The Traitors UK – TV Review

Promotional photo: COURTESY OF BBC.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the US edition of The Traitors, a new show on Peacock that I enjoyed quite a bit. There have been several iterations of the show from various countries, and Peacock is now offering the UK and Australian versions as well. This past week, I binged my way through the UK’s take on the show, wonderfully hosted by Claudia Winkleman, and found it just as much fun as the US version was.

The way the show works is that a group of people are brought to a lavish setting where they complete missions to raise money for the prize pot to be awarded at the end of the show. Certain players are chosen by Claudia to be the Traitors, and the rest are known as The Faithful. The Traitors pick one of the Faithful each night to “murder”, eliminating them from the game. Meanwhile, the Faithful try to determine who the Traitors are, and “banish” them from the show during a nightly Round Table meeting. If the surviving Faithful banish all the Traitors by game’s end, the Faithful will split the prize pot. If any Traitors remain, however, they get the money.

The US and UK versions are very similar, being set in the same castle in the Scottish Highlands, and they use essentially the same missions. These challenges can involve anything from trying to blow up a giant wicker rabbit-monster (you read that right), to finding teammates who have been buried alive, escaping from a rather disgusting cabin within a certain amount of time, defeating a laser field or rolling barrels worth varying amounts of money over some difficult ground. The familiarity of these elements, however, didn’t affect my ability to enjoy both shows.

Programs that pit contestants against each other like this one does can easily become trashy, with some players deciding they’re going to be the show villains, sabotaging other players, creating alliances and then screwing their supposed allies over and otherwise playing down-and-dirty to get the upper hand. In general, I can’t stand those shows. Part of what makes The Traitors different is that – for several reasons – there’s very little of that.

Even though the whole conceit of the show is that a small group of players is trying to deceive the rest, there’s not a lot of incentive for anyone to sabotage anyone else during the challenges. If they want to have any money to win, they have to work as a team. Then, during the downtime, when the contestants can sit around and get to know each other and attempt to suss out the Traitors, the Traitor’s job is to blend in as well as they can. If they go overboard in endeavoring to deflect suspicion away from themselves, it often makes them seem even more suspicious. Of course, some will set out to persuade others they know who is or isn’t a Traitor, and the Traitors have to strategize who they want to murder, but the rest of the time, the atmosphere is largely collegial. The only times they truly play as oppositional forces are when it comes to committing their nightly murders and banishments.

Another thing I like about the show, and which I think helps keep the feeling in the castle lighter, is that the Traitors aren’t self-selected. They don’t volunteer for the part. Claudia chooses them the first night. This provides an extra challenge to the Faithful, as it means they can’t just home in on who seems most likely to want to be a troublemaker, and puts the Traitors in a position they may not have expected.

There’s a lot of psychology that goes into the game, and it’s fascinating to watch how the individuals and their relationships to other players can change. Some build very close friendships, to where they simply can’t imagine that their friend would be a Traitor. Others keep their distance, hoping to avoid that trap. I find this to be the most interesting part of the show. The Traitors have to plan their murders to avoid making their overall strategy obvious, and the Faithful have to figure out – based mainly on who has or hasn’t been eliminated – how they think the Traitors would behave.

All-in-all, I think this is one of the best non-skill-based competition shows I’ve seen in a while, and I am excited to check out the Australian take on it in the upcoming weeks.

Vikings Valhalla Season 2 Episode 3 Review

This was an enjoyable episode, but aside from Leif and Harald starting their trip to Constantinople, it didn’t feel like very much happened. I didn’t even realize that nothing had happened in Kattegat until I was re-reading the recap I wrote the other day.

Novgorod was the main focus of any real movement in the episode. Leif saw his first book and an astrolabe, learned that Mariam is ill and wants to go to the doctors in Constantinople, and arranged not only for her to travel, but for her to tutor him in reading and mathmatics on the way. I like how they’re showing him gaining the skills to eventually be able to travel to North America.

Harald is, of course, being Harald. He’s a very brash man, filled with more confidence than sense at times. When Gestr, the slaver, asks if he can provide fighters, Harald boasts he has “the best” – when all he has at the time is Leif. As Yaroslav observes, its quite a motley assortment he ends up putting together – “A prince, a slaver, a blind Pecheneg, a woman scholar, two con men and a noble, on a boat on a sled. What could go wrong?” I suspect we’ll be finding out shortly.

London is still feeling a bit like an afterthought, though learning that Aelfwynn’s brother was the assassian is interesting. I hope something significant happens in this story soon, as I find myself feeling a bit of dread when the setting moves there.

Freydis is settling into her life in Jomsborg, but all isn’t necessarily going well. Gudrid was clearly upset when Freydis invited her to step into the temple, and Jorundr did not approve of her encouragement of Hrafna to participate in the training. Later, when Hrafna went missing, his lack of concern for the girl was unsettling.

Not every episode can be action-packed or full of significant events, so even though this one felt a bit slow, it’s not a drag on the series as a whole.

Vikings Valhalla, Season 2, Episode 3, “Pieces of the Gods” Recap


Leif wakes up and finds himself in Mariam’s room, where she had him brought after finding him in the snow. She tells him if he wants to kill himself with a lighting strike, the iron rod she’s holding would attract the lightning better than his head. He tells her he wasn’t trying to kill himself, but doesn’t think he can explain what happened. He sees books on her desks and comments that he’s never seen one before. She says it’s a book of ideas, and when he asks “Whose?” she responds “Mine”, and that her life’s goal has been to journey to all the great centers of knowledge, including Constantinople. When she coughs again, she tries to pass it off as nothing, but Leif notes that the Greenlanders have a name for that kind of cough – being “squeezed by a ghost.” She explains she wants to go back to Constantinople because they have good doctors there. Leif leaves, but looks at his cross again as he walks away from her home.

Freydis is in the temple. Gudrid comes to see her, but won’t step all the way into the temple. She explains that only those who talk to the gods are allowed inside, as the temple must be kept pure. Freydis counters that in Uppsala, all are welcome to the temple, and Gudrid reminds her they are not in Uppsala. Freydis tells her that no one can own the gods.

The refugees are working at the forest camp making and packing weapons onto the boats for their next raid. Harekr announces to all that Freydis is pregnant, and that this is a gift from the gods and a promise for their future. Everyone cheers.

In Novgorod, Harald tries to buy a boat, but the owner isn’t interested in selling. Harald instead works out a deal where he will use one of the ship’s cargo holds and provide the crew in exchange for use of the boat. The owner, Gestr, will fill the other hold with the slaves he’s taking to sell.

Back in Jomsborg, Freydis is working with the young warriors. In the crowd, a young girl is mimicking her moves with a stick. Freydis notices and calls the girl, named “Hrafna” (which means “raven”) over, asking her to show what she can do. Jorundr objects saying it is forbidden. Only those who are descendants of “The Skuld” can fight, and only after they have completed a ritual journey to the boneyard. Freydis points out that, like Hrafna, she has no ancestors there, but she was welcomed, and claims the ancestors of Jomsborg for herself and all others, including Hrafna. They then spar briefly. Freydis disarms Hrafna after a few exchanges, and praises her for her good skills. Jorundr and Gudrid are not happy.

Leif talks to Harald about his plans for avoiding the Pechenegs on the trip to Constantinople. Harald explains they will start now, while the river is frozen, and by the time they get near the Pechenegs, the ice will have melted and there will be high rapids they can ride, allowing them to stay on the river and not have to portage across land, which is when the Pechenegs usually attack. The two then go find Kaysen and Batu, the men who were running the fighting arena. Harald offers them a job as fighters on the journey. Initially skeptical, they agree to join the crew. Baku tells Harald where to find a guide to the Dnieper River. The man, Kurya, is in jail, and turns out to be a Pecheneg. He is blind, but says he’s run the route so many times he knows every part of it in his mind. Harald offers to get him out of prison and asks what it would cost to have him serve as their guide. Kurya replies, “A coat.”

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News on “The Traitors”

According to Andy Denhard at “Reality Blurred Peacock has announced a Season Two renewal for their great reality show “The Traitors.” In addition, they will be bringing Season One of “The Traitors UK” to the US as well. According to Denhart, the US season was filmed first, but reports are that the UK season, which uses the same challenges and castle, is even better. He speculates that this is because the crew had a chance to work out all the bugs. We’ll see!

Vikings Valhalla Season 2, Episode 2 “Towers of Faith” Recap


The second episode opens with a series of brief scenes, catching us up with our key players. Olaf and Svein have chased down some Heathens, questioning one about the Jomsvikings, before Olaf tells Svein that to be King, he must bloody his sword. Svein kills the man.

Freydis arrives in Jomsborg where she is recognized by several people there and introduced to Harekr and Gudrid, a married couple who are the leaders of Jomsborg.

Leif and Harald arrive in Novgorod. Leif learns about opium and Harald finds his uncle Yaroslav. When Yaroslav’s guards won’t let Harald speak to him, Harald jumps into the fighting arena, and yells that the fight needs “a Viking named Prince Harald Sigurdsson, great-grandson of Harald Finehair and blood relative of Yaroslav the Wise.”

And in London, Earl Godwin is torturing a man who tried to assassinate Emma to find out who else was behind the plot. When the man says he knows nothing more, Godwin has them burn out his eye as the man says he heard someone call his contact “Bear.”

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Murder Or Banish? Decisions Abound On The Traitors (Review)


In my recent review on “Pressure Cooker” I mentioned how I disliked it during the early seasons of skilled competition shows when people made decisions based on “game strategy” rather than on merit. It may surprise you, then, to learn that I absolutely loved Peacock’s “The Traitors.” On “The Traitors” “game strategy” is the whole point.

The show is set in Scotland, ostensibly at the castle of our host, Alan Cumming, who was born to play this role. He has invited 20 people – 10 who have been on other reality shows (most of them from Peacock’s corporate sister, Bravo, but a few others as well) and 10, well, normal people to join him at his castle for a little game. Not being a big watcher of reality shows, I didn’t really know who anyone was, and in all honesty, it didn’t make a difference as far as enjoying the program went. There are some references to their previous stints, but nothing you can’t follow just by the dialog on this show.

Traitors players Michael Davidson, Anjelica Conti, Cirie Fields, Brandi Glanville, Rachel Reilly, Kate Chastain, Robert “Bam” Nieves, Ryan Lochte, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Christian de la Torre, Cody, Calafiore, Kyle Cook, Amanada Clark, Azra Valani, Stephenie LaGrossa Kendrick, Reza Farahan, Geraldine Moreno, and Quentin Jiles (Photo by Euan Cherry/Peacock)

Each day, the contestants engage in a mission of some sort. One day, they may be trying to blow up wood frame Scottish beasts, another, they’re struggling to roll barrels through the castle grounds. The point of the missions is for them to collectively earn money toward the prize pot of up to $250,000.

The contenders have been divided into two groups, but not everyone knows who’s in which group. Some have been selected by Cumming to serve as the titular Traitors, who’s job is to get rid of as many of the other players as possible without getting caught. The rest are known as the Faithful.

The Traitors all learn who’s on which team because each night, they don heavy cloaks, sneak through the castle carrying a lantern and meet in a creepy castle turret to decide who they’re going to murder. Once the victim is picked, their judgement is delivered to the victim, who is now out of the game.

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No Host? No Judges? No Problem. Everything Else…? “Pressure Cooker” Review

I love skilled competition shows. By that, I mean I enjoy competitions that focus on a specific vocation, such as cooking/baking, fashion design, forging, pottery making, glassblowing, applying make-up and so forth. Most of them use the same formula: You have celebrity or semi-celebrity hosts and judges, 10–12 contestants, and there are one or two rounds. On programs with two rounds, the winner of the initial round gets an advantage in the second, or the loser of the first round receives a penalty, while the second round determines who’s going home.

“Pressure Cooker” is one of the first shows I’ve seen really tinker with this formula. There are no hosts and no guest judges. The challengers all live in a large loft with a huge professional kitchen. There’s one challenge per episode that is judged either by the contestants themselves or by former participants, with a couple of exceptions. One brings in the contestant’s family members to rate the food, and one uses professional critics. Challenges are sent to the kitchen via a ticket printer, such as is used in a restaurant, to let the cooks know what dishes are on order.


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Vikings Valhalla, Season 2, Episode 1 Review

After about a year’s wait, it’s finally time to get caught up again with our trio of intrepid Vikings, Harald Sigurdsson – who believes he’s the rightful King of Norway; Leif Eriksson – a Greenlander looking to make his own name outside the shadow of his infamous father, Eric the Red; and Leif’s sister, Freydis Eriksdotter – another Greenlander seeking her place in the world. Over the course of the first season, the three became fast friends and war partners, and Freydis and Harald became lovers.

So, how was the first episode of this new season? Did it stand up to the story told in the first season? Well, read on if you’d like my opinion on that (and I certainly hope you do! 🙂 )


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Vikings Valhalla: Season 2, Episode 1 Recap

Harald, Leif and Freydis stand on an icy field with the words "Vikings Valhalla" overhead.

Welcome to my first recap and review of Vikings Valhalla Season 2! Given how much I enjoyed the first season, I’ve been looking foreword to this for a while. There are 8 episodes this season, and Netflix has released all of them. I’ll be spacing out my recaps and reviews a bit, however, so people have time to see the shows first, as there will be spoilers in these recaps.

This recap begins after the jump. The review will be in a separate post.

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