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The Walking Dead: The Next World

TWD - Next World

Last week, we talked about some of the more absurd moments in the mid-season premiere and I speculated about whether or not the show should embrace its goofiness.  This episode’s main story was a buddy comedy starring two inept red necks being frustrated by a guy who looks like Jesus but acts like Bugs Bunny.  How perfect would it have been if he would have peered over the roof of the truck and asked Rick and Daryl “What’s up, Doc?”  Bonus points if he was chomping on a carrot while doing so.

When The Next World opens, time has passed since the events of the last episode.  As is always the case, the passage of time is left intentionally vague.  But it was enough time for Carl to have recovered from being shot in the face last week.  When last we checked in on Alexandria, it was the site of massive carnage.  They set a lake on fire on watched as who know how many zombies marched into it.  But now the place is back to looking like Main Street USA.

I’m going to dwell on this for probably a moment longer than I should.  It’s weird that this is the second episode of the second half of the season.  The conventions of storytelling would suggest that the act break (and therefore the show’s hiatus) should have occurred after the zombie attack last episode.  That episode tied up a lot of what was being built up in the first 10 hours of the season.  If The Next World had been the midseason premiere, the passage of time would have coincided with the viewer experience and felt more organic.

No Way Out was a natural chapter ending and The Next World is the start of the next chapter.  So why didn’t the show schedule follow the story’s natural flow?  Because the writers were probably worried that The Next World wasn’t explosive enough to serve as a suitable midseason premiere.  So they split the story’s conclusion in half which is a very odd thing to do.  But the show is doing everything it can to cultivate social media exposure.  The need to light up the Twittersphere is dictating the show’s pacing which is unlikely to result in quality storytelling.

The passage of time finds all of our characters unusually chipper.  Even Rick, who spent most of the first half of the season waiting for the Alexandrians to just die already, has decided that maybe there is hope for humanity after all.  The only person who seems to be in a pessimistic mood is Daryl.  When Rick and Daryl go on a supply run, they have completely reversed their previous positions with regards to trusting outsiders.  Rick, whose previous stance could be summed up as “let ’em die” is willing to take a few chances on newcomers.  But Daryl, whose job it is to recruit good people to the community, had decided that is no longer in the town’s best interests.

Why the reversal?  Rick’s mind changed when the seemingly worthless citizens of Alexandria followed him out into the streets for what should have been a suicide mission but somehow turned into a great victory.  Presumably, Daryl is still shaken by his run-in with Negan’s biker gang.  Given the fact that Daryl has encountered the corrupt town of Woodbury, the cannibals of Terminus, that weird gang of claimers, and the Wolves, you wouldn’t think he’d be all that shaken to find that there is another group out there that means them harm.

Last week’s confrontation with Negan’s crew was Daryl’s second run-in with the group.  Whether or not he realizes this or even suspects it isn’t clear.  But by this point, Daryl knows that there are other groups out there that could threaten the peace and security of Alexandria.  That’s pretty important information.  It’s clearly weighing on Daryl to the point where he has reversed his entire position in his role in the community.  When the recruiter thinks it’s time to stop recruiting, something is up!

But does Rick ever ask Daryl why he changed his stance so drastically?  No.  He just insists that Daryl was right before and wrong now.  Despite spending who knows how long on the road together, the two men never have a meaningful conversation about their future plans or recent events.  More distressingly, Daryl is in possession of information that is of critical importance to the community.  And yet, he doesn’t appear to have shared this vital intel with the community’s leader.

One might assume that during the passage of time between episodes, either Daryl, Sasha or Abraham might have told Rick about Negan’s men.  It’s so obviously what they should have done.  But I’m willing to bet that Rick has no clue there is a group of dangerous thugs lurking nearby.  Why?  Because the characters on this show don’t have conversations off camera.  If they didn’t devote screentime to it, it didn’t happen.

When Rick and Daryl don’t agree on how to deal with a stranger who calls himself Jesus, it makes sense that they would have a detailed conversation.  If you are the leader of a community and your right-hand man who also happens to be one of the town’s two recruiters tells you he doesn’t think recruiting is a good idea anymore, aren’t you going to ask him why?  Especially when you have recently come to the epiphany that growing your numbers is in the best interests of the town?  But no.  Instead they engage in what passes for banter on The Walking Dead.

Rick and Daryl find a truck full of supplies all gassed up and ready to go.  In the zombie apocalypse, this is the mother lode!  At a minimum, this is a highly unlikely find.  It’s even a bit suspicious.  Could it be a Trojan horse situation?  R&D don’t question their good fortune.  They don’t even take inventory of the truck’s contents.  After a cursory inspection, they decide to leave their old car behind and drive the truck back to Alexandria.  Never mind the fact that they have two drivers and two vehicles.  They decide for plot reasons to leave their car behind and come back for it later.

If you’re willing to accept that this truckload of supplies is exactly what it appears to be, the smart thing to do is drive your newfound treasure straight home and chalk up the entire day as a highly successful supply run.  But they don’t do that.  Instead, they stop at an abandoned gas station so Daryl can loot a vending machine for Denise.  It seems that Tara has been talking about Orange Crush in her sleep and Denise would like to surprise her with one if at all possible.

Against all odds, this vending machine is still stocked with Tara’s soft drink of choice.  My work place has vending machines on every floor.  Not a single one of them contains Crush despite the presence of both Coke and Pepsi products.  In fact, there is no orange soda of any kind.  Orange soda isn’t exactly a vending machine staple, but it might be a nice bit of product placement.  This strange vending machine contains both snacks and soda – a combination I don’t think I have ever seen before due to the fact that soft drinks are traditionally refrigerated and mints are not.  A minor point, I realize.  But the mind wanders during TWD.  Would it have been too much to have two vending machines?  Do they think their viewers are unfamiliar with the conventions of automated snacks?

While at the gas station, they boys meet a polite scavenger named Jesus.  Jesus proceeds to make fools of Rick and Daryl by boosting the keys to their supply truck and leaving them stranded at the gas station.  If Rick and Daryl had driven separately, this would have been less of an issue because they could have pursued Jesus in their car.  But the writers wanted them on foot, thus the earlier decision to leave the car behind.

Before they head off in pursuit, Daryl liberates a couple of Orange Crushes.  He and Rick share one which was presumably damaged.  They then catch up to Jesus and get the truck back from him.  They leave him tied up by the side of the road and as a final insult, Daryl shakes up a can of soda and leaves it with Jesus.  Kind of funny, but weren’t the soft drinks important enough for you to jeopardize the entire supply run?  Maybe don’t waste them now.

But Jesus isn’t done yet.  It turns out he slipped his bonds in seconds and somehow climbed on top of the truck!  It’s completely implausible and more than a bit silly.  The whole thing ends with Jesus knocked out and the supply truck sinking into a lake.  Because the entire interlude is being played as a light comedy, the guys just shrug off the loss of their supplies – aka their entire reason for leaving the safe confines of their town.

Real people in this situation would have been upset.  Their foolishness just cost them a small fortune.  Those supplies could have kept their friends and family safe and fed for who knows how long.  This was no small loss, but the supplies were never really an issue here.  They were just the thing that got the plot going.  Since the stakes were never real, Daryl and Rick are free to laugh off their reversal of fortune.

The end result is that Rick and Daryl bring this highly skilled individual back to Alexandria for medical treatment.  They know Jesus stole from them.  They know he is dangerous.  They have reason to believe that he belongs to another camp.  After all of their experiences with other groups, it makes no sense whatsoever to expose the location of their community to a guy like Jesus.  But characters on The Walking Dead don’t make sensible decisions.  Or if they do, they reverse them almost immediately.

The episode’s B-story dealt with Spencer and Michonne putting a zombified Deanna out of her misery.  How did Deanna get into the woods?  The last time we saw her she was indoors and surrounded by zombies who certainly would have consumed her as zombies do.  It’s kind of their whole thing.  Deanna’s death was only two episodes ago.  The writers couldn’t have written it in such a way that having her end up as a woods-zombie would have been plausible?  Do they really not know what’s coming two episodes in advance?

In Start to Finish, Deanna spend a lot of time preaching to Michonne.  It didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the time because Deanna and Michonne weren’t especially close.  Maggie was the logical character for Deanna to confide in.  But now we know that those scenes between Deanna and Michonne existed to set up a relationship for this episode in which Michonne helps Spencer put his mom to rest.  It’s weird that they were planning ahead in that respect but not the details of Deanna’s demise.

All of this happens to set up the episode’s big finish.  With a little down time, Rick and Michonne realize that there is something going on between them.  ‘Shippers celebrated as the two characters finally initiated a rare romantic subplot.  Comic book readers know this is a departure from the source material.  In the comics, Rick started a relationship with Andrea.  But the show ruined its version of Andrea so badly they had no choice but to kill her off in season 3.  So Michonne fills in which is just as well since the show has never really known what to do with the character.

It all ends with Jesus walking into their bedroom in a post-coital moment.  That Jesus is such a hoot!  here’s hoping the show continues to embrace the character’s absurdity.  It beats the hell out of watching Enid mope.  There’s a character who can’t be killed off soon enough!

All in all, an okay episode by the show’s standards.  Which is to say, it could have been so much better than it was if anyone had actually put an ounce of effort into thinking things through.  But still, a goofy, lighthearted episode of The Walking Dead is almost as rare as a truck full of supplies or an Orange Crush.  Let’s not be like Daryl and waste them and then blame the lack of soda on Jesus.

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Posted on February 22, 2016, in TV, Walking Dead and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I quite enjoyed the goofy for a change. And couldn’t get the infamous Twinkie hunt out of my mind watching Darryl search for the soda. 🙂

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  2. A few corrections:

    Daryl left Jesus with that Crush because the can had been breached, either during their fight or it had been that way all along and he hadn’t noticed. He realizes his bag is wet from the leak before taking out the can and chucking it at Jesus.

    Andrea died in season 3, not 4.

    If Rick and Daryl had taken 2 cars, they could have pursued Jesus, not “persuaded” him.

    Those aside, you’ve definitely topped me this time around. This seems more like the kind of reviews I used to write. Both the stories this week could have been good if they’d been handled well instead of like, well, episode of TWD. Rick bringing Jesus back to the safe zone is just jaw-dropping. Rick would have been fully briefed on the Negan group–no way would Daryl fail to outline that business. It’s ridiculous that, when Rick notes Jesus obviously comes from some other camp, the matter isn’t even mentioned. The arbitrary characterizations of the soap melodrama format make a charge that a character is acting out-of-character difficult to sustain but Rick is as radically out-of-character in taking the guy back to town as anyone on TWD can be said to be.

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    • Thanks for the editorial effort. Really cursing the WP spell checker for persuaded/pursued! 😉

      There was an awful lot of lazy writing as is typical of TWD. But I find myself not minding so much in an episode like this. When the show pretends to be a prestige drama, I hold it to a higher standard. When it’s about a ninja who looks like Jesus, I’m more likely to roll with the punches. Either way, Daryl’s failure to say anything about his encounters with Negan’s group and Rick’s refusal to ask a question is just too much.

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  3. The Law of Averages…. like an idiot, I took this axiom to heart and actually thought to myself, maybe, just maybe, this episode might run its course without any of the usual inept, idiotic and just plain lame writing failures we regularly see. I knew it was a long shot, but from the beginning, we see a lot of time has passed, so it stands to reason we don’t have any of the typical lame plot devices cued up to substantiate the latest special effects masterpiece or impending crisis. No pressure to cause a fumble, just take a step back and have an episode make sense… after… the Law of Averages, right?

    But of course, the instant Rick mentions leaving their car behind after finding the food-truck, I realized just how stupid I am for even hoping for improvement. At that point, for about 3 seconds, I was thinking “Why in the F— would you do something so damned stupid…?” and then I remembered that this is TWD after all, and it was not long before all the pieces fell into place: they both piled into this untested, breakdown-candidate vehicle because the writers needed to have The Karate Christ steal it later on and leave our heroes in the lurch with no means of hot pursuit.

    But seriously here, who’s in charge of writing this garbage? I mean, NOBODY on that crackerjack team could come up with a sensible way to advance the same plot? I can envision the writer’s room for this episode, they are grinding their teeth and scratching their heads over getting R&D into this predicament… ‘Let’s have them leave the car behind for no reason whatsoever… nobody will notice anyway… the fans of this show are the same ones that make WWF so popular…etc…etc…’ then Luigi the janitor, emptying crumpled pages with even dumber ideas scribbled on them into his waste-cart pipes up; “Why not have them take the car with them to the gas station, and just have Jesus stab a tire flat before he jacks the truck?” The writing team promptly bounces him out of the room… what a hack!

    As always, nothing is better than anything else….

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    • Karate Christ! Love it!

      Seriously, one of the frustrating thing about TWD is that there is almost always an easy solution to the writing short cuts. You already have Jesus setting off firecrackers to distract Rick and Daryl while he makes his getaway. How hard is it to also have him disable their vehicle? It’s almost cliche, but it makes so much more sense than Rick and Daryl deciding to double back to pick up the car later.

      Here’s the thing. Most of us deal with this kind of vehicle problem pretty often. Even without the risk of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a herd of zombies on the loose, the safe thing to do is to keep a driver in the vehicle you have faith in rather than doubling down on the untested and highly suspicious truck. That sort of thing is going to jump out at anyone who has been paying a reasonable amount of attention. And it’s easy to address. But why bother? If TWD fans haven’t noticed this sort of thing before, why make an effort?

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      • That’s the part I just don’t get; even though they know they can get away with this time and again, shouldn’t they have some sort of sense of pride in their work? In themselves? At ALL? I mean, I’ve met carpenters and mechanics and the like who insist on cutting no corners, ensuring their work is near-perfection before accepting any payment, even for the smallest jobs… because they’re putting their NAMES behind it.

        Yet here we have the #1 show on TV, watched by millions, and it’s an absolute clownshow of writing ineptitude and outright laziness. No standard upheld and no shame or regret. If anything, just the opposite; they actually hold their heads up and act like they’re creating this great, well-crafted show…

        Is it a joke?

        Are they intentionally pushing the envelope of inadequacy and then laughing as the ratings climb even higher?

        I challenge anyone to come up with a more reasonable explanation, because I am at a complete loss here…

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        • I’m going to give The Walking Dead credit for some of the expert craftsmanship that goes into the show’s production. There are some real artists working on make-up, costuming, etc. The show typically looks fantastic for basic cable. There have been some really talented actors who can sell poorly written dialogue. And then there’s Andrew Lincoln who can’t. These strengths cover up a lot of flaws. I think knowing the areas where The Walking Dead excels, it’s easy to fool yourself that every aspect of the show is equally as strong as the production values. If you’re a writer, you’re proud to be working on a show as popular and celebrated as TWD even if in reality, the writing is hackwork. I also assume that the conditions of the show must not be beneficial to writing quality scripts. The scripts must be the show’s lowest priority. Maybe if we knew everything the writers had to deal with we would be impressed that the scripts are even remotely coherent. But not knowing any of that, I can just go by the final product which typically reflects the laziest writing on television.

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      • The car thing really bugged me but it is obvious now that you mention it why it was left behind (to further the plot). Having Jesus disable the car, or having the car break down seem like obvious solutions, but I think I know why they didn’t. That car was OBVIOUS product placement for Chrysler. It was too nice and modern, and only slightly dirty, to be their normal junker cars. Chrysler probably didn’t want their car being non-functional.

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        • HA!

          I think you’re right on the money there. That along with the obvious product placement for Orange Crush.

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        • ” I also assume that the conditions of the show must not be beneficial to writing quality scripts. The scripts must be the show’s lowest priority. Maybe if we knew everything the writers had to deal with we would be impressed that the scripts are even remotely coherent.”

          Unless the writers are dealing with something like grizzly bear attacks while ‘writing’ this tripe, there is no logical reason, IMO, for such absolute ineptitude. Like I’ve mentioned before, I am more than willing to let a lot of stuff slide, (sudden changes in character traits, cheap media buzz tactics i.e. Glenn’s ‘death’, etc…) because I get WHY they’re doing it, there’s at least some reason for it, no matter how weak and pathetic it may be, but when there’s a very simple and very obvious solution to a plot point and they choose to simply provide nothing instead, and it happens again and again and again, then they MUST be doing it on purpose.

          Seriously, what other reason can there possibly be?

          Otherwise, we are forced to believe that the writing team is not only too incapable of solving such excruciatingly simple problems in the first place, but also that they’re allowed to continue, and I’m just not prepared to do that.

          Sorry for the repeated rantings on the matter, but this bugs the crap out of me…

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  4. Regarding your comments about how this should have been the season opener, in a ideal world I’d agree. But I would have arranged episodes a little different in a way that would also have been better than they way they did it. The next to last episode of the first half of the season ends with the tower falling, allowing the zombies to pour in. Make that the end of the half season. Then open the new half season with the zombie invasion. You would get a great cliffhanger for the winter break then open with a big action episode. I can attest to that working well, at least for me, as I went on an overseas trip right after that tower falling episode. I didn’t see the season finale until immediately before the season opener. Even though it was only a few minutes between episodes I thought to myself “that’s a stupid place to break up the season”.

    If they really do start to make the series sillier that would be great. I can be more forgiving of problematic writing if we aren’t supposed to take the show completely seriously.

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    • The problem with using that as the season break is that they would have had to have come up with another episode of pure filler in order to have the walls fall at the end of the eighth episode of the season. Let’s face facts. If we got rid of all the filler, the walls would have fallen around episode three or four. If they padded it out so they just teased the walls collapsing at the midseason break, that would mean an entire 10 hours of televison without much of anything happening! Granted, that’s not much different than what they actually gave us. But I think your solution takes already bad pacing and pushes it farther in that direction.

      I would take a goofy, low key midseason premier in exchange for fiving the first half of the season a proper payoff.

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  5. Lebeau,

    You and JimtheHammer are the men! I had written an episode synopsis this morning before I read your episode review and comments. I thought I made some clever points but your review had me laughing and pounding the table. I sometimes wonder, “Am I the only one who has issues with this shows writing and plotting?” but seeing your review and the numerous comments shows that I am not.

    The Walking Dead – “The Next World” Aired Sun 2/21/16

    Ninja – The first coming of Jesus.

    I watched my “DVR” of the Walking Dead episode and was tempted the label this episode, “A series of strange and unfortunate events”. However, given the appearance of the new character Jesus I could not resist highlighting him.

    In any case when the episode opened I was immediately lost. There is a photo of one-eyed Carl with his sister. Also, Rick and Michonne are showing a comfort level that feels almost like marital bliss (foreshadowing?). How much time has passed? As someone who read the old Peanuts comic strips back in the… well a long time ago, I remember Charlie Brown would walk into the middle of some situation that had developed in his absence and with a bewildered look on his face would state, “I never know what is going on!” I felt just like Charlie Brown. When did all of this happen? Where there an opening voice-over that I missed?

    Rick and Daryl go on a supply run in a cool new car! I suspect that Rick deserved a new car after last episodes thrilling, “Rush out and kill scores of walkers by myself scene” which inspired the town to do likewise. I have to admit that I loved this scene including the “fire pretty walkers burn denouement” even though I know it was all nonsense. Especially after it took the guts covered survivors from daylight to night just to walk a few hundred feet. Oh well, it is just entertainment.

    Rick and Daryl drive around spinning their tires and playing loud rock music. Gas is apparently plentiful but what I could not get over is that no one seems concerned about that Negan fellow. In spite of the fact that a group of motorcyclists almost captured and killed some of the groups best fighters. They were only saved when Daryl used the rocket launcher of death that managed to not just kill but incinerate all of the bad guys. These are not the only bad guys to mention Negan or at least some other malevolent individual. The motorcycle stealing couple mention him as well. Yet, in spite of these warnings, we don’t see any heavily armed patrols and Rick and Daryl go out with only two pistols. No rifles, much less a rocket launch.

    Then, after they find the magic food truck they decide to leave their car because, well, I don’t know why. I supposed it is to make it more suspenseful after the magic food truck is stolen. But I am getting ahead of myself. They stop the magic food truck to get soda pop per the request of the good doctor. At this point, the all important new character is introduced – Jesus!

    Let me just say that Jesus is a bad ass. He stealthily steals Rick’s truck key. He manages to hold his own with both Daryl and Rick in hand-to-hand combat. He jumps onto the top of a truck without being heard even though he is tied up. He appears and disappears almost at will like Caine of the series, “Kung Fu”. If you remember the show it was said that Shaolin Priests, “Walk through walks. Looked for, they cannot be seen. Touched, they cannot be found.” However, since Jesus was introduced with a face covering I am going to say he was a Ninja and not Shaolin. Given his magic plot armor I think he could be a good counterpoint to Negan if he sides with Rick’s group. If not, then unfortunately, I suspect that his plot armor will either evaporate or be overwhelmed by Negan’s much stronger plot armor.

    Making a television show is very stressful and I respect the writers and producers for their hard work. I have come up with a theory that the writers of TWD bing-watch television shows and movies as a way to relieve their stress. They could have been watching any number of shows which helped them create the Jesus character. They may have been watching the movie “Risky Business” when they came up with the food truck in the water scene. They were watching Risky Business and started singing, “Porsche in the water, duh duh dunn, duh duh duh dunn, duh dun dunn, duh dunn”. (with apologies to Deep Purple). I imagined the TWD scriptwriters singing, “Truck in the water” when they wrote this scene. A long night bing-watching videos can reduce stress and make everything seem funny. More importantly it can make even the most amazing plot contrivances seem logical. Imagine the following conversation:

    Scriptwr1: Shuffling walkers sneaking up on people in a dry leaf covered forest? No problem. “Hey guy, does that make sense to you?”
    Scriptwr2: “Hell yeh. Makes sense to me. I won’t even remember it tomorrow!”

    Was it just me or did Michonne seem more voluptuous than I remember her? She appeared bustier and hippier than she had before which is maybe what led to “Richonne”. Like I said, at the beginning of the episode Rick and Michonne look really comfortable together. Additionally, Michonne is smiling and looking really cute, asking Rick about his day, etc. It did seem kind of rushed that they went from kissing to sex immediately with no buildup but maybe they had been kissing before and we just had not seen it during the “time that passed” from the last episode. I guess that gave Rick time to grieve and get over his last kissing partner.

    Fortunately, Jesus decides to wait and not create a “Richonne interruptus” scenario, but he still could have let them sleep a little longer before repeating his, “We have to talk line”. Also, in a walker (Zombie) apocalypse should we be repopulating the world or using condoms until we create a stable society? I have not figured that one out yet.

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    • Glad you enjoyed the write-up. I got a few laughs out of yours as well.

      I will say that the show’s writers didn’t dream up Jesus. They don’t have that in them. He’s right out of the comic book.

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      • lebeau,

        Thanks for your feedback. I am glad that my humor did not fall flat because just because something sounds funny to me, well…

        I had read that Jesus came out of the comics. However, as you astutely pointed out, the execution of his introduction was bad. Why leave the car and take the truck? Apparently, so that Jesus could come in, steal the truck and then get away. And he would have gotten clean away if not for a “timely” flat tire.

        Also, as you pointed out, “Why aren’t Rick and company out scouting for Negan or at least preparing for him?” Darryl and friends did not brief Rick? Huh, what? As you have said this show has good filming and production values but depends on writing and plot incongruities to move the story forward.

        Love your reviews. Keep up the good work.

        Regards.

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