Full Leather Jacket (2.08)

Richie Aprile tries to win Tony’s respect with a leather jacket.
Sean and Matt try to earn some respect
with an attack on Chris Moltisanti.
  Carmela puts the heat on Georgetown alumna Joan Cusamano.

Episode 21 – Originally Aired March 5, 2000
Written by ‘BLUE BLOODS’ Robin Green & Mitch Burgess
Directed by Allen Coulter

____________________________________

“Full Leather Jacket” is a bulldog of an episode, short and intense.  It is the shortest episode of the series, clocking in at just over 42 minutes.  If the show had appeared on network TV, Chase would have been hamstrung by strict, uniform length guidelines. But since The Sopranos aired on HBO, Chase had much more latitude in deciding the length of each episode.  The longest outing of the series comes in at about 70 minutes, which is a whopping 65 percent longer than the shortest episode.  Chase was able to give each episode precisely the amount of time it needed to cohere and “feel right,” without worrying too much about commercial/front office concerns.  As such, episode length becomes an important element in the viewer’s experience of The Sopranos.

The question of which colleges Meadow will get accepted into has been a recurring part of the Sopranos narrative over these first two seasons, and the issue comes to the forefront here.  Carmela is obsessed, laying awake in bed thinking about it:

Carmela profile toner

Prof. Maurice Yacowar notes that the “Profile Toner” commercial that plays on the TV foreshadows the drastic measures that Carmela takes to tone the profile of Meadow’s college application.   Carm is a bulldog herself here, pressuring neighbor Jeannie Cusamano to get her twin sister Joan, a Georgetown graduate, to write a recommendation letter for Meadow.  When that doesn’t work, Carmela pays Joan a visit and—in her own unique way—makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

Yacowar writes that Richie is also trying to tone a profile here—his own.  He makes a gift of a horrendously outdated jacket to Tony, taken off of tough guy Rocco DiMeo years ago.  But Richie remains a cringeworthy, scary figure despite his attempts to be a nicer guy.

I think that Matt Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte are driven by concerns about their profile too.  The two have never been taken very seriously by the mobsters.  They have dreams of becoming Made Men, but right now, they are barely seen as men at all.  We first got a sense of the profound emasculation that they feel in “The Happy Wanderer.”  Their emasculation continues here.  In his essay “Fat Fuck,” Avi Santo notes that their lean, well-muscled bodies seem effeminate compared to the lumbering, overweight bodies of most of the Sopranos mobsters, and that they are feminized by the way they preen and primp before meeting Tony.  There is also a homoerotic overtone to the scene in which the two guys lounge in their apartment in their underwear, Sean toking on a phallic bong in front of a reclining, near-nude Matt.  When Furio arrives to collect Tony’s percentage, he picks up on this overtone and makes a crack in Italian about their perceived homosexuality—and rips them for $1000.

effeminate matt and sean

Back at the Bing, they realize they’re no different from all the other poor schlubs in there, and decide they need to differentiate themselves.  Over the course of the series, other characters—Chris Moltisanti, Tony Blundetto and Vito Spatofore, for example—will have very similar realizations—and will decide that recommitting themselves to the Mob is the only way to differentiate themselves, escape the grind of being a “civilian.”  Matt and Sean figure that committing an act of violence is the best way to assert themselves. 


T
ony Soprano had spent most of this episode in good humor.  He was not upset by Richie or Carm or Meadow or anyone or anything.  In fact, he didn’t even have much to talk about when he visited Dr. Melfi.  His serenity vanishes when Chris is shot.  The shooting comes as a shock to the viewer too.  This is where the short length of the episode proves its efficacy.  Over the last twenty episodes, we have developed a feel for how long an episode should be.  The shooting ends this episode so abruptly and so early that our shock gets compounded.  Adding to our surprise is that it is a major character that is now clinging to life.  In the previous episode, Christopher’s dreams of Hollywood brought him to the verge of quitting his dangerous life in the mob.  But he chose to rededicate himself to the Mafia—and now he’s on life support in a hospital room.  No one on The Sopranos is safe, neither from death nor from the writers’ sense of irony.

Tony sits bedside by Chris and asks, “How could this happen?”  Sometimes, when a question is asked on The Sopranos, the edit provides the answer.  (Think of the carjacking victim in “Commendatori” who screeches, “Fucking niggers! Who else?” and then the cut to Tony.)  Here, the question is partly answered within the shot itself.  Standing behind Tony is Furio, whose humiliation of Matt and Sean must have contributed to their decision to hit Chris.

how could this happen

The sounds of hospital monitors and life support systems continue through to the very end of the hour, making this the only episode (other than the infamous Series Finale) not to have music over its final credits.

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“IT’S THE JAAACKKETT
It’s difficult to know if Richie Aprile is an out-and-out sociopath or if he’s just a total fuckin’ prick.  It seems more like the latter when he insults Paulie and Silvio and jokes about Christopher’s big nose and waffles on building a wheelchair ramp for Beansie.  But he seems like a true mental case when he slinks out of the Soprano home after discovering that the housekeeper’s husband has ended up with the jacket he gave to Tony.  Sure, no one ever likes to find that their gifts have been re-gifted, but Richie looks like he’s gonna respond with a killing spree.

Richie had earlier made a big show of presenting the coat to Tony: “It’s the jaackkett…the jacket I took off Rocco DiMeo…cocksucker had the toughest reputation in Essex County but he never came back after I got through with him.”  The jacket’s provenance imbues it with an almost mythological significance for Richie.  Chase generates the title of this episode from the combination of this leather jacket, the metal casings from Christopher’s shoot-out, and the name of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film:

full leather jacket title

Full metal jacket - Sopranos Autopsy

Though Richie Aprile places much importance in the jacket, Tony Soprano doesn’t.  David Chase demonstrates, once again, that what is significant to one person is not necessarily significant to someone else.  Things don’t have an absolute value in SopranoWorld—it’s all relative.

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ADDITIONAL POINTS:

  • The episode begins with the famous saxophone lick from Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” played against an exterior shot of the Soprano home.  The song lyrics (unheard here) are about a guy who is a “rolling stone,” always wandering away from home.  Perhaps a comment on Tony’s untamed nature?
  • We see the address of the Soprano home on an envelope: 633 Stag Trail Road.  “Stag” typically refers to a male deer, but it can also mean a castrated animal—perhaps a comment on the domestication of Tony Soprano?
  • Sound cut: Tony tells AJ that if he wants to get into Harvard or West Point, he has to “crack the books.”  Immediately, we hear a banging sound → Cut to Chris and Matt “cracking” a safe.
  • More Fun With Sound: At their apartment, Sean tells Matt they need to get new speakers to “kick the fuckin’ bass up on this TV.”  Immediately,  a basslike pounding starts on their door.  (It’s Furio.)
  • Chris’ marriage proposal to Adriana must be one of the least romantic in history.  He shoves Liz La Cerva out of the way (and rips a phone from her so she can’t call the police) and then blurts out “I wanna marry you” to Adriana.  (Mr. Romantic later blames their rocky relationship on his inability to “communicate my needs.”)
  • In an absurd world, some of Livia’s absurd theories are going to be proven right.  In the previous episode, she advised AJ not to wear a seatbelt.  Here, Sean is killed when he can’t unbuckle his seatbelt fast enough to escape Christopher’s bullets.

48 responses to “Full Leather Jacket (2.08)

  1. Good analysis 🙂

    One point that struck me was that Sean and Matt did not realise they were breaking the rules. No one gets killed in Soprano world unless there is a clear order to do so. It doesn’t have to be spelled out – see Junior’s instruction in series 1 expressed as ‘I don’t want to hear him anymore’. But it does have to be clear. Off-piste murder is not a good idea, and we have to accept that Sean and Matt are very, very stupid not to realise it. We do see them being stupid and talking stupid on several occasions. We even see them leaving their unpleasant calling cards with the safe cracking. Is this stupid enough to think killing Christopher will get them in Richie Aprile’s good books?

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  2. “It’s the jaaaccckket!!” Tony shows that he is pretty confused by this gesture. My favourite part of the interaction must be when Junior chimes in with the fact that Rocco DiMeo, tough as he was, later developed alzheimers.

    Didn’t pick up Livia’s piece of advice regarding the seatbelt… funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoy your analysis of the show. Your attention to detail is remarkable, which is why I offer a small criticism or correction, if you will.
    You say that the title of this episode comes from the leather jacket, the metal casings from the shoot out, and the title of Kubrick’s movie Full Metal Jacket.
    The term “full metal jacket” does not refer to casings. It refers to the copper jacket around the lead core of a bullet. The military has to use full metal jacket (fmj) rounds because the Geneva convention bans the use of frangible rounds of any kind.
    Now there is a shot of the casings and maybe they are what the title refers to. The mistake would be the show runners in that case and not yours. But I figured I’d point it out.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I suspect that when Ritchie gives Tony the jaaackkett, which symbolizes Ritchie’s superior fighting skills over Rocco (“cocksucker had the toughest reputation in Essex County but he never came back after I got through with him”), and then makes the same point later when they meet outside the store with Paulie and Sal, that he’s sending Tony a message to back down over the wheelchair ramp and other attempts by Tony to dominate Ritchie, that if it comes to a physical confrontation between Ritchie and Tony, Ritchie (in his mind), would win, and a few years down the road he’d be giving Tony’s bathrobe to the next tough guy challenging Ritchie’s right to do whatever he wants.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I simply love Carmela’s scenes in this episode. To me, Carmela is the most evil character on the Sopranos. She is morally corrupt, living with blood money, exposing her children to a morally unsound childhood, she just cruises through life and Joanie’s office spinning her way, and also getting her way. Like I said, Carmela is the most amazing evil person in The Sopranos!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is Carmela a flawed character? Sure. Most evil caharacter in the show? Come on now. She has a conscience and struggles deeply with her hypocrisy. She may not be willing to sacrifice certain things by leaving Tony, but she does hope and try to help him improve himself. And eventually she does leave him. She is sucked back in of course, in part through her own weakness, but if she were truly the most evil person in the show this would have been a much different show. She is trapped and struggles more mightily with her shortcomings because she does care about these shortcomings more than most of the characters on the show. I find her a tragic figure in many ways.

      Liked by 1 person

    • RTF372 (Grouchy Sinatra)

      I’m not sure constantly catching your husband in infidelity is akin to “cruising through life”. Sure they’re mobsters but they’re also Catholic, and in a catholic marriage there’s at least a presumption of faithfulness. Carmela is an emotional train wreck and the material spoils are a distraction from it, just as they’re a means of Tony distracting himself from his life being a “big nothing”. Your assumption is that Carmela comes out of this a winner on the back of Tony’s risk, when the truth is that there are no winners here.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m amazed at the thoughtlessness of Tony giving that jacket to his maid’s husband and letting him wear it, knowing that Richie might see it. He’s gotta know that unstable Richie could easily pull a Beansie on this poor guy who wouldn’t even know why he’s being crippled/killed

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    • Come to think of it, I don’t think we ever saw Stasiu or that ghastly jacket ever again.. maybe it played out exactly as you suggest!

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      • And I also doubt Tony would lose any sleep if it did happen. Probably lit a cigar and smirked at the thought of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dude Manbrough

        Doing another re-watch right now! “The Jacket” DOES return…the junkie who helps Chris out after he gets beaten and robbed in season 4 (I think) is wearing it!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hmm are you sure it’s the same one? I’ve heard this mentioned elsewhere too.. that would be an interesting easter egg.

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          • Dude Manbrough

            Season 4 Episode 10 – The Strong, Silent Type….While I’m not 100% certain it’s the same jacket, it IS remarkably similar and after all, how many of those jackets are still in circulation? Rocco>Richie>Tony>Polish maid’s husband>Goodwill>Chris’ junkie friend…a plausible chain of events.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Or to build on one of the comments above, from Stasiu back to Richie, and then after Richie’s death, Janice>Chris>Chris’ friend..

              Liked by 1 person

            • It’s like the ring on the Wire…keeps turning up. Elsewhere.

              One of my favorite subtleties in a show full of them: Tony smells the jacket right after he puts it on. Since Richie had been in jail, I imagine the jacket had been in storage, maybe even mothballed. Imagine how an old leather jacket like that would smell.

              Liked by 1 person

      • Ron, we did see a lot more of Stasiu in S3E01, although played by another actor (Liliana tried to prepare with him for their citizenship tests), which was a shame, because that other guy was not Polish (unlike Stasiu in the jaaackkket) and his cursing in Polish sounded really lame for Polish viewers. Still, a minor problem for an otherwise great episode.

        Liked by 1 person

        • RTF372 (Grouchy Sinatra)

          Season 3 Stasiu rocked. Guy had a chip on his shoulder. Arguing with his wife constantly about his bullshit life in America. Confronted a guy just for asking her a question. He never got out of line with Tony though. Had no problem fixing his water heater and probably never got paid a dime for it. I was hoping Tony would take “Stosh” to the Bing with him and treat him to a lap dance.

          Liked by 1 person

      • He reappears in ‘Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood’… “In Poland, I was in developmental research, I had 20 people working for me”.
        Like Moltisanti’s mother and Tony’s sister Barbara (I really liked the first actress, the 2nd one has no screen presence at all, probably why I didn’t even notice her reappearance on first viewing), the Polish maid’s husband Stasiu is played by a different actor in later seasons.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. One other thing… wasn’t the real boss of the crime family named Dimeo? If I’m remembering that right, there may be in interesting untold story about relations between the Dimeo and Aprile families

    I’m enjoying your blog. I’ve been a fan of the show for years and just now found this. Thanks for all your postings!

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    • I think I had watched the show for years before I learned that the New Jersey mob is actually an outgrowth of the DiMeo family. Maybe this was Chase’s way of suggesting that Tony’s mobster genealogy only goes back as far as his father and his uncle (who had gotten involved with the DiMeo’s). Tony’s claim that he inherited a criminal lifestyle is even less justifiable when he can’t even trace it back to his grandfather (much less to “the poverty of the Mezzogiorno”…)

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  8. I don’t remember that anything in the show suggests Tony’s grandfather was in the mob. He seems to have been a normal working guy building churches and stone walls. But there seems to be so much family or extended family connection between the characters that there may be some other family ties – uncles or something. Maybe even through his grandmother.
    All speculation, of course. But it’s nice the show is meaty enough to generate that after so many years.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am on my approx. 15th time through the series and just caught something new… When Richie is telling Tony about how he fought with Rocco DiMeo, and how he “never came back” after that, Junior quietly says “he was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia.” I do not think that is a random Juniorism. I think it is either a joke (i.e. yeah, he never came back because he was demented and would get lost), or it is foreshadowing to Junior’s decline after losing to Tony. Also: note how Richie sits directly next to a picture of AJ when he stops by and notices his coat on the maid’s husband. It is interesting – both AJ and Richie are in directly parallel positions in every scene.

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  10. Perhaps the final straw for Sean and Matt was Furio fucking with them and the fact they pissed off Tony at the Bing. We have seen these two guys since the beginning of the season and they are nowhere, just as Matthew pointed out. Richie’s reaction to Matthew barging in and confessing the hit was just priceless. He’s so old school he even chased him down the street with a bat! I remember watching this episode on it’s original airing and felt like I was left hanging with how the ending came so abruptly….but not in a bad way. Looking back I think it’s well done and appropriate. We knew retribution would happen and didn’t want to wait to see how it happens. Regarding Richie’s attempt at making amends with Tony, it appears he was trying to genuinely be nice to Tony by giving him the Jaaackeeet! As we see now and later in the season, this jacket really meant something to Richie and he won’t let it go. This minor act on Tony’s part lit the fire between him and Richie. In true Soprano/Chase fashion, the “showdown” between Tony and Richie will never happen as we are all completely taken off guard by how it all ends for him. (At least I was) Good call on Chris’s marriage proposal, what women in their right mind would say yes to that sorry ass proposal?!?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree with David J Noone’s assessment. I think that Richie was trying to win Tony over by giving him this jacket that he prized so much as a kid. Time obviously stood still for Richie while he was in jail, and I think it was a genuine gesture, a memory that he remembered and Tony didn’t. Even the dish of food to Carmela was thoughtful, even though Tripe is not a dish I see them eating. He was insulted and this started the real trouble. Tony is often careless of peoples feelings, and especially because of Beansie…he just doesn’t give a shit about Richie, I’m sure he didn’t expect him to see the maids husband, but even so he really wouldn’t care. We do see the maids husband again, but a different actor. That jacket is really retro…holy smokes!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A random thought: why would Matthew want to go by Drinkwater instead of Bevilaqua? He gives up a cool Italian name for an effeminate one, which is in keeping with your theories.

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    • I think there is also the assimilation issue.. Matt wants to be a bigger player in the Italian mob but he may also want to assimilate more into mainstream American culture, particularly as a member of the younger generation…

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      • “I think there is also the assimilation issue.. Matt wants to be a bigger player in the Italian mob but he may also want to assimilate more into mainstream American culture, particularly as a member of the younger generation”

        As a Jersey boy born and raised in the Sopranoland area of Jersey, I have to object to this. Where I’m from, if you’re Italian you’re just a generic white boy.. no assimilation needed.

        But.. the more that I think about it, this might be the hand of ~god~ excuse me Chase, as David Chase’s father changed his name from DeCesare when he was young. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chase inserted some of his own insecurities in a minor character (he’s done it before hasn’t he?). Of course, David Chase was born in the 1940s so his father probably struggled with issues that are no longer happening today towards Italian-Americas (and stuff that is definitely not happening with Mr. Drinkwater) but I think you’re definitely onto something.

        ,,I just deleted about a paragraph of stuff and went from telling you that you’re wrong to judge NJ -> agreeing that your point was spot on

        Fuck, your insights always got me thinking.. I love these posts so much.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Lol thanks. Sometimes I wonder if I’m reading into the whole “immigrant assimilation” thing too much, maybe because I’m the son of immigrants myself, but then the other day I read an interview where Chase says The Sopranos is an immigrant story…

          Liked by 1 person

  13. I found it interesting that the mindsets of Tony & Junior has switched, when their positions of power has changed. If you remember the pilot episode, the scene where Junior is complaining to Livia about Tony in the car. He made a comment saying “Plus he thumbs his nose at New York!”. Now during that time, although he wasn’t the boss, Junior had a boss mentality, plus he did have had some heavy hitters behind him at least until Tony and his crew “weeded” them out. Now in this episode, the scene with Richie, Tony & Junior, where they’re talking about selling bootleg movies. Seems like Street Boss Tony doesn’t “thumb” his nose at New York anymore, by asking “What’s Johnny Sack say about that?” Then Junior quickly replies “Fuck New York”, since he’s just “Boss” in name, and earning on a subsistence level basically.

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  14. The Sunday meal at the Sopranos is not meaning less.
    Tony and Richie are seated at each end of the table. At the right of Richie there is Janice, and at the right of Tony there is Carmela, AJ …
    This shot set up the ongoing cold war between Tony and Richie.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “Tony sits bedside by Chris and asks, “How could this happen?” Sometimes, when a question is asked on The Sopranos, the edit provides the answer. (Think of the carjacking victim in “Commendatori” who screeches, “Fucking niggers! Who else?” and then the cut to Tony.) Here, the question is partly answered within the shot itself. **Standing behind Tony is Furio, whose humiliation of Matt and Sean must have contributed to their decision to hit Chris”**

    Furio is partially responsible for the hit on Chris but check out the image you posted. The guy that’s hand on Tony’s shoulder was the other motivating factor for Matt and Sean. They never show who’s face it is in the shot, but you can infer through the jacket he’s wearing that it might be Richie —

    So Furio and Richie; the two catalysts for Matt and Sean’s downfall were both in that image you posted. This show is so goddamn good.

    I know I’m late with all these but I’m a first time reader of this, despite being a 5 time watcher of the show. I’m enjoying these so much, Ron. My girlfriend is watching for the first time (she loves it.. does that mean marriage material?) and I can’t wait for her second watch so I can show her these autopsy’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point, and a nice bit of forensic analysis there.

      Maybe you should wait to see if she shares your take on the final scene at Holsten’s before you pop the question. That could become a potential Irreconcilable Difference in the future…

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Just a little one, when Chris goes to Adriana to propose there is a thunderstorm, I believe the only rain we see in this episode too. A great pathetic fallacy of how their shitstorm of a relationship will play out, and by putting a ring on it, cementing their miserable fates

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Another bridge shows up in this episode. Ron, if it weren’t for you, I never would have noticed the bridge motif. I almost missed this one. The bridge is seen first as Christopher is coming out of the restaurant (?) talking to Paulie on the phone, just before Christopher is shot multiple times by his “friends” and manages to kill Sean. The bridge is seen again a moment later in the background as Matt (who we now know was doomed) is running away down the street.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I remember correctly, that bridge is part of the Pulaski Skyway which shows up in other episodes too, perhaps most notably in 1.07 and 1.11. The Skyway Diner that Chris steps out of is no longer there. I’ve taken many photos of that whole area, I’ve got them on a hard drive or memory stick somewhere… (It was probably during that same NJ trip that I took the picture of the Lincoln Continental (?) that is the header pic for this page.)

      Liked by 1 person

  18. A random, perhaps unimportant point, I am not sure at all that Joan followed through on Carmela’s “request”. Yes, Jeannie brings the plate back and says Joan sent the letter, but Jeannie is still awfully nervous about the whole affair. And she says she will provide the copy Carmela requests, but does she? And wouldn’t Joan have cc’d Carmela and/or Meadow is she did in fact send the letter? From a later episode we find out Meadow was wait-listed at Georgetown, further muddying the waters. In classic Sopranos style, the outcome is ambiguous. But i put my money on Jeannie being too frightened to tell Carmela that Joan still refused the request.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always thought that Joan probably did send the letter, if only to avoid any further hassles. To me, Jeannie was nervous because she was Jeannie, never sure how to behave with her strange neighbors, who are so unlike the people she’s used to in her social circles. I just watched “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood” the other night in which she seems about to tell the “utility company workers” (AKA FBI agents) that the neighbors are in the Mafia but can’t quite bring herself to say it but instead says that they’re “different … for the neighborhood,” all with a sort of nervous air. I wish the parts of the Cusimano sisters had been played by a better actress. I think their scenes would have worked better.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Them’s fightin’ words, Pajama. Saundra Santiago was one of my first TV crushes, watching her on Miami Vice as a kid. Plus I share certain biographical details with her (born in the Bronx, grew up in Miami…)

        Like

  19. Another additional point too is when Tony tells Melfi it’s “Tuesday, 3:00” stating his appointment. We also know 3:00 becomes a big deal to Paulie when Chris mentions his dream sequence…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Here’s something I noticed, and confirmed on the Internet Movie Firearms Database – film-obsessed Chris carries a PPK, best known as James Bond’s pistol of choice.

    Liked by 1 person

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