The Traitors 210 Recap: Phaedra Parks Is Exhausted

I have so much to say about last night’s episode of The Traitors!!! Let’s get into it!

The episode opens right where we left off — about to see who MJ voted for. At the end of the last episode, the votes at the roundtable were split right down the middle: four for Phaedra, and four for Peter, with just MJ’s vote left. So who did MJ vote for? Peter, just like I predicted last week!

Peter is looking so smug as he walks to the raised platform where they inexplicably have to stand when the moment comes to reveal whether you’re a faithful or a traitor. But I can’t be that mad at him because also, unfortunately, he’s right! Peter reveals that he is, of course, a faithful. With Peter banished, all that remains of Peter’s Pals is Trishelle and John. That’s it.

Peter’s innocence paints an even bigger target on Phaedra, and she already had a pretty big target. At the roundtable, after Peter’s left, it seems like everyone knows Phaedra is a traitor, so at that point I begin to wonder, is Kate — the other remaining traitor — going to win this game? The sheer possibility of that highlights how much of this game is left up to chance; Kate entered this game a few episodes in, was a faithful, and then was selected, pretty recently, to be a traitor.

In his confessional, CT wonders if Phaedra’s allies — Sandra, MJ, and Shereé — know she’s a traitor, and are just playing nice with her in the hopes that she’ll treat them well and bring them to the end with her. This is a fascinating potential strategy and one that highlights the nuances of this game; getting the traitors out as quickly as possible isn’t necessarily a winning tactic. (It’s sort of like in Survivor, when you choose to bring a “goat” (someone who hasn’t played well) to the end with you, in the hopes that you can argue your case better than they can at Final Tribal.)

Shereé, at least at this point in the episode, doesn’t think Phaedra is a traitor; she thinks she’s being targeted. It’s like every move Phaedra makes is being met with scrutiny by what remains of Peter’s Pals. Shereé feels bad for her friend of nearly 30 years, and I can’t blame her. Phaedra’s every move is being scrutinized. It is hard to watch. And I don’t even know Phaedra personally, let alone consider myself a close friend of hers for several decades. For a lot of this season, I’ve wondered if having the cast of all reality TV stars actually makes the show more one-dimensional (because they know how TV works), but in Shereé’s arc, that context makes the events of the show all the more emotionally loaded.

Anyway, up in the turret, Phaedra and Kate discuss who to murder. For Phaedra, at this point, it’s truly just a numbers game, and Kate is her sidekick. They’re aligned on continuing to kick out Peter’s Pals, even though only two remain: Trishelle and John. It almost doesn’t matter who they pick. I have to give CT some credit here for playing the middle very well; I’m not sure he intended to, but he’s managed to stay on Phaedra’s good side, while still voting against her. She’s hurt by his previous vote, but she still doesn’t consider him someone she needs to remove from the game.

At breakfast, we still don’t know who Phaedra and Kate have chosen to murder. CT almost seems sad that he’s so sure Phaedra is a traitor; he tries to give her a way out by asking her who she thinks is a traitor. And like she’s done before, Phaedra reflects. She doesn’t throw Kate under the bus; she doesn’t throw anyone else under the bus. There’s something noble about Phaedra’s refusal to sabotage someone else, even though it is clearly hurting her social game. She just won’t do it.

Perhaps due to this choice, and perhaps because of everything leading up to this moment, every one of Phaedra’s allies seems to be figuring out Phaedra is, for sure, a traitor. It seems to be dawning on Shereé, especially when she wonders, if it’s not Phaedra, who is it? She can’t find an answer. (It almost seems impossible that someone would guess Kate, as a latecomer to this show, so it doesn’t surprise me that Shereé isn’t considering her.) MJ, too, is figuring it out. And I can’t help but think that Sandra knows, too.

So, with all of Phaedra’s allies knowing or at least strongly suspecting that she is a traitor, the game takes on a new question: when you know who the “bad guy” is, do you try to get rid of him, or try to get on his good side?

By the end of breakfast, John doesn’t walk in. So everyone knows he has been murdered; further evidence of Phaedra’s traitoressness. There is a brief discussion of John and how old he may or may not be, which results in MJ delivering a truly perfect and hilarious line: “I don’t think he’s that old, I just think people in England don’t get Botox.” I love MJ!

Alan Cumming bids farewell to John by unceremoniously throwing his portrait on the floor, as he does for every murder victim, and in this moment, he’s downright threatening! CT is the only man left in the game at this point, which inspires him to do a playful little bit about how this is actually the bachelor, and whoever wins the challenge will get to have lunch with him. It’s heartwarming and everyone laughs, and again, I have to laud CT for playing the middle so well. It’s like he’s saying, I know the situation here, I know how little power I have, and I’m okay with it, I can even joke about it! People who play the middle know when to advocate for themselves and when to shrink their perceived power (Maryanne Oketch from Survivor being an exceptional example of this, in my opinion!).

This episode’s challenge centers on digging through mud to find gold bricks (worth corresponding amounts of prize money), carrying those bricks across a lake by jumping across a series of wobbly wooden docks, and then placing those bricks onto a scale at the other end. (Also there is one shield in the mud, should you choose to try to get that across and protect yourself.) If this challenge sounds hard, bordering on impossible, it’s because it is! MJ finds the shield and tries to take it across, which results in a montage of her wiping out, over and over and over, trying to make it across these docks. No one can do it!

Finally, Trishelle figures out the trick to making it across — you basically have to run fast enough that the forward momentum overpowers the wobbly-ness of the docks. Trishelle and CT — the two remaining players from The Challenge — are the only two that can get it right, and they go into game mode. It’s weirdly inspiring to watch, and makes me remember why I love The Challenge; it attracts people who simply cannot or will not give up, even when faced with physical adversity that would make most normal people say “no thank you!” They get across nearly all $30k of the potential prize money!

It is down to MJ, then, with her shield. And she is decidedly not from The Challenge. She’s a Bravolebrity. She’s wiped out so many times I’ve lost count. Alan Cumming has covered his face in an effort to hide that he has been laughing. But with one minute left in the challenge, MJ decides to try again. And somehow, by sheer dint of will, she is making it across. This time, Alan isn’t laughing; he’s on the verge of tears, because it is genuinely moving to watch someone not give up on herself, even when, statistically, she should. CT is cheering like crazy for her, even though MJ earning the shield would put him in greater danger. No one cares; they all want her to make it across.

And guess what? She does! MJ yells, “Wow!! I’m so proud of myself!” and reader, I cried a little. GOOD FOR HER!!!

Back at the castle, after the challenge, Shereé is distraught. She wants to talk to Phaedra one more time. It seems as though the cognitive dissonance of knowing that Pheadra is a traitor combined with Shereé’s desire to remain loyal to her very dear friend is almost too much for Shereé to bear. She sits with Phaedra, just the two of them, looks her straight in the eye, and simply asks Phaedra, are you a traitor? I can’t help but wonder how much the prize money — around $250k — means to these two individuals. Is there friendship worth more to them, literally? I genuinely wonder if Phaedra is just gonna tell her friend the truth, finally. It would be a relief, wouldn’t it?

But she doesn’t. Phaedra is still playing the game. It almost feels like it’s out of respect for Shereé. Telling her would be handing her the win, forfeiting; instead, she’s allowing her friend to earn it.

At the roundtable, I’m struck by what a fascinating group of people I’m listening to; they’re all main characters now. It makes me really wish Peppermint were still here, because I so would love to know what I’d get to learn about her through this process.

Anyone who’s been through a break-up knows that there is a moment when you know the relationship is over. It happens gradually at first, and then not gradually at all. There is a moment when everything changes, when you look at the person you loved and realize, you’re not who I thought you were, not now, not anymore. It’s a moment of no return; there’s no going back from it.

Everyone in the game has had their moment of no return with Phaedra. They all know, with certainty, that she is a traitor. You can see it in the sadness in CT’s eyes, the pain in Shereé’s whole body. Even Trishelle, who has been targeting Phaedra for so long, looks mournful. It feels very different from when Parvati and Dan were voted out, because it is. Phaedra has played this game so hard, so long, with such aggression and scrutiny coming her way.

After everyone has spoken their piece, and Phaedra has responded valiantly, Shereé throws her one last bone by asking if there’s anything else to say, or to give us. She’s giving Phaedra the opportunity to frame someone else, anyone else, to give any name that they could consider voting for over her. And Phaedra replies:

I’m — I’m very exhausted.

The Traitors Season 2 contestant Pheadra Parks at the roundtable, when being pinned as the traitor, says “I’m – I’m very exhausted.”

This line hit really hard. Phaedra is clearly an incredibly determined and relentlessly driven person — we’ve seen it throughout this whole show (and I’m sure fans of her Housewives career have known it for much longer). In The Traitors, she’s created webs of lies to defend herself, and managed to evade detection for so, so long. But at what cost? The game is fun until it’s not. It’s fun until it’s painful, exhausting, and tortuous. By this point, everyone in the game knows each other very well; you’re no longer lying to strangers. You’re lying to friends, either that you made here, or that you’ve known for decades. And that’s gotta hurt.

When the votes come in, everyone has voted for Phaedra. She throws a vote on CT, but we all know it doesn’t matter. Phaedra goes home, and honestly, she couldn’t seem happier.

The Traitors Season 2 contestant Pheadra Parks laughs, grinning ear to ear, just moments after she has been voted out of the show

Kate throws a little shade on Phaedra when she casts her vote, which I have a feeling will bite her in the butt in the next episode. But that’s for next week. For now, let’s raise a glass to one of my new favorite people on reality TV, the inimitable Phaedra Parks.

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Anya Richkind

Anya is a writer, a Pisces, and a huge fan of Survivor. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner Jess and their kittens, Buckett and Tubbs. She writes a substack called Questions I Have in which she explores questions big, small, medium, and more. Check it out here:

Anya has written 37 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. I am still mad at Dan for naming Phaedra and starting this whole trajectory. This season has been strange with traitor self owns. Kate totally threw herself under the bus with those attacks on Phaedra. “Selfish”??? What the hell was she thinking?!

    Can’t wait till Peacock gets Traitors UK season 2 and we can see non “celebrities” again!

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