Fringe Observations: 2.17 White Tulip

Welcome to Fringe Observations: the comprehensive Clues and Eastereggs Round-up for episode 17 of season 2 – “White Tulip”.

Below the jump we dig deep into the mythology, make connections and attempt to unlock the secrets of Fringe as we explore the various clues and eastereggs from the episode.

Vitamin See

The clue for this episode was the Total Energy vitamins bottle which foreshadowed the large amounts of energy Alistair Peck’s time travelling drained from his destinations.

It’s also interesting to note that both this and the previous episode dealt with the exchange or transfer of energy as a central theme.

God Could Be Watching

With themes of God and divine miracles from above, not to mention the broader focus on observation and perception, I found the “God Could Be Watching” sign held by Train station Boy to be quite meaningful.

I suspect this could play into a much larger theme in seasons to come.

Out of The Blue

For a long time I’ve believed that the blue flashes (or lights) held some significance due to the nature and frequency of their application. We got more evidence of that in this episode when they appeared during Peck’s time jumps. In this instance the blue flashes seemingly denote ENERGY. (or perhaps, travel).

We can also look back at other blue flash instances and see a pattern regarding their appearance when high amounts of energy are on display:

Such as David Robert Jones teleporting out of a German prison to Little Hill, USA, in “Safe”.

And the time Jones opened up a portal to the alternate universe at Reiden Lake (where Walter brought Peter over) in the season 1 finale.

Not to mention Olivia seemingly teleporting/transferring her way to William Bell Town after being crudely dragged to the alt. universe, also in the season 1 finale.

In all three of these examples (and there are others) the flashes could be argued to signify large amounts of energy, just as Peck’s time travelling implied. In the previous episode I also wondered whether the blue hues were significant, it seems we’ve got our answer since that episode was all about energy exchange and Heath was gagging for a top-up.

It’s still unclear whether we’ll ever have a universal meaning behind the blue lights, but I’ll maintain my belief that we wont have to look too far beyond, energy, travel, observation, convergence or changes (i.e. time line edits) to find intentional significance regarding the blue flashes.

Time To Reflect

In last our “Peter” Observations I mentioned how the clock was used to add tension to the confrontation between Olivia in Walter. This episode featured a similar device, with Walter writing his letter to Peter in front of a ticking clock and a photo of himself and Peter. Both the clock and the photo hold Walter’s reflection giving us a myriad of symbolism, including; the introspective nature of the scene, the ‘ticking time bomb’ that is Walter’s secret, the reflective nature of Walter, his guilt in taking Peter from a mirrored reality, and of course, the clock on its own illustrates the time travel theme of the episode.

I also appreciated the following shot of Walter writing his confession at the doorway. It seems somehow appropriate:

Already There

For an episode about time travel, the “Be There In No Time” slogan is almost winking at us with gleeful intent. Let’s wink back.. 😉

Coat of Armour

Peck is wearing the same (or very similar) trench coat to the one Walter sometimes wears when they really want us to notice that white is our Walter’s thematic color. I call it Walter’s science coat, so I guess it’s quite fitting really.

In His Image-ry

An episode filled with religious imagery highlighting Walter as man not only of science, but also of faith in a higher benevolent power. He holds the cross with his surgical gloves as if searching for meaning, his request for a sign of forgiveness no doubt heavy on his mind. He then lets go of the cross and leaves his hand outstretched for a noticeable period, as if he is still holding on to it. Thematically, it reminds me of the Creation of Adam puzzle from last week’s Observations.

There was also some more spiritual imagery that caught my eye:

Peck stands in an open palm, almost cross-like position. Directorially, I’m sure this is intentional.

There are several occasions when Walter holds his hands in a prayer position, reaffirming his search for God. We even hear Walter say “Oh my God!” several times.

Peck shields his eyes from Walter. No doubt his conscience is being tested, but thematically this can be interpreted as a sign of reverence to a higher order. Whether that higher order is Walter Bishop, Science or God is open to perspective.

This has to be my favorite. For me it comes across as though Walter is in a confessional (the mesh acting as the lattice), which given the context of the episode and the burden of Walter’s secret, can’t be a directorial coincidence.

I also find it interesting how, in the episode, Walter essentially plays the role of the confessor (admitting his sins) and Peck the role of the priest (absolving Walter of his sins by sending him the white tulip from ‘God’).

As touched on in our review – given the fact that Peck believes his God to be Science, it’s interesting to consider who’s behalf Peck is acting on by sending Walter the white tulip. Is it in the name of Science, or his Peck an unknowing instrument of God’s mysterious workings. I’m inclined to believe the latter, but it’s perhaps one of the show’s best open-ended questions to date.

Glyph Only They Knew

The glyphs were back for yet more fun and games. The butterfly glyph appears on Peck’s kitchen wall..

..and on the wall of his Lab..

..while the seahorse glyph can be found lurking in his bathroom cabinet in search of a pick-me-up.

Green It, Mean It. Red It, Shed It

Much like several of the previous episodes there seemed to be a concerted effort to mark this episode with green and red thematic portions. An example of some of the green markings are above.

And here we see two of the more prominent red markers.

(There were also large amounts of “blue” put away to one side in Peck’s house)

Also, is it really a coincidence that Peck’s ‘epiphany balloon’ just happened to be the same color as his fiance’s car. Like I said in our review: Hmmm.

Better Eight Than Never

Olivia’s lucky number made a welcome return in the shape of Walter placing the prototypes together to make an “8”.

The number 8 can also be viewed as Infinity, echoing Peck’s repeated time meddling, and the subtle infinity references that I believe have been hinted at over the past 2 seasons.

Observing The Observer

The Observer had everyone waiting this time around as he observed Peck’s final act before the universe literally came crashing in on him and the missus.

See You Around

Peter giving Walter his repaired turntable stood out to me because I took it to represent the cyclical nature of the episode, and the show in general. It’s one of the things that I’ve been tracking for a while so it was good to have this reference.

Specifically, the turntable (i.e. the circle) relates to the repeating (or cyclical) events experienced in the episode, not to mention Walter mulling over and over and over how to tell Peter the truth.

Peck’s line to Train station Boy: “I’m sorry you have to go through this again”, is another reference to the circular nature of the episode, which further ties into the question of whether humanity is inherently inclined to repeat the same mistakes and actions, or whether our choices can break free from the constraints of fate – a bit like how Walter’s ultimate decision to burn the letter served as a momentary change in his ‘original’ course, or Peter not being in line with his own destiny.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall..

Whether intentional or not, this seems particularly poignant. Walter walks past the mirror creating a mirror image of himself, reflecting the fact that there’s also another Walter Bishop in the alternate universe. In the reflection we also see the map of the world mentioned in the “Peter” Observations. So, we have two Walters but only one world, perhaps echoing the ZFT warning that “only one world will survive” the war. Indeed, who is the fairest world of them all?

Seeing as the mirrored world (alternate reality) is the only one that we see, could this be the most subtle of subtle hints that the Other Side will be the one to prevail? Obviously the scene is constructed so that we can’t see our own world without the aid of the mirror, but like I’ve said before, some of the best clues are those which drive the creative instincts of the creators.

Violet Sedan Chair

Updated 2011: Peter can be seen with a copy of Violet Sedan Chair.

Other Clues

  • The Red Balloon may also be a reference to the 1956 short fantasy film about a young boy who one day finds a sentient, mute, red balloon. As one does. Thanks to Dave in the review comments for this neat suggestion.
  • We’ve seen this train painting before, but it was fitting that it received such prominent focus with the reveal that Walter ‘loves trains’ and with Peck’s time jumps draining the energy from a train.
  • A Bell stamp as in William Bell. I thought I saw another bell in this episode but I contrived to forget where. I’ll update if and when I remember. Unless I imagined it, which is quite possible.
  • A White Tulip is a symbol of forgiveness, which is presumably why Walter asked God for that sign specifically.
  • The Glyphs for this episode spelled SECRET, as in Walter’s secret about Peter being from the alternate universe. Shhh, don’t let Peter know.

As always, if you have any comments on the above article, or you feel that we’ve missed anything out, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. says

    That picture of Walter passing that small mirror made me wonder whether or not Walternate is perhaps watching our Walter through a “window” like our Walter watched him in “Peter”.

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  2. says

    i don’t think there’s much symbolism in the clock sequence: the time frame is different in the 2 shots.
    at the beginning of the episode, it’s 9:00 and Peter calls Walter on the phone because the people died on the train.
    at the end of the episode, the time is 10:00 and Peter shows with the turntable he had time to fix because nothing happened.

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    • says

      Hey Xeen,

      I just want to clarify, is this a general comment or are you referring to the “Time To Reflect” observation? :)

      I definitely agree that those clock scenes are self explanatory, in the way you describe. But I would say that the ‘symbolism’ comes from the unspoken quality of those scenes and how they relate to the broader themes explored in the episode – time travel, Walter’s secret, Walter’s contemplation, etc.

      That said, it’s all open to interpretation – your view is as good as any.

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  3. mlj102 says

    God could be watching/Already there: I thought both of these signs were deliberate, clever, and perfect examples of the way Fringe includes those subtle references in the various episodes — I love it!

    In his imagery: Thanks for pointing out the numerous instances of religious imagery — I hadn’t made the connection between most of those instances, but I think you’re right in connecting them to the religion theme. Nice job!

    Glyphs: I was so proud of myself for spotting both the seahorse and the butterfly in the kitchen, though I had been completely oblivious to the one on the wall (though I do believe that’s in his house, not his lab, right? I specifically remember that picture being in his home… or is it in both locations?) I even remember seeing that shot and I just didn’t notice the glyph. It kind of goes to show how something can be right in front of you, right under your nose, and even if you’re looking for it, you can miss it.

    Red: I definitely thought it was no coincidence that his fiancee’s car just happened to be bright red like the hot air balloon. Actually, it could also be significant that her car is one of those volkswagen bug models (I’m not a car expert by any means — I just call them ‘slugbugs’ so I hope that’s the right model name for the kind of car I’m talking about…) because of the way it’s small and round — it actually could resemble a balloon…

    See you around: I like your interpretation of the “circular pattern” of the episode — I think that’s a great insight. One comment: You mentioned, “…which further ties into the question of whether humanity is inherently inclined to repeat the same mistakes and actions, or whether our choices can break free from the constraints of fate” and it made me think about how Walter and Peck were essentially faced with the same decision about trying to save a loved one. You’ve got the cycle starting with Walter, who lost his son, and chose to disregard all the “rules” and travel to another reality, cure him, and kidnap him. And now he’s facing all the consequences from that choice. And now we find Peck who is faced with a similar situation: he lost his fiancee and is trying to go back in time to save her, despite the “rules” and the consequences. And, if he had been able to continue without any interference, the same cycle that started with Walter would have continued. But they were able to break that cycle and avoid repeating the same mistakes by the way Walter was able to share his experience and pass on the warnings of the consequences that he learned from personal experience and, consequently, Peck decided not to go through with it, effectively breaking the cycle.

    Reflections: Did you include all of the reflections for my benefit, because I was really excited to see you reference them all in your post… :)

    Red balloon: It also could be a subtle Wizard of Oz reference — it’s been a long time since I watched that movie, but if I remember correctly, there’s a hot air balloon near the end, right?

    Other observations:

    I know you’ve focused a lot on instances where Walter checks someone’s eyes, so it stood out to me in the beginning of the episode when Walter was examining the victims on the train, and at one point he checked someone’s eyes…

    47: I noticed in the file Broyles showed Olivia that Peck was born in 1947.

    It’s hard to tell, but at one point when Peter is checking the various electronic devices on the train, we see one of the devices from the back, and I thought I could make out the Massive Dynamic logo on it. Of course, I could be wrong with that one, but I thought I’d point it out.

    I noticed the license plate on Olivia’s car was “1R2D21″ — I seem to remember seeing that license plate before, but that it wasn’t Olivia … can anyone remember the other episode that had the R2D2 license plate? I remember it was “1C3PO1″ in Grey Matters… Fun.

    Just a slight correction: you mentioned “In the reflection we also see the map of the world mentioned in the “Peter” Observations.” but it’s actually in the Observations for Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver that you pointed out that map…

    I thought it seemed a little suspicious when Peck told Walter that his fiancee had died on May 18, at 2:18. Is there some significance to 18? Or is it just because it includes the number 8? One thought I had was that the time being 2:18 made me think of the next episode being episode 18 of Season 2… Or am I stretching on that one?

    Question: The first time the FBI raid Peck’s home, when we first see them go through the door, you can see a picture on the wall of the stairs — I was wondering if this is just a random picture or if it’s some famous picture with any sort of significance. Anyone able to identify the picture?

    And, finally, in response to one of your Observations from Peter, I mentioned how I’ve been keeping an eye out for boats, so I thought I’d point out that there were three small pictures of boats on the back wall in the diner/cafe where Olivia went to identify Peck the first time around.

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    • LMH says

      Some nice catches there!
      I really thought May 18th meant something too, so I actually looked up a list of significant historical events that took place on that day and nothing really jumped out at me. It actually made me think of Goya’s painting, but that of course was the 3rd of May, not related. Perhaps some kind of end date for something? or just a number tease for a season 3 event? That would be very interesting. Maybe Peter will find out in 2.18 about his origins at 5:18 pm ; )

      I think the R2D2 license plate will also appear in the next episode if I remember correctly (promo pics).

      On 1947: Also just a year after Walter was born, and as you point out a nice little 47.

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      • Lauren says

        May 18th is also my birthday. And Tina Fey’s. And the deceased Pope John Paul II. Although they’re both more significant than me…

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    • says

      Hi mlj,

      Excellent thoughts all round.

      Re: Good point on Walter managing to prevent Peck from making the same mistake that he made by sharing his experience. It can be easily overlooked that Walter was quite the “hero” in this episode.

      I like the red balloon/Wiz of Oz connection.

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  4. NappyP says

    I saw the cross that Walter examined to be some form a foreshadow to Peck. As you pointed out earlier, Peck took the arms out pose and had the copper wire around him. Just like the cross.

    Science around Faith.

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  5. LMH says

    Fantastic observations for a fantastic episode. I love all of the religious symbolism you’ve picked up on here. Walter behind the screen really stood out to me but I didn’t have time to reflect too much on it (distracted by the action in the scene). So many little things that you’ve threaded together that really make the episode even more impressive. I am particularly excited by these religious overtones that have been spread throughout the show’s short history, but that are now becoming more central as active questions including God’s role in all of this.
    Our train station friend’s sign (a *sign*?) that God could be watching is so provocative. I also find it wonderful that Walter has this faith in God as it means he now understands himself as responsible before someone/thing over and above himself: Walter knows he is accountable in some kind of overwhelming, ultimate sense. Yes he is responsible for the consequences his actions have had on those around him and fellow human beings, but he knows he is responsible before God and history; he changed the plan, Peter’s destiny, and those involved in his fate including his alt-parents. (Or did he?)

    Reminds me of the distinction (particularly in the Old Testament) between offenses against fellow man and offenses against God. Walter sees his act as one of ultimate transgression, one which only God can forgive. Forgiveness from Peter would serve to alleviate the guilt of an offense against a fellow human being, that which would bring Walter an immediate kind of relief (and usually the only truly tangible form of forgiveness human beings can hope to receive). Amazingly, he gets a sign of divine forgiveness for the transgression against the divine first. Whether it is God working in mysterious ways or man working in a way that is wonderfully Godlike–Peck providing what comfort and forgiveness he had the capacity to offer Walter–or a mixture of both, I find it intriguing indeed.

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    • says

      LMH: “Reminds me of the distinction (particularly in the Old Testament) between offenses against fellow man and offenses against God. Walter sees his act as one of ultimate transgression, one which only God can forgive. Forgiveness from Peter would serve to alleviate the guilt of an offense against a fellow human being, that which would bring Walter an immediate kind of relief (and usually the only truly tangible form of forgiveness human beings can hope to receive). Amazingly, he gets a sign of divine forgiveness for the transgression against the divine first. Whether it is God working in mysterious ways or man working in a way that is wonderfully Godlike–Peck providing what comfort and forgiveness he had the capacity to offer Walter–or a mixture of both”

      LMH, very nicely said – thanks for sharing.

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  6. edgesight says

    I thought maybe the clue for this episode was the lamps in Lloyd’s apartment that looked like white tulips.

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    • Anjali says

      I actually thought it (white tulip) was hidden in the map in Walter’s house. It was visible when Olivia was talking to him at the end of the episode (“Olivia. in the lab. in the revolver”)… right behind her.

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  7. Inter-dimensional Dave says

    Roco, I was inspired by your “In His Image-ry” section.

    Of the many themes presented to us by Fringe one of the most intriguing is the attempt at reconciliation between faith and reason. Or more notably how the men of science reconcile their work with what they perceive as the will of God. As these men (or women like Carla!) push the envelope they often run into an existential crisis where their work seems to propel them further away from their faith. Questions of the meaning of life, its purpose and its intrinsic value are raised and the individual becomes isolated as they struggle with their own mortality and the determination behind their existence.

    To resolve this crisis one of the mechanisms to employ is one of “anchoring”. Anchoring provides the individual with a solid foundation from which he or she can establish a basis in morality and value. One of the firmaments of anchoring is God or church. This explains why Carla was so level headed while Walter was so hopelessly adrift with his struggles and only now is coming to grips with his crisis. Walter is seeking reconciliation with the errors of his ways and is now pursuing absolution. This will be important as he must remain grounded to face the looming crisis ahead.

    Many thanks to creators/writers of Fringe who present their viewers with new intellectual challenges each week. They don’t take us for granted.

    As we often see art imitates life. (Or is it the other way around?) This past week photos are being published of the way Einsteins desk looked on the day he died. Its rather poignant to witness how one of the great minds of the 20th century had his own struggles with existential reconciliation. I’ve included a link below so you can “observe” the book amidst all the clutter. It reminds me of the notes from Walters desk you can find on the Fox website.

    Sorry if the link doesn’t work. Try cut/paste or just Google Einsteins desk.

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    • says

      Dave, fantastic points.

      From my perspective, I definitely agree that individuals need that “anchor” to help provide balance, reason and strength. It’s interesting to see that Walter needed more than science to see him through. The idea that Walter, of all people, needed something ‘extra’ – particularly in times of strife, is immensely interesting to me.

      I wonder – Had he not taken Peter and caused those cracks in the universe, would Walter have arrived at the same point of faith eventually? Was this always his journey, regardless of ‘how’ he got there? Hmm….

      BTW – I caught wind of that picture earlier – very interesting. Thanks for the link.

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  8. Catachresis says

    The date of Peck’s fiancee’s death does seem pertinent. MAYBE they refer to biblical passages.

    2:18 (Hebrews 2:18)
    For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

    5:18 (John 5:18)
    We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him

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  9. FringedOutChris says

    Not sure if it has been metioned yet Roco, but have we not seen something else that really resembles the Hot Air Balloon? I believe it was a next-ep clue last season called ‘Red Balloon Lager’? Maybe I am mistaken, but thought maybe you could do something with it.. cheers..

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    • says



      I’m not sure on the level of intent but the Red Balloon Lager was indeed the episode clue for the 17th episode of season 1, so there’s a mild correlation there. 1.17 also featured a lot of balloon imagery.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Nicole says

    I thought it was mildly interesting that Peter gets home at 11 in the morning and says he’s going to hit the hay…

    and I thought 2.18 was the episode number and May 18–5.18 is the season finale. They keep mentioning it so something big is going to happen and that’s the date…

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    • mlj102 says

      “I thought it was mildly interesting that Peter gets home at 11 in the morning and says he’s going to hit the hay…”

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed that and thought it was somewhat strange. Although, I suppose if he’s been up all night fixing Walter’s turntable, it makes sense that he would be ready for a nap. Still, random schedule!

      “and I thought 2.18 was the episode number and May 18–5.18 is the season finale.”

      Actually, White Tulip was episode 2.17, so 2.18 is the next episode number. And the finale is May 20 — May 18 is a Tuesday. As far as I’m aware, they haven’t mentioned May 18 before. They did have the combination lock in Jacksonville — 5-20-10 — which most people have interpreted as foreshadowing some big event taking place on May 20, 2010, which is when the finale is scheduled to air.

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  11. Nicole says

    My fault, I was remembering the dates wrong! Should’ve done a reality check before posting, but yeah the recurring numbers theme is interesting and I’d also noticed the 5-18 in the previous episode. I still think it’s a significant date of some sorts. I’m surprised 137 hasn’t come up as that is a significant unknown number in quantum theory. Although with a stretch, the 47s that keep popping up all over are kind of a derivitive of that. Probably not even what the writers are doing though.

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  12. anita says

    Yeah, I agree with the Walternate watching idea… also I have a theory that Walternate became the big honcho in the alternate universe… perhaps gone bad – and he is behind all of this – spurred on by the loss of Peter… and I still kinda think the WALTERS switched when Peter was “taken”… and I still think Peter was the first genetically engineered human and that’s why he had the “genetic” disease… and why he is so important, and perhaps the Cortexaphan kids were the second batch… and one universe of them died, thus there is no Olivianate. And Olivia’s sister’s kid has got to be Olivia’s own.

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  13. Philip A. Centaur says

    RE: 2:18

    I just noticed in “Brown Betty” that the number on the door to Walter’s office (or wherever he was in the lab, telling Ella the story) is 218. Probably nothing, like all of my observations, but whatever. Whoomp.

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  14. says

    I don’t normally watch these shows that closely BUT Fringe is soo awesome and has sucked my wife and I in. I am hoping someone can tell me if I am watching the show too close are there was a code that flashed in Walters eye/eyes as he sat and talked with Peck? The scene I am talking about it when Walter is telling Peck about the white tulip and what it would mean to him. Could it be tied in to the blue light/power exchange theory? Or I am just looking too hard?

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  15. Maureen E says

    Someone may have mentioned this before, but Peck’s stance with his eyes covered could also relate to the theme of him being a priest hearing Walter’s confession.

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  16. Arun says

    This is really, really late, but I just re-watched the episode and noticed something. Has anyone noticed that the teapot Peck uses to make tea is a specific teapot known here in the UK as a “Brown Betty”? 😀

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  17. Fran says

    Congrats Arun! Listen to the first couple of minutes of commentary on the DVD release of “Brown Betty”… They do read this blog !

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