Having watched all three English-language seasons of The Traitors—UK, US, and Australia—one thing is explicitly clear: This is an outstanding format. It has now produced very different games and outcomes whether a season is copied and pasted, filled with well-known TV personalities, or played by complete strangers.
All three seasons are excellent competitive reality television; I recommend them without hesitation. (They’re all on Peacock.)
The Traitors Australia was the third that I watched, and for me it had the weakest production values but the most fascinating game play, which produces several blindsides and interesting arcs for key players.
The Faithful are on to the Traitors surprisingly quickly, and use sharper logic, even when they’re wrong. And watching players go from the background to controlling the game is quite incredible.
That it looks and feels different is to be expected; it’s the one English-language version produced by a different production company.
While the editing is just fine, the production design isn’t as refined, from the sound design to the locations, though A+ to whoever designed the logo’s backdrop of a swirling colon.
The hotel that hosts the game may be old, but ends up looking more like an interstate chain that hasn’t been renovated since the 1980s, and even the best cinematography and lighting could not make its staircase seem grand.
But it’s not just the location. The Traitors Australia has some questionable production choices, like the arrangement of the breakfast room, where half the players’ backs to the door and the door itself is behind a support column.
One of the pre-banishment establishing shots of the building was a wall with windows and electrical boxes and pipes, looking like it was in desperate need of a pressure wash.
Yet it also has some inspired choices. The Traitors wear gold masks and maroon robes (which is what I think is supposed to be swirling around behind the logo).
And I absolutely love the red jumpsuits for challenges, which is a visual indication that everyone is on the same side for the missions.
Host Rodger Corser is more distanced from the players, like Alan Cumming, but doesn’t have as strong a character. But I grew to appreciate his dry humor and loving mocking the players, like calling them a “D-grade basketball team” when they show up to a mission in their tracksuits.
The game follows the same general beat, with a mission, banishment, and murder most days. When Traitors are banished, more are recruited.
The Traitors also hold a trial, though here it’s called “death row,” one of a handful of choices that really wouldn’t work in the U.S. Another example: the challenge where the players are instructed to traverse a field “without getting shot”—by paintballs, but still. That’s a daily challenge in the U.S.
I was surprised by how late the actual end game is introduced. There’s a banishment when four people are left, sending only three to the end game, instead of five like the other seasons.
One major shift from the US and UK version is that AUS’s shield works for both murder and banishment, which makes it more powerful, but it’s also public knowledge who’s protected, which perhaps mutes its power a little.
One tweak I’d like to see in further seasons is to make the Traitors’ job a little more difficult, and the shield can do that work.
While I like the idea that the shield holder is unknown to the Traitors, like a hidden immunity idol, I also liked Australia’s shield challenge, allowing a player to earn it rather than selecting it by random after a challenge win. So maybe a combination of those options, and at random points during the game? Of course, I certainly don’t want The Traitors to get anywhere near Survivor’s immunity, immunity everywhere!
The challenges sometimes felt more The Challenge games; I prefer the elaborately themed set pieces that the UK and US version gave us.
But the treetop location for the color memorization task used Australia better than any of Netflix’s The Mole locations did.
The adaptation of Squid Game’s bridge challenge was also quite clever. And I loved Australia’s spin on the lasers, which only required the players to step over the laser beams—some moving and some stationary—which turned red when interrupted.
While the challenges and set design may not have been as refined or showy, the game itself felt elevated, more brutal, less personal, and more interesting. (Spoiler alert: The rest of this review discusses the entire 12 episodes.)
The cast of The Traitors Australia is a strong mix of both personalities, backgrounds, and even ages. (Note to Peacock: casting a wider range of people makes for a better show!)
I would not have expected Lewis, the electrician—excuse me, “sparky” from “Brizzy”—to last so long, especially since when he walked in the door, he thought MK was the butler, though MK certainly oozed bullshit.
There was one casting misstep, though it also led to a fascinating mystery: Who the hell was Paul? At first, I’d see him out of the corner of my eye, and just assumed he was a grip or a hotel guest who just wandered into the shot accidentally.
But he was actually a contestant: Paul, 61, financial investigator.
I think we need to officially rename the Purple Kelly/purple edit to the Paul edit, because it’s incredible how much he was edited out of the show. At the Roundtables and challenges, he never gets any focus or attention, and is only barely noticeable in some group shots. I think it’s episode 10 where he gets his first confessional—at least, that’s the only one I remember—and also just before he gets murdered.
All the other The Traitors Australia players tended to offer suspicions based on each other’s actions more than friendships and feelings. At least, we don’t see as many of the “oh it’s definitely not x” declarations that the UK and US seasons were full of because of their relationships.
There’s a fascinating early moment when Teresa suggests a Traitor confused her with Claire in the dark, because of the way they both wore their hair. Although she’s wrong about that moment, it does lead them to correctly suspect Claire as a Traitor.
Midy correctly guesses all four Traitors, but also makes himself a target by correcting other people’s bad logic, like when someone suggested that Rodger slowing down as he circled the table was revealing.
There aren’t as many groupthink moments when the whole roundtable votes for one person, suggesting they are playing their own games. And the cast also seems less buddy-buddy and more competitive.
That’s not to say there isn’t connection or friendship, but it’s certainly not as immediate. And what’s most interesting about the relationships is that they’re very game dependent.
Kate and Teresa go after each other until they realize they should work together, at least until Kate decides she needs to turn on Teresa.
Then there’s Kate and Alex working together as Traitors who turn on each other at the final four. “There can only be one queen,” as Kate says—but it was not her.
Incredibly, all four original Traitors are banished, and while that starts happening about the same point in the game, the Faithful seem much closer to banishing a Traitor in those early roundtables. I wish there was a clearer rule about when Traitors are replaced.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Faithful voted out all the Traitors, but had no idea that they had? (And I have no idea how that charade would keep up without nightly murders!)
Of all three seasons I’ve seen, Alex has the best Traitor arc, I think. She emerges from the background, recruited because everyone likes her and no one suspects her.
Alex’s game play is truly impressive, from her emotional reactions to her flawless final strategy conversations with Kate and Craig.
And just the look she gives Craig after they banish Kate is incredible. His face shifts and he says, “Oh no.” And then she says, “I’m a Traitor, Craig.”
After being recruited, Alex incredibly and swiftly dispatches with Marielle and Nigel in back-to-back banishments—after Nigel and Marielle previously worked together to banish both Angus and Claire, who seemed rattled by how cutthroat the game became when her fellow Traitors turned on Angus.
Others, however, also played very strong games. Alex recruited Kate, the perfect choice, because Kate was both suspicious but also spot-on in nailing Traitors.
Kate worked with her former foe Teresa to blindside Marielle, who seemed like she was going to be the cutthroat Traitor who made it all the way to the end.
I’m not sure if The Traitors slipped up more, or if the other players were better at picking up on things such as Marielle’s unnecessary lie and Nigel’s curious vote for Lewis. But all around, just some really great moments.
There was some questionable play, of course. Clairvoyant medium Chloe insisted she uses her psychic abilities to “go into people’s internal bodies and pick out illnesses,” which is one hell of a thing to lie about/convince yourself of. She also told us that she chatted with Pablo Escobar before bed after watching Narcos.
Perhaps because a game where predictions are revealed to be wrong over and over again was a bad choice for someone whose profession relies on made-up predictions, Chloe dramatically walked out of the game after announcing who she thought the Traitors were.
What’s stunning is that her accusations stuck for a moment, even though her previous discussion with her “spiritual team” had her vote for Jack, a Faithful.
In a game like this, even with players as strong as The Traitors Australia players, even ridiculous, silly claims can stick. But that was the exception, and for the most part, this group played a terrific game.