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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

What to stream: Everything to know about Peacock’s reality sensation ‘The Traitors’

Host Alan Cumming in a scene from Peacock’s “The Traitors.”  (PEACOCK)
By Katie Walsh Tribune News Service

“Are you watching ‘The Traitors’?” – it’s the question everyone seems to be asking each other this winter, as Season 2 of the reality competition show on Peacock has gripped audiences every Thursday night. The first season of “The Traitors,” set in a Scottish castle and hosted flamboyantly by actor Alan Cumming, aired last year, and while it was a bit of a sensation, it didn’t capture audiences the way the second season has. In fact, “The Traitors” Season 2 had the biggest debut for an original reality series on Peacock, likely due to the word-of-mouth buzz from the first season, as well as the all-star cast of infamous reality TV personalities.

Already obsessed with “The Traitors”? Wanting to join in on the fun? Here’s everything you need to know about the addictive series – where it came from, what it’s about and how to get your fix in between episodes.

“The Traitors” is based on a Dutch reality series that premiered in 2021 called “De Verraders.” Created by Dutch TV director Marc Pos, who directed the first “Big Brother” series in the Netherlands, as well as the annual international music competition/fever dream Eurovision, the show is essentially an elevated game of Mafia – in which an uninformed majority attempts to root out an informed minority who are picking off members of the larger group. But in a 2023 interview with Variety, Pos also cited a book about a 17th-century shipwreck that led to mutiny as an influence on the “The Traitors,” mentioning that no one knew who the mutineers were as the group killed each other. In fact, Pos thought about setting the show on a boat in Australia, before landing on the castle theme.

In each series, a group of people arrive at a designated location to participate in the game and win a hefty prize pot. The host secretly selects three to four players to be the “Traitors” while the rest of the group remains “Faithful.” During the day, the entire group participates in physical challenges to add more money to the winning pot, and by night the Traitors meet to decide which Faithful to “murder.” Each day, the group has the opportunity to vote to “banish” whomever they deem a Traitor, because if a Traitor is left at the end, they can take all the winnings.

In “De Verraders,” the cast was made up of notable Dutch personalities (actors, radio DJs, presenters, journalists), but the first international adaptation for the show, in the U.K., cast a group of nonfamous folks for their first season, as did “The Traitors Australia.” The first U.S. set-season in 2023 combined civilians and reality stars, but Season 2 is entirely made up of reality superstars, including winners of “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” “The Challenge” and a host of “Real Housewives,” who wage their own kind of televised psychological warfare.

It’s a casting coup, pitting notorious “Survivor” black widows Parvati Shallow and Sandra Diaz-Twine against “Big Brother” mastermind Dan Gheesling, and “The Challenge” stalwarts Johnny Bananas and C.T. Tamburello, alongside such “Housewives” as Phaedra Parks, Sheree Whitfield and Tamra Judge. Watching these familiar faces interact in such a high-stakes environment makes the show as entertaining as it is – throw in goofy challenges and Cumming dramatically swathed in tartan and it’s a reality show goldmine.

Cumming – who won a Tony Award for playing the emcee in “Cabaret” – brings his native Scottish brogue and a winking flair for drama to his hosting duties, as well as an impressive array of accessories. “Traitors UK” host Claudia Winkleman, who also hosts “Strictly Come Dancing,” brings more of a best friend earnestness to the gig, while the Australian host, actor Rodger Corser, plays a disdainful James Bond type. It’s the cast that makes the show sing, with all of its lying and backstabbing, but it’s the hosts who bring the camp to the whole over-the-top affair.

“The Traitors” Season 2 finale airs Thursday, Feb. 29, so you’ve got a week to binge-watch the season and be caught up to take part in all the fun with everyone else around the water cooler. And if you’re all caught up, enjoy “The Traitors UK” and “The Traitors Australia”– both of their first seasons are also on Peacock. “UK” Season 2 will drop on the streamer March 8, the day after the U.S. cast reunion, and “Australia” Season 2 and “The Traitors” New Zealand Season 1 will arrive on the service March 28. If you’d like to check out “De Verraders,” or any of the other international versions, you’ll have to do some creative Googling and search for alternative sources.

Happy Traitor hunting!