth, you tend to be a pretty good judge of people. A lot of people out there in society look at materialistic things or bravado, but you learn to judge people kind of on their character.
One of the things I was able to sense from Mark was that he had a very good, wholesome character. We shared that commonality. That, and it's a lot to be a father and a husband. People these days undervalue how much that plays into a person. I think the fact that he was -- I don't want to say an older guy because I'm right on his heels. (laughing) We're both kind of middle-of-the-road guys. We're married. We have children. That brings a whole other dynamic to the game and to who you are as a person.
I think that's what helped us gel so well together early on.
Reality TV World: Despite your coalition, there were several instances during the competition where you commented how you felt like you might have been aligned with The Mole's saboteur and had to take the coalition "with a grain of salt." What was it about Mark's behavior that made you suspicious?
Clay: (laughing) There's paranoia. That's a big one that stands out. Anybody who's behaving irrationally at times -- and there were times when he showed glimpses of behaving irrational, [when he was] very suspect of Bobby. Note-taking is fine, I'm not going to hold that against [Mark]. But there were times where I questioned his rationality in terms of playing the game.
But I don't just want to put it all on him. I'm a very suspicious person. I'm not the type of person who trusts a lot of people. I'm very guarded in my circle. I have a select amount of friends, and that's a title that I don't put on everybody. So I think a lot of it has to do with me and how I am with people.
Reality TV World: Just going off of that, viewers saw a scene last night in which Mark made it clear that he'd targeted Nicole as the mole in the previous quiz and you told him you'd done the same. But during your conversation with Nicole, you told her you'd targeted Craig, the same person she subsequently claimed to have targeted. At least one of those names you gave Mark and Nicole was obviously a lie -- was lying about own mole beliefs a big part of your strategy? Was there any player you felt "comfortable" enough with to be really honest with?
Clay: Honestly, that was probably the one time I was trying to trick somebody, and I'm not good at it. (laughing) As soon as I started talking to Nicole, I kind of felt bad -- immediately. But once the words leaped out of my mouth off of my tongue, I was like, "Just got to go with it."
That was the one moment where I kind of diverted away from my game plan. As a result, I probably psyched myself out of the quiz. At that point, I'm not playing the game the way I said I would play -- being truthful, honest and having integrity. I probably convinced myself it's time to go home.
Reality TV World: Since you knew Mark so well, were you surprised at the way he reacted when his journal was thrown into the fire? Do you think he might have been overreacting at all as some sort of strategy?
Clay: At the time -- because I did get to be very critical of people -- I thought he might have been overreacting a little. But I knew it was the substance of his journal. It wasn't really his notes about the game. It was things he was writing to his wife, that sort of thing -- that stuff is stuff that you can't get back, and I knew that played a part into it.
Hindsight 20/20, I definitely don't think he was overreacting. You can see that in his character -- he's just a very emotional, very passionate person. When you take something from him -- if you cut him deep enough, he bleeds.
Reality TV World: Did having your journal thrown in the fire hurt your game?
Clay: Nah. I'm kind of numb, not a lot of stuff gets to me. I let it roll off. It didn't matter to me. I felt the chips were going to fall where they may, whether I had the journal or not. I did take a lot of notes and I put a lot of time into it, but I have a pretty good memory, and I guess the best word is regurgitate that into the new journal.
Reality TV World: What type of relationship did you have with Nicole? Could you talk a little bit about your thoughts on Nicole as a player? Some of the other players have mentioned she acts differently in-front of the camera and away from it.
Clay: Nicole was Nicole. I wouldn't say she had a different personality off camera. I think when you're on camera -- even myself -- no matter how much you try to mask your identity, it seeps out. So I think some of that what you see on camera, to a small degree, is a reflection of how she is off camera.
I didn't mind it so much. Nicole's kind of spicy. My wife loved her. (laughing) She didn't say a bad thing about her, she really loves her. It didn't bother me so much, some of her antics. We're in a game and it's tense. She's using her strategy. But I don't think there was a difference in terms of how she acted on or off camera.
Reality TV World: Were you ever aware that she was considering "self execution" prior to Monday night's quiz?
Clay: Oh, you've got to go and bring that up, huh? (laughing)
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you saw that last night?
Clay: (laughing) I will say I was upset. In a way, a part of me just said, "Man, I wish she would have just gone ahead and self-executed, then I'd still be there."
But I take it with a grain of salt. Nicole says a lot of things about the show that she kind of goes back on once she throws it out there. To this day was she being truthful? I don't know. Was it just another part of her strategy or game plan? I don't know. I'm just impartial to it.
Reality TV World: We saw you and Paul have quite the argument in the van when he was being difficult about giving you information for your new journal. What was your take on Paul as a player? Were you aware that him aggravating all the other players might be a strategy on his part?
Clay: My take on Paul, I think he's a good guy. We talked off camera. He's a good family guy, and I think that's how he plays the game.
The reason why that big blow-up kind of happened is because I had made a determination to at some point take his strategy and use it on him. It really wasn't for effectiveness -- to throw him off his game. It really was for fun to see if I could do it. It was one of those things.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised with the way Craig handed out methods of transportation during the "Travelers" mission?
Clay: No, absolutely not. Myself in the same position, I probably would have done something similar. I might have given one person a pretty good chance at completing the mission just hoping that the players would complete the mission. he might have been a little excessive, but in terms of his theory in doing it, I can't argue with that.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised at how easily the group ended up deciding not to do it and did you agree with Craig's opinion that Mark seemed to be the ringleader behind that?
Clay: I'm a guy that seems to think I'm in pretty good shape -- I run, I walk, all that stuff. Mark and I were talking, and we were saying we didn't even think it was possible if we ran the distance or did a light jog. I think he was the one who actually made that statement initially. After he said that, I was like, "You might be right." So if we couldn't do it like that, there's no way that my 225 pound body is going to do it on a unicycle. (laughing)
Reality TV World: How did you solve the final answer during last night's "Go Figure" mission and what was your reaction when Nicole arrived with an answer that didn't jive with your own?
Clay: The shear fact that I'm a child prodigy and borderline brilliant... (laughing) I do a lot of sudoku and brain teasers and all of that. I just felt like it was about time it kind of paid off. I tend to like math. I was surprised that it came in the time frame that it did. I think given anything -- if I can sit there long enough, I can figure it out. But I was surprised at the time frame, but not surprised that I solved it. Plus I had some help.
Reality TV World: Seeing as how it preceded Kristen's execution and would have allowed her to stay in the game longer, why were you so adamant about getting exemption after the "Midas Rush" mission?
Clay: I had made a determination even before signing onto do this thing that at some point in the game -- I was thinking middle of the road -- I would begin to be a little bit more assertive and aggressive. hence the Paul incident, hence the jockeying for exemption. In my kind, it was kind of to play under the radar or close to the radar in the beginning and then kind of turn on a different personality to throw some people off. It just so happened that was at that point.
Another part to it is I thought I deserved that exemption. I felt like when [Kristen, Victoria and Nicole] went around in the circle and they didn't even mention me, that I was being overlooked. I wanted them to just take that into consideration. I didn't think it would actually work. (laughing) I just wanted to give them something to think about.
Reality TV World: Why did you ultimately decide against competing in the "Dress Code" mission? I know at the time you said it had to do with "dignity and respect," but was there any strategy involved in your decision?
Clay: I just wasn't in as great shape as I would have liked to be. (laughing) No, the work that I do as an attorney is the type of position where you have to be respected. They have to respect you -- and I'm self-employed -- in order for people to give you business. And it's part of my upbringing. I won't do certain things that would shame my family -- my father and my wife. And I wouldn't do things I wouldn't want them to do. So if I'm comfortable with my family members doing it, then I certainly would not do that for any price.
Reality TV World: Was there anything you expected to be show that wasn't?
Clay: No, I don't have any familiarity with editing or that sort of thing. I think it was portrayed well, I think it was accurate.
Clay: It actually went pretty fast. When I was called, I think there were several auditions -- you send in a submission and audition. Based on that and an interview, they tried to pick certain personalities, and I guess I had one of those personalities. (laughing)
Reality TV World: Had you been a fan of The Mole during its first two seasons? What about the celebrity installments?
Clay: I had seen The Mole and I definitely enjoyed the concept of The Mole. Unfortunately because of my schedule, I really don't have much TV time. When I have TV time, because I have small boys, it's usually SpongeBob Squarepants. (laughing) In fact, I'm so happy I was on the show because now I can lobby my household and we get to watch that show every Monday night because I'm on it.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Jon Kelley before the season started, he called you a "quiet storm." What do you think he meant by that?
Clay: I have an idea of what he's saying because I get that a lot. My persona or the person that I am is just laid back. I tend to be very reserved. But I'm always in striking stance. I'm always attentive, always paying attention, always trying to stay sharp, a very good listener. I think that's what he meant. I'm always kind of lurking around and I'm there and I will capitalize if I need to.
Reality TV World: What did you think would be your strong points and what areas of your game play were you concerned about?
Clay: Some of the strong points I thought I had was being able to shield or mask who I am. I think I did that very well, I stayed very nondescript. I think I'm a good manipulator of people, although that's probably not a good quality trait to put on your resume. I think I tend to out-think people. I think I can shape conversations, shape perceptions. I think I can sometimes use other people to get my point across so I'm not directly involved -- I'm kind of behind the scenes.
One of the problems I anticipated having -- and my wife kind of scolded me before I left -- was that I tend to be very emotional at times. If I get to a certain point -- just like that "quiet storm" -- I can turn it on. A lot of people are like, "Where did this come from because Clay is not naturally this way?" It's the kind of thing I keep below the surface. That was something I was always aware of, always cognoscente of and tried to just be mindful of it.
Reality TV World: What's the reaction been like by your friends and family members who watched you on the show?
Clay: They're pretty amazed because I tend to be a very conservative person and I did a lot of those missions that were put before us. I think in a sense they're proud and they're happy I did it -- I broke the norm, I got away from work, and I did something exciting, something fun.
I think a lot of people a lot of the time take themselves to seriously. Because of that, they limit themselves and they don't do certain things. I took full advantage of it, and I'm happy I did.
Reality TV World: Overall, what was your favorite memory from the experience?
Clay: Wow, that's a toss up. My favorite memory is probably the bungee jump. I had been in Cape Town, South Africa years ago and had the opportunity to bungee jump and I didn't do it. This was kind of my redemption.