Mark Watches ‘Battlestar Galactica’: The Plan

In the Battlestar Galactica movie “The Plan,” two different Cavil copies set out to enact the Cylon plan for human eradication, but both ultimately come to two opposing ideas about humanity. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica. For the last time. No, I’m not crying at all.

I don’t imagine anyone could watch “The Plan” if they’d not been a pretty big fan of the general series, as the movie pretty much caters to Battlestar Galactica completists in one sense. But what surprised me by the time the end credits rolled was how Jane Espenson (who wrote this film) and Edward James Olmos (who directed it) were still able to find one hell of a compelling narrative out of a story that sometimes relies a bit too much on archival footage.

In that sense, it’s both a weakness and a strength that, like Razor, “The Plan” aims to re-contextualize two entire seasons of this show, by showing us the detailed accounts of the Cylons to enact their “plan” for humanity. There’s some retconning here, too: some of it is necessary and welcome, and some of it wasn’t all that great. (ROSLIN AIRLOCKS. Do not change that!) But when all is said and done, I welcomed the chance to expand on the Ones, the Fives, Leoben, and a specific Four/Simon with deeper character backstories and a much fuller sense of the motivations of the Cylons on this show.

Perhaps it’s a testament to the storytelling power of Battlestar Galactica, but I’d sort of forgotten about the fact that the Cylons once had a plan that they abandoned halfway through the show. I mean, everything from the beginning of season three on was so goddamn real and intense that this storyline was like child’s play in comparison. But I was very quickly reminded just how intense this show has always been from the beginning, and the expanded time allows Espenson and Olmos to show us the attack on the Colonies in frightening, horrific detail. I actually think it’s an important context to have: we shouldn’t ever forget what the Cylons did to the Twelve Colonies all those years ago. The genocide of the human race was calculated, brutal, and unbelievably violent. I don’t know if the budget for “The Plan” was drastically higher than that of an individual episode, but it sure looks like it. We get to see exterior (and destructive) shots of colonies we’d never once seen during the show, and when the Cylon MIRVs do hit these planets, the chaos is just overwhelming to watch.

But it’s just one aspect of quite a few that I enjoyed while watching “The Plan.” That plan is far more clear; I suspected that Cavil had something to do with it the entire time, but it’s outright confirmed that he lead the destruction of the Twelve Colonies in some perverted sense of justice and morality, believing that by cleansing the universe of humans, he is setting things right. One of the most unnerving things about this is watching the various Cylons spread about the fleet smiling or expressing brief moments of joy as humanity is almost entirely wiped out. But the flaw in their plan (or moreso Cavil’s, that is) is that these humanoid Cylons have rarely spent any significant time with humans, or they’ve done so in entirely saccharine ways. It’s one of the more fascinating reveals for a Cylon character: as cynical, all-knowing, and determined as the Ones are, their own naivete led them to this moment anyway, enacting a plan that was doomed from the start.

What the Ones underestimated was the “human” elements of the humanoid models, as well as the capacity for both empathy and sympathy. Cavil spent this show actively decrying his own “humanity” in the pursuit of something much more meaningful, and that’s his downfall. He didn’t see the Sixes falling in love with Baltar or Tigh. He couldn’t predict Boomer’s dual crisis of conscience. (Oh god, I love that we found out she wasn’t entirely a programmed agent with absolutely no free will, and both her Cylon and human sides were unsure whether she should betray the humans.) He could not have predicted Simon’s love for Giana being genuine enough that he would refuse his mission and kill himself permanently.

Oh, Giana. Can I just take a moment to gush about how rad it is that this show retroactively added a Latina woman to the cast and she is fierce and lovely and hilarious and THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AN UTTER DISASTER. Introducing new ideas, new continuity, and new canon is risky enough as it is, especially after the fact. But a whole new character that you have to weave into a remarkably complicated plot? OH GOD, IT WAS DONE SO WELL. Her story reminded me that there was once a time when these characters were horrified to find out that they were in a relationship with a Cylon, that it was once the deepest form of betrayal imaginable. There was also once a time when no one even knew that Cylons looked like humans, and Barolay’s emotional breakdown at this discovery still chilled me to witness.

But it was also interesting to know who the Final Five were and to see the Cavils interact with them, knowing that he viewed this as a punishment for them. (Though I imagine because Mary McDonnell wasn’t in this, that means we couldn’t get much of Tory Foster. Boooo, I liked her. Well, until she KILLED CALLY BOOOOOO SOME MORE.) Again, the man underestimated what the human experience is like. We see how Anders had to face his own sense of cowardice and loyalty on the surface of Caprica, and how that came to inform his appreciation for living. Boomer’s own missions from Cavil are rarely executed as planned, and it’s her hesitance to commit to them that ultimately prevents the Galactica population from dying.

However, it was Simon and Giana who intrigued me the most. I know I said during the regular run of BSG episodes that I wish we had more of Simon. LITTLE DID I KNOW I WOULD HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL NOW. Simon’s medical expertise proves to be part of his unraveling; the man not only grew to close to his wife and child, but having to treat those around him from the effects of the Cylon infiltration is too much for him.

I’d always viewed Simon as being direct and calculating, but in “The Plan,” he’s far more emotive and sympathetic than I previously thought. Of course, his story wouldn’t be as interesting if Espenson hadn’t chosen to include Giana’s perspective at the same time, to show both sides of a relationship that is slowly crumbling.

And that’s really what this show manages to do so well: to tell both sides of the story and leave us feel awkward and weird and unsure of what we feel. Cavil was wrong: Simon had the capacity for love, and loving his family was not an immoral, impure act, and for that, Simon chose to end his life instead of betraying his wife and child and blowing up his ship. But it was also made clear that aside from this, Simon simply didn’t believe there really was a plan. He isn’t the only one to vocalize the absurdity of this all: Why must they exterminate the few tens of thousands of survivors as well? Why can’t they just leave? Why is the plan so brutal? And as the other Cylon models start to question these very ideas, the best part of this movie is that Cavil himself begins to doubt the very premise this “plan” was built on.

It’s not that we haven’t seen different Cylons of the same model disagree before; Six and Eight did it pretty much regularly. But there’s something about John Cavil that’s so very different from all of the other Cylons. It’s that combination of intellectual wonder and hateful cynicism that sets him apart. Knowing his full story, his creation and his rebellion, puts the events in this movie into a new light. He despised humanity, and it came from his hatred of his human body. By hating himself, he hated others. What will always fascinate me is how completely unaware the humanoid Cylons were of their very human behavior, and Cavil’s bigotry is a perfect example of that.

There really is a lot of new information in “The Plan,” a lot of it filling in tiny plot twists from seasons one and two. I don’t think there’s necessarily a need to discuss each and every one of them. (Though it was nice to find out how Gina Inviere disappeared, and how Tyrol got the idea to try and kill himself at the end of season two.) The one thing that shocked and confused me the most was the reveal of how Leoben came to believe that Starbuck was destined for greatness. I liked the detail that his proficiency for working with technology was seeded this far back in the show, especially since we later saw him help out Laura Roslin during season four. I can buy that he would become obsessed with Starbuck just by listening to her actions, and I can also believe that he would think she was special because she was able to commandeer Cylon Raider. But I’m unsure where in the show’s mythology this all fits. So…Leoben possessed some prophetic skill? Was it a message from one of the gods or God or whatever to Leoben to help direct her to Earth so that things would end up as they did at the end of season four? I mean, it does explain how he knew so much about her, but….I don’t get it? SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME.

I suppose that’s just a small part of the story. This really is just two hours of Dean Stockwell being fierce and fabulous, isn’t it? The two Cavil copies that we follow over the course of “The Plan” both ultimately believe differently about humanity, with the One on Caprica convinced otherwise by Anders’s love for his friends, even after many of them have died. The other Cavil, meanwhile, learns that he’s totally cool stabbing a child to death. No, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK. Where did that come from? He just did it because…the kid was annoying? Yeah, that’s cool. Though I guess it does make some sense; he wants to eradicate humanity from the universe, so…he’ll just stab one child at a time?

Whatever. Let’s just talk about how wonderfully disturbing the end of “The Plan” is, fully explaining the conversation between the two Cavils from “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II.” We now know that the main Cavil who ostensibly killed himself in the CIC during “Daybreak,” chose to ignore that even one of his own models went against his own plan for a complete human genocide. Acting out a revenge against the Final Five by going after humanity was a terrible error of judgment, and the Caprica version of Cavil knows this. It’s amazing to me how Dean Stockwell makes subtle changes between the two versions of himself; you can actually tell the difference between the two. But this is the only chance we’ll ever get to see Caprica Cavil, who was boxed after he and the Galactica Cavil were airlocked.

The best use of archival footage is at the very end: as the two Cavils join hands and are jettisoned out into space, we hear Cavil’s monologue to Ellen Tigh from “No Exit.” He wants to experience a supernova, to feel life as a machine, and freed from his limiting human body. As horrific as Cavil was throughout this show, I never felt he was a stereotypical villain, and he might be one of the most tragic characters on the whole show. Angry at his creators for giving him a life he didn’t want, he lashed out at the universe around him, hoping to find the meaning he wanted, but in the end, he died without ever getting any closer to it.

I like “The Plan,” though it would be neat to see all the new scenes intercut into the regular show  so that we get a fuller idea of what’s going on. This movie just made me miss the show, though. I know it’s only been a week, but Battlestar Galactica has had such a profound effect on my life. Seeing these characters again–and being reminded of the journey of the first two seasons–just made me love this all so much more. I don’t know that there are that many other shows with writing as wonderful as this one, and I don’t know that many other shows are able to develop such complex and touching characters as the writers have here.

I will watch Caprica for the site, probably after I finish Buffy The Vampire Slayer. WHICH STARTS IN A WEEK, BY THE WAY holy shit. Thank you, BSG fans, for joining me on this little adventure, and for discussing this show with me. I’ll miss it.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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67 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Battlestar Galactica’: The Plan

  1. Maya says:

    I remember almost nothing about this movie except loving that there was more Simon, general disappointment at all the retconning and the AMAZING conversation with Doral about his clothing choices. Honestly, that's about all I needed out of the movie.

    BSG, you will always be flawless even with flaws. Few shows can manage that level of awesome.

  2. iremo says:

    Mark, have you thought about watching some original-flavor Battlestar Galactica? Not worth episode-by-episode reviews of course, but I think it would amuse you to see what this all was inspired by.

    • Suzannezibar says:

      We played a terrible, terrible trick on my sci-fi club last week by advertising a Battlestar Galactica night, but then forcing them to watch the first episode of the 1978 series before watching the first episode of the 2003 incarnation.

      And there was much LOL'ing.

    • bookyworm says:

      yeah, just the pilot would do.

  3. Ryan Lohner says:

    So, will you be watching Angel along with Buffy? Because that could take quite a long time.

    • psycicflower says:

      Rot13 name of other show just in case as it's potentially spoilery.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        You can un-rot13 it. I already know it exists! Thanks though.

        • cait0716 says:

          Will you be watching it? It picks up with the 4th season of Buffy. I don't think it's necessary, but it will add to your understanding and appreciation of Buffy. Even if you end up not reviewing it, it'd be cool if you watched them together.

          • tanbarkie says:

            I'd highly recommend watching them in parallel. There are several crossovers, as others have mentioned, but even aside from continuity, there's a lot of thematic feedback between the two shows that I'd love to see Mark's opinion on (in real-time, of course).

            • xpanasonicyouthx says:

              Is there a way to like…watch certain ones? Like I don't know if I can commit to watching every single episode of Angel, but I'm willing to do any crossover arcs.

              • Noybusiness says:

                Um, I don't think so, that would be highly confusing and spoiler-y for Angel. Also, by that point in your Buffy watching I think you would want to commit to Angel, either in parallel or to do separately after Buffy.

              • Noybusiness says:

                If you were going to alternate, I’d do it this way for maximum understanding without spoilers:

                * Buffy Season One
                * Buffy Season Two
                * Buffy Season Three
                * Buffy 4.01 – 4.03, Angel 1.01 – 1.03, Buffy 4.04 – 4.07, Angel 1.04 – 1.07, Buffy 4.08, Angel 1.08, Buffy 4. 09 – 4.19, Angel 1.09 – 1.19, Buffy 4.20 – 4.22, Angel 1.20 – 1.22
                * Buffy 5.01 – 5.13, Angel 2.01 – 2.11, Buffy 5.14 – 5.16, Angel 2.12 – 2.17, Buffy 5.17 – 5.22, Angel 2.18 – 2.22
                * Angel 3.01 – 3.04, Buffy 6.01 – 6.04, Angel 3.05 – 3.22, Buffy 6.05 – 6.22
                * Angel 4.01 – 4.14, Buffy 7.01 – 7.17, Angel 4.15 – 4.22, Buffy 7.18 – 7.22
                * Angel Season Five

              • lyvanna says:

                I'd say don't decide yet Mark as you still have a few episodes of Buffy to get through before it becomes an issue and by that point you might decide that you simply must/n't watch Angel.

                You could just watch the corresponding crossover episodes in Angel but outside of Angel S1 I think that could end up being too spoilery/confusing.

                • Noybusiness says:

                  Good advice. Mark has a good long time to decide. I just find the limited watching idea problematic because of the issue Lyvanna mentions and also if you were to watch Angel episodes for Buffy crossover you'd then be re-watching them when you watched Angel through.

              • threerings13 says:

                I would just strongly recommend you watch Angel at all. After watching both series twice, I think I actually prefer Angel, which I never would have thought based only on Buffy. I watched Buffy on DVD, and didn't watch Angel until after I'd finished the entire show. It was a little confusing at times, but overall it was ok. I've still never watched them in tandem, as most people who watched them live did.

              • Angel is awesome and is actually better than Buffy in some ways. YEAH I SAID IT. I don't think it ever got the respect it deserved, always in Buffy's shadow. Even if you don't Mark Watch it, I think you'll want to watch it.

        • Noybusiness says:

          There are some episodes of both shows that reference events that happened in a crossover with the other show. Not enough to ruin your appreciation if you don't watch them together, but enough to go "huh?"

          If you would watch them together, I have a schema for seeing them in an order that matches up crossovers without constantly going back and forth between them.

        • Nestor says:

          I strongly recommend watching the two shows in parallel. Mainly because there are many references in Buffy about what is happening in Angel. You could ruin Angel for yourself by knowing in advance that X character from Angel is injured/alive/dead/happy/crazy/banned/whatever.

    • lyvanna says:

      But it would be awesome.

  4. Ryan Lohner says:

    I mostly liked this one, though the nudity was extremely distracting. It was very "Look, we can show boobs now!", reminiscent of season one of Torchwood.

  5. cait0716 says:

    You called him Leoben! This feels like a victory of some sort.

  6. stellaaaaakris says:

    I thought Fleet Cavil stabbed the boy because his name was John and that reminded him of himself and…stuff. Yeah.

    I liked The Plan well enough when I watched it last week (I couldn't liveblog because I was working all day on Saturday). So the plan was to try to kill all the humans? Well, okay, I kind of figured that out already but I guess it's nice to have that confirmed. Everybody looks sooooo young in all the archive footage. I liked that this finally made me feel some sympathy for a One and a Four. Still haven't found a Doral I have warm feelings for, although his line about the colors of his suit was possibly my favorite line of the whole thing.

    Whatever happened to Brunette Six? Did she go anywhere? And I'm glad they at least addressed the fact that the Sixes always look different.

    And having answers about Boomer was nice, even if I had to see her with Cavil again.

    Overall impression of The Plan and BSG: Glad I watched, wish it wasn't over, will be happy to rewatch BSG in about a year when my soul has recovered.

  7. randomisjen says:

    Jane Espenson is a writing HBIC (gur OGIF rc, Qbhoyrzrng Cnynpr nfvqr) and should be lauded at all times.

  8. monkeybutter says:

    "His jacket was burgundy. This is teal," really made Doral's character for me.

    My head canon is that Cavil killed Boxey, as well. Now most of my BSG questions have been answered!

  9. ABBryant says:

    All this has happened before and will happen again… Gifs and comments from Mark Watches Battlestar Galactica: Miniseries, part I:

    From enigmaticagentscully:
    <img src="; alt="I REGRET NOTHING"/>

    From openattheclose:
    I mean, it has THIS IS A TRAP written all over it and I half expected Admiral Ackbar to comically pop out of the side of the screen and yell at this man.
    <img src="; alt="It's a tarp!"/>

    from echinodermata:
    And, um, Mark you commented somewhere on Reads about what you knew of the show before starting, including "something about Pylons." I loled. And then made this:
    <img src="; alt="pylons gif"/>

    from thisyearsgirl:
    <img src="; alt="Team Edward"/>

    From karateokat:
    WOO HOO!
    <img src=""/&gt;

  10. NB2000 says:

    I pretty much hated this movie the first time I watched it. Maybe it was because it was a long time before I could watch it, and because the show had been gone for several months but I just didn't enjoy it. Rewatching has made me enjoy it more but there's still a lot that bugs me about it.

    The revisited destruction of the Colonies is AMAZING. From the opening bars of "Apocalypse" during the Ellen/Cavil bar scene the build up to the bombs hitting and the subsequent destruction it's one of the most gripping sequences in the series. I love that we finally get to see the other, non-Caprican colonies even if they are being destroyed.

    The chance to see more from supporting characters was really interesting, especially the Fours who always felt underused in the series. The contrast between the Caprican versions and the Fleet copy aren't as drastic as where the two Cavils go but it's still interesting to see the differences.

    The little boy has some amazing facial expressions. Particularly when Cavil is asking if he's an orphan, he looks so pensive.

    Okay now to my negatives. It might just be me but after the destruction of the Colonies the plot kind of loses its way. There's so many stories, some of which are over very quickly, and it makes the movie feel less cohesive than Razor did.

    The main problem, which admittedly didn't occur to me until some time after I first watched: WHERE THE FUCK IS LAURA? Aside from, what I'm assuming, are her legs behind Tory at the end she's completely vanished from the story. I'd understand if they couldn't get Mary McDonnell back but they somehow managed to avoid even showing old footage of her, I mean she's standing RIGHT NEXT to BIll during the scene with the Cavils in the brig. Like I said I didn;t realise initially but now that I HAVE noticed it's really distracting. I mean they used footage of plenty of other characters who didn't film anything new (OMG Gaeta and Dee and loads of others!) but not Laura? The frak?

  11. NB2000 says:

    One last Bear McCreary appreciation post?

    [youtube vDAedoUZPNE youtube]

    The end credits version of Apocalypse. One of my favourite pieces from this series.

    • NB2000 says:

      [youtube C-tss6mIm-Y youtube]

      And Apocalypse being played live, because the awesomness deserves to be posted. Love the audience chanting "So say we all!" at the beginning.

    • Erica says:

      This piece is so amazing. I downloaded it and listened to it looping about 12 times immediately after watching The Plan yesterday, which I don't really ever do. And I've listened to it a ton since then. Music that's both hauntingly gorgeous and totally rocking is rare.

    • ek_johnston says:

      AND HOW! When I heard this the first time, my heart pretty much stopped beating. I love this episode as a gap filler, but SHEESH, this song!

  12. @unefeeverte says:

    Can't wait for you to start Buffy – I myself only watched it all two years ago, and I still love it.

  13. toneDef77 says:

    The hybrid coordinating the attack on the twelve colonies is perfection, her voice as a narration for what we are seeing on screen really brings it together from the Cylon perspective.

  14. Noybusiness says:

    Mark, what happened this past weekend, if I may ask?

    It's too bad not to see your reactions from when you were watching, I was looking forward to that. Do you have them written anywhere?

    I liked The Plan. Many people were disappointed with it, which I think has to do with the marketing. It was advertised as some kind of ultimate Battlestar experience, when it's really quite an intimate story.

    Don't forget you were going to update Suggestions too!

  15. Clare says:

    I can't believe it's come to an end. But I absolutely cannot wait for you to watch Caprica!

  16. brandy says:

    I'm watching Buffy for the first time too right now! I didn't know it was next when I started or I would've waited, and now it's hard to slow down – I'm hoping the holidays and travel will give mark a chance to catch up.

    I do have one slightly spoilery mid-s4 question, but I think only mark can answer it. I'll leave it in rot 13 and let those with such powers decide if it should be decoded for him to read:

    V whfg tbg gb na rcvfbqr gung xvaqn erdhverf lbh gb jngpu na vagreiravat rcvfbqr bs Natry gb trg gur jubyr vqrn bs jung'f tbvat ba. Jvyy Znex or guebjvat va rcf bs Natry nf arprffnel?

  17. Suzannezibar says:

    I waited about a month until I rented The Plan from my video store, and the conversation went something like this…

    Video Store Guy: "You know this is the end, right?"
    Me: "Yes…"
    Video Store Guy: "No more BSG after this, you know."
    Me: "I know, I know…"
    Video Store Guy: "You sure you want to do this now? There will be nothing left afterwards…"

    I looooooooved the Simon/Giana storyline, but the rest of the time I was too distracted by the lack of Laura Roslin. Shows where my priorities lie, I guess…

  18. Noybusiness says:

    "Though it was nice to find out how Gina Inviere disappeared"

    You mean Shelly Godfrey. Fun fact: Gina was the Six in Boomer's flashback (which was originally a Daybreak scene but was moved).


    Looked like a vision from God. Leoben may or may not have been prone to this kind of thing, depending on how seriously we take his statements. But now we know why he was so certain Kara would hold him in her arms and tell him that she loved him.


    Cavil was in danger of forming a human attachment, so he exed it. "Friends are a dangerous thing to have."

    Did anyone tell you that Giana was played by Lymari Nadal, EJO's wife? Did you recall that she was the woman in the Miniseries who gets one of the lottery tickets from Boomer & Helo and asks where her husband is when she gets to Colonial One? Man, no one saw the significance of that coming.

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      It's kind of squicky to think of her being directed by her husband to act out a relationship with someone else. There's even a sex scene in there, if memory serves.

  19. Noybusiness says:

    It's not readable. Does it have Caprica spoilers?

    • bookyworm says:

      you'll have to open it elsewhere.
      oh gods, I don't know. It says it was based partly on the pilot, though, so I'll make a new comment and just put the link.

  20. chikzdigmohawkz says:

    That's pretty awesome.

  21. bookyworm says:

    This is the timeline thing I put up earlier and then realized it may or may not have Caprica spoilers, so…read at your own risk, I guess. (I have not actually seen Caprica. I don't think I was spoiled by this, but I am not always that observant.)

    • NB2000 says:

      Gur ersreraprf gb gur fcernq bs zbabgurvfz va gur Pbybavrf vf gur bayl guvat gung fgnaqf bhg gb zr nf cbffvoyl fcbvyrel sbe Pncevpn.

      Okay I have to ask, hopefully someone can explain this. How did they get "five years" for point 17? It doesn't seem to fit in the place they've put it. The first Exodus to the reunion with Pegasus wasn't five years and the rest of the series can't have covered more than four so…what?

      • Maya says:

        I think when they said five years they meant the series run (2003-2008).

      • Noneofyourbusiness says:

        Caprica spoilers present.

        Also some inaccuracies, like forgetting the 13th tribe left before the others and saying wrongly that humans and Cylons built the Temple of Hopes together.

  22. VoldieBeth says:

    LOVED the Plan! I was so sad watching it and knowing that BSG was done. But we still have Caprica (should never have been cancelled) and the new series!! I can't wait for Buffy!

  23. enigmaticagentscully says:

    Hey, Mark, remember that very first BSG review, where you referred to Laura Roslin as "some official"?

    Because I do. ^^

  24. klmnumbers says:

    omg stop pushing Veronica Mars down the timetable. IT'S SO GOOD. I AM DYING FOR YOU TO WATCH.

    I mean, enjoy Caprica!

  25. Erica says:

    "Perhaps it’s a testament to the storytelling power of Battlestar Galactica, but I’d sort of forgotten about the fact that the Cylons once had a plan that they abandoned halfway through the show."

    Me too! During the intro, I was all, oh yes, I guess they did have a plan, huh?

    Or, well, not so much. I really enjoy how The Plan is really just Cavil flailing.

    Does anyone know why no Roslin? Was there a contractual thing with Mary McDonnell or something? I mean, she wasn't super integral to the Cylon storylines, but it seemed like they were avoiding even showing her in old footage.

  26. Nicole says:

    It was a good movie, not as good as The Plan, but that's because I love Michelle Forbes, so i be biased. Sadly while i enjoyed it, all I remember of it was unnecessary penis -_- …so very unnecessary XD I need to watch it again, let some of it stick.

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