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Paul Henry in a fedora with some traitors behind him
Paul Henry hosts The Traitors NZ (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureJuly 11, 2023

Everything you need to know about The Traitors NZ

Paul Henry in a fedora with some traitors behind him
Paul Henry hosts The Traitors NZ (Image: Tina Tiller)

Traitors, faithfuls, banishment, roundtables, Paul Henry wearing a fedora… What’s going on? Stewart Sowman-Lund explains the international reality TV phenomenon coming soon to Three.

What’s all this then?

You’ve probably seen the ads, with a fedora-wearing, cane-wielding Paul Henry sipping gin (probably his own) and looking… sneaky. “Welcome to my devilish little game,” he cackles. Yes, The Traitors NZ is launching very soon, and we couldn’t be more excited.

In short, this is our own version of the 2021 Dutch series De Verraders, which has since gone global under the title The Traitors. Over the past 12 months, international versions of The Traitors have popped up everywhere, including in the UK, US and Australia – and New Zealand is next. The show works a little bit like a murder-mystery party, or the game Mafia (or the video game Among Us), where contestants – dubbed “faithfuls” – have to figure out who among them are the titular “traitors”. 

In our local edition, there will be 19 contestants (you can read all about them here) slowly eliminated week by week as the traitors (in some versions there are three traitors, in other versions four) secretly meet under cover of darkness and decide which faithful they want to have “murdered”.


Not really, obviously, but there has to be a little bit of drama. In reality the eliminated contestants are handed a cute wax-sealed letter that says they’ve been “murdered by the traitors” and therefore kicked out of the competition. That being said, if our show is anything like the overseas versions, the Traitors will still wear creepy hoods and slowly shuffle around late at night. It’s honestly quite scary.

How do the Traitors get caught?

Every night there is a banishment ceremony in which the cast has the chance to kick out a contestant from the game. Their goal is, of course, to eliminate one of the traitors, often relying on unfounded suspicions or hunches before casting their vote. But guess wrong and they banish a faithful – one of their own. This ceremony takes place at a round table (imaginatively called “the roundtable”) and provides the setting for some of the most dramatic and explosive moments in the show. 

(This video contains minor spoilers for The Traitors UK, but mainly just shows how good the drama is)

Is that all?

Well… sometimes a traitor can convince a faithful to change sides and join them, pushing the backstabbing up yet another notch. 

And what happens if you make it to the end?

There’s cash! But here’s the twist: if a traitor makes it all the way without being unmasked, they have the option of taking the whole prize pot. If it’s just faithfuls left at the end, they split the money equally. The New Zealand show has a slightly meagre-sounding $70K up for grabs.

How does Paul Henry fit into all this?

The controversial ex-Breakfast host turned gin magnate has been pulled out of semi-retirement to host The Traitors NZ. He seems perfect for the role, especially considering he lied to my face last year when he said he wouldn’t be back on our screens.

This is the first NZ version –  how do you know it will be any good?

I don’t! But I have a lot of faith in the format. New Zealand isn’t the first, second or even third country to take a gamble on The Traitors. Arguably the most famous iteration is the UK version, which debuted last November. Hosted by television treasure Claudia Winkelman (of Great British Sewing Bee, Strictly Come Dancing, and that episode of Off Menu fame), it features more screaming matches and more tears in its first three episodes than any other reality show I’ve seen. But it doesn’t feel crass, or overly manipulated, or even mean – it feels authentic. We see almost in real time how the premise and setting of the show takes hold of the contestants, who are just desperate to make it all the way to the end. The UK version featured everyday people, including a doctor, a magician and a cheerleading coach. 

And what about the other versions…?

I’m not an expert, but I’ve dabbled in the broader Traitor-verse and come to the conclusion that they’re basically all great. The Australian version models itself quite closely on the UK edition with a cast made up of everyday folk, including a psychic and a man who was held hostage in Somalia for 15 months. 

The New Zealand take on The Traitors seems to align a bit more closely with the American version, with a healthy mix of celebrities and normies taking part. I’ll confess to being a little bit worried about that mix given the UK show demonstrated so well that a cast of regular folk can drum up all the drama you need, while celebrities can be a bit too comfortable performing to the camera. That being said, the US version whipped up some top notch drama with its mix of contestants. 

The cast of The Traitors NZ

Who should we have our eye on then?

Our local cast looks pretty incredible. Colin Mathura-Jeffree seems perfect for the show and is a self-described “smiling assassin”. He might struggle to blend into the background though, which is what all contestants should be striving for early on. Which brings me to Dylan Reeve. The Tickled co-director (and Spinoff contributor) has the tactical nous to outwit the competition and admits wanting to “avoid becoming the focus of attention”. Others worth keeping a close eye on include professional poker player Dan Sing and psychic Kimberley Stewart.

Sounds promising…

I’ve been telling everyone in my life they absolutely have to watch this show for the last couple of weeks, and so far at least two have been convinced. In my opinion, The Traitors is the best, most gripping reality TV show currently airing. Move over Love Island, Treasure Island and every other island-based format.

All right, all right – when can I watch it?

The Traitors NZ kicks off on Three and ThreeNow on August 7. Get ready.

Keep going!