Two Cabrini grads compete for $100,000 on Netflix’s game show “The Circle”

By Hayley Thompson
February 3, 2020

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Not one, but two Cabrini graduates competed for $100,000 on the first season of Netflix’s new game show called “The Circle.”

Samantha “Sammie” Cimarelli, a 2017 Cabrini graduate, was awarded fan favorite and $10,000 on “The Circle.” The show aired from Jan. 1 to Jan. 15 and is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Tammy Eason, who graduated from Cabrini in 1988, was also a contestant on the show. Eason was on the show with her son Ed Eason, from Conshohocken, Pa. The Eason’s were the only contestants who played the game as a duo.

“The Circle” on Netflix, which was filmed in the UK, is based on a British series with the same name. Contestants are isolated in apartments and can only communicate with the other players via the circle, which is a form of social media communication.

Screens with access to the circle are in every area of the apartment. Contestants are able to play as anybody they want to be because the only visual impression they have is their online profile. The goal is to be the most liked.

The UK apartment complex that is used for “The Circle UK, “The Circle US, “The Circle France” and “The Circle Brazil.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

Many times, the circle will ask the contestants to rate the other players. The top two players usually become “influencers” for a period of time and have the ability to “block” a player, eliminating them from the game. The top rated player from the last rating wins the game.

The winner of “The Circle,” whose name will not be disclosed in case you want to watch the show, won $100,000.

The voting for fan favorite took place after the show aired and it was open to the public online. Although Sammie Cimarelli didn’t win first place and the $100,000, she received $10,000 for being the fan favorite out of 13 other players.

“It felt absolutely amazing to win fan favorite!” Cimarelli said. “I could not believe that thousands of people loved me so much and took time, daily, to vote for me as the fan favorite. It was absolutely surreal.”

The fan favorite announcement was made on Jan. 17 on the show’s Instagram page. After winning, Cimarelli live streamed and said that she will use the money towards graduate school.

“She’s a very likable person, very beautiful, good heart,” Tammy Eason said. “And that’s probably why she won fan favorite.”

Cimarelli, who was introduced as a “Cabrini-educated queen” during the finale, admitted that she tried to transfer out of Cabrini her sophomore year but it didn’t end up happening. She’s happy that she stayed.

“I met a handful of friends who I still speak to today on a daily basis,” Cimarelli said. “I could not imagine not having [them] in my life right now with everything that is happening.”

Not only is Cimarelli forever thankful for the lifetime friendships and amazing memories at Cabrini, but she also met professors that impacted her life greatly.

“While at Cabrini, teachers such as Dr. Katie Farina, Dr. Vivian Smith, Dr. Andrew Owen, Dr. Romano, Dr. Terlecki and a few others really helped me grow to love being in school and being in class,” Cimarelli said.

Cimarelli said that she was comfortable and never felt like she couldn’t speak up or request help. “And for that, I genuinely thank them,” Cimarelli said. She graduated with degrees in psychology and criminology.

Some of Cimarelli’s professors, like Dr. Vivian Smith, still like to keep in touch with her to this day.

“Sam Cimarelli was a compassionate, astute student, always eager to learn more,” Dr. Smith said. “Her best quality was an eagerness to live life to the fullest regardless of its challenges.”

Dr. Terlecki expressed how much she loved having Cimarelli as a student and how she was fun to have in the classroom. “She was always involved, enthusiastic and open-minded,” Terlecki said. “It was fun getting to know her and I hope she keeps in touch with me.”

Dr. Farina also enjoyed having Cimarelli in the classroom. “She was always extremely energetic and you could tell she just loved the material,” Farina said. “She was one of those students who was always prepared and participated in group discussions.”

Farina didn’t see Cimarelli taking this path of being on a reality game show. However, she isn’t surprised that she got casted because she’s always had a positive and infectious personality. “I always thought of Sam as being bubbly and likable and I’m not surprised at all that other people saw that too,” Farina said. “It’s been downright fun watching her on the show.”

Photo via @itsssammiee on Twitter

Tammy Eason also enjoyed her time at Cabrini while she was there from 1984 to 1988. “The whole experience just felt like a community versus like a big, big campus,” Eason said. “I just felt comfortable walking around.”

She graduated with business and marketing degrees and a minor in computer science. Eason commuted to Cabrini’s campus during her four years because she lived fairly close in Conshohocken, Pa.

“My whole family is all on board with loving Cabrini,” Eason said. Her sister, cousin and aunt were all a part of the Cabrini community. Eason’s aunt was Sister Maria Pasqualini, whose nickname was The Shadow. Cabrini’s class of ‘72 called her Shadow because she was always around. Sister Maria was the head resident of the mansion and Superior to the nine Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She was beloved by all of her residents.

A lot of times during inclement weather like snow, Eason fortunately was able to stay in a spare room of the Mansion. The Mansion, formerly known as the Woodcrest Estate Mansion, is the historic estate of John T. Dorrace, III, the inventor of the Campbell Soup Company. The mansion, which has 51 rooms, was built in 1901 and then sold to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1953. Then, Cabrini University (Cabrini College at that time) opened in 1957.

Today, the Mansion’s rooms are only used for offices and events and no students live there. There are many haunted tales of Cabrini’s campus and they all seem to be centered on the mansion. However, that is unrelated to the reason why its residential hall is no longer being used.

Eason and her son ended up being blocked on “The Circle” but they still had fun regardless. “How many people can say they’re 50-something years old and got to go to another country and be on reality TV with their son?” Eason said.

Eason and her son have a really tight bond and it definitely shows on “The Circle.”

“Of course, we had to live in the same living quarters for a month, so that was a little hard,” Eason said. “But we got to have some great breakfast, lunch and dinner. We got to film together and it was a great experience.”

The casting producers came after Ed first but then changed their mind when they met Tammy Eason. “Then they met me and they were like ‘Oh my gosh! We love you too. You’re so funny!’” Eason said. But the producers told her that they could only have one Eason on the show.

Eason told the producers to just take her son. “I’m old, just put Eddie on TV,” Eason said to the producers. “Unless you want to ask Netflix if they could play us as a team.”

The producers decided to pitch the idea to Netflix and the next day Tammy Eason got a phone call saying that they’re on the show together and that the Eason’s would be the only contestants playing as a team.

Cimarelli had a different experience and doesn’t remember too much about how she got on the show. “I really just remember receiving a voicemail from a Netflix casting producer who had wanted to do a Skype interview with me,” Cimarelli said. “Once we finished the Skype interview process, it was like a domino effect of interviews and paperwork. Before I knew it, I was filming for the show!”

After weeks of being on the show and not knowing who was being honest about their identity, Cimarelli finally got to meet the other contestants face-to-face at the final five dinner and it was her favorite part. “That was the moment I had been waiting for since day one,” Cimarelli said. “I just could not believe that it was happening.”

Cimarelli was the only woman who stayed in the game long enough to make it to the face-to-face final five dinner.

The Eason’s were blocked out of the game before the final five dinner.

“Sammie’s a great girl and we got to finally meet her at the finale,” Tammy Eason said. “It was just so ironic that with all the thousands and thousands of people they could have taken on the show, you have somebody that’s from Delaware County versus us in Conshohocken, Montgomery County.” Eason thinks that it’s even more ironic that they both went to Cabrini.

When Ed Eason sent a message to the other players telling them that he’s from Conshohocken, none of the players could confidently pronounce it except for Cimarelli. The contestants’ attempts to say Conshohocken were funny to say the least.

The Eason’s didn’t make it as far as Cimarelli and it could be because they were the last players to come into the game. After every “blocking ceremony,” a new player would enter the game. “The producers make the decision of who comes in, who’s the originals,” Tammy Eason said.

Since the Eason’s were the last players who came into the game, the other contestants had already formed a bond protecting each other. “And I get it, there’s a loyalty there,” Tammy Eason said. The contestants had about three weeks in the game before the Eason’s showed up.

“Had we come in earlier, I don’t know what would have happened,” Eason said. “But I think… hey, being on the show for three or four days we certainly made an impact and some bonds.”

Eason said that her and her son are very close with all of the contestants. In fact, the Eason’s are flying to Miami next week to meet up with Cimarelli and about seven other “Circle” players.

Cimarelli moved to Miami after graduation and is in her second year of working towards a master’s degree in behavior analysis for autism. She is a registered behavior technician and works one-to-one with children diagnosed with ASD, autism spectrum disorder.

After finishing graduate school, her new title will be a board certified behavior analyst.

Out of all the players, Cimarelli has gained the most followers on social media and has been flung into the spotlight. She’s gained over half a million followers on her Instagram page. It’s no wonder why she won fan favorite.

“Being in the spotlight and gaining so much recognition in such a short amount of time has been so crazy,” Cimarelli said. “I really feel like I am still in shock to be completely honest.”

Cimarelli said that it hasn’t fully hit her yet that half a million people pay attention to her on Instagram. “It really all happened so fast, but I genuinely am grateful for everything that has happened and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.”

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Hayley Thompson

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