Managing Expect-A-tions – A Review of Pretty Little Liar’s Season 2 Finale “UnmAsked”

[Brief note: This post is simply a “review of” and “reaction to” “UnmAsked.”  A full recap will follow . . . eventually. :)]

Strait jackets .  . . all the cool psychopaths are wearing them . . . 

Greetings, my Pretties!  This week, PLL wrapped up its sophomore season with a season finale that was arguably as polarizing as “A” herself.  Thousands of frustrated fans flooded the message boards, Twitter, and YouTube to express their discontent with the way the season concluded.

Meanwhile, others rushed to defend the controversial choices made by the writers and producers.

The source of this controversy, of course, was the identity of “A” . . . the technologically savvy, ridiculously snarky, and seemingly omniscient super villain, who had been torturing the titular Pretty Little Liars, since the pilot episode.

And while I suspect a large number of fans were surprised by the reveal, it wasn’t necessarily for the reasons the writers intended . . .

Truth be told, this was far from the first time a television series that had been based on a book series chose to remain faithful to some of those novels’ main plot points.  Many television shows have successfully done this, without provoking the inevitable ire of the fandom.  Back in 2008, True Blood was applauded for its faithfulness to the murder mystery storyline that comprised the first book of the Sookie Stackhouse book series (serial killer included).

A season later, they were applauded again for creatively diverting from those same books, in order to save the life of a beloved character, who notoriously met his demise on the first few pages of the series’ second novel.

More recently, in 2011, the producers of Game of Thrones received critical acclaim for their almost slavish loyalty to the book series on which it was based.  Critics particularly appreciated the show’s courageous decapitation of the show’s main character, a moral and mostly likeable protagonist, who also happened to be played by a rather well-known and popular actor.

So what made PLL the high school outcast of this group?

The difference in this situation, I think, was that the producers, writers, and cast of PLL failed to properly manage expectations regarding what viewers could expect to see in the season’s final episode.  In what was undoubtedly an attempt at last-minute damage control, Pretty Little Liars showrunner, Marlene King, assured fans that she had never explicitly told fans that the identity of “A” would be different from who it was in the books.  And yet, when countless articles, and press releases, like THIS ONE, and THIS ONE posited this very theory as stemming directly from King, herself, she never exactly disabused fans of this notion, either.

So, when Mona van der Waal acted so RIDICULOUSLY guilty, throughout the show’s second season, that she all but wore a neon sign on her back that said, “I AM A,” recappers and reviewers, like myself, pointedly avoided listing her as our main suspect, simply because we took for granted the fact that the writers weren’t going to go there.

 

So, when they did, in fact, go there, we couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed and betrayed.

And that’s a shame, because it undermined the integrity of what was, by many other respects, a pretty solid finale episode.

Truth be told, of all the possible “A” suspects — with the exception of, perhaps, Not-so-Blind Jenna, and maybe Lucas — Mona had the best motive to be “A.”  After all, she had been shamelessly tortured by Ali throughout most of high school, while the rest of the PLL girls stood idly by, and let it happen.

To make matters worse, Hanna, Mona’s self-proclaimed “one true friend,” has been noticeably distant from Mona, throughout the series, consistently ditching her to engage in “A-Sleuthing” with the rest of the liars . . . (of course, it could be argued that Hanna’s recent absence from her life was actually MONA’S fault).

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And yet, I would have liked to see the producers push the boundaries a bit, by not necessarily going with the most obvious choice for “A.”

We’ve seen the writers take chances like this, earlier in the series, in a number of ways: by introducing new characters, who weren’t in the books, choosing not to kill characters who died in the books, and, in one particular instance, killing a character who DID survive the series.  So, why not do it again, in this instance, by changing the identity of “A” to someone unexpected . . . someone who seemed a bit less . . . for lack of a better term . . . shady?

Or, conversely, I would have liked for the writers to simply be honest about the direction in which the story was headed, by saying something like this: “There are some aspects of the television series that pay homage to the books.  But even faithful book readers will find some surprises in store for them in the season finale.”

This, at least, is a true, and non-misleading, statement.  After all, the finale DID have some surprises contained within it, even for fans of the book series . . .

Unlike a lot of other series’ season finales, which tend to be slow-moving and uneventful, until the last ten minutes of the episode, “UnmAsked” definitely FELT like a season finale.  The episode moved a long at a brisk pace, throughout the hour.

And the genuinely creepy locales where the drama unfolded . . .  for example, the Psycho-inspired motel (complete with its very own Norman Bates, lookalike) and accompanying Shower Scene . . .

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 . . .  the Masquerade Ball filled with strangers and unsavory looking characters . . .

. . .  the abandoned road on a dark and stormy night, A’s “Lair” which looked like it would have been right at home in the first hour of any episode of Law and Order, SVU . . .

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 . . . only added to the building excitement, and unshakeable feeling of impending doom.

I was also really impressed with the acting in this episode.  As the unhinged Mona, Janel Parrish was just the right mix of campy crazy, unintentionally hilarious, and genuinely terrifying.

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Hanna’s shock and sadness at learning her so-called bestie was a total wackadoodle, who HIT HER WITH A CAR, felt real to me.

Shay Mitchell’s Emily literally had me in tears, during the episodes heartbreaking final moments . . . And this is coming from someone who was never a Maya fan.

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(I also adored the parallel between the pilot episode’s Body Discovery, and this one.  That background song they played during both, will haunt me for the rest of my days . . .)

And who could forget the unbeatable Team Sparia, who provided the episode’s only evidence of comic relief . . . not to mention a nice nod to a certain segment of the fandom?

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Speaking of ships,  fans of Ezria . . .

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Spoby . . .

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  . . . and Haleb . . .

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 . . .  all had something to cheer about, when the aforementioned couples each received their respective Happily Ever Afters Nows, this week.

Of course, I still wanted my Wren to make an appearance . . . (Damn you, writers!  DAMN YOU!)

And while the episode did answer some of the major questions plaguing fans throughout the series, it also presented us with plenty of new ones to get us excited for the upcoming third season (which is set to premiere this summer).  Here are just some of the questions that were swimming around my head, after “UnmAsked” concluded:

(1) Who exactly is on the A Team?

Was Mona REALLY it’s leader?

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 (And why didn’t Spencer “join it,” when she was given the chance?  I mean, wouldn’t that have been the perfect way to keep your ENEMIES CLOSER?)

(2) Which mysterious female dressed as The Black Swan at the Masquerade Ball?

(3) Who was Not-so-Blind Jenna talking to in the park, and what mysterious item did she give her (because it looked much too small to be the Black Swan costume)?  And WHEN DID SHE GET HER DRIVER’S LICENSE?

(4) What the F is the deal between Abs Toby and Dr. Sullivan (a.k.a. as the lame shrink who got scared out of town by an eighty pound high schooler?  Is he her son, or what?  How much did they know about what was going on?  And why was it necessary for Toby to “pretend he didn’t love Spencer?”

(5) Who exactly was the creepy chick with the red dess and gold mask at the Masquerade Ball?

And was she the same creepy chick who visited Mona in the loony bin, at the end of the episode?

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(6) Does Mona’s have Supernatural Powers, which enabled her to BEAT UP Spencer and Emily, on separate occasions, and CARRY SPENCER INTO A CAR?  (Oh and how lame was Dr. Sullivan’s explanation of her PSYCHOSIS?  How exactly does being a psychopath, make you seem omniscient to OTHER PEOPLE?  Where exactly did this b*tch go to shrink school anyway, Dunkin Donuts?)

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(7) Did the flashback featuring Mona and “Ali” dressed as Vivian Darkbloom actually happen?  Did “Ali” really not pick up the phone, when Mona called her, like Mona said?  Or was being “A” the price Mona paid for her so-called popularity?

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(8)Who killed Maya (assuming Maya is actually dead) and why?

(9) And, perhaps, most importantly, “WHERE’S MY WREN?”

So, tell me, my Pretties, what were your thoughts on the Season 2 finale?  Were you disappointed that Mona was “A?”  What are your expectations for next season, in light of some of the cliffhangers / new mysteries introduced here?  Feel free to vent to your heart’s content, in the comment section below.  I’ll see you there!

[www.juliekushner.com][Fangirls Forever]

18 Comments

Filed under Pretty Little Liars

18 responses to “Managing Expect-A-tions – A Review of Pretty Little Liar’s Season 2 Finale “UnmAsked”

  1. sassyfran

    Oh and most importantly where was my Wren ? LOL you Have a one track mind babe I LOVE IT!! You can see my rant in my quite long recap 🙂 Thanks so much for your input here though it was enlightening as usual you had a few thoughts that were the same as mine. Thanks for hanging out with me last night blogging. 🙂
    xoxo
    OH by the by I love your picture of Wren, BRAVO!!

    • Hey sassyfran! One of these days, they are going to make Wren a series regular. And I’m going to be emotionally incapable of recapping anything else on this show, aside from his face. I just know it. 😉

      I thought it might be cool to do a full recap / refresher of the episode prior to the summer premiere. After all that is when all of these clues will come in handy again. As annoyed as I was with how the show handled the “A” reveal I was actually really intrigued by all the cliffhangers for next season. Since Maya’s demise is something that didn’t appear in the books, that mystery has so many exciting possibilities. It will be interesting to see how the writers handle a completely original storyline . . . one where they don’t feel tied to any particular ending. Plus, if the writers play their cards right, the reveal of what happened to Maya might actually be a surprise to EVERYONE. 🙂

      Is it June yet?

  2. Cal

    My thoughts? Where the heck was Wren, and most importantly, his accent?? ;D

    • Hey Cal! I’m always glad to meet someone who shares my love of the good Dr. Hotpants. I think it’s safe to say we will see him again, this summer. After all, people are always getting injured in Rosewood. And, as far as we’ve seen, he’s the ONLY DOCTOR AT THAT HOSPITAL. 😉

  3. MCRmyMember

    Hello!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s been too long since I have commented on your posts………..but I must say, they are hysterical! And two posts about the season finale! I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! 🙂
    I was slightly disappointed with Mona being A. Everything pointed to her, but because of spoiler sites like Wetpaint and cast members (who honestly shouldn’t have said anything, because they didn’t know UNTILL they got the finale scripts) the fan base pretty much said she wasn’t that big of a suspect. I did like that they kept her alive, whereas in the books, she dies right after falling off the cliff.
    But honestly, what are the chances of someone surving that fall? I mean, I believe that it is that same cliff that Spencer and Toby went to right before they started to see each other (1×17…..after they discover 214…..I think). But then again, maybe it had to do with the fact that Mona was pretty much dressed as a monk/ninja/batman when they did her reveal. (Seriously, it looked like she was either about to pray, or pull out some superhero tools. I don’t see what the problem was with her dress. I guess they needed it to be more dramatic 🙂 )
    Another thing about Mona…..there are supposidly 2 things that she didn’t do as A. One of those, I’m pretty sure is the back massage to Emily, only because she was with Hanna at the exact time that happened, and the other is carrying Ian’s dead body/killing him. Only because I doubt that she would be able lift him. http://www.wetpaint.com/pretty-little-liars/articles/marlene-king-mona-did-all-but-two-things-to-the-pretty-little-liars
    Spencer and Toby…….I love them together…..I really do. And I think I have some answers for what is going on between Dr. Sullivan and Toby… http://www.wetpaint.com/pretty-little-liars/articles/what-is-tobys-connection-to-dr-sullivan-pretty-little-liars-producer-explains
    Also, on Spoby…….they might be getting it on! http://www.wetpaint.com/pretty-little-liars/articles/pretty-little-liars-spoiler-will-spoby-have-sex-in-season-3
    Hanna and Caleb. Fabulous and cute as always. 🙂 I expect more next season, now that Tyler Blackburn is a series regular.
    Aria and Ezra….awesome, and very sweet, but kind-of expected. (but that’s how it almost always is, isn’t it?)
    Oh, Emily. Watching Shay Mitchell cry is like watching puppies get kicked. No, stabbed. 😦 Honestly, if whoever killed Maya is the same person who killed Alison, they must have a really big thing against lesbian relationships (first Alison, now Maya. Note to self: NEVER GO OUT WITH EMILY!) Just watch it be Paige who killed Maya out of jealousy.
    And seriously, was Paige wearing a f***ing suit to the ball? I mean, we get it, you’re out of the closet, and we are all very happy for you, but you don’t need to cross dress to win Emily’s heart. 🙂
    The black swan…..I would have automatically guessed that it was Jenna, but it looked like she was standing right next to the black swan (and Lucas, by the way……..I would have enjoyed seeing him as A, to be perfectly honest. Or Ezra. Because that would be a total mind f**k.)
    As for the A team…..THEY ARE GOING TO BE UNMASKED!!!!!!!!!! I seriously hope that we can get even more answers next season. I honestly couldn’t care less about how killed Ali this episode, but I have a feeling that we will delve into that mystery next season, just because we focused on A during this one.
    I can’t wait for the recap, and the next season, which starts airing on June 5!!!!!!! 😉

    • :)

      “And seriously, was Paige wearing a f***ing suit to the ball? I mean, we get it, you’re out of the closet, and we are all very happy for you, but you don’t need to cross dress to win Emily’s heart” hahahaha i couldn’t have said it better. Exactly. that was funny

    • Hey MCRMyMember! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! 🙂 I think you are absolutely right about the spoiler articles and actor interviews ultimately dictating who people thought would be “A,” more so than the clues on the show. After all, when you think about it, those clues always pointed to Mona.

      Back when I recapped the last episode, I conducted an informal poll on who people thought was “A,” and Fitzy won by a HUGE margin. I can’t help but wonder whether the results would have been different, had the spoiler sites not pretty much explicitly removed Mona from the suspect list. Because while there were SOME suspicious things that Fitzy did, he never looked nearly as suspicious as Mona, Jenna, Melissa, or even Lucas.

      I also agree with you that the actors probably shouldn’t have made guesses to the press as to who “A” would or wouldn’t be, knowing that there was a good chance they’d be taken out of context . . . especially because, for most of the first two seasons they had no idea. A good example of an actor learning about the script after the fact was the interviews conducted with Bianca Lawson prior to the finale. In the first one, she claimed she wouldn’t be in the finale, since the actres knew she hadn’t been called to film for the episode. But then later, she backtracked and said she WAS in the finale, having, by that time, learned her characters fate.

      Hmmm . . . I was wondering if one of the things Mona didn’t do as “A” was the fire at Jason’s house. Here’s why I think this is the case. For one thing, now that we know that Jenna is most definitely on the A Team, and her betrayal of Garrett helped the “A” cause, as opposed to hurting it. So, I’m not sure why Mona would want to hurt Jenna. I’m thinking that the fire was either caused by Ali’s killer, or . . . it was meant for Maya, and has to do more with next season’s mystery, than with this season’s. Just a thought . . .

      I also agree with you about the moving of Ian’s body. It seems unlikely Mona would have been able to do that without help. Then again, it also seems unlikely that she would have been able to carry Spencer into that car, without help. So, what do I know. 🙂

      Thanks for the scoop on Dr. Sullivan and Toby. That part of the episode really did seem to come out of no where. So, I’m hoping it gets fleshed out a bit next season. I’m also excited to hear that Tyler Blackburn is a series regular. Now that everyone knows about “A” and what she did to the girls, Hanna will no longer have to keep so many secrets from Caleb. And I think his tech savvy will be extremely helpful to the rest of the girls, when it comes to solving the mysteries of seasons to come.

      LOL about Paige. What a way for the writers to smack us on the head with a point that had already been made WHEN SHE KISSED EMILY IN PUBLIC . . . Girlfriend is OUT. She doesn’t have to wear a billboard proclaiming it. Then again, maybe she just really likes suits. 🙂

      For now, I’m going to go with Melissa as the Black Swan. I think we will find out next season that she’s been faking her pregnancy . . . though I’m not quite sure why one would do that. 🙂

      I’m super excited for next season. I have really high hopes for it. Thanks so much for talking PLL with me this winter. It was fun!

  4. :)

    Anyways the finale….not my favorite and mostly because they killed Maya. You do not realize how shocked i was, and the tears that suddenly came up. I actually had hope that those theories of her dying was not true, or she was off somewhere smoking a giant doobie, but that moment i heard that song I KNEW it was over…i just couldn’t believe how everyone’s love were safe and happy, but poor Em (who never ever gets happiness) had to be heartbroken.
    I will mostly state my opinion about the finale in your full recap, but yeahhh…thanks for always recapping

    😦

    • Hey :),

      I’m with you. Maya’s death was mega depressing. My heart breaks for Emily, every time I watch that last scene. For what it’s worth, though, I think this means we are going to see a lot MORE of Maya next season, as opposed to less. If “What happened to Maya?” ends up being one of next season’s big mysteries (which I suspect it will, given all the intrigue surrounding her recent departure), Maya could theoretically become the next Ali, featured in extended flashbacks in nearly every episode.

      From the actress’ perspective, a storyline like this could end up giving her a lot more to work with, than just being one of the main character’s girlfriends. It could essentially make her one of the stars of the show. Either way, I definitely don’t think this will be the last we see of Maya . . . even if it’s the last we see of her in “Real Time.”

      I hope that helped a bit. 😉

  5. Christy

    So accidentally found this site and I am so glad I came across it! I love it! You guys have me laughing!
    So I’m not sure but I been really thinking about the last episode and while I was watching, I kept saying,”Yes, I knew it…I figured it out! It is Mona! And Toby was just pretending!” But then the whole thing with her being visited by the real “A” threw me off guard just a tad. So I watch the last episode over and over again. And i think Ezra (even though I LOVE him) is in all of this. If you stop where Jenna is talking to someone at the bench and really look, you can see that it is a guy. “I’ve thought about this moment wondering what I would say to you If I saw you again.” And who did it look like? Ezra! I might be wrong tho, or at least I hope. Who could someone she hasn’t seen be? Jenna did take pottery class at the school Ezra works at. Anyways what does Jenna give this person? Could it be a mask? And this black swan person, well after looking at it, I figured out that it’s Melissa! And I have no doubt about it, did you see when the whole Maya scene came into play, she was just standing there, she knows. I don’t like her. She is out to get Spencer for stealing all her boyfriends. She is psycho, like nanny Carie! And to be honest, even though Em was really distraught, I was kind of happy Maya died, even thought I’m not sure if she is really dead. What does she have to do with the whole A team anyways?
    So do you guys all think that A is actually a team? Or that there is one mastermind behind it all? Can we agree that the A team is made up of; Nolan, Lucas, Mona, Melissa, Ian, Jenna, Garrettt, and Jason so far? Maybe Maya, she knew too much and thats why she got killed? Or something along those lines, or its just a coverup?
    And why did the real “A” plant garrets badge on Jenna’s porch, is that why Jenna told Toby about the missing page 5? She obviously new what it was and what would happen to Garrett. Is it payback, because she thinks Garrett tired to kill her? Is A starting up trouble in her own group?
    Okay so the whole Toby thing I knew it was him pretending the whole time, trying to figure stuff out when he said it in an earlier episode that he had a reason for what he was doing. But did he figure anything out while playing nice with Jenna? And did he f**ck her again? Im sure Jenna would have loved that! And how did Toby get in contact with Dr. Sullivan?
    Mona says its revenge because they took Hannah away from her but that doesn’t make any sense. A started texting them way before the group(Aria, Hannah, Spencer, Emily) reunited. So that is like saying she caused that all to happen.
    And I agree, where is Wren!! And his beautiful accent? I miss him! Bring him back!!

    Thanks again!
    -C

    • Hey Christy! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I’m so glad you found this site. 🙂

      I love your theory about the man Jenna was talking to at the park being Fitzy. Like you said, he is someone Jenna used to interact with a lot . . . both at school and when she took that pottery class . . . and then stopped interacting with. Then again, her statement about “seeing” someone again, really could have referred to anyone, since Jenna has been blind, up until very recently. But what task would Jenna have given Fitzy to do at the ball? Hmmm . .

      Jenna definitely seemed like she was talking to a man in the park . . . She was flirtatious, and coy, in a way she wouldn’t necessarily be with a woman. But if it was a woman, my money would have been on Melissa. The most logical explanation for that scene was that Jenna was handing someone the black swan costume, so that she could divert the girls from what was REALLY going on that night . . . both between Spencer and Mona, and maybe, something else, that was happening at the Masquerade Ball that we don’t yet know about.

      Another option could have been the girl in the red dress, who we saw at the Ball, who I think (1) is the same girl who visited Mona at the end of the episode; (2) may be Ali’s twin sister; and (3) may actually be the one Mona is seen meeting during her flashback . . . the one who supposedly helped her to become popular. That would tie some loose ends together, right?

      As for Maya’s death, I think it would be kind of interesting if it had nothing at all to do with Ali’s death or “A.” We will likely still be delving into Ali’s murder this coming season. But I think it might be refreshing for Maya to have a mystery all her own, revolving around what happened to her at druggie camp. Because, judging by the way she acted when she returned, that place really did seem to screw her up in a major way. . .

      I’m also with you on Mona’s ultimate explanation being a little bit flimsy. I think it would have made more sense, if she just said, “I was getting back at you for letting Ali torture me, all those years.” That would have made more sense, since even back when Hanna was “Hefty Hanna,” she was still friends with all the PLL girls, and Ali, and likely ignored Mona then, just as much as the rest of them did.

      Because you are right, the recovery of Ali’s body, and the A texts were what brought the girls back together. By doing all that A stuff, Mona was really making it worse for herself, and her friendship with Hanna. So, basically, her plan backfired, bigtime. Maybe the evil genius isn’t quite as smart as she thinks . . . 😉

  6. Meghan

    Hey, awesome recap but are you still posting a full review at a later time?

    • Absolutely, Meghan. Sorry about the delay. It’s just that time got a bit away from me. And I fear if I posted my full recap now, no one would read it.

      My current plan is to rewatch the episode when it gets closer to the summer premiere. I’d like to post the full recap then, as a sort of “refresher course” on the episode. This way, it will be fresh in my mind, when we return to Rosewood for Season 3. 😉

  7. Oooh, please do post it! You know we’ll all read it! It’s just not the same without reading about Abs Toby and seeing that pic of Ella hissing…

    • LOL. Awww, thanks so much, Kat. Your post made me smile. 🙂 I know I promised a refresher PLL post before the new season (which I am definitely recapping, by the way). But will Teen Wolf premiering two episodes Sunday and Monday, I’m not sure I’ll be able to publish the refresher in time for Tuesday’s Season 3 premiere. I guess I’ll just have to make THAT recap extra special Abs-Tobyish and Hissing Ella-full to make up for lost time. 😉

      • Ok, but make sure there are lots of Ezria pics and gifs of Abs Toby’s abs! 🙂 And if you can throw in a DUN DUN DUN shocked chipmunk, that’d be cool 😛

        The only pity is that we never saw Ella having dinner with Ezra and Aria. I’m sure that would have had some excellent gif-potential.

      • You have a great memory, Kat. Thanks so much for your kind words. You know, I was thinking of you, when I was writing my first PLL recap. I think you will find a some solid Ezria screencaps (special thanks to my pal over at the Ian Harding Fanatic blog) a few Abs Toby shots, two dramatic chipmunks, and one hissing Ella in my new PLL cap. 😉 I even threw in some links to YouTube videos of the pilot episode for good measure.

        As for Ella and Fitzy at dinner, based on next week’s sneak peeks, you may just get your wish in that regard as well. 🙂

  8. Ooooh ooh! I’m gonna read it now! And it’s not that I have a great memory…I literally only discovered this site the day I first commented! I still have all of season 1’s recaps to read!

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