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Is The Traitors UK better than Traitors US? Recaps and a review

Is The Traitors UK better than Traitors US? Recaps and a review
The Traitors UK season 1 host Claudia Winkleman (Photo by BBC)

If there’s one thing better than The Traitors’ outstanding and thrilling “ultimate game of deception, skill, and trust,” as The Traitors UK host Claudia Winkleman says in the opening moments, it’s another season—and there are actually three available in the US right now: UK, US, and Australia.

This weekend, I finally watched The Traitors UK, eager to see if it matched or exceeded what The Traitors US delivered, as so many have said.

Since the two seasons have the same basic location, challenges, and format—with some notable changes—it’s a unique opportunity to see how a different cast plays the same basic game, and also to see how those changes affected the game.

Since The Traitors US filmed first, I’m especially curious what changes were inspired by the production tweaking the format, and which were inspired by their respective networks. Some of the network-level decisions are obvious, of course: Peacock split the cast with half reality stars, while The BBC ordered more episodes.

The Traitors UK is definitely not just a carbon copy of the US version: The tone is gentler, the music poppier, the shots of nature and the Scottish Highlands even more gorgeous and sweeping.

A group of 23 people posing in front of a castle at dusk, with its windows glowing yellow
The cast of The Traitors UK season 1, with host Claudia Winkleman (Photo by BBC)

Claudia Winkleman does not play the same character Alan Cumming does, and is instead a generally supportive, encouraging host, right there beside the contestants. Her presence is great, but it can’t quite compare to Alan stalking down the staircase in his fabulous attire, or his pronunciation of “mur-der.”

A notable difference: the maximum prize is £120,000 (about USD $144,000) instead of $250,000.

Both seasons are exceptionally well-cast. While the players experience some intense emotions in The Traitors US—for some, those emotions were still raw during the reunion almost a year later—the UK version has so much more emotion. By that, I mean crying.

While there are moments of tension, there is not as much open conflict, which is both more pleasant to watch and also seems to represent a reluctance to engage the game directly. So many UK players are just like, I am 100 percent confident! That person is my friend!

I’ll discuss this more below, where I break down each of the 12 episodes, focusing on moments that stood out to me.

I’m certainly not attempting to transcribe each episode or duplicate the experience of watching, which would be impossible. The Traitors is a show to watch and enjoy, after all.

Before I get into spoilers and game play, to answer my own question from the headline, here are the things I liked better about the UK version:

  • The Traitors’ job is harder: their seduce/murder choices, the addition of more shields, the kiss of death
  • The smart tweaks to many of the missions, plus great new missions
  • More casual moments, including game talk (maybe due to longer running times, or just editing choices?)
  • The UK version is more honest, like about the fact that the cast is not sleeping in the castle, and that the players don’t know how many Traitors there are
  • A great range of people, in ages and backgrounds, who are all new to reality TV
  • The logo

The things I liked better about the US version:

  • The tone of the episodes
  • Alan Cumming’s hosting—though Claudia Winkleman is fantastic, just so different
  • The more openly cutthroat game play
  • No dumb twist of bringing in two people who haven’t been there for days
  • The bigger characters (e.g. Kate), even though I ultimately did not like splitting the cast between reality stars and people who are new to reality TV

So I think I like the arc of The Traitors UK’s game better, while I liked The Traitors US as more of an immersive television experience.

But both seasons are excellent, A-level reality television. Choosing between the two is like arguing over two different first class seats on a brand-new jet: same flight, same level of comfort, in the hands of people who know what they’re doing, just different views.

The Traitors UK season 1 episodic recaps

BBC One helpfully named its episodes using just numbers. Use these to jump to individual recaps:

Episode 1

I ultimately wish Peacock had not split The Traitors US cast between reality stars and newbies—though my dream would be they’d produce two seasons a year, one with all reality TV stars and one with unknown players.

But it absolutely made it easier to get to know the cast, and with 22 people introduced on The Traitors UK, I was just not quite able to latch on to any right

Thankfully, the producers made that easier by dumping two players right away.

Claudia Winkleman greets the players and asks them to line up based upon how likely they think they are to win. Interestingly, Amos, a doctor, walked with Andrea to the front of the line, stepping in front of Imran, a scientist.

But then Amos went to the end of the line, joining Kieran, who said he was there because he had “no expectations.”

The humility backfires. “Every decision you make, every single one, has a consequence,” Claudia says. “I am going to take you at your word, so I’m afraid it’s goodbye.”

This establishes Claudia as a sort of brutal despot. “Claudia is a savage,” Theo says, and Andrea says she wanted to “throw [Claudia] over the banister”! But as we’ll see, this is an aberration for Claudia.

Before it’s time to choose the Traitors, there are some introductions, and we learn Maddy is an actor (“I did play Lady Macbeth, and we were in a castle”) who will hide that from others, while Alex and Tom, the magician, are in a relationship, but hiding it from the other players.

I was really expecting the producers to choose either Alex or Tom as a Traitor to create a lot of drama, but instead—after each player sits down with Claudia for a chat—she chooses:

  • Alyssa, 21, a business student
  • Wilfred, 28, a fundraiser
  • Amanda, 54, an estate agent

After the blindfolds come off, Wilfred—who we’ll come to know as both “Will” and “Wilf”—tells us he’s “busy trying to not attract any attention.” He asks, “can we all drink some water?” and everyone laughs and toasts.

But Nicky didn’t take a sip of water, and Alyssa noticed, deciding that could be something to be used against her, which is not a bad idea since there is so very little to go on, especially at this early stage.

Nicky actually worries “I’ll probably get murdered now,” but it’s not for her rejection of group hydration, but for taking control in the first mission.

Before that, though, the players sit around and chat, some wanting to jump into the game and others not so much. Aaron declares that he’s confident it’s not Amanda; Rayan thinks Alyssa will be a help finding the Traitors. Off to a great start!

Then it’s off to burn the beasts in a repeat of the same mission from The Traitors US, but with some changes—notably that the boats retrieving the flame are not going to the middle of the lake, and they also cannot return until their team has finished assembling and soaking the wick.

Imran is immediately annoyed that “everyone old is on our team,” to which Wilfred says that their team has the brains. Cue Rayan heaving. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because the teams don’t matter in this mission, because there’s no shield, and both teams finish in time.

Afterwards, they sip cocktails and there’s no real game talk. We do learn Matt has a crush on Alex, and Tom can only watch. Kinky!

The first night means the first murder, and as the bell tolls, they hug goodbye, and leave for their hotel. Claudia makes this explicit: “all the players are taken to their individual lodgings where they’re not allowed to see or talk to anyone,” she says. Then the Traitors come back.

This is the same way the US version worked, though the show pretended they all stayed overnight upstairs. (However, each player did have their own room in the mansion for downtime.)

Alyssa is thirsty for blood (“I have the power to kill off who I want. To be honest, it’s thrilling”) and Wilfred sees himself as a ghost (“it’s like we’re invisible”).

They decide that Nicky, Fay, and Imran are too obvious as targets. Alyssa points out that, because Theo called out Imran, they could murder Theo, and everyone would suspect Imran—but Wilf also thinks a few steps ahead. If the Faithful banish Imran, they’d know they were going the wrong direction.

Wilfred says they ultimately decide on a plan that will create a “ripple effect of people voting for each other.” Alyssa says, “I really love this person, but the Traitors’ job is to murder.”

Episode 2

It’s more than 2 full minutes of recap, and then a repeat of some of the footage we already saw, before breakfast starts. Once again, the producers saved those the Traitors targeted as the last to come into the breakfast room.

Theo and Andrea were the last to show up to breakfast, and it was Aisha who was murdered for reasons, I guess. It seems the best move this early is to go for someone random and unexpected?

Imran tells us it’s his strategy “to lie by telling the truth, 90 percent of the time, also referred to as the 90/10 strategy,” and also referred to as being excruciatingly annoying. Meanwhile, Claire is convinced she can spot liars.

Nicky, we learn, lost her right hand in a car accident at age 22, when her kid was four years old. If she wins The Traitors, she says, “I’d just get the hand” and “realize my dream of having two working hands again.” Oh good god, just give her the money now!

The second mission is not being buried alive, but instead the third mission from the American series: the tolling bells. They’re split into groups, and play the bells.

This is when I realized that there’s no Fergus this season, but that makes sense because Claudia is not playing a castle-dwelling game master. Instead, she’s a cheerleader. “I want you to get this right,” she says, and at one point yells at them to hurry and says, “sorry to shout!” They end up getting all but one song correct, with some funny moments of being wrong along the way.

The house’s momentum is building toward Nicky, because she didn’t raise her glass with everyone, and she says that’s because she doesn’t have her right hand, and the glass was to her right. That makes perfect sense—and then also doesn’t, because why not just reach over with her left hand?

Ultimately, it’s a dumb reason to vote someone out, but it’s all they have so far. That specious argument puts her on the defensive. “You’re wrong—but you’ll find that out if and when I go,” she says, telling us “they all just jumped on that bandwagon.” That is very much The Traitors’ way.

Meanwhile, Aaron accuses Imran over his body language, who instead uses verbal language to express what a dick he can be: “us young folk don’t make judgements without evidence.” Fair point except for that whole “us young folks” bullshit.

Imran accuses Faye (over her “intense looks” ugh), who was the one who first accused Nicky, so the finger pointing is a literal circle, and ends up where it started: Nicky, who couldn’t overcome that bandwagon effect.

One thing I love about this game is the immediate feedback the players get about how wrong they are—not that it stops them from being wrong again!

Alyssa cries and says they are genuine tears for Nicky, telling the others, “this is all really tough.”

Imran laments the “herd mentality,” which can suck, yes, but literally you are playing a game in a herd! Figure out a way around that.

For the next murder, The Traitors decide that it’s “better to give them confusion than a strategy to follow,” as Alyssa says.

Episode 3

The murder victim is Claire. Matt says whoever murdered Claire is an “arsehole.” Wilf says his Traitor strategy is to “befriend and betray,” and thus he is sad about his friend Claire’s exit, and is comforted by Andrea.

and this triggers Theo to think Imran is behind it, because Claire was Theo’s BFF.

Maddy starts to theorize that Aaron’s banishment vote for Imran was to deflect, and floats Wilfred’s name—including in front of Alyssa. It’s fascinating to see Maddy be so right (about Wilf) and so wrong (about Aaron).

For the challenge, they’re off to the “Fun Fair,” as Claudia describes it. It’s Alan Cumming’s wheel, including the skeletons. Claudia makes the same joke Alan Cumming did about them, but how funny would it have been if she’d said it was several Americans, i.e. The Traitors US players left behind?

I honestly think this “what does everyone think about each other” challenge comes too early, especially this season, because they don’t really know each other, nor do they have strong enough relationships to feel betrayed. Like, Fay is voted the most ruthless and most two-faced (ugh), but what does that accomplish?

Meryl is thrilled to be selected, saying, “this is my first time being on a roller-coaster.” In an interview later, she says, “I know it doesn’t really count” as a coaster. But she has a blast being flipped upside down repeatedly, and it’s fun contrast to those who were clinging to their harnesses for dear life.

After the challenge, we start to see some personalities arise. Aaron tells us that he has ADHD and gets excited about learning new things (I can identify, Aaron!). “I get really curious. I ask a lot of questions,” he says.

Yet his friendly questions about John’s career as a massage therapist (asked while John is massaging Andrea’s neck) irritate John, probably because John is irritable. Then John says he’s “100 percent” that Amanda is not a Traitor, and Matt agrees.

Alyssa tells Will about Maddy floating his name, and assures him that both she and Amanda defended him. “Promise? Promise? I don’t want to be fucked over,” Will says. FORESHADOWING!

At the Roundtable, Maddy accuses Aaron, and Alyssa calls Aaron Ted Bundy, which is a little much since she was the one to be “thrilled” to “have power to kill off who I want.”

All of the accusations, betrayals, and and paranoia can get to people, but the degree to which all of this affects The Traitors UK players becomes clear when, after Aaron starts getting votes, he breaks down, leaving the Round Table room. We see him outside, being consoled by producers, who tell him to “breathe in.” He’s clearly having a panic attack.

“I fucked up,” Wilfred says, while they wait. Aaron returns, and the votes continue, and Imran’s votes add up until he’s banished. He is, of course, a Faithful.

Before they depart, John first asks Wilf why he was so emotional about Claire, and Maddy suspects WIlf because Aaron was so upset about the vote. Then John decides to confront Aaron, yelling at him—even blaming Aaron for his raised voice, claiming Aaron is being “disrespectful.” Then John tells Aaron his panic attack was “a tad dramatic.” Who’s being disrespectful? For fuck’s sake.

The Traitors learn that there will be no murder, but instead, they must put people on trial. And if emotions are rising, well…

Episode 4

Episode four is when The Traitors UK really starts climbing its exponential climb on the drama and emotion axises. The first 2.5 episodes are fine, but this is the episode that’ll either hook you or not.

At breakfast, Alex and Tom arrive together, so they can have a few moments together. Matt joins them, telling us that “she’s such a gem.”

Eventually, everyone shows up, and Claudia tells them about the trial: Ivan, Alex, and John.

Alex immediately asks if a Traitor can be on Trial. Ivan starts crying, and Aaron consoles him by rubbing his leg. We could use more of this affection between men on American reality TV.

The man-on-man action is only the start of the drama. “Alex is Faithful,” Tom insists, and gets more and more heated until he explodes.

“Guys, straight up, straight up, this is a lot,” Tom stands up and tells everyone. “Alex isn’t a traitor, straight up, she’s my girlfriend.” He later tells us “I just panicked.”

Wow!

There’s total chaos, as if Tom has just exposed peeled off his face and revealed he was an alien. “What the fuck is going on?” Hannah asks.

Tom uses his sudden goodwill to accuse both Ivan and Hannah, saying that, as a magician, “I read people like books.” Alas, Tom cannot read.

“Fuck this, fuck this,” Hannah says, crying. John says, “We’ve all gone from zero to a thousand, and it’s all gone crazy.” If John is saying this, you know things are truly nuts.

Tom tells Matt, “Matt, you made it hard,” which is probably accurate in more ways than one. Matt starts crying and buries his head because of his friendship is destroyed.

Meanwhile, the Traitors are thrilled. “We couldn’t have picked a better pawn,” Amanda says. “Nobody believes any of them.”

In another brilliant move by Magic Tom, he tells Ivan directly that Ivan is a Traitor, but suggest they work together to get Hannah out. Ivan’s like: you suck at this game, and Ivan is right.

Meanwhile, John again accuses Aaron of faking his panic attack, saying, “you should have gotten an Oscar for that performance, while Maddy calls them “crocodile tears.” Speaking of those, John later storms out and says, “I’m taking one for the team—put my name on that card.”

The challenge is a new one for The Traitors UK: “observation and communication through the medium of sheep,” as Claudia explains.

In groups, they must describe a sheep to a player, who has to find it. Each sheep is named after one of the players, which is cute, and there are periodically Traitor sheep added to the mix.

Ivan’s team gets the most right, and has a bonus round: two minutes to herd all the sheep for £1,000. “Green team, we are all collectively behind you,” Claudia told them, watching from a hilarious perch on a tractor. Matt is stunned at how fast the group rounds up the sheep. “I just couldn’t believe it,” he says.

I am stunned at how convinced Tom is of his own brilliance. He admits “my ego needs to catch a Traitor”, and then calls out a traitor in the car without saying who that person is.

He tells, us “I really feel like I know what’s going on here.” Narrator: He doesn’t.

At the Roundtable, Matt cries again because of “the way we spoke to each other” which he says were “absolutely disgusting,” and says that elsewhere, “we would never have spoken to each other like that.” He says, “it really, really upset me.” He wants everyone to “be nice,” and Andrea agrees.

Ivan insists there is a “maximum one Traitor among us three” who are on trial, because two Traitors on trial would mean the possibility of having to murder a Traitor, should the Faithfuls banish the only Faithful on Trial.

It’s a great theory, but it doesn’t save him from ultimately being banished.

My favorite moment, though, comes from Tom babbling on about Ivan and Hannah, and Hannah finally saying, “vote me out—I can’t listen to this guy speak another word.”

Then Hannah points out the obvious: “you two have come in here and lied since you started.”

Alex and Tom don’t get much heat because there are others to be named.

Maddy again calls out Wilf. “you were the one vote that inspired Aaron to have a panic attack,” she says, saying that, “if we’re right about Wilf … we know our next move,” which would be Aaron.

There’s also conversation about Alyssa, but Magic Tom, Genius Thinking Person turns the heat off of her: “Does anyone think Alyssa is a Traitor?” He does tell us that he’s suspicious, but that he wants to “possibly manipulate her to keep me in.”

Ultimately, there are six votes for Ivan, six votes for Alex, plus Maddy votes for Wilf, while Alyssa and Andrea votes for Hannah.

While there’s a tie, Claudia gives it away that there won’t need to be a tiebreaker: “one of you is about to be banished,” she says in some voice-over. But who is that? We’ll have to wait until…

Episode 5

The Alex or Ivan cliffhanger is resolved. Andrea says she finds Alex’s lying “morally, morally wrong. But I’m going with Ivan.”

It’s Ivan who leaves, saying he has “no hard feelings” and “this was fun.” His exit was brilliant, as he called out his accuser: “Tom, this was your big flourish, and here’s the prestige” (You can tell Ivan is a writer!) “That was not my card. I’m a Faithful.”

Tom tells everyone, “Kill me tomorrow, kill me tomorrow.” Basically, the theme of episode 4 and 5 is Tom Blows It.

At the murder, there are now two choices: Alex or John. The Traitors choose John, which is fine with me, since he was such an assclown to Aaron.

I agree with the Traitors’ decision to leave Alex, which gives the Faithful two people to focus on as outright liars.

After breakfast, it’s time for the confessional: Forgive me, Claudia, for I am a terrible mind-reading magician! Yes, it’s the mission in the chapel with all the masked congregants.

From her confessional booth, where she’s giving team members clues, Claudia has some zingers that are just as good as Alan Cumming’s. “Come on guys, get it,” she says at one point. “Let’s build the prize fund, otherwise I’ll have to spend that money on eyeliner. Nobody wants that.”

There are two critical things about this challenge:

  1. The team versus team matters, because for the first time, immunity in the form of the shield is available to one team member
  2. After the challenge ended, Claudia asked two congregants to unmask, and they were Kieran and Amos.

Eliminating them on day one? Sucky! Having them as congregants? Funny! Bringing them into the game? Bullshit.

This is The Traitors UK’s worst producing decision for me; they’ve missed out on one-third of the game, and we know how I feel about people who’ve been out of the game re-entering.

“You can only leave The Traitors if you are murdered or banished,” Claudia says, failing to sell this justification.

Since they haven’t been in the game, it seemed like they were automatically Faithful, but Claudia tells us they are “joining you as Faithful or Traitors,” and we see them open letters.

Both, it turns out, are Faithful. It also turns out they don’t get a vote at the Roundtable, but they do get immunity. Ugh.

Meanwhile, Claudia tells us that the shield “protects you from death, not democracy,” which is a terrific line. After donning a knight’s helmet and probably making the set decorator livid, Tom gets the first shield.

But can he make it to the murder to be saved?

At the Roundtable, Maddy tries again to get everyone to vote for Will, and then Aaron. She’s half-right, insisting “a Traitor has backstabbed another Traitor.”

Alex calls out Alyssa because she has “only spoken when spoken to,” but the group is not yet sold on Alyssa.

Maddy votes for Will yet again, but everyone who’s not Tom and Alex vote for Alex and Tom. Andrea votes by saying, “you actually made a monumental fuck-up yesterday.” LOL I love her.

Tom is banished, and when revealing he’s a Faithful, Meryl says, “I knew it,” which Maddy calls “a bit dodgy.” I am quite surprised Maddy has escaped votes, despite consistently calling people out, and voting against the group. Or maybe that proves she’s a Faithful because she’s just doing her own thing and not trying to hide?

While I don’t love Amos and Kieran returning to the game, their presence does provide interesting new perspective, and will continue to do so.

“I’m a bit shocked about how quickly things have descended into Lord of the Flies,” Amos tells us, suggesting that in just four days, the players have been “corrupted by the game into being super-paranoid.”

It’s time for the next murder, and the Traitors decide upon Fay, Matt, or Andrea, with the rationale that they’ll confuse people.

Episode 6

The murder victim is Matt, whose primary storyline was his crush on Alex and friendship with Matt, so it seems like the Tom vortex swallowed him up, too.

In a moment that feels a little out of character—or maybe trying to figure out the character—Claudia tells the players, “you’ve upset me, because Matt has gone,” and adds, “I need you to have a think about what you’re doing. You’ve lost eight.”

Amos, who’s new to the game and will later tell us, “I’m not going to win this game” , uses that clarity? lack of emotional connection? to tell everyone that they need to pay more attention to Maddy’s theory. “Logically, Maddy becomes more right” with each banishment and murder, he says. Maddy keeps voting for Wilf; everyone keeps ignoring her because Wilf couldn’t possibly be a Traitor, they just love him so much.

The mission is the buried-alive challenge, with the winning team getting a pass to the armory. One significant change from the US version: the buried have a safe word to get them out: “haggis” and their name. No one uses it, alas!

There are some fun moments, like when Meryl’s team finally connects with her, and she says, “This is Meryl. I am buried alive” over and over, even though they already know that, or Alex jumping in her coffin when her radio made a static noise.

Despite her earlier admonishment to the players, Claudia is back being supportive. “Listen, you’ve got to get them out, fast!” she tells everyone. They manage to get everyone out in time, with Aaron, Alex, Amanda, Hannah, and Theo getting the fastest time and wining the armory pass.

Amanda, the one person who does not actually need it, gets the shield, and tells us, “this is brilliant!”

What’s more brilliant, however, is what happens at the roundtable: the first time the Traitors turn against each other. In an amazingly coincidental move, it’s at the end of the sixth US episode (really, the start of the seventh) that Cody is banished, turned on by his fellow traitors.

Wilf tells us that he just “can’t chance having my name come up more than once,” and later says that the way to save his own hide is to throw someone else under the bus: “We have to find one to leave me alone.”

Amos says the Faithful are the ones who are paranoid, which is a heck of an observation, and thus calls out Wilf for his lack of paranoia. “This probably means you’re a Traitor,” he says, adding that he also wanted to “dismiss of Maddy’s suggestions that were given” and “we need to give those thoughts credence.”

Meryl, never one to miss a moment to shift the momentum away from an actual Traitor, calls out Maddy.

Theo, meanwhile, tells Will, “you look very, very nervous tonight.”

So Will deflects: “I’m going to vote for Alyssa,” he says, and Alyssa’s eyes popping open should be a GIF. Alyssa tries to argue that “he’s deflecting” Maddy’s accusation, but the heat is back on Alyssa.

This is a good time to bring up Will’s concern that Alyssa didn’t adequately defend him when his name came up (“Promise? Promise? I don’t want to be fucked over”), and now here he is doing the fucking over. But: that’s a good play, both in terms of self-preservation and being on the offensive against a Traitor going after him (even though ultimately this is a defensive move).

I’m so fascinated by how The Traitors US votes were either unanimous, or close to it, while The Traitors UK doesn’t have that kind of consensus. We end up with one vote for Maddy, one for Meryl, two for Rayan, five for Wilf, and six for Alyssa, with her fellow Traitor Amanda casting that final vote.

Upon revealing her Traitor status, Alyssa cries, “I’m so sorry,” and walks away crying, with Hannah shouting after her, “don’t be sorry, Alyssa.”

Incredibly, despite almost being voted out and revealed as a Traitor, Will cries and gets comforted by everyone, who are suddenly convinced he’s a Faithful, I guess. Maddy, my hero, is unfazed: “it still could be him, though.”

Kieran insists “you can’t fake emotion to that level.”

The remaining Traitors get a choice: murder someone, or try to seduce a Faithful. If they invite a Faithful and that person rejects them, there’s no murder.

When Claudia comes to get their decision, she hilariously tells Amanda and Wilf, “just so you know, I’m in. I’m joking!” But the person who the Traitors invited, Alex, may not be as enthusiastic.

Episode 7

Alex ends up declining the offer to become a Traitor, and chooses not to tell everybody at breakfast. Since she does eventually come out with it at the Roundtable, I’m not sure if delaying is the best move, especially since people already suspect her because of her Magic TomTom lies.

She does, however, tell Amos, who says she should be “watching who targets you,” and later tells her that if she’s going to reveal it, it has to be at that Roundtable, no later, which I think is sage advice.

Before the mission, Wilf is talking a lot, and starts to tip into Traitors US Christian territory for me, like he’s overplaying. Meanwhile, Fay has detected a change in Maddy’s behavior, but not one she can articulate: Maddy “just seems different, I don’t know why,” she says. Ah, evidence!

The mission is the whiskey barrel roll, which is basically the same as it played out in the US version, with players equally exhausted from the physically demanding course.

The only real difference is that the barrel task did not come during the trial, so there weren’t three people advocating for keeping the armory barrels. Also, Andrea and Meryl got to use a boat to cross the river for safety.

In total, there are 15 barrels worth £10,000, and The Traitors UK is clearly challenging Netflix’s The Mole for how cheap it is. (The BBC, I know!). There are also five armory barrels.

Wilf tells us that “it’s really nice to give my brain a break from pretending” during missions, and I think that’s something I like about them, too: it’s a chance to take a breath from the game and its emotions, and also appreciate watching the group work together, sometimes having fun and sometimes just going uphill through literal pig shit together, as they do here.

I loved the US version of this challenge in part due to Alan Cumming’s commentary during it, while sitting in his chair and sipping whiskey. Claudia is doing no such thing, and this is a good example of the difference between their hosting.

From the distillery, she was not sitting, enjoying a glass of whiskey, but standing, saying, “There is one hour left—bring those barrels to me!”

Even without Alan, there’s plenty of entertainment, like Amanda identifying the smelly mud as pig shit, and Maddy telling us, “because she’s from Wales, I genuinely believe she knows the difference between the different smells.” Shade!

We also get a really lovely moment from Andrea, who tells us that she lives alone, since her wife of 26 years died. “I really love these people,” she tells us, and it’s clear she appreciates the adventure. I was also convinced she was about to be banished/murdered after this reveal.

Fay and Theo and Hannah argued for dropping armory barrels to get a £4000 one instead, which made Alex suspicious, because she thinks the Traitors don’t want people to get armory passes.

Ultimately, they earn £8,400, plus three armory passes. In the two minutes Claudia gives them to decide, they choose Andrea, Fay, and Theo for the passes, with people arguing for Meryl at first but Meryl saying Theo deserved it more.

Fay ultimately gets the shield, but Wilf tells us none of them are targets, so it doesn’t matter.

Before the Roundtable, Rayan tells us that “you can tell when the walls are closing in around you in this castle,” and that’s what he feels.

At the Roundtable, Alex tells everyone about the Traitors offer, and pauses dramatically to search the room with her eyes. “I’m just taking in everyone’s reactions right now,” she says.

Amos brings up Andrea because she’s “never been challenged,” and between that and just learning she’s a lonely widowed lesbian I am crying that she’s about to go home. And then Andrea cries, insisting she’s a Faithful and saying, “I’m so happy to be one … you can judge whatever you like—I’m trying my best.”

Maddy accuses Meryl, who says “it’s exhausting.” Aaron reminds everyone of Maddy’s theory, saying “people are either going to come after me or Wilf.”

Aaron does end up with two votes, and Maddy with three, but Rayan gets the most, perhaps because his quieter gameplay was similar to Alyssa.

The Traitors again have a choice: recruit or murder? I like that they’re given more obstacles and choices, since in many ways they have the upper-hand in the game.

Amanda says they need to get the Faithful to “start disliking each other,” and they consider Amos a threat to learning their identity, and Alex’s closeness to him as another threat. Who will it be?

Episode 8

Before we learn the Traitors’ murder victim, Maddy has some info to share, now that she was so close to being banished: “I’ve got nothing to lose and I actually don’t mind everyone knowing,” she says, revealing that she does in fact work in a care home, but also was an actor with a small part on EastEnders. “I haven’t lied about my job, I just haven’t said it,” she says, unconvincingly.

Theo’s exasperated: “If you’re Faithful, stop lying; it’s not hard. The only people that should be lying here are the Traitors.”

While Maddy’s confession seemed less spontaneous than Tom’s blow-up of his own game, I just do not see the point. If someone recognized her from EastEnders, she could be like, Yeah, I did that! And now I’m working in a care home, so acting just isn’t my thing!

Why admit that she’s been concealing things? Maddy explains: “it’s made me so happy—I can finally tell stories.” So, yes, being your authentic self is easier, but do that from the start, not mid-game that’s about deception!

Meanwhile, Hannah calls Wilf “a really, really good friend” and “friends for life,” and later says she’s “100 percent” sure about him and “Wilf has proven himself over and over again.” While the parallels are not exact, there’s another Andie-Cirie situation developing here.

It’s time to find out if Amos or Alex was murdered, and that brings me to one of my favorite parts about breakfast on the UK show: the way Aaron grips whoever is sitting next to him, cowering as if what’s about to come through that door is some kind of evil monster.

Amos enters; Alex is out. Meanwhile Kieran says they should “expect the unexpected.” Wrong show!

The mission is the escape room in the cabins, which has been considerably altered since we saw it in the US version. The BBC also chooses not to lie to us and pretend there are two cabins, and instead just says the two teams will take turns. How hard is that?

Claudia asks the players, “Did anyone wash their hair today?” and then says, “I cannot apologize enough.”

However, instead of having worms and things rain down upon them, the players with the combination lock instead are doused with freezing-cold water. The other group doesn’t have to count rats and such, but instead has to weigh all the maggots, worms, and fish in the room.

I like this version better, along with the more-complicated exit for the weighting room: once free, the cold and wet people have to retrieve pieces of fishing rod, assemble it, and give it to the other group so they can retrieve a key, while smoke and water flood their room.

Just like the US version, the people getting doused scream and scream, and some players are literally paralyzed. Theo just stands in the weighing rom, not doing anything.

Both teams exit, but one team is 40 seconds too late, meaning they don’t get that money and that team has no shot at the shield.

Maddy ultimately gets the shield, but will her revelation as an actor get her banished before she can use it, just like Tom?

The losing team decides they will target Maddy, but ultimately that does not matter, because there is no Roundtable!

Instead, Claudia sends them to a fancy dinner party—and reveals that the night’s murder will occur in plain sight. One of the Traitors must give a “kiss of death” to the person they want to murder.

I do like making this hard for the Traitors, since they have the upper-hand. “Why is this game never straightforward, man?” Wilf asks. However, Amanda points out that this is actually quite easy, as “everybody kisses everybody goodnight.”

But things will not be so easy for the players. During a very nice dinner, Andrea asks everyone to be her friend and I am not crying again, and Theo says “you can be yourself and a bunch of strangers will always accept you for who you are” and then calls Kieran his daddy—I mean, “father figure.”

Then Claudia appears. There’s a game! And The Traitors UK shifts firmly into The Mole territory, and I am here for it.

Claudia asks all the players to stand, and asks for a volunteer. It’s Amanda, who must choose who she trusts the most. Theo already starts shaking and crying just from the thought of what might be happening, and the other players look striken.

After Amanda chooses Theo, she sits down, and Theo picks the remaining person he trusts the most, and so on.

Here’s how it plays out: Amanda -> Theo -> Andrea -> Amos -> Kieran -> Will -> Fay -> Aaron -> Hannah -> Meryl

That leaves Maddy standing. She’s distressed, but it was just that morning she revealed she’d lied to them. Oh Maddy. So close to the Traitors, and such a bad move.

Maddy gets the “pudding”: an offer to take the £3,000 they made on the cabin mission, or put it in the fund and continue, perhaps with the players’ trust.

She knows they don’t trust her, so take the money! I mean, £3,000 is not that much, but a bigger bribe? Sure.

“Take the money and run, please, Maddy,” Andrea whisperes under her breath. But Maddy says, “I’m a team player; I’ll just stay in.” Maddy later regrets this, noting, “I was more concerned about pleasing people” and says “they’re going to think I’m a right idiot.”

While that will reverberate, that dinner game may be the single-most impactful thing that happens all season, in the sense that what happens there continues to resonate. Hannah, for example, is hurt by Will’s choice of Fay instead of her.

Even after that, The Traitors have the kiss of death to do, so they decide on someone without the shield: Aaron, Andrea, Amos, or Theo.

The gongs go off, and we see everyone walking outside, but Amanda confirms to us that “the deal was sealed.”

Episode 9

At breakfast, Theo tells us that Amanda is “another safety blanket for me,” which is about as safe as being wrapped in tissue paper. It’s so fascinating how people’s desire for connection outweighs with each other allows them to overlook even the possibility that their BFFs could be playing them.

Also coming into play: bizarre logic. Because Maddy chose to stay and return the money to the pot, Fay tells her, “it’s confirmed you’re a faithful now.” What? Confirmed?!

Amos, murdered, cannot recall who gave him the kiss of death, but in a flashback we see Amanda kiss him on the cheek and he tells her, “you’re great.” LOL oops!

Claudia tells the players that Amos’ “fate was sealed at last night’s party,” which generates some conversation later, but there wasn’t more dissection of that statement. Of course, I know what happened, but if they thought about the language—what seals someone’s fate?—maybe they’d be able to narrow it down? Then again, if the person murdered has no idea, maybe not!

Claudia also tells them “there are Traitors still in your midst,” and I am now officially obsessed with whether or not her plural of Traitors is a major clue/spoiler or just the language she’ll always use.

Theo suspects Aaron or Faye; Hannah thinks Kieran is guilty; Maddy floats Wilf and Aaron yet again, in front of Aaron. There’s a new piece of evidence, too: Maddy says Amos suspected Wilf.

For the mission, it’s another new challenge, though it’s a version of a challenge reality TV fans may recall from 2001.

In groups, they go on “a truth hunt,” arriving at decision points where they have to answer questions based on how the group voted. For example, did the group think Meryl would commit an illegal crime for £1 million? The answer was true.

At each question, they follow a path to either true or false. The game doesn’t end if they answer incorrectly, though; they just lose time going down the wrong path.

Kind of like the carnival game, I’m not sure the questions really do much to reveal anything useful. For example, the group thinks Fay is the most-controlling player, and that doesn’t seem to phase her: “I’m a point guard—you need to control this match.”

The fastest team gets armory access, and Meryl gets the shield—and immediately tells Wilf. She tells us, “I trust Wilf with my life” but also adds, “my mouth gets me in trouble.”

One thing that The Traitors UK has more time for are smaller moments and more in-depth conversation. We see Aaron and Andrea hitting a shuttlecock around on the lawn, for example.

At the Roundtable, Theo is voted out, crying as people vote for him.

Amanda also votes for him, which sends up huge red flags, including for Hannah, since Amanda chose Theo as the person she trusted the most. “Dreadful, awful, savage,” Fay says.

Wilf senses an opening and tells both Fay and Maddy, “I thought they were pretty close,” and tells us he’s shocked that Amanda “threw Theo to the wolves so quickly.”

And he concludes “the only thing to do now is go for the win.” Does that mean go after Amanda?

First, he and Amanda have to decide whether to seduce or murder someone.

Episode 10

At breakfast, while we wait to hear whose death warrant was signed—the Traitors smartly decided not to seduce someone—Maddy says, “I think people are too blinded by Will’s personality,” and points out someone could “be a massive criminal but still be funny.”

Later Maddy shares that people die frequently on the toilet because they’re straining, though looking at this list of famous people who died on the toilet, it seems like many of them were doing something in addition to straining.

Meryl tells the breakfast it’s Fay and Aaron as Traitors, and that she’s confident—and then realizes she’s wrong as Fay fails to show up, having been murdered.

“We are so rubbish at this game,” Hannah says. Accurate: But since that’s true, why not flip your approach? Hannah tells Kieran that Andrea is more likely a Traitor than Amanda.

Aaron tells Amanda, “It can’t be Amanda or I’ll cry,” and she says, very convincingly, “it’s not me.” Right up until the end, Amanda is so convincing that I believed her, and I knew she was a Traitor!

Her fellow Traitor, Wilf, tells Kieran, Meryl, and Hannah about how Amanda “dropped Theo like a piece of shit.” Kieran suggests going after Amanda, and Wilf suggests its Aaron and Amanda.

Is Wilf overplaying here, or is this the right moment to stab his fellow Traitor in the back?

For the mission, the players go to the mansion next door for the Mission: Impossible-style laser game. But there are new objects, and the addition of a shield as one of the objects they can grab. I love having it out in the open, though ultimately no one went for the shield.

Despite Claudia encouraging them, they’re kind of shit at this game, and only manage to earn £3,700 of the maximum £7,000. As they leave, Claudia references another BBC show and jokes, “I need to get those items on Bargain Hunt.”

At the Roundtable, Claudia tries to work everyone up. “I would like you to look into each other’s eyes,” she says, “and pronounce, I am a Faithful.” They do this, and then she says, “Here’s the thing: you’re not all faithfuls.” Surprise!

While the reveal of Maddy’s profession gets some attention, the table shifts toward Amanda, whose switch from trusting Theo the most to voting him out really called attention to her.

The actual vote is all over the place:

  • Hannah, Kieran, Meryl, and Wilf voted for Amanda
  • Maddy voted for Aaron
  • Andrea voted for Hannah
  • Aaron and Amanda voted for Maddy

And with that, Amanda is banished. I really thought Amanda was playing a Cirie-level game, and would take it all. But the dinner game and subsequent Theo vote was a fatal error.

When Amanda reveals she is, in fact, a Traitor, the players are all shocked, like they just didn’t think she would be even though they voted her out.

“Shut the front door,” Maddy says. “She’s not a Traitor, she’s not a Traitor.”

Claudia says, “That is a blow for the Traitors,” and Aaron picks up on the plural. “So there’s another Traitor?” Later, privately, he says he’s “gullible” and “ridiculous” for not picking up on Amanda as Traitor.

For that evening’s murder, Will goes to the tower all by himself, where Claudia tells him, “and then there was one.”

This is where Will breaks down, crying—everyone cries on The Traitors UK!—telling Claudia, “I just didn’t trust her.”

Claudia then reveals that Will is not going to murder someone, but instead choose someone to have a “secret face-to-face meeting with,” giving that person the option to “either join you and become a Traitor or get murdered.”

Wilf chooses Kieran as cover, because he thinks the Faithful will assume the third Traitor is a man. Will this be Wilf’s fatal error?

Episode 11

“I fucking knew it,” Kieran says when Will lifts up his hood. “Hello, Will”

Kieran hears the ultimatum, and then accepts. “Let’s play.” Here’s the thing: It’s a shitty choice, and barely counts as a choice. A choice would be 1) take £10,000 and leave or 2) become a Traitor and see if you can win £100,000.

But choosing between leaving the game or continuing to play it sucks, and puts the Traitor in even more of a power position.

Since there are now two Traitors, they get to do a murder. Upon writing the next victim’s name, Wilf jokes, “I’m a serial killer, I’ve done that so many times.”

At breakfast, Maddy is reeling from the reveal of Amanda, and says, “I should just be accusing people I love the most.”

They discover that it’s someone they all loved the most who’s murdered: Andrea. “What a pleasure to have had this chance at my age to do this,” she says. “I’ve loved it.” I’ve loved having her, and more shows need to cast people over the age of 40! Or 70!

There are now just six players left, one-third of which are Traitors!

Continuing her track record of being half right and half wrong, Maddy pushes Aaron about Will, but also says, “it’s not Kieran, I promise you.” I guess she would have been 100 percent right 24 hours earlier!

Claudia uses my second-favorite word twice in this episode, revealing it “is your penultimate breakfast” and “penultimate mission,” and I love her even more.

For this penultimate mission, it’s a new one: a blindfolded river crossing on a rickety bridge, with bags suspended above representing amounts of money. Each player has to cross the bridge and its obstacles while being verbally guided by two other players, like Survivor’s classic challenge, just suspended in the air.

As Aaron observes, the bridge is “wobbling so much.” I think this task would be extremely difficult without the blindfolds, so it’s really hard with them.

Several players fall, and the editing of Meryl’s crossing keeps pausing as if she’s about to fall off—and does this over and over again. Yet each time, she’s fine, and each time it got me! Ultimately, she makes it, and adds £500 to the pot. The only other two to make it are Maddy with £750 and Aaron with £2,000. 

Meanwhile, Kieran is already irritated with his new role. “Bringing me on board was a pretty pointless exercise,” he says. Then he and Wilf proceed to throw each other under the bus.

Hannah tells Will to make it Aaron vs Kieran for the vote, and this conversation turns into Will, Hannah, and Kieran arguing in the breakfast room.

But it’s neither of them who gets banished, but Maddy, who cannot outrun her lie now that there are so few players.

The other players head outside, where they enjoy Prosecco and learn there will be no more murders, just a mission and a banishment—and then the end game.

Episode 12

Three people sitting at a table with a low stack of large gold coins, with three people standing behind them
The Traitors UK season 1’s final five (clockwise from lower left): Aaron, Wilfred, Hannah, Kieran, and Meryl, with host Claudia Winkleman in the center (Photo by BBC)

And then there were five: Aaron, Hannah, Kieran, Meryl, and Wilfred.

For their final mission, they’re off to the loch for the same final mission as in The Traitors US. However, instead of playing for all the prize money they didn’t earn, this challenge is worth just £20,000.

After taking a helicopter ride, which is just joyous, especially when Hannah wants it to swoop and it does and everyone screams, the players are thrilled to learn about what they’ll have to do.

Hannah and Aaron volunteer to swim, and get so excited about jumping out of the helicopter that Aaron picks up Wilf and spins him around. I love how much they love playing this game.

There are other changes from the US version, too. Instead of leaving the swimmers behind to solve a final puzzle, the speed boat picks up the swimmers, Aaron and Hannah, so all five went to all locations.

Just when I was thinking this challenge really didn’t improve upon the US version, we saw what the players had to do at each location. Instead of just searching around for a hidden bag, they had mini-challenges, like a bunch of piles of sand on the beach, only one of which contained the money bag.

The editing treated all of this epically, with a great score paired with the cast’s absolute joy.

The players finish their task, as Claudia jumps up and down with glee, and cap off their prize pot: £101,050 of a possible £118,000, making this more like Netflix’s The Mole than The Traitors US.

Claudia calls it “staggering,” and Wilf says, it’s “so much money,” so I’ll take their word for it.

Wilf laments how tough the game has gotten: “It’s hard when emotions take over, and friendships,” he says.

Hannah is convinced they’re all Faithful, and says, “I believe every single word that comes out of their mouth,” and says the others would deserve the money if they were Traitors.

Meryl, too, is convinced: “I know that you’re a Faithful,” she tells Will.

At the Roundtable, Wilf’s plan to turn on his final Traitor becomes evident, and when Kieran realizes it, he plays the only card he has, which makes for absolutely stunning and riveting TV. I think Kieran just got screwed by that twist, and Will stabbed him in the back first.

Kieran begins by dropping hints. “I do feel sorry for some of you, I really do,” he says. “You will find out a lot,” he adds, but notes “there’s certain lines I won’t cross.”

Hannah tells him, “you keep saying these cryptic things,” but Kieran won’t say more.

Kieran said in a post-season interview ” that “I had to be really careful what I said within the parameters of the rules” and also “If it was cheating, it would have been stopped there and then.”

Since he knows the players are going to vote him out, Kieran tells Claudia he wants to vote now: “I would like to speed up the process.”

But Kieran is not done yet. He reveals his vote by saying “parting gift: Will.” He was basically doing what Arie revealed during the reunion, which was giving clues to the remaining Faithful.

Would Hannah, Aaron, and Meryl—all so convinced of Will’s innocence—pick up on that? Would they vote to banish one more time?

Meryl’s perspective is clear: “Are we done?” She’s ready to cash the check and go home.

But Claudia’s like, uh no. “That is not the end. The game is now in your hands.” As Claudia says that, Wilf says, “Prick,” referring to what Kieran just did, and then whispers to Hannah, “I’m not a Traitor. I promise.”

Hannah, though, is not convinced. “What did he mean, Will?” she asks, crying.

“I’m not a Traitor, I swear on anything,” Will says, promising to swear on anyone’s life. Yikes! “I promise. I swear,” he says. “He just literally set me up in front of you guys to make me look bad.”

Will gets out of his seat and is basically freaking out. “I’m about to have money taken away from me,” he says.

Meanwhile, Meryl is unconcerned: “There can’t be another Traitor.” She later tells Claudia during their one-on-one that “I have genuine trust and faith,” which is nice. Meryl is the Quentin of the group: so nice, so wrong!

Kieran has dropped a huge bombshell, but I genuinely think it’s Will who causes his own downfall by overreacting. He tells his friends and allies, “If you take that money from me, I can’t speak to you again.”

Hannah picks up on that, saying, “the ultimatum, it seemed so unlike Wilf to say that.”

At the final bonfire, the way Hannah stares at Wilf, and the way he’s grimacing and rubbing his eyes, signals what’s to come.

Each of the final four chooses whether to end the game or not, and the fire reveals that Meryl and Wilf are ready to end the game, naturally, while Hannah and Aaron are ready to vote again.

“If you have to give an ultimatum, there is no trust,” Hannah said, explaining her decision to banish again. That was Will’s fatal mistake.

Still, Kieran’s Roundtable vote set all of this in motion. “Kieran’s either done a nice thing or he’s been the biggest knobhead of all time,” Aaron says.

Four people posing in front of a castle at nighttime. Two are holding hands in friendship
The Traitors UK season 1 winners Aaron, Meryl, and Hannah, along with host Claudia Winkleman (Photo by BBC)

They vote to banish Wilf. When he is finally revealed as a Traitor, you can see the weight come off his body and mind.

“I’m so happy for you guys,” he says, genuinely seeming happy. “I couldn’t go through this process without people who made me happy.”

Everyone is crying, including Claudia, though not Meryl, who still seems baffled.

“I’ve never seen someone so happy to lose so much money,” Aaron says. With that, the remaining three end the game, and together share the prize.

But The Traitors UK season 1 is not over yet. No, it concludes with what may be my favorite three lines on reality TV this year, or last year, or in years:

Meryl: “Guys, we’ve got 33 fucking grand!”

Claudia: “Could you not swear for just five seconds? We’re getting the end shot of the entire show.”

Meryl: “Oh shit.”

I love that, and I loved this season—just such terrific, unpredictable, dramatic television. More Traitors, please!

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Happy discussing!

Jacques

Thursday 28th of December 2023

Here is how I rank the versions I watched: No. 1: Traitors Australia No. 2: Traitors U.K. No. 3: Traitors Canada No. 4: Traitors USA

John

Thursday 27th of April 2023

UK version was wayyy better than the US. Perhaps it was because of the diverse plethra of contestants, or the fact I much prefer common folk over pseudo-celebs. This show clearly demonstrates the power of relationships over deception.

Love love loved it!

AK

Friday 7th of April 2023

Okay, I finally finished this! Thanks for your review and recaps to keep me going, Andy. I was really rooting for Amanda, who I thought was absolutely terrific as a traitor, so I was super bummed when Wilf turned on her. That made the finale even more satisfying for me, watching his greed get to him! Though his unbelievably gracious acceptance of being banished did make me feel guilty for rooting for his downfall...

Emily

Wednesday 5th of April 2023

What a fantastic show, and excellent recap, Andy! I really loved how much Claudia was cheering for the contestants. And I’m glad to see how the winners differed from the US version. I expected it to end differently, so this was a delight!

Lauri

Monday 27th of March 2023

I enjoyed the UK version so much more! All the previous reality stars in the US were distracting and seemed to have an advantage just by being more familiar with game play, each other’s personalities, etc. Brandie and Kate seemed to be there just to add obnoxious behavior and the non-reality players seemed like deer-in-the-headlights to their attacks. I also like Claudia as a host much better than Alan (sorry!). She seemed to strike the perfect balance of connecting with the players while still leading the charge. The US players seemed to view Alan with indifference — no connection, so his hosting often felt awkward. Once learning the US players didn’t actually stay in the castle, I was offended by the fake footage of players going to bed in the castle. It took away some of the show’s authenticity, and leads one to question what else was staged. Just starting the Australian version, and it will be interesting to see what changes are made for all of the season two’s…such as the last two to breakfast were almost murder victims, signaling they were truly faithfuls. All-in-all, very binge-worthy shows!!