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 that the titular spectators 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. Surprise, she survived! 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, setting the former lovers up for a showdown.
Meanwhile, Front Man juggles searching for Jun-ho and greeting the VIPs. He knows that Jun-ho must still be in his apartment (through such a minute clue) and searches for him with military precision. He also knows the intruder is a cop, thanks to Jun-ho’s discarded badge. But once the VIPs show up, 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, 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. 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.
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.
With Sang-woo’s brutal words and the rest of the players’ silence still ringing, the husband hangs himself in the middle of the night. The members wake up to yet another gift-box casket, but it only merits a quiet shock, unlike the previous dorm death in episode four. The players of Squid Game have reached the point of no return. The game must go on.
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 Front Man then reveals that the numbers are the order of play. 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. And 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. By the time Deok-su’s 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. But 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-suoff 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. I want to crown Mi-nyeo the MVP of the episode, but I can’t 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. 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.
All the while, the Front Man has been running the game while hosting his VIPs. His big moment is dimming the lights for the guests’ enjoyment (or to keep his “fair world” principle going). Not to be forgotten, Jun-ho’s story line is extremely suspenseful, as he infiltrates the VIP watch party as a waiter. It’s another excruciating undercover mission, with less gore this time but adding a dash of sexual assault. The best hero moment (and biggest cheer) comes when he incapacitates the sabertooth-masked VIP and records his confession.
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.)
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. And in my case, as an American, it makes me feel at least a little bit complicit. (I may be a Black woman, but I’ve still in some way benefitted from the colonialism that has probably made these men rich.) Squid Game wouldn’t be the show that it is if it let us down easy, and it refuses to. Game recognize game.
The Next Game Will Begin Shortly
• “What is a cop doing here without a partner?” The Front Man’s asking the right questions.
• 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.
• 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?
• The chessboard representing the players is a great way to show that the VIPs don’t even consider the players as real people.
• Would you survive this game? My lucky number is 5, so I’m already screwed. I’d probably be like the math teacher (062) and try to run across (minus the calculations). So yeah, I’m dead.