Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 201

Dan and Alan talk 'Breaking Bad,' 'Mom,' 'Hostages' and 'The Blacklist'

The

Happy Friday, Boys & Girls!
 
As you probably know, this has been a trying medical week for Alan and the HitFix family. But most for Alan and his actual family. 
 
At one point, this was going to be a two podcast week. Then it was going to be a zero podcast week. And we ended up settling somewhere in the middle. Over the course of three days and many, many, many recorded segments -- Ignore the "Happy Wednesday" part -- we were able to cobble together this hour-long podcast.
 
We're sorry that you'll never hear our full review of FOX's "Dads," or "Sleepy Hollow" or "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," but we talked for a couple minutes about the second episode of "Dads" here and I assume we'll check in on the other two at some point.
 
Mostly, this podcast was an excuse to chatter about Sunday's awesome episode of "Breaking Bad," but we also snuck in brief reviews of next Monday's "Mom," "The Blacklist" and "Hostages," just because next week is going to be pretty insane.
 
Feel better, Alan!
 
And here's today's breakdown:
"Breaking Bad" (00:02:50 - 00:35:00)
"Mom" (00:35:30 - 00:42:00)
"Dads" Episode 2 (00:42:00 - 00:45:00)
"Hostages" (00:45:15 - 00:53:20)
"The Blacklist" (00:53:30 - 01:01:35)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

 

 

<p>Stone Martin of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>

Stone Martin of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 3 - Auditions #4

Still more auditions from Charleston and Los Angeles

Once again, thanks to FOX for coming through with a screener for tonight's "X Factor" auditions.

And also thanks to FOX for any "X Factor" episode that isn't two hours long.

Remembering that the time code for this recap will be based on screener time and not on episode time, click through for my full breakdown on Thursday's (September 19) hour.

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<p>Danie Geimer of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>

Danie Geimer of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 3 - Auditions #3

Will Demi Lovato do her Simon Cowell impression again?

Hey gang. I decided to stick around with "The X Factor" for at least another week of recapping. It's all about consistency and seeing a job through to the end, even if you frequently threaten to quit.

Wednesday (September 18) was my first double recap Wednesday of the fall and I've already done "Survivor: Blood vs. Water." It's possible/probable that if I continue to do "X Factor" through the live shows that I'll do "X Factor" first followed by "Survivor," but tonight it was the other way around.

No screener tonight, so I'm back to normal time code for the live-blog.

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<p>Rupert's back. If you care.</p>

Rupert's back. If you care.

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Blood vs. Water' Premiere - 'Blood Is Thicker Than Anything'

Returning players and their loved ones face a slew of twists
Intro and Re-Intro. Water! Blood! It's a structurally interesting start. The 10 pairs are being dropped off in 10 locations and they don't know that they aren't playing together. Let's meet and re-meet them! "I am the original, the OG," says Gervase, whose niece Marissa was nine when he originally played. Oh God. We're all so old. "It's cute that he thinks he's going to win," Marissa says. Ah, Kat and "Big Brother" winner Hayden. I assume their conversations mostly involve smiling prettily. "It is 'Survivor' in a house," says Hayden, who apparently knows precious little about "Survivor," while Kat insists this is her game. Monkey! Yeah, I don't remember Laura at all, so I don't have any real ties to her daughter Ciera. Yawn. Rupert. Rupert has somehow never made it to the end and his wife Laura wants to outdo her hubby. "This has always been about Rupert and Rupert playing three times and Rupert, Rupert, Rupert," Laura says. Oy. No, Jeff Probst. Colton didn't make "controversial" statements. He made bigoted statements. There was no "controversy." He was a pig, but he's hoping that his fiance will give him maturity. Colton's goal is to show us a new side, while Caleb swears he knows a different Colton and promises redemption. Candice and husband John are worried they may be perceived as too successful. Monica is joined by husband Brad Culpepper, who Jeff Probst calls "famous," even though if you showed his picture to 100 of the most dedicated NFL fans in the world, 98 couldn't identify him (the other two went to Florida). Brad's ready to play second fiddle to his wife. Former winner Tina is prepared to be competitive with daughter Katie who is, in turn, prepared to beat her mom at her own game. Tyson has been disappointed by "Survivor" (and "Survivor" fans by Tyson!) but he's going to do well this time, because he's prepared to take down the loved ones. "Exile Island" winner Aras is here with his somewhat estranged brother Vytas, who had a drug problem and spent a year in jail. This duo already intrigues me, even if Aras' season is one I only half-remember. The teams will all get to spend a night alone, without supplies, with the veterans expected to help prep their loved ones for the game. I just wish that the different locations didn't look awkwardly staged and lit. Gervase finally realizes it's been 13 years since he played "Survivor." "Do you want me to do something?" Colton asks Caleb. Kat is overrun by ants. And the game is on!
 
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<p>The &quot;New Girl&quot; premiere. No puzzles.</p>

The "New Girl" premiere. No puzzles.

Credit: FOX

'New Girl' Season 3 Premiere - Are you 'All In'?

Nick and Jess canoodle, while Winston does puzzles
[Normally, this would be Sepinwall's recap. Unfortunately, Alan is still well short of 100 percent and was unable to take his turn at the plate. Since "New Girl" is a show that I enjoy, I figured I'd pinch-hit. This will not be as good as Alan's recap would have been. How's the poem go? "I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do/ To swell a progress, start a scene or two." Or at least I can fill in for a "New Girl" premiere recap. Hopefully Sepinwall will be back soon.]
 
Thanks to "Sports Night," I'll always know the *worst* thing that can happen when a Will They/Won't They couple finally gets partnered up and seems on the verge of happiness. 
 
You'll recall that Casey and Dana spent a season flirting and trying to figure out their feelings for each other, but as we reached Season 2, it looked like the sailing might be smooth. So Aaron Sorkin decided that Dana decided that Casey was too close to his divorce and she didn't want to be a rebound, so she insisted that in order for them to be a couple, he'd have to date other women for six months first.
 
Ugh. Dana's dating plan was the worst.
 
So now whenever a TV couple gets together, as long as the woman doesn't immediately demand that her beau start dating other women, I consider that to be a big win.
 
In that light? It was a great "New Girl" premiere on Tuesday (September 17) night. 
 
Otherwise? Yeah. That was a little rough. FOX made most of its premieres available for critics to view beforehand and "New Girl" was strangely absent, following a season in which nearly every episode was posted early for review. After watching "All In," I'm much less surprised. [Had the "New Girl" premiere been up early, Sepinwall could have reviewed it, too.]
 
A few more thoughts on the "New Girl" premiere just as soon as I pull over for a piñata shaped like a monkey...
 
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<p>FOX's &quot;Dads&quot;</p>

FOX's "Dads"

Credit: FOX

Why FOX's anti-critic ad for 'Dads' only makes a bad thing worse

Or why 'Reprehensible? This is FOX, baby!' isn't so good for branding
A car company -- Let's call it Faux -- has a problem. Their really expensive new automobile, a flashy red SUV, has a problem. It's not an especially good car. It has limited horsepower, a feeble turning radius and its speaker system makes any music you decide to play sound like Hootie & The Blowfish. Oh and some joker decided to make the bumpers out of molded TNT, so minor fender-benders can lead to explosions, which is less than ideal.
 
Faux knows about these problems, but car was designed by the same guy whose last vehicle, a gas-guzzling pickup truck, has been packing the freeways for months, so they're determined to stand by the car, no matter its flaws.  So some genius decides to get out ahead of the criticism. 
 
A new advertisement is released. "Critics of our new car say... 'It's Wildly Dangerous' - Car & Driver." Cut to a soccer mom. "Dangerous? But it's red!" she smiles, piling her kids into the car. "Critics of our new car say, 'It'd be reprehensible to let a loved one drive this thing' - The Huffington Post." Cut to a guy in a cowboy hat. "Reprehensible? It's just Faux!" he says, packing his beer cooler into the spacious, TNT-sculpted trunk. 
 
"Don't listen to the critics! Buy our new car... PLEASE," the ad closes.
 
It doesn't matter that the commercial refutes accusations of danger with affirmations of redness and charges of reprehensibility with a contention that reprehensibility is a key part of the Faux brand identity. The underlying message is, "Perhaps our car will kill you, but that's still better than listening to critics. Buy!"
 
While this is a really sophisticatedly veiled analogy I'm making here, I bet some of you will be able to see through my ruse to realize that I'm talking about this promo wherein FOX pits fans against critics.
 
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<p>NBC's &quot;Believe&quot;</p>

NBC's "Believe"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Believe'

Alfonso Cuaron's bold direction tops Alfonso Cuaron's clunky script

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Believe" (NBC)
Airs:Midseason
The Pitch: "Maybe the reason nobody watched 'Touch' is because it needed just a dash of 'The Fury' and a dollop of 'Rectify' on the side."
Quick Response: NBC's midseason drama may be one of the year's most intriguing pilots, but it also has a serious cast of Agiftednanitis, which may prove fatal. Agiftednanitis is, of course, named after the CBS pilot "A Gifted Man," which featured a nonsensically New Age-y script that was marvelously undercut and clarified by Jonathan Demme's pilot direction. Every second I watched the pilot, I knew that everything I liked about it would vanish when Demme went to do other things. Now, Alfonso Cuaron is unlikely to vanish entirely from "Believe." He wrote the pilot and he's an executive producer. But Alfonso Cuaron, like fellow "Believe" executive producer J.J. Abrams, has several things on his plate and probably won't be 100 percent involved in the day-to-day. And that's too bad, because there are moments of stunning craft on display in the "Believe" pilot, moments that pretty much only could have been crafted by the director of "Children of Men" and "Believe." There are dazzling tracking shots and dizzying moments from distorted POVs and, when he wants to, Cuaron gets an intimacy with his framing that can be breathtaking. Were this a silent pilot about a girl with special powers and the death row inmate mysteriously entrusted with keeping her safe, I'd be calling "Believe" the year's best pilot. Unfortunately, it is not and for all of Cuaron's gifts as a director, his liabilities as a writer of English-language dialogue are nearly as severe. As fluid as Cuaron is with the camera, he's clumsy with theme and plausible characters and as strong as his eye is, his ear is weak. So I was nodding my head in appreciation one moment and cringing the next and, actually, sometimes I was doing both at once. As the hyper-powerful, not-so-vaguely messianic kid at the show's center, newcomer Johnny Sequoyah definitely fulfills the Drew Barrymore/Chloe Grace Moretz requirements for astounding on-screen composure and preternatural wisdom. She doesn't make Bo feel like a human child, but she's pretty much not, so that's OK. I'm far less convinced by Jake McLaughlin as Bo's confused and initially hostile protector. McLaughlin is California-born, but struggles so poorly with tone and inflection that I just assumed he was just another Australian or British interloper holding back because of his accent difficulties. I spent 40 minutes hating McLaughlin, but at the very end he and Sequoyah find a little rapport that made me think that, with the right seasoning, he could have the upside of a Surfer Lee Pace. Delroy Lindo is left to bear the brunt of so much mumbo-jumbo about faith and belief that I'm 85% sure he's playing his character from "A Life Less Ordinary," which would probably be a spoiler if it's true. The tripe about miracles and spirituality is slightly palatable here because of the sheer fun of watching Cuaron fiddle around with the limitations of a new medium in the same way that several of Stephen King's more religiously inclined books mostly work because of his demented pop culture glee. That perverse glee is actually exactly what "Believe" could really use in subsequent episodes, because the idea of an exquisitely directed version of "Touch" will lose a lot of its pleasure when the exquisite direction goes elsewhere. [NBC has experience maintaining some level of aesthetic originality on "Awake" and "Hannibal" without visionary director David Slade and there's at least *some* chance that what "Believe" loses without Cuaron's direction, it could gain from better writing. But it's a small chance.]
Desire To Watch Again: Because of Jonathan Demme, I liked the pilot for "A Gifted Man" enough that I watched *way* more than I should have (and way more than it sounds like star Patrick Wilson was fully invested) and I'm nervous about going down that path again. I definitely want to see what a few episodes of "Believe" look like without Cuaron at the helm, but I wish this could be one of those new-fangled Event Series, with Cuaron doing a full limited run. Yup. Wary.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Us & Them' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Star-Crossed'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Intelligence' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Crisis' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Rake'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Mom' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Lucky 7'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Dads' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

 


<p>Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel of &quot;Us &amp; Them&quot;</p>

Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel of "Us & Them"

Credit: FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Us & Them'

Alexis Bledel and Jason Ritter are likable centerpieces

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Us and Them" (Network)
Airs:Midseason TBD
The Pitch: "It's 'Gavin & Stacey' only it isn't written by the actors playing the boorish besties, so it's probably going to be even more about the cute kids in love."
Quick Response: FOX's midseason comedy "Us & Them" is "Cute!" with a capital "c" and an exclamation point. With Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel, it has a pair of leads who are utterly winsome and adorable and look pretty together and have a cuddly chemistry if not any heat. Both Ritter and Bledel are capable of being funny under the right circumstances -- Rory Gilmore's "funny window" is smaller than his, but it's not non-existent -- but the pilot has little desire to make them funny, which is perfectly fine. Let the attractive kids in the middle be likable and worth rooting for as a couple and then you can let the veterans and the wacky people rounding out the cast bring the humor. The formula, at least for the pilot, works better in theory than in practice. And I'm OK with that. As I'll always say, pilots are about establishing the universe and I know with 100 percent certainty that Kurt Fuller, Jane Kaczmarek, Michael Ian Black and Kerri Kenney are capable of being funny, even if they're all mostly going through the motions in this first installment, which is based heavily, but I don't think line-for-line, on the "Gavin & Stacey" pilot. Once the writers can tailor material for those four supporting players, the chuckles ought to follow, rather than just letting them parrot lines already said by other actors in a comedy most Americans probably haven't seen. So I've got total faith there, but I'm not convinced yet on Dustin Ybarra and Ashlie Atkinson, who are playing the roles originated by "Gavin & Stacey" creators Ruth Jones and James Corden and they're playing them very similarly to the way Jones and Corden played them. I think there might have been a school of strategy wherein the American Gavin and Stacey were given a very different set of strange, wacky, totally incompatible friends, who served the same purpose in the narrative but didn't have to be identical to their predecessors. Those are Jones and Corden's characters and those characters were written by two actors who knew what they wanted to do and what they could do. Ybarra and Atkinson are left trying really, really hard and watching them becomes exhausting rather than funny. I hope American scribes begin to get a sense of what Ybarra and Atkinson do that's different and write to that, even if the plot leads the characters to the same place. Til I see them do some stuff that was meant for them, I don't want to pass any real judgment, because they're doing a performance of a performance here. This was, incidentally, yet another pilot that didn't need an in medias res structure. I think the feeling must have been that the story was too straight-forward without it, but I didn't feel like I really got very much when I reached the end and learned how the goofiness from the beginning was set in motion. But the journey in the middle was totally pleasant.
Desire To Watch Again: FOX has a handful of the likable-not-funny pilots that are this year's gold standard and the network could make a comedy block with "Us & Them," "Surviving Jack" and "Enlisted" (probably with "New Girl") and that would be a two hour comedy block that I'd find largely agreeable. The problem with almost all of these shows -- plus ABC entries like "Trophy Wife" and "Back in the Game" and NBC's "About a Boy" -- is that while I'd definitely watch all of them in the right slots, they maybe don't generate the passion required to not just entertain viewers, but to FORCE them to tune in every week. And if you can't do that, sometimes you're just left with "Bent" or "Goodwin Games." But I'd watch "Us & Them" again. Sure.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Star-Crossed' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Intelligence' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Crisis' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Rake'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Mom' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Lucky 7'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Dads' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

 


 

<p>&quot;The X Factor&quot; contestant Jorge Pena</p>

"The X Factor" contestant Jorge Pena

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 3 - Auditions Night #2

We're back for at least one more night of recapping

Somebody at FOX loves me. 

Or hates me. 

Yesterday, I blogged the Season 3 premiere of FOX's "The X Factor" and left the fate of future recaps in the hands of one of three possibilities. Well, the show wasn't especially awesome, but it also wasn't worse and in the last 20 minutes, we got Alex & Sierra and Rion Paige, who were pretty nifty. And traffic for the recap wasn't outrageously good, but it certainly wasn't bad. And, finally, the consensus from readers wasn't a consensus at all. Some of you said that without having my recaps to accompany the show, there wouldn't be a point. Some of you said that you'd prefer I not torture myself. And the vast majority of you probably couldn't care less. 

That counts as a wash. 

Then I saw that Thursday's (September 12) episode was a full two hours and that temporarily pushed me into the, "No thanks" camp.

But FOX cut me off on the exit ramp and posted Thursday's full episode online, thereby cutting out commercial time and letting me do "X Factor" on my own schedule.

That explains the strange time-stamps in this live-blog. They relate to time in the episode and not to air-time.

And that also explains why I'm recapping tonight's episode.

More after the break!

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<p>Your &quot;X Factor&quot; Season 3 judges</p>

Your "X Factor" Season 3 judges

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 3 Premiere

Did Simon pick well with Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio?

Just when I thought I was out, FOX made it much too easy for me to pull myself back in.

If you'll recall, I hated the second season of "The X Factor." It was, in fact, my Worst Show of 2013, a perfect storm of disinterested (L.A. Reid) and discombobulated (Britney Spears) judges, of inept (Khloe Kardashian) and smarmy (Mario Lopez) hosts and of frustratingly predictable voting that marginalized what was, at times, a really talented crop of singers.

So I was prepared to quit on "The X Factor." Or, at the very least, I was prepared to hold off on my recapping until I'd had a chance to watch a couple episodes and see if new judges Paulina Rubio and Kelly Rowland were capable of bringing the magic the show has clearly lacked in the past.

That was going to mean eschewing a recap Wednesday (September 11) night's premiere.

But then FOX made two big decisions: The first was to premiere "X Factor" with only a one-hour episode. I can put up with an hour of recapping. The second decision was to put the full premiere up for press, meaning that not did it only require one hour of live-blogging, but it really only required 44 minutes, sans commercials. 

Score.

Hence the live-blog you see before you. And also, hence the confusing time format, which relates to the 44 minutes of episode time and not to the time of the premiere, either ET or otherwise. I'll be sure to put contestant names in bold, so you can find your way around that way.

In order for y'all to get more recaps from me this season, one of three things will have to happen: 1) The third incarnation of "The X Factor" would have to be awesome. 2) Traffic on this darned recap would have to be awesome. 3) There has to be an insane outpouring of reader interest.

With that out of the way... Here's what went down on Wednesday's "X Factor" premiere:

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