If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that despite the heat, tension, and strategizing within Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge,’ the personal connection players develop is on another level. The prime example of this is honestly none other than the alliance turned genuine friendship between Stephen Lomas (player 243) and retired Dr. Rick Mercurio (player 232), members of the Ggangbu Gang. So now, if you simply wish to learn more about whether this seemingly special bond actually managed to go beyond the gameplay or not, we’ve got the necessary details for you.
Stephen and Ricks’s Squid Game Journey
From the moment Stephen came across our screen, he won hearts with the way he not just carried himself but also expressed care and compassion for his family and his best friend, Chase Higgenz, with whom he actually stepped into this game. But alas, while the latter was eliminated in the first game itself, Red Light Green Light, he lost the other friends he’d made in the game, like his mullet brother Kyle, during the second challenge, Dalgona. It thus comes as no surprise he soon found himself surrounded by a group of five others in similar situations, amongst whom was retired general physical Rick, only for them to become the Ggangbu Gang.
The truth is Rick’s initial strategy was to come across as slow, yet it became very evident very quickly that his wisdom, kindness, and empathy were unmatched, leading Stephen, in particular, to grow very close to him. In fact, whenever not involved in any sort of game or test, this duo could often be found together, either getting to know one another, joking around, or just discussing surgery. It actually would have been relatively easy for the latter to disregard this 69-year-old – he celebrated his birthday in the dormitory – but he didn’t, instead, he made an effort to become a true friend.
Take episode 3, for example, even though everyone was convinced the next game would be a tug of war, Stephen as well as the Ggangbu Gang members made sure Rick was in their team so they could all stick together. However, in a rather fortunate turn of events, the game actually turned out to be Warships, within which the doctor’s final suggestion despite not being Captain or Lieutenant helped save most of them from elimination. Then there’s, of course, the game of Ddagksi he innocently played with Stephen upon being specifically called upon to do a chore, just to be shattered upon realizing he might have inadvertently led to his elimination while teaching him the game.
Thankfully, things didn’t happen in the way Rick had assumed, and he managed to walk away with both Stephen right by his side and a candy bar in his hand. Though the aftermath of this game did give us a deeper insight into their bond as the latter ended up calling his friend “Gramps,” making it clear he saw the latter as a close familial figure more than anything else. This was also crucial considering his biological dad wasn’t even in the picture anymore, so it was as if he’d found himself a father figure, albeit Rick then joked his wife would kill him if he brought another kid home since they already had enough.
Are Stephen and Rick Still Friends?
At one point, it genuinely did seem like Stephen and Rick would make it all the way to the end with the safe, candid, yet smart way they were playing, but a test ruined it all. In test 4, once Phalisia Boothe was ordered to eliminate three individuals, she chose both Stephen as well as Rick owing to their alliance – she booted off the former first, and it was evident in Rick’s reaction just how much the young father of two meant to him. But then he was immediately eliminated too, leading him to be escorted out to join his former partner in crime to make their way home – though it’s good they were eliminated early as the next game was marbles, which could have resulted in an exact storyline as the South Korean original series.
As for Stephen and Rick’s current standing, from what we can tell through their respective social media platforms, they’ve since remained in touch, all the while proudly leading their individual lives. Although, while the retired doctor turned public figure folllows this Kansas City entrepreneur on Instagram, the father of two doesn’t follow him back, yet it may just be because he’s quite inactive on socials in general. But with the way they navigated the production together while also paying close attention to one another, it’s safe to say they’re still genuine friends – at least as much as they were before if not more.
Read More: Are Stephen and Chase Still Friends?