Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3

Earshot   Choices  The Prom  Graduation, Part 1

Graduation, Part 2


    "Who hasn't idly thought about taking out
    the whole place with a semi-automatic?"  

The Metaphysics of "Earshot"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 5 BtVS/season 1 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

The "mouthless demons" are human-sized with pale scaly skin, tails, large cat-like ears (horns?) and, of course, no mouths. As Buffy fights with them, she notices that they seem to be able to anticipate her moves.

The aspect of the demon: After Buffy stakes one of two demons, silver-white blood leaks from the demon's chest onto the back of her hand, where it is absorbed into her skin. When she tells Giles her skin is itching, Giles finds the demon species in one of his books. The book explains that this kind of demon can infect the host with one of its own traits. Soon after, Buffy develops telepathic powers. Giles and Wesley try to contact a man in Ecuador who contracted the same condition, but he is in complete isolation. Buffy seems headed towards the same fate: the voices in her head soon become so numerous and loud that she can't understand them anymore.

Reversing the aspect of the demon: Giles and Wesley find a potion, but they have no proof it will work. One of the ingredients needed is the heart of the same species of demon. They send Angel out to get the demon-who-got away because Angel has the necessary strength to fight him, and the demon will not be able to anticipate Angel's fighting moves (see below).

A vampire's mind casts no reflection: Buffy tries to use her new telepathic powers to find out Angel's true reaction to kissing Faith. But just as vampires do not have reflections in a mirror, their thoughts do not have reflections in the mind of a telepath. That Angel already knows this to be true indicates (at least) that he has heard about vampires meeting telepaths.

Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Earshot"

Xander: "I'm still having trouble with the fact that one of us is just going to gun everybody down for no reason."
"Yeah, because that never happens in American high schools."

Was the lunch room lady evil? Her motives for wanting to kill all the students are never clear, cheating us out of any understanding of the mass murders that caused the postponement of this episode. The other suspects had reasons, but they didn't murder--

In fairness, though, Buffy's words to Jonathan in the clock tower were aimed at kids out there who would turn the guns on themselves or others.

The good of Xander

Giles' thoughts in Earshot match his words for the most part--he really does spend a lot of time thinking about his work, he shows Buffy he cares about her, but he doesn't always tell her how he worries about her.

On Giles having sex with her Mother...Does anyone else find it interesting that Giles never once thought about it? (Giles' Lady, Sep 22 19:09 1999)

Oz reveals himself to be a thinker rather than a talker:

The hermetically insensitive Cordelia

Ethical Quandaries in "Earshot"

Television's responsibility to real-life violence

Philosophies Represented in "Earshot"

The paradox of self-interest

"Everyone is ignoring your pain, because they're too busy with their own."

The theme of this episode is the loneliness and isolation people feel around each other as a result of each individual's concern for him or herself. As Buffy points out to Jonathan, this is a problem we all face, whether we're "short idiots", or "beautiful and athletic" (did you see the moves Buffy used in apprehending Jonathan in the clock tower? Wow! Oh yeah, back to the point). She's learned this by living in other people's minds for two days. Buffy begins the episode feeling sorry for herself, then finds out everyone else is doing the same. This is part of the human condition--nature drives us toward our own self-interest, but does not give us telepathy so we can have direct contact with other people's worries and concerns.

It's a catch-22 situation: the more we fret over our own loneliness and the apparent insensitivity of others to it, the more insensitive we become to them, and the worse we make the situation for ourselves. The problem is not insurmountable, however, once we begin to care about others as much as ourselves.

When we were shooting [Earshot] I thought it felt like the final high school ep. ...EARSHOT sort of contains the shows thesis statement in a way (joss, Jun 19 15:48 1999).


The Metaphysics of "Choices"

The Box of Gavrok
: According to Giles' books, this two-foot square metal box houses a "demonic energy" which the Mayor will need to consume on the day of his Ascension. The Box, which the Mayor has flown in from South America, is filled with demonic spiders--50 billion, he claims. The spiders kill by impaling the face of their victims with multiple spines (perhaps their legs). The few that escape are easily destroyed by crushing (Buffy) and knives (Faith).

The Breath of the Entropics: The Mayor has the Box of Gavrok protected by a round magic force field. In order to take possession of the Box, Willow performs this standard spell for counteracting such supernatural safeguards. She pours an unknown powder from a glass bottle down towards the Box. The powder falls around the Box without touching it. Willow takes out a spell book and reads:

Sis modo dissolutum. Exposco validum scutum. Diutius ne defendas a manibus arcem intendas.
Translation: May you immediately be dissolved. I demand that the strong shield give way. Ward off our hands no longer, nor stretch forth your defenses.

The force field dissolves.

The spell to destroy the Box of Gavrok: Never actually used, this spell involves, among other things, putting essence of toad and twice-blessed sage in a cauldron on a pedestal.

Is the mayor human?

Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "Choices"

kills the human who delivered the Box of Gavrok, then cuts his handcuffed hand from the Box. When she tells the Mayor what she did, he only praises her initiative. After the gang steals the Box, she kidnaps Willow and threatens her life.

Notice her face when Willow told her it was too late - there was just a second of pain/anguish. Faith may finally realize what she has lost by turning to the Mayor. When she threw the knife at the bug thing, she was saving everyone. Why whould she do that? The door was open, she could have escaped and let the gang fend off the creature. Was it just reflex? I don't think so. Faith wants what Buffy has - friends, love, a sense of belonging. Her choice of the Mayor reflects on her other bad decisions/choices (NuPhalanx, 8 May 1999 17:27)

The Mayor married his wife, Edna Mae, in 1903. Immortal, he watched his wife grow old and bitter about his youth, and eventually, watched her die. Did the Mayor love his wife?



The repressive Principal Snyder

The hermetically insensitive Cordelia

Good in "Choices"

Willow showed great courage in staying to read the Books of Acension. Willow was curious, no doubt - but I also think she was looking for a few pages she could take with her to help the gang. It was foolish of her at the same time, but Willow kept her head and got crucial information for Giles and Wesley. When Faith showed up, Willow stood her ground, even after Faith punched her. Willow's defiance of the rogue Slayer might have been calculated, for it wouldn't have surprised me if she was terrified inside. (NuPhalanx, 8 May 1999 17:11)

Ethical Quandaries in "Choices"

Save Willow by trading her for the Box of Gavrok or destroy the Box and end the Ascension, risking Willow's life?

insists rather dogmatically that a trade is not only the safest plan, it's the only plan.

Wesley does not argue that they must give up Willow's life for the thousands that will be saved. He wants to make Buffy realize that giving up the Box is not the only way to save Willow. This is their chance to destroy the Box, which is the key to the Mayor's Ascension. The lives of thousands of Sunnydale residents, their friends and families--including Willow--depend upon destroying it.

Wesley also argues that saving the town is Buffy's chance to get out of Sunnydale. This appeal to her self-interest falls flat in comparison to saving Willow's life, as it should.

Did the gang make the right choice in trading Willow for the Box?



Vox on Did Buffy make the right decision in trading Willow for the Box of Gavrok?

Should Buffy and Angel stay together (even if it might hurt them both in the long run)?

The Prom

The Metaphysics of "The Prom"

The Hell-hounds are vicious half-man, half-dog demon soldiers bred to kill during the Mahkash wars. They feed off the brains of those they kill.

Psychic dream? Angel dreams that he and Buffy are alone in a church with a priest, who is marrying them. After they are wed, they walk down the aisle hand in hand. Angel is wary as they approach the front door, knowing that the sunlight should kill him. But when they step out onto the front steps of the church, he is O.K. Buffy, however bursts into flames and is consumed by them. Theories on the meaning of this dream:

Good and Evil in "The Prom"

Art imitates life, Hellmouth-style: Tucker Wells, a disgruntled and disturbed high school boy, angry at being turned down by a girl when he asks her to the prom, decides to unleash four hell-hounds on the prom-goers (how exactly he conjured them is unclear). Using video tapes of movies which feature high school dances, he trains his hell-hounds to attack people in formal wear. Wesley comments:

"Let me guess. He was quiet, kept to himself, but always seemed like a nice young man."

Willow hacks into Tucker's email account. He has a message there for a friend which says,

"The Sunnydale High lemmings have no idea what awaits them. Their big night will be their last night."

Tucker is much more representative of the sort of person who lashes out at those around them than the lunch lady in Earshot--yet somehow, "The Prom" was shown on schedule, while Earshot and Graduation, pt. 2 waere postponed.

The good of Xander

Moral Ambiguity in "The Prom"

Anya represents the line liberated women walk between standing up to the "treachery and oppression from the males of the species" and winning their love. She believes strongly in her mission as a demon--to avenge women who had been wronged by their husbands and lovers. At the same time, she is compelled by strong emotions and desires, and wants a date to the prom. She focuses her desire on Xander, a logical choice, considering he is single, attractive, and knows exactly what she is (or was, and could be). He is, however, also the man who "done Cordelia wrong". She knows this, and we suspect she won't put up with any crap. Anya starts out being the prom date from hell (literally), telling Xander about all the deeds she did as a demon. Later. she decides dancing with Xander "isn't bad."

Ethical Quandaries in "The Prom"

Should Buffy and Angel stay together (even if it might hurt them both in the long run)?

Graduation, Parts 1 and 2


| Metaphysics | Good and Evil | Moral ambiguity | Ethical Quandaries |

The Metaphysics of "Graduation"


| The Killer of the Dead | The Slayers | The Ascension |


Killer of the Dead: Faith shoots an arrow that misses Angel's heart. When it is removed, however, Angel collapses, burning up with fever, his shoulder numb. Willow uses a spell to run a trace analysis of the poison, which she identifies in one of her magic books. It's a mystical compound whose Latin name translates as "killer of the dead" (i.e., vampires). Among the accounts of its use, Oz finds a cure that completely reverses its effects: a vampire must drain the blood of a slayer.

Vanquishing the killer of the dead: Once again we have evidence that slayer blood has power normal human blood doesn't--its ability to cure a vampire stricken by the Killer of the Dead poison. When Buffy fails to bring Faith to Angel, she offers herself to him and he refuses. She then provokes him into taking her by hitting him in the face repeatedly. Angel finally vamps out, digs his teeth into her, and they fall together onto the floor. In a very erotic, scary scene, he pins her to the ground and begins to suck her dry. Buffy realizes she's about to loose consciousness, but she's too weak to get him off of her. Angel breaks himself away to find her lying on the floor, unconscious. With his own strength returned to him, he rushes her to the emergency room of the hospital for a transfusion. Buffy won't become a vampire, he later tells Willow, because she didn't feed from him.

Psychic dream: After Faith suffers head trauma, she lies in a coma in the hospital. Buffy returns to Faith's apartment in a dream, where her enemy gives her a vital clue: "You want to know the deal? Human weakness. It never goes away. Even his." Buffy replies, "Is this your mind, or mine?" In other words, is this her own unconscious mind pulling together the solution from her knowledge of the Mayor, or did Faith redeem herself by coming to Buffy in a dream? The psychic nature of this interchange is unclear. Regardless of whether it was the real Faith who helped or not, Buffy goes into Faith's hospital room when she wakes up and kisses her on the forehead before she head off to war.

What is the meaning of dream-Faith's words, "Yes. Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0"?

The meaning of 7-3-0:

DW: When did you find out they were going to kill Buffy?

SMG: Joss [Whedon] told me about three years ago. Were shooting a scene where Faith [was comatose]. Buffy [had] tried to kill Faith, but she had lived. [Then]Buffy had a dream where Faith said something along the lines of "Counting down from 361, Little Miss Muffet..."I don't remember the exact riddle. I didn't understand it, as I often don't understand what Joss puts in sometimes. I went to him and said "Could you explain this?" and he said, "Sure, as long as you swear not to tell anyone. That was the exact number of days until the 100th episode and Little Miss Muffet was going to be Dawn, so Buffy was going to get a sister and then [that] day was going to be the day Buffy died (Sarah Michelle Geller [Buffy] Dreamwatch magazine, February 2002).

730 returns

Did Buffy dream of Faith or was Faith in Buffy's dream?

It was Faith

I believe that the Faith in the dream was Faith's subconscious and not the outside Faith that we see. Faith (deep inside) wants to be the a "good" slayer but she was always over ruled by the outside Faith, the one that saw the easy road, the things that she couldn't have but could with the mayor. ...THAT Faith helped Buffy, it would be the only Faith that would/could (gazoo, Jun 20 20:42 1999).

It wasn't Faith

Isn't it also possible that it wasn't Faith, but it was Buffy's way of saying good-bye to Faith? After all, while we do know that slayers can have ESP-like dreams, would they really be able to pop in and out of each other's dreams like that? We've seen very little evidence that such a thing would be possible (Monique, Jun 20 19:39 1999).

the "higher power" of good ...let whatever source gives Buffy her dreams, her premonitions, the ability to figure out how to stop the Mayor (MeeB, Jul 14 11:44 1999).

Given her persecution complex, I would think that this confirms that the dream sequence in Grad 2 was in Buffy's head, not Faith's (Publish or Perish, Feb 23 08:55 2000).

Olvikan: Wesley examines the research of Lester Worth, Professor of Geology and Volcanology (the study of volcanoes), who found a carcass buried by an eruption while excavating old lava beds near a dormant volcano in Kauai (part of the Hawaiian Islands). Professor Worth thought it might be a dinosaur. Giles concludes that it is the demonic remains of a failed Ascension and that since the Mayor tried to hide it, this is the demon the Mayor plans to turn into. Giles discovers that the villagers around the volcano site referred to the legend of Olukai, which sounds like the ancient demon Olvikan. He also infers that since the demon died, the Mayor will only impervious to death up to the Ascension. In his demon form, he can be killed.

The ritual of Gavrok: To prepare himself for the Ascension, the Mayor has to ingest several of the spiders in the box of Gavrok. The spiders suffuse him with power and transform him from within.

The Ascension: In Enemies, a horned demon seeks out Buffy and Faith while they are on patrol in the graveyard. He is interested in selling what he calls the "Books of Ascension" for $5000.00, money he plans to use to skip town. He indicates that the mayor would not be pleased if the good guys got their hands on the books before this big event, but the demon is vague on the details. When Buffy mentions the "Ascension" to Giles and the gang, Willow remembers a reference to it in The Merenshtadt Text, a book hidden amongst the more powerful tomes that Giles is trying to keep hidden from her. Giles reads from The journal of Desmond Kane, the pastor of a town called Sharpsville, an entry dated May 26, 1723: "Tomorrow is the Ascension, God help us all." The town of Sharpsville disappeared afterwards.

Using the pages Willow stole from the Mayor's office in Choices, the gang has deduced that the man who has been Sunnydale's Mayor for 100 years plans to transform himself into a pure embodiment of the demon Olvikan on the centennial anniversary of the founding of the city. Anya fills in the rest of the puzzle--eight hundred years ago, in the Koskov valleys of the Urals (a densely forested mountain system extending across Russia into Kazakhstan), she witnessed a sorcerer achieve Ascension, transforming into a pure demon. He massacred a village within hours.

During the Mayor's commencement speech, an eclipse darkens the sky (standard procedure for an Ascension--the eclipse, not the speech), and he doubles over in pain. Then, while his vampire minions trap the graduating seniors of Sunnydale High in their seats, Richard Wilkins III mutates into a huge dragon-like beast with a long neck. He is vulnerable in those first moments because he requires food (namely, the students) to sustain the change.

Written prophecy transpired? When the Mayor enters the library in Graduation, pt. 1 to taunt the gang, he finds a book they have been consulting about the Ascension. Although it might refer to a past case of Ascension, or the process of Ascension in general, it could also be a foretelling of the events of Graduation day, Sunnydale, 1999:

The (semi-) multi-racial student body of Sunnydale High fought together against the Mayor, but most were not destroyed (R.I.P., Larry! Harmony's fate).

Good and Evil in "Graduation"

Faith stabs Professor Lester Worth without remorse, and without knowing what the Mayor stands to gain from it (he wants to cover up the professor's research). Later, she "drops" Angel to distract Buffy during the final preparations for the Ascension.

The reason Faith just didn't dust Angel instead of just wounding him was becuz she wanted Angel to suffer and Buffy to have to watch. ...She figured Buffy would be out of the mayor's hair while she watched Angel slowly, and painfully die away. Buffy would have been right after Faith if Angel had been dusted. Turned out Buffy did just that cuz Faith WAS the cure (gazoo, May 18 22:21 1999).

Xander is Buffy's loyal general again (see Innocence and B2). He pulls together a student army, and after the Mayor completes his transformation, Buffy gives the war cry. The graduating seniors of Sunnydale High remove their maroon robes in unison and draw out swords, crosses, stakes, flame throwers, and cross bows. They breath fire at the Mayor-dragon and dust vamps with flaming wooden arrows.

My daddy can beat up your daddy: After goading the Mayor, Buffy takes off down the school hallway and enters the library. The demon's head follows, breaking down everything it passes through. Buffy leaps out the library window, and the demon, his head stuck through the library door, sees that the room is full of dynamite. "Well, gosh," he says. As soon as Buffy is by his side, Giles sets off the dynamite. The building explodes, taking Olvikan (AKA Mayor Richard Wilkins III) with it.

It's ironic (or perhaps it's fate) that the Mayor's 100-year long plan to ascend and destroy Sunnydale coincided with the current slayer's graduation day, and that the only things which were actually destroyed were the Mayor himself, and the library which the graduating slayer used as her base of operations in high school.

Moral Ambiguity in "Graduation"

Buffy | Buffy vs. The Watchers | The Mayor | Angel | Principal Snyder | Anya

Despite Buffy's statement that she could not kill Faith, she overcomes her scruples and stabs Faith to save Angel. Although the damage to Faith's kidneys is reparable, the blood loss from the stab wound inflicted by Buffy nearly killed her.

Was Buffy's stabbing of Faith justified?

Did Buffy intend premeditated murder?

I don't think Buffy went to kill Faith. She had said she would but that long bathroom scene (to me) had her changing her mind. That is why Buffy handcuffed Faith. Buffy intended to take her alive, have Angel drink enough to be healed and then tote Faith to the hospital and then into a watcher council cell. Once Faith got the handcuffs off, Buffy pulled the knife. Back to plan A (gazoo, May 18 21:47 1999).

I honestly do think Buffy intended to kill Faith. Faith has caused so much trouble for her, and poisoning Angel was finally enough for Buffy to act. Buffy is probably remembering what happened when she had the chance to kill Angelus, but couldn't bring herself to do it. I think she didn't want to make that mistake this time (NuPhalanx, May 18 20:05 1999).

Will Buffy's attempt to kill Faith change her character in the long run?

Xander : I just don't want to lose you.
Buffy : I won't get hurt.
Xander : That's not what I mean.

I think she will react differently, ...to "killing" Faith than Faith did to killing the mayor's lackey. It won't harden her, it will give her a lot of pause for concern (Arctic Lurker, May 18 20:57 1999).

A slayer shouldn't think that she can do anything, but a person can use force to save a loved one from death. I guess I feel she made a tough decision, and can still live with it ...Some people have the souls of warriors (for good) and can do the killing that has to be done, w/o turning to the dark side (Clattering, May 18 21:34 1999).

A Father's Love: When the Mayor discovers that Buffy has stabbed Faith, he makes finding the slayers a priority over last-minute preparations for the Ascension. He truly does care for Faith in his own way. In the hospital, he over hears the nurse talking about Buffy, goes into her room, and puts his hand over her nose and mouth. Angel foils his murder attempt, but the Mayor, who saw Buffy before only as an annoying hurdle to the Ascension, now wants revenge.

Was Angel coerced into drinking Buffy's blood?

...so it seemed, another theory is that Angel accepted Buffy's invitation, ...he realized what was going on after the second smack, and it didn't take much to make him revert to demon state. ...if the demon was battling with him so much, why did we see no evidence of this? (George Mori, 23 Jun 1999 19:37)

Even though I believe Angel lost control while he was feeding, he wasn't entirely at fault for doing the feeding in the first place. Buffy forced the issue by beating the demon into taking "control" and shoving her neck in his face. What was Angel to do? He was weakened from the poison. He couldn't stop himself by that point. ...Now, once the demon took over and started feeding... He lost control. And he liked it. ...the "higher power" of good thwarted evil this time and Angel stopped in time (MeeB, Jul 14 11:44 1999).

Principal Snyder shows his great talent for denial up to the very end. As the students begin to fight the 60-foot Mayor-demon, he screams, "This is simply unacceptable!... This is not orderly. This is not disciplined." To Olvikan, he says, "You're on my campus, buddy, and when I say I want quiet, I mean--" *chomp* Good-bye Principal anti-Quark.

"That's the kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten" --Principal Snyder, The Puppet Show

Ethical Quandaries in "Graduation"

| Was Buffy's stabbing of Faith justified?
| Was Buffy wrong to try to save Angel when the Ascension was at hand?
| Did Buffy and the gang have the right to involve the other students in the graduation showdown? |

Was Buffy's stabbing of Faith justified?

Principles come up against feelings when the Watcher's "laws that have existed longer than civilization" dictate that they shouldn't cure a vampire, even Angel. All Buffy cares about is saving her lover, and she resigns from taking their orders (as if she really ever worked for them at all, considering how often she has taken charge). Wesley is dismayed, pointing out that Faith poisoned Angel to distract Buffy from stopping the Mayor's Ascension. Led by her heart again, the distraction is working.

When Buffy learns that a vampire must drain the blood of a slayer to survive the "killer of the dead", she decides she must find Faith and offer her to Angel. Was Buffy's stabbing of Faith justified?

It's not OK

It doesn't sit well with me, killing a human. In self-defense, okay. In order to prevent imminent harm to others, okay. If Faith had been killed at the Ascension, while she was directly threatening others, I would be fine with that. But not this. Once Slayers start feeling like they have the power to decide which humans live and which ones die, well, you get Faith. "We're better." Buffy was making the decision that Angel's life was worth more than Faith's. I suppose a lot of you would agree with that. But I think that it's a very, very dangerous thing for any one person to take on the role of judge, jury, and executioner for another person (Mircalla, May 18 21:23 1999).

Killing Faith is against Kantian strictures because it is using another human as a means (a tool) and not an end in themselves.

It's OK

...if Angel had been poisoned by someone else, it would be impermissable to use Faith to save him [according to Kantian strictures], no matter how evil she is. But since she was the direct agency of his poisoning, it comes under the rule of self-defense (even if it's Buffy doing the defending) (Jim L. Baird - 12:04pm Jun 16, 1999).

On the practical side, and Buffy probably wasn't thinking about this, a healthy Angel is a major force on the side of good during this assention. With him, they have a MUCH stronger chance of defeating the mayor, then without him (Arctic Lurker, May 18 20:5 1999) [see Utilitarianism].

A Slayer's job is to fight evil in any manifestation be it preternatural or human (ie. Ethan Rayne, Billy Fordham, Willy). No matter what she is deep down, Faith chose to DO evil. ...Faith is an evildoer (a superhuman one at that). Buffy is an evilfighter. I think it's clear what she had to do (sofrina, 10/28/99 12:12).

Vox on Did Buffy have an legal justification for stabbing Faith?

Was Buffy wrong to try to save Angel when the Ascension was at hand?



Did Buffy do the right thing in feeding herself to Angel? ...In order to save one vampire, Angel, she put herself at risk, and by putting herself at risk she put the whole town at risk. If she would have died, everything would have been for naught. I think it was a huge mistake. She risked the lives of everyone for someone who had already died. What she did was understandable, but very selfish. She brought back Angel for herself. He was at peace with it (George Mori, 23 Jun 1999 19:37)

Did Buffy and the gang have the right to involve the other students in the graduation showdown? The gang knows that the Mayor has arranged to become the commencement speaker. This means that he will be attacking the Sunnydale High School seniors and their families first. In The Prom, the students openly acknowledged that Sunnydale "isn't like other schools", and they know that Buffy knows a lot more about it than they do. So she is going to be believed, rather than laughed off the campus, when she tells them they'll be in danger on graduation day. Although they choose to stay and help her, shouldn't she and the gang have attempted to get everyone out of town, not just her mother?

1. The students were already involved in the coming melee by the Mayor - he put them in danger, not Buffy.
2. Buffy could not tip her hand before the Mayor ascended and was vulnerable.
3. Buffy & Xander gave the students the means to defend themselves, which the kids of Sunnydale agreed was necessary and right (Liz K, 01 Dec 2000 16:26)

"Guys, take a moment to deal with this. We survived. ...Not the battle. High school." -Oz

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Screen shot credits
Translation courtesty of the Buffy Shooting Script Site
This page last modified 9/19/02

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