Squid Game episode 7: VIPS.
Episode seven is called “VIPS,” and it begins with a close-up of Ali’s face before the gift-box casket closes on him. The camera zooms out after the box closes and cuts to a monitor in the control room as the Front Man gets a call revealing that the intruder is still on the loose and that the VIP’s will soon arrive.
While the setup is stark, it reveals the episode’s overall purpose: an introduction to the horrible, wealthy men this organized homicidal tournament is meant to entertain. It’s also a reminder that Jun-ho is still sneaking around, which provides a bit of hope that this operation could still get taken down.
The players are still dazed as they enter the dorm after the previous game and are greeted by a peacefully sleeping Mi-nyeo. Playground rules save the odd player out — if you don’t get picked for a team, you don’t have to play. While everyone else was beating their most trusted allies, the “weakest link” lounged in bed. Deok-su’s face fills with rage as she gloats,you get the sense there’s trouble ahead for these 2. The scoreboard shows we have 17 players left and £43,900,000,000
Number 17 does not represent a final destination but rather a life journey.
Meanwhile, the Front Man juggles searching for Jun-ho and greeting the VIPs. He knows that Jun-ho must still be in his apartment (the phone receiver being placed the wrong way was the give away. ) and searches for him with military precision. He also knows the intruder is a cop, thanks to the bullet used. “What is a cop doing here without a partner?”
The Front Man speaks English in parts… So, with the mask and dubbing – would you ever know this?
The Front Man’s asking the right questions but once the VIPs show up, the Front Man is pulled away to play host. Although this is the most dialogue we’ve gotten from the man in charge, his mask hides whatever his true feelings for the VIPs might be.
Back at the dorm, it’s dinner time, one potato. This is the moment Jack has been waiting for as you can now see the paintings on the wall – he missed them.
The husband (069) attempts to start a vote to end the game, the first vote call since episode two. His plea to get nine of the remaining 16 players to vote in favor of ending the game doesn’t get that far as Sang-woo berates and shuts him down. “If we stop, will your wife not be dead anymore?” Everyone else stays silent, including Gi-hun, who’s usually the first to speak up for a bit of humanity. But they can’t consider giving up now.
Question – Would the husband have gotten the money for his wife if the eliminated players’ families got 100 million won each when they ended the game?
Sang-woo also reveals a certain logical brutality. While everyone’s shaken after losing their closest allies, he remains cold and calculated. He tells Gi-hun that Il-nam (001) was just some old man, compared to the husband who eliminated his own wife. When the husband calls to end the game and calls the prize blood money, Sang-woo turns his words around and says the money is “the cost of everyone who died here.” He’s not going back to his old “shitty life” without something to show for what he’s done.
The VIPs arrive by helicopter and are wearing awful shiny, gold masks, The frontman welcomes them, The host is unable to meet them so the Frontman takes up hosting duties.
Dialogue from the VIPs:
“The Games this time have been amazing”,
“The contest in Korea was the best.”
“Nothing beats seeing the games with your own eyes”
The husband is shown on a screen killing himself, one of the VIP’s starts shouting “no don’t do it”, not because of compassion but because he had a £1m bet on him winning. The reason for the bet? He was Player 69.
The other survivors didn’t even notice 69 killed himself during the night… commentry on suicide being a silent killer?
16 players left… The numerology number 16 is a number of introspection. It’s wise, intuitive, and tends to be independent.
Jun-ho’s story line becomes extremely suspenseful, as he infiltrates the VIP watch party taking the place of a waiter.
With Sang-woo’s brutal words and the rest of the players’ silence still ringing, the players wake up to see the husband being put into another casket but nobody seems that shocked, it’s almost like they are getting used to death.
The players don’t seem to be getting showers, or clean clothes, they are filthy, covered in blood etc. The VIPs are vile at this point, one betting on 96 as its 69 backwards. They have naked servants holding cushions in the air that they are using as stools.
The fifth game involves a glass stepping-stone bridge and is the first solo game since the honeycomb candy. The remaining players arrive in the empty selection room, where they have to choose between vests numbered one through 16. At first, it’s a blind grab, with the initial rush of players, including Deok-su and Mi-nyeo, drawn toward the middle numbers. The religious guy takes 6 as on the 6th day god made man, The Front Man then reveals that the numbers are the order of play. Gi Hun seems close to a breakdown choosing between 1 and 16, eventually choosing 1 but when 96 asks to swap him he agrees.
The circus setting is different again but highlights how much of a game and how much fun these VIPs find these games – also, it is somewhere you only go as a child, or with children.
Once the numbers are chosen, the players are ushered into the next room, revealing a bridge made of 18 pairs of tiles made of normal or tempered glass. The players have to cross the bridge by only stepping on the tempered glass tiles (strong enough to hold two players) and avoiding stepping on the normal glass tiles (too weak to hold a player). Each step has a 50/50 chance of breaking, with 18 steps total. The odds of doing it correctly going as number 1 is 262144/1.
The players must go in numerical order, which works out great for Sang-woo (14), Sae-byeok (15), and Gi-hun (16), who are at the end of the line, but for Deok-su (09) and Mi-nyeo (11) and everyone else before them, it’s pretty much impossible to make it through.
Because the number of players has whittled down to 16, you can see every player’s facial expression as they cross the bridge. The tension each player creates as they hesitate, try to run across at full speed, or forget which panels are real glass keeps the round entertaining, even as players inevitably step on glass tiles and fall to their deaths. The fear in number 2’s face as the glass breaks is amazing acting.
By the time Deok-su ends up at the front of the line, he still has five panels left to cross. He knows that he probably won’t make it, no other player has stepped on more than two panels before falling. With each person falling they showed you more of the fall until this one you saw them crashing onto the floor – It’s sick.
The VIP is trying to get Jun Ho to remove his mask so he can see his face, Jun Ho, always smart, says “let’s go somewhere private” and they leave for the VIP’s room. In the room theres a sexual assault about to happen until Jun Ho pulls out his gun and demands the VIP tells him everything about the game.
Deok-su’s strategy is to refuse to move forward, which threatens to kill all the remaining players if the clock runs out. He threatens the players behind him to go around him and test the five remaining steps. Mi-nyeo pushes the player between them out of the way, presumably to pass Deok-su.
Instead, it’s their last standoff as Mi-nyeo tells Deok-su off that she intends to keep her promise that they stick together until the end. And with that, she wraps her arms around his waist, leans back, and they both go crashing through the glass step.
Redemption for Mi-nyeo almost enough to forgive her for being mean to Ali in episode five.
That leaves just four players in the entire game: Sang-woo, Sae-byeok, Gi-hun, and player 13, a former glassmaker who can tell the difference between real glass and tempered. He’s able to spot the difference for a step before the Front Man turns off the lights. Question – This action by the front man, Do you think that was fair?
The glassmaker can tell the difference by sound, too, but that’s taking too long, so Sang-woo just pushes the man through the glass, steps on the last tempered panel, and makes it across. Sae-byeok and Gi-hun just barely make it across as the clock runs out and the remaining glass tiles explode behind them.
Heading into the last round, if it wasn’t clear before, it is by now: Sang-woo has gone full villain mode. He will do whatever he can to survive… or win. He’s killed indirectly through manipulation before, but he’s now straight-up pushed someone to their death. In many ways, he’s become the ideal player, willing to do anything and kill whoever gets in his way. Somehow Gi-hun and Sae-byeok manage to hold onto their last shreds of humanity — Gi-hun gives the number 1 vest up to a player, Sae-byeok reminds Gi-hun which tile to step on.
I’ve gone back and forth on the VIPs since I first watched this episode. Their introduction and watch party has been the show’s most blatant attempt at satire. Rather than depicting a parable through the players’ circumstances and choices, the show slaps us in the face with crude, selfish, rich white men drinking scotch in a garishly decorated room with painted nude people used as furniture. It was harder to watch the sabertooth VIP yelling at the monitor while the husband was committing suicide than the actually gory scenes. (I’m so glad that the show also made sure to give the death the weight it deserved by showing the players’ reaction.)
Reaction to VIP’s Acting ability
In an interview with The Guardian, VIP One actor John D Michaels explains what can go wrong:
“It’s different for every show, but non-Korean performers often act with dialogue that is translated by a non-native – sometimes even by Google Translate – so it can sound unnatural,”
The other problem was the setting for 90% of the VIP’s lines:
“We were all wearing very heavy plaster masks, and sitting on couches that were at least 20-30 feet away from the closest VIP. We all had to yell our lines vaguely into the air, which added to the weird tonality of the delivery.”
My first impulse was to be angry that the show dedicated so much time to the VIPs. Anyone would guess that the people funding this operation would be evil and rich. I didn’t want to watch the VIPs be exactly as horrible as I thought they would be —we already know. But I have to admit, their inclusion has a significant effect. It makes you sit in discomfort and acknowledge that the masters of the universe (at least this universe) are garbage people. The Next Game Will Begin Shortly
- One major Easter egg from the show is that the dorm walls were decorated with pictures of the upcoming rounds the whole time, but the beds hid them. If Deok-su weren’t so busy glaring at Mi-nyeo, he would’ve seen the image of the next game right behind her.
- The chessboard representing the players is a great way to show that the VIPs don’t even consider the players as real people.
Be that as it may, in the end we are left with three survivors, not coincidentally the final three players to cross the bridge: Sang-woo (who straight-up pushes a guy to his death in order to test the final panes of glass), Sae-byeok (whose advice helps a momentarily paralyzed-with-indecision Gi-hun to get across), and Gi-hun himself. I doubt very highly that all three will survive until the end, especially after Sang-woo’s pretty much completed heel turn in this episode.
And while this episode does answer some questions, others remain. Who is the mysterious “Host” in the sparkly owl mask who fails to rendez-vous with the VIPs, much to their chagrin? Will the VIPs participate in the final game in any way, or remain spectators? Will that Chekov’s bomb in the passageway down to the water go off at some point? If there’s only one game left, why do two episodes remain? Sang-woo may be a lost cause, but will Gi-hun and Sae-byeok survive with what’s left of their souls intact?
One thing is for certain: Squid Game‘s power is additive in nature. Every episode compounds the tension and ratchets up the pressure on the main characters. Even a relatively straightforward outing like this one feels grandiose in the terror the characters experience. I
Questions, Queries and Theories
WereBear on Twitter
They did play a sneaky trick about Il-Nam. Jack’s right. Ali is killed off screen. You see Sang-Woo as the shot is fired. We do see Ali in the opening scene of the next ep. though. Loved the passion in this one, really did the episode justice.
Alex Potash on email
Why do you think we never see any female guards? If we assume the decision of whether someone is “selected” as a guard or participant depends on the color of the square they pick in the very first game, then surely there must have been some women who took red. Do you think there are female guards and that they are just never shown on screen, or do the gamemakers only “hire” male guards? Or is it something else? There are several times the roles of men vs. women come up in the show between the contestants (e.g. tug-of-war, when picking partners for marbles, etc.), but this is never explored among the guards. What do you think this means for the Squid Game universe?
Love the show! Keep up the great work!
Rhodri Thomas on email
Hiya Jack / Colin,
Yesss boys! Love the podcast! Am really enjoying your theories and the sheer amount of detail and foreshadowing that you both pick up on with SG, even though sometimes I don’t think the director fully realised some of them,
I’m currently on Episode Two (part 3) and so glad that there are people out that are as obsessed with SG as I was – I’ve watched the series twice now and am watching episodes sporadically throughout the working day because I cannot get enough of this brilliantly written piece of TV,
It’s often the case that when I subconsciously want to watch something again and again I feel compelled to understand why I like it so much, and why others have responded so well, to discuss or learn of other peoples opinions on it (especially those who enjoyed it) and this podcast is giving me exactly that,
All the best and thanks for the poddy,
Nice one, Rhodri
Megan Houston on email
How you doing guys, fellow Scot listening from South Lanarkshire 🙂
Just caught up with all the podcast episodes and have loved the content!!
It has made me want to go back and re-watch the full show and have finally managed to convince my husband to try at least the first episode as he is hesitant about watching it.
My question is, now that you have watched the subtitled and dubbed versions, which way do you recommend watching it for a first time viewer? I’ve watched the dubbed version and don’t mind the audio not completely matching up with the actors speaking but my pal has watched the subtitled as couldn’t handle that out of tune dubbing. Wanting to give my husband the best possible viewing so that after the first episode he is captivated as we have all been 😄