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Recap / Gravity Falls S 2 E 11 Not What He Seems

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It's gonna be a bumpy ride, but it'll all be worth it. Just eighteen more hours. Finally, everything changes. Today.
Grunkle Stan

Late at night, Stan powers up the Universe Portal. Journal 1 warns that doing so will cause gravitational anomalies and advises against it, but Stan disregards this, having come too far to stop now. As the countdown begins, one such anomaly occurs. Regardless, Stan eagerly waits for his work to be finished.

The next morning, the Pines family plays around with Stan's fireworks stash and water balloons. Stan considers telling the Twins something important, but chickens out. Privately, he notes that he can't keep his secret forever, and that the Twins will find out somehow. Before he can act on these thoughts, a squad of black op soldiers, led by Agents Powers and Triggers, appear and take the Mystery Shack. Powers reveals that since the zombie incident, he and Trigger have been watching the Pines family, and accuses Stan of stealing several dozen drums of toxic waste. Furthermore, he suspects there might be a doomsday device of sorts hidden on the Mystery Shack property. Stan insists that he was restocking the gift shack, but is taken away. While Powers goes with Stan to the police station, Trigger takes the Twins to child services.


Using his one phone call, Stan tells Soos to guard the vending machine in the Mystery Shack gift shop. Meanwhile, the Twins decide that to prove Stan innocent, they need the Shack's security footage of the gift shop. Mabel provokes Manly Dan into running the government car off of the road by mocking Sev'ral Timez, and the Twins make their escape. Trigger insists that the Twins are putting their faith in the wrong man, as he's seen the con Stan's allegedly running before. Dipper tries to ignore him, but his words hit the mark.

Meanwhile, Grunkle Stan is trying to figure out a way to escape and get back to the Mystery Shack to witness the Portal's activation. When his countdown watch alerts him to an anomaly, he gets an idea. At the same time, with his laptop synchronized to the time of the Portal's activation, Old Man McGucket decides to flee town before it's too late.


Back at the Mystery Shack, the Twins use Mabel's Grappling-Hook Gun to break in and sneak in to Stan's office. Reviewing the security tapes from last night, they see that Stan was stocking the gift shop...before leaving and returning with drums of waste! But then they find something even more damning—a box full of fake IDs, a newspaper clipping on an unknown grifter, and another with the headline STAN PINES DEAD. The Twins are unable to process what they've found. Looking for more clues to solve this mystery, they find a note for a code of some sort. Mabel realizes that the letters and numbers refer to the vending machine.

At the police station, just as Powers is about to take Grunkle Stan to Washington, a gravitational anomaly occurs, allowing Stan to escape. He pays off a cabdriver to lead the agents on a Wild Goose Chase. The rest of the government squad pulls away from the Mystery Shack to chase after the cab, leaving the vending machine unattended. Soos arrives, determined to carry out his orders. Dipper and Mabel arrive and try to convince Soos to move, but he refuses. A brief scuffle ensues, ending when the secret passage opens. Entering, they find Stan's secret lab, the Universe Portal...and the other two Journals! Outraged that Stan had kept the journals hidden from him, Dipper assumes that the agents were right and that Stan is a criminal. He uses his black light on the Universe Portal's entry, revealing another hidden message—that the Portal, once at full power, can destroy the world! The trio try to activate the emergency shut off, but before Dipper can push the Big Red Button, Stan appears, pleading with them not to turn it off. Dipper, furious at all the secrets and lies Stan's told, refuses to listen. Before Stan can explain further, the most powerful of the gravity anomalies ensues and sends everyone in the room flying, as well as affecting the entire town. Mabel, her leg caught on a cable, is the only one close enough to the Portal's shut-off. Dipper tells her to push it, as the Portal could destroy the Universe, but Stan begs her not to, as while he's always done unpleasant things, it's always for his family. Torn between her family, Mabel is forced to make an impossible decision.

"Grunkle Stan...I trust you."

Mabel lets the Portal remain open, much to Dipper's shock. The countdown reaches zero and a huge flash envelopes everyone, and the Mystery Shack seems to fly...

...Before crashing to the ground. The bunker is now in ruins, but everyone is alive. An unknown figure comes out from the barely functioning Portal, and takes Journal 1, revealing his six-fingered hand. Stan reveals that this man is the Author of the Journals...his brother.

Mabel: Is the part where one of us faints?
Soos: Oh, I am so on it, dude. (faints)

*cue silent credits*

Not What He Tropes:

  • Aesop Amnesia: Old Man McGucket lost his mind using a ray to wipe his memories of the portal, not wanting to face the implications of it having Gone Horribly Wrong. Now that he's uncovered the apocalypse countdown on the laptop, he's again running away from his problems after giving a vague warning to Dipper in "Northwest Mansion Mystery".
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Stan does so to Mabel when she threatens to hit the kill switch on the portal device.
  • Always Save the Girl: Stan was willing to do anything, including risk an apocalypse or large gravitational anomalies, to get his brother back.
  • Animation Bump: The Author's Dramatic Unmask was considered so important it was animated domestically instead of overseas.
  • Anti-Hero: Stan counts as this. He does activate the machine that might've destroyed the universe to see his brother again.
  • Art Shift: When the portal activates the cast are briefly rendered with colored outlines.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: This is how Wendy enters and leaves work, marching forwards and backwards with the same motions.
  • Badass in Distress : The Pines get captured by the agents, but they escape by themselves.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Agent Trigger is told to "take care" of the kids after the agents arrest Stan, implying a Deadly Euphemism; Mabel nervously asks what he's going to do with the twins.
  • Batman Gambit: Mabel uses Manly Dan's temper to get driven off the road. Involves some Gambit Roulette since the car could've crashed differently.
  • Bench Breaker: Stan uses the gravitational anomalies to time breaking the chair he's handcuffed to, while fetching the key to free his hands.
  • Berserk Button: Badmouthing Sevral Timez to Manly Dan is a very bad idea.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Manly Dan lets one when he sees Mabel writting "Sev'ral Timez is overrated".
    • Dipper also shouts this after the dimensional portal activates.
  • Big Red Button: The Portal device can be deactivated by pressing one.
  • Black Helicopter: As per the usual modes of transportation for The Men in Black.
  • Blood Knight: Mabel is extremely aggressive in this episode, loudly declaring that she is the God of Destruction during their impromptu fireworks party, and wanting to force their way into the Shack by directly attacking the security forces holding it.
    Mabel: Alright, here's the plan. I'll take out those two guard guys, you karate chop the other dude in the neck and then we'll backflip through the front door!
  • Broken Pedestal: Dipper, Mabel, and Soos towards Stan because of him lying about his past.
  • Broken Tears: Mabel at the climax.
  • Call-Back:
  • Character Focus: On Grunkle Stan obviously, but also on Mabel. She overcomes most of the obstacles and figures out most of the puzzles and is the one to make the decision at the end.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang:
    • Mabel's grappling hook. How fortunate that she had it on hand.
    • Stan's inability to say "please" without visible pain. When he does, without his usual grumbling, Mabel decides to trust him.
  • Clear Their Name: Dipper and Mabel tries to prove their grunkle's innocence but unfortunately discover that the agents are right.
  • Cliffhanger: A big one. Stan brought back the Author of the Journals (his brother), but the federal agents are still at large and after the Pines.
  • The Comically Serious: Not just Agents Powers and Trigger, but apparently their whole organization of Men In Black bears this tone.
    Random Mook: (Super Window Jumps and tackles Waddles) PIG SECURED. WE HAVE SECURED A PIG.
    (Two more Mooks barricade Waddles in police tape)
  • Complexity Addiction: Mabel's plan to enter the shack.
    Mabel: Alright, here's the plan. I'll take out those two guard guys, you karate chop that dude in the neck and then we'll backflip through the front door!
    Dipper: Mabel, aren't you forgetting the simpler solution?
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: When Stan needs to escape from the agents in the police station, a gravity anomaly occurs which Stan takes advantage of to help him escape.
  • Curse Cut Short: Stan lampshades his usual use of Unusual Euphemisms before doing a real swear that's cut off.
    Stan: (drops barrel on his foot) Gah! Hot Belgian Waffles! (beat) Wait, I'm alone. I can swear for real! (takes deep breath) SON OF A
    (Dipper quickly fast-fowards the surveillance tape, while Mabel claps her hands over her ears)
    Dipper: That's him, alright...
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Discussed. An old newspaper reveals that Stan Pines reportedly died in a car crash. Dipper and Mabel wonder if a stranger had been impersonating Stan all along. Eventually subverted as the real Stanford Pines isn't dead.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Manly Dan rammed Trigger's humvee off the road after Mabel wrote on a fogged-up window that "Sev'ral Timez is overrated." Had the humvee crashed differently, this could've gotten Mabel, Dipper, and Trigger seriously injured or killed.
  • Do Wrong, Right: "There's no way I'm letting you fire those fireworks... without me!"
  • Easter Egg: There is, of course, the usual puzzle. But also the license plate on the agent's car translates as "GUVAMENT".
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: One of the fireworks in the closet is called the Cop Callers. Firing it from the shack's roof does exactly that, getting the cops' attention.
  • Failed a Spot Check: This was probably done for time, but the federal agents while investigating the Shack don't take in Wendy or Soos for questioning when they show up for work. They also missed the attic, where Dipper and Mabel find the gift shop footage.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: The agents only pull out tasers, not firearms. Some of them even have extra-large tasers substituting in for rifles.
  • A Father to His Men: Soos mentions wanting to be adopted by Stan and changing his name to "Stan Jr." This makes it more crushing when he and Dipper both lose faith in Stan.
  • Follow That Car: Stan cleverly inverts this trope by paying a cab driver to lead the government agents on a chase while he runs in the other direction.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Stan shuts down Journal 1's warnings of gravity anomalies with a curt "Can it, Poindexter!" which gives off a vibe of personal familiarity with the Author. Who turns out to be his brother at the end of the episode.
    • At the episode's beginning, Stan tells Mabel and Dipper that they get along way too well for siblings, and Mabel jokes that they'll be bickering any time now. By the episode's end, not only do they have an entirely serious disagreement over Stan, where Dipper suspects the worst while Mabel still wants to trust him, but the goal of Stan's quest is revealed to be getting back his brother, whom he implies he has some serious bad blood with.
    • What Trigger describes about Stan to the twins all turned out to be true.
    • The gravity anomaly in the opening happens for real.
    • Mabel calls herself "the god of destruction" while setting off fireworks, which she may have become for real by not closing the portal.
    • Mabel's sweater for the episode is a key — she's the key to keeping the portal on.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Dipper and Mabel search Stan's office, you can briefly see some titles of books in Stan's library, including "Scams A-Z", "The Business of Business", "Daddy Issues" and a yearbook for "Glass Shard Beach High".
    • The various fireworks that Mabel reveals in the closet: Cop Callers, The Lawsuit Maker, Smokey Jokers, Boom!, The Heart Attack and Poor Choices.
    • At the beginning, you can see a page from the journal talking about unicorns and their hair only for the pure of heart.
    • When Stan is being interrogated, the bulletin board behind him is covered with evidence, including an old report card that shows him getting straight As in his academic classes, but a D in gym. Hardly sounds like the badass but Book Dumb Stan we know...
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Mabel has to decide whether or not to shut off the portal; she chooses the latter.
  • Gambit Roulette: Mabel's plan to get away from Agent Trigger was half Batman Gambit, half Gambit Roulette. If the Humvee had crashed in any other way, she, Dipper and Trigger could've been injured or killed. Alternatively, if that tree branch hadn't restrained Trigger he might have just A.) gotten out and chased after the twins or B.) been impaled.
  • Generation Xerox: The credits imply that Dipper and Mabel are not the first Mystery Twins in the Pines family.
  • Good Versus Good: Neither side is truly evil. Stan committed various crimes, but it was to get his brother back from another dimension. Powers and Trigger, while incorrect about Stan's intentions, were right in arresting a man who was guilty of serious felonies. Dipper and Soos nearly ruined Stan's plan to rescue his brother, but they were trying to stop what they believed was a doomsday device. Mabel made the most dubious decision of the episode (choosing to leave the Portal open, which according to all information available ran the extremely high risk of ending the Universe), but even she was only acting out of hope that she could still trust a beloved family member.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Parodied. When Stan on the security camera footage drops a barrel of toxic waste on his foot, he cries out “Hot Belgian waffles.” Upon realizing no one is around, he decides to swear for real. Dipper fast forwards through the video just before Stan finishes.
  • A Handful for an Eye: When the twins need to get by Soos, Mabel blows a handful of glitter into his face.
    Soos: Attack glitter! It's pretty but it hurts!
  • Hero Antagonist: The federal agents; they really think that Stan is building a doomsday device and react accordingly.
  • Hope Spot: Dipper and Mabel find footage in the Mystery Shack that seems to confirm Stan's alibi that he was restocking the gift shop at the time of the theft... and then they find more footage that shows him with the barrels of stolen toxic waste.
  • Human Shield: When Dipper questions the agents on how they escaped the zombies that attacked them in "Scary-Oke", Powers explains he used Trigger as one of these.
  • I Can Explain: Grunkle Stan says this, right before the last and largest gravitational anomaly happens.
  • Implausible Deniability: Mabel starts developing this the more the twins find out about Stan's possible double lives and secrets.
  • Jaw Drop: Mabel, Dipper and Stan do this when the Author — Stan's brother — appears out of the portal.
  • Laser Sight: All pointed at Stan.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Stan's line "Finally! Everything changes today!" essentially holds a double meaning: his brother finally returning after 30 years, and the episode being a major Wham Episode for the series.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Soos is trying to keep Dipper and Mabel away from the vending machine, he says "This hurts me more than it hurts you". It actually does as Mabel is twisting his side and kicking him in the face.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When Dipper reads aloud from the Journals that if the timer ever hits zero, the world is doomed. Dipper, Mabel and Soos look up and see that there's only a minute left on the timer, resulting in this reaction.
  • Mid-Season Twist: The author is back! And he's Grunkle Stan's twin brother.
  • Mistaken for Apocalypse: The machine caused significant damage to the town, but it didn't cause the end of the world like it was purported to... yet.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The gravitational anomalies eventually get to the point where buildings are being torn from their foundations, but the episode never suggests anyone is in any real danger.
  • No Gravity for You: As the portal charges up, it creates gravitational anomalies of ever-increasing strength, the effect of which is to temporarily shut off gravity for the entire town for longer periods as they get stronger. Stan exploits this to escape the Feds since he knows when the anomalies will occur.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Mabel does this when trying to defend Grunkle Stan.
    Mabel: Grunkle Stan may shoplift the occasional tangerine but he's not a crazy super-villain.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: Stan's realization on the security tape that he can "swear for real" now that he is alone, shows that all his use of Gosh Dang It to Heck! and Unusual Euphemisms throughout the show has really been him trying to watch his language around Dipper and Mabel.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: As mentioned below, the series gives us one of the biggest ones: the Author of the Journals is finally revealed.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Grunkle Stan says something along these lines when Dipper calls him out for lying to the twins about everything.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Previously in "Boss Mabel", Stan's complete inability to say or even consider the word "please" had been a major plot point in his side-story. When Mabel is about to press the button to stop the machine, he says it without any of his usual hesitation or distaste, highlighting just how serious the situation is for him.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The Stinger shows the abandoned playground in Stan's memories during "Dreamscaperers" when it was still in use... by Stan and his brother.
  • One Phone Call: Stan asks for this while being interrogated.
  • Opening Shout-Out:
  • Police Are Useless: Sheriff Blubs lets Grunkle Stan and the twins shoot fireworks he knows are illegal off the roof of the Mystery Shack. When Stan escapes from the police station, Blubs and his deputy are playing with a pinata and blindfold, missing the drama.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • If Agent Trigger had been gentler with the twins, while showing them more definite proof that their uncle was guilty if he had it on hand, they would have probably cooperated.
    • If Stan had told the twins and Soos about his machine a LONG time ago, they wouldn't have impeded his attempts to get his brother back. As a result, they don't trust him after reading the article that he could be pulling a Dead Person Impersonation.
  • Power of Trust: Despite the evidence against Grunkle Stan, Mabel still allows the portal to reach its countdown. Her faith in him appears to pay off, though due to the Cliffhanger we only really see a small portion of the aftermath, leaving the exact effects of the Portal unknown.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Guess who's a fan of boy band Sev'ral Timez? None other than Manly Dan! In fact, his reaction to seeing someone trash talk them is to run them off the road.
  • Red Herring:
    • Weird, time may have run out, but Bill's nowhere to be seen.
    • The laptop ends up being one, since Dipper and Soos thought it could reveal the Author's identity. Instead, Stan does so.
    • Soos assumed Stan is the Author because he had the other two journals. It's not him, it's his brother.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The picture Stan had of Dipper and Mabel has the glass break at the end, representing the loss of trust.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!:
    • Wendy's only appearance in the episode consists of her showing up for work, seeing the Mystery Shack surrounded by government agents, and quickly leaving again.
    • Old Man McGucket packs his things and tries to leave town when the gravity-quakes start getting stronger.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: What this entire episode amounts to, as all the tension from this episode is quickly resolved within the next episode.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Soos gives us this gem: "It's the final countdown! Just like they always sang about!"
    • "Is ['rock that looks like a face rock'] a face, or is it a rock?" "I think it's a metaphor."
    • The effects of the device on Gravity Falls resemble a blowout from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R franchise, including random gravity anomalies and the sky turning red.
      • According to the audio commentary for the episode, this was also inspired by the ending of FLCL
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy:
    Tyler: Is it just me, or did the entire world just hiccup?
    Lazy Susan: I'm sure it's just a baby-sized earthquake.
    Tyler: Aww, baby-sized!
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Much of the episode's drama is the gulf in Dipper and Mabel's reaction to finding out that Stan has been keeping secrets. Exemplified in the scene where they come across the desk of his bunker: Mabel takes the framed picture of herself and Dipper to be proof that he loves them despite the secrets while Dipper has a breakdown when he finds that Stan was hiding the other two journals from him.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Stan is letting Dipper and Mabel play with fireworks, Blubbs and Durland's concern is over whether they have a permit, not that it's dangerous.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: After Mabel explains her plan to tackle the guards, Dipper says "Aren't you forgetting the simpler solution?" They then use a Grappling-Hook Pistol to sneak in through the attic window.
  • String Theory: There's a bulletin board in the room where Stan is kept in custody.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Stan is captured, Agent Powers tells Agent Trigger to "take care" of the twins. When Mabel asks what that means, Trigger explains he's taking them to Child Services. Mabel is not impressed.
    • Stan usually gets away with stealing a lot of things over the course of the show, but the line is drawn at radioactive waste stolen form the national government. Theft of government property never goes unnoticed.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Played With. Anti-Villain Agent Trigger expresses this grudgingly when Mabel succeeds in getting his car run off the road, saying the twins are remaining loyal to Stan despite their uncle being known for making false identities and theft. Dipper tries to ignore these words, but they hit the mark.
  • Tempting Fate:
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: It certainly seems like this in the opening.
    Stan: I don't understand! What did I do that warrants this much arresting?
  • This Is the Part Where...: Mabel's reaction to the Author stepping out of the portal, and the reveal that he's Stan's long-lost brother, is to remark "Is this the part where one of us faints?" Soos tells her he has it covered.
  • Trash the Set: Stan's Bunker is a wreck by the time the portal stops and it's a miracle that the Mystery Shack wasn't destroyed when it fell back to Earth. The rest of Gravity Falls is shown suffering similar damage.
  • Unseen No More: At the end of the episode, the Author of the Journals finally reveals himself.
  • Vehicle Vanish: The Pine twins pull it off while going back to the Mystery Shack.
  • Villain Has a Point: Anti-Villain in this case. When Trigger tells Dipper he and Mabel shouldn't be trusting Stan, Dipper tells him he's wrong, but it's clear Dipper is starting to think this. Played With since while Trigger and Dipper were wrong about Stan intentionally making a doomsday device, he did almost destroy Gravity Falls and was willing to endanger the whole world to get his brother back. Plus, despite Stan's intentions and debatable ignorance, a doomsday device is functionally what the machine in the basement was made to be, and we get a taste of the apocalypse it was built to create at the end of the season.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Dipper was clearly thinking this when calling out Stan.
    Dipper: And I should trust you WHY?! After you stole radioactive waste?! After you lied to us all summer?! I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE!
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: "Trust me. Everything I've worked for, everything I care about, it's all for this family!" And that "everything" includes committing various felonies, deceiving and endangering his own family, and gambling the entirety of the human race on the off chance that the Portal, despite all evidence to the contrary, wouldn't end the universe. Even Soos can't side with him by the end.
  • Wham Episode: Oh, SO much! Dipper and Mabel and Soos finally discover Stan's portal underneath the shack along with the revelation that the author of the journals is revealed to be Stan's twin brother.
  • Wham Line:
    • Stan Pines Dead
    • Delivered by Mabel when the countdown is about to finish:
      Mabel: Grunkle Stan... I trust you.
    • The BIGGEST one at the end:
      Dipper: "Who's that?"
      Stan: "The Author of the Journals... my brother."
  • Wham Shot:
    • The Surveillance video shows that Stan really did steal the toxic waste.
    • The newspaper clipping showing that Stan Pines had been dead for years, and that a grifter who looks like the man we know as Stan is at large.
    • The Author stepping out of the Portal, grabs a journal with his six fingered hand, then takes off his head coverings to reveal he's Stan's twin brother.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Dipper gives one to Mabel when she chooses to listen to Stan and proceed with his countdown. Justified when you consider that it appeared that Stan was trying to jump start the apocalypse, as warned by Bill, McGucket, the FBI, and the Author of the Journals, whose books seem to be the authority on how the machine works and leaves no ambiguity regarding how much of a threat to the world it is. From Dipper's point of view, Mabel is gambling the entire human race on the word of a stranger, Consummate Liar, and federal criminal who has impersonated a deceased member of their family and shown warning signs that he's out to harm others. Though Stan turns out to have at least had benign intentions and the machine doesn't immediately end the world, the portal is every bit as dangerous as described and, in just the short time it was open, already has ripped a rift in reality that does later cause an apocalypse. Even when that apocalypse is temporarily beaten back, the series ends with the Rift an uncontainable and permanent ticking timebomb.
    • He also gives one to Stan for lying to him and Mabel about everything that had been happening during the summer, demanding to know why anyone should listen to or trust him after learning that not only has he committed major federal crimes that endanger everyone around him and impersonated a member of their family, but the plan he is attempting now clearly threatens the entire human race. At this point, Dipper has plenty evidence to support the FBI's implied conclusions that Stan is some kind of Omnicidal Maniac who murdered and stole the identity of their family member.
  • Wild Goose Chase: How Stan manages to distract the government agents after escaping: he pays a cab to go away from town, knowing the agents will follow it.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Stan shouts this to the kids as he's being arrested, claiming that he really didn't do the crimes he's being arrested for this time. Ironically, he was lying even then.
    • And again at the end of the episode, when Mabel has the choice of shutting off the machine. Leaving it on runs the risk of ending the world, but turning it off goes against "everything [Stan's] worked for," which he promises is for the sake of his family. Mabel chooses to believe him.


Video Example(s):


Not What He Seems

A figure walks through the portal. Stan reveals that it's his twin brother, who wrote the Journals.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (19 votes)

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