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#CircleReturn: My Review on ‘The Circle’ Season 3

So Netflix’s social media show The Circle wrapped up its third season this month, and I was so ready to jump right in. Unfortunately, I got busy with life and ended up binge-watching it all within a week with my roommate. Still, hey, at least I didn’t have to wait every week for a new episode to drop! I’ve written about The Circle before, back when I watched the first season in early 2020, and unfortunately, I didn’t write an article on the second season. The one that I wrote back in 2020 was about how it’s one of my favorite reality shows to date and all the reasons why I love it (check out my article 5 SPOILER-FREE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH NETFLIX’S “THE CIRCLE”), but unlike that spoiler-free article, this one will be full of them. Warning: Spoilers ahead! 

From the start, I remembered one of the top reasons I loved this show, and that is host Michelle Butaeu’s comedic commentary. Her sarcasm is on-point, and her shady remarks make me laugh so hard. She’s sassy and clever, and having a host who isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind is a large part of what makes The Circle such a joy to watch.

Now, let’s move on to the more essential parts of the show: the contestants. Watching people live alone in their apartments and interact with people only through social media channels rang very reminiscent of peak COVID-19 quarantine, not to mention that they were filming this season in the fall months of 2020 amidst the pandemic. The cast consisted of ‘southern belle’ Kai; ‘fierce and focused’ mom Ruksana; private chef and charmer Calvin; ‘mama’ and comedian Michelle; personal trainer Matthew playing as his friend Ashley; the “Big Nick Energy” man himself, Nick; Circle baby 20-year old Daniel; sisters Ava and Chanel playing as just Ava; ‘brain babe’ Sophia playing as her sister Isabella; ‘beauty and the bro’ herself, Rachel, playing as Jackson; comedian and DJ James, playing as a single version of himself; and 6’2″ gamer girl Jacki. Overall, The Circle maintains its foot-holdings as a show bent on representing people from different backgrounds and all walks of life, and I love that.

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I’d have to say that Ruksana was my favorite contestant. She was proudly Indian and American, wanting to be the leading actress in a Bollywood movie and explaining how she lives with a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia. Being a mom, she took Daniel under her wing, and the two of them formed such an unlikely (but also somewhat sensical?) duo. She was unapologetically herself the entire game. Furthermore, she earned the respect of all the players she interacted with, evident in how they would come to her for advice. Ruksana seems like a fun Jersey girl who adores her daughter and husband and seems like the type of person who would see you at a party, notice that you’re not having fun, and invite you into her world. I loved seeing her develop relationships with the other players, especially her best Circle friend, Kai, and Circle “baby” Daniel. 

One of my favorite moments of the season made me ugly-cry. It was a touching moment between Matthew, AKA Ashley, and then-newcomer James discussing their connections to the LGBTQ community. Matthew, a gay Latino man, was catfishing as his friend Ashley, who in real life is lesbian but who he made bisexual in the game. James is a straight black man who has a trans brother whom he sees to care for immensely. The friendship between Ashley and James was entirely unexpected but very welcome. Even though Matthew was catfishing as Ashley, one of the main strategies he employed as a catfish ended up putting him to the finale as a second-place finalist, which was sticking as much as possible to his own life story. And the conversation that James and Matthew/Ashley had about trans lives and being comfortable contained incredible amounts of vulnerability and courage, which all in all made a scene that made me bawl.

The gameplay, and perhaps one of my biggest problems with this season, was the sheer amount of screentime dedicated to alliances, especially in the later seasons with Nick versus Kai. I’m going to be honest; I found Nick annoying at times, and him being a straight white man showed through in various interactions with other players. On the other hand, Kai had a whole plan going on, which she named CCCF, which stands for “compliments, comedy, and commonalities,” with a “‘sprinkle’ of fantasy.” I didn’t like her at first, but I grew to like her as the season progressed. I think the weird frenemies relationship between Nick and Kai was fascinating to watch play out, and it is evident that they have mutual respect for the other as game players. However, their separate alliances wove into the fabric of the show so much, it almost tarnished it, and people on both teams —Nick’s “band” full of catfish and Kai’s apparent catfish BS meter alliances — soon grew tired of it. And even though James was our ultimate season 3 winner, I felt so strongly that the person who should have won was Kai because she played an excellent plan and yet, tried to get to know people and make others feel included. Plus, totally random, but I think it’s unfair that honest Michelle had to go home before the “other Michelle remained,” and the dynamic between Ava and Chanel was just a who thing sometimes.

In conclusion, I’d probably give season three 3.75/5 stars. It maintained its Circle vibe and carried out the goals that Netflix has always really strived to be present. Yet, as usual, the cast members help make this whole thing better or worse. Netflix has hit its stride with these reality shows, although the new challenges and the twists and turns that they pulled throughout this season could have been executed a lot better. However, I still can’t wait for another season of The Circle to drop soon!

Check out Instagram for Netflix’s The Circle here.

Kayla is a Communication Studies and Entertainment & Media Studies (EMST) double-major, with a Women's Studies minor. She enjoys good music, Marvel movies, and Tik Toks. In the rare moments where she's not writing, watching, or listening to something, you can catch her hiking outdoors, eating good food, and spending time with family and friends.
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