“Stick to the Team” forces alliances under brutal circumstances, with an especially chilling midpoint.
This recap of Squid Game season 1, episode 4, “Stick to the Team”, contains spoilers.
It’s in human nature to pick teams. Those who’re similar, in terms of their background or socioeconomic status or personality, tend to flock together, and it’s easy to imagine that people stuck in a life-or-death game would seek out the like-minded for help. Two heads are better than one, after all, and the logical extension of that is that several heads are the best of all. But forming a team has its downsides — it creates an automatic rivalry with other teams, and in the appropriately titled “Stick to the Team”, that’s what we begin to see as the surviving players of the Squid Game form alliances.
Squid Game season 1, episode 4 recap
There’s a distinct high school cafeteria vibe to the early portions of this outing, as the survivors, still reeling from the latest sugar rush, adjust to the comparative normality of the time between games. 101’s little goon squad has adopted the role of the bullies, smugly dining away in the corner even as a few other prisoners complain there’s no food and water left for them. The staff is adamant that there was exactly enough for everyone, so the starving player confronts 101, and gets beaten to death for his gall. As 111 is told later by the staff, this was intentional, designed to stoke up rivalries between the players. If 111 has any chance of survival he has to align himself with the strongest group.
Lights out is treated like a ticking clock device in “Stick to the Team”. Everyone knows that something is going to go down in the dark. 111 tries to avoid his fate by telling 101 that he knows what the next game is. He’s told to stay in the corner and stay quiet, When the lights go out, the frontman watches on through thermal cameras, and instructs the staff to flash the lights on and off as chaos erupts in the dorm. This whole sequence, thanks in large part to this lighting, takes on a distinct horror vibe reinforced by the brutality. Several people get messily stabbed to death. The camera starts to focus on Gi-hun and his friends as they look for 001, who’s missing in all the carnage. Sae-byeok joins Team Gi-hun just before the cries of 001, stood at the very top of a tower of bunk beds, brings the fighting to a close. Promptly, the lights return, the staffers enter, and everyone is brought under control.
As the coffins are brought in and the dead are taken out, Gi-hun decides it’s time for everyone to exchange names. 199 is Ali Abdul, from Pakistan. We already know Sang-woo and Sae-byeok. 001 can’t recall his name, sadly. Still riding high from all the murdering, 101, whose name is Deok-su, sneaks off to the bathroom for some alone time with 212, who promises she’ll kill him if he betrays her. It’s a weird relationship, this, and it’s difficult to see where it’s heading. I guess we’ll see.
In the meantime, Jun-ho realizes that the person coughing in the room next to his is actually coughing in Morse code, spelling out Room 29. More on this as it develops.
It’s time for the next game. This one requires teams of ten and has a time limit of ten minutes. That means that the smaller groups have to form bigger ones, which means there’s some decision-making that needs to be done. Sang-woo proposes they each bring in one guy, since men tend to be better at most games, on average, and he also advises Ali to hide his left hand, which is missing two fingers. Sang-woo approaches 069 but turns him down because he’s adamant about his wife coming along — “Our team already has too many girls,” he says, exposing himself as a bit of a prick. Speaking of which, Deok-su stops 212, Mi-Nyeo, from joining his team, and assaults her when she publicly begs him. Remember what she said about him being dead if he betrayed her? Well, let’s keep an eye on that.
Team Gi-hun is short one player. Sang-woo is fuming that Sae-byeok recruited another girl, and he only becomes less happy when Mi-Nyeo volunteers herself for their team. Once everyone is told that the game is Tug-of-War, he reckons he has even more of a point since it’s all about physicality. This version takes place across two opposing towers with a giant chasm in the middle; the losing team will plunge to their deaths. Since Deok-su was tipped off about the game by 111, he has assembled a team comprised entirely of strong men, so when he and his goons are called up to play first, they win handily. Just like that, another ten players are out of the game. Gi-hun’s team is to play against another team of men who clearly fancy their chances, but 001 explains in the elevator that Tug-of-War is a game he knows well from his childhood. He would always win even if he was against a strong wrestler, thanks to superior strategy. Gi-hu is at the front, as the leader. Ali is at the back, as the anchor. Everyone else is arranged alternating between left and right, their feet forward, the rope under their armpits. At the start, they wait, holding their position, until they sense weakness. And then they capitalize. It almost works, but not quite. The next idea is Sang-woo’s, who advises they all take three steps forwards, closer to the edge, to make the opposing team trip and fall. It’s a risky gambit. As everyone lurches forwards… “Stick with the Team” ends.
You can stream Squid Game season 1, episode 4 exclusively on Netflix.