Peacock’s The Traitors gathers 20 people to play an truly thrilling game. It’s my favorite new show of 2023, and I know others have fallen in love with the UK and Australia versions. (I’ll have a full review and more coverage later this week.)
The Traitors, which was created in the Netherlands as De Verraders, is essentially the group game Mafia, with three of the 20 players designated as The Traitors, while the rest are The Faithful.
All the players earn money in challenges together. Meanwhile, the Traitors eliminate/”murder” a player, while The Faithful vote to eliminate players in the hopes that the Traitors get out. If Traitors are left at the end, they get all the money; if the Faithful get the Traitors out, they split the prize. It’s a terrific format.
Unlike the UK and Australia versions, half of The Traitors US cast are reality TV stars: Arie Luyendyk, Jr., Brandi Glanville, Cirie Fields, Cody Calafiore, Kate Chastain, Kyle Cooke, Reza Farahan, Ryan Lochte, Stephenie LaGrossa Kendrick, and Rachel Reilly.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed three of those players: reality TV legends and Survivor alum Stephenie LaGrossa Kendrick and Cirie Fields, and also Big Brother’s Cody Calafiore.
I was curious about their experiences, both as veteran reality competition players, and also because both Cirie and Stephanie were just recently on USA Network’s Snake in the Grass, an attempt at The Mole that didn’t quite work. While we only had about 10 minutes, they offered some interesting insight.
Do the reality TV stars have an advantage over the newbies?
Cirie: No, I think it’s actually a disadvantage because it puts a target on your back [from] the people who’ve never played. Then it blinds you, because I know Stephanie, and we played together, so I would immediately think, oh, I can trust Stephanie—but what if she’s a Traitor? So I think it’s a slight disadvantage.
The only advantage there would be is that you were on a TV show before, so you’re maybe not so concerned about the camera, but other than that, there was no game advantage.
Cody: I think it was exactly what you said earlier: We’ve been on—I guess they’re sets, but we’ve been in a production before, so we know kind of how it goes, how all this stuff flows. But other than that, this game specifically is nothing like the games that we have played.
Stephanie: The roles are given to us too. And we have no saying it so it’s almost impossible to pre-align or anything like that.
Cirie: The 10 other contestants are future reality stars—mark my word. You heard here first.
Stephanie: They’re amazing people.
Did they want to be a Traitor or Faithful?
Cody: I definitely wanted to be a Traitor. I played a little bit of a cleaner game in Big Brother; I never really did a ton of the backstabbing, villainous, manipulation stuff. So I was like, I want to get a new role, and so I was really eager to hopefully become a Traitor.
Cirie: I was just there for the adventure. To be a Traitor and potentially make it to the end, I was 100 percent in for it. I was also 100 percent in for being a Faithful and finding out who the traitors were—what what kind of badge would I get for identifying Stephanie as a Traitor, and then she’s banished? That was amazing. So the whole concept to me just was mind-blowing. I was 100 percent in.
Stephanie: I wanted to be a Faithful. I just wanted to try to an honest game; I’m not that great of a liar and keeping secrets, and I screw things up sometimes when I start talking too much.
Did Snake in the Grass help on The Traitors?
The Traitors filmed at the end of April 2022, which was after both Stephanie and Cirie filmed Snake in the Grass. Stephanie was the snake, trying to sabotage Cirie, Janelle Pierzina, and Rachel Reilly, but they identified her as the snake and won the game.
Stephanie: [Snake in the Grass] helped me realize I wanted to be a Faithful. (laughs) It did help me in a way, because the way I acted as a snake—because I was such a wreck and I was trying to not act like a snake. It did help me think of some people that were being a little suspicious: I’m pretty sure they’re a Traitor because they’re acting just like I acted when I was trying to not act like I was not the snake.
Stephanie: It’s probably how I would have acted, too, if I was a traitor. Unless I got better at lying—I did read a few books in-between.
What provided the most information about their fellow players?
Cirie: For me, it was definitely the group observation, because people have tells, and they will definitely give themselves away. Because of the heightened anxiety and paranoia in this game, it was like having a magnifying glass into some of the people’s souls basically; their actions would give them away immediately.
Cody: It was really fast-paced, so you had to observe in group settings, because a lot of the time that’s all you were really seeing. You were in lot of group settings, there wasn’t a lot of, Oh, I just had a conversation with you, now I have a conversation with somebody else, now I’m back to you, can I cross-check some of this information? It was so fast-paced that you couldn’t do that. You really needed to dial in on observing.
What were The Traitors’ challenges like?
Stephanie: The challenges were different from what we’ve had on Survivor and Big Brother. If there’s two teams, and one team wins, yes, you get the money for the pot, but you get a chance to go to [host Alan Cumming’s] armory. … And if you go to the armory, there’s treasure chests. If there’s a team of five, you each go in at a different time, and one person has a chance to get the treasure—the whatever it’s called…
Stephanie: A shield. If you get that shield, you can’t be murdered that night. So it’s beneficial for the faithful, and then it’s beneficial for a trader, because [they can] take [immunity] away.
Cirie: For me, the challenges were the time that you could let your guard down, because it was more of a team aspect, because everyone had the same goal to earn money for the pot. And during the challenges you’re so focused on the challenge you don’t have time to be scheming and discussing.
Stephanie: If anybody acted different in challenge, too, that was suspect. This person was totally stressed out, now [they’re] totally fine.
Cody: There were some things that raised like eyebrows as to some of the behaviors that people were doing during challenges. But I would agree with Cirie that it felt like the one time where we just didn’t have to worry about who’s the traitor who’s faithful. Let’s just work together and get more money in the pot.
Were other players’ suspicions obvious?
Cirie: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. The Bravo celebrities were immediately suspicious of me. I’m like, wait a minute, Brandi?! There were certain people [who] were that were outright and overtly suspicious of everyone.
Stephanie: [At] the roundtable, you literally hold your vote and tell the people to their face why you’re voting for them. That’s a whole ‘nother aspect and dynamic that none of us have ever dealt with.
Cody: I think Big Brother helped in that aspect, because I can tell when I would talk to people, I feel like they’re not really opening up, they probably are suspicious, and then you got to decide: Okay, do I try to break down that wall? Or do I just ultimately toss that one up and maybe try to target them? So it’s really tough. The dynamic is very interesting.
Stephanie: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Cirie: Our votes were so dramatic—shot it up another notch. It was just turned up more after each vote.
Stephanie: There’s arguing. People are yelling; people cry.
Cody: You walk out, and it’s like, Did we get it right or did we get it wrong? And then we walk out and it’s like, walk back to square one. We were suspicious of everybody again. It never turned off; there was never an off moment. That’s why the speed of the game was just something very different to deal with.
Stephanie: It’s hard to ever turn it off.
On Traitors host Alan Cumming
Cirie: Alan was like the fairy godfather of the castle. Alan was the most fabulous person there, and I like a lot of Bravolebrities, and Stephanie’s okay—but Alan was most fabulous person on this show.
Cody: He was performing every time he walked in.
Stephanie: He really was.
Cody: His character was incredible, like elegant but like also a little bit of spicy, and kind of mysterious. He was a great character playing as a host. He’s a perfect showman.
Stephanie: He was funny, scary, and dramatic.
How did living in a castle compare to Survivor and Big Brother?
Stephanie: Much more comfortable and beautiful. Cold!
Cirie: No comparison.
Cody: Very cold. If they did get the heat working it would probably be a little bit better.
Stephanie: Where were the space heaters?
Cirie: Well, we were making fires.
Stephanie: No flint and steel; just light a match.