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All the Ways the Little Fires Everywhere TV Show Changes the Book

Just like the quaint Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, the place Hulu’s Little Fires All over the place takes place, all the pieces was deliberate to be good. In 2017, the Celeste Ng guide appeared invincible. The primary New York Occasions bestseller landed on practically each best-of-the-year guide record, and Reese Witherspoon, an early champion of the novel, gave it her Midas contact: a coveted Reese’s Ebook Membership sticker the month it got here out. Then her famed manufacturing firm, Whats up Sunshine, teamed up with Kerry Washington’s Simpson Road to possibility the guide for TV. The present is now on Hulu, with Ng serving as producer. So why is not it a masterpiece?

Little Fires follows two polar-opposite moms, Elena Richardson (Witherspoon, in her factor as a rich type-A blonde) and Mia Warren (Washington, utilizing her ferocity à la Olivia Pope to breathe complexity right into a ravenous artist). It is the summer time of 1997, and Mia, together with her daughter Pearl in tow, has simply arrived in picturesque Shaker Heights, the place the duplexes conceal their secondary entrance doorways to keep away from damaging curb enchantment. Mia has raised Pearl largely from the backseat of her automobile, however decides to settle within the suburb to work on her subsequent undertaking. Elena, an overachieving mom of 4 excessive schoolers, considers renting to Mia an act of charity. The 2 girls may change into mates—or not less than planets in the identical orbit—till Mia meets Bebe Chow. Bebe’s predicament as an undocumented immigrant who gave up her youngster out of desperation sharpens the contrasts between Elena and Mia till their collective secrets and techniques set their lives ablaze.

The present is compulsively bingeable, a firestorm of star energy and thriller sprinkled with insightful performances that propel you into the following episode. However, as many critics have already famous, the difference by no means fairly rises to the ability of its predecessor—in lots of circumstances as a result of it scrambles and alters its supply materials in diminishing methods. Under, breaks down how the collection diverges from the guide, episode by episode, and what these modifications imply for Ng’s unique story.

(Spoilers for Little Fires All over the place beneath. Updates shall be added weekly after every episode is launched.)


Episode 1: “The Spark”

The Warrens Are Found, Not Launched

Within the harried first moments of the premiere, little appears completely different from the guide. We watch how the story ends: Elena Richardson stares on the crumbling stays of her residence, burning to embers.

However because the present flashes again to 4 months prior, it continues Elena’s story. She begins her day checking her weight and getting ready her husband’s espresso earlier than work. Vivid and enthusiastic, she’s the best suburban mom. A standard day awaits her, till she drives previous a automobile in a car parking zone, the place she sees a lady sleeping. Elena calls the police to research.

And so we meet Mia and Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood), however their introduction within the guide is way completely different. Although chapter one opens with the Richardsons watching their home burn, chapter two introduces the Warrens merely as latest Shaker transplants. There’s little about them that raises Elena’s completely plucked eyebrows. The present, as an alternative, introduces them via Elena’s suspicious gaze: as an issue, an unpleasant blemish on her in any other case spotless neighborhood. Once they wish to lease from her, she agrees partly out of guilt. This stigma sticks to them all through the collection.

The Warrens Are Black

Instantly, the present introduces a vital change from the supply materials: Mia is black. In Ng’s novel, Mia’s race isn’t explicitly talked about, although we’re to imagine she is white; the category division between her and the remainder of Shaker is stark, positive, however we all know her life would look markedly completely different if she was black. That is what Hulu’s adaptation explores, and race modifications how Mia’s each motion is perceived, from dozing in her automobile to buying groceries in a mostly-white neighborhood. This is a wonderful alternative for the difference, because it provides one other layer of nuance to Mia and Elena’s coming battle.

Sadly, the present doesn’t all the time deal with this dialog artfully. It’s set within the ‘90s, when “colorblind” politics had been all the craze, and Elena takes each probability she will be able to to reference this. When the Warrens first arrive to peruse the Richardsons’ rental, Elena mentions their faculty: “It was truly one of many first built-in colleges within the metropolis!” Many awkward remarks that equate with, “Take a look at me, being colorblind,” stack up within the two episodes that observe. They plant the preliminary seed for what may have change into a charming dissection of privilege, however as an alternative, the characters proceed to skirt the difficulty. The feedback make the characters appear stubbornly two-dimensional, and so they by no means result in any trustworthy perception. Hopefully this modifications within the episodes to come back.

Izzy Suffers From Extra Than Teen Angst

When Pearl meets Moody (Gavin Lewis), the Richardsons’ sophomore son, we get a more in-depth peek at Elena’s relationship together with her youngest daughter, Izzy. They don’t seem to be shut.

Within the guide, Izzy is painted as a considerably archetypal black sheep. She doesn’t just like the cookie-cutter life her mom sketched out for her. She responds by arguing, performing out, and pulling pranks on lecturers who mistreat her few mates. However the present provides one other layer: One in all Izzy’s latest friendships has ruptured, and Elena doesn’t know why. She suggests Izzy put on her hair down in an effort to spice up her daughter’s reputation. Easy sufficient, proper? However Izzy, in protest, units her hair on fireplace.

That is, uh, maybe a bit of heavy-handed. Establishing Izzy as a pyromaniac within the first episode offers us little motive to doubt she is likely to be guilty for the following house-on-fire incident. And but her mother and father refuse remedy?? As a substitute, Elena suggests Izzy get “The Rachel.” How we love the ’90s.

Moody and Pearl Are Caught Trespassing


Lexi Underwood as Pearl Warren and Gavin Lewis as Moody Richardson.


As Moody and Pearl’s relationship deepens, he invitations her to his makeshift hideout in an area junkyard. They recite brooding poetry and trade coy appears to be like…till neighborhood watch discovers them.

Mia, terrified to see a police automobile pulling as much as her driveway, loses it. Elena, who’s noticeably calmer—and, actually, is mates with the neighborhood watchman—tells Mia there’s “no motive to get this upset.” This does not soothe Mia. Later, she tells Pearl, black individuals “don’t get passes like them.” In response, Pearl lashes out, telling Mia, “Mrs. Richardson places her children first,” implying Mia doesn’t.

None of this snapping forwards and backwards takes place within the guide. The subtext is there, after all: Pearl needs for stability, for readability round her historical past, for the comfortable however inaccessible world of the Richardsons. However by cracking open these wounds with a shouting match, the present erases the guide’s extra detailed examination of sophistication pressure, of empathy and lack thereof. We’re inspired, as an alternative, to select a facet and be part of the fray.

Episode 2: “Seeds and All”

Mia Has Intercourse

From the second the second episode begins, we all know precisely what sort of creaking noise we’re listening to. Mia’s having intercourse with a stranger in her automobile whereas Pearl sleeps within the backseat. The present’s remedy of Mia’s sexuality is a gigantic shift from Ng’s novel. Within the guide, Mia is pointedly asexual. She’s by no means seen an grownup man bare. She’s by no means, as Ng places it, “felt that heat, that electrical pressure.” But within the Hulu adaptation, Pearl tells Moody her mom has intercourse with “whomever she needs, every time she needs.” Mia tells Pearl intercourse doesn’t have to imply something.

This contrasts with Elena, who, comically, schedules intercourse together with her husband for each Wednesday and Saturday. However why such a stark division between the 2 girls? To show Elena because the overcautious architect and Mia because the careless free spirit? That is already established. Giving Mia a trait with extra thriller, extra nuance, extra collision in opposition to a world that doesn’t perceive her—that might have been the bolder alternative.

Pearl and Moody Trace At One thing Extra

We knew this may occur. Within the guide, Moody has a large, apparent crush on Pearl, however Pearl by no means offers him a motive to consider she feels the identical. Within the present’s second episode, nevertheless, the 2 take pleasure in a few of Mia’s weed stash—one other attention-grabbing deviation from the guide—and collapse on the mattress collectively. They intertwine palms. They speak about intercourse. The viewers begins to surprise.

Mia Rescues Ebook Membership

A lot to her chagrin, Elena is tasked with internet hosting a dialogue of The Vagina Monologues for guide membership. (She unsurprisingly hates the phrase “vagina” and needed to learn one thing much less controversial, like *cough* Memoirs of A Geisha). The gossip takes a flip as among the attendees specific related discomfort, whereas others wish to discover the stigma. Mia, who helps with foods and drinks, decides to step in.

Just a few hours earlier, Mia stumbled upon a legal background examine of her personal title, faxed to Elena’s residence workplace. Now, she jumps in to rescue Elena’s floundering argument on the membership, telling the group, “I feel Elena is speaking about vaginas as a metaphor for our personal discomfort with the elements of us that make us most uniquely and primarily who we’re.” None of this occurs within the guide.

Afterward, Elena and Mia share a bottle of wine. They talk about the fax. They talk about motherhood. They giggle and get a bit of drunk. They inch nearer to one another, however then Elena presents to purchase Mia’s artwork. Mia pulls again. The 2 girls by no means circle one another this carefully within the guide. Their relationship is extra distant and uncomfortable—intersecting however not meshed.

Pearl Leans On Elena’s Leverage



Pearl sits down with a steering counselor to advocate for a place in a tougher math course. The person takes one have a look at her and assumes three issues: 1) She’s commuting from Cleveland, 2) The lessons can be too powerful for her, and three) She wants backed lunch types. Solely the final is true.

Annoyed, Pearl confides in her mom, who tells her she’s a wise woman who can determine it out. Discouraged, Pearl asks Elena for assist drafting a letter to the counselor. Elena says she’ll deal with it, and goes to the college to make the change herself. When Mia asks about it later, Pearl says she took care of it. However within the guide, she makes a degree solely to omit data when speaking to her mom—by no means outright mendacity. It’s a trademark of her character and of the mother-daughter relationship. Even in all of the chaos, Pearl stays sure to Mia. Within the present, she’s already slipping away.

Episode 3: “Seventy Cents”

Mia Pushes Bebe Chow To Discover Her Daughter

Within the third episode, we’re lastly launched to the principle battle of the novel: Bebe Chow’s legitimacy as a mom. We watch as Bebe (Huang Lu), new child Might Ling in her arms, struggles to get her daughter to latch. An undocumented Chinese language immigrant, Bebe has no sources. She has no cash for components. Her lighting and warmth is shut off. She doesn’t sleep, and Might Ling doesn’t cease crying. Determined, she leaves the child at a hearth station, the place she hopes somebody will look after the kid till she will be able to.

However the child disappears. Now working at a Chinese language restaurant, Fortunate Palace, with Mia, Bebe tells her story. Mia, abruptly lit from inside, pushes her co-worker to seek for her daughter. There’s an urgency in her tone that does not fairly match Mia’s cautious, quiet nature within the guide. We all know instantly that Mia has a stake on this.

Lexie Steals Pearl’s Essay

Lexie (Jade Pettyjohn), Elena’s eldest daughter, will get into Yale. She is going to. There isn’t a query. However so as to take action, she has to write down an essay a couple of “hardship” she’s endured. Apprehensive her glittering, conflict-free life gained’t minimize it, Lexie decides to make use of Pearl’s story—bear in mind the counselor?—as her personal, substituting gender discrimination for racial prejudice. She feels justified as a result of, later, she takes Pearl gown buying.

Lexie reads her modified essay aloud to her boyfriend, Brian, who’s black. He is uncertain Lexie truly skilled this trauma, and later, he learns the reality: Lexie’s essay wasn’t “impressed” by something. It was taken from Pearl and reworked for Lexie’s profit. He tells Pearl the reality on the faculty dance. Within the guide, Pearl presents to write down Lexie’s essay for her, however the present would not give her the prospect to make that call.

Izzy Is Focused for Her Sexuality at Faculty


Megan Stott as Izzy Richardson.


At dinner, Journey refers to Izzy as “Ellen.” Her face freezes, and she or he leaves the desk. When Elena expresses confusion, Moody explains, “Like Degeneres, Mother.” Elena confronts her daughter about this later, on the way in which to high school. She tells Izzy, “In the event that they’re saying one thing unfaithful, then you must change the story.” She wavers. “Are they saying one thing unfaithful?”

“In fact it’s unfaithful,” Izzy snaps.

Within the guide, Izzy’s sexuality isn’t explored. Her standing as a social pariah has much less to do together with her orientation than with the singled-out consideration her mom bestowed on her from early childhood. The present’s inclusion of one other difficult social assemble—heteronormativity—is an attention-grabbing and admirable one, however the piling of battle over battle, id over id, begins to rub away on the core of the characters till they’re higher outlined as archetypes.

Later on this episode, Izzy is accused of sexually assaulting a feminine classmate.

Bebe Crashes Her Daughter’s Birthday Social gathering

When Elena lets it slip to Mia that her finest buddy, Linda McCullough, lately adopted a Chinese language child who was discovered deserted at a hearth station, Mia practically journeys over herself to get out the door. Later, she presents to {photograph} the child’s birthday celebration, and when she discovers a particular birthmark on the again of her head, rushes to inform Bebe.

Towards Mia’s recommendation, Bebe insists on seeing Might Ling (now Mirabelle) instantly, and rushes to the social gathering. As Elena brings within the cake with a single fluttering candle, Bebe bursts via the entrance door, screaming, “That’s my child!” The social gathering devolves into hysterical shouting, and two company drag Bebe out of the home. This doesn’t occur within the guide. The chaos makes for nice tv and a hell of a cliffhanger for the primary three episodes. However there’s additionally one thing off about this scene. It makes Bebe appear deranged, unjustified relatively than merely unwelcome. As soon as once more, nuance is minimize out of the story in favor of melodrama. Ng’s work thrives on subtlety, on what’s understood however unsaid. There’s nothing refined about this.

Episode 4: “The Spider Net”

Elena presents Bebe cash to go away the McCulloughs alone.

Elena, ever the journalist, realizes Mia was concerned with Bebe’s sudden look on the birthday celebration when she acknowledges the outline of Mia’s hatchback within the police report. After inserting an order at Fortunate Palace, she confirms her personal suspicions: Bebe and Mia work collectively, and Mia helps Bebe combat for her child.

Seemingly determined to help her spiraling buddy Linda—when, in actuality, she merely can’t stand to not be within the middle of the motion—Elena presents to barter with Bebe on the McCulloughs’ behalf. She reveals up at Bebe’s residence with a $10,000 examine and her signature condescending tone, sweetened simply sufficient to make you query her intentions. She tells Bebe to take the cash and provides her daughter “a greater life.” She even throws in a bonus: She’ll assist Bebe achieve authorized citizenship. Bebe responds, “You will have kids?” When Elena solutions affirmatively, Bebe lands a razor-sharp retort: “How a lot would you promote them for?”

This by no means occurs within the guide. To begin with, $10,000 is kind of a lowball, even when adjusted for inflation—adopting a child can value round $45,000, generally rather more. Shopping for a child off her mom for fairly a bit decrease appears each unrealistic and merciless.

Second, that is one other instance of the writers taking Elena’s character a step additional than essential. Within the guide, Elena makes her choices rigorously. She believes “ardour, like fireplace, [is] a harmful factor.” She’d be sensible sufficient to know that providing a lady cash for her youngster gained’t look good in court docket, and she or he’d discover a extra refined (and passive aggressive) technique to combat.

The Spider Web

Erin Simkin

Mia sells her prized picture to get Bebe cash for a lawyer.

Within the guide, this determination isn’t essential. Ed Lim, Bebe’s lawyer, decides to characterize her, free of charge, after seeing segments about her within the information. Mia and Bebe cleverly launch this media marketing campaign to get the sting on the McCulloughs.

Within the present, Mia is extra determined. Bebe wants $30,000 for a lawyer, and as a way to get it, Mia contacts her gallerist, Anita, and sells her most prized work: {a photograph} of Mia herself, pregnant with Pearl and bare in a tub. She sobs as she packages it and sends it to Sotheby’s.

This picture doesn’t exist within the guide, although it is in all probability meant to face in for an additional. We’ll get into that in later episodes.

Pearl and Journey have an, uh, uncomfortable encounter.

Pearl and Journey do certainly have a romance within the guide, however within the present it goes incorrect earlier than it will possibly start. Whereas finding out collectively, they start to make out. They head to Pearl’s mattress and begin to have intercourse, however Journey finds he’s struggling to, nicely, stick with it. In response, he jumps up shortly, pissed, and pulls on his garments. He blames Pearl for “doing it incorrect” and accuses her of manipulating each him and Moody into falling for her. Journey, in essence, comes out trying like an unlimited jerk.

This scene by no means occurs in Ng’s novel. Actually, the connection and intercourse between Pearl and Journey is sweet and wholesome. Th present’s narrative determination cuts off Journey’s pathway to character progress. Within the guide, his relationship with Pearl permits him to change into rather more advanced than the jerk jock he appears to be. Within the present, that’s precisely what he’s.

Elena and Mia have a blowout combat.

The Spider Web

Erin Simkin

Drama, drama, drama, mates. I’ve bought to offer Witherspoon and Washington props for this scene. It’s an journey to look at. Though, after all, it by no means occurs within the guide.

After Elena confirms that Bebe and Mia are in cahoots, she activates Mia relatively violently whereas Mia scrubs her kitchen. She tells her tenant, “You’re manipulative and deceitful with no sense of the foundations or penalties, like your buddy Bebe…You’re each horrible moms…An excellent mom makes good decisions.”

Mia whirls round with a spectacular comeback: “You didn’t make good decisions; you had good decisions. Choices that being wealthy and white and entitled gave you.”

Elena: “Once more, that’s the distinction between you and me. I might by no means make this about race.”

Mia: “Elena, you made this about race once you stood on the market on the road and begged me to be your maid.”

This makes for wonderful tv, and also you already know that. I’ll fortunately watch Witherspoon and Washington duke it out anytime, and that line about decisions from Mia is likely to be certainly one of my favourite within the collection thus far. However then the dialog continues, spelling out the battle letter by letter.

Hear, this relationship has all the time been about race. It was about race from the second Elena known as the police and reported an “African-American” girl sleeping in her automobile. The viewers already is aware of the battle is about race. The guide is ready to depict a category divide artfully; the present, whereas splendidly bold and well-acted, not often lets what’s unsaid converse for itself. And so we aren’t allowed to consider carefully and constructively about how this divide occurred. As a substitute, we see solely the carnage.

Mia steals…quite a lot of issues.

We witness Mia taking receipts, measuring cups, prescription tablets, stockings, and extra from the Richardson home. She later burns a photograph of Elena. None of this occurs within the guide, and I’ll be trustworthy: I don’t know why it occurs within the present.

Subsequent week, we’ll sort out the variations in episode 5, and see if yet one more change from the guide (Mia and Pearl’s combat, which sends Pearl in search of solace on the Richardson’s) is resolved.

Episode 5: “Duo”

We meet a younger Elena.

Elena is an enigma wrapped in ribbons. In Celeste Ng’s novel, we do not be taught a lot about her inside needs or regrets —as a result of she would not permit herself to acknowledge them. As a substitute, we get tiny items of her historical past: She grew up watching the chaos of the ’60s on tv and, Ng writes, “Deep inside her a spark kindled, a spark that might flare in Izzy years later …However a part of her shuddered on the scenes on the tv display screen.”

We additionally be taught she had a boyfriend, Jamie Reynolds. He invitations her to run away to California with him, and she or he’s tempted to go, however pragmatism preserve her in Shaker Heights. “She’d been loopy to have thought of it even for a second,” Ng writes. “What she had felt for Jamie again then had been only a tiny, passing flame.”

Jamie is later drafted within the Vietnam Warfare, and the reader assumes he did not survive. That’s all know. However the present makes an attention-grabbing—and I feel clever—option to deliver Elena’s previous into the highlight. We see her in Paris, vivid and bubbly and sensuous, in love with Jamie. However this Jamie will not be a hippie; he’s a budding journalist who needs to discover the world. He tells her he can’t return to Ohio.

She responds, “Jamie, we now have an entire plan”: Transfer into her mother and father’ rental. Get jobs on the Shaker Occasions. Construct a nuclear household.

He can’t stay with the potential for remorse. They break up. Although this takes place in a different way within the guide, the present offers us deeper perception into Elena’s historical past and the sacrifices she’s too terrified to make.

Izzy finds Mia’s picture within the New York Occasions and it causes a rift between them.

Do not forget that picture of a pregnant Mia, the one she despatched to Sotheby’s to get cash for Bebe’s lawyer? Properly, Izzy noticed the Sotheby’s package deal earlier than it shipped from Mia’s rental. After which she sees the picture printed within the New York Occasions—and has the remarkably dumb notion to inform her mom.

Apparently, the picture is known sufficient to warrant an unlimited payout and protection within the Occasions artwork part. This is not fairly the case within the guide, the place a photograph of Mia holding an toddler Pearl is featured at an area artwork museum, and the kids (together with Izzy) see it on a category discipline journey. Apparently, it was shot by the late, world-famous photographer Pauline Hawthorne.

The present deserves credit score right here: The chance that Pauline’s picture would seem in a random museum in Ohio, the place Mia simply so occurs to have lately moved, appears a bit of too handy for an in any other case reasonable story. However the present additionally suffers from a scarcity of realism; when Mia hears concerning the story within the Occasions, she hisses to her gallerist on the cellphone, “You promised no press.” However after all there can be press! It’s an extremely well-known picture showing out of actually nowhere!

Mia, offended that Izzy noticed the package deal (despite the fact that, uh, it was actually leaning in opposition to the wall whereas Izzy labored in Mia’s examine), sends Izzy away. As a lot as this response was overdramatic, I appreciated Mia’s trepidation. Within the guide, she would not all the time appear afraid of who is aware of her or who is likely to be monitoring her. We’ll quickly be taught why that concern is so essential.



Lexie takes benefit of Pearl and Mia bites again.

I used to be interested in how Hulu would deal with Lexie’s onscreen abortion, and I feel they did a strong job. Within the guide, Lexie will get pregnant and makes the identical determination, and she or he does use Pearl’s title on the admission slip—however Pearl begrudgingly agrees to it. Within the present, Pearl is greatly surprised by this determination—she is not given a alternative and she or he feels betrayed.

Mia is type till she learns that Lexie used Pearl’s title.

Lexie asks Mia, “Do you suppose I did the incorrect factor?”

Mia: “I feel my daughter skipped faculty that can assist you, and also you thanked her through the use of her title after which demanding that she care for you. I spent two months cooking your dinners, working in your own home. You by no means a lot as uttered a ‘thanks.’ And now you need extra. Pearl might love to offer and provides to you, however I don’t. I’m performed.”

Lexie: “I’m sorry. I didn’t have wherever else to go.”

Mia: “You had loads of locations to go and loads of individuals who care. You don’t have any idea of what it’s wish to not have anybody. Don’t insult your personal intelligence by pretending in any other case. Whenever you’re performed, wash out your personal mug. For as soon as.”

There’s no query that Lexie is entitled and privileged and, fairly frankly, the worst. However Mia’s returned cruelty appears disingenuous, particularly contemplating the trauma Lexie has simply endured. Within the guide, Mia treats Lexie with a delicate, piercing knowledge—a knowledge that teaches Lexie way over Mia’s response on the present. Within the guide, Mia says, “Oh, Lexie. You had been in a really exhausting scenario. A scenario nobody needs to be in…You’ll all the time be unhappy about this. However it doesn’t imply you made the incorrect alternative. It’s simply one thing that you must carry.”

In response, Lexie finds herself questioning what it could have been wish to have Mia as a mom. This empathy reaches her. It modifications her. Within the present, I wrestle to see that occuring, irrespective of how justified Mia’s anger is.



Elena rekindles an outdated flame.

This episode wins an A+ from me purely on its use of Alanis Morisette’s basic “Uninvited,” however Elena’s reconnection with Jamie knocks just a few factors off the tally. Ebook Elena would’ve by no means let this occur.

Within the guide, we all know Jamie disappears into the frontlines of the Vietnam Warfare. However Hulu crops him again in Elena’s life when she goes to New York to dig into Mia’s previous. She decides Jamie’s New York Occasions sources may also help with analysis. However then they drink a complete bottle of champagne over dinner and have an embarrassingly rom com-like argument on the streets of Manhattan.

She says she needs to be mates with him once more, then admits, “I needed to know what your life appears to be like like. In the event you had been pleased with the life you selected.” She admits she has regrets.

Then she asks him to return to her resort together with her. He snaps, “What’s it like being this a lot of a narcissist? You caught to your plan. It’s not my job to make your life bearable.”

This final line is intriguing. We get a peek into Elena’s needs and her regrets. However guide Elena would by no means admit she has regrets. That’s why she will be able to’t stand Mia. Mia’s freedom, her “irresponsibility,” jeopardizes all of the rules Elena has constructed her life on. So Mia have to be erased.

Subsequent week, we’ll sort out the variations in episode 6, and see how flashbacks serve the story.

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