This was an incredible series of The Circle, maybe a few too many twists and contestants with a lot of potential added far too late in the game but we got catfishing romances, anonymous smear campaigns and many many giant pastries!
What better way to mark its end than a look back over the contestants and rank them based almost purely on how much unnecessary drama they wrought from their boutique apartments.
This has got to be one of the most spectacularly awful attempts at playing this game we’ll ever see – from the stock photo looking profile picture to the lifeless messages that had nearly everyone convinced she wasn’t even a catfish and that she was just a bot programmed by The Circle. The most shocking thing that happened for them was that they weren’t blocked first. Well that and during the obscene “Trauma Talk Hour” private chat between “her”, “Syed” and Andy her traumatic backstory was that… she was a lettings agent from London who hasn’t had any children yet? Although we shouldn’t be that baffled by such an awful lie after she claimed her favourite food was “stir-fry with lots of salad” – they could have been anyone and they basically chose to be the lady laughing with salad meme.
There was no chance that Alice, introduced a whole 5 days before the end, had a chance of winning – a fact that Shabaz was acutely aware of and wanted nothing more than to create drama. And disappointingly inept drama did he create! He really had it in for Felix and while delivering a monologue akin to Peter’s “What a sad little life Jane.” on Come Dine With Me was some high camp drama, it was essentially the nail in the coffin as it did nothing to assuage the rumours that Alice was being played by Femi or Pippa. You might as well go out in a blaze of glory if nothing else.
The fact Joey and Pippa were eliminated and then resurrected as a fake priest on Easter Sunday of all days? Delicious.
There was no part of Priest Tom that wasn’t gloriously awful, from Pippa’s insistence that she could pull this off because she was christened to Joey ending just about every chat message with something along the lines of “Peace be with you” and who could forget the fake promise to continue charity work in Indonesia? BIG YIKES.
The best part of the whole thing though was the fact Joey and Pippa were convinced everything was going extremely well for them, meanwhile The Original Quartet were hatching a master plan after working out that either Tom or Alice were former Circlemates because the two of them got overly brave during an anonymous game. Lucky for them, Alice’s slightly spikier personality drew the group’s ire and they found themselves in the final and an obvious 5th place while making such bizarre decision as ranking Syed 4th?
I think Pippa could have been a very good player had she been added in the beginning but coming in 2/3s of the way through really hindered her ability to make an allyship with anyone other than the kind of leaky SS Manrika and fellow newbie and total loose cannon Femi. Her most notable feature was the fact she clearly drew the short straw in the apartment that looked like she was living in Mother’s Day shampoo and shower gel gift set. But we’ll always have the moment she almost decked it off the treadmill
It’s maybe the most relatable moment of the series.
11. “Chris” / “Orange Tally”
It really says something about the awfulness of Yolanda’s first catfishing attempt as her own husband that she was eliminated over Penny. Her second attempt as Orange Tally wasn’t significantly more successful, quite why she spent a whole conversation trying to convince the OG Tally that she, Yolanda, was in fact Tally is completely beyond me but my God was it entertaining to watch her send Tally into a frenzy. It was actually looking pretty good for Yolanda for a while because she was being the more likable of the two Tallys but it was the tattoo talk that undid it all for her as she was too slow to answer. She did manage to convince Vithun and Billy though, then repeatedly drove the bus over them during her departure message.
10. “Femi and His Collection of Round Shades”
This was a real lesson in how to absolutely 100% NOT play the game as Femi rampaged through the tiny group building and burning bridges at an equal pace seemingly entirely because Andy called him something as inconsequential as “a gossip” which lead him to outright declare war in a game involving them to make book covers of a selected Circlemate. The game was not anonymous but Femi treated it like it was anyway
and thus the #TripleThreat Team was well and truly sunk as he forced Manrika into a really uncomfortable position of having to choose between Andy and Femi with her choosing total neutrality and thus ruining any chance of a #TripleThreat member ending up as an influencer in the next ranking and resulting in both Femi and Pippa going down in flames. I love my chaotic king.
Vithun is one of the more fascinating case studies on The Circle because as Vithun he’s kind of very boring and shy but the moment there’s even the slightest bit of anonymity he’s a tiny little shit stirrer! Not happy with just sitting around all day eating giant croissants and badly playing Jenga by himself he was determined to out Syed as a catfish despite everyone kind of knowing already but not caring and then bizarrely trying to break up his Circle Sibling Manrika and kind of close friend “Felix” which ultimately lead to his (in my opinion fully justified) blocking.
Andy was a lovely guy but Andy began and ended with him being a lovely guy. It’s also hard not be mildly annoyed that he became the Twitter wooby faced darling because everyone decided that Manrika was AN EVIL GAME PLAYER in a game where the objective is essentially to be an evil game player. It’s difficult to look back over the entire series and see anything Andy did other than be nice, which for some people seems to be what they want from a show that hinges on absurd drama. And those people are obviously wrong.
I think “Gemma” is one of the most divisive characters to ever come onto The Circle; quite what James, aka ex-Gladiator Hunter, thought was going to come of pretending to be an NHS nurse in the current climate I don’t know. The Gemma Deception started off strong, lest we forget she was nominate as the top player in the first rating, but as time went on James’s game plan became increasingly more obvious whether it was the shoehorning of Gemma into the #GeezerGirls group as “The Blonde One” or the constant unprovoked use of “#ILoveTheNHS”. But it was The Assassin twist that put the final nail in the coffin as once Gemma was outed as The Assassin, Manrika was on the war path. Well that and the fact that in the midst of drowning under the slowly encroaching catfish guilt, in a true 3D chess move confessed his catfishing crimes to Andy, The Arbiter of Honesty as though this wouldn’t end in an instant elimination. Which of course it did but it did at least give us an almost unbeatable player meeting between James and Manrika in which for the briefest moment I genuinely thought the pintsized Manrika was about to beat up a professional bodybuilder when he told her he wasn’t actually a nurse.
In her anger at James’ reveal that he wasn’t a nurse she confessed her entire anti-Gemma game plan to which James had the audacity to accuse Manrika, the woman playing herself on a TV reality competition show, of being fake and manipulative while he, the male bodybuilder playing as a female NHS nurse, was not being a complete fraud and was instead using this as some highbrow exploration of gender while being “100% himself”, was being absolutely genuine. There is not an eyeroll big enough to express my exasperation.
Had Dorothy gone out in the first week that she was in The Circle she’d be MUCH lower because it took a couple of days for Scott to really get to grips with the Dorothy persona beyond “Nice old woman”. I will commend him for managing to pull off starting the Tally smear campaign after he drew the rather hideous portrait of her during the Anonymous Portrait Game. I really can’t believe he didn’t catch more heat for this after is was PAINFULLY obvious that not a single portrait had been drawn by an older woman so either Dot had drawn Tally’s, Syed’s or Gemma’s but despite my misgivings and prediction that Dot would be blocked within seconds of being eligible, Scott managed to build up trust and by the end of Dot’s time, I’m not sure there was a single Circlemate that hadn’t gone to her for a little chat and a small cry.
The ultimate victim of circumstance, Billy was having a great time trying to work out how to use the oven up until the moment that he was bamboozled by the Assassin Twist in which James/Gemma had to get him eliminated or face elimination themselves. This masterplan that got him eliminated? Gemma blaring into a group chat claiming Billy actually knew nothing about football, a fact that was demonstrably not true and yet Andy ran with it anyway despite it being PRETTY DAMN OBVIOUS that Gemma was playing shenanigans. And thus Billy’s time in The Circle came to a disappointingly premature end and his absence was very much felt – you could always guarantee a cutaway to Billy doing some boringly mundane thing in the weirdest fashion or whispering sweet nothings to his dog statuette.
4. “Uncle ‘WHAT THE BLOODY?’ Syed”
I’d probably have ranked him higher but then I found out that Hashu was a YouTuber prankster and I can’t morally do it.
Hashu was nothing but a joy to watch, whether it be the lightswitch moments when the Uncle Syed persona took over or his reaction faces to nearly everything where his eyeballs nearly vacated their sockets
and who could possibly forget his distanced pining for Manrika and the inability to tell her because he was pretending to be a 60 year old man – other than Natalya’s late stage guilt, it was the best running storyline of the series.
Nobody went through the wringer as much as Tally did, although maybe Gemma but she deserved it all. I was genuinely shocked that Tally managed to survive the Tally Cloning, especially as during the party chat she almost immediately killed the entire vibe by making snide comments at Orange Tally and just generally kind of being the less likable of the two Tallys as she slowly spiralled into a rageful existential crisis. She could at least rely on best mate Manrika to have her back though… Until Tally came for Felix following the game of Anonymous Portraiture in Which Dorothy painted this rather revolting picture of Tally that she was convinced Felix had drawn
Sensing danger for her Circle Boyfriend, a completely dickmatized Manrika took one look at the shirtless picture of Felix and pushed Tally off a cliff by putting her at the bottom of her ratings regardless of the fact this would utterly ruin any sort of game plan she had been building.
She thus found herself in a face off with the annoyingly obvious catfish Dorothy and yet still Andy continued to make terrible elimination decisions and cast Tally out.
Absolutely nothing brought me more joy than Natalya having her bouts of guilt over the fake romance with Manrika and then only digging her hole deeper and deeper with every subsequent message while also having to field extremely prying messages from “Uncle Syed” – remember when he grilled Felix about his virginity? Natalya deserved the win purely for surviving that conversation. It was perfect catfishing, even too perfect – I’m not convinced that Natalya doesn’t have a secret life as a spy, why else would she immediately leap for the toy gun every time there was a blocking
She was a thoroughly deserving, if maybe entirely surprising, winner of the series and whether by intention orchestrated some of the best reality television we are ever likely to see. An absolute Queen.
Where to even begin? She got A LOT of flack online for how she chose to play this game – the biggest targets being the time she essentially accidentally got Tally eliminated after ranking her best friend bottom during a blocking with a twist. But really, it was probably a good thing for Manrika that Tally got the boot because Tally by this point was a loose cannon firing on all cylinders trying to work out who drew the aforementioned portrait of her and convinced it was Felix, another of Manrika’s bona fide allies, who was better friends with more of the group and thus a stronger ally. Also, he had just uploaded a hot photo of himself, so who could blame her?
The second was the fact she dared try to screw over Andy after he threw a bit of a strop because she blocked Vithun after he was demonstrably quite sly. This was the biggest sticking point, not that this “screwing over” actually worked as her allies were Femi and Pippa…
I really don’t understand how anyone could see Manrika as anything other than a reality TV icon after such glorious moments as the Gemma The Two Headed Snake Portrait
or her reaction to the Felix catfish reveal while looking absolutely drop dead gorgeous
Just sublime television from beginning to end.