Episode 501: "The Fiery Cross" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 501 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Fiery Cross". Overall I thought this was an excellent episode, and a terrific way to start Season 5!


There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.









I loved the opening scene, with Murtagh and eight-year-old Jamie on the day of Ellen Fraser's death. Murtagh looks heartbroken, as well he might, considering how he felt about Ellen.

Most of Murtagh's dialogue here comes word for word from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 19, "An Oath is Sworn", and I relaxed immediately, reassured by the familiar words.

"She's gone now, but I'll always be with ye. Always." This line from Murtagh made me cry. It's been less than three months since my own mother's death. But I liked the way Murtagh managed to get a half-smile from young Jamie. It helps to know you're not alone.

I won't comment in detail on the new opening credit sequence, since I already blogged about it here, but I will say that I like it more every time I watch it.

I liked the shaving scene with Roger and Jamie. I thought it was an effective way to establish their relationship right from the start. The line about the "cutthroat razor" comes from the opening chapter of THE FIERY CROSS, in which Roger did indeed cut himself shaving on the morning of his wedding.

Jamie's wig looks very good, a vast improvement from Season 4! It's a more mature, sober hairstyle, befitting a man who'll turn fifty soon, and with his hair tied in a proper queue, he looks -- finally!! -- like the 18th-century landowner he is. I'm very relieved to see this.

"Nervous?" Jamie asks Roger.
"About what the day has in store for me, or that you have a blade to my throat?"

Good line. This scene reminds me a little of the bit in Episode 106 ("The Garrison Commander") where Black Jack Randall shaves his young orderly.

I liked the way they explained that Bree and Roger would now be living in Jamie and Claire's old cabin: "Couldn't have my wee grandson sleepin' in the woods, now could we?"

Most of the dialogue in this scene comes straight from DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 67, "The Toss of a Coin", and it seems a little odd and out of place here, given that Roger has evidently been living on the Ridge for some time since the end of Season 4. Presumably Jamie knows by this time that Roger has very little in the way of 18th-century skills. Still, I enjoyed watching the two of them interact.

So Murtagh made a silver ring for Bree, similar to the one Jamie gave Claire in Season 4. We only got a brief glimpse of it, but I like the look of it. "This one's certainly fit for my daughter," Jamie says, and I agree.

And now we get our first look at the Big House. It certainly is big <g>, with room enough to hold all manner of guests, visitors, and future members of the household.

Bree looks beautiful in her wedding finery, and I think the costume designer did a wonderful job with her dress. It's lovely and elegant, and I like the embroidery. I don't mind that they changed it from the blue wool described in the book. (Here's an interview with Trisha Biggar, the show's new costume designer, in which she explains her decision about the wedding dress.)

I enjoyed the "something borrowed, something blue" scene very much. It's sweet to see Jamie taking it so seriously, wanting to make everything perfect for Bree on her wedding day.

"And no good love'll do either of them, if he gets himself killed." For those of us who've read the books, that's pretty ominous!

I love the expression on Jamie's face when Bree turns around and he sees her in her wedding dress for the first time. It's as though he never actually saw her as a beautiful woman before, only as his daughter.

The pearl necklace looks lovely worn in a double strand like that. In fact it's the first time I've seen that necklace that I actually found it attractive. It works very well with that dress.

"No matter where I am, I will always be your wee girl." Good line.

Jamie, Bree, and Claire step outside, and Jamie calls out, "The Frasers of the Ridge are here!" That line comes from the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 18, "The Flames of Declaration"), but in this context, it struck me as a little odd, given that this is a wedding, not a Gathering. Still, it certainly got the attention of everyone assembled outside.

As Claire walks down the aisle, she nods to Governor Tryon and Lord John Grey, neither of whom were there for Bree and Roger's wedding in the book. Still, I was very glad to see Lord John there, considering all he did for Bree in Season 4.

Roger looks very handsome and dignified in his blue suit.

The wedding ceremony was just wonderful, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Well done!

On re-watching, I keep getting distracted by the little boy in the front row (Germain), who can't keep still in his seat.
I liked Claire and Jamie's whispered exchange:

"Brave face, darling."
"It's as brave as I can muster, given that it's not in Latin and conducted by a Catholic priest."
Claire: <rolls eyes>

As Roger and Bree exchange their vows, Jamie looks over at Fergus and Marsali, smiling at each other with love in their eyes, and then he looks at Claire, and we get a brief flashback of Jamie and Claire's wedding in Season 1, the two of them speaking those same vows -- and it ends with Jamie and Claire, in the present day, echoing Brianna's, "As long as we both shall live." I thought that was really effective, very moving.

At the wedding reception afterward, I was struck by the variety of guests present, ranging from John Quincy Myers to Jocasta and Ulysses. And suddenly I really missed Young Ian. Every other important character is here (well, except Murtagh, but we'll get to that in a bit), but Ian is far away with the Mohawk.

I like the dialogue in Jamie's conversation with Governor Tryon.

"But I can't help but feel myself robbed of the satisfaction of seeing one particular story being brought to its conclusion. Your dispatches have kept me enthralled for these past few months, but a few too many twists and turns of plot for my taste. You know, I like to see a villain get his comeuppance."

This is, of course, a reference to his having ordered Jamie to track down and kill Murtagh in the final scene of Season 4.

The little boy who plays Germain is very cute. "Grand-pere says [....] all Presbyterians have hair-ticks." That made me laugh out loud.

Germain is a little older in the show than he is in the book, but I'm not going to complain about it. If they aged him up for convenience, to make it easier to get him to say his lines or do what they needed him to do in certain scenes, I'm willing to suspend disbelief. The fact that he's dark-haired rather than blond like Book Germain took me by surprise at first, but I'm not bothered by it.

The scene with Bree and Roger cutting their wedding cake was very nice, a little touch of the 20th century coming through. As the newlyweds looked up at the crowd, I half-expected to see a wedding photographer snapping pictures, and it took me a second to think, "Oh, right. Remember when they are!"

"But you did come back," Bree says, "and that's all that matters." I'm so glad that's settled between them!

On the other hand....

"Maybe when we go back, we can do all this again, and I'll be a little more prepared."  So Roger isn't sure they should stay for good. Notice the look on Bree's face as he says this. Uh-oh! That's an issue that's going to come up again, I'm sure.

I liked the fiddle music in the dancing scene. The tune is called "My Love She's But a Lassie Yet," and it's based on a poem by Robert Burns. Here's a video.

As darkness falls, the festivities get much more raucous, with John Quincy Myers leading a drunken tongue-twister contest. Notice the young man who recites "Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers." Myers calls him Morton, so this must be Isaiah Morton. I wonder how much of Isaiah's storyline from the book will appear in Season 5?

I thought Lauren Lyle was terrific as Marsali in this scene. And Lord John, trying to elevate the tone of things a bit with the reference to Shakespeare, and totally failing, made me laugh.

I was vaguely aware that the "mashed potato" was a dance from the 1960s, but I'd never actually seen it before, so (prompted by Bree and Claire's conversation) I found this video from 1962. I can't quite picture Jamie dancing like that, can you? <g>

It's good to see Jamie and Lord John having a quiet moment to speak together. In THE FIERY CROSS, Lord John doesn't appear at all except through letters, so I see this in-person meeting as an unexpected treat for both of them. I thought this was an effective use of adaptation, to condense the original material without losing too much of the flavor of it.  Lord John seems to be finding his role as stepfather to an almost-teenager (William is about twelve at this point) rather stressful, and he informs Jamie that William has gone to England, just as in the book.

The other piece of news Lord John brings is much more disturbing: Stephen Bonnet is alive and has been sighted "in the province". Brianna, just passing by, reacts with shock and horror at the sound of Bonnet's name, and we see a brief flashback of her rape. How awful for Bree, to have to relive those memories on her wedding night, of all times!

I liked Claire's comment that Frank "would be delighted that you're marrying an Oxford man." That's undeniably true.

The next scene, with Jocasta and Murtagh, was well done, but I am still not at all enthusiastic about what the fans have taken to calling "Murcasta". Enough already!

Jamie and Claire babysitting baby Jemmy was quite entertaining, and a good way to give Roger and Bree some privacy on their wedding night.

I thought Roger's serenading Bree with "L-O-V-E" was fantastic! Richard Rankin did a fabulous job with that song, which I hadn't heard before. It's a Nat King Cole song from 1964, and it works amazingly well in this context. I have always loved the use of "Yesterday" in the book (very poignant and eerily appropriate lyrics), but it would have been much too expensive, and anyway I think the upbeat tone of "L-O-V-E" suits a community wedding celebration much better.

I enjoyed the montage. The sex scenes with three different couples made me think at once of the "CODA IN THREE-TWO TIME" from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. Even Murtagh and Jocasta didn't bother me much in this context, since the focus wasn't only on the two of them.

Notice the elderly couple kissing at about 34:15, just before Jemmy cries. Mr. and Mrs. Bug, perhaps?  Also Marsali, gesturing to her belly and smiling at Fergus. Another baby on the way!

That shot of Bree on her wedding night, lying wide awake in bed after having sex with Roger, but (from the look in her eyes) clearly still preoccupied with Stephen Bonnet, is heartbreaking. It's a shame that thoughts of him had to intrude on such an otherwise perfect day, but Sophie did a good job of conveying that without words.

The next morning, Jocasta and Murtagh reassess their relationship.

"In another lifetime, you and I might have had more time," Murtagh says. He sounds regretful, but ready to break it off.

"Duncan Innes has proposed marriage," Jocasta announces.

My eyes popped wide open in surprise at that. This is, I believe, the very first reference to Duncan in the TV show, and I really hope it means that they are planning to bring him into the series this season (at long last!), and assume his rightful place in the OUTLANDER universe. But I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much.

Jocasta makes it clear she hasn't decided whether to accept Duncan's proposal, so it could come to nothing in the end. Still, Murtagh's "I'll no stand in the way of your happiness," and the way Jocasta pulled her hand out of his at the end, make me cautiously optimistic. I'll be watching eagerly to see where this leads.

Meanwhile, back at the Big House, Lizzie is flirting with a young man who turns out to be Josiah Beardsley. He certainly looks the part, even if he's a bit older than the fourteen-year-old described in the book. And he appears to be wearing a wig similar to Jamie's awful wig from Season 4. It suits him far better than it did Jamie!

The scene with Roger and Jocasta is just terrific, very much as I've always pictured it from the book, and I'm so glad they kept the dialogue intact.

“If ye canna love the lad for himself, I thought ye might treat him well for the sake of his prospects.”

He stared at her, words jamming in his throat. His face felt hot, and the blood throbbed dully in his ears.

“Oh, I ken how it is,” she assured him. “It’s only to be understood that a man might not feel just so kindly toward a bairn his wife’s borne to another. But if—”

He stepped forward then and gripped her hard by the shoulder, startling her. She jerked, blinking, and the candle flames flashed from the cairngorm brooch.

“Madam,” he said, speaking very softly into her face. “I do not want your money. My wife does not want it. And my son will not have it. Cram it up your hole, aye?”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Pride". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I just love the bit at the end, after Roger storms off. Ulysses is laughing quietly. "As you hoped, Mistress?" And she smiles in satisfaction, saying, "Even better."

Claire, in her surgery at the Big House, examines Josiah and says his tonsils need to be removed. Jamie tells him Claire will do the surgery if Josiah agrees to come and settle on the Ridge.

And now the Governor is back, referring to Jamie as "Colonel" and telling him, "It's time for you to fulfill your oath."  He leaves, with most of his troops, and Jamie, having no choice, says they will prepare to leave within a week.

Meanwhile, Roger returns to the cabin after his explosive meeting with Jocasta. He kneels down by the crib where Jemmy lies, and cuts his hand with his dirk.

"Roger, what are you doing?"
"Something I should have done a long time ago."

Yes, indeed! say all the book-fans out there (including me!) who were disappointed not to see this in the finale of Season 4.

The blood oath Roger swears comes word-for-word from DRUMS:
Roger knelt in front of her, and reaching out, pushed the shawl aside and smeared a broad red cross upon the downy curve of the baby’s forehead.

“You are blood of my blood,” he said softly, “and bone of my bone. I claim thee as my son before all men, from this day forever.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 66, "Child of My Blood". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I have always loved this bit in the book, and I'm delighted to see it here. Better late than never!

Jamie comes home to break the news to Claire about the militia. I just love the way he says, "Tryon wants a Scot. I'll give him a Scot!"

Watching Jamie wearing the full regalia of a Highlander for the first time in many years, I thought immediately of this quote from DRUMS:
A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight--any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored Highlander in the prime of his life is breathtaking. He hadn’t worn the kilt since Culloden, but his body had not forgotten the way of it.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "The Return of John Quincy Myers". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
I loved Claire's reaction to seeing Jamie dressed like this. Cait does a marvelous job of showing how conflicted she is, without saying a word. Of course she must find him irresistible, dressed much as he was on their wedding day (how could she not?), but she only looks at him with a slight, worried frown on her face. And then she nods slightly, as if to say, "Do what you have to do."

Jamie walks outside, where night has fallen, and proceeds without a word to take a torch to the large Celtic cross in the yard. That gets everyone's attention in a hurry. When the crowd assembles, Jamie tells them the story of the fiery cross, taken almost word-for-word from the book.
“In the Highlands of Scotland, when a chieftain would set himself for war,” he said, his tone casually conversational, but pitched to be heard throughout the dooryard, “he would burn the fiery cross, and send it for a sign through the lands of his clan. It was a signal to the men of his name, to gather their weapons and come to the gathering place, prepared for battle.”

There was a stir in the midst of the crowd, a brief nudging and more cries of approval, though these were more subdued. A few men had seen this, or at least knew what he was talking about. The rest raised their chins and craned their necks, mouths half-open in interest.

“But this is a new land, and while we are friends”--he smiled at Gerhard Mueller--“Ja, Freunde, neighbors, and countrymen”--a look at the Lindsay brothers--“and we will be companions in arms, we are not clan. While I am given command, I am not your chief.”

The hell you aren’t, Roger thought. Or well on your way to it, anyroad.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Playing With Fire". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I thought Sam was just mesmerizing during this speech, absolutely channeling Jamie Fraser with his words, tone of voice, and body language. Just perfect!

"Stand by my hand," he says, gesturing to Roger. But Roger just stands there, frozen with shock, and before he can decide whether to step forward, another man (Isaiah Morton) has come forward to be first to swear the oath.

I was surprised to see the ceremony. I wasn't expecting something so formalized, nor so closely resembling the oath-taking at Castle Leoch from Episode 104, "The Gathering". But I thought it worked well.

Jamie calls Roger by name, and says, just as in the book, "Be a shield for your family, and for mine. Son of my house." And he gives Roger the rank of Captain. As Roger is absorbing that, Jamie murmurs, "You'll be safe by my side." And knowing all too well what's coming later, I felt a chill up my spine at those words.

Roger has clearly been paying close attention, because he recites the oath flawlessly and without hesitation, after hearing it only once.

And then Jamie calls Fergus, "son of my name and of my heart", which made me go, "Awwww!!"

The last scene in the episode serves as sort of a bookend to the first. Jamie and Murtagh, alone in the woods. Jamie tells Murtagh about Tryon's order, and the coming confrontation with the Regulators. As they talk, Murtagh begins putting together a miniature stone circle on the ground, complete with a tall central stone like the one at Craigh na Dun.

"Claire, Brianna, Roger....they all came to this time from another. And because they did, ye have everything you've ever wanted."

That's insightful, coming from Murtagh.

"It's no longer safe for you to remain here," Jamie says. "I know you stayed because of the vow you made to my mother, and to me. Now, I release you from it." And he tells Murtagh to go.  "Be hard to find."

As the episode ends, Jamie crouches on the ground, weeping for his godfather, and for what he may be forced to do.
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 502.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free.


inge oppenheimer said...

karen, i can't tell you how glad i am that i read this before going upstairs to cycle and again see episode 501! it's a brilliant analysis and will so enrich the re-viewing of the episode.

Kikibritches said...

Thank you for your review and including the book references. I am hoping to like Outlander again after its horrendous 4th season.

Maggie said...

I loved your review. Do you think Roger might have come across the oath in his studies and that's why he knew it?

Cate said...

The line Claire has in the book about seeing a Highlander in full regalia - in DRUMS - is ALSO in OUTLANDER - book one, at the wedding. I remember reading it there first, and then DG repeated it almost word for word in DRUMS. I thought that was pretty cool. Here it is from book one, Chapter 14:

“A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight—any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.” Apple Books. :

Karen Henry said...

Maggie - no, but I think Roger was paying careful attention to what the first man said, and he has an excellent memory.

Karen Henry said...

Cate - you're right, and I've always loved the repetition of that bit in DRUMS. Diana Gabaldon has said that was intentional.

Unknown said...

I wish Jamie had made his proclamation about the Frasers of the Ridge when he came out wearing the kilt and that other clans had followed, just like in the book.

Eileen Cobb said...

Maggie, I had the same thought about Roger "knowing" the oath because of his studies. That will be my head canon. ;)

Anonymous said...

I’m so happy to be in the new season. The night before the premiere, I thought to myself “I have to find Karen’s blog!” Looking forward to your insight and unnoticed details , you already pointed out a few things I hadn’t noticed. I enjoyed the premiere. I love the house, I love historic home details in any show I’m watching. I notice paint colors, quilt patterns and cross stitch pictures on the walls. I think that’s why I don’t see all the other details like conversations, haha. I think my favorite part was seeing Jamie and Brianna’s relationship and where it is after last season, warmed my heart!

Unknown said...

Pretty sure I saw that the they have casted someone to take on the Duncan Innes role. Guess the producers knew they had to break Jocasta away from Murtaugh if they wanted to keep Jocasta's FC storyline in the show. Also, I think Roger knew the oath word for word because of his background as a historian, not because he remembered it from Isaiah Morton's recitation.

Unknown said...

Good job of recapping the season's opener!

Phyllis P said...

I love your recaps, especially how they fit in with the books! I really think this season is going to be epic, even though there is so much gut wrenching that I know is going to happen.

Tina Thomas Batchelor said...

Lovely. Your words took me through the episode once more and at their conclusion I found myself in tears....just as I was each time I watched. What is it about this story (all of the books) that grabs so genuninely at my heart and swells the emotions within me? I think a few things....Diana got it so right....and these are my very own people...blood of my blood and bone of my bone...I am of Scottish descent and my ancestors traveled up the Cape Fear to settle in the Iron Duff community just outside of Asheville. By the telling of this story its as if I am seeing what my own family endured....and I feel it..."in the deep heart's core." Thank you for being a part of that!!

Anonymous said...

I didn’t picture the big house like this at all. I pictured a log cabin. Anyone else? Kind of threw me off seeing a more modern looking g house.

Unknown said...

As an older person, I don't find it offensive that Murtagh and Jocasta have a physical relationship. They may be old, but not dead yet. The love making scenes between them were very tastefully done in Season 4, and in Season 5. I am a bit saddened that Murtagh perhaps put his true feelings aside, because he realizes this time he may not be able to outfox the authorities. And his conversation later with Jamie certainly indicates that perhaps he has a premonition that his time is almost up.

Narelle said...

So glad Droughtlander is over. Really enjoyed Episode 1. Jamie is Jamie again. Love your blog Karen,and looking forward to reading it each week.Thank you.

Susan said...

Loved reading your recap and as always hit all the points. I thought the season opener was fantastic. I really enjoyed the humorous parts, reminds me of Season 1 and the highlanders. I got a kick out of Germaine telling Roger that Grandpere said he had ticks,etc. The scenes with Claire and Bree and Jaime and Bree before the wedding could not have been more perfect! Finally, loved the bookending of Jaime and Murtagh, although it was heartbreaking!
Thanks for the wonderful job you do and will look forward to the rest of the seasons' recaps!

Maurizio Garbolino said...

Maggie, I had the same thought about Roger "knowing" the oath because of his studies. That will be my head canon. ;)

SOMEWHERE in the books it is WRITTEN THAT ROGER (and Brianna) think of this Oath with burning Cross as some kind of ancestor of KKK rites -
I think that this also may explain Roger's Behaviour

Maurizio Garbolino

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen loved it from start tofinish and it had everything fans wanted and more and seeing Jamie in his kilt again was long overdue and seeing him in his commanding presence reminded me why I fell in love with him again in the first place he just draws you into him , I think there will be a different side to Roger than before and he wil be tested in ways before but he will do what he must for his family and Jamie and will be the Man of the House the way Jamie wants him to be , will be watching more this week and sundays . am so glad Droughtlander is finally over , will be watching episode 2 in Lake Placid NY where in 1980 the US Hockey Team won Olympic Gold over the USSR and its 40th Anniversary . love Outlander very much . please post more soon. Happy Week. Loving Outlander.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen wilbe watching episode 2 in Lake Placid NY where in 1980 the US Hockey team won Olympic Gold over the USSR and its 40th Anniversary and it wil be very exciting to be reliving old memories ,so hope you have a fun weekend too . please post more soon. Happy Week. Loving Outlander .sincerely .

Unknown said...

I was very disappointed that the show didn't have Roger swear his oath to Jemmy in front of Jamie. I thought that act was very important in the starting relationship between Roger and Jamie. It was a moment when Jamie recognized a man he could respect. The reference Diana makes to the McKenzie blood in both of them. I was sad they took the significance of that moment away from both Roger and Jamie.

Jana said...

Love the comments posted here, and am loving series five.
It really jarred with me that Claire says to Jamie at the wedding "brave face darling". I have never heard Claire call Jamie "darling" and unless I missed it I don't think she called book Jamie "darling" either, although she endlessly called Frank "darling". Just a small annoyance. but he is Jamie to her, James or when annoyed with him a "bloody Scott".
Also, what has happened to Claire's original wedding ring. In the book she wears both her original rings as it is Franks ring that is stolen by Bonnet, and retrieved by Brianna. I know Claire's new silver ring is more like the one described by the author, but I actually loved the first one and hadn't heard what had happened to it. I did think that when Jamie gave Roger the ring made by Murtagh it was the replacement Jamie had made for Claire and Claire was back to wearing the original.
Any way, thanks for a place to contribute my opinion.

Alison S said...

I’m greatly enjoying your posts Karen and finally catching up to the present time. I only came to Outlander in 2020 but have watched all seasons and am now well into my second reading of the fabulous books. Your past analyses have helped clarify some of my misgivings about the differences between the books and the TV series but I’m still struggling with some of adaptions and the reasons for them n spite of reading widely and listening to interviews etc.
Obviously the long chapter of the Gathering and all that happens needed to be condensed but Diana didn’t make a big deal of Brianna and Roger’s wedding and I felt this wedding focus of the episode was really only to appease what somebody believes TV viewers crave: modern wedding sentimentality. The secret baptisms would have been good and funny as would have been an introduction to the Bugs who play an important in subsequent books.
This view is with hindsight though (seeing I have seen the rest of the series by now) so I’ll be interested to read your comments and those of the people who respond.
Alison S

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog.
One thing did confuse me a bit- I just rewatched all seasons and at Brianna and rogers wedding the tongue twister “Peter Piper” must be a small mistake, as it weren’t published until 1813, unless Claire taught it to them all?

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