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Et tu, Avon? 15 of TV’s Most Wrenching Betrayals

“Us, man.” (No you’re crying!) Photo: Courtesy of HBO

People may say “beware the Ides of March,” but why not embrace it, my friend! March 15 is that special time of year when we remember how Julius Caesar was dicked over by his friends, the Roman senators, especially his best bud Brutus, and stabbed to death. Sure, sure, he was a dictator and his rule erased the constitutional system set up in Rome, but that is neither here nor there, because the Ides of March isn’t about a conspiracy to overthrow a dictator, it’s about messy drama and ice-cold betrayals.

And what better way to get you in the mood for a true Ides of March celebration — other than drinking out of an oversize goblet of wine and throwing darts at a list of names of possible people to betray, as is Ides tradition — than a chronological, spoiler-filled look back at some of television’s greatest, most cutting betrayals? Fifteen of them, to be exact because, friends, Romans, countrymen: Ides of March parties always stay on theme.

1. Hannah Brown gets played by her fiancé Jed.

The Bachelorette, “Finale Part 2” (Season 15, Episode 13) // Aired July 30, 2019

The good news about season 15’s Bachelorette Hannah Brown discovering that her fiancé Jed Wyatt had a secret girlfriend and was only on the show to “further” his “music career” was that she got to dump his ass on national television. The bad news is that Hannah seemed genuinely enthusiastic about this entire process, so it was crushing to watch her end up with the personification of “not here for the right reasons.” The terrible news is we, the audience, pretty much knew this was going to happen from the beginning and were forced to watch it unfold while also putting up with Jed’s incessant serenading all season. The great news is this whole messy drama gave anyone feeling betrayed in a relationship the perfect exit line: “This is not what I said yes to.” So, basically, we’re breaking even here.

2. Randall learns his mother has been lying about his birth father for his entire life.

This Is Us, “Pilgrim Rick” (Season 1, Episode 8) // Aired November 22, 2016

A few things you should know about Randall Pearson: First, he loves his mother Rebecca very, very much. Almost too much. Second, he spent his entire childhood wanting to know who his birth father was, but was told his parents didn’t know. Then, at 36, Randall finds his birth father William only to learn he’s dying of cancer. The audience discovers early on that Rebecca secretly met with William several times, but Randall is in the dark until one Thanksgiving when he finds a letter his mother wrote to William when Randall was a boy. He confronts Rebecca over turkey and pie, as if there wasn’t enough family tension baked into this holiday. It is gut-wrenching and honestly those tears falling down Sterling K. Brown’s face are true American heroes and should be embraced by betrayed sons across the world.

3. Johnny Bananas takes it all.

The Challenge: Rivals III, “Split Decision” (Season 28, Episode 14) // Aired August 3, 2016

Listen, I know that in The Challenge: Final Reckoning a similar situation takes place and Ashley keeps $1 million all for herself, leaving her partner Hunter in the cold, and that $1 million is way more than the $275,000 at stake on Rivals III. But Ashley and Hunter straight-up hated each other. Sure, Bananas and Sarah were teammates on Rivals III because Sarah had betrayed him in an earlier season of The Challenge, but these two genuinely seemed to get over their past beef. So when they win as a team, but because Bananas won individually he can either keep all of their winnings or split it evenly with Sarah and he takes it all, Sarah is legitimately blindsided. And she just climbed up a mountain in Argentina, so he’s really pouring salt in a wound here.

4. Alicia destroys her mentor’s husband to save her own.

The Good Wife, “End” (Season 7, Episode 22) // Aired May 8, 2016

The slap to end all slaps is born from the ashes of the burning hatred Diane Lockhart feels when, during Peter Florrick’s bribery and extortion trial, Diane’s husband and ballistics expert Kurt McVeigh is forced to take the stand (it’s this whole thing). Although Diane forbids Alicia to try and undercut him in court and make him look unreliable in order to help Peter, Alicia gets Lucca Quinn to force Kurt into admitting he had an affair. After realizing that the woman she mentored just stabbed her in the heart, Diane gets up and silently, furiously walks out of the courtroom. And then she goes and puts on some fabulous earrings and slaps the hell out of Alicia, because that is how you handle betrayal, my babies! I mean, metaphorically speaking, because I don’t condone physical violence.

5. Jax cheats on Stassi with Stassi’s friend Kristen, who is dating Jax’s friend Tom.

Vanderpump Rules, “Bitch Slap” (Season 2, Episode 13) // Aired January 27, 2014

If you’re in a relationship on Vanderpump Rules and not cheating, do you even exist? Everyone on this show cheats — betrayals are always on the menu at SUR (thank you, you’re welcome). There’s a long list to choose from here, including but definitely not limited to Jax getting a girl in Vegas pregnant and that time Jax cheated on Brittany with Faith while Faith’s 95-year-old in-home care patient was asleep in the room, which honestly is too much to unpack in this blurb. Nevertheless, attention must be paid to the season-two drama when Stassi found out that Jax and her best friend, Kristen, slept together even though Jax was with Stassi and Kristen was with Jax’s best friend, Tom Sandoval. It was messy and chaotic and truly trailblazing.

6. It’s the Red Wedding, obviously.

Game of Thrones, “The Rains of Castamere” (Season 3, Episode 9) // Aired June 2, 2013

There is so much backstabbing — and front-stabbing! — going on throughout all eight seasons of Game of Thrones, that it seems like everyone is betraying someone at any given moment; we are all Cersei Lannister just double-fisting goblets of Westeros’s finest, watching everything burn to the ground. Yes, Daenerys being taken to Stabtown by her nephew-lover is some extreme betrayal shit, and yeah, Jon Snow getting murdered by the Night’s Watch has real Ancient Rome vibes. But none of these moments compare to Robb and Catelyn Stark being assured everything was supercool between the Starks and the Freys and attending a wedding to seal their alliance, only for them and their army to be slaughtered in a massacre for revenge and to hand control of the North over to the Lannisters. That is not how you treat your allies, and it is certainly not how you treat your wedding guests.

7. Dan, master of Big Brother gameplay, backstabs his friend Danielle one last time.

Big Brother, “Episode 28” (Season 14, Episode 28) // Aired September 13, 2012

Betrayal is ingrained in the premise of Big Brother. The entire show is about building alliances and then crushing those alliances for dramatic effect, and also Julie Chen. Someone who understands this idea more than anyone is Dan Gheesling, winner of season ten, who arrives at the house in season 14 to truly fuck some shit up. First there’s “Dan’s Funeral” gambit in which, believing he was about to get voted out of the house, makes a big good-bye speech and then manipulates several people into helping him stay. The final four of the season are Dan, his “best friend” Danielle, her “boyfriend” Shane, and Ian. Dan is so good at manipulating Danielle it is insane, and eventually he tells her that if she saves him, he’ll save Shane, AND SHE BELIEVES HIM. In the veto ceremony, she saves Dan, but he votes Shane out. It is a true power move, and I don’t think Danielle’s jaw has come up from the floor yet.

8. The Shane and Rick of it all.

Pretty much all of Shane and Rick on The Walking Dead, but especially “Better Angels” (Season 2, Episode 12) // Aired March 11, 2012

You may think that after leaving your friend for dead during the zombie apocalypse and then immediately shacking up with his wife, you might try to make amends after your friend shows up alive and well. But nope, not Shane. Shane doubles down on his dirty deeds, resenting Rick for swooping in and taking over his leadership role while also messing up his dream family life even though you’re like, dude, there are literal corpses trying to eat people here, and also, have you met Carl? Eventually, because no two alpha males can occupy the same post-apocalyptic group of survivors at once, Shane leads Rick out into an open field under false pretenses and tries to kill his former best bud. I mean, Rick figures it out and ends up killing Shane in the end, but let’s be real, this was Shane’s doing.

9. Edith reveals Mary’s secret about Mr. Pamuk.

Downton Abbey,” “Episode Five” (Season 1, Episode 5) // Aired October 24, 2010

The Downton Abbey Pamuk Scandal is one of my favorite TV story lines ever: Lady Mary Crawley decides she is down to clown — for the first time — with the handsome Turkish attaché Kemal Pamuk, and he dies while on top of her. Did her vagina betray her? No (well, maybe). Thanks to the help of her mother and ladies’ maid, Mary thinks she has this whole situation covered up, until her sister Edith finds out about it and writes to the Turkish embassy to tell them what happened because Edith just can’t help herself. When Mary confronts Edith, her response is: “He had the right to know how his countryman died — in the arms of a slut!” and it is AMAZING. But also it’s terrible because it ruins Mary’s chances of getting a husband, forcing her to almost marry the truest of dicks, and honestly sisters should really stick together.

10. Literally anything Walt does to Jesse, but let’s start with him letting Jane die.

Breaking Bad, “Phoenix” (Season 2, Episode 12) // Aired May 24, 2009

Walt betrays pretty much everyone on Breaking Bad, and which betrayal is the worst just depends on your mood. Skylar and his kids, definitely. Obviously, Hank’s realization that his brother-in-law is actually the drug lord he’s been looking for all this time is one of the greatest moments of the series. But on this day, what hits hardest is Walt’s repeated betrayals of his young partner Jesse. Their relationship is an endless cycle of Walt manipulating Jesse into trusting him and then betraying that trust. It’s there from the beginning, but really kicks up a notch in season two, when Walt finds Jesse and his girlfriend Jane — who was extorting Walt and turning Jesse against him — high in bed, and seeing Jane choking on her vomit in her sleep, he stands there and lets her die. And then uses this to manipulate Jesse some more! It’s crazy that it only gets worse from there. What a world!!

11. Michael makes a deal with the Others that includes the murder and kidnapping of his friends.

Lost, “Two For the Road” (Season 2, Episode 20) // Aired May 3, 2006

Michael “I’m gonna find my son!” Dawson made it abundantly clear what his top priority was in season two of Lost. I’m not blaming him, obviously he wants to do everything in his power to get his son Walt back after the Others stole him right out of his hands. But did one actual person ever think that “everything in his power” included Michael “they took my boy!” Dawson lying to all of his friends, shooting Ana Lucia and Libby so he could free captured leader of the Others Ben Linus, and then tricking Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley into following him directly into a trap so that they could be kidnapped? One actual person?! It was shocking then and it is shocking now, and the guilt of this betrayal eats away at Michael “Waaaaaaaaalt!” Dawson until he is a shell of a human and then dies because that, my friends, is what betrayal gets you.

12. “Us, man,” a.k.a: Avon and Stringer give each other up.

The Wire, “Middle Ground” (Season 3, Episode 11) // Aired December 12, 2004

Of all the entries on this list, Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell give me the most Brutus/Caesar feelings, which is a thing, I just decided. It is unthinkable that either of these men, these best friends, these partners, would ever turn on each other, and then in one episode they both do! That scene on Avon’s balcony in which they both know that they’ve sold out the other — Stringer has set Avon up to get arrested, Avon has set Stringer up to get killed — and don’t know what the other has done, but still sense something is off, is so loaded with intense subtext and feeling, honestly it is a gift we do not deserve. And then Stringer’s face when he finds himself trapped by Omar and Brother Mouzone and learns it was Avon who did this right before he dies? That is anything but just business.

13. Christopher tells Tony that Adriana is an FBI informant.

The Sopranos, “Long Term Parking” (Season 5, Episode 12) // Aired May 23, 2004

It’s been 16 years and the thought of this betrayal still shakes me to my very core. After barely surviving a year of being an FBI informant to get out of an arrest, Adriana finally tells her fiancé Christopher what’s been going on and tries to get him to join witness protection with her. They can get out of this life together. You guys, it really seems like Christopher is on her side here — I mean, after he almost chokes her to death — and they are going to get about as happy an ending someone can on The Sopranos. But that is not what happens, like, at all. Christopher not only tells his Uncle Tony the truth, sentencing Adriana to death, but he helps cover the whole thing up to make it look like Adriana fled. It is gutting. I am gutted!

14. Lex gets used and then cut loose by Boston Rob.

Survivor: All-Stars, “Anger, Tears and Chaos” (Season 8, Episode 11) // Aired April 8, 2004

This one is telegraphed from 3,000 miles away, but it still hurts and there is so much crying involved. Boston Rob has fallen for Amber, but she is in danger of being voted off, so he asks his good, in-real-life friend Lex to “take care of her” and he’ll “take care of [him]” in return. Lex betrays and votes off one of his own allies to save Amber, believing Rob will have his back for the rest of the competition. Literally the next episode, Boston Rob votes Lex out. Boston Rob and Amber are still married to this day, so maybe it was for love, but I think we can all agree that you should never trust a guy whose nickname is just the city he lives in.

15. Ross cheats on Rachel

Friends, “The One With the Morning After” (Season 3, Episode 16) // Aired February 20, 1997

Let’s be honest: The two phrases most synonymous with betrayal are “Et tu, Brute?” and “We were on a break!” Sure, Ross and Rachel had an enormous fight and left things on rocky terms, but it was truly ridiculous for Ross to go out that same night and have sex with the copy girl. Sure, this was only season three, but they were already Ross and Rachel. Like, wait 24 hours and have an addendum fight or something, dude. But he didn’t and Rachel can’t get over the betrayal and they very clearly, very firmly break up. I mean, not for good, because you know how this story goes, but for a while! Anyway, this is a super dumb move on Ross’s part and one more piece of evidence in the case of “Why Monica and Chandler Are the Best Friends Couple.”

Et tu, Avon? 15 of TV’s Most Wrenching Betrayals