Review: Star Trek: Discovery | Episode 9: Into the Forest I Go [2017]

a (comprehensive) review by the Crow
and the Azure-Winged Magpie!

Captain’s log, Stardate 95464.86: These are the voyages of the blog-ship The Corvid Review. One of its continuing missions: to explore strange new episodes of Star Trek, to seek out new characters and plots, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Captain’s log, supplemental: Today’s been a busier-than-usual day for me. So, I’ve made the full use of my resources to get the job done.

First Officer’s log, Stardate 95464.86: Captain Crow has recalled me from my shore leave on B’Risa-stol for a temporary assignment. The reason for my call-up? To aid the captain in our recounting of the Battle at Pahvo.

But before I proceed. I think it best to adhere to my long-established traditions, and provide any civilians voyaging with us on this mission with a customary Magpie welcome.

 🖖(◔◡◔…Hello!

Supplemental: I FINALLY get to do a DSC review!

And this week, we saunter out into familiar territory, and search for invisible Klingons in:

DSC-09 Into the Forest I Go

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Tearing Down the Cloak

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

Captain Crow: Following the events of Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, Starfleet orders the Discovery back to Starbase 46. Lorca doesn’t want to back down from the fight, but he follows his orders and heads for the Starbase at Warp 5 after speaking to the very-‘panicked’ Admiral Terral (Conrad Coates).

But of course, you’ve noticed the oddity, there. Why warp speed, when you have a Displacement Activated Spore Hub drive? Ideas, Number One?

First Officer Magpie: You see, Captain. Lieutenant adora-Paul’s got a little “trouble” with his “interface upgrades”. They’re a bit “itchy”. So, captain Lorca sends him to sickbay for a full examination. After all, Starfleet needs to know that the Discovery‘s navigator is unavailable for duty during the retreat journey, don’t they?

So, we’re using the warp drive! Suuure. It’ll take us three hours instead of a few seconds, but think of Paul! Poor Paul! All itchy and stuff! 😥

Captain Crow: Thank you, Number One. Starfleet would rather sit back and allow Pahvo — their presumed anti-Klingon-radar — to fall to Kol’s fire, rather than risk losing the Discovery. And in the three hours that it will take the Discovery to reach the Starbase, Lorca commands his crew to jury-rig a way to expose the Sarcophagus ship’s location. After all, this is Star Trek, where pressure equates to great innovation.

A solution is hypothesised, and the crew gets around to putting it into action.

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First Officer Magpie: I don’t really want to spoil the plan (and it makes sense and all), but it involves two very important things: a boarding party on the Ship of the Dead, and a lot of work by Stamets and the spore drive (133 things, to be honest, and a Tardigrade ain’t one).

The Discovery jumps back to Pahvo after everyone agrees to chance the plan. Once it’s there, it faces off against the Ship of the Dead, aaand…

WE GOT A SPACE BATTLE! WE GOT A SPACE BATTLE! WE GOT A SPACE BATTLE! 

◡ ^  )!

Kol is very happy to see the “enchanted” Federation ship coming to visit him. He makes a growly speech in Klingon about what he’ll do to it. He wants to “storm her decks”, “execute her crew”, and “take her storied weapon for [his] own”, before destroying Pahvo (why?! Starfleet thinks he’ll do it anyway, but what’s in it for him?)… y’know, the usual cloaked villain jargon. It’s kinda nice, actually. It’s been a while since we had a hammy villain like Kol (no. Mudd doesn’t count. He’s not new.)

After some chitter-chatter, Michael and Ash beam over to the Ship of the Dead. Once they’re nice and set up (subtle, Starfleet!) the Discovery stops getting rabbited on by the Ship of the Dead, and goes to Black Alert! 

(ಠ  )…show ’em what you got, Discovery!

And oh man, is it ever a pretty fight. Kol has no clue what’s going on. All he knows is that this is Discovery‘s “fabled power”. Yeah… you might wanna cloak up, Kol.

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Captain Crow: I assume that’s where we should stop the spoilers, Commander. Anyone who’s seen the preview from the end of the last episode will know that we haven’t gone beyond anything shown in it.

Personally, I felt that Into the Forest I Go has finally brought Star Trek: Discovery into its own. This episode has shown off the capabilities of both the starship at the core of this saga, and her crew, in all their glory. Apart from a throwaway scene setting up twin devices known as “pattern simulators”, every scene blends together perfectly. Not only is the direction and the writing top-notch, but the performances are beyond what we’ve seen so far. The story takes a few interesting twists and turns, but never fails to keep one on the edge of their seat. The tension, character moments, and most beats fall in line into one beautiful picture.

Just as an example of a brilliant scene: the scene in which Kol turns around from his colleague to face the approaching Discovery through a window. It’s so simple, yet offers so much. And that’s just visually.

The pacing on display is excellent, and whereas Burnham and Tyler’s relationship has been rushed so far, this episode grounds them into a more natural pace, following the ease in pace from the previous episode.

I have slight issues with the overall characterisation of the Klingons (apart from T’Kuvma and L’Rell), but I’ll address that later in our spoiler section — along with so many other things from this episode.

I’d like to address one tiny scene: Tyler’s initial reaction after coming across Cornwell and looking around the ‘meat locker’.

Into the Forest I Go

This is the only segment in the episode which feels rushed to any degree, but the fallout is played out well, and Latif delivers a fine performance during the sequence. The way it leads into its own plot thread in the latter half of the episode is also commendable.

This episode marks a few milestones on Star Trek‘s storied achievements, in new ways. We get our first real scene of someone in the nude. Albeit brief, it’s a place where Star Trek has not gone before. It happens during a particularly disturbing sequence, and when you see it, you’ll realise why it is not one bit fanservice. And following it, we get the first scene of men kissing in Star Trek as well. Given how greatly Stamets and Culber’s relationship is expanded in this episode, it makes sense to actually show a moment of intimacy between the two (brushing teeth notwithstanding).

Whereas the previous episode might’ve suffered from late cuts to its content, it’s hard to think of Into the Forest I Go as anything but a complete product from start to finish. This is an episode that’s trying its best to rank amongst the best of the series, and it tries to hit as many marks for retrospect to achieve that goal. And it does certainly mark the milestones, but milestones are no measure of quality. The rest of the episode, thankfully, is up to par.

Is it one of the best? I don’t know. It’s certainly good, and the high attention to detail certainly reflects the intent that’s gone into making this a memorable episode — after all, we get a scene which is medically accurate (a big thank you to the Cat for the clarification!), and the technobabble is polished to a tee. I’m quite pleased with what the team has delivered, and I can only hope that this is a sign of better things to come.

Commander, your thoughts?

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First Officer Magpie: What I liked about this one is that it feels like a feature film. I mean… I’d pay money to watch this in a cinema theatre. You cut a few scenes from the last few episodes together and add them to this episode, and you’ve got something just as good as the Kelvin-timeline films (this is on par with Star Trek Beyond, for eg., for a slice of the price).

I’m a bit disappointed that Saru and Tilly are just kinda ‘not-here’ in this one. Detmer actually gets a line, and some of the other bridge crew members get a few lines here and there. And I totally LOVE how they used the Universal Translator in this episode. We ALL wanted our Klingons to speak Klingon. And when they did…

(⊙︿⊙)…?!

Well… it was kinda weird. But this time around, they slip into the comfy shoes of English, and anyone who says that didn’t bring back memories is a liar. It actually makes them sound tougher when you hear them speaking in English (especially Kol, when he’s talking about Georgiou — rad toothpick, fam!). The only thing I have a problem with is that they could’ve had the lips still move in Klingon. That’d have been so much fun and made so much more sense.

But I still loved this episode. It’s the best action-based Star Trek episode I’ve seen, even though things get a bit… easy near the end. The 1v1 between Discovery and the Ship of the Dead makes every other TV space battle in Star Trek look like peanuts. I mean… just imagine the Battle of Wolf 359 done with this level of CGI! This episode is great stuff for everyone (even the heathens who don’t even like Star Trek).

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This episode was so rough on him 😥 — A-W M

Captain Crow: I reckon we’ve about summed up our thoughts about this episode enough without spoiling any major parts of the plot.

Before we leave this section, I should point out that I quite agree that Kol becomes much more sinister when we hear him speak in English. I enjoyed the callbacks to T’Kuvma as well (I consider him to be a much more serious antagonist compared to Kol, Voq, and L’Rell). I had hoped, for a moment — following Battle At the Binary Stars — that T’Kuvma might not have died, just grievously wounded. But it seems the shadow of his departure does continue to hang over Kol’s lot. And it makes the remaining Klingons weaker for it. T’Kuvma had a commanding presence that the remaining houses of the Empire sorely lack.

As always, we’ll be leaving you with our scores before going into our spoiler section (and there’s quite a bit to speak about, tonight).

This episode comes highly recommended — as you can plainly see — by both myself, and the Azure-Winged Magpie. I would, of course, recommend it as a follow up to its predecessors. But that said: this episode works quite well as a one-off. The ‘recap’ section is adequate for summing up the events that have led to the battle of Pahvo — as I propose this episode’s central conflict should be known.

To those of you who haven’t seen the episode yet, LLAP, and we hope you enjoyed this chapter’s finale. To those of you who would like to proceed to our spoiler section: let us boldly go.


fuhneob

FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 8.5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10

Spoilers lie ahead. Please stop scrolling.

This is your final warning.

Failure to comply will result in your being spoiled.

Complaining afterwards is futile.


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Where Have We Gone?

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

Captain Crow: First things first: when the Discovery was making the “micro-jumps” around the Sarcophagus ship, am I the only one who felt it was unnecessary to involve Stamets’? The Discovery was capable of making small jumps before involving a sentient life-form in the spore-chamber (see: Context Is For Kings). Why not use the old methods for such short jumps? I assume an argument could be made for timing and accuracy, but there have been minor inconsistencies (stemming once again from Context Is For Kings) about the nature of the spore drive that have been building in my mind.

I haven’t sat down and compiled my thoughts (time), but perhaps, one day, I’ll try to put my thoughts down in a post.

And am I also the only one who would’ve thought that the “best” minds of Starfleet wouldn’t have thought of the solution the crew comes up with in this episode? Yes. The Discovery is necessary, but Starfleet is very aware of her capabilities. If Burnham, Saru, and their team can jury-rig this solution in under three hours (and hypothesise it in about an hour), surely Starfleet has thought about putting the Discovery to better use than going for the ‘radar’ solution. (Little nit-pick: that “algorithm” was far too easily conjured.)

But I did appreciate the idea behind the plan. The magic devices aside (and subtle choice with those sensors, Starfleet!), the idea is solid. Star Trek: Discovery continues to shine in the technobabble department, and it’s a shame that most other reviewers have continued to just hand-wave a lot of the smarter writing choices away as ‘magic science’.

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First Officer Magpie: My biggest gripe: CAN WE ALL AGREE THAT ASH = VOQ?! I mean… the show’s ram-[REDACTED]! Those ain’t no scenes of torture we’re seeing. We’re seeing surgery. Those are surgical-looking cutty-objects. Think about it… Klingons just might not give thought to anaesthetics. Poor whoever-Ash-was is just a tin holding in some part of Voq. That’s the way I think of it. L’Rell is pushing it too. He’s Voq. End of. We just have to wait to see him burst out like a chestburster from Alien (well, not literally…)

Now, I don’t know where they’re going with this, but it’s sure going to start up a domino-dance, sometime. It’s a shame, since Shazad’s… (fuck it) hot af, and I’ve totally been shipping Michael-Ash. But man, oh man, this is going to be one HELL of a ‘love-triangle’ now that L’Rell’s in the picture.

And …that scene. Let’s just say that Ash is just Ash, and not Voq. Holy hell. Just watching Ash go through that was… ew. It was just ew.

The Crow mentioned that he had a ‘personal angle’ to this in his review of Choose Your Pain. And so do I. I’d originally written out a huge section in which I went a little too far into detail about both of our past experiences, but decided to cut it out. I guess these things are better left for a post of their own.

I’m very happy that Star Trek‘s going with the Ash/L’Rell story line, since it shows us a closer look at something that you don’t really see in film & television.

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To talk a little bit about what I cut out, though (just stay with me)…

<rant> When I look around on the internet, I see a good number of loudmouths who have this idea that “men can’t be raped”. And so many people fall in line behind this kind of thinking. There are weird variations on it. The one the Crow was told was “men deserve it back”. No bother whether or not the man who “deserved” it had ever done anything of the sort before. And what do these people mean by “back”?

Do I think that men deserve it back because I’ve been harassed in the past? No. Do I think that the men who harassed me in the past deserve it back? In anger, yeah, sure. I might say that. But I really don’t think they do. They don’t deserve it back. They need to go to court. I’m not going to do anything of the sort. Because I’m better than that. I’m not their kind of scum.

Anyone who goes along with this “men can’t be raped!” (I’ve argued with too many idiots who say this) or “men deserve it lololol!” are bottom-feeding insects we’d be better not hearing from. And they’re the majority. They have the cojones to say what they’re doing is “feminism”. Kids. That ain’t feminism. You don’t deserve the right to call yourselves feminists. You’re scum. Done. End of.

This sort of ‘it has to be us vs them’ thinking is harmful, and shameful. And that’s why I’m happy that Star Trek‘s gone this extra mile to hammer in what Ash went through. Anyone can be taken advantage of, no matter how tough they are. Like the Crow and I agreed a long time ago: the truest test of any character would be how they could bounce back from being stripped down to nothing. Ash is one of those. If he is Voq: even harder. </endrant>

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That this happens to be on the air around the same time as the fallout from SO MANY celebrities and Hollywood ‘bigwigs’ being exposed for the bastards they are is just epic timing. Like the Crow, I’m happy that Anthony Rapp stepped up and blew Kevin “creep face” Spacey out into the open. And I’m happy that after years of talking about Brett Ratner perving on her, Olivia Munn finally is getting heard. It’s been what, eight years or something?

Now, getting back to the story… if Ash’s got some Voq in him, maybe he’s just confusing memories. Maybe L’Rell didn’t force him into anything, but his memories are just mucked up in this new body he’s got. Kinda like that panel from the original Ghost in the Shell manga where Batou mixes up Major’s sensory-whatevers since he doesn’t have the right “hardware”.

I originally didn’t like the Ash = Voq theory, since it sounded stupid. But after the last few episodes, Ash being Voq could go in so many ways that I’m hooked to find out more. I really want to know how it works. I want to know what L’Rell really did. I want to know why he’s so completely Ash, and not Voq at all. Delicious stuff to work with, here.

And just for fun, let’s talk about another idea, here: how come L’Rell was so easy on Lorca in Choose Your Pain? It was nothing but holding a few flashlights to his face. What if he’s carrying some of Voq in him? But nah. L’Rell’s only got the hots for Ash, and Lorca’s got a tribble detector for a pet.

Anyway… we’ll get to manly-man Gabe in a mo. We gots a-lot to talk about! Now, here’s the Captain with some Klingons.

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Captain Crow: Apologies for any inappropriate language that might’ve been used up above. I’ve let Number One talk about a subject which is quite sensitive for both of us. Her section will be dropped in after I’ve completed my section, so I won’t have a chance to read it for some time after it’s been published.

For now, let’s discuss Klingons.

I’m quite disappointed in Kol. Ever since T’Kuvma fell, none of the Klingon characters have managed to rise to the occasion. Kol, who we’ve been led to believe is a scheming sort (based on his minor showings of treachery and backstabbing), turns out to be a grand idiot. Not only does he and all his crew fix onto Burnham and the D’k Tahg match on the bridge, but the Klingons handling the ship seem strangely aloof (not even bothering to fire), even when standing right next to Burnham while she exchanges ‘pleasantries’ with Kol.

Since when are Klingons nothing but a mindless warrior race? Or are the cunning amongst them just a deviation upon the norm of growling brutes? And why did Kol even warp into orbit around Pahvo without bringing a few friends along? I’d have imagined his character to be the type to arrive in force after having taken over the Sarcophagus ship.

All that said: I am not impressed with his “performance”, either.

Hopefully, thanks to the ending of the episode, the Klingons are relegated to background characters. There’s some cleaning up left to do, of course, but Starfleet should now be able to handle the fallout from the war. I can very much get on board with L’Rell being our only point of contact as far as Klingons are concerned (and whatever is happening with Voq, which the Azure-Winged Magpie should’ve covered earlier).

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Captain Crow: And finally, we get to the biggest questions we’ve been left with. And they centre on two of our main characters: Stamets and Lorca.

Let’s start with Lorca.

He gets the best scene by far. His walk-up to the Sarcophagus ship, his cold stare at the enemy vessel (vengeance for the Buran! Vengeance for Georgiou!), and his subsequent turning and walking away is the most iconic way the battle could’ve ended before leading into Burnham’s moment with Saru and the badge. Everything about this character bleeds a dangerous degree of ‘perfection’. Are there any questions as to how much I like him?

He’s offered the “Legion of Honour”, after being told of Cornwell’s safe arrival at Starbase 88. We see him go through the motions following Terral’s ominous congratulations. There is no doubting it: his mind is elsewhere. He doesn’t want to be ‘honoured’. It’s all a ploy. He knows that.

All he knows, after his ‘heart-to-heart’ earlier in the episode with Stamets, is that he needs his mycelium-expert. It’s no surprise that his offer of letting Stamets ‘off the hook’ for the journey to Starbase 46 is just another instance of him playing people to get what he wants. And he uses that earlier conversation to his advantage. The episode 10 preview all but confirms it.

Surely, I thought, Cornwell’s judgement would be just as impaired as Lorca’s according to the rule book, in case they’re planning on throwing the book at him for disobeying orders; but then, I remembered: Lorca’s got a storied past, and probably a good amount of evidence to incriminate him.

So, what does he do? For lack of better words: he sabotages the journey.

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On to Stamets, now. Okay, what exactly happened at the end, there? While I’m still of the opinion that Stamets did not need to be pushed as much during the Battle of Pahvo, his offers of “only one more jump”, and his promise to Culber about enduring Kasseelian Opera mark him out as a character set up for a quick drop and a sudden stop.

(Can we have a round of applause for the name-drop for La bohème, here? The modern-day take of which involved both Mr Rapp and Mr Cruz.)

The question of more Klingon ships inbound to Pahvo (which would be defenceless without the Discovery in orbit) is hand-waved away, even though defending the planet seemed to be the entire reason for the dangers the crew involve themselves in in the episode, and everyone seems okay with the idea of heading home. So, Stamets hooks himself up into the chamber.

And we cut to: Lorca. He types the following into his chair’s interface: Encryption > Navigation Control > F6+L12 (uncertain)+E5+C3+G7 (I can’t believe I replayed that scene over for that tiny little detail). And it leads to the following results:

SPORE JUMP 131: 071 -MARK-355

SPORE-JUMP 132: 071 -MARK-696

OVERRIDE – LORCA, G.

SPORE-JUMP 133: – – UNKNOWN

…which he thumbs in.

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY

“Let’s go home.” he says, and the Discovery goes to Black Alert.

And what does it lead to?

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Source

Notice how the Discovery ‘jumps’? It goes up, instead of down. But there is a sliver of an image splitting off in the opposing direction. I’ll whip back around to this in a short while. I just had to point this out.

The computer reads it as an “incomplete navigation sequence”, and Stamets collapses onto the floor. His eyes glass-over, and he starts babbling about seeing “infinite permutations”.

On the bridge, the crew quickly gather together that they have no clue where they are. They’re in unknown space, surrounded by wreckage that Lorca thinks might be Klingon in nature. We drag out to a shot of the Discovery surrounded by debris, and the credits roll.

First off: Why 133? Was that an oversight on the team’s part? I simply do not know. There’s nothing to really go on as to why that’s the number there.

Where are they? I can only give you the same answer. We don’t know. Some people have mentioned yellow insignias, Jonathan Frakes, and so much more. We just have nothing to go on. Apart from theories about his eyes, and a call-out to a Cadet “Decker” (!), we’re seeing quite a few call backs to the original series. But nothing’s concrete yet. We just simply don’t know enough to connect the dots.

It’s a great set up for the upcoming chapter of the series, to be sure.

All we know is that Lorca didn’t want to go to the Starbase. He was looking to go “home”. That’s where everyone’s looking right now. And what a can of worms that little line of dialogue has opened up…

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So, the question has become: who is Gabriel Lorca? What is he up to?

People think that he might have a connection to the Mirror Universe. And considering that we’ve been told that the MU will have an appearance in Discovery (for whatever that’s worth), and that the word’s out on the block that Jonathan Frakes will be helming the next episode, there’s a case to be made for the MU appearing in the next episode, playing a part alongside whatever’s up with Stamets.

I don’t personally think Lorca’s someone from the MU, because of how much it’d water his character down. He’s fine as he is. That said: I’d like to see the crew of the Discovery venture out into the Mirror Universe. The dialogue sets it up, it’s been ‘spoilt’, and everything so far has set up a web of “infinite permutations”. Imagine MU Voq, MU L’Rell, MU everyone — it really does fan out in every direction. Hopefully, the use of the parallel direction is not just a throwaway like in most Star Trek series’. There can be interesting things done with it. I’d like to see how far it can be taken.

Now, I mentioned I would go back to the ‘split’ visual. I have a part-written story lounging around, somewhere, in which I used a trick of gravitational waves to do something similar to what’s shown in the visual. Of course, I have yet to get any actual work done on it, and am also yet to finish my post regarding a recent announcement as well. I’m very happy to see the effect on screen, and am wondering whether or not the team behind Star Trek: Discovery have looked down a similar path.

I won’t go into any details about my own story, but if they do go down that path, all I can say is: if I had “oh, whoa, that works!” moments while writing my idea out in a more concrete fashion, this is going to get very, very interesting.


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Final Summary

Captain Crow: Apologies for the delay. We had certain issues with how much the Azure-Winged Magpie wished to say in the spoiler section. At some point between now and the release of Episode 10, we might do one more post about this show, summing up various ideas and theories we’ve had so far.

As for the series so far:

In my opinion, Star Trek: Discovery has opened the strongest of all Star Trek series’ to date. While I have been over-generous with my ratings at times, the show is still finding its feet. These first nine episodes have been a great test-bed for what’s to come in the future. With production on the second season already underway and the sex-episode second chapter airing from 7 January, 2018, we can only expect better things to come. It’s not been spectacular, but it’s been a notch above par.

Hopefully, with less Klingons, more exploration, and finally delivering on the “New Species” promise from the teaser trailer, Star Trek: Discovery can start start contending with the heavyweights of the franchise from the second season onwards. Too many questions have been left unanswered, and it would be best to wrap up the major plot threads from these first nine episodes in the following six.

Star Trek: Discovery comes recommended by yours truly, as well as Commander Magpie. We’ll see you in January once again with more Star Trek. In the meantime, we’re going to be turning our eyes to a few short stories, a video game, and a new release which we should be able to release by tonight.


fuhneob

FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 8.5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10


See Also


— Bridge crew out.

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47 thoughts on “Review: Star Trek: Discovery | Episode 9: Into the Forest I Go [2017]”

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