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Reality TV is Better With Below Deck's Kate Chastain Back on Our Screens

The Bravo star plays the perfect villain in Peacock's competition series The Traitors.
  • Kate Chastain in The Traitors. (Photo: Peacock)
    Kate Chastain in The Traitors. (Photo: Peacock)

    Light spoilers ahead for The Traitors on Peacock.

    It’s been nearly three years since Kate Chastain, Below Deck’s longtime chief stewardess, signed off the Bravo franchise, but she finally returns to television in a regular capacity in The Traitors — and how sweet a homecoming it is. As fans have come to expect from the reality star, Kate is fully uncensored in Peacock’s competition series, turning her nose up at the show’s challenges and delivering savage one-liners about the other contestants’s perceived weaknesses. But even if she quickly becomes the season’s villain, a role she embraces, it’s a gift to have Kate and her self-obsessed, give-no-f*cks energy back on our screens.

    When Kate exited Below Deck after six seasons as chief stewardess — her final episode, the Season 7 finale and reunion, aired in February 2020 — it left a vacuum in the Bravo franchise that has yet to be filled. Kate was such a vibrant (if polarizing) presence on the show, running her department with a clear-cut “Work Hard, Play Hard” mentality that endeared her to Captain Lee Rosbach, but made her enemies elsewhere on board. Do your job well and Kate would be your biggest fan; make one mistake too many, and she’d put a target on your back, proudly reminding you of your rank on the chain of command at every turn. In the wake of Kate’s departure, Below Deck has struggled to find someone who supplies both workplace competence and on-screen drama. The stews that followed have either failed to make an impression (Season 8’s Francesca Rubi was a non-entity, while current interior chief Fraser Olender is already starting to fade into the background), or drawn attention for the wrong reasons, like Heather Chase, who used a racial slur while joking around with deckhand Rayna Lindsey in Season 9.

    But while Below Deck continues to aimlessly drift along, Kate brings her firecracker persona to The Traitors, which requires her to put her people skills to good use as she and her fellow contestants attempt to root out the defectors among them. Hosted by Alan Cumming, the Glass Onion-meets-BravoCon competition sees 10 reality TV stars — including The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville, Summer House’s Kyle Cooke, and Survivor alum Cirie Fields — and 10 regular people complete a series of challenges in hopes of earning a large cash prize. In order to win the pot, “the faithful” must successfully identify the three “traitors,” who work to steal the prize by “murdering” someone each night in the creepy castle.

    Kate is a faithful, but her directness and laughable amount of disinterest in the actual “missions” that make up each episode immediately puts her at odds with the rest of the group (with the exception of Brandi, with whom Kate forges an early alliance). In the premiere, the contestants are divided into teams for a two-part challenge that requires them to retrieve a lit torch by boat, and then row back to land to set fire to a Scottish beast. For obvious reasons, Kate opts to join the boat crew, but once on board, she contributes little beyond boredly telling Arie Luyendyk Jr. (of The Bachelor fame) and Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte to row faster. “The boat wasn’t as big as the ones I’m used to, but I didn’t have to do so much work on this one, so it’s kind of my favorite,” she says in a talking head interview, ever the lazy queen.

    Kate’s apathy towards the more physical aspects of the competition is even more pronounced in the second episode, which includes a terrifying mission in which six players are buried alive as part of a twisted game of hide-and-seek. (Yes, they are actually buried alive! No, I don’t understand how Peacock got this approved!).

    The above-ground crew is kept in the dark about their teammates’ unfortunate fate — they think they’re “hiding” somewhere safe — but when Kate, who has been made to run around the castle grounds against her will, finally learns the truth, her deadpan reaction makes for an instantly iconic reality TV moment. “Well, f*ck me,” she says, her voice devoid of all emotion. We’ve seen her get more upset about a yacht guest asking for a late-night quesadilla.

    In fact, Kate doesn’t seem to care about the other players’s distress at all. “Getting in a coffin and being buried alive, it’s definitely not at the top of my bucket list, but it beats running around a castle with Quentin and Michael,” she tells the camera. “Those lucky people! They are just taking a nap.”

    Many of the contestants find Kate’s laziness frustrating and even suspicious, but in terms of entertainment value, it’s gold. Beyond their inherent humor, Kate’s many asides reflect the playful, silly nature of The Traitors: The show is meant to be dumb fun, and Kate understands that not every aspect — like these challenges, which offer hardly any hints about the identity of the traitors — must be taken seriously. Sure, there’s a chance for a payday, but most likely, Kate is here for a free trip to Scotland and a few happy hours with Cumming, who’s just as willing to play up the campiness of the premise.

    If there’s one thing Kate does take seriously, though, it’s the roundtable discussions where competitors sling accusations and draw attention to any potentially dishonest behavior. While the other players are careful to bite their tongues or selectively relay information, Kate, as she did on Below Deck, says everything that comes to her mind, further straining her relationship with her castle-mates. The characteristic that made her a star on Bravo (as with so many of the network’s personalities) is now a liability, though Kate hardly sees it that way — she doesn’t seem to mind that knives are sharpening around her, so long as she remains at the center of the drama. Plus, Kate has always been at her most delightfully wicked when she’s on the defensive, as when she tells Big Brother winner Rachel Reilly, “I wouldn’t pick that outfit, so I don’t think I trust your judgment completely.”

    It’s worth noting that Kate hasn’t been totally M.I.A. from the reality television sphere since leaving Below Deck. She hosted and executive produced the first season of virtual talk show Bravo’s Chat Room, which premiered in September 2020, and regularly appears on Below Deck Galley Talk. Still, The Traitors marks the first time viewers have seen her branch out from the Bravo world, and she’s every bit as entertaining in this new capacity, if not more. Without demanding guests or irascible third stews holding her back, Kate is finally able to step into the spotlight and get her Benoit Blanc on — if Benoit Blanc were a judgmental reality TV star with a superiority complex, that is.

    All 10 episodes of The Traitors are now streaming on Peacock. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Kate Chastain, Bravo, Peacock, Below Deck, The Traitors, Alan Cumming