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‘The Circle’ Season 5 Hits a Dramatic High with the Hunt for the Hacker | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Reality TV is pretty wild. That’s the genre’s whole thing! People are either competing to be the best in their profession by banging out a dish/garment/product at breakneck speeds, or vying for social status by throwing parties and throwing shade, or looking for love while also doing an extremely ridiculous ropes course. And then there’s The Circle, Netflix’s reality competition show wherein players spend the duration sequestered in an IKEA model apartment and interacting with a TV screen. Pretty much everyone competes while munching on snacks in their pajamas. Still, The Circle remains one of the most riveting reality shows not only on Netflix, but in all of television. And without fail, there’s a moment every season that reminds us of why we fell in love with this show in the first place — and we got Season 5’s pulse-pounding moment in Week 3.

The moment: Sam and Chaz’s mission to uncover the identity of the Hacker.

To sum it up, “Jen” (really a catfish controlled by players Xanthi and Brett) was gifted with the advantage of being able to duplicate another player’s profile and initiate private chats with the rest of the cast for a limited period of time. “Jen” chose to play as Chaz, the game’s frontrunner, and use his good vibes attitude and generally trustworthy reputation to throw “Tamira” under the bus in front of Sam. Plus, they thought it was a bonus that they learned Chaz and Sam’s nicknames for each other (gusband and wifey) during a private chat in Episode 7.

The Circle - The Chat
Photo: Netflix

Little did they know that that knowledge would be their undoing.

The hack worked, though. Sam bought that it was Chaz talking to her immediately, and she believed all of the artificial tea. Hacker mission: accomplished, right?

The Circle - The hacker chat
Photo: Netflix

A little later, when the Circle informed the entire cast that one account had been hacked, every player started to go over all of the chats they’d had in the previous day. The hunt for the Hacker was on — and this is when The Circle once again demonstrated its ability to create reality TV tension unlike any other show.

This storyline is particularly pulse-pounding, totally enthralling, because it turns Sam — Season 5’s down-to-earth every-woman who’s as real as they get — into Columbo. She knows her chat with Chaz was real because he called her “wifey,” and then she immediately remembers that “Jennifer” is the only other player who knows that nickname — !

The Circle - Sam being Columbo
Photo: Netflix

She then clocks the Hacker’s motive: getting her to rank Tamira low. She doesn’t want to believe that Chaz’s profile was hacked, and keeps muttering that to herself. This is real yelling-at-your-TV television right here. And when Sam and Chaz have a 1:1 about the Hacker and Sam brings up the convo they had yesterday, thinking she actually talked to Chaz, and we see Chaz’s face when he figures out in real time that someone hacked him? That’s gold.

The Circle - Chaz figuring it out
Photo: Netflix

And then Sam’s reaction when Chaz drops the truth on her? Lord, I love you Rian Johnson, but you have competition for best mystery storytelling on Netflix!

The Circle - Sam and Chaz figuring it out
Photo: Netflix

These moments right here take what seems like it should be the show’s shortcoming — it’s an ensemble show wherein no one can see or hear or talk to each other — and turns it into its greatest strength. From the moment it clicks with Sam and Chaz, you’re watching what’s essentially a good old-fashioned mystery, except the people solving the crime are 1/100th as fashionable as Benoit Blanc (but every bit as idiosyncratic, TBH).

In any other show, a person could just pull someone aside and spill the tea. And in any other show, a person could read body language to determine whether or not they’re lying. But on The Circle? Any message could be interpreted in any way, and you have no idea who is chatting with each other and who knows what. There’s a real time crunch involved as players have to initiate 1:1 chats before the next round of ratings pop off.

This is what The Circle is all about. You get to watch real people play detective under the most restrictive conditions and then navigate their limited communication in an attempt to get the truth to the right people at the right time. It’s the kind of tension that you can’t get anywhere else. Somehow this is way more intense than someone throwing a drink on someone else’s face. No one does drama like The Circle.

The finale of The Circle Season 5 drops on Wednesday, January 18.

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