It didn’t take long for the scheming to start when season 2 of The Traitors premiered on Peacock Friday, January 12.
“I was excited to see all the gamers,” Big Brother‘s Janelle Pierzina told Us Weekly. “I love games on strategy. I love games that are thinking. So, immediately, I was very drawn to Parvati and Dan, of course.”
The “gamers” on season 2 are Janelle and fellow Big Brother winner Dan Gheesling, Survivor’s Parvati Shallow and Sandra Diaz-Twine, The Challenge’s Chris “CT” Tamburello, Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio and Trishelle Cannatella.
“And then I saw the Bravo people, and MJ was so nice,” Janelle continued, referring to Shahs of Sunset‘s Mercedes “MJ” Javid. “There was really no one in the cast that I could say, ‘Oh yeah, I really wouldn’t work with you.’ I would work with anyone that would just be dumb not to. It’s a game about keeping yourself alive in that castle.”
The 21-person cast list spanned from former Bachelor Peter Weber and Housewives stars Larsa Pippin, Tamra Judge, Shereé Whitfield and Phaedra Parks to UK Parliament’s John Bercow and boxer Deontay Wilder.
“My strategy, though, was to identify the traitors and work with them as long as I could to potentially either get recruited or if it came down to it, get enough people together to go after them,” Janelle explained. “But I definitely didn’t want to get real traitors right away because it just seemed kind of, like, dumb gameplay. Why would we get rid of someone day one or two that was actually a traitor? They’re just going to recruit — [and] what if they don’t recruit me? They could recruit a really good faithful that I’m working with.”
While some stars wanted the opportunity to “murder” their fellow castle guests, MJ was happy she didn’t get tapped.
“I knew that if I were a traitor, I would not be able to keep a straight face for even, like, a second,” MJ told Us about the roundtable selection. “I am one of those nervous laughers. I would just [have] no game face There would be no way. Even that moment when we take our blindfolds off was so intense.”
Speaking of selection, the politician quickly came under fire when Janelle called out his heavy breathing when host Alan Cummings was walking around the roundtable picking the traitors.
“It was almost certainly a mistake because you should probably be inscrutable [and] give nothing away. So it was probably a mistake because it led for a short period … [of] this suspicion. ‘This is odd, this is fishy, this is inexplicable, this is possibly a sign in the absence of any other evidence that this guy’s a traitor.’ All it was to be honest, was this: I passionately wanted to be a faithful. I’ve made it clear in advance that I wanted and hoped [but] I had no guarantee to be a faithful,” John told Us. “Alan walked round that room so many times in the blindfolded ceremony that it was quite, sort of stressful. And when it was over, I breathed heavily and I think I do often breathe heavily and through my mouth — and I was asked by Janelle, ‘Well, what’s going on?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve been asthmatic. And then there was an issue, ‘Well, do you use an inhaler? No. Are you asthmatic now?’ And I said, ‘No, look, historically I was asthmatic. I don’t breathe very well, but frankly you are putting two and two together and making five.’ So it was a crass miscalculation of people thought I made me a traitor, but did I make a mistake to do that? Yeah.”
Larsa Takes a Shot at Parvati
It’s not a surprise to Real Housewives of Miami viewers that Larsa wouldn’t waste time sharing her opinions during the same selection ceremony. So when she was convinced Cummings tapped Parvati on the shoulder based on an alleged noise coming from his jacket, she spoke up.
“My initial plan was to stay under the radar and not necessarily make too much noise, but I couldn’t help it. Her energy was just giving me to the left, to the left,” Larsa told Us of Parvati. Bananas subsequently chimed in, “You and me both.”
Sandra and Parvati’s Truce
After publicly arguing over who the true “queen of Survivor” is just last year, the two winners of the CBS show shocked viewers by letting RuPaul’s Drag Race star Peppermint help them make amends during the premiere.
“My stomach dropped and Sandra comes out of the cart with her finger in my face like this, and I’m like, ‘Oh God. … We got to stop meeting like this, girl,'” Parvati told Us. “Because we needed each other out there. I mean, I didn’t really know anybody besides Sandra. So we had to find a way to work together and not be at odds. And I’m so grateful that Peppermint took it upon her beautiful self to bring us together, help us shake hands and bury the hatchet.”
Sandra noted it was a quick turnaround. “I was like, ‘Oh no, not only now do I have to navigate this game, but now I have to deal with Parvati as well?’ But thanks to Peppermint, we chatted about it briefly, I don’t even think it was five minutes and I was ready to move on and we agreed to move on,” she said. “And when I agreed to something, that’s it. So I was just hoping that me being honest about moving on was also the same with Parvati. People tell you different things, but I was happy that Peppermint put us together and we were able to bury the hatchet. And hey it’s all great.”
Phaedra and Dan’s Plans as Traitors
During episode 1, viewers learn that Phaedra and Dan were selected as the traitors. “In my world, we fight, we drink Champagne, we glamorous – this world is all about strategy,” Phaedra told Us, noting part of her plan was to “lean into” working with Dan because she knew he won Big Brother. “I had no idea. I only knew the Bravolebrities. And so of course, being a Bravolebrity, I was going to lightweight protect all my Bravo family.”
That included former Real Housewives of Atlanta costar Shereé. “We know she can be a little mischievous. I mean, she’s a good liar sometimes,” Shereé told Us of Phaedra, to which Tamra agreed. “I think that it’s in our nature being Housewives to be traitors in our core being. That’s what we do for a living. And the girls that were on were the ones that have been on for a long time, so I didn’t trust any of ’em.”
Phaedra, for her part, added that she wanted to be an “angel traitor.”
“Of course that is the position that works the hardest because everyone else is sleeping [and] you’re killing the people. But I wanted to make sure I did it justice,” Phaedra told Us. “My perspective was very different, probably from some of the other traitors because I am always going for the underdog. However, I sort of came in at a disadvantage because I didn’t know any of the gamers. … I used my personal conversations with people to sort determine who I really wanted to protect or really wanted to play this game with.”
As viewers saw, Dan “really wanted to play as a traitor” and got his shot. “I just didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. I’ve been sitting for 10 years. I wanted to go and mix it up, so I was definitely very eager and excited to play,” he said. “But throughout this game, I realized I’m used to playing chess, and this is more like poker.”
The first three episodes of The Traitors are streaming on Peacock now. Keep coming back to Us Weekly for more from the cast, including recaps for episodes 2 and 3.