“Squid Game: The Challenge” Player 451/Phill on 'silliest' Rock, Paper, Scissors, Mai's lie, and more

"I have been thinking about that every single day for the last 10 months," Phill Cain tells EW.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season finale of Squid Game: The Challenge.

In the end, Squid Game: The Challenge came down to an intense game of Rock, Paper, Scissors — which Player 451/Phill Cain thought was just a game of chance. But when his opponent, Player 287/Mai Whelan, kept kicking his butt over and over again, he began to suspect he was missing something. And due to her strategic understanding of how to win at Rock, Paper, Scissors, she ultimately beat him and won the $4.56 million.

But Phill didn't leave Netflix's Squid Game reality spinoff empty-handed. His experience throughout filming taught him a lot about humanity as a whole, as well as what he's capable of. "It was a beautiful representation of what human nature really is in the face of adversity, because even though the game was literally pitting us against each other, it never felt like that," Phill tells EW. "It never felt like it was me against them. It always felt like us vs. the game. It was an honor to be a part of that, and I'm pretty proud of myself for playing with integrity and never having to compromise on my values."

He's also excited to see what the future holds for him, even though he didn't become a multi-millionaire after coming so close to winning. "It showed me what is important and worth fighting for, and that I don't need millions of dollars in order to pursue my passions," Phill says. "I love music, and I actually got my college band back together after I got out. We're called Six Ways to Saturday, and we're putting out a new single today."

Below, Phill breaks down why the last game was the "silliest," what fans didn't see in the episodes, why players were so hard on Mai but not Ashley after Glass Bridge, how he dominated Circle of Trust, and so much more.

<p> Pete Dadds/Netflix</p> Phill Cain

Pete Dadds/Netflix

Phill Cain

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: During the finale dinner, why did you agree to let Mai press a button first and then have Sam press a button second? Why did you not want to step up and press a button?

PHILL CAIN: It was tough because I knew that one of us had to. But at the same time, I was pretty scared, and I didn't want to. We had come so close, and to risk getting eliminated over nothing was way too daunting of a thing in my brain. That's why I asked, "Does anybody want to go? Does anybody feel like they want to take the first step? If not, then maybe we can talk about it and figure out who it's going to be." Mai said, "Yes," and I was like, "All right, you do you." Honestly, I didn't really see any advantage for me to press the button, because I knew that if Mai or Sam had the ability to bring somebody with them to the final [game], I was relatively confident that they would choose me. I really had no business going up there to risk getting eliminated.

When Mai gets neutral, I'm like, "Oh, man, now I extra don't want to push one because it's literally a 50/50 chance, like Glass Bridge all over again." Sam really took the lead and was very courageous for that, and I do commend him because in that moment I did feel like a coward. It sucks to see him go, but at the same time, it had to be one of us. That was definitely tough to reckon with.

You say you felt like a coward but you made the smartest decision for yourself, because like you said, you were basically guaranteed to move on if you didn't push a button no matter what happened with Mai and Sam.

Yeah, it might've been the smart way to play, but ... between the three of us, nobody deserves the money more than anyone else in that room. So in my heart I'm like, "Why should I be the one to get to go? Why shouldn't I throw my hat in the ring?" That's what was going through my head, and I'm literally going through a whole ethical dilemma in my brain as that was happening.

What was your reaction when you saw Sam push the red button and get eliminated?

It was tragic. We'd become basically besties at this point, so it was really tough to see him go and over something that I could have done something about. It could have been me and maybe it should have, I don't know. But at the same time, going into the final three, it was really comforting to know that no matter who won, they were going to do good by the money.

What was it like for you in the dorm that night after Sam's elimination?

My head was spinning. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would get this far. I was going into it thinking that I would probably get out in Red Light, Green Light, so to have made it so far was absolutely crazy. At this point I'm like, "Oh, my God, it really is now a game of chance — it's 50/50 whether it's going to be me or her." That was an insane amount of pressure to deal with, but it was almost comforting to know that it was almost over. No matter what happens now, I get to go home to my bed, and I get to finally eat some good food, so that was reassuring and helped to ground me a little bit.

What did you think of how the entire thing came down to Rock, Paper, Scissors?

Oh, my God. This is the silliest thing I've ever seen, but what better way to go out than Rock, Paper, Scissors, the simplest game ever? [Laughs] In a way, it was nice because it really was mostly chance — or I thought it was mostly chance. I didn't realize that there might've been strategy behind it! [Laughs] That was kind of comforting being like, "Whatever way this goes, at least we know it's going to be fair. There's no backstabbing anymore. There's no more drama. It's just a simple game. Let's decide it right now."

How many rounds did you play?

We played something like 33 rounds, and she whooped my butt in most of them. [Laughs] She really earned that victory. I was scrambling towards the end. I was like, "How does she keep beating me?!" We went through most of the keys, and there must've been 40-something keys in there.

How many times did you beat Mai?

Oh, gosh, I couldn't tell you. Maybe I won about a third-ish of the rounds? It wasn't even close. She really won in a landslide.

At what point did you realize Mai won and it was all over?

When I saw her open the safe. It sucks because the key that she used, I saw in there and I was like, "It's probably not that one," so I picked another one. That was tough to deal with, and I have been thinking about that every single day for the last 10 months. [Laughs] But in that moment, it was finally over, I get to go home, and I genuinely am happy for her.

<p>Netflix</p> Sam, Phill, Mai


Sam, Phill, Mai

After Mai eliminated Roland in Circle of Trust, she lied to you and Sam and said she eliminated Amanda. Did you know she was lying in that moment?

No, I had no reason to suspect that she was lying. I still don't fully understand why she did. I guess she knew that we were close to Roland, and maybe we would feel some kind of way about her, knowing that she's the one who took him out. But at the same time, we had gotten to the point in the game where we knew it wasn't personal, there was only going to be one winner, and we were so close, so we understood the nature of the game and how the rest is going to go. But I definitely was surprised to see that because I really didn't see that coming. She's smarter than you think!

Did you find out about the lie when you saw the episode?

Yeah, when I saw the episode. She really knows how to keep a secret. There is so much more than meets the eye with her, and I'm really proud of her for playing such an incredible game.

You also dominated Circle of Trust — how were you so confident and successful in both of your guesses?

Fun fact, I was freaking out the whole time, and they did me very kindly in the edit because I was hyperventilating. I really wasn't sure! Rose, I was generally pretty confident on because she and I hadn't really known each other that well, so it felt like a safe choice for her to make. But then with Ashley, it was a total shot in the dark. The reason I chose her was because I knew that she was probably the smartest person in the room. She was cunning and cutthroat and would be willing to throw me under the bus — understandably, it's the nature of the game. I don't blame her for it. It felt like the logical choice, but I really wasn't sure, so at that point, I'm like, "If I'm going to get eliminated, I might as well go out with a bang. I'm going to be silly. I'm going to get my screen time." But I was fully ready for it to not be her. I was just as shocked as the audience was.

Earlier in the game, Mai got a lot of heat for targeting Ashley in the dice game, but why wasn’t Ashley held to the same standard for what she did during Glass Bridge?

In real life, it didn't really play out as it did in the edit. From my perspective, it seemed like Trey just kind of went AWOL and started jumping out of nowhere. In the shot where he's turning back to look at Ashley, I think he's actually turning back to look at us because he was looking for reassurance on what the plan was. Yeah, maybe she could have spoken up, maybe he could have spoken up, I don't know. It definitely wasn't as clear-cut, so I was honestly confused at what [Mai and Ashley's] beef was. I really didn't understand. I was far back, I couldn't really see, then I'm watching the edit, and obviously now I'm like, "There was more to it." But at the same time, I don't blame Ashley. It is going to be one winner and we all knew that, so I don't fault her for playing the game to the best of her ability, and if she needs to do what she needs to do to win, more power to her.

What didn’t we see in the finale or during any other episode that you want fans to know about?

One thing that got cut from the edit is that Mai really stuck out her neck for me — twice. The first time she actually offered to take my jump for me on Glass Bridge, and the second time she offered to throw my dice for me. Both times I said, "No, Mai, it's okay. I've got this. I'm going to take this responsibility." But it really showed me how much she cared about me and how deep our connection had already been, and it really surprised me because it would mean risking her own elimination.

Now that the show has been renewed, would you want to try again and compete in season 2?

Listen, I feel like I owe it to myself to try to run it back! Maybe I'll give it one more shot. But if I get out in Red Light, Green Light, I think that's going to be it. I don't know if I can do that again.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Squid Game: The Challenge season 1 is now streaming on Netflix, and will return for season 2.

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