Fenton, MI — December 3, 2023
If you have heard of the Squid Game but have not watched it, you no doubt have wondered what the buzz is about. If you are watching, you probably understand why the competition show is the Number 1 viewed program on Netflix. You can stream nine of the ten episodes on the streaming service as of today’s date. The final episode is scheduled for Wednesday night, December 6th, 2023, at 9 pm ET.
In the spirit of full disclosure, spoilers are included in this article. Stop now if you want to experience the show without knowing the outcome. However, be sure to return after viewing the series and its finale. We share some interesting insights from a contestant who competed in the event and enjoyed his time on the show.
The name Eddie Morris is familiar to the motocross faithful of the Michigan-based American Motorcycle Association District 14. Riding with the number 359, Eddie distinguished himself as a fiercely competitive rider.
The Lansing, Michigan, resident rode locally as an amateur, qualified for Loretta Lynns AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship in 2010, earned his pro card as an outdoor professional rider, and returned to Loretta’s in 2022 to compete in pro classes.
Eddie is also known in the Michigan motocross community for frequently finishing in the money at pro events and his skill as a coach for youngsters working to improve their riding skills. His energetic attitude and talkative personality make him someone you’re unlikely to forget after meeting him.
A graduate of Everett High School in 2010, Eddie is 30 years old and works for West Property Services, a family-owned business in Eagle, Michigan. The lawn care, landscaping, irrigation, and snow removal company has sponsored Eddie throughout his motocross career, and he credits them with being instrumental in helping him chase his dreams on the track and off.
One of those dreams took him into a new experience that may very well eclipse his success on the motocross circuit.
Inspired by a Korean-based fictional television show that saw people battle to the death to escape massive debt. Squid Game: The Challenge was developed into a reality contest by creator and director Hwang Dong-hyuk.
Filmed outside of London, England, 456 contestants battle for $4.56 million in cash awarded to the winner. Over 80,000 people applied for a spot on the show, and Eddie landed one of those positions, likening it to owning a lottery ticket with reasonable odds.
Players were eliminated in games, contests, and quirks of competition at the behest of fellow players. Similar to the popular “Survivor television series, but much less physically intensive. Squid Game: The Challenge is a mind-bending journey through personal ethics, values, and interpersonal relationships. Luck, skill, and strategy hold equal value. It’s all housed in the relative sterility of a windowless, timeless, institutional-like facility custom-built for filming each episode.
A broad group of nationalities, races, ages, sexual orientations, and unique personalities are represented in those selected to compete. The cast that interacts with the players is dressed in red uniforms with gloves and no exposed skin. Helmet-like headgear features a symbol on the forehead and an opaque screen covering their faces. The appearance is eerie but understandable, given the need to limit personal interaction with the contestants.
The season premiered on Netflix on November 22. Here is the official trailer.
Intense, brutal, and often alarmingly surprising. Viewers should be aware that some vulgarity is presented. The show is free of nudity and sex, but sexual orientation is mentioned by some contestants. While no rating is assigned to the show, PG-13 seems appropriate.
An Inside Perspective
Again, we repeat the spoiler warning as Eddie shares his personal experience during the competition.
The selection process took over a year as potential players were vetted through extensive background checks, interviewed on multiple occasions, and their skill sets compared to other individuals. Eddie felt his motocross experience, personality, and openness to talking were advantages that advanced his chances of getting the invite.
Eddie flew to London in January of this year. He was given a ride to the Clocktower Hotel to await the commencement of the game. His driver gave him a brief tour of the city, pointing out popular sites along the route.
Most of the show was filmed at The Wharf Studios, a massive complex on the outskirts of London. Contestants were transported in traditional English double-decker buses. The initial game of the show “Red Light, Green Light” was filmed in a massive airline hangar. It was likely the most physical of the contests for most players. Over half of the original number was eliminated in that event. The ousting of a player was highlighted by a squid ink packet exploding on their chest. Shocking at first, as once hit, the player was instructed to slump or flail as if they were shot dead.
Eddie was away from home for 30 days in total, and filming consisted of 16 days during that period.
Episodes progress quickly. However, Eddie said filming sessions were exhausting, often lasting hours at a time. Heating a massive facility is difficult, and the temperatures were uncomfortable. The biggest complaint was chapped lips. Condoms were stocked in the housing area but were not used for their intended purpose. Some players extracted the lubricant to coat their lips against cracking and blisters. Eddie did not witness any hookups during personal hours.
All contestants were housed in a giant single room stacked with bunk beds. Once they entered, players were never allowed to see outdoor light. Cell phones and watches were prohibited. Sleep times were controlled by the gamemasters. Time was distorted, with players never being aware of how much rest they were allowed. Personal interactions were never restricted.
Imagine preparing food for 456 people of different backgrounds. Eddie’s evaluation was the meals were bland, and everything was prepared by boiling. He lost 20 pounds during the time he spent there.
Games included a massive set for the board game “Battleship,” where players were divided into teams to fire missiles at their unseen opponents.
Another contest of patience, precision, and overcoming nerves produced eliminations when players could not decide on a methodology for accepting the task. Countdown timers raised the tension in almost every event.
Players were often forced to choose other players to be eliminated. The twists built into the competition were often excruciating for players. After being rewarded with a treat shared between two people of like mind. The pair were matched against each other in a game of marbles that forced the elimination of one of them. That contest saw a son send his mother home, much to their combined dismay. It was the event that eliminated Eddie.
The marble game began with 63 players, and 31 remained at its conclusion. Numbers were pared down to 20, 12, 9, and ultimately to three who will face off in the finale. Alliances between players were tricky, often leading to targets being placed on team members’ heads. Eddie played a low-profile game and was very pleased with his progression.
Eddie wore #043 to identify himself. The numbers were assigned 1 to 456 in no particluar order, he was disappointed not to be able to select his motocross number. He left London with a group of new friends. He said they still text daily and have attended watch parties together. Unfortunately, the amount of airtime devoted to Eddie was not as much as that of other individuals who emerged as “stars” of the show.
How did the experience change Eddie? “It was wonderful, so enjoyable, despite not bringing home the gigantic clear plexiglass piggy bank with bundles of cash that hung overhead in the dorm.” His participation has already led to a role in an upcoming movie. Eddie hopes to apply for other competition shows using the notoriety from his television debut. He will have to wait a year as all players signed an agreement prohibiting them from competing in other such contests for 12 months.
Watching someone you know in the game was a lot of fun. Season Two is already in the works. Will we watch again? Absolutely!