Exclusive: Kristen Willeumier dishes on her 'The Mole' experience
By Christopher Rocchio, 07/03/2008
Kristen Willeumier honed in on one player like a laser and targeted that person as The Mole's fifth-season saboteur from the moment the competition began.
The strategy served her well for a few weeks until the 35-year-old neuroscientist from Santa Monica, CA became the sixth player executed from The Mole's fifth season during Monday night's broadcast of the ABC reality series.
On Wednesday, Kristen talked to Reality TV World about why her suspicions about the mole never wavered; how she used a combination of brains, athleticism and beauty to her advantage; why she doesn't think she had any weaknesses to her strategy; and her thoughts on several of the players remaining in the game.
Reality TV World: How difficult was it to know that you were executed due to one measly second?
Kristen: That goes straight to the heart. That hurt. (laughing) I was in it for the long haul and you could probably see the look on my face on camera. I was shocked, and I didn't think I was going home. I really didn't.
Reality TV World: After your execution you said your strategy was to focus on one player while taking the quiz. Explain why you adopted that strategy. Was that something you did throughout the competition?
Kristen: Yeah. When I first got there -- the very first day -- I used my intuition. I sort of really tuned in. I watched people, I watched body language. I think because I'm a scientist, I use my intuition a lot when I'm doing experiments, I just got a sense straight off the bat on who I thought it might be. As I took the quizzes, I really just focused on that one person for every quiz. Like a laser.
[Editor's note: Due to the nature of The Mole's format, ABC would not allow Reality TV World to question which contestant Kristen had believed to be the season's saboteur.]
Reality TV World: Okay, so you always focused on the same player for each week's quiz and it didn't change from week-to-week?
Kristen: Correct. Same person every week. If I thought I was off, I would have augmented my strategy accordingly. But I really honed in on someone, and every week it just grew stronger in my mind. It's either a great advantage or a great disadvantage. If you're wrong, you're out. That's how I played the game. It felt right to me.
Reality TV World: You certainly seemed to deserve the "Midas Rush" exemption like you commented, however you relented and gave it to Clay. What went into making that decision?
Kristen: I would be happy to talk about that. So during "Midas Rush," I obviously carried more bricks of gold than anyone else, I got to the top faster and I carried the scale most of the way. What was funny is both the girls -- Nicole and Victoria -- were like, "We want Kristen to have the exemption." Clay, right off the bat, just started whining and moaning and -- excuse me -- bitching about it.
I kind of looked at him and I got this sense like, "Wow, this guy's strong and he's not going to back down." The sense that I got was we either give it to him or no money was going to anyone. I had that feeling like he was going to hold out on principle like, "Kristen's already gotten one, and for her to take another one is just wrong. She should be a team player."
I got this sense like, "Oh man! You know what? Fine. If you really have to be that big of a baby, I'll give it to you." But it's because I was so sure on who I thought the mole was I took major chances on that.
Reality TV World: Clay subsequently told you he owed you one. What were you expecting him to do for you?
Kristen: He knew -- because I would come down on him hard -- he knew... If you saw the camera on him when we gave him the exemption, he was kind of looking back and forth like, "Oh man." He knew he didn't deserve it. In his heart he knew. Of course he was playing for Clay. But I was going to make him make sure that he got me back. It ended up helping me in the next mission.
Reality TV World: Nicole clearly tipped you off that she was the answer to the question host Jon Kelley asked you during the "Who Said That" mission. Do you think you would have answered that correctly without her help?
Kristen: Absolutely. She did it before the question was out of his mouth. (laughing) She started doing all of her hand-waving and blinking. But because I was with her on that first mission, she was like, "I'm not doing this." I was even shocked she did the first mission. She was like, "I'm not doing it, I'm not doing it, I'm not doing it." So it almost made sense that she was the only person during that first mission that really made a big fuss. Everybody else was really excited to try it. They were scared, but she was like, "I'm not doing it." I was like, "Oh please!" Nicole and her antics! (laughing)
Reality TV World: This might go back to how sure you were about the mole's identity, but do you regret your decision to take the key during Monday night's "All for One" mission? Did it ever cross your mind to take the exemption?
Kristen: It was so bitter cold out there that I knew -- and especially since I was the second person who had them let go -- if I left all of them sitting out there in the cold, I would have had six very pissed off people. As Craig found out in the ["Travelers"] mission, if you do something to make us mad, it's not fun. We feel like we've taken care of you, and we've had your back and you can't help us out.
So I knew if I took it -- if I was that greedy... I'll tell you, If I did not know who the mole was, I might have taken it. I don't know. If I didn't feel so sure about it, there's that chance. But I probably wouldn't have let Clay have that exemption either. (laughing)
Reality TV World: Were you surprised at how Craig approach his "transportation captain" role during the "Travelers" mission? Were you one of the players who felt he owed the group since you all supported him when he was ill?
Kristen: Yes. He owed, and he knew it. He knew he pulled a fast one on us. He got really sick on "Midas Rush," and we felt so bad for him. He was really sick at dinner and he gets to keep his journal and even in the ["All for One"] mission we let him go first. He's not feeling well, we have to take care of him.
All of a sudden with the ["Travelers" mission], he had other things he could have chosen. There was the ice cream cart, there was some motorized vehicles. I get it, I know he had to pick some on those. But for every single person he picked things that were really hard to do. I have no idea how Clay would have ridden a unicycle.
Reality TV World: Mark was the first played to opt out of last night's "Travelers" mission. Why were you so quick to follow suit? Was that a strategy on your part or did you really think it was impossible to complete?
Kristen: We all collectively were like, "Are you kidding me right now?" I think we all looked at it like that. Alex was a little more gung-ho -- but he was a conquistador, he just had to pull a donkey. He didn't have to go five miles on stilts looking for a monument in 45 minutes. Mark and I were both the runners, and we knew you'd have to run at a pretty good pace and you're looking for something. So I would never have gotten anywhere on stilts.
Reality TV World: Did you ever learn if there was in fact a twist that would have aided the players in completing that mission like Craig and Alex suspected?
Kristen: (laughing) No. We never even started the mission! Trying to think of doing something like a unicycle, I was paired with Clay. I had to be on stilts and he had to be upright on a unicycle. I already knew, "Who's going to do that?"
Reality TV World: We've seen Paul rub almost every single player the wrong way. Did you have any problems with Paul or were you able to see what he was doing as a sort of strategy?
Kristen: My mom is from New York. I've grown up with New Yorkers. I'm so used to it. I went to school on the East coast. I got a kick out of Paul. The funny thing is he just calls it like he sees it. I appreciated that. So people got scared of Nicole and Paul just kind of put people in their place. I didn't have a problem with him and vice versa -- he never had a problem with me. It worked out beautifully.
Reality TV World: We've already talked about Nicole, but how do you think she'll do considering she's the only remaining female?
Kristen: She's strong. She and I both are strong, and we actually got along. We had some shaky times in the beginning because after her death threats to Paul. I questioned her sanity. Seriously. Then it ended up just being Nicole and I and I roomed with her and I actually really liked her. She'll definitely hold her own. Absolutely.
Reality TV World: Did you form any coalitions and if so with whom?
Kristen: The very first day when I got there, Bobby and I had talked about a coalition. It never really panned out and that was probably for the best, the way the missions went. (laughing) But maybe it was with the girls, it just seemed so independent. Nobody really approached me for a coalition. So I just played the game my way.
Reality TV World: How important to you was your journal while you were taking the quizzes? Were you one of the players upset when they were tossed into the fire?
Kristen: To be perfectly honest, from Day 1 going in, I just used my mind. I just remembered things. I would use the journal to take notes. I knew -- because I've seen The Mole before -- I knew at any point in time pages of my journal could be ripped out. I knew somebody could take my journal while I'm sleeping and look at it and get notes. So I kept the basics in there, but I also tried to mentally refresh myself on what people were wearing, where people were standing.
So I really did my best to commit a lot to memory, so when the journals did get burned, I had to chuckle. I had always taken the time to make sure that I knew enough where if I lost it or it wasn't around, I wouldn't feel totally flustered.
Reality TV World: One of the things that happened duringThe Mole's second season was a mission where the producers faked the players into believing their bags had been burned, but then in the next episode revealed they hadn't really been burned. Given the way Alex gathered your journals right in front of you and such, it didn't seem like there was much chance that the burning was fake, but did any of you remember and talk about that old mission after you saw your journals burn? Did you think the journal burning could have been a fake?
Kristen: Once I saw them torched -- in my mind -- that was it. They didn't have enough time to photocopy journals. I knew they were gone. Seeing them burned with our own eyes, they're not coming back.
Reality TV World: You worked closely with Mark on some of the first few missions. Were you surprised by the way he reacted after his journal was thrown into the fire? Did you ever think he might just be using that as a ploy or do you think he was really upset about it?
Kristen: Oh, if that was a ploy than he's the greatest actor ever. I got to know Mark and it hit his heart. He was so distraught. My heart really went out to him because he was using that as a sort of means to chronicle his experiences and write to his wife. I knew, so I was sad for him.
Reality TV World: Was there anything you expected to be show that wasn't?
Kristen: We had all sort of incidents, with Lemonhead [a lemon Paul drew a face on]. (laughing) That was pretty cute. There was definitely a lot that happened and things that happened in our rooms that never got shown. But for the most part it's been pretty funny. I've loved the way the show's come out.
Reality TV World: Speaking of pretty funny, how awkward was that "When Pigs Fly" mission where you ended up wheeling Bobby around in the wheelbarrow? How did you end up being the one doing all the wheeling -- was Craig already feeling sick at that point?
Kristen: Okay... (laughing) We're all at the starting line when they said, "Go!" and I knew our team had to be together. So everyone takes off and I had our wheelbarrow and I'm hauling ass into town -- and town is like a mile or two away -- and I turn around and I look at those two jokers back at the start line. There's Bobby and Craig -- who enable one another -- Bobby with the hip and Craig's figuring, "If he's going slow, I sure don't have to exert myself.
So I turn around with my wheelbarrow and I look at Bobby and go, "Are you really that injured?" He goes, "Oh man. Really Kristen, I can't." I like Bobby, so I just said, "Get in the wheelbarrow!" He looks at me and he's like, "Really?" And I said, "Get in the wheelbarrow now!" (laughing) I knew we had to get to town and look for pigs, so I was like, "Come on!" What's funny is, Craig goes, "Do you want me to do that?" kind of in this really meek voice. I go, "No. We need to reserve your energy." (laughing)
So that was it. At first it was funny, but then he was heavy! I was like, "Oh man! What did I get myself into?"
Kristen: It was so funny. One of my dear friends -- he's been in the entertainment industry for over 20 years -- he ran across the casting. He knows me as an athlete and brain scientist. He forwarded me this email and he's like, "Kristen, you've got to do this." I remember I took a look at it, and I love The Mole. I especially loved the Celebrity Mole Hawaii. [Celebrity Mole Hawaii winner] Kathy Griffin -- I must have laughed the entire show.
I thought, "He's right. What a fun, smart show to kind of showcase all the different sides of who I am." I said, "Why not?" The premise of the email said send in a picture and say in 50 words or less why you want to be on the show. I said, "That's easy." I sent in one of my modeling shots and I think I wrote something like, "Neuroscientist, equestrian, model. Smart, savvy, sophisticated -- what better casting for a show? Look forward to hearing from you." That's how it started.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Jon before the season started, he called you a "a great combination of brains, athletics and looks." You just mentioned how you touched upon that in your email, so was that part of your strategy heading into the competition -- using those attributes to your favor?
Kristen: I am an incredible athlete. I've been a competitor out of the gate, since I was a little kid. So I knew my athletics would be strong. I also knew that most people don't know what a neuroscientist is -- they have no clues of what my daily life is. It's science -- investigating why neurons die in the brain. It's creating hypothesis and testing. My brain was wired for the game, and I knew people would not know that. Then being the tall, nice blonde girl. You think, "She's nice."
So I knew people wouldn't get who I was. I wanted to see how that would work. There's a lot of strategies involved, and just having those three different facets to who you are.
Reality TV World: We just talked about your strengths, what areas of your game play were you concerned about? Did you have any weaknesses you were aware of?
Kristen: Um... No. (laughing) No, I didn't. My brain is wired to win -- to strategize and I can change my mind accordingly but I use a combination of intuition, gut feelings and then the clues presented before me. The clues could even be people's personalities, how they act, how they address missions. I didn't see if I had a weakness. Obviously I left early, so I guess it didn't work. (laughing) But I helped the group get some money, so I was happy for that.
Reality TV World: What's the reaction been like by your friends and family members who watched you on the show?
Kristen: First of all, shock. There is not one person I've talked to -- everyone either thinks I'm the mole or the winner. People are floored that I'm gone. It's actually pretty interesting. It's a cross between people at UCLA and [Cedars-Sinai Medical Center], people here in Chicago. They had a big party for me here at Harry Caray's restaurant, actually the night I got executed. People's jaws dropped. They're like, "What!? What do you mean you're gone!?" So it's interesting. People are like, "We're not watching the show anymore." It's been kind of surprising.
Reality TV World: Overall, what was your favorite memory from the experience?
Kristen: Oh my god. There's so many. Even breaking it down to two, my two favorite things were jumping over the falls, that was incredible. Then racing up the Andes. Who ever will get to that location and get to do that kind of a challenge. That was incredible.
(Photo credit ABC)
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