Spoilers for the finale of Peacock’s The Traitors below.
“It’s not Cirie,” one semifinalist says to another on episode nine of The Traitors. “Cirie wouldn’t do us like that.” But she would. Cirie Fields, a Survivor vet four times over, is one of the most devious and talented social strategists reality television has ever seen. She first appeared on Survivor’s 12th season, announced in the premiere that she was “scared of leaves,” then promptly developed some of the most innovative voting strategies in the show’s history: pioneering the plurality vote-off in her now-famous three-two-one vote and, on Survivor: Micronesia, collaborating with the notorious Black Widow Brigade. Despite this résumé, she’d never won a reality competition. Until The Traitors , that is.
The ten-episode Peacock series, which pits reality-TV vets and normies against each other in order to weed out the “traitors” and land a $250,000 prize, began with Fields, Big Brother winner Cody Calafiore, and normie Christian De La Torre designated as the titular murderers; Arie Luyendyk Jr. (formerly a Bachelor) joined them midway through the season. Calafiore and De La Torre were eventually “banished” (read our recap for a full explanation of the game’s rules), but Fields and Luyendyk made it to the final four alongside normie faithfuls Andie Vanacore and Quentin R. Jiles. The traitors could’ve split the pot, but Fields chose to banish him and, with Vanacore and Jiles believing she was a faithful, take the money from them, too. It was dastardly work and gripping television. “When you lose so many times, you start to question everything,” Fields told Vulture. “It felt excellent to finally get a win.”
First of all, congratulations. For many of us Survivor fans, this was a real moment of catharsis. What does it feel like to win for the first time?
Because of the circumstances around it and all the emotion, I didn’t get to revel or enjoy it until days later, when it hit me. During the show, Andie was so sad that I couldn’t jump up and down. But a couple days later … it was excellent. It was everything I had been waiting for with Survivor.
Take me back to the moment when you got chosen as a traitor. What was your first response?
Alan walked around that room at least ten times, and the first two times he didn’t select me. I was like, Oh shit, he didn’t choose me. Once I felt that hand on me, I was like, Okay, calm down, because I was exploding inside. I felt like the second they asked us to remove our blindfolds, everybody would see my heartbeat in my neck. As soon as you take those blindfolds off, you’re looking for anything to say, “So and so is a traitor.” I had to talk myself off a ledge: Just breathe, don’t look stupid or weird.
Given that people already know you have strategic abilities, how do you get the target off you?
My plan was, as usual, to be invisible. I wanted to be under the radar as much as possible. People were looking for me to make any strategic move. I sat back and rode the wave of the game.
Brandi and Kyle were suspicious of you early on, but the suspicions were mostly based on the meta-game — they were assuming the producers would want you to be a traitor. How much did outside elements play into the game?
Your reputation precedes you. A good amount of the players — ’cause some of the people didn’t know me — had an idea of who they thought I was. When we got to the castle after being selected, I decided to have an ice breaker where you tell something about yourself people wouldn’t know. Just trying to get to know people. I explained to them that I was on Survivor four times, and the reason I am good on Survivor, and the reason that my alliances last, is because I’m such a loyal and honest person.
Is that true? I remember that 3-2-1 vote on Exile Island.
[Laughs.] Sort of! Listen, if you’re in an alliance with me and I feel I can trust you wholeheartedly, then you can trust me. But if I don’t think I can trust you, then you really can’t trust anything I say.
We’ll get to Arie later …
What happened after this icebreaker game?
That was the first conversation out the gate, and when I spoke to Brandi a couple weeks ago, she said that put me on her radar. And I knew Kyle, even though he didn’t have anything solid, was telling people I would be a good traitor. So I knew Brandi, I knew Kyle, and I knew Kate was on the Brandi bandwagon, so I tried to stay away from those people as much as possible.
I’m curious about the difference between the celebrities, who had been on reality TV before, and normal people. Was there a difference in the approach to the game?
Absolutely. The reality stars felt like, I’m the celebrity, I don’t really have to talk to these people. They should get to know me. My approach was, Let me get to know these people. They’re fascinating. Andie is fascinating! Michael? Forget about it. This is their first time, we don’t know which one of them is a breakout star. Any of them could be me!
You ended up with two non-celebrities at the final reveal. Did you think they would be easier to manipulate, or that you could take them under your wing in some way?
Not so much that I could take them under my wing, but we related. I related to Andie’s struggles. I relate to Quentin’s struggles. I did need numbers, but that number could have been Amanda, it could have been Kyle. I wasn’t looking at them as prey, I was looking to them for support to get further in this game.
Ryan’s murder was so dramatic because you told Cody you’d heard he was friends with Ryan outside the game.
I’m telling you Stephenie told me that. Now she’s telling me that she didn’t tell me that, but where would I get that from? I don’t know either one of them! I said to Cody, “Why don’t you want Ryan to go? Because you’re good friends with him?” He had a visceral reaction. I was like, “Calm down! Maybe you’re not friends!” I believed him! But Cody was so stubborn, he said, “Oh, you say I know Ryan? I’m gonna prove to you that I don’t.” Plus, he didn’t trust Christian, and Cody felt like me and him had a thing, but then I accused him. Cody told me that his father, who is a big Survivor watcher, told him, “If you make her feel like she can’t trust you, it’s over.” He’s absolutely right. And Cody felt at that time that I didn’t trust him.
Do you think that was part of Cody’s major spiral?
I think so. Everything was cool until then.
I wanted to talk about your alliance with Rachel and Stephenie, who went out in quick succession. Why did you like that relationship and then why did you realize that needed to end?
Numbers in these games are everything. Stephenie and Rachel were a number I could count on not serving me up for banishment. We had a relationship because we’d played these games before, and I wanted to keep them as long as I could without putting a target on myself. I didn’t want Rachel to go when she went, but if I’m a faithful and all the faithfuls believe that Rachel’s a traitor and I don’t vote for her, that’s gonna put a target on me. Then Stephenie called Christian out, so we had to get Stephenie. But I kept the murder off them for as long as possible without bringing it on myself.
What could the faithfuls have done better?
The faithfuls could have talked to each other more. The Bravo-lebrities cliqued up. They were with each other whereas I was with everybody, because I’m thinking in terms of numbers. If I get these newbies, I’m in a good spot. I made friends, I talked to everyone, I listened to what they had to say. If more of the faithfuls did that with each other, I might not have gotten so far.
I don’t know if you know this, but in her exit interview, Stephenie says she knows it’s Christian, and she’s starting to think Cirie.
I did not know that! Let me tell you Stephenie’s rationale: The faithfuls decided that the traitors had to be one celebrity man, one non-celebrity guy, and then a woman who could be either. Then Cody went and they all thought it was Christian. Stephenie thought the third was Shelbe, but after Shelbe went, Stephenie was like “Damn, it’s gotta be Cirie.”
You were okay murdering Stephenie, but it seemed like Christian’s excitement over that process was not something you enjoyed.
I was under a lot of stress and I didn’t enjoy Christian’s excitement most of the time. And I definitely didn’t enjoy murdering one of my allies. I see it in terms of numbers: Rachel just went, and now I’ve got two allies gone, so I have to depend on my new allies.
What was it like working with Christian?
Oh my God, Christian was psycho. I like him, but he’s so full of energy and so excited to make a name for himself that I had to keep him bottled up the whole time. One day, I came back from interviews and everybody else was like, “Christian has been looking for you all day, what’s going on?” They could have easily connected me to him because they had already been thinking he might be a traitor. I had to go to him and say, “Stop looking for me. Everybody’s telling me you’re looking for me? Don’t do that.” Christian’s like the little brother you have to keep under control.
When did you decide you needed to cut him?
I figured it would play out pretty much like it did. Cody kind of banished himself and then Christian did the same thing. I didn’t have a plan as to when I should cut myself loose from them, but they did it all for me. Christian did it with that debacle saying that he was recruited. For what reason? It was unnecessary. I knew he would self-explode like that.
So let’s talk Arie, because this is big. When did you decide to cut him?
Lord. Lordy Lord Lord. Honestly, not until we got to the end. I was good with ending the game with Arie. But then I thought about it. I’ve been doing this for a long time. Arie just walked into this, he was involved with one murder. Not to take anything away from Arie, but I deserved it. I had been going through the stress by myself the entire time. Why share it now when I didn’t get to share the stress? During the final mission, I had already discussed with Quentin and Andie that if there was another banishment, it would be Arie. I knew I wouldn’t be hard pressed to get them to banish him.
In that final moment, they are even more confident that you were a faithful because you outed him.
That was so painful.
You were winning but I felt bad for you.
Isn’t that something? I felt bad too! My mind wasn’t, “Enjoy this moment.” My mind was like, “Damn, these people are hurt.” Luckily, we only had one more round of decisions left, because after all that nonsense, I might have done something stupid, and been like, “You know what Andie, I’m a traitor …”
I was worried you were gonna do that. I was like, “Don’t you dare, Cirie! This is your time!”
I love these games. They’re so much fun. But I don’t ever wanna hurt a person.
Did you go back to those moments when you had been hurt, like in the final three of Micronesia?
Oh my God, of course. That’s the good and the bad of it, because I know both sides. I know how it feels to be Andie and Quentin and just barely lose, and now I also know how it feels to be Parvati and win. Alan kinda snapped me out of it by saying, “You won! You got $250,000!” I was trying to get into it, but I couldn’t because I was so concerned about them.
You came off as a little shell-shocked
That’s the perfect word for it. I didn’t anticipate having to say in front of them that I was a traitor.
On the show, you critique your Survivor gameplay by saying you always lose it at the end because you get too emotional.
I do. Based on my relationships, I would never make the right decisions. The best thing for me to do on Exile Island would be to get rid of Aras. The best thing on Micronesia would be to go for Parvati. But once I’m locked in, I’m a loyal person. I had to put all the emotions aside for this. The goal is to win this game. As much as I love Andie, I love my family a little bit more. I wanna play for them.
If there were another season of The Traitors, who from Survivor should go on?
Sandra is a shoo-in. If they don’t immediately target her? If she can shake that off? Shoo-in.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.