Though Player 301 LeAnn and Player 161 Lorenzo stumbled into a feud that proved game-ending for one of them, she exclusively tells PEOPLE they've connected since filming Netflix's reality series
Warning: This post contains spoilers from the first nine episodes of Netflix's Squid Game: The Challenge.
Everything's coming up roses (or crocheted daisies, as it were) for Squid Game: The Challenge’s LeAnn and Lorenzo.
Even though Player 302 LeAnn Wilcox Plutnicki cast the first vote that ultimately led to Player 161 Lorenzo Nobilio's elimination in episode 4, the unlikely pals have developed a long-distance rapport outside the Netflix reality show's dismal dormitory.
Months after filming wrapped on the series, something surprisingly warm and cozy broke the ice: Lorenzo's adorable crotched floral ensemble, featuring a coordinated hat and purse, which he wore in his confessional interviews.
When LeAnn — who competed alongside her son Player 301 Trey Plutnicki — was watching the show's premiere episode, she spotted Lorenzo's outfit and could not contain her joy. "I just shouted, sitting on my couch," she tells PEOPLE. "I'm like, 'Oh my God, I think I really love him now.'"
Her favorite part, she reveals, was "that purse with sprouts and daisies." (A pairing she recently deemed "Iconic!!" on X, formerly known as Twitter.)
From there, she says, "I DM-ed him off of one of his posts. I don't know if it was on Instagram or TikTok. And I just said, 'I loved your outfit and I hope you're doing well. I hope we meet again.'"
Lorenzo would not be entirely faulted for choosing not to keep LeAnn on read — during a test when players were charged with eliminating three of their own, she stuck out her neck to enter his player number 161 into a keyboard, thus triggering the domino effect that led to his exit. (He also entered her number 302 in retaliation, though his attempt was not successful, and she stuck around long enough to unwittingly force Trey to eliminate her during the Marbles game in episode 6.)
LeAnn says the Italian was gracious: "He sent a DM back, and it was great. It led to an exchange where he said, 'I hold no grudges. You were playing the game, and it just is what it is.'"
Since then, they've enjoyed seeing their brief rivalry go viral. "We're kind of playing off of it a little," LeAnn admits. "My kids will say, 'Did you see what Lorenzo posted today?' And I'm like, 'No.' And then I'll go to it, and it's just so funny."
With all the "love" between them now, LeAnn was among many who initially didn't appreciate Lorenzo's bold presence in the game — most notably when he greedily snuck two portions during the first meal service and when he warily refused apple slices that LeAnn and a few other players handed out with no hidden agenda on the day of his elimination.
"It wasn't just the apples as the reason that I put his number up," LeAnn explains. "People absolutely knew [he had taken two meals on day one] because [Player 097] Jada was totally spying on that one. So I knew about that. And then I also saw another interaction he had during our Warships game. And I'm like, 'We all have to try and get along here.' [It was] difficult."
So when the chance emerged to make a direct hit on a fellow player, her son Trey was excited to do just that. "When the keypad came out I was like, 'We get to vote someone out? Cool. That's awesome. We have a public vote? Rad,'" he tells PEOPLE. "I was really excited about the social aspect coming into the game."
But the social aspect has intriguingly been exactly what differentiated season 1 of Squid Game: The Challenge from the dark drama that inspired it.
"It was different [than I expected] because everybody played and projected that you should be playing honorably, which I found really interesting," says Trey, a longtime reality TV superfan.
"It also takes me back to ... to the first season of Survivor, where I look at the first winner of Survivor and I see Richard Hatch, who America hated because he played the game," he continues. "And everybody liked the people who were playing honorably, who are like, 'It's Survivor. The people who are voted out, it should not have to do with the politics of the game. It should have to do with your merits of survival strength.' So I looked at this game and I'm like, 'I think that's kind of what we just did.'"
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Squid Game: The Challenge's season 1 finale drops Wednesday on Netflix.
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