The duo behind catfish "Jennifer" get into their journey of going from first blocked to finalist.
Warning! The interview below contains spoilers for all of Netflix's The Circle season 5, which aired in December and January. Please do not continue if you do not wish to be spoiled on who was blocked in those episodes.
Second chances can be hard to come by. Brett Robinson came onto The Circle already looking for redemption, wanting another shot at a reality TV win after coming up short in Big Brother. But he and Xanthi Perdikomatis got an immediate rude awakening when they were both blocked on the very first night. But they were granted a reprieve, an opportunity to keep playing, this time together. And so these two strangers teamed up to helm "Jennifer," a divorced dog walker. With no opportunity wasted, they took the Circle by storm.
Xanthi and Brett showed much more success as Jennifer than themselves. She brought a warm "auntie" energy that had people gravitate to her, while Brett served as the gamer behind the scenes to plan who they should target. Things were running smoothly, until they were granted the power of the Hacker by a departing Shubham Goel. Attempting to throw new enemy Tamira under the bus, they exploited the relationship between Chaz Lawery and Sam Carmona by impersonating the former to the latter. Unfortunately, they soon got caught flat-footed, making them public enemy number one of the power couple. Through a last-minute throwing under the bus of their tightest ally Tom Houghton, Xanthi and Brett were able to scrape their way to the final table. And though they had a far shot from winning, they were able to shock the people who eliminated them on Night 1 by revealing themselves at the final table.
Read on to hear Brett and Xanthi's thoughts on their time in the game. And check out Parade.com throughout The Circle season 5 with the various players and catfishes alike.
Related: The Circle Season 5: Everything You Need to Know
Brett, you are no stranger to reality TV, having appeared on Big Brother four years ago. What made you feel The Circle was right for you?
Brett Robinson: Honestly, I've really never pursued reality TV. Even when I did Big Brother, it was just perfect timing. Tthey slid in my DMs. I didn't even have like a social media following. I think I had 3000 followers at the time. I got a DM from a casting producer. They're like, "Hey, we have this really cool experience. We think you'd be wonderful. Will you chat with us?" At the time I was in transition from one career job to a different one. I hopped on a call with them. And I was like, "I don't even know what the hell that is." And they were like, "Well, you can come on this show and make half a million dollars." And I was like, "Give me the money. This is what I would do." And they're like, "Oh, my God, we love you." It just worked out perfectly that I was between jobs. I went and did that, and that was it.
And then obviously after doing Big Brother, my DMs get blown up from other reality TV shows all the time. Sometimes I am open to chatting with them. Sometimes I'm not. And the casting producers for The Circle hit me up, and they're like, "Hey, we got this cool experience." And I was like, "This is what I would do." And they're like, "We love it." And it was really as simple as that. I got fortunate enough that they chose me for the opportunity. My original plan clearly didn't work. (Laughs.) But it's really that simple. I wasn't applying; I wasn't chasing it. It was just pure coincidence that the opportunity and the timing worked out. And I felt like it was a good suit. And they felt like it was good, too.
Xanthi, what's your origin story with The Circle?
Xanthi Perdikomatis: It definitely wasn't one of those "slide in the DMs" thing. But for me, I just fell in love with the game. I loved the strategy behind the game. And I loved what The Circle represented, all different types of people from different types of walks of life. And they all came together, and you found something you loved about everyone. Truly I loved the show. So I applied. I actually was the last person cast for season five of The Circle. So it happened very quickly for me. I got the audition, I got on the plane, and that was that! But it happened very, very quickly. It was exciting.
"Very, very quickly" is also a good way to describe both of your first nights in the game, considering you immediately get blocked by Chaz and Raven. What was your reaction to getting eliminated purely off of first impressions?
Xanthi: Well, we were getting judged off of our first impressions. And it's gonna either go one way or the other way. And I was so heartbroken and shocked being blocked by one person, and the final person revealed. So it was a lot of nerves. I was so heartbroken. And I was just praying that when I saw the next alert, they were gonna give me something good. But it was a big heartbreak. You just never know how it's gonna go with first impressions. So you had no control in The Circle with that.
Brett: So obviously, I had preconceived notions going into this. But, listen, my whole life, I've been a very polarizing character. Nine times out of ten, you either love me when you first meet me, or you hate me. It is what it is. Not many people are like, "Oh, he was alright." I knew with my profile as well, they're either gonna be all in or all out. Honestly, I was hoping it was gonna be a bunch of gay men. (Laughs.) They were just gonna love me and adore me and cherish me and, and it was gonna be wonderful. I was really hoping for that.
But I knew if I get past this first night, and it's a group of people that love me, I think I'll do really well. I obviously was a little bit confident with how well I did on Big Brother. And I skated by there multiple times; they tried to evict me a lot. So when I didn't get it, of course, I was heartbroken. I was bummed, like, "Dude, I just ruined my whole reality TV career. Damn." So I was super upset.
Well luckily you're immediately given this second chance to play as Jennifer, and it takes you all the way to the final day. We'll get into a lot of the drama near the end of the game, but suffice it to say you were able to squeak your way into that finale. Was there any surprise at all when you found out you finished fifth?
Xanthi: I feel like there might have been some hope between the two of us that we may or may not be able to get the final victory. Compared to how everyone was voting since the beginning, I would have expected us maybe to come a little further than fifth place. Just because we've been in the game longer than some of the contestants like Tamira. So I was a little surprised with fifth. But once I saw it, I understood. I was like, "Okay, we were holding on by a thread the whole game. We're lucky to be here." But there was this ounce of pettiness to get at least fourth! (Laughs.)
Brett: I had two views on it. So the way I looked at it, if everyone keeps doing exactly what they've been doing the whole game, then we're gonna get fourth or fifth. But I was hoping--and there's always this sliver of hope--that maybe Chaz got super strategic and put Raven at the bottom. And Raven was paranoid about Chaz and put Chaz at the bottom. And then some fluke happens and we're like, "Holy [expletive], Jennifer won?!" (Laughs.)
You have an idea when it's the last rating. You can feel it coming. So there was a sliver of hope for sure. I was hoping that something like that would happen. But they played it pretty safe. The whole game, everyone kind of stuck to exactly what they said they were going to do. But it's also $100,000. This isn't 20 bucks. This isn't Too Hot to Handle where you split 7K between 25 people. It's a chunk of change. It can make a difference in some people's lives. So based on the stories that everyone was telling me--I didn't get millionaire family vibes from anyone--I was hoping that people would get a little bit more strategic with it.
Speaking of those final ratings, we see the two of you go back and forth with them. Xanthi, you say you want to go with your heart and rate fairly. How did that reflect upon how rated people in the end?
Brett: I remember it coming down to Sam or Chaz between one and two. That was our big argument of where the final rating was. I don't remember what the rest of them were. But the difference pretty much came down to where we thought Sam and Chaz deserved to land. We did want to drop people down. But we basically thought, "What gives Jennifer the best chance to win? And if Jennifer's not gonna win, and it's a difference of one or two votes, who do we want to win?"
Xanthi: It's where we definitely mixed each other's personalities. We wanted to vote like Brett said, for our strategy. And if we weren't going to win, who did we want to win? But when you're thinking with your heart, you want to just think about everyone's stories and what you know about them so far. When you say you want to vote with your heart, it's who you got to know the most and whether someone deserves the money given what we've experienced together, and it's hard. You're deciding whether someone becomes $100,000 richer, or you're telling someone, "Hey, all that gameplay you did was basically for nothing, because you lost." (Laughs.)
I want to talk about another moment when you two disagreed: The decision to rank Tom last to ensure you survived. Talk me through what made you ultimately agree to do that.
Brett: At the end of the day, there is no second-place prize; there is no third-place prize, there's no fourth-place prize. One person wins the money. And at the end of the day, I wanted Jennifer to win the money. Everyone else is honestly just a pawn for Jennifer to get there at the end. I love you and I'll bring you as far as I can. But it's about winning.
They didn't really show this. But I was running numbers the entire time. And it was pretty accurate with the forecasting and what I thought the voting would come ou to. And there was just no situation that if we didn't drop Tom that Jennifer was making it. And, "I promise you Xanthi we will take Tom to the best steak dinner in the world, if we make it and we win. But we can't even bring him to that dinner if we don't win." So I felt like it was crucial to do at the time. Obviously, it was heartbreaking.
Xanthi: It was definitely a battle between Brett and I, because I couldn't do that to our boy Tom. Not only did he help us throughout the whole game and got us to where we were. But now we're blocking him and we're the reason why he's going. When you're thinking about your alliance, it's hard not to think about your heart because they've had your back you're in the game. You're doing things together, you're succeeding together, you're failing together. When it comes to other people it's easier to think of just strategy. But it was hard for me with Tom. I was like, "We're gonna get such bad karma for this. We better buy him the most expensive steak on that menu."
Well, one of the reasons you had to rate Tom last was because of everything went down with the Hacker. You decide to impersonate Chaz to Sam to throw Tamira under the bus. But it backfired on you when they catch wise to it. And even when confronted about it, you continued to deny it, something that just made Sam angrier at you. Talk me through everything that went down there.
Brett: Oh, man. When they gave us that present, I was like, "This is not a present. We are so screwed. There's no way we're getting out of this." I'm telling you, in my gut, when we did it, I was like, "We're gonna get caught." Because when you get it, you don't know that they're going to disclose that there was a Hacker power given. It seems clear on the outside, when you're watching, "Oh, well, everybody knows about it." At the time, they don't know. So I was like, "If they don't disclose it, we might get away with it. If they do disclose it, there's no situation that we get away with that."
So we just got to try and find the biggest way to blow it up and have the blow-up blame on someone else. And my only goal was there was already a public enemy of Jennifer, because of that game where we were forced to answer, "If you were to block someone, who would it be?" And we had to pick Tamira there; we had to do it. So now we got to get Tamira out because she's definitely gunning for us. So we need to figure out who would be the most likely person for this to land on, and how do we break down the biggest duo? They're so strong, and they've done so well. Because if we're gonna get to the end, if we're gonna get caught, I wanted it to blow up. And if we use the power on something silly and small, they'd still catch us. They'd still pin it against us, and they'd still come after us afterward. So I'd rather see if there's an ounce of plausible deniability, and try and blow something up as much as possible.
Xanthi: And we were also in that mentality of, "Okay, well, we've got this power. Now we're gonna use and abuse it on the tightest alliance aside from Tom and us, and we're gonna go and give them all that we have." It's really all or nothing. We we had the biggest and worst power trip as the Hackers you could imagine. (Laughs.) And we were on such a high. We were like, "We killed it, we did it!" And then all of a sudden, Chaz and Sam were catching on and we were like, "Noooo!" (Laughs.)
Lastly, you got to have a very rare experience in The Circle, having to play alongside a complete stranger. Talk me through making that adjustment.
Xanthi: You meet someone and you're gonna live with them, you're gonna eat with them. You breathe with them, you're gonna play a game with them. So how I thought of it was, "Look, we're gonna do this thing together. We're going to become a team. I'm going to find everything and anything I love about you. And we're gonna make it work." And honestly, for me, I grew to love Brett so much. He had my back; I had his back. And we had a really good balance between the two of us. I was the feminine that we needed with our Jennifer character, had that womanly touch to it. And Brett was playing the game side of Jennifer. So we had a really good balance. We had our ups and downs, of course. But respect is number one, and I'd say we had that the whole game.
Brett: I'm from a big family. I've never not had six roommates my entire life. I lived in a fraternity house; I lived with 15 strangers on national television on Big Brother. That was easy peasy for me. We had a little bit of a learning curve that we fell into our group really quickly. We're like, "Alright, now we both have to come up with a decision that we have to agree on." And time is of the essence when you're in these chats. But, in the beginning when you're alone, it sucks. Again, you're talking to a guy that's never not had a roommate. I'm a people person; that's where I get my energy. I honestly feel bad for the other players! I couldn't imagine the whole game towards the end where you're trying to think of a different way to say something.
I feed off of people, so I was very fortunate to not only have someone to feed off of, but also to have a very high positive energy. When you do get in your head, there are times where your anxiety starts raging or you start getting mad, or you get upset about things. To have someone like balance that out is so valuable. Especially when you're like, "Am I insane? Am I being [expletive] crazy right now?" You can be like, "Yeah, you're being crazy." At any moment I have 10 people on speed dial that I can call and hear them say, "You're being [expletive] crazy right now." I prefer the checks and balances. So I really was very fortunate for the experience. We had so much fun. Even if someone didn't chat with us, we were partying. We were having a great time in the room.
Next, check out our interview with The Circle season 5 third-place finisher Raven Sutton, along with her interpreter Paris McTizic.