Is Rick a Real or Fake Squid Game Contestant?

Based on the international superhit series ‘Squid Game,’ Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ has become highly popular among the fans of the original series as well as those who enjoy the genre of reality television. That said, there are several similarities between the two shows that one cannot help but notice quickly, especially since eagle-eyed viewers have been adamant about not leaving any stone unturned to find the same.

One element that piqued the curiosity of many who watched season 1 of the reality show is actually related to the presence of one of the cast members. Yes, we are talking about Richard “Rick” Mercurio (Player 232), the physician who charmed all of us with his style of playing, though not without leaving many to wonder about how his on-screen journey seemed quite similar to a character from the fictional Korean series. As such, fans of the show are curious if Rick was as much of a player as anyone else or if his participation in the show was a cleverly hidden reference.

Rick Mercurio is a Real Player

Rick Mercurio, seen in ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ as Player 232, was the oldest contestant in the show following the game of Red Light Green Light. Hailing from Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, he stated early on in the series that he wanted to use his age as an advantage to appear less threatening. Not only was he soon successful enough in making solid alliances, but he also seemed to have found a good friend in a fellow contestant.

Interestingly, many elements of Rick’s on-screen journey are actually similar to the arc of Oh Il-nam, AKA Player 001, from the original Korean show, which made many of the viewers wonder whether Rick was actually a genuine contestant. Both Rick and Il-nam were the oldest players in their respective games, which helped them stand out in the ground. However, this is far from the only shared thing between the two men.

Over the course of their gameplay, both Rick and Il-nam ended up becoming quite close to a younger male contestant, forming an almost father-son bond. In the fictional show, Il-nam connected with Seong Gi-hun (Player 456), which certainly added much flair to the reveal of his real identity. As for the reality show, few can forget the heartwarming connection that sprung up between Rick and Stephen Lomas, AKA Player 243. In fact, there was one memorable moment when the two contestants even alluded to their familial friendship, with Rick joking about how his wife would “kill” him if brought home another kid.

Seong Gi-hun and Oh Il-nam in ‘Squid Game’ (Image Credit: Noh Juhan/Netflix)

Another similarity between Rick and Il-nam was their willingness to give up on the game for the sake of someone they cared about. The fictional character’s sacrifice for Gi-hun in the Korean show prompted many heartbreaks for the viewers. Similarly, Rick’s evident sadness over the fact that his trying to teach Stephen Dakji may have led to the younger man’s elimination was something that stood out to many, especially since he had already stated previously how he was content about leaving the show at that point, a sentiment not shared by a majority of the players of the cutthroat competition.

An additional point when considering why Rick seemed like he may not be precisely a genuine contestant on the show was the fact that he had called out in front of everyone by his number for a game that seemingly had no consequences apart from gaining a chocolate bar. His proficiency in the game of Dakji certainly stood out to many, especially in the face of Stephen’s inability to complete the flips. Talking about proficiency in challenges, the fact that Rick’s saving suggestion in the third game of the competition seemed just as life-saving for his team as Il-nam’s idea about how to play Tug of War in the Korean show also made many of the viewers compare the reality TV contestant with the layered character.

Rick Mercurio and Stephen Lomas

From being part of the “Gganbu Gang” to his similarities to Oh Il-Nam, there are many reasons why the fans of the Netflix show started theorizing about Rick’s status as a contestant. However, for all intents and purposes, it seems like the physician was as much of a player of the game as anyone else. The apparent similarities between him and the iconic fictional character were likely a combination of coincidences and an attempt on the part of showmakers to use the similar turn of events to have us root for him more and more, leading to an eventual heartbreak which one should have seen coming given the nature of the competition.

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