When reality competition show The Traitors kicked off its first American season last year, it did something instantly exciting: uniting regular civilians with notable alumni from the reality television universe to battle it out in a murder-mystery game straight out of the movies. Much like Clue or even Knives Out, the cast wandered a massive castle in the Scottish Highlands while trying to solve the whodunit.
The premise is pretty straightforward: Some of the cast are selected as “Traitors” who try to secretly eliminate the “Faithfuls” and earn a large cash prize. The group completes physical and mental challenges to accumulate money and then regroup nightly to try to eliminate a perceived Traitor. However, the Season 1 group found themselves unsuccessful, as Survivor star Cirie Fields remained undetected and went home with the grand prize. The final episode was a brutal case study, as the non-reality contestants Quentin Jiles and Andie Vanacore went home empty-handed and heartbroken by Cirie’s betrayal.
Season 1’s tense finale seemingly prompted Peacock to compile a cast of only reality-show stars or similar headline-making celebrities for the show’s second season. Because of Cirie’s success, it was only a matter of time before another Survivor contestant, the Parvati Shallow, joined the cast, given that the concept centers around lies and deception—both things that she excelled at four separate times on the sand.
After initially auditioning for The Amazing Race but not making the cut, a 23-year-old Parvati still managed to impress CBS producers. She went on to first appear on Survivor during Survivor: Cook Islands in 2006. Throughout her debut on the show, she gained a reputation of being a massive flirt—whether it was by getting naked in a hot tub or just turning on the charm.
What viewers didn’t know at the time, though, was that seduction was all part of her strategy, as she toyed with the clueless guys to keep herself safe. Because she flaunted her looks, she was underestimated by those who only saw her as a surface-level player. Parvati went on to make it to sixth place of the competition, as she helped eliminate the men who fawned over her. When she appeared on additional seasons later on—three more in the 13 years since her debut—Parvati’s image shifted, as the castmates viewed her as slippery and a backstabber. She made such amazing television throughout it all that even Survivor host Jeff Probst named her the “best winner” ever—and the majority of her fanbase has spent over a decade rooting her on too.
Thus, Survivor fans already know this: If The Traitors wanted Parvati to play the role of the villain in order to succeed on the show, she would happily do whatever it takes. But she’d still manage to have a blast while doing it.
At the start of Season 2, host Alan Cumming tapped Real Housewives Of Atlanta’s Phaedra Parks and Big Brother’s Dan Gheesling to be the devilish dynamic duo. As they needed to choose one more “Faithful” to add to their crew, it was an easy decision to pick Parvati.
From the season’s very start, the other stars suspected Parvati’s intentions, due to how her past televised history included running an all-female alliance, known as the “Black Widow Brigade,” to win Survivor’s Micronesia season in 2008. Throw in fellow player Sandra Diaz-Twine, who beat Parvati to win Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains in 2010, and the tensions were set in motion. Yet, by Episode 2, Parvati managed to gain the majority of cast’s trust and patch a past feud up with Sandra, allowing her to fly under-the-radar to carry out the traitorous tasks.
Only six episodes of The Traitors Season 2 have aired so far, but in that time, Parvati has pushed to the center of the show’s discussion. Her subtle-yet-ruthless execution of “poisoning” Love Island star Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu by handing her an elimination chalice to drink out of at a crowded kitchen party became a pivotal gameplay moment, one that viewers on TikTok have made fancams around. Parvati didn’t care if she bothered fellow Traitor Phaedra or confused the Faithfuls by whom she chose to eliminate in the task; she just went for the person who would be the easiest to slyly convince to take the glass. And she got away with it, too; when Ekin-Su was revealed to be one of three who were on the chopping block, she was still seemingly unaware that it was Parvati who sealed her fate.
Above all, Parvati’s appeal lies in the fact that she not only doesn’t play by the rules, but she also serves some iconic Gossip Girl-inspired looks while doing it—something she didn’t exactly get to do on Survivor Fiji or Survivor: Cook Islands.
— kyng (@KyngsGalore) February 2, 2024
right now you have the opportunity to be watching parvati shallow on a reality show. this is akin to what it must have been like to be at the last beatles performance — don’t miss your chance
— meg (@bymeg) February 2, 2024
One nation, under Parvati, indivisible
— Rose Dommu (@rosedommu) February 2, 2024
Fans like Evan Prekker grew up watching her be a “mastermind” on various Survivor seasons. Prekker’s first introduction to Parvati was through watching her stint on Survivor: Cook Islands with his family as a 7-year-old; during quarantine in 2020, he rewatched three of the other seasons she had been on. This allowed him to better understand—and appreciate—how she operates as a player, both on Survivor and, now, The Traitors.
“She possesses a laser-focus understanding of game mechanics, human behavior, and executes it all with her silent-assassin-style gameplay,” Prekker explained. “Some of her strategies have changed over the years, but her killer instincts and ability to pull the strings behind the scenes on The Traitors reminds me a lot of her early Survivor seasons.”
“A lot of the OG Survivor players have retired from the reality competition arena, so it’s always exciting when something new comes up and we get to see our favorite players make a comeback,” he added.
Prekker even made fan art of Parvati, which he posted to his Instagram. The drawing is a recreation of her holding the poisoned chalice, tapping into a fiery red color palette and a Survivor-inspired “Black Widow” nod. It even got Parvati’s stamp of approval, as she commented to ask how she could get a copy printed for her house. These down-to-earth interactions make Parvati even more likable to her fans. Prompted only by a simple social media tag, she participates with those who have followed her journey, whether they’ve been here for years or just started. Parvati also frequently reposts stories of fancams or girls who have been emulating her Traitors headband looks.
Another Survivor fan named Brooklyn is among the many TikTokkers creating Traitors-era Parvati fancams. She most notably edited the reality star to the viral “It Girl” song by Aliyah’s Interlude. She felt drawn to Parvati’s “personality” and was a fan of her double idol move on the “Heroes vs. Villains” season—where the contestant was placed on the latter team. With more than 17,000 views on Brooklyn’s edit, users in the comments pointed out how they’ve been waiting for one like this of Parvati. She is a “literal icon,” they say, and their queen.
Most exciting about Parvati’s turn on The Traitors, though, is that it’s introducing her style and savvy to a whole new audience. For fans like Leanne Dinverno who haven’t watched Survivor, The Traitors serves as a powerful introduction to Parvati as a fierce competitor. In the episodes since, watching Parvati perfect the villain role has been a pleasant discovery.
“She’s so clearly the smartest person in the house,” Dinverno told me, explaining her newfound love for Parvati. “I feel like she really has a feel for the game in a way that the others only think they do.” But she’s not just a great player among the cast, Dinverno added. She’s a great avatar for the viewers at home. “There’s also something very relatable about her. I think the audience members see her and want to believe that she’s behaving how they would if they were in the house.”
As for what Parvati herself thinks about her resurgence in popularity thanks to The Traitors and social media, she opened up about the experience in a recent photoshoot and interview for Paper Magazine.
“There’s no separation between reality and game,” Parvati said. “That’s how I played Survivor the first few times. I couldn’t make the distinction when I came home between reality and game. And now with The Traitors, I have the experience from my past of having done that. I’ve processed it. I’ve really established who I am.”
Still, she is aware that the cast members may not agree with how she aims to win competition shows. On Survivor, she put herself on the line to help convince competitor Erik Reichenbach to give up his immunity necklace, which allowed the Black Widow Brigade to brutally vote him out and make it to the top four. Years later, on The Traitors, she dared to go toe-to-toe against Phaedra at the roundtable, over the point that the Real Housewives cast members had formed a clique. “Nobody likes you, Par-va-tee,” Phaedra snapped when they regrouped that night.
While her competitors can’t stand it, those who watch Parvati on TV absolutely adore her IDGAF attitude. Instead of throwing shade right back, she stays focused on the prize and chooses to keep her deceitfulness below the surface. She wins through her wit, not wrath.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I get it. I’m a polarizing character. People can feel triggered by me. It has happened for my whole life,’” Parvati said in the interview, about how players like Phaedra react to her personality. “And I’m just like, ‘Okay, you don’t like me? Fine. But there’s no need to be nasty to people.’ I could say some nasty stuff about some of these people, but why would I do that?”
Since then, Parvati has also been targeted by former Bachelor lead Peter Weber, as he thought of a tactic to to catch the members of the murderous clique. However, he very well could be joining the Traitors’ side soon, as she smartly extended him an invitation to switch alignments during the last episode. Where anyone else very likely would have opted to eliminate a player that was onto them, Parvati did exactly what the fans love: flipping the script to place the heat on Peter instead.
While it’s still unclear if Parvati will be able to play her cards well enough again to make it to the finale, she has done a wonderful job at becoming the standout star of The Traitors’ second season. And for that, we are incredibly thankful.