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Break the Haughty in live-action TV.


  • On 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy learned how the other half lives when he got a case of the bedbugs and he had to get around by subway. Since Status Quo Is God his humbling is only temporary.
  • The plot of one episode of The Adventures of Superboy was a total homage to The Terminator, where a robot is sent from the future to kill Superboy and a woman is sent to warn him. Superboy foolishly brushes off the warnings, after all, he's Superboy, right? In their first battle, he gets a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from the robot, who is way stronger than him and can resist his punches and heat vision.
  • Babylon 5:
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    • Londo Mollari and G'Kar start the series as prime examples of arrogance (what with being ambassadors of galactic Great Powers and all). Then Character Development happens. Both come out enlightened, and—to their amazement—friends.
    • Shakiri is the head of the warrior caste and an arrogant Smug Snake who wishes to rule Minbar by force. He is challenged to a Combat by Self-Immolation by Delenn with the taunt that he is really a Miles Gloriosus. He fails the challenge as Delenn does not fail(and has to be rescued by Neroon). Thus Shakiri is shown to be a Dirty Coward in front of millions of Minbari.
      Neroon: I speak for our people! Who do you speak for?
  • Deva from Banshee goes through a lot of shit during the series. Her boyfriend dies in front of her, she gets taken hostage by robbers at her school, her little brother gets kidnapped, and she finds out about her mom's secret past.
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  • Gaius Baltar goes through various Humiliation Congas over the course of Battlestar Galactica but Magnificent Bastard that he is, he remains consistently haughty.
  • One could argue that this is what the third season of The Big Bang Theory conspired to do to Sheldon. It didn't work, though...
    • He did get a (for him) painful comeuppance in "The Jiminy Conjecture" when he was shown to be wrong about the species of cricket the boys had been hearing, causing him to lose a prized comic book over a bet
  • Black Mirror: In "Playtest", the protagonist is very confident that he can handle any of the scares the experimental brain-altering game can throw at him. The game starts at basic jump scares and creepy stuff like giant mutant spiders, but then it gets... personal. This breaks him utterly. Then you find out he never actually started the game: the device malfunctioned and he died abruptly and horribly.
    "Behind you. Do you recognise yourself? Do you even know who you're looking at? You don't remember anything. You'll be just like your dad. That's what really scares you, isn't it?"
    "SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP, SHUT UP! NO, NO, NO! NOOO! GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HEAD!!"
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  • Maria Joaquina from Carrusel goes through this rather early. At some point she openly denounces Marcelina for cheating in a test, and while she is technically right, the problem is that the kids were already getting tired of her arrogance and spoiled behavior... so not only they side with Marcelina, but they totally shun Maria Joaquina and refuse to even speak to her. (Even her Dogged Nice Guy!) Few afterwards, the tiny Ice Queen is reduced to a sobbing wreck, and only then she's re-accepted into the group. (And she switches from Alpha Bitch to Tsundere))
  • Happens to Prue in the Charmed episode "Death Takes A Halliwell" where she is convinced she is meant to stop the Angel of Death and he gives her a "Reason You Suck" Speech to convince her that some things are out of our hands. A similar thing happens to her again in an episode where she gets infected with pride. The only way to beat that sin is to be saved by someone else.
  • In Chinese Paladin, this happens to the Alpha Bitch Yue'Ru (to give an example: her Establishing Character Moment was attacking and temporarily killing The Hero for insulting her) via an extended and painful Humiliation Conga.
  • In Community, much of Jeff's character arc involves getting him down from his high horse by any means necessary, usually through a combination of humiliation and good old-fashioned Character Development.
  • Criminal Minds: David Rossi, not much of a team member at first, is systematically broken out of this behavior by "Limelight" and "Damaged." Then he's broken down further just for fun by "Zoe's Reprise" and "Epilogue."
  • This happened to Paige in Degrassi: The Next Generation. Before she was broken she was not just mean, but had no personal problems.
    • Emma in season 4. It's not so much meanness as self-righteousness, but after the school shooting, everything starts going downhill.
    • This could be said for any Degrassi character with the slightest trace of arrogance in general—the higher the character holds their head, the harder they fall.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Mary and Edith from Downton Abbey both qualify. Mary's love life is full of drama and scandal, and Edith makes one VERY bad choice that ends up slowly ruining her life.
  • We have a scene in ER, where two rich bitches were making fun of Abby and Neela. After one of them twisted her ankle and Neela went to check on her, she told Neela to get her hands off of her and that she wanted a second opinion, even after Neela told her she was a doctor. So Neela calmly went up to Abby for the second opinion and Abby told the lady that she had a twisted ankle and that she's a bitch.
  • Jool from Farscape looked perfectly set to be The Scrappy in her first appearance. Most of the rest of her time on the show consisted of this trope applied very thoroughly, with her suffering such indignities as being told the liquid she's been drinking is actually urine, and having to slog through a waist high swamp of bat feces.
  • Fringe tends to torture its characters.
    • Walter's backstory.
    • Fauxlivia goes from Smug Snake to Heartbroken Badass in both Season 3 and 4.
    • Dear God... Peter. He was a bit of a self-centered Jerkass at the start of season 1. Four seasons later... he gets infected, captured and/or tortured a few times. Has something of an identity crisis when he discovers that he was kidnapped from an alternate universe. Possibly responsible for the apocalypse. Erased from existence for a while. When he comes back everyone he knows and loves doesn't remember him. Finally resolves his "Will they, won't they" with Olivia, only to discover that the woman he's sleeping with is actually Fauxlivia. Has a son he doesn't know about until it's too late. When he does get with the real Olivia, she gets shot in the head. Twice. His daughter dies...also twice. No happy ending in two different Bad Futures. This man cannot catch a break.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Throughout Season 3, Theon is tortured to insanity by Ramsay.
    • Jaime remains as smug and arrogant as ever despite months of captivity, but that all changes when he loses his sword hand. Locke invokes this as the reason why he cut off Jaime's hand.
    • In ''The Mountain and the Viper", Oberyn is cool and generally badass the entire fight against Gregor (and for that matter, the whole season), but in the moments leading up to his...gruesome death, Gregor has him so utterly broken he's screaming like a child.
    • By "Hardhome", her confinement by the Faith has turned Cersei into an absolute mess desperate enough to suck water off the floor of her filthy cell, but she still refuses to confess and insists she will see her tormentors die. Her walk of atonement is specifically designed to do this, and by the end, Cersei is sobbing...but then the sobbing gives way to pure anger and desire for revenge, and she eventually gets her vengeance with interest.
    • Jon Snow's time at the Wall is one long object lesson in not taking himself too seriously and even moreso his time among the wildlings, and he learns from these lessons.
    • Played with towards Sansa in that she's uppity and callous at the beginning of the story, but her misfortunes are so harsh that she becomes a sympathetic Broken Bird instead. Lady is killed and later her father is deemed a traitor and is beheaded. And then Joffrey shows her the heads of her father and his retainers. After stating that he will rape her when she can bear children. And then he has one of his bodyguards hit her. Repeatedly. She is then forcibly married to the unattractive Tyrion instead of the dreamy Loras, but her new husband is completely respectful and kind to her, and he disobeys his father's orders to rape and impregnate her. They even start to get along rather well... and then she learns of the Lannister-planned Red Wedding, which resulted in the horrific murders of her brother, mother, and the Northern army. She has thus lost her last sliver of hope of rescue from King's Landing. It gets worse when she returns to Winterfell, where she is married to Ramsay Bolton, who is the North's very own homegrown version of Joffrey.
    • In "The Children", Cersei manages to hurt Tywin about the one thing he cares about — the family legacy — by simply revealing to him that the rumors about the incest were true all along. Tywin is shocked and in denial, and then later Tyrion finds out that Father was a hypocrite whoremonger himself, permanently destroying his credibility and removing any ability to bargain for his life with Tyrion.
    • Viserys' time among the Dothraki is not fun for him. Subverted in that it does little to break his haughtiness.
  • Quinn Fabray: Season 1. She starts out on Glee as a head cheerleader, president of the celibacy club, straight-A student, dating the captain of the football team (Finn Hudson), and daughter to two wealthy, conservative parents (who are later implied to be alcoholics and possibly abusive). Then, she cheats on her boyfriend with his best friend, Noah Puckerman, (and this event is later revealed to be of Questionable Consent, as Puck not only actively refuted all of her protests but got her drunk on wine coolers) and becomes pregnant at 16. Her teacher's wife, desperate for her own baby, manipulates the situation to her advantage, offering to take the baby off Quinn's hands, but refuses to pay any of her medical bills. Quinn's cheerleading coach, Sue, allows her to stay on the squad for exactly one episode before promptly kicking her off after finding out about her pregnancy, during which the hockey team begins targeting her with their infamous slushies. Finn then outs her pregnancy to her parents, who kick her out, setting 30 minutes on the microwave timer for her to pack her things and get out. Then, the girl who has been actively pursuing her boyfriend for the entire season, Rachel Berry, reveals to him that he isn't the father and he dumps her and (presumably) also kicks her out. Puck's mother treats her unkindly and refuses to allow her bacon (Puck’s family is Jewish). Then she gives birth very painfully to a daughter, Beth, who she gives up for adoption, and it is speculated that she suffers from postpartum depression for much of Seasons 2 and 3.
    • In Season 2, Quinn regains her status as head cheerleader and, though her mother welcomed her home at the end of Season 1, she is implied to be alone at home more often than not due to her parents' divorce (her mother kicks her father out for adultery and has to get a job to support Quinn and herself). She starts dating the current captain of the football team, Sam Evans, until Finn starts actively pursuing her after dumping Rachel for cheating, despite his friendship with Sam (and knowing what it’s like to have his girlfriend cheat on him...twice over). At this time, Sue also decides to deliver an ultimatum to the cheerleaders who are also part of the glee club, and Quinn is labeled weak and cowardly for considering her options. Sam eventually publicly dumps her for another girl, after she has chosen him over Finn. Then, Puck helps his new girlfriend expose Quinn’s past as a chubby, acne-ridden, glasses-wearing, large-nosed loser to the entire school. Then, the one thing she wants more than anything out of her high school career at this point, to win prom queen, is awarded to a gay student, Kurt, as a cruel prank. Rachel actively and openly pursues Finn once again while Quinn is dating him, and Finn eventually dumps Quinn to get back together with Rachel. Her friends try to fix all this with a haircut. It does not go well.
    • In Season 3, Quinn is reintroduced as part of the never-before-seen Skanks, a group of punk girls who smoke under the bleachers and mug their fellow students. Apparently abandoned by her friends over the summer, she is also mentioned to have dated a 40-year-old skater during that time. Sue decides to use her in a documentary about how the glee club ruined her life, a series of events which leads to Quinn’s former glee club coach, Will, screaming at her that she is selfish and needs to grow up. Then, the woman who adopted Beth, Shelby, shows up and demands that Quinn clean up her act before she can see her child again. Quinn attempts to get Puck to help her regain custody of Beth, and he reveals the plan to Shelby, who then forbids Quinn from seeing Beth at all. She then attempts to regain Puck’s interest in a sexual relationship in order to replace her lost baby, and he first tells her he would rather “raw dog a beehive” and later reveals to her that he’s slept with Shelby. After failing to get Rachel on her side to get Shelby fired for sleeping with a student, and get Beth back, she attempts to rekindle her relationship with Sam, who has returned after his family moved for a new job, and he promptly tells her they are incompatible because she has “rich white girl problems.” After confronting Shelby with her knowledge of the affair, at Rachel’s advice, Quinn finally overcomes her issues, becomes friends with Rachel, reconciles the glee club with some lost teammates in a way that satisfies both parties, chooses to help at a homeless shelter with Sam rather than be on TV (where the two reconnect as friends), and gets into Yale. Then she gets hit by a truck. Paralyzed from the waist down, her attempts to regain her mobility are met with people telling her she needs to accept where she is. Once she does heal somewhat, Finn catches her before she has told anyone of her progress, screams at her for lying and milking her condition for votes and tries to knock her out of her chair.
    • Seasons 4-6: Quinn finally seems to be doing okay, other than a few random threads that don’t go anywhere (i.e., dating a professor who is in the middle of a divorce).
    • Santana Lopez could also qualify as of season 3, after being humiliated not just in front of the school but in front of the state, when she is outed against her will and disowned by her grandmother. She is made to question her girlfriend's love for her, is harassed by a boy who wants to "straighten her out" and is even nearly suspended for slapping the boy who outed her. In fact, the only reason she wasn't suspended is that she was blackmailed into compliance by her outer, who is actually the frickin' hero of the series. This is, however, forgotten about in 2 episodes time...
    • Rachel Berry's gone through this to some extent in every season but seasons 3 and 4 strike a chord the most when she slowly starts to realize she's not the only person who's a "star" and that not everyone's going to bend over backward for her.
    • Mercedes could qualify when she struggles with an eating disorder and loses all the confidence she once had...For one episode.
    • Strangly enough, you don't see many male characters going through this process.
  • Priscilla of R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour Volume One: Don't Think About It is such an ego balloon, you know she's going to be a prime candidate for the pin treatment. We start with a piñata sabotaged with cockroaches that spill out all over her when she breaks it. Later, she suffers the indignity of Evil Thing webbing. She doesn't seem to get it, as an offered ride home by the Papa John's boy is harshly turned down.
  • Played with in House M.D. in the Tritter subplot and subsequent rehab, but subverted in the end when House reveals he's still...well, House.
    • Played straight in the Season 5 finale. He realizes that he's going insane and finally casts aside his pride to get treatment.
  • Happens a lot on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia when one of the gang gets too big for themselves. Of course, being the Gang, they'll often ignore this breaking and be right back to being arrogant later on.
    • Dennis spent years convinced he was a "Golden God" in high school. When he returns for his reunion, he expects his "minions" to flock to him without question and is confused when almost no one there has any idea who he is. When he rants about a rival "stealing" them away because he was jealous, the man rolls his eyes and flat out states Dennis was never a popular guy in high school but just a loser everyone ignored.
  • Kamen Rider: Alain/Kamen Rider Necrom starts out as an immature, smug Evil Prince. Then everything crashes down on him. First he loses his father, who is murdered by his brother. His brother than ends his supply of continues and frames him for their father's murder. He is forced to rely on his former friend and a perceived Archenemy for survival. Then his friend sacrifices himself to save him and he is left only with his Archenemy to rely on. To top this when it seems that the shitstorm is over, his Morality Pet elderly friend dies, fully opening him to the reality of being mortal. It also works as a Trauma Conga Line as while he deserves both most of the line and sympathy.
  • The point of Leverage. Typically, the villain is some type of corporate sleaze who tends to be either arrested, finanically ruined, and/or put through a Humiliation Conga by the end of the episode. Averted in "The Carnival Job", where Elliot lampshades this; Nate only replies, "It's not a requirement, it's a bonus".
    • A friendly example happens in "The Gold Job" as Hardison gets a chance to run a con of his own and starts bragging of the genius, intricate "new style" con he's invented. It turns out to be too complex to the point where the marks just give up before they can be trapped. Nate saves the day with a (much easier) scheme and reveals he knew all along this would happen but Hardison had to learn a lesson in hubris in order to work a con better in the future.
  • Joan in Mad Men gets one Break The Haughty arc every season.
    • She starts out the show as the queen bee of the office. As the head of the secretarial pool and mistress of one of the partners, she's doing about as well as a woman can in the professional world of 1960. She openly mocks Peggy's desire to be more than a secretary.
    • In season 2, the wheels start to come off the wagon for her: it's revealed that Joan is in her thirties and unmarried, which is very embarrassing at the time; then she gets just a taste of a more fulfilling career when she fills in briefly in the television department, only to have the figurative door slammed in her face; and then she gets raped by her fiance. At season's end, she's in denial about the latter and glumly watches as Peggy moves into her own office (closing a literal door in her face).
    • In season 3, she's married to her rapist and must listen as he complains about his failures as a surgeon. He also makes Joan subvert her own wishes and desires and leave the agency (because he's ostensibly the "breadwinner"). Her departure in "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency" is heartbreaking, proving she's the sole person in the company to go above and beyond her position. She gets a position in a department store (due to her former lover's influence) and is generally miserable until Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce is formed. Joan is Roger Sterling's first call when they need "someone who knows how this place runs" and becomes a member of the new agency.
    • In season 4, Joan starts out almost as successful as she was in season one. She has her own office and takes part in the partner's meetings. While the junior execs may not respect her personally, even they acknowledge she's one of the two people who "really" run SCDP (the other being CFO Lane Pryce). While her marriage is still miserable, her husband has decided to enlist in the Army and is being sent to Vietnam. As of the most recent episode, Joan's been brought down again when it's revealed that she's pregnant with Roger's child as the result of a one-night stand they'd had, and is pretending it's her husband's after letting Roger believe she's had an abortion.
    • It continues in season 5, though whether the season ends on a positive note or not for Joan is debatable.
    • Pete Campbell also gets one of these. He starts as an arrogant, entitled bully who harasses Peggy, tries to blackmail Don, and struts around Sterling Cooper as though he owns the place. Repeated humiliations at the hands of Roger, Don, and Bert Cooper, plus his inability to conceive with his wife Trudy, plus his family's continued problems, end up destroying his pretensions...and end up turning him into a much better man, an excellent account executive, a good husband, and (gasp!) a sympathetic character.
  • In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Abe tends to be pretty full of himself as a Columbia professor and it gets worse when he's hired at the government contractor Bell Labs. Midway through season 2, Abe brings son Noah to Bell, acting like a big shot who can get the unemployed Noah a job. Brought to a secure room, Abe is told Noah can't work at Bell because he's already employed at a top-secret government project (in fact, his "unemployment" is actually him working for the CIA). When a disbelieving Abe asks what it is, he's told he's forbidden from being told because Noah has a higher security clearance than him. When Abe presses, his boss bluntly tells him that Abe is "so far down the totem pole" that the janitors at Bell have a higher security clearance than he does (what with the document disposal and the shredding). They then send him out as they debrief Noah. Abe can only stagger out in shock that his "wayward" son is far more important than he is. Of course, it isn't helped that this is coming just days after Abe has found out that Midge has been engaged in stand-up comedy.
  • M*A*S*H did this all the time with Major Winchester, especially the occasional failing and having to rely on others. Sometimes resulted in legitimate Character Development and sometimes not.
    • Subverted in "Major Topper", where Winchester was set up for this, but it turned out he was right/had been telling the truth.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 loves doing this to Tom Servo. Whenever he gets a little in over his head, whether it's concerning his intelligence or his height, he will usually end up in tears when something goes wrong or his insecurity gets the better of him.
  • On Person of Interest Root is an amoral hacker who decides that she is going to save The Machine from its oppressors and set it free. In order to find where the Machine is located, she kills a bunch of people and kidnaps Finch. However, when she gets to the Machine, she realizes that the Machine did not need her help, was already free and is way more powerful than Root ever imagined. Finch knew this already and tried to tell Root but she did not want to listen. This breaks Root so completely that she has a Heel–Faith Turn and starts worshiping the Machine as a new god. In the next season, Root gets a bit too full of herself in her new role as the executor of the Machine's will so the Machine introduces her to a man whose life Root ruined but whose faith is even stronger than hers. This snaps her out of her false pride.
  • Power Rangers RPM: This is the backstory of Summer, the Yellow Ranger. Flashbacks show that she was a Rich Bitch (albeit a Jerk with a Heart of Gold variant). Then her parents don't show up for her birthday party, said birthday party is interrupted by the apocalypse, one of her own friends throws her off a transport vehicle because there was only room for one, and her extremely loyal butler dies trying to help her. By the official start of the series, she is significantly nicer, with no real trace of her bitchiness remaining.
  • There are several episodes of The Prisoner in which Number Two's overconfidence in his ability to break Number Six ends up being his own downfall. One episode in which this theme is used very prominently is "Hammer Into Anvil".
  • Sherlock: A recurring theme is the eponymous protagonist 's need to show off how clever he is, coupled with massive self-assurance in his intelligence, gets him in serious trouble time and again:
    • In "The Great Game", he responds to John angrily calling him out on not caring for the victims' lives by coolly responding that caring about them won't help him save them, so he won't make that mistake. Then John gets kidnapped and put at risk... and not caring suddenly isn't so easy.
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia'' he unwittingly foils one of Mycroft's counter-terrorism operations to impress Irene Adler.
    • The entire plot of "The Reichenbach Fall", where Moriarty uses Sherlock's jerkass pride in his work to slowly destroy the detective's life. For example, his constant belittling and insulting of the police makes it that much easier for them to swallow the lie that Sherlock faked and orchestrated all his cases to show how clever he was. And by the episode's end, he's seen as a fraud, a criminal and a corpse. (except not).
    • In His Last Vow he made the assumption that Magnussen had all of his blackmail material locked up in a private vault underneath in mansion. So he makes a deal to exchange Mycroft's laptop for his file on Magnussen's file on Mary. When he finds out that there is no vault—Magnussen keeps it all in his head in a variation of Sherlock's mind palace, and Magnussen just tricked him into committing treason, Sherlock takes it hard.
    • In "The Six Thatchers", he gives a brutal Breaking Speech to an MI6 secretary who was a mole and was responsible for sabotaging a rescue mission Mary was on. To one-up him, the secretary fires her gun at Sherlock only for Mary to take the bullet and die from the resulting injury. This is what finally gets Sherlock to see how self-destructive his attitude really is.
      • On a personal level, his rivalry with Moriarty—even though both Holmes brothers orchestrated his downfall, Moriarty's memory still haunts Sherlock to the point that when Moriarty "returns" from the grave, Sherlock overdoses on Cocaine just to find out exactly how this could even occur.
  • On Sons of Anarchy, Agent Stahl tries to do this to the titular motorcycle gang by turning their 'prince' Jax into a 'rat' who informs to the ATF in exchange for a deal. It backfires completely since the gang knows what is going on and uses it to setup Stahl and get their prison sentences reduced by 12 years.
    • And then it's done to Stahl herself when Opie kills her. She breaks down crying and begins begging for her life.
  • Q, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Deja Q", is stripped of his powers. Within the first five minutes of his appearing on the bridge of the Enterprise, he's forced to wear a really awful outfit, has Troi announcing to the entire crew that he's terrified, and is thrown in the brig. Later things get worse. Oh, and he gets stabbed in the hand with a fork.
  • On Traders, one of the characters has just landed a major deal and is up for a promotion and a big raise. He decides to show off his success by buying a Hummer (the I-am-compensating-for-something car of the time period). However, the next morning he finds it impossible to find a parking space for the over-sized Hummer in downtown Toronto and is thus later for an important meeting. Things spiral down from this and by the end of the day, he has lost the deal, the promotion and is lucky to still have a job.
  • Logan in Veronica Mars. He starts out as a Jerkass who torments Veronica whenever he gets a chance, and then nearly every tragedy that could possibly happen to him happens. He's probably the best example of a Jerkass Woobie on recent television.
  • In some ways, the beginning of Victoria's reign follows this arc. Though young and naïve, Victoria is proudly insistent that she does not need assistance in ruling or carrying out her duties. Following the scandal with Lady Flora Hastings and upon developing a closeness with Melbourne, Victoria slowly begins to realize that a monarch must be humble as well as noble and begins to accept help.
  • Celia, resident Stepford Smiler Rich Bitch of Weeds, goes through an incredible amount of Break The Haughty, culminating in her being kidnapped in Mexico and almost killed and sold for organs by her daughter. It doesn't work; she still maintains her old attitude despite her laughable situation.
  • Averted on The West Wing: on his N-tieth birthday, Josh is glorified by the papers as "the 101st senator" and the President's get-it-done man. The same day he loses a blue-dog Senator to the Republicans forever and has his portfolio heavily reduced because of it. However, Josh himself was actually very insistent on downplaying the story (and his birthday), not that it helped him.
    • In a lighter tone, a first season episode has Josh taking over the press briefing when C.J. needs a root canal. Breaking all world records in smugness, Josh tells Danny that a graduate of Harvard and Yale can easily handle this. Within minutes, he's managed to tell everyone the President "has a secret plan to fight inflation", hammered with questions and leaves a broken wreck of a man.


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