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The Traitors: U.S. Can Fix Its Biggest Problem in Season 2

An all-reality-stars cast could make a good show even better.
  • Alan Cumming and Cirie Fields in The Traitors. (Photo: Peacock)
    Alan Cumming and Cirie Fields in The Traitors. (Photo: Peacock)

    As anyone who's seen all three international versions of The Traitors will likely tell you, the U.S. version lagged behind the Australian and UK versions in terms of quality. A big part of the reason for that is because the American version cast its season with a 50/50 mix of reality-TV celebrities and "regular" people. While Season 1 featured a long-awaited victory for Survivor legend Cirie Fields, it came against a cast that included overmatched, occasionally starstruck normies. Cirie's game was flawless, but against better competition, the win would have been even sweeter.

    There may be some good news on that front, however, as the reality TV gossip Twitter account "Reality TV News/Updates" tweeted on Monday that the second season of The Traitors U.S. will be cast entirely with reality TV folk. If this ends up being true, it will correct the one glaring weak spot that nagged at the U.S. version throughout.

    The U.S. cast was made up of 10 reality TV veterans and 10 regular people in Season 1. The reality vets were pulled from a handful of shows, including Survivor (Cirie and Stephenie LaGrossa), Big Brother (Rachel Reilly and Cody Calafiore), various members of the Bravo franchise family (Kate Chastain, Brandi Glanville, Reza Farahan, Kyle Cooke), plus The Bachelor's Arie Luyendyk and Olympic himbo Ryan Lochte. The vets already had a competitive advantage over the other 10 newcomers, as they knew each other from previous seasons of their shows or from various events in the reality TV shadow economy (you'd be amazed how many screening parties and charity events there are). Cirie, Stephenie, and Rachel had recently starred in the reality series Snake in the Grass and came into the show with a low-key alliance. They were also known quantities to the normies, who all seemed awed by fan favorite Cirie and, in the case of normie Michael, antagonistic to Big Brother players like Cody.

    This particular set of normies additionally seemed oddly opposed to the concepts of deception and manipulation which are central to The Traitors. This can't be entirely chalked up to the reality/normie divide, though finalists Andie and Quentin seemed to be playing as Cirie's fans rather than her competitors, and their wounded reaction when it turned out she was lying to them the whole time (as per the core conceit of the game) might not have happened if they hadn't idolized her from Survivor.

    An all-reality-stars season won't be free of pre-existing awareness or relationships among the contestants, but it will offer a more level playing field. It also opens the door to some fascinating dynamics depending on who ends up in the cast. We've already detailed our own wish list, but with a roster of 20 reality vets in a season, the possible combinations of cast members are endless.

    The U.K. and Aussie editions of The Traitors succeeded because they focused on reality TV veterans, and they should continue down that road. Alas, the Aussie version has already cast its second season and are going with a half-celebrity season, which will either end up with the same problems as the U.S. version or prove that Aussies are less starstruck by D-List celebs overall. Either way, we'll be watching.

    And we'll be keeping an eye on casting for the all-reality-stars version of The Traitors U.S. With the right combination of sneaky, camera-ready personalities, what was already an incredibly fun show has the chance to get even better.

    The Traitors is now streaming on Peacock. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    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, Cirie Fields