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Daddy Didn't Show

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"When I was first baptized
When I was criticized
When I was ostracized
When I was Jazzercized
Steak and kidney pies
When I was modernized
When I was circumcised
Daddy wasn't there"
"Daddy Wasn't There", from the Austin Powers in Goldmember Soundtrack

A child's Disappeared Dad or Missing Mom has, after many years, returned. The child is ecstatic, but everyone else is leery of the parent's arrival, and for good reason. This person abandoned his family once already, and despite any attempts by the returned parent to convince them otherwise, they don't believe his change of heart is sincere.

Then comes the test. The parent promises to show up at a major event or function of their child's, or promises to take them along next time they go somewhere. Our child puts all his faith in his mom or dad's sincerity... and it all comes crashing down when he realizes that his parent simply didn't show.

Obviously used as a form of Tear Jerker, it also serves as a Kick the Dog for the parent who made the promise. The surest and most clear-cut sign that, ultimately, their lip service about changing their ways was just that. This can also be done more than once if the parent has a history of doing this sort of thing and the child finds himself unable to give up hope that this time will be different.

Compare When You Coming Home, Dad? for examples where the parent tries to be a part of their child's life but other affairs, such as work, simply interfere. Also compare Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You, in which the disappeared parent disappeared for a legitimate reason. If the person makes an attempt to attend the event but is held up on the way there, see Missed the Recital.

In both cases, the key difference is that the parent genuinely cares for their child, is usually conscious of what they're doing, and portrayed with much more sympathy than with this trope. When Daddy Didn't Show, it's usually because it was either a specific, deliberate decision on Daddy's part (maybe he was "Going to the Store") or because Daddy simply flat-out forgot he was supposed to be there.

Subtrope of Parental Neglect. Contrast Visit by Divorced Dad and Disneyland Dad. Compare Stood Up.


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  • In an Australian Occupational Health and Safety ad, there is shown a little girl performing in a school play. Her mother is in the audience and she keeps looking at the empty seat next to her and grows increasingly listless throughout the play, during which we are treated to shots of the mother worriedly trying to call her husband, and just as we reach heartbreaking levels, thinking that he's had an accident... he shows. The girl smiles. The play continues. Cue sighs of relief throughout Australia.
  • A Spanish ad had a kid playing baseball (Not very common on Spain to begin with, but this is supposed to be a play on American movies) and going "Gosh, why didn't my dad come, he won't see me bat!" Then Antonio Resines stands up and yells "Hey, kid, this is Spanish cinema, of course your dad came!" and thusly the dad shows up. The ad is how Spanish movies are nothing like American ones.
  • An anti-drunk-driving PSA has a woman relate how she was expecting her father to show up with the cake for her birthday - only to be hit and killed by a drunk driver.

    Anime & Manga 
  • A variation with a single mother (instead of a father) happens in Change 123: Motoko's mom promises to 5-year-old Motoko that she will come to the sport event at kindergarten. But the morning of the day when this is supposed to happen, she suddenly tells Motoko that she must go on an important business trip. What happens after this actually creates Motoko's first Split Personality.
  • Shotarou's not doing this when her own father did is a large part of what gets Little House with an Orange Roof's Rina to accept Shotarou as a stepfather.
  • In one chapter/episode of Sgt. Frog, Natsumi really hopes her mom Aki can compete with her in the three-legged race at her school's sports festival, but Aki ends up having to work after all. The Keronians catch wind of this, and Keroro schemes to offer to take Aki's place as part of a scheme to get Natsumi indebted to him. But in the end, Giroro ends up running with Natsumi, instead.
  • Hiroshi Morenos in Michiko & Hatchin could be accused of this. When they finally find him near the end of the anime, he agrees to live with Hatchin and take care of her. (Since he's her father, her mother is dead, and her only other parental figure is about to be sent to prison for ten years, this is the least that could be expected of him.) Then the Distant Finale reveals that he left her to her own devices not much later, when he found a new girlfriend.
  • Chapter 302 of My Hero Academia has the climax of the Todoroki family's breaking be this trope. The eldest son, Toya, had a strong fire Quirk but an increasingly more unfit body for it (his body can withstand cold temperatures, not hot), yet still pushed his body to acclimate to his powers. The rest of the family doesn't like that he does this (as he burns himself doing so), especially his father Enji (whose approval Toya craves but never gets), but he keeps practicing to the point where his flames got even hotter and more powerful. He asks Enji to visit him at their old training grounds to watch him, but out of fear of encouraging Toya's self-destructive training and a general inability to truly connect with his son, Enji doesn't. As a result, the myriad of emotions powering Toya's flames goes out of control while he's crying and he accidentally self-immolates, taking the training grounds and the forest it's in with him.
  • This forms the center of the Drama Bomb that drops about halfway through Toradora!. Taiga is encouraged by Ryuji to try and go along with a father's attempts to patch things up, despite everyone, even Ryuji's ditzy mother, not trusting the man. Ultimately, in Episode 13, they prove correct when said father fails to arrive at the culture festival where Taiga eagerly awaits him and holds out hope that he'll show, going so far as to write words to dad in an award acceptance speech (and making the presenter perform the speech even after it's made clear that he isn't showing up).

    Comic Books 
  • Robin (1993): After waking from his coma and finding himself in a wheelchair Tim Drake's father keeps making plans to spend more time with his son and then cancelling at the very last minute, or after, even though Tim carefully rearranges his busy schedule to make time for him. Tim is never surprised but he does appreciate that Jack at least realized he's hardly spent any time with his son and has made some futile attempts to rectify it. Jack stops even trying after he tells Tim he's dating Dana.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Despicable Me, Gru is late for the girls' dance recital.
  • Russell's dad in Up. Russell talks the whole movie about getting his final patch so his Dad will be proud when he sees him get his award. Dad doesn't show. Carl does, though, taking the seat reserved for Russell's dad.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The plot of Jingle All the Way centers around the protagonist's attempts to make amends with his son after breaking a promise to attend his karate tournament.
  • Peter Banning failing to show as promised for his son's baseball game in Hook is one of the many things said son holds against him.
  • Parodied and played to the hilt in Austin Powers in Goldmember, complete with song by Austin Powers and Ming Tea: "Daddy Wasn't There," quoted at the top of the page.
  • The Spanish/English movie La Misma Luna has one of these. Particularly sad because Carlitos' dad left before he was born and was supposed to take him to his mother who he hadn't seen in four years.
  • In Man of the House (1995), this happens to young Ben when his wannabe step-dad Jack misses a special canoe trip. Of course Ben doesn't know that an attempt on Jack's life was the cause.
  • In the The Babysitters Club Movie, Kristy's father (who had previously abandoned his family when she was a child) promises to take her to an amusement park for her birthday. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't show, leaving Kristy in the rain.
  • Happens in The Wrestler with Randy trying to reestablish a relationship with his daughter. Guess who forgets to show up to dinner later? He "gets coked out of his mind, screws a halfway-obsessive fangirl, and passes out". Not exactly the kind of excuse he could use, though.
  • Hope Floats: Bill, the guy who leaves Sandra Bullock's character Birdie for another woman and dumped her on live television comes back. Birdie is, of course, leery, but their daughter Bernice, who absolutely hates her mother and idolizes her father, prepares to leave with him. And then what Bill does next is basically leaving her crying on the side of the road.
  • The John Hughes film Dutch is "Daddy Didn't Show: The Movie". Doyle is an alienated kid at a fancy prep school who idolizes his rich father despite the fact that he does this trope all the time. When daddy opts to spend Christmas in Paris with a supermodel, Doyle's mom sends her working-class fiancee to get Doyle. Hilarity Ensues. When they get to mom's house, daddy's already there — not because he realized he's a schmuck, but because the model dumped him. Luckily Doyle's learned a lot of valuable life lessons and tells his dad to get lost.
  • Angels in the Outfield: The triggering event for the plot is having the kid's dad say they could be a family again when "the Angels win the pennant". The kid takes it literally, and enlists the help of real angels to help do just that. However, his dad later breaks his heart by relinquishing custody of him to the state.
  • Inverted in Little Giants. Jacob's dad is a traveling important businessman who keeps missing important things of his son's because he had a business trip. However, he finally does make it to the Little Giants/Little Cowboys football game and Jacob runs straight through the other team to get to his father - and scores a touchdown in the process.
  • Whale Rider:
    • Played with for Hemi — he is overjoyed when his father, freshly out of prison, comes to see him perform the chant he's learned. But then the dad leaves immediately after Hemi's part, not stopping to spend any more time with his son.
    • Paikea is heartbroken when her grandfather doesn't show up to hear her speech. That she wrote for him. It turns out he had a good excuse (he had been on his way to the presentation, but found a whale beached and stopped to help it), but she doesn't know that; given his recent behavior, she (reasonably enough) concludes that he just didn't care enough to show up.
  • In i am sam, Lucy is heartbroken when her father doesn't show up for visiting day at her foster family; Sam was too guilt-ridden to bear to even see her at first, but with the help of his lawyer Rita, he gets the courage to come the day after.
  • A recurring plot point in What Maisie Knew (2012), where both the biological father and the mother are continuously missing their pick up days for Maisie because they were tied up with work.
  • In Heat, the father of Natalie Portman's character was supposed to pick her up for the day but never came, which contributes to her attempted suicide.
  • In Train to Busan, the main character is a busy divorced father who lives with his mother and young daughter, who his mother mostly takes care of while he's at work. At the beginning of the movie, he missed his daughter's singing performance of "Aloha Oe" and sees in the video that his mother recorded that she stopped mid-song. When he asks his daughter about it, she gives him the cold shoulder and doesn't tell him, but she later tells him that she stopped because she realized her dad wasn't there.
  • The film adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles has Jared continually think that his divorced father is going to come and see them in their new house, while in every phone call the father makes up an excuse as to why he has to quickly hang up while saying he'll tell Jared something important later. Later, during a lull in the final battle, his mother and older sister reveal that he won't be coming because he found another woman and has completely cut his old family out of his life. Turns into a Secret Test of Character later on when his dad does show up... but is actually the Big Bad in disguise. Jared uses what his mom and sister told him to see if it's really his dad by asking what he wanted to tell him on the phone.
  • The Silence of Adultery: Paul is this at first, as he's Married to the Job as a building contractor. Later Rachel develops the same problem as she starts putting more time and energy into her affair with Michael. Once she forgets to pick up Livy from school; Livy is terrified, thinking she died in a car accident.
  • David's Mother: In a flashback, Susan complains about the fact that Sally missed her play because the babysitter canceled and she didn't want to leave David alone.
  • In Zack Snyder's Justice League, Victor Stone was an academic football athlete before the accident that killed his mother Elinore and crippled him. He scored an important victory for his team, Gotham City University, but he was disappointed that his father Silas didn't attend it unlike his very supportive mother, among other things that added onto his and Silas' strained relationship. It's actually an argument with his mother over this in their car that caused the accident when coming back from this match.
  • In Breaking and Entering (2006), Bea is disappointed when her stepfather Will misses yet another of her gymnastics performances due to his job as an architect, although her coach films her so Will can watch it later.
  • Lieutenant Barlow from The Innocent (1994) used to have a five-year-old son named Joey. One day a year ago, he was too busy with a case to pick up Joey from daycare. While Joey was waiting to be picked up, he escaped from the playground and got hit by a car.
  • In Marathon (2005), Cho-won's divorced father is so busy that he hardly shows up for anything, including his younger son Jung-won's birthday. He does manage to attend the Chuncheon Marathon, in which Cho-won is competing.
  • Matty Fairchild from The Rainbow Experiment has starred in a number of high school plays, but his father often missed them because of the long hours he worked.
  • In The Giant (2016), Rikard delivers a letter to his Missing Mom's apartment inviting her to his thirtieth birthday party. When she doesn't show, he's Too Unhappy to Be Hungry, despite the cake shaped like his favorite cap.

  • In Fire and Hemlock, the protagonist's parents don't show up for a play at school. The father is absent, and the mother considers the play in question too boring. The grandmother is there. She is... a bit ashamed of her son.
  • Inverted in The Dresden Files book Changes. Harry, upon finding out he is a father, is determined come hell or high water to Show Up for his child.
  • Strongly defied in Discworld with Sam Vimes, who, despite slaving constantly to maintain order and prevent civil war in a chaotic city, reads the same ridiculous book to his one-year-old son every night at 6 o'clock. No. Matter. What. Sam, an expert on human nature, reasons with himself that if he misses story time for a good reason, eventually he'll start missing it for bad reasons. So he doesn't miss it for anything. The one time he isn't capable of doing so, he's trapped in a cave several miles away, and Sam starts reciting the book so loudly that Young Sam can hear the echoes from where he is.
  • Every Shiny Thing: At a support group for teens with alcoholic parents, Emma Walker describes how her dad once missed her school play. He lied and said he was sick, when really he was drunk.
  • Good Omens: When the Antichrist is born to the American ambassador to the UK and his wife, he gets one of the Secret Service agents to videotape it as he's in an important meeting with his stockbroker.
  • In Navigating Early, Jack's father is a soldier in World War II. His shore leave is delayed, meaning he doesn't get to attend Jack's boat race. It may have been for the better, since Jack ends up crashing and sinking the boat.
  • In The Tuning Station, Chris visits his estranged mom, who he hasn't talked to in three years, and tells her his graduation is in two weeks. His mom says, "We'll try, dear, but you know Saturdays are Steve's busy days. I'm so proud of you, though!" Sure enough, she doesn't show. Chris's Alternate Universe self Ted never reconnects with her and thus is spared the disappointment.
  • In The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly, Charlie's dad misses his twelfth birthday because of a business trip.
  • Benny from Almost Perfect (2014) lives with his dad and his stepmom Sonya. He badly misses his self-absorbed mom, who is always missing their visits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse" featured this plot with Will, whose Disappeared Dad returned and promised to take Will on the road with him. When he didn't follow through, and tried to get Phil and Vivian to cover for him, Will finds out and tries justifying how he is better off without him since he was young. He eventually breaks down with this tearful question:
    "... how come he don't want me, man?"
  • Midsomer Murders: Tom Barnaby has a severe case of Busman's Holiday (apparently he spent his honeymoon working to catch a poisoner) and "Eureka!" Moment (that causes him to drop whatever he's doing, usually a date with his wife, to get back to work). In one episode his (adult) daughter tries to spend the day with him, but he keeps getting called away by work. She doesn't actively resent him for it, but it does make for good Cringe Comedy (at one point he's attending the play she's in, only for work to call, so she comes onstage to see her father running for the exit).
  • Monk: Adrian and Ambrose's long lost father promised to return home one Halloween night. Adrian and Ambrose waited at the house the whole night, anxiously waiting, but it wasn't looking like he was going to show. Everyone left the house at some point due to the Mystery of the Week and, when they got back, they found a note from their dad saying that he arrived, but figured that since no one was waiting for him, that he wasn't wanted, and left again.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: London Tipton is used to her dad not showing up for her special events. In one episode, London is told that her father was going to show up, but she keeps saying that she knows that he won't show up and isn't upset, until her father calls, tells them that he's not showing up, and it turns out she really is upset about it.
  • Inverted in Heroes - Steven Canfield arranges a meeting with his family, and they don't show up.
  • In the Chinese drama Into Thin Air, after the whole issue of finding his long lost son and his son having to return to his birth parents leads to both sides being estranged again. The son was anticipating his parents is coming back... then cue the plane crash.
  • Implied in Charmed with Leo and Chris in a future timeline.
  • Manny's dad in Modern Family, who shows up from time to time and charms everyone, making it worse when he suddenly has to bail again.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 plays this crazy straight. In fact, Kelly's dad's no-show at her Big Event Mac Guffin springboards her into her cocaine abuse storyline.
  • Veronica Mars's mom does this twice. First she skips out on rehab, which Veronica had spent her entire savings on. But that's not low enough, so after Veronica confronts her about it, she absconds with a $50,000 check that Keith got for finding Duncan Kane. Oh, and she does this while Keith is in the hospital after saving Veronica from a murderer.
  • In Golden Boy Walter's and Agnes' mom, a drug addict, turns up after getting out of rehab and tries to reenter their lives. She stays for a couple of episodes, then stands Agnes up after saying she was going to introduce her to a music manager and disappears.
  • On Gilmore Girls, this trope comes up frequently in relation to Rory's dad, Christopher. In his introductory episode, he makes all sorts of promises to stay and keep in touch, before running off to nurse his bruised ego after Lorelai rejects his marriage proposal. Later episodes imply that he has a poor track record of showing up for Rory. This trope is discussed when Lorelai asks Chris to escort Rory to her debutante ball. He promises he'll be there, and the girls debate whether his guarantee means there's a 50/50 or 60/40 chance he'll bail. While he does keep his promise in this instance, he is mysteriously "out of town" for Rory's high school graduation, even though she graduated valedictorian.
  • This takes the center of one episode of Psych in which a Young Juliet is having a birthday party and keeps expecting her father to come. Turns out her Dad was a Con Artist and this becomes a source of tension in the present day.
  • Sherlock's father in Elementary. Sherlock has long since given up on him actually showing up when he says he will. One episode has him invite Sherlock and Joan to dinner, which Joan winds up attending alone because Sherlock is too bitter. There is someone there - but she soon realises it's someone Sherlock paid to pretend to be his Dad. He is, however, an acquaintance who cares a great deal for Sherlock, and we do get some information out of the exercise.
  • ER. Doug Ross' abusive father resurfaces after 22 years on his birthday. Doug tells him off for having abandoned him and his mother, but the two end up having a talk that hints at them taking the first steps towards reconciling. However, by the next week, his father stands him up for a basketball game, prompting Doug to tell him off and cut him off for good.
  • In Midnight Caller, Lieutenant Zymak's job causes him to miss things like his son's school play.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy spends the first half of "Helpless" looking forward to spending her birthday at the Ice Capades with her father. Partway through the episode she comes home to find a bouquet of flowers in the kitchen with the tickets clipped to them. Buffy's mother explains that her dad had to cancel due to some work problem. This incident marks the beginning of Hank Summers' transformation to a full-on Disappeared Dad.
  • Better Things: Xander is largely absent, but plans to attend Max's graduation. At the very last moment, he cancels, claiming unspecified "personal complications", to Sam's anger. Everyone else reacts to this with a frustrated lack of surprise after Max is devastated, and do all they can making up for him letting her down.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club (2020): The season 2 finale has Kristy's dad promise to visit when he's passing through, but then doesn't show up. Mary Anne's enraged on her behalf, since he's done this many times before in the past, and it also inspires Watson (her stepdad) to say he'll adopt her. Kristy is happy with this, thinking she does have a dad in her life after all.
  • Thus was a point of contention with Catherine and her daughter Lindsey on CSI due to Catherine working long, unpredictable hours and missing school stuff like Lindsey being in a school play. Her father Eddie wasn’t much better at it.

  • The part about "little Suzy" on the song "Youth of the Nation" by P.O.D. is this trope.
  • Tim Minchin invokes this trope with his song Darkside, "Daddy never came, to my ball game". The whole song is a satire of True Art Is Angsty.
  • Inverted in Harry Chapin's "Cat's in The Cradle." After an entire song about Daddy not being around, Daddy asks Son to visit. Of course, Son doesn't, despite promises.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Dave Atell
    "A little girl is sitting alone on a swing, not moving.
    'Where's Daddy?'

  • In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Olive saves seats for her parents. She knows her mother won't come, because she's in India, but she holds out hope for her dad, who ultimately never shows. In a later song, Olive says that her dad is angry and neglectful because he takes out the anger he feels for her mom on her.

    Video Games 
  • This happens to Ashley from Another Code when she agrees to meet her dad for the first time in eleven years. Instead of leaving it at that, she decides to go looking for him. It's a bit more understandable when you discover he was drugged and unconscious for some time while Bill gave Ashley the runaround. When it happens again in the second game when he forgets to meet her at the bus stop, it's more the workaholic/absent-minded reason.

  • Averted/inverted in Something*Positive: Jason has had a very nasty relationship with his father, characterizing him as manipulative. The one time that Dad shows up and asks Jason to meet him for lunch, Jason refuses, sure that Dad must want something. (Oddly, because Jason doesn't go, neither he nor the reader finds out what prompted this visit.)

    Web Original 
  • In CollegeHumor's sketch "Drunk Girl Therapist," the first client is a young woman who is crying because she has been trying to get her father to notice and validate her all her life. She recalls standing on the pitcher's mound at a softball game, scanning the crowd for his face, and not seeing him...while the therapist drunkenly attempts to dance on the coffee table. The therapist tells her that she needs to find happiness in herself, and not in her father's approval.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson is prone to the lesser version of this. Once he forgot to bring Bart home from soccer practice and the other time when he actually stopped by Moe's to get a beer before getting a much needed saxaphone reed for Lisa's recital.
    • Nelson's dad, especially in later seasons; his family situation sort of depends on the writer. In earlier episodes it was his mother who was never around. In one episode, Bart finds and reunites Nelson with his dad.
  • Drawn Together:
    • In "The Other Cousin", Ling-Ling is very disappointed and depressed that his father Jun-Jee doesn't bother showing up for the day the cast's relatives come to visit the house.
    • It's implied several times that this is why Foxxy Love tends to be so promiscuous.
  • Phineas and Ferb blows this up to absurdity with one tale of the Hilariously Abusive Childhood of Dr. Doofenshmirtz, as neither of his parents showed up for his birth. Cue Cutaway Gag of a very confused doctor holding the baby.
  • Futurama has Fry upset that Farnsworth did not attend an award ceremony where we won a prize. Could be considered an inversion since Fry is Farnsworth's ancestor.
  • Gravity Falls: Heartbreakingly used as part of Soos' backstory in "Blendin's Game". It's revealed Soos is a Birthday Hater because his father abandoned him when he was four to his grandmother’s house and only ever sent Soos a postcard with a halfhearted promise that he'd make it to see him "next year". Soos ultimately gave up when he was only twelve. The episode’s ending (and other moments in the series) heavily imply that Soos sees Stan as a father figure, starting when he hired Soos on the same day he realized that his father was never coming to see him.
  • All Hail King Julien has Julien haunted by a dance recital his parents never came to because they had left. He recreates it just for them now that they're back, but they don't show up to that either. They then turn up to have actually shown up, they just weren't in their reserved seats.
  • On Hey Arnold! Helga's parents are notorious for this, especially Miriam. Bob is always busy with work, and tends to put his beeper business before everything else (unless that everything else is Helga's big sister, Olga), and Miriam is an alcoholic, so she forgets things a lot or winds up passing out from one of her "smoothies."
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, we learn in a flashback episode that Nicole is estranged from her parents, having moved out to be with Richard, who they disapprove of. In a later flashback, we see that her parents didn't come to her wedding with Richard, despite them having been invited. Nicole is hurt by this, but Richard reminds her that she has him. It turns out in a later episode that they did try to go, they just got lost on the way.
  • Family Guy: In one episode, Peter wants to watch a UFC fight. Lois points out that they have plans for that night. Peter then promises that if she let's him see the fight, he'll go to Meg's ballet recital in her place, which Lois agrees to. A cutaway then shows that no one showed up to Meg's recital, indicating Peter didn't keep his word.
  • In the As Told by Ginger episode "Hello Stranger", Ginger invites her father to hear her recite a poem that she wrote for him, only for him to never show up.

    Real Life 
  • Sadly is often Truth in Television with neglectful parents or people who abandoned their children while they were young, though there are also plenty of aversions.
  • Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, the guy after whom buckyballs/fullerenes are named, had a daughter. She had polio, and was very ill. Dying, in fact. She asked him for a present, a stick to help her walk. He promised her he'd get her one. He went out drinking with some physicist buddies. She fell into a coma, and died. When he returned from his night out, she regained consciousness, just for a few moments, and asked if he'd remembered to get her the stick. He hadn't. He'd completely forgotten.


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It turns out that Gumball was conceived BEFORE his parents got married.

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