Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Violations"

**1/2

Air date: 2/3/1992
Teleplay by Pamela Gray & Jeri Taylor
Story by Shari Goodhartz & T. Michael and Pamela Gray
Directed by Robert Wiemer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise plays host to some Ullians, a race of telepaths who have the ability to probe others' minds and bring to the surface long-buried memories that are lying dormant in a subject's head. The Ullians do this to help people and for reasons of historian scholarship. But then strange things begin to happen. Troi experiences a memory with Riker that suddenly goes awry. One of the Ullians, named Jev (Ben Lemon), puts himself in Riker's place in one of Troi's memories and assaults her. The memory invasion leaves her in a coma. When Riker and Crusher attempt to get to the bottom of the coma mystery, they also end up in comas. The story itself makes no mystery of the villain; the teaser ends with an ominous shot of Jev that has no purpose other than to make him look suspicious.

Here's an episode that tries to deal with some challenging, more grown-up subject matter that is somewhat less ... shall we say, sanitized than your typical Trekkian fare. It does this while trying not to step for a moment outside the boundaries of family-friendly TNG that could air at any hour (or TV-PG, in the parlance of our post-1996-American-TV-ratings-system times), despite the fact that an implied sexual assault is at the center of the plot. If that sounds like a paradox, it is. The result is an episode that could've been edgy and psychologically intense (and at times comes close, within its predefined constraints) but in the end sort of comes off as a compromise. To put this in the terms of the TOS mantra of Using Sci-Fi Metaphors to Tell Stories We Otherwise Couldn't Get By the Censors: If memory invasion is supposed to a metaphor for rape, it's odd that the metaphor then includes an actual (well, kinda-sorta implied) rape.

The idea of using a person's memories against them, for the sake of psychological terror, is intriguing. (Crusher ends up in a coma when she relives a twisted-around memory of her husband's death.) And some of the dreamlike atmosphere here is suitably intense. This episode could've worked.

But the last act falls apart when Jev — who believes he has already gotten away with the crime by framing his father Tarmin (David Sage) for it — goes to Troi's quarters and then tries to attack her all over again, this time physically. It just doesn't make any sense — unless Jev is so obsessed with Troi he has completely lost his mind. Why would he go to the trouble of turning his mind-rape spree into a frame-job only to then out himself as the perpetrator? This is just a sloppy way to tie things up with action rather than dialogue — and it's unnecessary too, since Data and Geordi solve the case with their own investigation.

I also could've done without the episode's preachy final scene, which has dialogue that basically says humans (unlike Ullians, apparently, who are condescended to here based on the actions of one person) are so perfect now that there's apparently no such thing as violence as extreme as rape anymore, which flies in the face of common sense. This scene is also a clear violation of the show-don't-tell rule. "Violations" shows and then tells, just in case you didn't get it.

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29 comments on this review

Nic - Sat, Apr 2, 2011 - 4:40pm (USA Central)
Yeah, I'm not sure if this episode could've worked given its constraints. And what's the message? "Rape is bad"? I'm not saying every episode of Star Trek should have a message, but if you're going to deal with rape, you'd better have something more profound to say about it. How about "the most damaging part of rape is not the physical act but the psychological consequences". Simple, but true and not shown enough in fiction.
startrekwatcher - Sat, Apr 2, 2011 - 8:35pm (USA Central)
I think people are looking for more in this episode than was ever intended by the writers. It isn't meant to be a big rape episode--it is a psychological thriller and on those intended terms it works very well or at least it did for me since I felt genuine concern for each of those assaulted by the crew, were invested in each of the attacks, enjoyed Data and Geordi's investigation efforts especially the scene where we see Geordi methodically narrow down possible causes, the banter at the dinner scene.

I could care less about the heavy handed final scene. Bottom line it was entertaining. 3 stars.
angel - Fri, Apr 8, 2011 - 1:52pm (USA Central)
Yes, the climax was a bit too obvious, but, hey, it's not Troi's fault she so freakin' hot.
Nick Poliskey - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 9:23am (USA Central)
Music:

Has anyone else noticed the music got really crappy in the fifth season. As terrible as the first season was, I actually hum some of those tunes, even the armus one. But by the fifth season, it sounds like they hired some cheap soundstage to do cheap background music that is identical in every scene?

Whenever I do a google search all that ever shows up is Jay chattaways "Inner Light" suite. The problem with that is that in the episode it is only ever played on Picards' stupid flute, as for the music in the episode itself, it is the same stupid season 5 background music.

I am a HUGE lover of soundtracks and score, and I must admit, this is really hampering my enjoyment of this season. Has ANYONE else noticed???
Jammer - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 12:22pm (USA Central)
Nick: Regarding the music on TNG, this was well documented at the time. There was a piece in a popular sci-fi magazine after the sixth season of TNG (I still have it somewhere), that basically explained that the people in charge of the show (specifically Rick Berman, I believe) had given edicts to make the music essentially into generic wallpaper, as to not "overpower" the visuals and dialogue happening on the screen. Strange but true.

The composers were given very specific cues of where they should score and they were constantly told not to use bombast or significant percussion.

Ron Jones, widely regarded the best Trek composer of the era (he did the memorable "Best of Both Worlds" scores, among many others) was fired during the fourth season because he too often broke the rules set by the producers and went over budget with music.

By the time ST:Enterprise ended, it seems Berman & Co. had adjusted their philosophy, because the music improved dramatically in the later seasons of Enterprise. But for long stretches of TNG, DS9, and Voyager, bland was the norm.
Nick Poliskey - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 1:15pm (USA Central)
Thanks Jammer, I will have to look for that article. I don't think I nescessarily disagree with the "bombastic-ness" of the first season, but they really toned it down in the second, and the third and fourth were movie quality (I agree with BOBW, PHENOMINAL), but it really seemed to turn TV-ish in 5.

I think I really noticed it when I watched the Scotty episode from season 6 right after watching "Boobytrap" from season 3, and it struck me that in every measureable way Scotty was the better episode, the music alone kept me from loving the Scotty episode (except for the one courage moment!) It just seemed so much less fun in seasons 5-7.
Marvin - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 6:03pm (USA Central)
I very much agree about the music. A vibrant score can really enhance drama. ( E.g. see not only Star Trek: TOS and early TNG, but the reimagined BSG as examples of how it can do this). Having the score dulled back to generic strings with few melodies was just stupid.
Ian Whitcombe - Mon, Apr 11, 2011 - 5:19pm (USA Central)
The composers also had the tendency to reuse the same chord progressions over and over. It becomes almost parody in "Future's End: Part II" when the car chase sequence has the same old "dun-dun-dunn, dun-dun-dunn" chords.

Though the most hilarious bit of scoring has to be in "The Way of the Warrior" when there's a cut to the long shot of the dead Klingons in Ops, and the music lets out a completely overwrought sustained chord.
Stef - Fri, Apr 15, 2011 - 4:48am (USA Central)
Music is used in film/tv to force emotions upon you. I'm assuming that they had the Trek music guidelines to ensure that the story stood on its own merits.

Any interview I've ever seen or read with a scorer (if that is the correct term) always contains the line:

"If I'm doing my job correctly, the view shouldn't even notice the music."

I find that a bit glib and general, but it also kind of true. If the music stands out too much, then maybe the scene isn't working as it should and the music is making up for it.

That's just my rambling anyway.

I have fond memories of this episode in that it was suitably odd. While I agree it is somewhat a rape-allegory, I don't understand why people insist that it must contain some sort of message.

Why must every episode of every incarnation of Trek have a moral message? Why can't it just be about a guy who gets his kicks by dominating other people?
Ian Whitcombe - Fri, Apr 15, 2011 - 1:31pm (USA Central)
I have a three-fold response to that, Stef:

1. The composer's job is to punctuate ideas or feelings that *are not* obvious on the screen. If the scene in question is dramatically perfect before a composer comes in, then that scene probably shouldn't have music at all.

2. Homogenous music - especially if its music that has little artistic or emotional merit - can often be more discracting in terms of quality than "overblown" music.

3. Most TV shows and movies are indifferently spotted nowadays; and composers, directors and music editors are too focused on temp-tracks to make the key decisions on when and where music should start and stop.
Nic - Tue, Apr 19, 2011 - 9:46pm (USA Central)
For a long time I thought the blandness of Trek TV scores was due to lower budgets (the film scores, after all, are almost all terrific). Then I heard about Berman's 'edict', and around the same time I saw Bear McCreary's work on the new Battlestar Galactica and realized the potential that's been squandered on Trek all these years. The BSG score does not shy away from swelling up and calling attention to itself when needed. Except for maybe one or two scenes, I never felt this detracted from the drama.
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:17pm (USA Central)
This episode was okay, but I have to comment on the music thread. I am a professional composer. This is what I do. Music does not "force emotions" or even enhance drama. When you put music to drama you are creating another emotional/psychological dimension. While of course one can't have the brass drowning out the lines of dialogue, the space in which music lives in our brains is much deeper than language or visuals. They don't compete, they work in concert (if done well). "Enhance" implies making something good better; music makes of drama something entirely new, it reïnvents. Bad scores (like the Berman-era ones referenced) make good drama worse, rather than just not adding anything. They ruin well realised dialogue or visuals because they deaden the foundation of our dramatic perceptions.

I can't stand you, Jammer, saying that a society has managed to do away with rape "flies in the face of common sense." It is sensical then that people should rape others? Human beings have evolved past the point screwing whatever shows up on their radar now haven't they? As Tuvok would say "Is there a point to your pessimism?"
Jammer - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 11:25pm (USA Central)
It has been established that crime still exists even in the 24th century. Murder as well. It may not be commonplace, but Picard acts as if violence on the level of rape is unheard of when he lectures these people based on the violent actions of ONE man. I just found it condescending. You're telling me that out of all the billions of people on Earth and throughout the Federation no one has ever committed rape? I guess humans really are perfect in the 24th century.
Elliott - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 1:00am (USA Central)
I have two responses to this Jammer;

1) I think there is a middle ground between being perfect and being a rapist. A society which finds rape incredible and intolerable is not definitively perfect, just better than one which does methinks.

2) If Picard's attitude indicated a kind of naïveté in humanity which made him impotent to deal with a crime like rape, I could understand your frustration. That's not the case, however. The people of the 24th century aren't jaded the way we are where an act of supreme violence and torture can be tossed aside emotionally as "part of life" or what have you. That doesn't mean they're childish or incapable.

I agree that the condensation (for the purposes of condescension) as you put it of all Ullians is stupid, but it's also a Trek standby and nothing to gripe at this particular episode about.

In short; humans don't have money and they don't rape each other unless (I suppose) some serious mental illness plagues them. That doesn't make them perfect.
Paul - Wed, Jul 27, 2011 - 7:21am (USA Central)
"1) I think there is a middle ground between being perfect and being a rapist. A society which finds rape incredible and intolerable is not definitively perfect, just better than one which does methinks."

I thought it was the Ullian society that was shown as finding mental rape incredible - ISTR some statement about how there had never been any crime like the one portrayed in this episode for the past 300 years - something about how they had to blow the dust of some old legal precedents to come up with some way of punishing/treating the guy. I guess, Picard saying in passing that humans, even the worst low-lifes don't commit rape any more just hasn't stuck in my mind.

I remember this episode, though I haven't watched it in quite awhile. It's definitely a rape allegory - so I do think your comments are on the money that it ought to be more allegorised than it is - maybe they could have just done the guy watching Troi's memory of Riker, instead of have him change it about so that instead of being like it was it turns into a memory of violent sex.

I think the guy came over as creepy enough without the need to bang the viewer over the head with it.
pviateur - Wed, Aug 10, 2011 - 2:56pm (USA Central)
Thanks Jammer again for pointing out one of the conceits of Trek I could never get past, the idea that humans are so wonderfully perfect in the future. I found it ironic in the final scene that Picard is lecturing the aliens on how humans have left violence behind when he himself was stabbed in the chest in a bar brawl if memory serves (no pun intended)...although I will admit that the bar brawl may not have been thought of at the time of this episode.
Elliott - Tue, Aug 23, 2011 - 2:54am (USA Central)
@pviateur: Picard was stabbed by a Naussican, not a human.

A barfight and rape do not constitute the same definition of violence. No one could be so obtuse as to propose that humans would ever lose the urge or necessity to use force on occasion or have a "brawl"--hell, just look at "Family." But rape and premeditated murder are the kinds of commonplace occurrences in our time which have been naturally selected out of most of the human population by the 24th century, or so goes the mythology of this universe. Did you know that in 2010, about 1 in 3 American women has been or will be molested or raped? 1 in 3! I couldn't begin to guess how those numbers work in countries such as Saudi Arabia or Uganda, but I'm guessing there are large portions of the world in which it would be 3 in 3. THAT'S our world today, and that's what Picard is so sickened by in his speech.
Nico - Thu, Sep 1, 2011 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
Portraying Picard with hairpiece alone, makes this episode more than all right! One of the better ones of season 5 so far;
I expected 3 stars here judging from the general feeling the episode leaves you with - even having become more severe in judgement after all your terrific reviews, Jamahl - great job!
TH - Thu, Sep 8, 2011 - 8:57pm (USA Central)
I had never considered that last comment about why Jev would be so stupid as to go back to Troi's quarters and re-assault her (mentally or otherwise). I suppose the premise is that he could not resist, as he was addicted to these assaults. Troi was his first attackee, and it was a 'sexual' memory that was invoked. He seemed to like her in the early-going. Perhaps he actually did have a thing for her, so he wanted to honestly [pretend] to apologize for his father, but then his addiction got the better of him when he saw her. But still, you make a valid point that I'd never considered.
Grumpy - Wed, Aug 1, 2012 - 1:02am (USA Central)
Tasha Yar grew up on the Planet of the Rapists. Or are we supposed to forget that, like her tryst with Data, ever happened?
Elliott - Wed, Aug 1, 2012 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
@Grumpy :

Her planet (Turkana IV) was a failed Federation colony. It was implied in "Legacy" that its inhabitants represented the criminally worst in Federation society (whose bright idea was it to give them a planet?) who quickly fell into anarchy and disorder when they broke of governmental ties.

Again, it's not about whether or not rape happens, it's about the attitude with which it's treated. This is a universe where a teenager can pilot the flagship, therapists are given military ranks, and amidst a devastating war, a newly instated ensign can be coddled and consoled for his injuries in the lap of luxury. It's just different.
Paul C - Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - 6:36pm (USA Central)
Best bit is one-punch-Worf takes out psycho boy.
Rick C - Sun, Jun 9, 2013 - 3:49pm (USA Central)
I agree with those that felt Picard's last speech was silly. Overall I'm sure crime would have gone way down by the 24th century, but it's only logical some would still exist.

Speaking of crime, I wish Worf would have broken psycho boys neck at the end!
mephyve - Tue, Jul 23, 2013 - 6:25pm (USA Central)
Not trying to illicit sympathy for 'psycho boy' but I did not see rape as the central focus of this episode. From the outset it was established that not only was the father better than the son in doing the memory thing, but the father went out of his way to ridicule his son about it every chance he got.
Now 'psycho boy' meets a woman that he's attracted to and his dad pretty much emasculates him in front of her. His self esteem was dead so he does not know how to deal with his romantic feelings. But hey, he has this power that allows him to have the girl. This episode just gave us a glimpse of why this guy resorted to rape. Rape isn't about sex, it's about power. An emasculted man wanted to feel powerful.
William B - Tue, Jul 30, 2013 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
I've been trying for a while to get a handle on how to talk about this episode. I think my big problem is this: the Troi violation -- the imaginary Riker/Troi rape scene -- is, I think, a real misfire, or at least brings up things that the episode can't hope to follow up on. The Beverly "violation" is a scene which almost certainly really happened, except for Picard and Jack looking like Jev, and Jack opening his eyes; and whether or not that Engineering situation Riker's "violation" took place, Riker *is* in command of situations in which people die (see: Yar, Natasha) and so the spirit if not the literal text of that memory is surely real. In other words, those two scenarios are based either directly on Beverly or Will's actual memories, or, failing that, on fears that are quite reasonable. Beverly had to deal with the trauma of Jack's death; Riker really does have to deal with losing people under his command.

So if that's the case, why open with an illusion wherein Troi is raped by Riker/Jev? It starts off with a scenario we expect might really have happened -- cleaning up after a poker game, maybe a moment in which the two steal a moment alone. At what point does this move from something that really happened to something that is only in this illusion created by Jev to torment her? And once again, whether the Crusher or Riker scenarios actually happened or not, they are related to actual experiences and reasonable fears. So did Riker nearly rape Deanna, or was there a moment in which Deanna was really afraid that Riker wouldn't listen to her telling him to stop? Nowhere else in the episodes do any of the Ulians seem to create an entire narrative out of nothing -- the closest is Jev replacing the memory of his own face with that of his father's, but that is a memory of the mental violation itself, not a memory contained within the violation. If I follow the episode's internal logic, I keep coming to the idea that for the episode to make sense, either Deanna was nearly raped by Riker, or genuinely has some subconscious fear that Riker would rape her. Fairly obviously, I don't think that is the episode's intent; even if the episode were to go there, Riker and Troi's relationship would have to be fundamentally changed, to say the least, and there is no way the show could continue without dealing with that. So then, why rape? Why choose Riker raping her as the basis of the trauma that puts Troi into a coma, analogous to having to relive the experience of seeing Jack's body, or the experience of losing someone under one's command? It doesn't come from Troi on a character level, so it mostly comes from Jev, but even to the extent that it makes sense that Jev's figurative rape could express itself as a fantasy of literal rape, he *doesn't do that* with either Riker or Crusher, and Troi's comes first so it is not as if there is a forward progression of the mindrape being more and more explicit in its connection to physical rape. And so while it's not as blatant or as bad, that Troi scene seems to me to be in the same vein as the rape scene in Nemesis, perhaps the low point of that already-terrible movie, gratuitous violence which is sexualized only because Troi is supposed to be the "hot" character.

Anyway, that scene is only a smaller component of the bigger episode, but it bothers me, and it maybe gets at what bothers me about the rest of the episode. What exactly is the point of this? As Nic says, there is no real point here. The episode could have been used to demonstrate truths about the characters, but largely isn't -- Jack's death hurt Beverly, yes, got it. And yes, I agree that Jev's going back to assault Troi at the episode's end is barely credible. He has managed to avoid detection for months; it's not as if Troi were genuinely his first attackee, just his first on the ship. I agree with mephyve that the episode does a good job of demonstrating the point of view of the rapist, however -- of emphasizing that Jev's dysfunction and horrible behaviour stem from feelings of inferiority and a desperate need to have power over others, by any means necessary. I do like the investigation stuff with Data and Geordi as well. So the episode is not a total loss, but it leaves a sour taste; 2 stars from me.
JoeW - Mon, Oct 28, 2013 - 11:18pm (USA Central)
I'm writing regarding comments made by both Jammer and William B. Both question the credibility of Jev returning to Troi's quarters for a second rape. Their argument is that he had gotten away with it, so why should he take the risk of being caught with a second attempt. This is actually a very accurate description of a sociopath. In their mind, they believe they had previously gotten away with it, so getting away with it again won't be a problem.

I have a relative that was ordered by a judge to stay away from the ex partner after a restraining order violation. Less than 3 hours after the judge had ordered my relative to stay away or face severe consequences, that relative was back harassing their ex partner. Why did my relative do this after they had gotten away with the first violation? Because, in that persons mind, the judge, had said it was okay because their was no punishment for the initial violation. That relative is now facing up to 5 years in state prison because of this violation when all they had to do was heed the judges order and stay away. I know this example is anecdotal, but I believe this behavior is typical of sociopaths. Yes, I know I'm calling my relative a sociopath, but that's because I believe this person is.

I think it is credible that Jev tried a second rape. The fact that he had gotten away with it previously reinforced his belief that he could continue to do it with out consequences.

As for the other complaints about this episode. I agree. I actually found this episode to be quite boring and actually fell asleep on 3 different occasions trying to watch it.
Andrew - Sun, May 11, 2014 - 1:04pm (USA Central)
This episode is one that I really dislike. One star is generous for this one.

I really hate the dream/memory sequences, visually they are just unpleasant to watch. Not to mention the ridiculous wig on Patrick Stewart's head.

The story is just a frustrating who-dunnit where we are waiting for the crew members to catch up to what the audience knew the entire episode. It's really simple and there's just not much to it.

Certainly one of the worst of the seasons, but also maybe one of the worst in the entire series.
SkepticalMI - Mon, Jun 9, 2014 - 5:36pm (USA Central)
I have no problems with Jammer's complaint about the final Picard speech, because it does completely fly in the face of common sense. Besides the unfairness of Picard lecturing an entire race because of one person being the only serial mind-rapist of the past 300 years, the idea that the Federation is a 100% rape-free society is silly. You can say that humanity has "evolved" or whatever so that it isn't part of the culture, but there's probably 100 billion humans in the 24th century. Even if 99.9999999% of humans are nice and evolved, that still leaves 100 bad guys out there. An analogy would be cannibalism. Nobody thinks it's a problem in modern Western society; nobody thinks it is part of our culture. Yet every once in a while you read about someone who went full Hannibal. Is that an indictment of our culture? Of course not. It just means that outliers unfortunately exist.

But more importantly, the Picard speech is debunked by THIS VERY EPISODE. What was Troi's nightmare? Getting raped. So either Riker actually did rape or attempt to rape her in the past (unlikely), or she has some residual fear of being raped (far more likely). Again, use cannibalism as a metaphor. If Jev was mind-raping you, would your memories be of nearly getting eaten? No! The fear of someone eating you is hardly common, because cannibalism is so freaking rare! I mean, murder and rape are rare in our culture too, but those still happen often enough that you may have the fear of it. So why did Troi have these memories? Riker's memories (the horror of leaving someone to die) and Bev's memories (the horror of seeing your dead husband's body) are realistic enough that one assumes Troi's memory is also realistic. Which only makes sense if rape is still a rare yet common (you know what I mean by that) occurrence in the Federation. So what the heck is Picard lecturing about?

Which is really the problem of this episode. What the heck is any of it about? What the heck is with the memories? Did they actually happen (as WilliamB pointed out, that would really kill Riker's character, so clearly the rape didn't happen)? Or something like it happened? Why did it cause them to fall unconscious? Is it the severity of the horror experienced? But shouldn't trained, professional Starfleet personnel be able to deal with those horrors? Was it something else magical about the experience? What exactly was Jev doing?

It's obvious why they fell into a coma and couldn't remember it afterwards; it was a plot excuse to allow Jev to escape justice. But it still made no sense.

And the whole point of the episode didn't make sense either. Was it a whodunit? Of course not; we know it's Jev from the beginning. So why spend all this time having Geordi and Data solve the mystery? Was it an Aesop story? If so, why is it needed (Oooh, you mean rape is BAD? Thanks for telling me; I never would have guessed!)? Is it an insight into the characters? Given that their memories were rather pedestrian (other than Troi's), it didn't tell us anything. And since we have no idea how much of them was real, it REALLY doesn't tell us anything. Was it a character piece of Jev? Maybe... that's actually about the best part of the episode. Jev really does seem like a good psychological profile of a predator: daddy issues, mostly socially acceptable yet still slightly awkward, and lashing out at anyone with any perceived slight against him. But still, that's not enough to carry an episode. Was it just for entertainment value? I would hope not, because it wasn't entertaining.

So what was the point?
Robert - Tue, Jun 10, 2014 - 8:41am (USA Central)
To a couple of critiques... I think the "rape" scene did happen in reality, but that it didn't have rape connotations.

I'm imagining a scene where after a poker game and a bit too much to drink they got a little physical with each other and Deanna had to remind Will that they can't be like that anymore. They probably did kiss a little bit and he probably did lie on top of her.

Remember, they can communicate telepathically with each other, even though it's not shown. Riker may have been the aggressor, but Deanna feels safe with him, that's pretty well established.

I think the "rape" connotation came in when the face changed. It went from a bit of consensual whatever that she was trying half-heartedly to stop to somebody else on top of her.

As to Picard's speech..... I took it to mean the opposite you all did. We, like you, had violence once and have abolished it. But we have to acknowledge the seed for violence is still in everyone. I didn't think he was saying "we have to acknowledge the seed for violence is still in all of you". We've met violent humans in Star Trek. Doctor Marr's murdering of the crystaline entity a few episodes ago just to use a random example.

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