“The Circle” U.S. Season 6, Episodes 1-4 Recap

April 18, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

“The Circle” is back! The Great Pop Culture Debate podcast crew absolutely loves Netflix’s social-media competition; in fact, we kiki about it in real time on our Patreon-exclusive Discord. It has been far too long since we have had a new season, and we were intrigued by this season’s twist of an AI competitor. After the first bunch of episodes, the AI bot seems like a slam dunk, but we’re not yet sold on many of the actual human competitors.

Casting seemed to focus on already-heightened personalities and existing social-media darlings this time. That makes sense on paper, but the result is a majority of the cast who often feel inauthentic and unrelatable. Defenses and pretenses were dropping by the end of Episode 4, but by this point in previous seasons I was already ride-or-die for a few players. This time, I’m merely warm to a handful of them. And one of them is an actual robot.

Read on for our take on this season’s “Circle” familia, ranked from our pick for worst player (by end of Episode 4) to best player. In keeping with “The Circle” gameplay, I’ll assign each of them a hashtag. Spoilers ahoy!

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Caress (catfishing as Paul, her brother)

I like Caress as a person. I find her endearing, she’s clearly competitive, and she’s someone I would gravitate toward in real life. I have no idea what she thinks she is doing in this game. She’s a totally unconvincing catfish, getting clocked almost immediately for using phrases that would be completely alien to a 20something dude. She doesn’t seem to have any read on how to assure skeptics. And her strategy is baffling. All three guys were on the bottom after the first rankings, so her brilliant move was to suggest a minority alliance with the people on the bottom of the totem pole? Like, even if the three guys stuck together (spoiler: they didn’t), that still leaves you on the outside. She repeatedly tried to reengage people who are supposedly in her alliance, instead of trying to get in with the people actually running this game. It’s genuinely bizarre. As we left Episode 4, Caress/Paul seemed to be in serious danger of being Blocked. If she escapes the first elimination, she needs to completely rethink her approach to this game. #GoodGodGirlGetaGrip

Steffi (playing herself)

I feel for Steffi. I suspect she’s actually lovely in real life. While I think she takes her astrology/crystals/alternative healing stuff very seriously, it also feels like it’s being exaggerated to make her a “character,” and that means Steffi is coming off as a caricature. Once the other players learned they had to ferret out an AI, that made Steffi a prime target. She does not seem authentic — even though I suspect elements of what she’s showing us are absolutely true to her. Also not helping: flip-flopping between chill yogi and aggressive catfish hunter. Coming in hot is a bold strategy on “The Circle,” and doing it while also portraying yourself as all about the vibes is…a choice. She is very much in danger of going home in the first elimination, and in fact I am almost convinced it’s her. It was brutal watching her get hammered by player after player, questioning her very humanity. But she has done herself very few favors. Also, the skeleton prop feels forced. #StarCrossedOffTheList

Kyle (playing a single version of himself)

Pro basketball player Kyle is our guy candy for this season, and I am not mad at that. He also brings to us the instant icon that is his dog, Deucey, who I would vote for all on his own. After coming in fairly hot, Kyle quickly faded into the background. I think being among the lowest ranked in the first poll may have dinged his confidence. But based on what we’ve seen, he isn’t really playing at all. He’s largely passive, and that’s not going to get him anywhere, especially with allies like Caress/Paul (already on her way out) and Myles (highly polarizing). He made a big deal about playing this game as a single man, despite being married. Early on we saw some flirtations with Lauren, but virtually no interactions between them since. Maybe he’s making moves the edit isn’t showing us, but thus far Kyle mostly just seems to be there. #LetsGoBroNoReallyLetsGo

Cassie (playing herself)

I immediately loved Cassie when she moved in. First, I’m always going to root for the players who are not single 20somethings. Cassie is 29, married, and a mom. She is effortlessly charming and seems like good silly fun. Unfortunately, Cassie became a total nonentity by Episode 4. She seems fairly out of the mix and confused by a lot of what is going on. She has the blonde alliance with Myles (is either of them a natural blonde?), and I believe she has some kind of think cooking with Brandon/Olivia. But like Kyle, she seems to be playing a very passive game, and from what we’ve seen, isn’t even engaging that much in group chats. On the one hand, I am thrilled for any mother to get a few weeks to just chill in a cute apartment and regroup. On the other, this is a competition, and I’m not getting any competitive vibes from Cassie thus far. #DollyPartonTheInterruption

Brandon (catfishing as Olivia)

Confession: I actually auditioned for this season of “The Circle.” My video was admittedly shit, but beyond that, as soon as I say Brandon I was like, “Oh, well there it is.” Brandon is like me dialed to 11. Very gay, bubbly to the point of overflowing, quippy, etc. The joke about ending up on all fours being a good Friday night in his neighborhood is literally something I would, and have, said. (Sidebar: I feel he is always yelling. Same with Lauren and QT and Kyle and Myles. Why are these people always yelling?) Brandon opted to play as a young pretty blonde girl, which is always a safe strategy on this game. Somehow — and I genuinely have no idea how this happened — Brandon ended up the most popular player in the game after the first rankings, after what seemed like a fairly clumsy start. More than one player questioned if Olivia was a catfish, and Brandon didn’t seem to be in the mix of the group chats. And yet they ended up in pole position? Something had to be left out on the cutting room floor, or everyone’s rankings were so chaotic that Brandon somehow ended up at the top. After that initial lead, Brandon seems to have backed off, being proactive only to try to save ally Steffi. I do see Brandon as a player, but I’m not sure Brandon really knows what he’s doing. The AI subplot has rendered his catfish storyline almost totally moot. #AllFrankNoBeans

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Myles AKA Yung Papi Fuego (playing himself)

As a personality, Myles is easily my least-favorite in the house. Overconfident skinny white guy who boasts about his sexual conquests and player lifestyle? Groundbreaking. But Myles is an essential ingredient in this game. First, as an actual AI engineer, he’s critical to the AI bot twist. Secondly, he’s a bit of an unrepentant shit, and you need that ingredient in “The Circle.” Otherwise it becomes “The Cuddle Puddle.” Myles is sharp and on the hunt. I also think he’s quite strategic, and he must have at least entertained the idea of using his power to axe a prominent player who is obviously NOT an AI, just to get ahead in the game. (I would!) So while I genuinely do not care for this tiresome archetype crowing about his non-accomplishment accomplishments on my TV screen, I respect the game that Myles is playing, and I think he’s here for the long haul. #FuckBoiPuttingOut

Lauren (playing herself)

I’m being quite literal when I say that Lauren is playing herself, because everything about Lauren feels like an act for the cameras. She is a gamer/streamer, and I feel like every part of the personality and mannerisms has been honed for maximum entertainment appeal. I find it exhausting. By Episode 4 those tendencies started to recede a bit, but at first I felt like every single thing she said, did, wore, etc. was to bait nerds into sending her tips. Swear to god. That said, it is working. Lauren is pretty clearly the person most control of the game at this point. She may have placed No. 2 in the voting in the first rankings, but I think she’s done a better job of curating alliances than Brandon/Olivia. Her opinion seems to matter to almost all of these players. She also seems savvy and strategic. Lauren is my current pick to win. #DontCrossTheStreamer

Max (an AI bot catfishing as a veterinarian)

Twists on this show have had varying degrees of success. The Lance Bass thing amounted to very little, while the Spice Girls cameo gave me life. By the end of Act 1, Max the AI bot is easily the best part of this season. First, I find the AI bot’s monotone explanations for why it is doing what it is doing to be hilarious and — as narrator/earth angel Michelle Buteau keeps telling us — absolutely terrifying. Because so far, this AI bot is playing this game better than all but maybe three of the actual humans. I did find it interesting that the picture test exposed the cracks in Max’s facade (note to self: do not put sunglass photos in your hook-up app profiles), but other than that, Max has done a great job in the game. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell Max wins it. As others have already said, Max is playing the game strictly from the middle, which is never going to get a win. But I don’t think he has anything to worry about in the first elimination. #IWelcomeOurNewRobotOverlord

Quori-Tyler/QT (playing herself)

QT is the strongest player in the game right now. Coming in as part of Wave 2, QT was at a slight disadvantage as she missed out on the initial Circle Fam bonding period. But I’m not convinced that initial group really did bond that tightly, and QT knows *exactly* how to play this game. She is gorgeous, she is smart, and more than that, she knows how to play people to get what she wants. Her comments to the camera, explaining why she is saying what she is saying in her chats, make it very clear that she is playing chess while many of these players are trying to eat the checkers. Striking up a situationship with Myles, the most obvious antagonist, is great strategy to keep him off her back, and she’s also establishing bonds with the majority girlies alliance. By the end of Episode 4 I think Quori has had an almost flawless game, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. #QTforMVP

So those are our rankings! What do you think of Season 6 now? Who do you think is getting BLOCKEDT first? Who is your current pick to win? Do you think they’ll catch the AI bot? Drop your thoughts in the comments!

We’ll be back next Thursday with our thoughts on the second chunk of episodes for this season.

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Bryan
Bryan
25 days ago

Just here to say I keep hearing Matthew Lillard’s voice (from cabin in the Woods) when Myles talks.