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‘The Traitors’ is a reality TV phenomenon. What sets it apart from others shows

All your favorite reality stars, all in one place.
The Traitors - Season 2
"The Traitors" Season Two.Euan Cherry / Peacock

If you aren’t watching “The Traitors,” it might seem like you’re the only one not watching "The Traitors".

The show, since its Jan. 12 premiere, has become a full-on phenomenon, just like its first season.

The reality competition game originated in The Netherlands and has spin-offs around the world. The American version, airing on Peacock, has gathered celebrities of various stripes into one Scottish castle, captivating audiences and keeping the Internet talking week after week.

The show has everything: Murder, strategy, romance. It also has a unique tone: “The Traitors” leans fully into its campiness. As host, Alan Cumming is delightfully mischievous and impeccably dressed, with quirky quips and an eccentric flair.

Cumming seems like he’s genuinely enjoying the game play as much as viewers at home. Read on to find out why people are obsessed.

The Traitors - Season 2
Alan Cumming.Euan Cherry / Peacock

What is 'The Traitors'? The rules of the game, explained

A spin-off of the party game Mafia, the show unfolds in the Scottish Highlands. There, Cumming — host and master of the castle — divides the players into two groups: the "Faithfuls" and the "Traitors".

The Traitors know who else is a Traitor. The Faithfuls only know they are Faithful. They don’t know who else is a Faithful or who is a Traitor.

The Traitors convene every night to discuss strategy and decide which Faithful to “murder” and eliminate from the game. The next day, the Faithfuls learn who has departed. The remaining players then compete in a challenge that adds money to their prize pot and, in some cases, provides immunity.

At the end of each day, the entire group talks through their suspicions and vote to banish a member of their party. The person with the majority of votes leaves the game. Then, they reveal if they are Faithful or a Traitor.

On the final night in the castle, the remaining players can choose to end the game or conduct another banishment.

The game only ends if all members of the group vote to do so, otherwise banishments and votes to end the game continue throughout the night. If the players at the end are all Faithful, they share the prize fund. If any Traitors make it to the end, they take it all.

The Traitors - Season 2
Traitors or Faithfuls?Euan Cherry / Peacock

Part of the appeal is the Season 2 cast. It's stacked!

In Season One, the cast was comprised of celebrities and civilians. That changed in Season Two, where the entire cast has experience in the public eye.

While alums of shows like “Big Brother” and “Survivor” have experience with the competition show format, they might not have an advantage over a "Real Housewives" alum, who masks her cutthroat spirit under a full-glam facade.

  • Carsten “Bergie” Bergersen — ”Love Island USA”
  • Chris “CT” Tamburello — “The Real World,” “The Challenge”
  • Dan Gheesling — “Big Brother”
  • Deontay Wilder — Professional boxer
  • Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu — “Love Island UK”
  • Janelle Pierzina — “Big Brother”
  • John Bercow — Former Speaker of the House of Commons
  • Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio — “The Real World,” “The Challenge”
  • Kate Chastain — “Below Deck,” “The Traitors”
  • Kevin Kreider — “Bling Empire”
  • Larsa Pippen — “The Real Housewives of Miami”
  • Maksim Chmerkovskiy — “Dancing with the Stars”
  • Marcus Jordan — “Real Housewives of Miami”
  • Mercedes “MJ” Javid — “Shahs of Sunset”
  • Parvati Shallow — “Survivor”
  • Peppermint — “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
  • Peter Weber — “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette”
  • Phaedra Parks — “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Married to Medicine”
  • Sandra Diaz-Twine — “Survivor”
  • Shereé Whitfield — “Real Housewives of Atlanta”
  • Tamra Judge — “The Real Housewives of Orange County”
  • Trishelle Cannatella — “The Real World,” “The Challenge”
The Traitors - Season 2
THE TRAITORS -- "Backstab and Betrayal" Episode 206 -- Pictured: Phaedra Parks .Euan Cherry / Peacock

Put it together, and 'The Traitors' is a meme and moment machine

The show has become a breeding ground for meme-able moments.

From MJ standing awkwardly while her fellow players kick her out of a conversation, to one liners like “Oh lord, sweet baby Jesus, not Ekin-Su” and even a "showmance" between CT and Phaedra, there is always something that keeps the internet talking, and the perfect GIF reaction to pair with it.

The Traitors - Season 2
"The Traitors" Season Two cast.Euan Cherry / Peacock

Think of the show as the Marvel universe of reality TV shows, bringing together worlds. Viewers familiar with cast members have someone to root for, and see a new side of their favorite personalities. Who would have thought Peter Weber, known as a charming "Bachelor" lead, had the capacity to play mind games and set up elaborate traps for other players?

And if you don't know the characters, then you will. Start for the twists and turns of the game's premise, and stay for the characters ... what the show does with, and to, them.