In a recent interview with Vulture, The Traitors star Kate Chastain talked about, among other things, her on-screen feud with fellow contestant, Rachel Reilly. "I absolutely was blinded by my hatred of Rachel Reilly and focused on her too much as a traitor," said Kate, who'd starred on Bravo's Below Deck before being cast in the Peacock reality competition. "I also said, 'You know what? I don’t even care if you’re a traitor. I find you offensive, and I would like you to go.'"
She sure did! Kate admitting that, even though she outlasted Rachel on The Traitors, her hatred caused her to screw up her own game is not a huge surprise if you know Rachel from her previous appearances on Big Brother (two seasons), The Amazing Race (three seasons), or the recent USA series Snake in the Grass. Many Traitors viewers did not. The U.S. adaptation — based on the original Dutch series that has since been adapted in several countries, including the celebrated U.K. season in 2022 — stacked half of its cast with veterans of reality shows like Survivor, Big Brother, The Bachelor, and The Real Housewives. One of the joys of watching The Traitors with friends and social media cohorts who aren’t as well versed in reality TV has been seeing them experience these alums for the first time. Survivor virgins got to cheer for Cirie Fields for the first time and fall in love with her as a reality contestant as so many of the rest of us have.
With Rachel, it's a bit different. Watching friends, strangers, and the other Traitors contestants themselves as they encounter Rachel for the first time, it feels a bit like staring down at the street from your apartment window at a giant puddle and waiting for unsuspecting pedestrians to step into it. They don't know what's coming, and it's going to be a huge mess.
Rachel's arc on The Traitors followed the same path it always does. She's incredibly competitive and does well at challenges, which initially makes her someone you want to root for. She's a little kooky, she definitely seems like a big personality; you can start to see the other contestants allude to her being a little extra. And then she clashes with someone. On The Traitors it was Kate who bristled the most at Rachel's overbearing nature and began sniping at her for her fashion sense and for being annoying. This in turn flipped Rachel's switch, and we ended up with scenes like the one at the breakfast table where they volleyed insults back and forth at each other while everyone else was busy eating scones and trying to act surprised at who'd survived the overnight elimination.
This had all happened years before on Rachel's previous reality TV outings. Her first time on Big Brother saw Rachel ostracized by the other women in the cast, in part because of how aggressively and loudly she pursued hunky fellow houseguest Brendon Villegas. The two of them made for a nightmare pair in the house, like Bonnie and Clyde — if Bonnie had electric red hair extensions and Clyde was a vain himbo. Nobody else in the house seemed to like either of them, but Rachel kept winning competitions, so they hung around for about half of the game. This all came to a head when Rachel won yet another Head of Household competition and immediately lorded it over her perceived rival Kristen Bitting. The "floaters, grab a life vest" scene lives on in Big Brother lore as a testament to the hurricane of drama that Rachel could conjure out of basically nowhere.
Even after getting voted out mid-game, Rachel's dramatic outbursts had become so notorious (and such a sensation with fans) that the Big Brother producers cooked up a way to put her back into the house for a day as a consequence of someone (in this case, Brendon) opening a Pandora's Box reward. Rachel was unleashed on the house and immediately started a fight with her most recent nemesis, Ragan Fox, in another one of Big Brother's all-time most memorable arguments.
It's not that Rachel is always the aggressor, either. As with the fight with Ragan, she's often the subject of mean and personal insults, like when Kate on The Traitors said she couldn't trust Rachel's judgment because of what Rachel had decided to wear that day (a look that, admittedly, could have been described as "1980s goth Madonna"). On a long enough timeline, Rachel's fellow cast members will find her intolerable for one reason or another. When she and Brendon were on The Amazing Race, their aggressiveness turned everyone against them. When she returned to the The Amazing Race with her sister Elissa, it was their perceived phony attitudes that turned other teams off.
But the arguments and fights are only part of the Rachel Reilly Experience. Every setback to her game across two seasons of Big Brother was met with a spectacular tearful meltdown, usually with Brendan there to attend to her histrionics. That dynamic carried over to The Amazing Race, and just when you think that The Traitors version of Rachel might have turned a corner, you get to the episode where she's voted out by the group. She broke down in tears, accused nearly every remaining player of betraying her, played the martyr, and even defied host Alan Cumming's directive that deliberations were over. As any Big Brother fan could have predicted, Rachel's elimination was the most fraught of the season.
That's the full Rachel Reilly package: aggressively competitive game play, a personality that grates on other people's nerves, at least one vociferous blood feud, and a tearful persecution complex. Rachel delivered every single element in her appearance on The Traitors. Kate Chastain got to experience it along with the rest of us. And like the rest of us, she was more than a little relieved when it was over.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: The Traitors, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Kate Chastain, Rachel Reilly