‘The Circle’ Drops an Epic, Shady New Twist That Blows Up the Game


I love watching The Circle. The Netflix reality competition series—about a group of people who communicate exclusively through the titular social media app—is a fascinating look at how our lives revolve around and often depend on social media. But while the show’s concept is solid and its contestants are larger than life, it sometimes struggles to keep my interest. Watching people talk to a screen can only be so riveting. Thankfully, this season The Circle recognizes its own limitations, and in the latest batch of episodes, delivers a massive twist that shakes up the competition.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

A shake-up like the one revealed in the new episodes isn’t always a guaranteed success—like the AI reveal from earlier this season that went nowhere. But in Episode 7, there is a “ride or die” twist that takes the show’s drama to a whole new, exciting level. It’s the best twist in The Circle’s history.

It starts as a secret, with players participating in a seemingly innocent compatibility test, where they answer fun questions like, “Would you rather fight 1 bear or 500 chickens?” and sick, mortifying ones like, “Would you rather find your parents’ sex tape or have your parents find your sex tape?” Based on their responses, The Circle pairs the eight remaining contestants together—Paul and Kyle (a catfish who is actually Caress), Lauren and Autumn, Myles and Olivia (a catfish who is actually Jordan), Quori-Tyler and Jordan—and they’re told they are each other’s ride-or-die. But it's at the end of Episode 7 that we discover the full extent of this: whoever is blocked in the next ratings, their ride or die will be blocked with them.

A photo including Caress Russell in the series The Circle on Netflix

Contestant Caress Russell from episode 603 of The Circle.


This changes everything in The Circle. For the past five-and-a-half seasons, the show has been a strictly solo affair. Mob mentality undoubtedly plays a factor, but the competition is, at its core, every person for themselves. Now, everyone’s fate is tied to someone else.

The ride-or-die twist also creates a massive shift in alliances. Not long before Myles and Olivia were made partners, they were shadily arguing with one another in the group chat, so much so that Myles shouted “Fuck you, Liv” at the TV. Now, his fate is tied to hers, and vice-versa. Quori-Tyler (the best gameplayer on the show by a significant margin) is paired to Jordan, an unthreatening newcomer, but having the most popular player linked to a newbie could threaten her chances. Lauren, another well-liked player with plenty of friends in The Circle, is linked with Autumn, another new player who hasn’t made much of an impact, and historically, latecomers have struggled to make their mark on the show. The one pair that’s equally thrilled with their ride-or-die status is Kyle and Paul, who are already allies and whose bond has increased with each passing episode.

In every instance but one, the ride-or-die twist forces new interactions. The most promising of these seems to be Quori-Tyler and Jordan, who are the two players most keen to play the game through strategy rather than forming connections. These two players are the most gung-ho about getting the $100,000 cash prize. Watching them connect over that introduces a new dynamic we’d yet to see on this season of The Circle. Setting up these new partnerships is a genius move, and turns the show on its head, completely refreshing alliances just as The Circle was in danger of running out of steam.

A photo including Cassie Saylor in the series The Circle on Netflix

Contestant Cassie Saylor from episode 602 of The Circle.


In another game, each player is given a scenario and they have to answer who is the most and least likely player to participate in it. Lauren’s up first, and gets, “Which players are most and least likely to buy likes?” This is as easy as it gets. All Lauren has to do is put her ride or die as least likely, and literally anybody else as most likely. Lauren answers: “Least Likely: QT. Most Likely: Autumn.”

This decision is wild, yes. Unhinged, even. But Lauren’s move exposes exactly what makes reality television like The Circle so enticing. Some people are simply not cut out for this. That’s not even an insult—I don’t think I could last a day in The Circle—but it does highlight the uniqueness of the format, a vital reminder that these aren’t actors, but people. And people make baffling and incredibly entertaining choices that have you screaming at your TV. The craziest thing about it is that Lauren doesn’t seem to think anything of it, as if she’s blissfully unaware that she even harmed her own chances of surviving in The Circle. Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

An AI Player Is Fooling the Humans on ‘The Circle.’ God Help Us All

If you think Lauren’s choice to push her own ride or die in front of a bus is baffling, Autumn would agree. Autumn practically just arrived on the show after other players were blocked, and had little chance to make any tangible impact before the person she thought she could trust—or rather, needs to trust to survive the game—betrayed her. It causes an avalanche of everyone else choosing Autumn for the worst scenarios, and it feels like everyone in the game is united to take her out. You can just about pinpoint the exact moment Autumn’s heart breaks. It’s brutal and hard to watch, but the stakes feel so high that you can’t look away. But Lauren is paired with Autumn, so when she throws her under the bus, she throws herself under it too.

What’s especially enticing about the ride-or-die twist is that while so much of the game has been impacted by it, there’s even more to come. At the end of Episode 8, it’s revealed that whoever is ranked last in the ratings will be going home—and so will that person’s ride or die, regardless of how high they are ranked. It seems like the fickle hand of fate has all but guaranteed Autumn will be bottom-ranked. But then in yet another shock, Autumn doesn’t wind up in danger, neither she nor Lauren are ranked last. The pair in trouble is the only pair who were allies before the twist: Kyle and Paul.

A photo including The Circle in the series The Circle on Netflix

A still from The Circle


But The Circle refuses to let us breathe, with one final twist: for either Kyle or Paul to survive, one of them has to sacrifice themselves to let the other continue to play. This gives a pretty great opportunity for one player to bring out the very best in themselves, make the ultimate sacrifice, become an unexpected hero for someone else. Do they do it? Well, The Circle loves a cliffhanger, so we’ll have to wait for next week to find out.

One thing’s for sure: the ride-or-die twist is so masterfully executed it makes you wonder why it hasn’t shown up in every previous season. Hopefully, it’ll continue to play a role in future seasons of The Circle.

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