Thursday, May 24, 2007

Damon and Carlton Give Us Eight Months to Contemplate the Most Depressing LOST Episode Ever

So much to say. Where to begin in describing the most devastating LOST episode ever? I say that not only because of the long-dreaded event come to fruition. I say it because of the undercurrent of utter desolation. Dust in the Wind should have been incorporated into the score, so profound was the sense of despair. Yes, I'm talking about Jack's flash-forward, in conjunction with Ben's desperation and Charlie's startling bit of information from Penny. I always was rather aligned with Locke on the subject of getting off the island. Now it certainly seems as though this rescue is not a good thing.
And so I'll turn first to Jack. I must say, if the "rattlesnake" at the end was supposed to make me gasp in shock... Well, I didn't, because I strongly suspected from the first frame of the episode that this was the Jack of the future, a man clearly haunted by his decisions and feeling utterly out of place in this world that was once his. I waffled a bit, thinking for a while that the fellow who'd died might have been his best man and we were seeing him sometime between the breakup of the marriage and the crash, thinking somehow the island was all this horrible nightmare brought on by a drug-induced haze. But mostly I thought that this was Jack's future, that this was what leaving had done to him. There was a definite sense that this was a Jack informed by a knowledge of the island, just as there was when Desmond came to in his apartment, looking utterly astonished. The beard was a strange addition; I love how Naomi refers to Jack as Moses on the island, what with the exodus of the castaways, but it's off the island where he really looked like Moses. He was an utter wreck of a person, able to pull himself out of a suicidal state only by his unshakable need to save people. Only the accident at the beginning of the episode was his fault, so it just gives him all the more reason to feel guilty. The references to Christian really didn't throw me off; they actually seemed to support my future theory, what with the pitying look the chief of surgery gave Jack when he invoked his father's name and Jack's violent reaction to the pharmacist's attempt to contact his father. Obviously he had forged Christian's name.
The scene with Kate at the airport didn't surprise me at all; it just put into words the unspoken truth that infected every instant of Jack's flash-forwards. Jack made a mistake. Turns out that getting off the island wasn't such a glorious thing after all. He reminded me forcefully of Malcolm McDowell's character in Star Trek: Generations, especially when he talked about flying incessantly in hopes of a plane crash that would somehow get him back there, even if it was at the expense of everyone else on the plane. "We have to go back," he pleaded, every bit as despondent as the man unwittingly pulled from the Nexus. Will he go back somehow? Is this future set in stone, or can it be changed? And why isn't Kate in prison? Did she manage to wrangle up a convincing false identity, or were people so glad that she'd survived that she was cleared of her charges? Was everyone there rescued, or only Jack and Kate? Or Jack, Kate and several others? And are flash forwards going to be the order of the day now? And who is in the coffin? My guess is Ben or John, though I don't particularly like either of those options. The newspaper clipping up close reveals part of a name, and it starts with "Jo" and has an unfamiliar last name, but it could well be someone we know using a pseudonym...
Back on the island, Jack's not nearly such a mess, though we've seen him better. I think it's the right call to keep moving, honoring the sacrifice Sayid, Jin and Bernard are willing to make by getting to that radio tower at all costs. Except that Ben says Naomi's people are "the bad guys", and despite Ben's extremely low level of trustworthiness, his urgency is such that I feel inclined to believe him, especially once we hear from Penny. When it's just Ben's word against the chance of rescue, though, one can hardly blame Jack for refusing to listen. When John shows up to reinforce the message, for a moment it almost looks like Jack might be considering his point, like he is starting to get the sense himself that he's "not supposed to do this". But then he hears the voice and snaps out of his reverie, leaving John to stump away dejectedly.
John, John, John... What was that about? I guess I need to go easy on him; after all, he just extracted himself from a mass grave, where he'd been lying with multiple life-threatening injuries for a day or so. He can't be up to full strength at the moment. But John, if everything hinges on this phone, why don't you shoot the contraption, for goodness' sake? And why didn't you even attempt to run up and pick it up after so callously knifing Naomi in the back? Heck, if John hadn't been so busy having a hissy fit in The Man Behind the Curtain, he might have realized then what a threat Naomi was and planned accordingly. If she was a threat. I guess we still don't exactly know. But my gut tells me Sayid was right not to trust Naomi right away, and maybe he should have tried a little harder to get some answers out of her.
Walt's sudden reappearance would have been a bit more dramatic if Jorge hadn't let slip that we'd be seeing him soon and if his name hadn't been right there on the opening credits. So we knew he'd show up, and a Locke vision was a pretty logical choice, though it was still pretty darn exciting when we saw him, even if he didn't say much and even though he looked drastically older. Shall we say this was future Walt, knowing the consequences of Jack's actions and trying to make things play out differently? I was quite surprised to see sweat-drenched John on the verge of killing himself. I figured he would shoot a bullet up in the air somewhere in an effort to attract someone's attention, but he really was about to give up. So thank goodness Walt, in whatever form that was, intervened. Too bad John didn't accomplish a darn thing when he went back, and he just threw up his hands once Jack made contact. Killing Naomi benefited no one as long as that phone was at large. All it means is whoever she was with is going to be pretty ticked off that their gal got a knife to the back from these people they're rescuing. Now if only Walt had come with John and had a chat with Jack and the gang, it might've made some difference... But I suppose John is the only one who could see him.
So I guess Mikhail did have a good reason for wanting that phone after all, and he's much less of an independent operator than I'd imagined. He actually is quite loyal to Ben, and he has a significant interest in keeping the phone away from the castaways. I had to laugh because getting an eyeful of his scarred-over eye socket was becoming a bit tiresome, so when that scene halfway through the episode opened with him hunched over the microphone in the hatch, I said, "Mikhail, just put that patch back on already." And two seconds later he did! It's exciting when fictional characters heed my requests. If only he'd done so when I made more significant demands.
I was thrilled to see him when he showed up in D.O.C. Thrilled, I tell you! Now I feel betrayed. Patchy, I have defended you valiantly, and look what you go and do... He's obviously aggravated with Ben for keeping things from him, but not to the extent that he refuses to follow his orders. I thought for a moment there that he was going to defy Ben; when he began questioning Bonnie, it seemed he was going to shut off the jamming equipment himself. But it was not to be. After he killed Greta (which was really a shame, because she seemed like a perfectly nice person) and closed in on Bonnie, I couldn't fault Desmond for doing Mikhail in. Nathan and I both declared early in the episode that we thought Mikhail would wind up aiding Charlie and Desmond somehow. Ha! Still, at first I thought Desmond had used a tranquilizer gun, and then, when I realized it was what amounted to a harpoon, I was a tad sad to see Mikhail bite the dust yet again. Not as bummed as the first time, I don't think, but I did find it a shame. But when he suddenly sprung back to life on this occasion, I did not cheer. No, suddenly there was a boulder in the pit of my stomach. Just when things seemed to be going so well, when it looked like Charlie could get the job done and live to tell the tale, Mikhail had to go and ruin everything. And what was the point? I suppose he might not have realized that Charlie had already unjammed the transmissions, so he thought he was stopping him from completing his task. Otherwise it was just for the sake of being mean, it would seem, though why would he blow himself up to boot? Because he knows he's indestructible? Because everything is a mess now and he just wants to give up on life? Whatever the motivation, I'm afraid my affection for Mikhail abated considerably after this week. You're off the Christmas card list, Patchy. That's what you get for drowning Charlie.
Who I'll get to eventually, but I'll probably save him for last. In the meantime, there's a lot more ground to cover. Sayid, for instance, who no longer has anyone on the island to whom he has a particularly strong attachment. He leads Jin and Bernard ably, and he shoots expertly. His determination that Jack get the others off the island is admirable; it would seem that his is the more dangerous job, and he doesn't shrink from it. Jack's refusal to give Ben the phone is a testament to their mutual respect, yet I really was wishing he would just comply. I had a hunch that the three of them hadn't been picked off just like that - the deaths of three major characters all at once, and off-screen, seemed unlikely - but when the possibility was still there, it was truly terrible to contemplate. I'll confess to a grudging admiration for Sayid's little neck-crunching trick, though it makes me rather ill just to think about it...
Jin failed to hit his target - a harder job for him, since he just had a pistol instead of a rifle - but did take out two Others immediately afterward. Cross Sayid, Jin and Bernard off the list of people who we haven't seen kill anyone. Sigh. Jin had a really nice moment with Sun, and hearing him say "because we need to go home" in English was so moving - except where is "home"? They can't go back to Korea, and America probably won't be safe either once people find out they're alive again. It seems to me that they are among those who might most consider staying on the island. Unless going off the island could somehow lead to a cure for Sun. Then, of course, they'll have to leave.
But Bernard? He needs to stay put, so why's he so intent on being heroic? It's for the good of the group, I guess, but Rose is not getting on that plane, so neither is he. And while he does hit his target, it's hard to say whether his spilling Jack's plans to Ryan and the gang is the right course. He saves Jin's life in doing so, presumably, but he endangers the castaways' mission...
I like Rose's little farewell with him, asking if she could change his mind by helping him with the "S.O.S." and making him say, "I'm a dentist; I am not Rambo." And one of the funniest lines in the finale, I thought, was when a worry-ridden Rose tells Jack, "If you say, 'Live together, die alone' to me, I'm going to punch you in the face." She is in no mood for platitudes. Usually Rose radiates calm, but under such trying circumstances her concern is quite understandable. I love the ecstatic hug she and Sun share when Hurley announces that their husbands are alive and well - and the sheer joy on Jack's face. Probably the happiest single moment in the episode. I was so worried for all three of our snipers and was immensely relieved that they came through the ordeal unharmed.
And yet... The body count in this episode was appalling. We were told there would be four deaths; there were 15 - assuming Mikhail's third death took, which may be a big leap to make at this point - plus the mysterious dead man in Jack's future, who seems likely to be someone we know. Are our castaways really the good guys when they wiped out ten Others practically in one fell swoop?
I was sad to see Hurley actually consciously taking a life, but the thing is, Ryan could have easily jumped out of the way. Hurley's main concern was barreling in and causing chaos so the Others would be taken totally by surprise. It really was a heroic moment, and I was very happy for Hurley, who'd had a really crummy day, getting told by both Charlie and Sawyer that he didn't have anything to contribute because he was a fat slob. Neither meant it, of course; they were just trying to protect him. But it felt very fitting for Hurley to save the day out of the blue like that, providing further justification for Tricia Tanaka is Dead at the same time. I liked his comment about how Jack was going to "phone home", and the worried way he glanced out at the ocean when he reassured Claire that Charlie would be fine. And I really appreciated the fact that he voiced his displeasure at Sawyer's execution of Tom. Looking back, that tree frog scene way back in One of Them could be seen as foreshadowing of this moment. Hurley helped Sawyer to get to the point where he could make the kill, though Hurley tried to stop him; in both cases Sawyer should have just adopted a "live and let live" attitude.
Not that Tom was really earning the title "Mr. Friendly" this week. He suggested killing the castaways on more than one occasion - after, it should be noted, seven Others fell at Sayid, Bernard and Jin's hands. Those were seven of Tom's friends, so of course he was going to be a little emotional, but while he suggested killing the castaways, he really didn't make any kind of move to do so, except when he reached for the gun at the end, at which point I don't know what his plan was because he was clearly outnumbered. I was hoping that Tom would do something heroic at the last minute, much as I hoped Mikhail would. Though he didn't, he was not unduly cruel, and we still haven't seen him kill anyone. Usually he's the one trying to smooth things over and calm down those driven to brutality, like Danny. So I was very sorry to see him meet the end he did. He could have been an ally. Instead, Sawyer murdered him in cold blood, and it made me sick to my stomach. Not to mention dashing my hopes for a Tom-centric episode. Tom deserved better, and Sawyer should have done better. I thought he was done with revenge.
Throughout the third season, I've generally been very satisfied with Sawyer, but that decision to kill Tom signaled a major regression to me. Tom was unarmed and surrounded. He had surrendered. Sawyer killed him out of pure spite, making good on his ominous "You and me ain't done, Zeke" back in The Hunting Party. There's a certain sentiment, I suppose, behind avenging Walt, but since the boy is evidently alive and well now, I don't really see the need to hold onto that grudge. Besides, Tom didn't shoot the gun that infected Sawyer's arm, and he didn't throw the lantern that blew up the raft. He was sort of more of a figurehead in that scenario, with random Others committing the most egregious offenses. I'm inclined to think Sawyer shouldn't have gone back at all, but Hurley probably wouldn't have gone off totally on his own. He needed that little push, I think. Sawyer provided that. (I find it amusing that nobody even noticed Hurley was missing; I guess they were pretty preoccupied, but I'd think his absence would stick out...)
Kate didn't have a particularly strong presence in this episode, her scenes mostly limited to heated encounters with Jack and Sawyer. Jack's big "I love you" in the trailer was indeed directed at Kate. Its context was a little goofy - "I'm sticking up for Sawyer because I love you" - but I guess what he means is that he cares about her happiness and thinks Sawyer really does care about her, so he doesn't want to ruin that. Since it comes after he kisses Juliet and its purpose is to push the idea of her and Sawyer making a good pair, it loses a bit of its romantic punch, but I think it speaks well of Jack that he has Kate's best intentions at heart and that he still gives Sawyer the time of day. My guess was that Sawyer was the person waiting for Kate in that last scene, but that might not be the case. She didn't seem to be very happy in the future either. And whoever was in that coffin, she didn't have much affection for him, or at least didn't want to admit that she did. I suppose the corpse could have been Sawyer too, in which case her relationships with Jack and Sawyer are going to deteriorate even further, unless that future can be altered...
Karl didn't have anything useful to do in this episode, which disappointed me a little, but Alex made up for it. I love her stunned reaction when Ben tells her she's welcome to come along with him, and it's interesting to watch her face as Ben talks to Mikhail on the walkie. We still don't really know where Karl came from; it would seem that he may have shipwrecked or something not that long ago. Ben's saying that he "may have overreacted" in his measures to prevent Karl from getting Alex pregnant was rather amusing, and also tender, considering what happens to pregnant women on the island. He was just looking out for her safety. Was that a picture of Alex he had in his room when he was writing in his diary? Do they have cameras on the island? Well, they have video cameras, so I guess I still camera isn't much of a stretch...
It would seem that Ben must have known that Danielle was Alex's mother when she captured him, but he would've kept quiet about it since he was pretending to be someone else. There was a grim humor to a bloody Ben, beaten by Jack within an inch of his life, gesturing casually to Danielle and saying, "Alex, this is your mother." And how Danielle's idea of mother-daughter bonding is tying Ben up together. At this point, Alex is totally disgusted with Ben, but I think she still is shaken to see him such a mess.
I'm sorry too, but he brought it upon himself. I'm glad he ordered Tom and Ryan to shoot the ground instead of the hostages but I don't really understand what he was trying to achieve there. Couldn't he have predicted Jack's blind rage? He's certainly not going to hand over the phone after his friends have been killed. It makes no sense. I very often have trouble discerning the method behind Ben's madness. At first, I thought he was lying about Naomi's people; how would he have any idea who they are, anyway? But his level of urgency is such that I can't help but think he may be telling the truth. In which case, if it's so critical to stop this from happening, why in the world did he shoot John before heading back to camp? Wouldn't he have realized that John would be a formidable ally in blocking the rescue attempts, given his track record? Is it just that his pettiness overpowered his good sense? It's rather funny to see him cheering John on when he shows up, since their last meeting involved Ben shooting John into a ditch. In any case, Ben seems to be losing his grip, both on his people and his own faculties. His panic is evident in his various walkie conversations, especially when he learns of Juliet, Karl and Alex's betrayals. He should have been much more trusting and trustworthy to begin with. This whole mess could have been avoided. Instead, he goes it alone, and eventually nobody can believe a word he says.
Juliet and Sawyer make an unlikely pairing. Sawyer finally decides to trust her, and then it turns out she was lying about the guns, but they creep up on the beach anyway hoping to work out a plan in the meantime. I love her line about the aliens; for a second there, she had me going... It would seem at this point that Juliet has proven herself a friend to the castaways; it's ironic that Naomi closes in on Jack to show him the phone and questions whether Juliet is trustworthy. In their excitement at the prospect of getting rescued, people haven't been asking enough questions about Naomi's back story. Richard gets lost in the shuffle, his one big scene quickly forgotten in the midst of all the unfolding drama. But Ben told him to take the group to the Temple, and that is a very intriguing instruction. Surely we'll be getting back to that when the fourth season resumes.
I'm afraid it's getting to the point at which a discussion of the unfortunate events inside the Looking Glass is unavoidable. I'll start with Desmond, who comes to in a daze with a sore cheek, Charlie's note in his pocket, and Mikhail shooting at him from the shore. Ironically, the safest course is to take the plunge he and Charlie had nobly debated over. He follows the wire downward and winds up in the hole in the floor, luckily at a moment when Greta and Bonnie are in the other room. It's a panicked instant, but he's thrilled to see Charlie, though his bound and bloody state is worrisome. All Desmond can do at this point, however, is get out of the way. Heroics can come in later.
I was a little surprised at how Bonnie insisted to Mikhail that Charlie was alone; she heard him talking to Desmond, and though she was apparently taken in by Charlie's hasty cover-up, I'd think she would put two and two together when faced with Mikhail's information. Good thing nobody bothered looking for him, since that gave Desmond the perfect opportunity to charge in, spear gun blazing, to save Charlie's life. It seems at this point that he doesn't have as much faith in his visions as Charlie does; Desmond says Bonnie's never going to divulge the code, whereas Charlie simply says that it was in the vision so it has to happen somehow. In retrospect, I find myself wishing Desmond would have done something to ensure that Mikhail didn't escape, but he certainly seemed dead at that point, so nobody viewed him as a problem. There was such cautious optimism in that scene when he and Charlie went in separate directions, saying they would meet back there once they'd completed their tasks. It seemed they might actually beat the curse once and for all.
And then the "incoming transmission" button blinked, and I was thinking, "Charlie, don't you press that button! Just get yourself out of there!" I had an extremely uneasy feeling, especially when I realized Mikhail was missing. And then Charlie's joyful realization that he was talking to Penny was flipped on its head when he spotted the maniacally grinning Mikhail outside with the grenade. Desmond made a desperate dash for Charlie, a mixture of wanting to save him from Mikhail and wanting to talk to Penny. With the dramatic slow-motion race between Charlie and Desmond, I knew with little doubt that everything was going to play out just the way he'd said, though Desmond tried most ardently to get into that room, even after Charlie had bolted it. His desperation made way for sad resignation; he knew he could do nothing to save Charlie this time, and it was haunting to see him shouting through the sound-proof glass, his words unheard by Charlie but hopefully understood. Charlie's vital last-minute information barely had a chance to register, but their locked gaze confirms that Desmond got the message, and then they remained where they were for a moment, hands pressed against the glass in a scene highly reminiscent of The Wrath of Khan, their profound bond, formed after only two or three short weeks, sealed forever in this final, reverent moment.
It will be very interesting to observe where Desmond goes from here. I can definitely see him beating himself up over Charlie's death, much as John did after Boone died. Charlie volunteered for the mission because of Desmond. Those visions were also responsible for their finding Naomi. In both cases, it would seem that his interpretation of how events play out is grossly misinformed; it almost seems that someone is planting them in his head in order to set off a chain of events with the opposite of the effect Desmond intends. When he realizes that Naomi was not sent by Penny, he will probably fear that Charlie died in vain, that it was all a big waste, that his actions will result in the ruination of everyone.
At the very least, he will grieve the loss of a good friend, and I don't envy him the task of breaking the news to Hurley or Claire, scenes I fervently hope we will witness though they will be painful to watch. (It seemed that Aaron sensed what had happened to Charlie; I wonder if he really did...) I don't see how the list could have survived, even written in permanent ink; that paper must be a sodden clump by now, so I really hope Desmond looked it over and memorized it in the moment Charlie handed it over so that he can pass those memories on to Claire just as Charlie wanted. And for crying out loud, somebody better find that Driveshaft ring. I think that Desmond will have a hand in looking after Claire now, if they all wind up in the same place, but he'll have other work to do too, so I think the main task will fall to Hurley, who already seems to have taken them under his wing - not to mention Vincent, who was abandoned by Michael. Hurley has had more interaction with Aaron than most of the castaways, and I think he will see taking care of Claire as the best tribute he could offer to his beloved friend.
Charlie displays a fatalistic attitude in this episode that mostly works to his advantage, steeling him for the task ahead. It allows him to square off against the hostile Bonnie with defiance and even a fair share of cheek. He's actually quite funny in many of his scenes, especially when he's singing in order to annoy his captors. Desmond has thoroughly convinced him that "flicking the switch" is his destiny, so he knows it will happen one way or another. It makes him feel almost invincible for a time.
I questioned whether he should have been so up-front with Bonnie, Greta, Ben and Mikhail, but I guess there wasn't much to be gained by lying about his presence. Ben would have sent Mikhail whether or not he knew who Charlie was and why he was there. Besides, he probably figured that coming right out and stating his intentions might help him to figure out a plan, since his captors might let some information slip, thinking he was in no position to actually accomplish anything. And anyway, lying has only led to multitudes of problems for people on the island. Maybe he's starting to see that honesty is often the best policy.
Charlie tapping out the tune to Good Vibrations on the keypad was a definite high point. How incredibly appropriate that this rocker's destiny should be so closely linked with music! It's such a happy song, and he's so pleasantly startled by his success, that I really did dare to hope that he might walk away, close the door and swim back up to the surface with Desmond. But then the transmission came. Yet as much as I wanted him to ignore it and get out, making contact with Penny and passing her message along to Desmond is probably what really will help everyone.
The big question is, was Charlie's death necessary? Couldn't he have run out the door and slammed it so that the room flooded but he wasn't in it? Was there no way to bolt the door from the outside? Was he afraid that Desmond, drunk with the prospect of actually speaking to Penny, would fight his attempts to keep the door closed? Couldn't he have at least tried to swim out the window? It does seem that to a certain extent, Charlie just gave up once he saw Mikhail with the grenade. He said to himself that the death Desmond saw in his vision was about to happen, and rather than wasting his time trying to prevent it, he needed to keep Desmond safe and to give him the critical message that Penny did not send Naomi.
Charlie died a hero, that much is certain. His death didn't completely shock me, especially given the last episode, which certainly seemed like a long farewell to the musician from Manchester, but I'd held out hope that he might still get a reprieve. It's hard to lose such a beloved character - and I'm furious with myself that I couldn't even get myself to cry. That does not mean I didn't feel his death deeply. Yet I am at peace with it - if it meant something. Which I'm pretty sure it did, but the overall tone of the episode makes me worry. If such a bright light is going to go out from LOST, it has to be for a reason. This was by far the most moving death on the show, followed by Boone, I'd say, who also died heroically and had a touching moment with Jack in which he forestalled further attempts to save him. It was the sort of end I thought Desmond embraced in the season two finale, until we saw Penny and I decided maybe Desmond had survived that hatch implosion after all. In that episode, Charlie asks Desmond for help with Eko, and Desmond dismisses him, explaining that he is helping. Turning the key a very brave thing to do, even if he probably would have died anyway if he hadn't done it. In this episode, Charlie refuses Desmond's help, thereby ending the third season on a complementary note of self-sacrifice. But I don't see Charlie getting out of this one. Our dear friend, it would seem, is really gone. I love the heartfelt farewell with Desmond, the smile and what looked like "cheers, mate", and crossing himself just before the water consumed him.
I read an article yesterday in which the producers said that Charlie's presence will still be felt very strongly on the show. That gives me hope, that his friends will keep his memory alive and he will thereby continue to have an influence in what happens on the island. And I can definitely see him coming back in some sort of dream or vision, perhaps by Claire, Desmond, Hurley or Locke. So we may see more of him yet. Still, the loss is not an insignificant one. We've seen Charlie progress from an ineffective, drug-riddled coward to someone who is paternal, brave and self-sacrificing. I've loved him all along despite (and partly because of) his shortcomings. It's ironic that the rock star wound up being one of the best examples of an everyman on the show. It was very easy to sympathize with him. Plus there was a great lightness to his character; he was used for comic relief almost as much as Hurley, and the smiles he brought will most certainly be missed. If he had to go, though, I'm very glad it was while making such a noble gesture. I've feared for his life before; he nearly died way back in the first season at the hands of Ethan. Inherently more vulnerable than many of the castaways, he's dodged death again and again. This time he embraced it. None of us is likely to forget that moment. It will stay with us for the rest of the series and beyond.
I wish I could shake the feeling of despair this episode gave me. No tsunami, but enough catastrophe to last the rest of the series - though I know they won't stop at that. Still, there will be happy moments again on LOST. The next 48 episodes will not be a quagmire of misery. They wouldn't do that to us. I hope. Desmond and Locke will have major roles to play in the next season, and Jack and Ben may find themselves forced into an uneasy truce. We will clearly see the repercussions of Charlie's actions; there will be good ripples. For now, I have about eight months to mourn...

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