“Squid Game: The Challenge” Player 278/Ashley defends Glass Bridge: 'Somebody has to be the villain'

"This is not friendship game. This is 'Squid Game,'" Player 278/Ashley Tolbert tells EW.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Squid Game: The Challenge episodes 1-9.

Player 278, a.k.a. Ashley Tolbert, doesn't care if you call her the villain on Squid Game: The Challenge. She doesn't agree with that label, but she also stands by her actions during the Glass Bridge game that led to Player 301/Trey Plutnicki's elimination.

After she was assigned No. 5 out of 20 for the order in which players would move across the bridge, Ashley was extremely upset about her low odds of surviving the game. So when the group decided to work together as a team — by having each player only make one 50/50 decision jump before the person behind them would step up and overtake them in the order — Ashley never agreed to the plan. And when Trey, in the No. 3 spot, made his jump and survived, everyone expected Ashley to step up after the No. 4 player was eliminated. But she stayed put, and Trey jumped a second time — unfortunately, he chose the wrong glass square, and was eliminated. Ashley then made her one jump, survived, and had the player behind her overtake her. She ultimately made it through Glass Bridge.

Below, she tells EW exactly why she didn't overtake Trey, why she doesn't regret her actions, and what her relationship is like with Trey today.

<p>Nic Serpell-Rand/Netflix</p> Ashley Tolbert

Nic Serpell-Rand/Netflix

Ashley Tolbert

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What exactly happened with you and Trey during Glass Bridge?

ASHLEY TOLBERT: I have not watched the episode yet, so based on what I remember happening in real time, when we were picking numbers for Glass Bridge, I got No. 5, and behind the scenes, I was really upset about that. I went off and had to step out, seeking out production, and during this time, this was when everybody comes up with the plan to overtake the person [in front of them after one jump]. Mind you, this whole time I'm feel upset about my low number, I'm not agreeing to any plan with anybody. It's a game for $4 million, it's one prize, only one person takes home the prize.

I'm not sure how the editing went, but Trey gets up there, he takes a jump, great. I didn't agree to overtake anybody. I'm not about to purposely sacrifice myself or eliminate myself. Prior to playing the game, we're told the rules: If you want somebody to overtake you, you need to turn around to the person, and you need to clearly say it out loud. Trey took a jump, he turned around to the bridge where everyone was standing and he asked something about his mom, "Would my mom have gotten a low number?" and then took another jump. In my perspective, Trey went rogue. He took two jumps. I'm not about to sacrifice myself for whatever he had planned or whatever he's up here upset about. And of course, he was upset about his low number.

At one point, me and him were just staring at each other in confusion, but I think I made up in my head, since you're going rogue, you're doing all this extra stuff, I'm not taking a jump in front of you. Trey gets eliminated, it's my turn, and I take my jump. I take my one and only jump that I was required to take, right? Right now I'm getting all this backfire on social media, and for some reason everybody has gotten it in their head that we're suddenly a team and that everybody is playing fair. After Glass Bridge, Mai rolls the dice and she's upset, calling me not being a team player. People have memory loss because before Glass Bridge, Mai was staying she can't stand TJ, then he picks her first, and she's all, "I love you, TJ," tears tears tears. But somebody has to be the villain, and it lands on me for not taking an extra jump.

But I stand by it — I would do it again. I made it across the bridge and I used what I had to get what I want. Was I helping people on the bridge? Probably not, but it wasn't a team effort. I'm just playing the game in the way that it would benefit me and people shouldn't be upset about me doing something that benefited me. All the people who had higher numbers had an opinion or something to say, but what do you do when you're No. 5? You're thinking about yourself in that moment. When Trey wanted me to overtake him, that could have been seen as him being selfish for himself, right? He wanted me to help him so that he could stay in the game. And I would have been eliminated, then I would have essentially been helping him to stay in the game. So why is it bad that I want to help myself stay in the game?

<p>Courtesy of Netflix </p> Trey Plutnicki

Courtesy of Netflix

Trey Plutnicki

Did you speak up to say you didn’t agree to the plan when it was being discussed?

Yeah, this was going on for hours. Several of us were like, "We're not doing that s---." And then once we got on camera, the group already knew I wasn't up for anything. I've been f---ing cursing out production, I'm mad as hell at Purna for giving me No. 5, I'm not cooperating with s---. I'm getting myself across this bridge, that's it. Anybody that took that personally, that's on them. You can't have any expectations of me. I don't know any of y'all. I'm chasing $4 million. This is not friendship game. This is Squid Game.

What would you have done if Trey specifically asked you to overtake him, instead of just looking back at you?

I would have said the same exact thing. "I'm going to stay my ass right here, and if someone else wants to volunteer to overtake me, you can." Because I didn't have to. I could have stood right there and everybody could have continued on with their game. Trey didn't have to be eliminated. Trey didn't even have to take an extra jump. Once he was eliminated, I turned around and I said, "F--- that, y'all are gonna help me." And guess what, everybody had to come up and start overtaking me. The same way that everybody was looking at me like, "She didn't do her part," he could have looked back at them and said, "Okay, somebody step up then." They were trying to be a kumbaya team, and hold each other's hand, and get 20 people across the bridge. That wasn't happening. I was thinking about what worked for me, because I was there for me. I came by myself and left by my damn self.

So if Trey stayed where he was, and you didn't overtake him, what were you hoping would happen? That someone else would overtake both of you or else the clock would run out?

Purna, he was the one I gave No. 6, he and I already made a deal. He was going to overtake me anyway. He was like, "We're sticking to our plan. I'm going to go ahead of you." We were going to do that for each other anyway, because we were trying to just squash the tension from handing each other the low numbers. We came to the agreement that we were going to help each other on the bridge. Did I come to an agreement that I was gonna help this whole team of 20 people? Hell no. Never. No one can pull up any footage where Ashley Tolbert said, "Yes, I'm going to do this bulls--- with y'all." It was one jump that I was required to take, and so that was the one jump that I took. That was the only rule and I followed it.

<p>Netflix</p> The Glass Bridge challenge


The Glass Bridge challenge

So when you say you were required to take one jump, were you planning to do that only when Trey got eliminated? Would you have made him jump across the entire bridge before you went? What was your plan going into this?

There was no plan of action. The goal was just to get across. Once I got up there I was gonna do whatever it took to get across.

Tell me more about the deal you made with Purna.

Before the game started, I was upset, not wanting to talk to anybody. We even did a stretch before going up on the bridge and I didn't even participate in that. I went into the game with a defeatist attitude, thinking this is the end of the road for me. I was just done with everybody. Purna came up to me saying, "We're gonna help each other. I'm your brother, just forget about it. Once you get to the front, then I'll overtake you and then we'll go on that way." That was the plan. Once I take my jump, he was going to request to overtake me.

Once Trey was eliminated, I took my jump, and I will say, he followed through on his word. In the original series, nobody in the top 10 makes it across the bridge. Me and Purna had the lowest numbers, and I made it across the bridge. It was based off the way that I moved. The only reason I was able to not be eliminated is because of my action. And so I stand by it. I love Trey, I just had lunch with him, but I had to do what I had to do. There's no ill intentions with Trey or anything, I just did what kept me alive.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The season finale of Squid Game: The Challenge premieres Wednesday, Dec. 6, on Netflix.

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