The Traitors’ Dan Gheesling is playing it too safe

By mzaxazm

[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for season 2 of the U.S. version of The Traitors through episode 5.]

The Traitors season 2 has been a delight in every single aspect except one: Dan Gheesling, a Big Brother legend who looks like he’s about to be outplayed by Pilot Pete from The Bachelor.

The Traitors is a murder mystery whodunit game similar to Werewolf, Mafia, and Among Us, where a secret group of players, known as “Traitors,” choose someone to “murder” every episode. Along the way, the Traitors must evade the suspicions of the “Faithfuls,” who vote to banish a player from the game every round. The goal is to only banish Traitors, since if a single Traitor makes it to the finale, they walk away with the entire grand prize, which has a potential pot of $250,000.

Like in Big Brother (and even, honestly, Housewives), social gameplay and manipulation is key to surviving. This is why I was thrilled when Dan and former Real Housewife of Atlanta Phaedra Parks were the first two Traitors recruited, before they were joined by Survivor’s feared Black Widow, Parvati Shallow. Other than Phaedra — who I knew would thrive in this cutthroat, dishonest environment — Dan was the one I was most excited to see run absolute circles around the other players. Yet for five episodes straight, his strategy seems to be “go girl, give us nothing,” despite the ballooning target on his back.

This is a shock for Big Brother fans, who credit Dan with delivering the best moment in the CBS show’s history: Dan’s funeral. In season 14, Dan found himself up for elimination alongside his ride-or-die ally, Danielle Murphree. He came up with an outlandish, multi-step plan to stay that involved staging a fake funeral for himself. During the “funeral,” he brought several houseguests to tears with his kind parting words — and blindsided Danielle when he went after her for betraying him. The thing is, Danielle had been nothing but loyal to Dan; this was all part of his master plan to keep them both safe. When a weeping Danielle later asked Dan if he could at least give her a heads up next time he planned on publicly “humiliating” her, Dan said with a cheeky grin on his face, “No, because then you wouldn’t cry.”

It was vicious, genius, cruel, exquisite — in short, perfect reality TV. This was the Dan I expected to see on The Traitors — not someone who sat back and refused to throw suspicion on potential Traitors, but someone who makes bold moves and uses his closest allies as fuel for his own success and safety. And if Dan has any chance of surviving The Traitors one more week — or earning back my respect — he needs to connect with his inner Judas again.

In the fifth episode, several Faithfuls literally beg Dan to share a name or theory — anything to show that he is playing the game with them — and yet he declines, claiming that he has a suspect in mind but he’s waiting until he’s 100% sure they’re a Traitor to shoot his shot. This ongoing attempt to keep a low profile backfires so terribly that going into the banishment roundtable, Dan is the name on most everyone’s lips. He barely skates by the elimination (surviving only by helping throw his Big Brother buddy Janelle under the bus) and ends the evening by promising to finally name a name the next day. But even doing this might be too little, too late to save his skin unless he’s willing to take some seriously drastic measures.

Before the most recent banishment, Peter lied to his top Traitor suspects — Dan, Parvati, and The Challenge’s CT — claiming he and Janelle had shields to protect them from being murdered. Parvati clocks this as the trap it is right away, but Dan discounts Peter’s ability to strategize. Instead, he remains adamant about murdering Love Island’s Bergie, who has been openly gunning for Dan and is one of the two players who actually possesses a shield.

Dan was already facing an uphill battle in convincing players he’s a Faithful next week, and if he truly does fall into Peter’s trap and carries out a failed murder attempt on Bergie (which it really seems like he will), things will look exponentially worse for him. The best way Dan can save himself at this point is to give the Faithfuls a suspect with undeniable evidence against them — evidence the Faithfuls can’t deny because it’s true. What I’m saying is, he needs to throw Parvati or Phaedra to the wolves.

Dan Gheesling and Phaedra Parks sit at a breakfast table in a still from The Traitors. Dan has a slightly surprised smile on his face, while Phaedra has her mouth open in shock.

Image: Peacock

Spinning up a theory as to why a single player has been behind the string of (somewhat incomprehensible) murders is a lot harder when you’re working purely from fiction. But, as Dan once said, the best way to wrap up a lie is to surround it with truth, and the best way to convince the Faithfuls someone is a Traitor is to accuse someone who actually is.

In last week’s episode, Dan and Parvati discussed the possibility of sacrificing Phaedra if they needed to throw people off their scent. And Parvati already cast suspicion on the Housewives after Love Island’s Ekin-Su was murdered, prompting an iconic fight in the turret between the three Traitors. At this point, accusing Phaedra of being a Traitor at the next roundtable seems like Dan’s next play to solidify his survival. (Though Parvati would likely make a better choice.)

I’m not even 100% sure this strategy would work, nor am I sure I’d even want it to. But honestly, if it meant seeing the Dan I know from Big Brother back in all his ruthless glory, I’d be beyond myself with glee. And even if he does go down, at least he’d go down swinging and not sitting on the sidelines. It’s what his legacy deserves.

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