Yesterday, we talked about South Park and its very first holiday special from the late 90s and today we’re talking about the Trey Parker/Matt Stone of the 2010s – Justin Roiland. Roiland was able to hook-up with Dan Harmon in the mid-2000s which put him on the path to comedy writer and actor, usually of the more crass nature. His break-out came with the Adult Swim program and prior Christmas Spot feature Rick and Morty which is basically the South Park of today. It pushes the envelope, it’s very creator-driven, and like Parker, Roiland handles a large chunk of the voice cast.
Likely due to the success of Rick and Morty, Roiland found himself being courted by Fox to produce an animated sitcom for their network. That basically fell through when Fox decided to get out of content creation with the Disney sale, but in the interim Hulu came in to throw money Roiland’s way. The end result was Solar Opposites, a very Rick and Morty styled show that Roiland developed alongside former Rick and Morty showrunner Mike McMahan. There’s the thought that Harmon is the stabilizing force on Rick and Morty that keeps Roiland in check when he really wants to go off the rails, so the main draw of Solar Opposites for me when it was announced was to see just where Roiland would go without Harmon.
The answer is not as far as you may have thought. Solar Opposites is a fine show, but definitely a less focused one when compared with Rick and Morty. It works in the streaming model as it’s the type of show I’ve found I can just toss on when I’m not really feeling like investing in anything I’m overly attached to. The characters are designed to be fairly unlikable and the plots can be a bit nonsensical so there’s no requirement to pay much attention to the show’s continuity. There is a show within the show that takes itself more seriously and it does become more of a focus in the more recent seasons, but even that is pretty easy to jump into. It’s funny, but also absurd, and the sci-fi elements are still very much a huge presence in the program.
Solar Opposites is about a family of aliens that had to flee their own world. Korvo (Roiland) is the leader and the only one who seems to place any sort of value on their mission to terraform Earth so their species may rise again. He despises Earth and basically everything on it. Or at least he claims to, but there seems to be plenty here he does enjoy. Terry (Thomas Middleditch) is Korvo’s evacuation partner and is sometimes portrayed as a mate. Unlike Korvo, he seems to like Earth culture and enjoys indulging in it and all of its pop. He’s also the designated pupa specialist as each evacuation group from their home world was issued a pupa (Sagan McMahan) which will one day grow to gargantuan proportions and terraform the Earth, basically destroying all sentient life in the process. They are joined by their individual replicants, Yumyulak (Sean Giambrone) and Jesse (Mary Mack) who are forced to live as Earth teenagers. It is them who shrink and capture random humans to toss into a terrarium where the show’s “Show within a show” takes place.
In between the second and third seasons of the show a Christmas special was released. Titled “A Very Solar Holiday Opposites Special,” it basically takes these fish out of water characters and just tosses all manner of Christmas at them. We’re going to get a lot of subversion of Christmas tropes, numerous references to more famous specials, and we’ll likely finish with something that’s not exactly heartwarming and Christmassy.
The special begins with the Solar Opposites house looking very, very, festive. Korvo is inside jumping around with a pair of handguns blasting the Christmas tree. The guns he is firing are apparently Christmas guns, or something, because when they strike the tree they just make ornaments appear. Terry then enters carrying a Santa statue sporting a Santa for President t-shirt and both talk about how much they fucking love Christmas. Yes, since this is for streaming there is a ton of casual swearing. Korvo reminisces about an annual festival on their home world that involved hunting the elderly and looks back on it with nostalgia. Terry just seems to love the kitsch aspect of Christmas as he demonstrates the Santa statue he’s carrying is a novelty hot cocoa dispenser. I bet you can guess where the chocolate comes out.
Yumyulak, Jesse, and the Pupa enter and they’re excited for Christmas as well. Yumyulak loves that they get to kill a tree and decorate its corpse while Jesse states she loves getting gifts and then returning them for store credit. They all then gang up on the Pupa as it apparently dislikes Christmas. We have to trust the others on this because it does nothing to demonstrate its dislike for Christmas. It just maintains a neutral face while the rest hurl insults at it until it’s had enough and leaves through the window. Terry demands it not return until its found the Christmas spirit. Meanwhile, Yumyulak seems ready to fuck the tree which I guess would make him a necrophiliac by his own definition? Jesse produces a tray of candy cane Hot Pockets which they all seem to enjoy and Terry lets us know we’re about to experience the Solar Opposites Christmas special! Woo!
We then get a festive rendition of the opening credits. Basically every character is wearing a Christmas outfit and the home world of the aliens is shown being destroyed by Santa instead of an asteroid. I approve. When the credits end, we see what the Pupa is up to: church. It would seem the Pupa is the only one that cares about the secular aspect of Christmas as it attends mass and does so without irony. After a brief sermon by the pastor (Troy Baker), the Pupa goes over to a man who is sobbing in the pews. He confesses to the Pupa (basically none of the humans on the show bat an eye at the aliens, they just accept them as a thing that exists) that he made a mistake by kicking his son out of the house because he confessed he’s a little bit bisexual. The pupa comforts the man and looks up at a large sculpture of Jesus and seems to smile at it.
Terry is ready to commence a festive tradition of watching a Christmas movie. And today’s feature: a VHS copy of Jingle All the Way. They’ve never seen it, but Terry boasts about the recommendation it received from the Christian Science Monitor. Korvo chimes in and asks the group if they want to watch Jingle All the Way, or truly live it? He then leads them to the lab where he asks if they remember seeing Ready Player One. No one seems to, but Korvo explains a part of the movie gave him an idea when a character went into The Shining, or something. I’ve never seen it. Yumyulak uses this as an opportunity to likely channel one of the writers on this episode by seeming unimpressed that the movie put a better movie into it to try and seem good. Korvo explains he made the same device though and calls it The Ready Player One Device and receives shit from Jesse for his unoriginal names to which he responds, “Tough ta-tas.”
Korvo activates the device and they’re all magically transported into Jingle All the Way complete with a festive, snowy, wipe effect. All four characters find themselves in a home and all are dressed the same. Yumyulak is not impressed to just move from one suburban house to another and when they question their attire Korvo informs them that the device is only able to replace one character in the film so they’ll all be playing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character. A kid (uncredited) then runs up to them to inform their dads that what they want for Christmas is a Turbo Man action figure. Terry finds this request ridiculous since it’s so close to Christmas and the product is sold out and says as much to the boy, but he reacts as if Terry agreed to purchase the doll. He runs off and the Opposites are left to assume the kid’s father promised to get the toy and they all find this absurd. The screen then goes black and Terry freaks out as he thinks he’s having a stroke, but Korvo just lets him know they’re being transported to the next scene.
And that next scene finds them all outside a store. The Sinbad character (Gary Anthony Williams) comes barging through them and Terry remarks that his presence cannot be a good sign for the quality of this movie. Korvo just gets pissed at the lack of holiday décor around them and the absence of snow. Terry apologizes for taking the advice of the Christian Science Monitor while Jesse suggests they bail. Yumyulak is the only one who seems slightly invested in the film’s plot, but he doesn’t protest when Korvo whips out his device to eject them from the film. Back at the house, Korvo suggests they all split up and do something festive to get the horrible taste of Jingle All the Way out of their mouths. Terry calls dibs on calling Santa, while the other three disperse.
At a nearby soup kitchen, Pupa is ladling out food to the less fortunate while holding up a picture of a lost boy. One of the individuals says “Hey, isn’t that Everett, the little bit bi kid,” which is amusing that everyone just knows him as the little bit bi kid. He’s been working at the bus station so Pupa smiles and takes off to go scope it out. At the mall, Jesse is shown emerging from a store with a pile of gifts and bags under her eyes. She seems worn out, as does Korvo, who is waiting to see Santa. They go to meet Santa, who’s seated on a Game of Thrones styled chair made of dangerous looking candy canes. The two get their picture taken, but look depressed in it. At the house, Yumyulak is taunting the tree with a pitcher of water, but this little game he’s playing doesn’t seem to thrill him like it used to. On the couch, Terry is in actual tears on the phone while the Santa on the other end suggests he deposit another 50 bucks to talk about it. He hangs up and wails “Who even cares?” as the Christmas spirit has been sapped from the Opposites!
Jesse is at the house too and is cutting herself wondering why she doesn’t feel right. Korvo is also perplexed while Yumyulak doesn’t understand why torturing the sexy, dead, tree is failing to make him hard. Jesse asks if anyone wants to go get hit by a bus with her and Terry absolutely does. Korvo figures out the problem though and takes the group back to his lab. He uses an X-Ray device which reveals their hearts are too small. Jingle All the Way sucked so hard that it depleted their Christmas spirit and it must be fixed. Yumyulak suggests drinking the blood of someone full of cheer, but Korvo has a better idea. He suggests they use The Ready Player One Device to go into other, better, Christmas movies to regain their Christmas spirit! The others are onboard as Korvo holds up a VHS of “It Be A Wunderful Life” and tells us, the viewer, to suck his ass because the Solar Opposites are going into all of our favorite Christmas movies!
Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” comes on as Korvo inserts his tape into the device. They’re all shown playing the role of George Bailey during the bridge scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. All just repeat the line that they want to live, except Yumyulak who says he wants a limited edition Animal Crossing Nintendo Switch and to live again. We then see Korvo’s next tape, “Rodolfo the Rogue Nose Deer.” All four are in Rudolph costumes and Korvo declares “Nobody likes our stupid, fucking, noses,” while Jesse adds “Being different sucks.” Clarice (Kari Wahlgren) is there though to reassure the group that she likes their nose, and their musk, then whispers to Terry-Rudolph that she’s at the height of her cycle. He says he can tell and begins to fuck her. As he thrusts, the nose on his costume blinks. The other three just watch and smile. It’s wholesome.
Our next tape is “luvindeed,” which I think is a romantic comedy parody of Love Actually which is a movie I’ve never seen. A woman answers her door to find the crew all standing with signs for her. Korvo’s says, “Shut the fuck up,” Terry’s reads “Pobodie’s nerfect,” Jesse’s is “Merry Christmas, please cheat on your husband with me,” and lastly we have Yumyulak who is going with “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” The woman seems touched as she has tears in her eyes. The Opposites then whisk back into the lab and Jesse demands Korvo check their spirit levels. They all still look exhausted and worn out, so it’s no surprise the trip through the other films didn’t work as intended.
Korvo can only reason that by not finishing Jingle All the Way they ruined their Christmas spirit. Terry really doesn’t want to go back and points out that the film had no stakes. He adds Kindergarten Cop is a way better Arnold movie because you actually care if the kid lives or dies. I have to agree. Jesse confesses she’s feeling some regret about not being a better father while Korvo insists they have no choice. They can’t just jingle some of the way, they have to jingle all the way! He rummages through a box of tapes and asks the others if they remembered what happened to them on Veteran’s Day? Apparently they all lost their Veteran’s Day spirit and now they don’t support the troops. He finds the VHS of Jingle All the Way and insists they have to go back to the Jingle-verse and finish it if they want to save their Christmas spirit!
We check-in with Pupa who is at the bus station in search of Everett. The guy working there tells him he just left on the 7:36 bus to Vegas where he feels he can be a little of whatever it is he is. We then cut to the bus being driven through the falling snow and Pupa smashes into the windshield causing the driver to scream, then stop, to let Pupa on. Pupa finds Everett who tells him “You don’t want to sit next to me, nobody does.” Pupa then holds up the picture of Everett with his parents and he looks at it like he’s about to cry. It cuts to Pupa smiling, then cuts to the two of them standing on the side of the road watching the bus drive away. They begin walking, presumably to Everett’s home.
We then return to the Jingle-verse, only now the title of Jingle All the Way is in a destroyed font. The setting looks like a post apocalyptic war zone which confuses the Opposites as they resume their role in the movie. Korvo checks his device and discovers that time moves faster in the Jingle-verse because 80 years have passed since they left. Terry suggests it might not be all bad since he spots Santa peeking over a fence at them, but when they investigate they find it’s just a bunch of Santa heads on pikes in someone’s lawn.
The group walks the ruined streets in search of some way to advance the plot. Terry is repulsed by a guy taking a shit in the road, and then suddenly that same guy is attacked by a pack of miniature, monstrous, Sinbads. They appear to be eating him and when one hisses at Korvo he tells it to go fuck itself. A one-eyed man emerges from a nearby building and asks what the hell they’re doing out there. He tells them to get inside and they do as suggested. Once there, they ask what those things were and he says they’re mutant Sinbads which roam the streets in search of Turbo Man dolls. They asks why the Christmas presence is gone from this movie and the man explains it’s been like this since Jamie took over. Hearing their “son’s” name, Korvo presses the man and finds out that when Jamie didn’t get his Turbo Man doll they promised him and was subsequently abandoned by his father, he rebelled against Christmas. The events are all covered in his book Christmas is a Lie and on the cover Jamie is depicted as an obvious parody of Donald Trump made even more obvious by the words “Sequel to The Art of the Deal.”
The one-eyed man continues explaining this current predicament and references a wintertime parade that Jamie forces everyone to participate in at 11:45 PM on Christmas Eve. The others are surprised at how much backstory this guy is able to cram into this moment and Jesse just points out that shallow characters are a staple of the Jingle-verse. The man basically confirms as much, but then also adds that he’s stalling for time so his buddies can kill them and help him prepare their bodies for a feast! He calls them out and shouts “We have the meats!” which causes Korvo to ask if they have Arby’s in the Jingle-verse. The guy just responds with “What the fuck is Arby’s? That’s just what I say,” as his “reavers” emerge to attack the Opposites. Their attire is basically Mad Max meets Christmas, but before they can attack a bunch of them start getting shot. The shooter is Jesse who reveals she stole George Bailey’s gun when they were in It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s depicted as a grayscale revolver with a static effect on it which is pretty neat. Korvo confiscates the weapon on account of Jesse likely shooting her eye out if she’s allowed to hold it. He then says they have to find a Turbo Man doll and gift it to Jamie if they want to end this so the four begin searching. As they leave the building, Terry notes that Bailey didn’t display a gun, but Jesse tells him everyone carried back then including Shirley Temple who hid hers up her “hoo-ha,” “That’s what the song “Lollipop” is all about.”
A nearby clock chimes indicating it’s now 2. Korvo instructs them all to meet back at this spot and reminds them to spread Christmas cheer wherever they go. While he does so, he casually snaps the necks of attacking Sinbad mutants. Mariah returns as we get a mini montage of the Opposites searching for Turbo Man dolls. Jesse is at a decrepit looking toy store, but is soon attacked by zombies and is forced to flee while shouting, “Ho ho ho!” Terry is at an elementary school when more reavers attack him. As he runs for his life he chooses to shout, “Snowflakes! Sugar plums! Shitty orange chocolate!” Korvo is in the bedroom of a long dead individual who might be clutching a Turbo Man? Hard to tell since it’s off model, but that could be done for licensing reasons. As he tries to pry the toy from the corpse, he’s clearly fighting back the urge to vomit, but eventually fails and throws up all over the corpse and the toy.
We’re then back at the church from earlier as Pupa leads Everett inside. Everett is reluctant for he feels no one in there wants him to be there, but his dad stands up and runs to him. Everett is confused because he thought his dad didn’t want him around anymore since he confessed he’s a little bit bi. The dad apologizes for being wrong and then adds that Anna Paquin is a little bit bi and she’s an integral part of the X-Men! Everett smiles because his dad saying that indicates he read his Livejournal. As father and son embrace, the Jesus on the crucifix opens its eyes to look at the two. Pupa looks up at it, winks, and the statue winks back. It’s a Christmas miracle!
Inside what remains of Jingle All the Way, the Opposites have regrouped only to confirm none have found a Turbo Man doll. It’s proposed that the group just “sci-fi” themselves out of this mess by making a Turbo Man doll, but Korvo says he already tried that and his 3D printer won’t break copyright laws unless they’re in Guam. Yumyulak is ready to throw in the towel and let the Sinbads eat him while Terry just wishes he never picked Jingle All the Way and instead picked a better Christmas movie like Die Hard, Gremlins, or Piranha 3D. Korvo tells him to shut the fuck up and says they’d still be in this mess then starts off a debate whether or not those are even Christmas movies. Terry defines a Christmas movie as any movie that takes place on Christmas, then concedes Piranha 3D has nothing to do with the holiday. Jesse sees this definition as an answer to their problem because it’s Christmas now. All they have to do is wrap up a plot on Christmas and their movie is over. Korvo agrees and declares they need to find Jamie and apologize for something they did 80 years ago to save Christmas. He cocks the shotgun he apparently found for added emphasis.
We then switch to a small, warm, home. It’s Everett’s house, and his father is leading a toast before their family. Pupa is there to witness the dad declare that he was wrong to kick Everett out and that everyone should be free to be who they are as that’s what Christ would want. When Everett thanks his dad, he tells him to thank Pupa instead. He turns to Pupa and asks if there’s any way he can reward him for all that he’s done. Pupa whispers into the dad’s ear and he seems surprised at the request. The only clue we receive about what Pupa asked for is the dad replying “And it’s just locked up in a child proof cabinet?”
Back in the movie, the Opposites have nailed down where Jamie is hiding – in the penthouse of a giant building. Terry is proud of their son’s success, but before anyone can tell him he’s an idiot the parade marches by. Jesse points out that means it’s 11:45 and they only have 15 minutes to save Christmas! Korvo declares he’s about to go on the naughty list as he grabs a severed Santa head. The rest do the same and they jump into the parade with corpse heads over their own doing the same karate chop motion other Santas are using in the parade. The one-eyed man is marching behind them though and immediately recognizes them. He rallies his remaining reavers this time with “Where’s the beef?” which just further annoys Korvo since he has to know it’s an old Wendy’s slogan.
The Opposites are able to ditch the cannibals and Yumyulak tries to assess the defenses of the penthouse. He wears some special goggles to identify the security, plus one guy who is jerking off in a bathroom. By Yumyulak’s words, he’s really going to town as he’s also fingering his butthole. Korvo is distressed at this reveal as men who jerk off are always stronger afterwards. Terry is freaking out, but Jesse breaks the tension by casually smoking a cigarette and producing a pair of knives. She confidently says they have plenty of time to finish this and Korvo agrees. He and Yumyulak just magic up some weapons like Jesse did with the knives, but Terry just smiles and holds up his fists. When Korvo questions his lack of weapons, he says he’s been learning a martial arts kill punch technique as a Christmas present for Korvo. Korvo is overcome with emotion and the two share a sweet kiss before embarking on their journey.
We then get a montage of the Opposites going on a rampage. It begins with Jesse entering the building looking innocent. A security guard smiles at her, but then she pulls out her knives and stabs him in the eyes. They head up the elevator where they’re forced to take out security guards, followed by a floor full of Santas, and then a bunch of the Sinbad mutants. As they move through each floor, they acquire more and more blood splatters on their clothing. Terry gets to demonstrate his kill punches, and there’s a cool silhouette shot of them running up the stairs on a green background as they demolish Sinbad mutants. Eventually they’re covered entirely in blood, though it fades for a slow walk shot of the four as they approach Jamie’s penthouse.
Once they enter the penthouse, the blood is almost completely gone from their clothes. They call out to Jamie and indicate they’re here to apologize, but the laughing maniac isn’t interested. He floats over via a contraption not unlike what the Emperor is supported by in The Rise of Skywalker. Terry remarks he’s as ugly and twisted as his soul. When he apologizes for not getting him that doll 80 years ago they find out Jamie has all of the Turbo Man dolls. He’s assembled a T-shaped throne out of them and indicates he’s far more angry about being abandoned than not getting the doll. Jamie tries to explain his backstory further, but Korvo interrupts him since they’re running out of time and no one cares. He demands Jamie accept their apology so they can end this movie, but Jamie just laughs and tells him to eat shit.
The Opposites regroup, but they’re not sure how they can complete their emotional journey without Jamie accepting their apology. Jesse then has a realization and approaches Jamie. He taunts her by asking if she’s come to beg him to accept the apology once more, but she indicates she’s not there for that. She grabs one of the Turbo Man dolls, and declaring Jamie the bad guy of this film, starts smashing him with it.
It works! Jesse’s heart responds to the beating and grows in size. She urges the rest of her family to help kick this old guy’s dick into his ass, and they soon jump in. Korvo is the first and his heart starts growing too, followed by Terry. Yumyulak grabs a snow globe and starts beating on Jamie with it and smiles. A narrator them comes in to say, “Against all odds, each time the aliens struck the withered, old, asshole their hearts grew bigger and bigger filled with Christmas joy until they were ready to burst!” Beams of light shoot out of Jamie’s smashed skull and each place they touch is converted back into a joyous, Christmas environment.
Yumyulak notes that Jamie’s blood tastes like Christmas while Terry says he’s filled with warm, hugginess. Korvo declares they’ve restored their Christmas spirit because they killed their son as a family, “And doing things as a family is the most Christmassy Christmas shit you can do.” Jesse tells them all that she loves them and they share a group hug. Then the credits for Jingle All the Way start to roll. Yumyulak doesn’t want to stay and watch them, but Korvo thinks they owe it to the movie since they skipped so much of it. Plus, he can’t imagine it took a lot of people to make this thing. They appear to be over, but before they can leave the room the second unit credits begin and the replicants indicate their displeasure at having to endure more.
Back at the home of the Solar Opposites, we’re ready to put a bow on this thing. They’re all dressed in festive Christmas sweaters and Terry says he’s glad they spent Christmas together as a family. The rest are in agreement and Korvo is the one to reiterate that doing things as a family is what Christmas is all about. The Pupa then comes in playing a whistle and the mood immediately goes sour. Korvo demands to know how the Pupa got its Harry Potter whistle back and asks Terry if he locked it up like he was supposed to. Terry insists he did, then he yells at the Pupa for ruining the mood and chastises him for not even participating in the family Christmas adventure. They all angrily leave the room and the Pupa pauses his playing to say “Merry Christmas, everyone!” to the camera to close it out.
And that is how the Solar Opposites spent Christmas that one time. The show is definitely crude and it loves to take advantage of not being on broadcast or even cable TV with its language and violence. It has that same Justin Roiland timing that Rick and Morty has with Korvo basically just being a Rick character, only he’s not as mean and his dialogue sounds even more ad-libbed than Rick’s. He speaks fast and Roiland’s pauses, hesitations, and stutters are kept in as part of the character’s traits, he just doesn’t burp. There’s a lot of quick jokes that just fly by via the characters which really helps when one doesn’t necessarily stick since nothing is really allowed to linger. There’s certainly a “metta” component to the show as it’s basically self-aware, though that’s not as obvious in this episode. And while there’s nothing focused on the terrarium plot from the main show, we do get a B plot involving the Pupa.
I am actually a little surprised at how hard Solar Opposites went to incorporate Christmas into its special. It would be odd not to, but I was expecting something more like the Rick and Morty episodes that feature Christmas where the holiday is treated more like the B plot. Here it dominates as we get the Opposites going on adventures through Christmas movies to get easy jokes and references into this finally leading to more of a spectacle in the final act to finish Jingle All the Way. The Pupa B plot is actually a straightforward and simple Christmas plot. It’s brief because it can be since it’s just continuing a joke from the first act where the Pupa is ridiculed for not being onboard with Christmas to setup the payoff in the end. I really like how the main cast is actually very into Christmas when it could easily have made Korvo a Christmas antagonist and Yumyulak indifferent. The tree lust was a bit weird, but it didn’t feature much into the plot. I don’t know if this will ruin some of my Christmas cred, but I have a low opinion of Jingle All the Way so it didn’t bother me that this special rips on it quite a bit.
This one also delivers as a visual spectacle. Everything is covered in Christmas when it needs to be and it certainly feels like that was emphasized since the characters complain about the setting of Jingle All the Way not being Christmassy enough. I get the impression either Roiland or some of the writers on the staff filtered through there and it’s something I can go along with. This episode was probably born from them watching the movie and ripping on it. This one gets it though as if you’re doing a Christmas special, animated or otherwise, I want to see the characters at least put a sweater on or a Santa hat. The special also does a good job of working Christmas into the soundtrack and I’m actually surprised Hulu sprung for some Mariah Carrey not once, but twice.
The Solar Opposites Christmas special is definitely not one for everyone. And it should go without saying that it’s not for kids. If you like the show and similar ones like Rick and Morty or South Park then you’ll probably like this. It earns it’s title of Christmas special in basically every way though it obviously subverts the ending message when a group of dads restore the spirit of Christmas by killing their son. Again, not for everyone and if you’re offended by that type of program then you definitely don’t need this one in your life. If you do like that stuff, even if you’ve never watched the show, then I say give it a shot. The only way to watch it is via Hulu in the US and whatever serves as Hulu in other territories.
Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:
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