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‘Squid Game’ Reality Show ‘Vomit Guy’ Haters Might Want To Think Again

I'd be barfing too if I might lose $4.5 million.

Squid game player 299 umbrella frown

Anyone who has been watching the new Netflix reality show Squid Game: The Challenge will know who I mean when I say “vomit guy.”

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Yes, I’m talking about player 299, Spencer, the 21-year-old engineer from North Carolina who absolutely could not stop retching during his screen time on episode two when he was responsible for picking the dreaded umbrella during the Dalgona game. Player 299 has taken a lot of heat on social media for being “dramatic” and “disgusting,” but looking at the facts, I think the court of public opinion is judging my guy 299 too harshly.

First off, he started out in the very difficult situation of being the one out of four people strong-armed into choosing the umbrella shape for his team in the Dalgona game, which is known to be the hardest one by a huge margin. As Spencer said in a talking head interview on the show, “I think some of [my teammates] are going to remember me for the rest of their life as the person who ruined their chance at becoming a millionaire.” 

On top of his feelings of dread for being responsible for his teammates being eliminated, Dalgona is straight-up stressful and fiddly, and you’re timed down to the second if you can free your shape from the cookie or be “shot,” a.k.a. eliminated from the game. And on top of THAT the entire Dalgona challenge is extremely gross and consists of everybody around you frantically tonguing and spitting on these cookies, making the vibe a disgusting mixture of spit, grotesque sexual innuendo, and panic. I would be gagging, too. 

Grossness aside, gagging, retching, and even full-on vomiting are noted symptoms of extreme anxiety and panic. And anyone watching Spencer’s greenish pallor, agonized expression, shaking body, and wringing hands, in addition to his retching, can see that he appears to be suffering from an extreme anxiety or panic attack. In this case, his symptoms would be physical and clinically uncontrollable, not related to how “dramatic” or “whiny” viewers think he might have been acting.

During the game, he seems to be unable to stop gagging and retching as a reflexive reaction to the stress he is under. He even appears to actually vomit in his mouth and swallow it multiple times. “I can’t look around or I might puke,” he tells the camera in a post-game interview.

When he breaks his cookie, he appears to gasp back vomit, covering his mouth with both hands and curling into the fetal position on the ground when the production team “shoots” him with the ink pack inside his shirt to simulate death at elimination from the game.

Ok, it seems, as tons of people on the internet have said, that he is having a really big reaction to the situation. But clinical anxiety doesn’t play! PLUS, a look at Spencer’s social media reveals more outside info about him that might make the haters want to retract their comments. According to his Instagram, during filming, he was actually a relatively recent cancer survivor who had gone through chemo, which definitely causes nausea. It had been more than a year, which is usually plenty of time for patients to feel better, but going through chemo is no joke, and everybody is different. 

The show’s editing also did Player 299 no favors with how viewers were set up to perceive him. Most of the episode interspersed shots of him sweating and gagging with interview shots of him telling the camera little tidbits about himself and his upbringing that were obviously meant to make him appear “soft” and make light of his anxiety. Some choice quotes:

After saying he was a massive “mama’s boy” growing up, Spencer says he remembers “wetting the bed a lot, crying when I was taken away from my mother. I was very introverted.”

“As I got older, it took me a long time to come out of my shell and start talking to people.”

“I am extremely gullible. It’s a problem. If someone says something to me, I’m going to believe it, like immediately.”

Will those who have harshly judged “vomit guy” be remembered as being on the wrong side of history? If I have my way, then yes.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.

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