Spoilers below for The Circle Season 4!
🚨 ALERT! 🚨 ALERT! 🚨 Everyone’s favorite pandemic obsession is back. The social media driven reality show, The Circle returned for its fourth season earlier this month and, once again, it’s given us plenty to talk about.
If you’ve, somehow, missed the show’s first three seasons, let’s explain how it works: The Circle features a group of contestants who move into the same apartment building and live in, almost, complete isolation. Their only tool to interact with each other is a custom-made social media-style app called the Circle which lets them chat and share images and a profile with the other contestants. Sometimes, the player at the other end of the chat is truly themselves; other times, they’re pretending to be someone else. But The Circle isn’t just about sliding into someone else’s DMs, it’s a competition. Contestants are regularly rated and subsequently blocked by the game’s most popular players. Last year Drew aptly described it as “Big Brother by way of Instagram.”
The new season has brought a slew of new twists and turns and introduced us to out lesbian influencer/ former Harlem Globetrotter, Crissa Jackson. But is the show still the “bisexual chaos” that we all loved from the first season? We gathered our own #CircleFam to talk all about it.
There are gay things to talk about in this season of The Circle but we’d be remiss if we didn’t start with this: THE SPICE GIRLS WERE IN THE CIRCLE! Melanie Brown and Emma Bunton (AKA Scary Spice and Baby Spice) joined The Circle as a catfish: Jared, a children’s book author. What was your reaction to their inclusion in the show’s fourth season? How do you think they did as a catfish?
Riese: I appreciated the additional Bisexual Representation provided by Mel B and it was cute to see their friendship and yes I did spend some time wondering if they were sleeping in the same bed before realizing they probably weren’t, which was sad. They were terrible at catfishing!
Shelli: LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING — as someone who watches Spice World on a monthly basis, I was WILDLY happy about this. The Spice Girls were a huge part of my childhood, like, they were my intro into Britpop (Steps, S Club 7, 5ive, Cleopatra and many others followed swiftly after) but they were like my version of The Supremes. I love putting them in there because The Circle plays on nostalgia because they know their audience. Last year we had the *NSYNC moment so why not. I also think they did great as a catfish! They caught themselves so many times when they were going to say things that could get them caught up, like using the word “we” and I’d like to think my screaming at the TV helped that.
Meg: I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I knew next to nothing about the Spice Girls before this season of The Circle, but I can now confidently say that I would die for Mel B.
Lily: Don’t forget to include Mel B’s dog, Cookie! Now, I’m not a huge Spice Girls fan (although I will belt out “2 Become 1” on occasion), but I was thrilled to have them there. Are they bad at catfishing? Absolutely. Would I see them attempt catfishing again because it’s so goddamn funny? Absolutely.
Natalie: When the UK version invited a celebrity, they got Richard Madeley, a well-known morning show host… so needless to say, getting the Spice Girls on the American version is a vast improvement. I loved having them on the show. I loved watching them interact with each other and deciding what to say.
That said, it was kinda weird that the other contestants were able to add more money to the final prize by not guessing that Mel and Emma were playing as Jared? I thought the ones who guessed correctly that he was a catfish should’ve won the extra money, not the ones who were fooled.
KaeLyn: We seem to almost unilaterally agree that they struggled with catfishing and playing the game. That said, most of the catfishes are bad at catfishing. I would be bad at catfishing. I’d like to commend Mel and Emma for throwing suspicion off of themselves and onto Alyssa and Rachel when everyone was trying to root them out. That was brilliant. I just loved watching them. They made The Circle extra wholesome and fun. I loved watching Mel curl up at the bottom of Emma’s bed for nightly debriefs, listening to them attempt to land American slang, watching them fall over laughing trying to keep up with Alyssa’s flirting, and they were obvs having a delightful time. I’m so glad they never had to be Influencers as Jared. They’re so kind-hearted; I think it would have broken them!
The Spice Girls were the first, but not the last, of the twists the show has thrown in this season to make things a bit more unpredictable. What’s your opinion of this year’s twists and how would you compare them to past seasons? Do they make you more interested in the season or less?
Shelli: I loved the way they did the sort of ladder style savings when the cyber attacked happened. It gave everybody a chance to show who they were close with, and revealed some of their motives that may not have been clear to others through the show. Like, I could not believe when Yu-Ling saved Rachel because I for sure thought she was going to save Alyssa!
It fucked me up actually!
Meg: That saving chain was so fascinating to watch! It was so interesting to watch people having to make such a difficult, public decision in real time, and to see who panicked and who stayed calm. I also really liked having the two new players each get their own private party, because I always feel like the latecomers are at such an extreme disadvantage. It felt like a cool way to let them build relationships immediately instead of just throwing them into the deep end. The identity theft twist last season was so stressful and I really hated it, so I’m hoping that we won’t see a repeat of that one in these final episodes.
Natalie: Oh gosh, Meg, same! The identity theft twist last season was awful and I hated it. I’m so glad that it didn’t become a regular thing.
I still don’t know how to feel about the saving chain. Like, on the one hand, it was great drama, right? To give everyone the opportunity to be an influencer, in real time. And, to think, it could’ve been more dramatic: the editing makes the decisions look like they happened relatively quickly but, according to an article I read, Bru’s final decision took 45 minutes. Can you even imagine agonizing over your fate in the game for that long?
But, at the same time, it felt like having to show your cards in the middle of the game… and gave a crucial advantage to the newer players.
Okay, time to bring on the gay: in last season’s roundtable about The Circle, Shelli said, “It would be great if a Black queer babe comes on and is a horrible person because that is the type of chaos I would like to see.” It seems like part of Shelli’s wish was granted with Crissa’s addition to the #CircleFam. What’d you think about Crissa and her gameplay?
Riese: She told so many balls jokes so early in the game and I didn’t enjoy that. After that, she really didn’t make much of an impression?
Shelli: Firstly, I think this means they should have a little Circle aftershow and EYE SHOULD BE THEE HOSTESS WITH THEE MOSTEST! And secondly, I loved it lol. Like, Crissa was very much herself but just like Riese said, didn’t make a lasting impression. If it weren’t for Frank trying to keep her in I think she would have went home far sooner.
I think she was playing it safe which is wild because like, it can be to your advantage OR your detriment — you literally never know in The Circle.
Lily: I kinda wish she stayed longer! She had a lot of charm and the only thing that phased me was the fact that she didn’t know what a memoir was. Also her fit at the 90s party was EVERYTHING.
Natalie: I agree with y’all… Crissa didn’t make that much of an impression. She’d participate when she had to but never really initiated anything on her own. Alyssa kept saying that she was a threat and I was like, “how?!”
That said, was her elimination the turning point in the game? Absolutely. It seemed like Yu Ling didn’t really want to eliminate her and Alyssa pushed her into it. Then Yu Ling has to go deliver the elimination news in person and Crissa tells Yu Ling that she ought to align with Frank… and then Yu Ling switches her whole game up. That’s when the #throuple died.
KaeLyn: I really liked Crissa once she got all the balls jokes out of her season. I was so annoyed about the balls jokes. Be better. But she never found her footing in the game. I remember in the promos for the season, she was saying she was going to be the “mom” of the circle, but Carol literally nabbed that role immediately and played it aggressively. I think it was probably her time to go, but wish she’d been better at the game! When there’s one Black lesbian and a whole bunch of straight white guys, it just feels like there’s a lot riding on the one diversity pick, you know?
Are you surprised that this show isn’t gayer? Why do you think there are so many straights on a show that began as utter “bisexual chaos?”
Shelli: I actually don’t know, I think it is pretty queer this season but it is like a very lowkey queer? I know there are lotsa queer characters but they just aren’t focusing on that aspect of who they are. I think it’s been proven that when there are all queer seasons of a reality show (I’m looking at you Are You The One) that it is far more interesting and fun. If they did this with The Circle, made it very obviously mad gay, it would be FUCKING INCREDIBLE.
Like, imagine the mess, the shade, the flirting, all of the tomfoolery!! And the amount of cool celebs they could bring on to catfish — imagine Lil’ Nas X on the fucking Circle… like, WHAT?!
Natalie: Oh, I’d love to see Lil’ Nas X come in and cause absolute chaos on a season of The Circle!
Lily: I’m pretty sure it’s been said in the past, but the energy of the show feels queer alone. Perpetual screaming on a virtual landscape? That’s gay. Like Shelli said, the contestants’ sexualities aren’t the main focus but an all queer cast would be a dream.
Natalie: That’s a good point, Lily. I guess we were just spoiled in that first season where everyone was kinda flirting with everyone and it felt like an intrinsic part of the game. I mean, a girl who walks around with a vulva pillow and she’s not even a little gay?
I guess I’ll have to depend on Lovestruck High or the forthcoming all-queer season of The Ultimatum for the gay chaos I’m after.
KaeLyn: Maybe my bi-dar is off, but I feel like Alyssa and Yu Ling are both maybe… not straight? There was a moment where I was shipping them, obviously not anymore. But yeah, the flirting is very het and that’s… less fun than in seasons past where there were several queer players or a lot of people gender-swapping as catfishes.
Oh, that brings up maybe the most contentious moment in the show so far: Yu Ling’s decision to give the antivirus software to Rachel instead of Alyssa. Yu Ling took the blame for Alyssa’s elimination even though other people, including Nathan and Bru, had a chance to save her but didn’t. What’d you make of that situation? Who do you really think is at fault?
KaeLyn: That data breach/cyber attack/antivirus situation was wild. I didn’t like how Alyssa and Bru turned on Yu Ling. Bru totally had the opportunity to save Alyssa and he decided not to and Yu Ling did, yes, the same thing, except she was earlier on in the chain. Bru literally blocked Alyssa and someone he comes out the good guy? No. I’m not buying it. All that said, Yu Ling has been a terrible ally. First she agreed to blocking Crissa, like WTF. So I’m not a Yu Ling sympathizer, either. I just didn’t like that Alyssa decided Bru was off the hook. He literally had the power to save her. He was the deciding player!
Natalie: You know, I really liked Alyssa and (albeit to a lesser extent) Bru, right up until this moment in the season (I’d never liked John/Mama Carol so his shady shenanigans didn’t surprise me)… but seeing the way they went after Yu Ling had me absolutely heated. It was so fucked up to watch Alyssa, Bru and John go after her like that. Everyone chose not to save Alyssa. Everyone! Why is Yu Ling taking the blame for something everyone did? Bru’s complaining that Yu Ling didn’t stay loyal to her alliance but he didn’t either! It was PEAK, PEAK white privilege.
And everything that Alyssa’s said about her blocking, both now and after the show, still has me looking at her sideways. Girl, just own that you had a crush on this goofy white man and you were more than willing to throw this Asian woman under the bus to get closer to him.
Ugh, I’m still so mad about it.
There are an interesting group of characters on The Circle this season. Who are your favorites? If you were cast on this season, who do you think you’d try to form an alliance with and why?
Shelli: Rachel is my number one right now and Frank is right after. Rachel just came in with this dope energy and she feels like one of us and I dunno but like, not to be weird — her picture is also the hottest and she is kinda flashing her ass in it lol. Also, she gives me Vanessa vibes (like, our Vanessa) and I love V so lol idk.
I would pick Frank and Crissa, honestly. I just want all the niggas to stick together as best as they can for as long as it’s worth it every season. Like, yeah there is the possibility that someone is catfishing but — my goodness — I think you would have to be brave as fuck to do that! And outside of that, I’d have a side alliance with Rachel!
Natalie: Frank is my absolute favorite. I know Alex keeps trying to throw salt in his game but Frank’s been 100% himself since he walked in the door.
KaeLyn: Frank is my #1. He’s just being real and I think that’s why he’s doing so well. I also like Rachel a lot for similar reasons and I need her to talk more about her paranormal investigator life. I’m really drawn to Yu Ling as a character because she’s got that bisexual chaos energy that I just love, but I’m annoyed AF with her right now. She keeps throwing people under the bus. (Justice for Crissa!!!) But if I could, like, go to brunch with her and Frank, that’d be so much fun.
Who do you think wins this season of The Circle? Is there anyone you definitely do not want to win?
Shelli: I got a funny feeling it’s gonna be Frank, he has been cruising and also hasn’t shown us yet what we can do and I think he is about to let loose. NATHAN CANNOT WIN AT ALL!
Meg: No idea who wins, but I just really hope it isn’t Nathan.
Lily: Nathan winning would be my villain origin story. But I have my bets on either Frank or Yu Ling.
Natalie: It’s always so hard to guess the winner because everyone tries to be strategic in their voting and it tends to doom the favorites. I want Frank to win but I’d be okay with Yu Ling or Rachel winning as well. I’d be disappointed if Nathan or Eversen won at this point.
KaeLyn: I have no idea but I think Rachel and Frank and Yu Ling all have a very good chance. That could all turn around in the finale, though! This is The Circle, after all! I just really, really, really hope it isn’t Nathan. I think we’re all in agreement about that!
Season 4 of The Circle is now available to binge on Netflix. The season finale of drops on Netflix at 12AM PDT.