Netflix’s ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ follows the complicated life of Eli Bell, who, at a young age, finds himself tackling many challenges. He and his elder brother, Gus, have been through a lot of traumatizing situations, but no matter what happened in the past, they always look towards the future. Their stepfather, Lyle, encourages this, especially considering that he himself has some transgressions in the past. He always looks out for them, and when things get particularly hairy, he leaves them with a cryptic message only they can understand. In his final words to the boys, he says, “QSLG.” What does it mean, and how does it impact Eli and Gus? SPOILERS AHEAD
QSLG is Lyle Telling the Boys About His Secret Stash
The full form of QSLG is revealed to be “Quid Sports and Leather Goods.” It is printed at the base of the punching bag that belongs to Lyle and is first seen hanging in the yard in a passing shot that doesn’t pay much attention to the punching bag. Eli and Gus, too, don’t think about when coming up with the places where their stepfather could have hidden his secret stash. And that was the point! Lyle hid the stash in plain sight because he knew that the people searching for it would look in obvious places. They would search his escape room and other parts of the house, but they would most likely miss the things right in front of them. The boys do the same, and in their last attempt to search the house, the punching bag comes into view, and Eli sees “QSLG.”
The thing about Lyle was that despite all his flaws and his criminal activities, he was a good man. He loved Frankie, and he loved Eli and Gus like his own sons, even though they weren’t his, and he knew how much they hated his drug dealing. Still, they were his family, and all he wanted was to give them a good life. They had some tough times together, especially in Frankie’s struggle with addiction, for which Eli blamed Lyle. He wanted to take them away from this world and give them a good life where they didn’t want anything and where they could all be happy together. But getting there required money, which they didn’t have.
Lyle had a regular job, but that wasn’t enough. He knew that it would never be enough, which is why he turned to drug dealing to make more money. He delivered the heroine for Bich Dang, but the job was risky and didn’t have enough rewards. So, when Lyle found out that the competition was cutting their drugs with Mannitol, an opportunity presented itself. Bich Dang’s drugs were known for being pure, which is why there was an increased demand for them, and the competition was having trouble selling their stuff. Lyle thought he could cut the stuff with a bit of Mannitol and keep the rest for himself, which he could later sell to make money and get his family to a better place.
Eli figured out what was happening, and he knew it was dangerous. He tried to warn Lyle about it, but it was already too late. Lyle was eventually betrayed by his best friend, Teddy, who ratted him out to the boss, who sent Ivan Kroll after him. For Teddy, this was the only way to get Lyle out of the way, so Teddy could swoop in and be the hero Frankie needed, and he could finally be with her. But for Lyle, this was the end.
When Kroll came knocking, Lyle knew he wouldn’t survive the night. He knew death was upon him, so it didn’t make sense for him to give up the stash as well. If he died that night, he’d die knowing that he was leaving something behind for the boys and Frankie, which they could use to get out of this place. So, instead of giving up the stash in trying to save himself, he tells Gus where he has hidden it. He signs the words in the air, knowing that only Gus will understand him, and gives him “QSLG,” hoping that the boys will eventually figure it out. He turned out to be right when they later found the stash and sold it for a lot of money, though they didn’t get to do with it as they’d planned. Still, the code word becomes the final gift from their stepfather.