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January 30 2005

The Dawn of Buffy - By ZachsMind. "Writing Dawn into the first four seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

This is such a great topic to discuss. What would've changed if Dawn had been around? I loved all ZachsMind's speculations and thoughts as to how Dawn would've been involved and in which episodes.

But I have a lot of my own questions too. Instead of Angelus targeting Willow would he have gone after Dawn? Would Faith have not only tortured Joyce but would she have hurt little Dawnie too? Would Dawn have known about Buffy, but willingingly kept it a secret or used it as a form of blackmail to be closer to Buffy.

We know that the monks seemed to change everyone's realities regarding Dawn. Angelus calls from LA pretending to be Angel and talks to "Dawnie" on the phone. He pretends to be Angel and in Angel's voice calls her Dawnie which leads you to believe that's what he called her when he was still in Sunnydale. When Buffy dies, and they are trying to keep it secret, they instruct the Buffybot not to answer the phone in case Hank calls. They don't want him to know that Buffy is dead because they fear he'll take Dawn away.

I'd love to hear of fanfic that took an existing episode that was pre-Dawn and rewrote it to put Dawn in the story. Maybe some of Dawn's anger towards Buffy after Joyce dies is because she fears Buffy will desert her again like she did when she ran away that time. We could see from Dawn's point of view the fight between Joyce and Buffy where Joyce tells her not to come back if she leaves the house. Dawn could be torn about it and upset. She could alternate from being mad at her mom for driving Buffy away and being mad at Buffy for leaving. There is just so many interesting ideas to think of how things would've been if we got to see things with Dawn in the picture.

It's interesting speculation, and I think I've thought about it some, mostly in regard to "where would she have been during...?"

When Dawn appeared, it seemed she had essentially always known that Buffy was the Slayer (she describes running around the house with chopsticks in her mouth pretending to be a vampire), which Joyce (and Hank) would (hopefully!) have noticed, unless they weren't home.

Still, we would have missed out on the "What the hell?!" factor when Dawn appears at the end of "Buffy vs. Dracula"!
I'm just happy she wasn't there in the beginning. I never liked her character, I thought she was an annoyance more than anything.
She did add another dynamic to the show, I will admit that.
Would have been perfectly happy to have had no Dawn at all. For the Glory arc they could have made Tara be The Key.

(SNT..."bobble!")
I've always rather liked Dawn. I thought her arrival added an interesting new layer to the narrative. Annoying? Of course she can be, but understandably so. I think she was a well written character (capably acted by Michelle Trachtenberg) and her development through the final three seasons was very well executed.

I've never given much thought to how earlier storylines would need to be adapted to accommodate Dawn. ZachsMind opens up some very intriguing possibilities. I'm just not sure if I want to give this further thought. I am inclined to put it to the back of my mind and leave things as they are!
dashboardprophet, i too did not mind Dawn, but her development throughout the three seasons? After "Conversations with Dead People" she was barely even seen, popping up for a line or two per episode. However I do have to agree with you about the episodes before that. Dawn became an interesting character to watch throughout the series
After "Conversations with Dead People" she was barely even seen, popping up for a line or two per episode.

I have very definite views about S7, which I fully appreciate a lot of people would not agree with me about. BtVS is the most extraordinary fictional television series I have ever seen, and I genuinely believe that S7 is the finest season of that show. In fact, I consider it to be a thing of great beauty. Personally, I found Dawn fascinating in the latter stages of the final season. I've never felt that she was denied sufficient screen time in order for her 'story' to be told properly.
I can relate to Dawn because I am the little sister, and when I was 14 I was whiny, awkward, treated like a child, and a bit of a nuisance. Sure, she was annoying but that's the point. I was annoying too. Dawn had valid reasons for being that way and I really empathize.
In retrospect, Dawn is a character I've grown to appreciate quite a lot. Largely due to some thoughtful fans who have given me a far deeper appreciation of her place in the story.

For example, a rather illuminating character analysis from the Mutant_Allies section of Livejournal was recommended to me, and I quite enjoyed it: The Life and Times of Dawn Summers.

During season 7, I also enjoyed an opinion piece written by Shaun Narine, from a fandom website called "The Buzz", entitled The Sister-Slayer Relationship. I've also read other such opinion pieces that helped me better see the textures of that character. So as a BtVS fan, I'm actually quite glad that Dawn was introduced. I think Joss managed some rather ambitious things with that character.

[ edited by inverse on 2005-01-30 21:32 ]
That is a very interesting bit of speculation indeed. I have to admit to having considered the "Where would Dawn be when ..." question myself many times when watching episodes from seasons one through to four. In fact one of the reasons i was looking forward to the animated series was because i thought it may give us a clearer idea as to how Joss envisioned the altered group dynamics that Dawn's existence brought to the Sunnydale High years.

Personally i liked Dawn just fine. I'm often at a loss when i read how some fans take such a dislike to a given character, usually Riley, Dawn, Kennedy, Connor or Harmony, because to me they all played the role they were meant to play. That specific role may have led to them being annoying, irritating or just boring at times but that was what they were there for at the end of the day. I can honestly say that i have never had a major issue with any of the characters of either Buffy or Angel.

Well, except for Miss Kitty Fantastico obviously. She was just too annoying for words! ;)
Word on the Miss Kitty dislike. Rumor was she was written out because she was such a diva on set...

And I too love wondering 'where was Dawn' during S1 to 4. IT was implied that she knew about Buffys slayer identity for some time but considering how much trouble she got into and caused in the first few episodes of S5 it's a wonder she hadn't caused the apocalypse years ago. My theory is the monks 'created' the past history including Dawns behaviour but from the moment in BvD when Dawn appeared Dawn was actually 'creating' events herself.
So the monks could have created an idialised history where Dawn was well behaved, smart and trouble free but the Dawn they actually created couldn't live up to that past. Remember Buffy did say that Dawn was "bugging her much more recently" or words to that effect.

So the past that the scooby gang remember may well have featured a different Dawn, a less whiny, better behaved, one. One that could keep a secret and stay out of trouble.

[ edited by zz9 on 2005-01-30 22:07 ]
I just know it would've been fun to see in Season 2, Spike, Angelus and Dru torturing poor little Dawnie, and big sister coming to kick their ass.

I always really wanted an episode where Dru went after Dawn. I just think Dru would have some very interesting things to say or do around her character.

Couldn't you just see the wicked foreshadowing of Dawn's Key-Dom, Dru could've done with her lines.

''Ohhhh, Spike. It's beautiful. So pretty! The light it shimmers! -spins around-" :)

[ edited by BurkleFreak on 2005-01-30 22:25 ]
The Buffy comic book 'False Memories' is probably the only semi official canon that deals with Dawn in seasons one and two. It's not a bad read. And has some interesting Forrest Gump type inserts into the history of the Scoobies.
I like that idea, BurkleFreak, about Dru seeing Dawn as this shiny pretty thing. Now Spike would think Dru was just acting "normal" and that would explain why he won't try to kill Dawn because Dru thinks she's a shiny little bauble and would be upset.

As for Dawn. Whiny or not, I always loved the character and thought she was a great addition to the show. She started off just being really cute but it was after she found out she was a key that she became annoying and whiny. Then throw in everything else on top of that with Joyce and Buffy dying, Buffy coming back depressed and everyone being so busy that she's an afterthought. It's no wonder she was like that. I thought they redeemed her the last season.

So it would be nice to picture a younger, happier Dawn. Maybe still somewhat a pest who likes to tag along with her big sister. Maybe she found out about Buffy before Joyce did and liked having that secret because she hero-worshipped Buffy. Maybe when Joyce found out, Dawn became jealous a bit because Joyce treats Buffy differently.

As for Hank disappearing out of the picture. I always thought it would've been nice to find out that the monks altered his memory a bit to have him feel more detached from Buffy and Dawn because they needed Buffy to feel like she alone was the only one who could care for Dawn. Hank wouldn't have been able to protect Dawn and could've been a problem if he wanted to take Dawn away for visits or even fight for custody.

Simon, thanks for the info on the comic. I hadn't heard of any stories like this and that definitely sounds like a fun and interesting read.
The comic collections 'Viva Las Buffy,' (http://www.darkhorse.com/profile/profile.php?sku=12-554) 'Slayer, Interrupted' (http://www.darkhorse.com/profile/profile.php?sku=12-930) and 'A Stake Throught the Heart' (http://www.darkhorse.com/profile/profile.php?sku=13-054) all take place between the movie and the series, and they include Dawn--and even her discovery of her sister's Slayerhood.

And so did the Buffy short story in 'Reveal!' (http://www.darkhorse.com/profile/profile.php?sku=12-048), almost forgot about that one. :-)

By this point, Joss was pretty heavily involved in the comics, too.

[ edited by Telltale on 2005-01-31 00:59 ]
I always loved Dawn too, but on many occasion you will hear me utter, "would somebody please slap that girl!"
But she was acting like a typical teenager, and there's a lot of times that the Scoobies just got it wrong with Dawn which would cause her to be so annoying.

Her only real constants in her life and who went out of thier way to spend time with her were her mum, who died, Tara, who died, and Spike, who she later found out tried to rape her sister.
For most of the time Buffy was preoccupied (wanting to be back in heaven and all) and Giles didn't notice her much, and Xander was just all about Anya.

Kinda makes a kid go surly!

It's a delicious idea thinking about all the pre-dawn things that she could be added to.
Like Halloween when everyone became what they were dressed as.
I wonder what Dawn would have dressed as???

[ edited by nixygirl on 2005-01-31 01:54 ]
Cool. Neat to have something I wrote on the front page of Whedonesque. =) For some reason the link at the bottom isn't working. I've talked to my server accomplise about this, but in the mean time, my other writings are available at that link.

I think in season two, Angelus would have taken out Dawn quickly, and in a way where Dawn didn't know who did it, but Buffy did. Then Angelus would have controlled how Buffy learned that information, similar to how he controlled how Giles discovered Jenny Calendar. Dawn would have ended up hospitalized and near death, but she'd heal up by the time Willow started doing her little spell on Angel/us. This woulda caused Oz to have to run interference to keep little Dawnie busy while Willow messed with the nasty magicks. However, this was probably also the moment when Dawnie learned Willow was a witch.

It is a fun mental exercise, trying to rewrite the first four seasons to see how the Scoobies remember it now. Also, from a writer's standpoint, it's fun to reimagine the first four seasons with a new character added in. How could one write Dawnie into the storylines, keeping things interesting (perhaps more interesting with the added conflict opportunities) without so dramatically changing events as to not get the series where it ended up by the start of season five.

For instance, by season five, Dawn already knows about Buffy and Joyce already knows about Buffy being a slayer. However, Joyce didn't know until the end of season two. Dawn didn't tell her. Saying Dawn did tell Joyce would rewrite the course of events too much. Perhaps Dawn didn't know until Joyce did, and that would be the most simple explanation, but it's not necessarily the most dramatically opportunistic. Suspense opportunities abound by saying Dawn learned before Joyce did, and for at least a few episodes hung that over Buffy's head. Why? Cuz siblings do that to each other in their youth - it's only natural. Being the youngest of two elder sisters, I'm a living testament to sibling rivalry.

I know there are some fans who felt Dawn's sudden appearance an affront somehow, and they found her character annoying and all that - but that's precisely what Whedon was intending. He wanted to turn everything on its head and speaking AS a youngest sibling, there's nothing that can turn things upside down more readily than a little brother or sister. =) So if you hate Dawnie, you still love her. You just can't admit it to yourself.

Dawn was and is my favorite character of the entire series, overall. Oz and Tara each tie for second, but I root for the underdog, and feel an affinity for Dawnie that so few Buffyesque fans seem to understand. Thanks for the attention, Firefly Flanatic, but you have to know you're only encouraging me. LOL!

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2005-01-31 04:30 ]
You're welcome ZM, but this has been a really fun discussion so if I'm encouraging you to provide us some more great stuff like this then that's a good thing!!

Another thought of mine is what if Dawn had been around from the beginning and we find out in season five that she isn't real and was implanted in Buffy's and everyone elses memories. We then have all the memories that they have but we find out they aren't real. Of course, I loved how it was done because at first your thinking there is no way they can explain where this kid sister came from and Joss brilliantly explains it in a way that makes perfect sense. I wonder if we the fans would've felt the same way if we were told a beloved character that we've known from the beginning wasn't real. And I do think Dawn would've been a sweet child who developed into the whiny teenager after she learns of her mystical beginnings.

I still think the best of both worlds would've been if they had really known from the beginning they were going to do this that they hired MT and filmed some scenes right from the beginning that we could've seen as flashbacks when Dawn was introduced. We'd get to see MT four years younger playing Dawn with Buffy having some sweet and maybe some not so sweet moments with her baby sister. Maybe Buffy comforting little Dawn when Daddy cancels yet another visit or Dawn's first experience with seeing Buffy kill a vampire. I always loved the dream scene with little Buffy seeing her baby sister for the first time and it would've been great to see scenes like that with a younger MT right from the beginning that we only get to see once Dawn shows up.
Well, ZachsMind, you're getting a little more attention - they now have this over on Buffy.nu!
Well if I started from the beginning with Dawn in the picture, I wouldn't have explained season five the way Whedon did. I wouldn't have had to. The monks simply hid the green ball of energy inside Dawnie prior to birth. This would also explain more realistically why Hank left Joyce: one could write it so that they hadn't had sex for over a year before Joyce became pregnant with Dawn. Therefore, Hank would have assumed Joyce was seeing someone else. This would have caused a rift in their relationship, leading to their divorce.

In other words, Dawn was an immaculate conception: a saviour of the universe artificially introduced into Buffy's reality. Joseph Campbell would applaud from his grave. I wouldn't have to say Dawn never really existed prior to season five, but I could still have crazy people like Dru and like Glory's victims say she wasn't supposed to be there. That she's not real. We the audience would feel the same way Buffy did. I'd just have the time table of when the monks did what they did back about twelve years.

I'd also play with the energy thing a bit more. My version of the Dawn storyline would incorporate a little fact that no one would find until season six. We learned at the end of season five that her blood was special, that it was effectively Buffy's blood. Season five's finale would have happened a little differently. Buffy would have jumped as before, thinking that her blood was enough for the sacrifice, but she'd just fall to her death, and the rift would still be there. Tara, newly returned to sanity but remembering her brief mental connection with Glory, would look up and shout at Dawn, "It's you Dawn! It has to be you! You're the key!" Dawn would then jump to her death, following in her sister's proverbial footsteps. She would expect to die as a sacrifice, but instead the rift would close, and Dawn would float to the ground, where she'd find her sister broken.

Season six would happen mostly as it did, with the other Scoobies bringing Buffy back to life. However, remember when Dawn's first boyfriend turned out to be a newly turned vampire who tried to turn her and she killed him with a corn dog stick? Let's take out the corn dog stick. The energy surging inside Dawnie affects her bloodstream, making any vampire who sucked on her blood immediately engulf in flames, like holy water. She's poison to vampires, because she's not entirely human herself. Angelus would have sensed this back in season two, which is why he didn't want to be too close to Dawn when he tried to kill her. Perhaps he considered sucking her blood, but she smelled wrong. A new vampire wouldn't be smart enough to detect it, but Angelus has been around awhile and could sense the difference. I'd also show that by season seven, Dawnie learned about how to use the energy inside her to become a different kind of slayer, so she's not 'useless' like she felt she was. Buffy would still want her out of the picture though, so she'd ask Xander to drive off with her. Dawn's return would have been slightly different. She'd fly back with an unconscious Xander in her arms after they'd had an ..altercation. Dawn would stare down Buffy and prove to her big sister she could take care of herself in the battle to come. She wouldn't be a potential. She wouldn't be a vampire slayer. She'd be herself, and she'd learn by the end of season seven that who she is is just as powerful in a different way, and just as scary, but we'd know she'd be able to handle it, whatever the future held for her.

A generation from now perhaps, Buffy's story will be told again. Maybe it'll be Whedon at the helm, or maybe it'll be all new people. Anyone who's watched Smallville, but still has a knowledge of the comics, can see how some elements can be altered or reimagined without truly losing the soul of the original piece. It's my hope that when Buffy is reimagined years from now, both Hank and Dawn Summers will become more integral in the story. There's a wealth of possibilities here. I hope I'm alive to see it, even if I'm in an old folks home.
I like that a lot ZachsMind. I really liked the idea of Joyce being impregnated mysteriously at a time when she and Hank weren't having sex and that is when he begins to distance himself. Maybe someday, they have to do a blood test on Dawn and he finds out she really "is" his daughter, at least her blood is identical to Buffy's. But that scares him even more because how could that be.

I love the idea of more being done with Dawn's keyness and what powers she could potentially have. I also love your theory that vampires wouldn't want to touch her because of something they sense. This could've been an interesting development for the end of season seven and maybe we would've seen something like this if they hadn't had to find a way to send Spike on to Angel.

It would make sense that Dawn could be a different kind of Slayer just because she is made from Buffy. This may not have been the monks intention but just something that happened because of who they made her out of.

I also loved your idea of Buffy jumping to her death but it isn't enough to save the world and Dawn has to do it. This would've led to much more guilt on Dawn's part that Buffy truly didn't have to die to save her.

I also liked the idea that Angel, Spike and Druscilla wouldn't have been able to hurt her. Maybe they could've hinted at them trying to but pulling back and looking confused, then have Buffy come in at the same time so you'd think it was because of her.
FF, love your suggestion of having filmed scenes with MT in the years before S5 to use as flashbacks. Maybe they could have used small clips from Inspector Gadget. If Steve Martin can 'make' a movie with Bogart, Cagney etc then I'm sure they could get permission, cut a few scenes together, loop some dialog that would be relevant and hey presto! S1 Dawnie!
I had a lot of questions about 'Ted' also. I was in the same sort of situation as a kid and I was an only child at the time. That is the only episode, for me, that Dawn would have ruined the story.

Buffy had to feel alone. She had to be the only one to see that Ted was evil so she had no one to talk to. If Dawn also saw that he was evil they could have consoled eachother and it might not have led to Buffy thinking she killed Ted, or if she did it wouldn't have been AS devastating as it was for her since she wasn't alone.

I guess ultimately it would have worked but I like it Dawnless, IMO. Everything else would be very interesting, and I agree I think the series might have been better with Dawn from the start. It would have been the best progression of all the characters in the 'verse, with Wesly at a close second. But it is what it is and I love it all the same.
I'm sure that this is all old news to you... But Zachsmind is freaking smart!!! I love the article! :)

Back to the actual content of the article, I do agree that "Halloween" would be the revelation episode for Dawn and the she would threaten Buffy about telling Joyce up until "Ted". In that episode though I think that Dawn would have realized that Buffys "skills" actually were quite handy and that it would be more better for Joyce to keep it a secret from her. I also believe the "Ted" story might have played a bit different aswell, I think that Dawn and possibily even Buffy would have realised that he's a robot before his "death". If Dawn really thought that Buffy had killed an actual person, she most definately would have blamed Buffy and her "powers" for it and told Joyce about it. No, she had to know.

I love Dawn. Ok, fine, she's a bit annoying at times but it's always pretty much understandable. There's always a reason. I think the teaser for "Older and Far Away" pretty much shows how Dawn get through most days. It's endure-endure-endure until she can't anymore and that's when the "whining" comes. She's just so very depressed, especially in season 6. And I actually like a lot of hated characters, for example Kennedy had more well-grounded statements during season 7 than Buffy had. Sure, she might have been a bit rough in the edges but there was almost always a good reason for the things she said. And honestly, Buffy really was sort of out of control throughout that season. The only characters that I really don't like is Rona, Parker and Warren.

[ edited by Djungelurban on 2005-01-31 14:33 ]
Very interesting alternative reality ZM, but no I dont see seasons 1-4 being better with Dawn included, one of the strengths of a TV series is that the whole cast doesn't need to be there from day one but rather can be added/removed as the story arch evolves.
Adding Dawn to seasons 1-4 would change the dynamic between the core 4 characters, Dawn would need screentime to develop, who should lose out ? Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Giles ?
More scenes of Buffy at home implies fewer scenes in HS library, changing the focus of the show and not in a good way.

Dawn is/was an interesting character but never had that 'moment' that would have turned her into a great character, to me that would have been a great death scene allowing her to go out in a blaze of glory ( no pun intendended ), also releasing Buffy from the 'mommy' role to move on with her life in new directions.

Darlas final, final death on Angel was a really great WTF moment and a similar thing for the Dawn character could have been created by making Dawn as 'glowing ball of fire' take the Spike role of creating the 'Pillar of fire/Big Bang' effect at the end of S7.
' No Buffy I must do this, I know now this is the reason why the monks brought me here, to aid you in the fight against the first evil' cue CGI effect ball of fire with Dawns face.

This ending of course implies a different arc for Spike but thats a different story.
OK this has to be one of my favorite threads I've read so far on this site.
Am LUVIN it Zach!!
Thanx heaps mate!
Almost makes me wish for a Dawnie the Key Avenger spinoff LOL
See, I think Dawn could be easily put into the Ted episode. If we go by ZachMind's premise that Hank withdrew from the family because he didn't believe he was Dawn's father, or the fact that he left them when Dawn was much younger than Buffy, Dawn won't feel as attached to Daddy as Buffy does. Dawn may be hungry to have a father figure in her life. Buffy gets that type of attention from Giles and it was obvious in the early episodes of Dawn's arrival that Giles just doesn't feel the same towards Dawn. So here's this teddy bear of a man offering her hugs and cookies and I bet she also would've been won over (especially because the cookies were drugged).

This could be even more of an annoyance to Buffy that Dawn seems to like this guy so much too. Buffy wondered what was wrong with her until Ted reveals his true nature when he threatens her on the mini golf course. They could've explained Buffy's anger even better by having Ted threaten her in her room that once he and Joyce are married he's going to "ship Buffy AND her brattie little sister" off to their father.

As a person who grew up smack in the middle of a family of nine kids, it's alright to fight amongst each other, call each other names and pick on each other but if anyone outside our family tried that it was all out war. We didn't like it when anyone threatened our family unit and Buffy would've felt even more protective of her little sister with this man who she perceived as potentially abusive. It would've fired her up more to put him in his place if she felt he was a threat to Dawn.

Edited to add that I don't think having Dawn there from the beginning necessarily would take much screen time away from other characters. Dawn most likely would've been in scenes that involved Joyce and maybe some additional scenes here and there but I doubt it would've taken away from the other characters developments.

[ edited by Firefly Flanatic on 2005-01-31 19:39 ]
Interesting thoughts and read, but I also do not think having Dawn in s1-4 would have made them better. This way the show had the best of both worlds. Exploring Buffy as an only child and then a complete turn around with the same person as if she were the oldest child. Also losing the audasity of the way Dawn was introduced, would have been a shame.

If I had the time, I would be interested in looking at the differences in Buffy's character between the only child/eldest child realities...but I don't...so I won't.

It was also always fun when the writers would throw references to Dawn's participation in or knowledge of events that happened in s1-4.

As far as Ted, Spikecam21, if Dawn was there, Buffy could still have very much been alone. Dawn craves attention. She would have been very young. She could have loved Ted and eaten up his whole act. Buffy would have been even more isolated with two people in the house that were not seeing what she was.
Just wanted to clarify that I love how Dawn was introduced and loved how the show was done. It's just fun speculating what could've been different if she had been there from the beginning.
ZM,
I'm curious about the opening paragraphs of the piece, in which you say that a better, simpler explanation of Dawn's addition to the world is this merging alternate realities business, rather than the fake memories. When we're dealing with an impossible supernatural explanandum (new Dawn plus all the memories of her), I'm not sure that there is any desideratum for quasi-natural explanation (involving merging parallel worlds), rather than a plainly supernatural one (magic). Also, it isn't my impression that this idea that for any possible event that doesn't occur in our universe, there is an alternate universe where it does occur, is anything like mainstream quantum mechanics. It sounds like a fringe theory that goes far beyond the empirical evidence that supports various tenets of q.m. In fact, it is hard to imagine what kind of evidence could possibly warrant such a conclusion, so count me as skeptical that an infinity of parallel universes is a simpler or better explanation (within the fiction of the story) for the addition of Dawn to BtVS.

I'm not a physicist, though, so I'm prepared to be disabused of misconceptions, if I'm missing some relevant evidence.
Ah, and magic is more feasible from a scientific point of view than quantum mechanics? With magic, we have to question just how far the monks' powers go. If we assume that the monks' mystic interference merged two adjacent linear timelines into one cohesive whole, then we wouldn't have to question for example whether or not Buffy's father is affected by Dawn's sudden appearance. In one of the two realities she was already there.

Perhaps less complex was an incorrect way of stating it. It's a way that offers many more story possibilities, particularly if the monks' powers are finite, because the two alternate realities might start separating again, causing all kinds of fun conflict.

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