The game’s best player didn’t win The Circle season 3

Now that season 3 of the popular Netflix reality competition The Circle is in our collective rearview, it’s time to look a little more critically at this particular outing. Because, unlike the series’ first two seasons, one thing seems incredibly obvious: The best player didn’t win.

The first season of The Circle was shockingly wholesome and its winner reflected the fact that almost zero people played the game from a strictly strategic perspective. The first round of contestants voted their hearts and, as a result, sweet mamma’s boy Joey Sasso walked away with the prize money. In season 2, although “Trevor” – the catfish personality of winner Deleesa Carrasquillo – did mislead some players pretty badly (poor Chloe!), it’s hard to argue with those strategic decisions when they ultimately helped win the game. But…that’s not what happened in season 3.

Look, let’s get it out of the way: James seems like a fantastic guy, and truly there’s something to be said for finally and fully proving that a latecomer to The Circle can actually win the game. But was he the best player this season? Absolutely not. In fact, the best players of season 3 were the bottom two in the final rankings, which feels…not great!

Whether you liked Nick and Kai or not, it’s hard to argue that they were both great players. Kai survived with a huge target on her back for most of the season and was nearly blocked at least twice. Nick was openly acknowledged as one of the game’s biggest threats and yet kept being voted a top influencer, including during two crucial late-game ratings. Heck, he even convinced James to vote out a member of his own alliance – not once but twice! (And he somehow completely skated on being the identity behind the Vince burner profile too!)

The thing is, not only does it seem like the wrong person won The Circle season 3, the fact that Nick and Kai were both ultimately downvoted in the finale raises an intriguingly difficult question for future seasons of the show going forward. Can the best player still win The Circle at all? Is the path to ultimate victory one where you quietly ride the middle, like James and Ashley, and hope you get enough fringe votes to win because someone has to be everyone’s pick for third place?

In other reality series that rely on a group voting element – Big Brother, for example – there’s an element of jury management that comes into play toward the season’s end, when players have to contemplate how to kick people out without leaving them resentful. But the thing about The Circle is that the blocked players arent’ voting for the winner – it’s the people still in the game. And the way they vote impacts their own chances of taking home the prize. Of course, they’re going to want to sabotage the people they view as their biggest threats.

It’s been interesting to watch the way that The Circle has evolved from season to season and the way that different styles of gameplay have been rewarded. (For example in season 2, Bryant was the season’s first block because he was too nice and wholesome!). How the show will change after this season, which distinctly did not reward the best gameplay will be interesting to see.

But looking back at The Circle season 3, one thing seems clear: Nick and Kai got robbed.

Who was your pick to win The Circle season 3? How do you feel about James’ win? Sound off in the comments.