By Diane Eicher, Denver Post Staff Writer The Denver Post
BOULDER, Colo. -- Leave it to an undercover policeman to keep a big secret for more than four months.
Steven Cowles, an officer with the Boulder County Drug Task Force, knew in mid-October that he was the big winner on ABC's reality show, 'The Mole,' which pitted 10 players against each other in physical and psychological tests while one 'saboteur' tried to foil them.
He'd known since then that he was $510,000 richer - and he didn't even tell his wife.
'I probably could have told her, and she asked, but I just said I couldn't answer,' said Cowles, 30, whose big win became known to the rest of the TV-viewing world Wednesday, when the final episode ran.
How did he manage to keep mum all that time about his newfound riches? Cowles, who also works for the University of Colorado Police Department, said by phone from Los Angeles on Thursday that 'the $10 million confidentiality' contract he signed was good incentive not to blab.
Co-workers knew he'd been a contestant because he took vacation last fall for the monthlong shoot in locations around the world, including France.
He was known as just 'Steve' in early episodes. When commercials for the show started airing in December - including his picture - he was already off the undercover rotation at the drug task force, so there was no chance his professional identity would be compromised.
This week when he was summoned to Los Angeles to do promotional appearances after the win, he told his wife and colleagues he had to attend a reunion show.
Cowles said it's possible his experience with undercover work helped him win, although he also credits 'lots of luck.' But his job had offered good training in 'how to read other people and study their body language and verbal cues,' so he was better able to pick up on who was the 'mole,' he said.
He was nervous early on in the game 'because I didn't want to be the first one out, considering my job and all the stuff about Boulder,' he said, referring to law enforcement's bad rap in that town since the JonBenet Ramsey murder. But as time went on, he gained confidence and thought he had a good chance to win.
Cowles said the experience was 'my 15 minutes of fame,' and he has no plans to turn the win into a side job on television or public appearances, as did so many cast members from CBS' 'Survivor' show last summer.
'The Mole' was a cut above 'Survivor,' said Cowles, both because 'we didn't have to eat any rats' and because the players were treated to the best in accommodations while traveling.
'It was just surreal the places we stayed, everything. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll never be able to replicate,' said Cowles, who auditioned last summer in a tryout at Dave & Buster's.
He hasn't gotten his half-million-dollar stash yet; that should arrive in about a month. First up on the purchase list: 'Some nice gifts for my wife,' he said.