Season 3 of the US version of Netflix’s The Circle has just announced its big winner. Five contestants reached the last round of the social media-inspired reality show, but only one went home with the $100,000 prize. However, even though the money is a big deal for the players, for reality competition fans the most important part isn’t who gets to go home richer, but just how entertaining the show actually is. The real question is whether watching The Circle is just as rewarding as winning it. The short answer is “yes,” but the details may vary from one season to another.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 3 finale of The Circle US.]
Originally created by British network Channel 4, The Circle is a very peculiar reality show. Like other competitions of the genre, players must face each other in a series of challenges and form alliances to get to the final round. And, just as in other social based games, like Big Brother, they must craft a well-rounded, likeable, and non-threatening persona capable of making others more inclined to have their backs. The twist is that the contestants can only interact through text and photos in a fake social media platform called The Circle. Based on those interactions, they must then rate one another to determine who will be the influencers – and, indirectly, who will get blocked. For those that don’t believe themselves to be influencer material, The Circle allows the use of catfish profiles, which shines an even brighter light at the “constructed persona” aspect of the game. If they can convince their opponents of their authenticity, catfishes can go very far: in Season 3 of The Circle US, two of the five finalists weren’t really who they said they were. Played by Matthew and Sophia, respectively, Ashley and Isabella faced Kai, Nick and winner James for the prize.
Alongside the American version of the show, Netflix also released two international iterations of The Circle: The Circle France and The Circle Brazil. So far, they had only a single season each. The rules and the social dynamics are basically the same, but things can change a lot from one version to another, or even from season to season. Since not everyone can be an influencer, here’s a ranked list of all seasons of The Circle released on Netflix, regardless of country of origin.
5. The Circle US, Season 3
Image via Netflix
Wearing your heart on your sleeve is never a good strategy for reality show contestants. Still, some level of recklessness and emotional honesty is necessary both to win and to entertain viewers. As Matthew, a.k.a. Ashley, puts it in his turn as an influencer, “you can’t play this game safe.” Sadly, however, the Season 3 participants of The Circle don’t take this advice to heart. Their unwillingness to show their true colors makes up for an unpredictable game, but a somewhat boring watch. The best example of this issue is Daniel. The youngest member of the cast manages to go far in the dispute by playing up his perceived innocence and keeping a low profile, but he’s at his most interesting just after being blocked. It’s only then that he shows his dissatisfaction and allows himself to actually scheme with someone else, spilling tea on Nick and James for Sophia.
Furthermore, The Circle usually succeeds in keeping players and viewers on their toes by changing rules from one season to another or even between episodes. It’s not unheard of for blocked players to receive a second chance running a catfish profile, for instance. But the way this was done in Season 3 felt more than a little mean-spirited. Watching Michelle compete against a fake version of herself for a place in the game sure offered some insight on how the concepts of likeability and authenticity are often mixed in our minds, but it was also painful to see a woman’s whole life experience being dismissed as fake simply because she wasn’t sporting the correct hairstyle in her wedding photo.
4. The Circle Brazil
Image via Netflix
For at least the first half of the season, The Circle Brazil suffers from the same issues as its Season 3 American counterpart. Overall, the players seem eager to please and unwilling to be true to their real emotions. Some come and go without even making a dent in the game’s pre-existing dynamic. Renan, for instance, that doesn’t seem to have much of a personality besides being a hot guy interested in cryptocurrency. This, of course, shouldn’t be construed as passing judgment on Renan as a person, since none of us really know how we would present ourselves if we were ever on reality television, but, as a contestant, he just doesn’t have that much to add.
Luckily, in contrast, a handful of other players began to open up more throughout their stay at the Circle apartment building, sharing animosities as well as sweet, personal moments. Lorayne’s kiss with her Circle boyfriend Akel upon his blocking is extremely endearing, and her beef with JP Gadelha after he tries to ruin her alliance with Marina sure keeps things tense for a while, even if it never develops into a full-blown fight. Bickering twins Lucas and Marcel, catfishing as Luma, are great late additions to the cast. Likewise, Raf’s, a.k.a. Ana, “mean girl” personality is such a pleasure to watch that the only issue with his casting is that it didn’t come sooner. Last, but not least, Giovanna Ewbank is a very charming, competent host. However, her performance lacks some bite that would certainly help the series’ sense of humor.
RELATED: Netflix’s ‘The Circle,’ ‘Too Hot to Handle’ Get Release Dates, Unique Release Strategy
3. The Circle US, Season 1
Image via Netflix
The first season of The Circle outside of the UK presented viewers with a diverse and delightful cast, from fan favorite Sammie to prematurely blocked Karyn, a.k.a. Mercedeze. It introduced the world to the concept of catfishing in the game, and to the realization that, more often than not, fake profiles aren’t nearly as interesting as the people running them. Though it’s not hard to understand why Karyn felt she wasn’t influencer material — being a large, Black, lesbian woman that could certainly suffer a lot of prejudice, it’s sad that she felt the need to play such a blander version of her vibrant personality to get ahead in the competition. The theme re-emerged when plus-size model Sean decided to come clean and remove the pictures of her thinner friend she had been using in her profile to reveal her true self. It was a touching moment, with Sean nearly incredulous at just how welcoming others were to her. It would have had a greater impact, however, if she hadn’t been blocked by superinfluencer Joey almost immediately after. Nonetheless, the cast of the first American Circle was full of charming, relatable characters, and whether you’re laughing at Seaburn trying to pretend to be his girlfriend Rebecca, who definitely knows everything about periods, or just amazed at just how much help Ed really needs from his mother Tammy, you’re bound to have a good time. Michelle Buteau is also an extremely charismatic host, with just the right amount of venom to give the audience a good laugh.
2. The Circle France
Image via Netflix
There are only two reasons The Circle France isn’t on this list’s top spot. The first one is the cast’s lack of diversity regarding both race and sexuality. It’s not that everyone in The Circle France is white and straight, but, in a game whose main premise is seeing how different people present themselves and interact with limited tools in a confined environment, having so many participants with similar backgrounds sure takes a toll. The second issue is the lack of a host. Though it doesn’t make a difference throughout the regular episodes, narrated by Alfred Gerbet, it makes for a kind of anticlimactic finale, with contestants finding out the results of the last ranking without anyone to generate suspense or guide the conversation.
But, apart from these issues, The Circle France is a near-perfect experience when it comes to reality shows. Far from being afraid of showing their true colors, contestants don’t hesitate to start fights or declare affection for one another. For instance, there are certainly many ways to respond when your friend Ines tells you that she will come up with a secret plan to take down the other players one by one. Making a goodbye video announcing to everyone that your friend Ines is coming up with such a secret plan, however, is hardly the best choice, and, yet, this is exactly what Gary does after being blocked. Between twins Edmundo and João, a.k.a. Nelia, trying to figure out basic kitchenware and Paolo getting a simple “OK” as a response to a message as long as the Epic of Gilgamesh, it’s hard to choose just one moment that truly represents the wildness of The Circle France. However, number one participant is most definitely winner Romain, who enters a loving relationship with Valeria, unaware that she is, in fact, her husband Maxime, and throws himself on the floor whenever he’s caught by surprise – something that happens a lot.
1. The Circle US, Season 2
Image via Netflix
The second season of The Circle US is the only one that breaks a pattern that established itself in all versions of the show released on Netflix: unlike Alana (US 1), Ana Carla (Brazil), Lou (France), and Ava (US 3), Bryant wasn’t the first player blocked because others considered him too beautiful to be anything but a catfish. The feel-good breathing instructor left the show not because of his apparent lack of authenticity, but simply because influencers Savannah and Terilisha couldn’t see eye to eye on who to block. As a matter of fact, they couldn’t see eye to eye on many topics. If you’re the kind of reality show fan that is in it for the fight, prepare to be delighted, because no feud in The Circle goes deeper than the one between those two. Savannah and Terilisha are the second and third blocked participants, respectively, and yet, even in the finale, they are still firing shots at each other. And you just know that it doesn’t end there.
But, even if they don’t reach Bryant levels of positivity, the rest of the cast is a lot more peaceful, which gives room to much more interesting dynamics to bloom. Straight off Too Hot to Handle, Chloe starts an in-game relationship with Trevor only to find out that her beau is actually Trevor’s wife, DeLeesa. Playing a 24-year-old student/waiter named River, 58-year-old gay writer Lee has to deal with lots of emotions throughout his chats with Courtney, an actual gay man in his twenties, and with John, an alleged 64-year-old gay psychic. What he doesn’t know is that John is, in fact, a catfish created to give two other players a second chance in the game. One of them is Jack, blocked while catfishing as Emily. The other is Lisa, who joins The Circle as no one else but her boss, NSYNC’s Lance Bass. With five fake profiles, The Circle US Season 2 has the highest number of catfishes among all seasons of the Netflix reality show. And watching players deal with this rollercoaster of truths and lies makes this season the real influencer of them all.
The Circle is streaming now on Netflix.
KEEP READING: ‘The Circle’: Season 3 Trailer Teases New Catfish and Even More Twists
Here’s Everything Leaving Netflix in October 2021
Last call for ‘Inception,’ ‘Legally Blonde,’ and more.
About The Author
(8 Articles Published)
Elisa Guimarães is a feature writer at Collider. She’s a journalist, a translator, a linguist, an aspiring author, a lover of trivia games, and a first time cat owner. Likes science fiction, true crime, coming-of-age stories, teen dramas, and some other things as well. Can also be found at Delirium Nerd, writing in Portuguese.
From Elisa Guimarães