Fall TV Preview

Monica Potter Shares the Shocking Story Behind Parenthood's Devastating Twist

Parenthood Monica PotterWarning: This story contains MAJOR spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of Parenthood. Read on with caution…

Never a series to shy away from difficult themes, Parenthood on Tuesday embarked on what could be its toughest, most heart-wrenching storyline to date with the revelation that Kristina has breast cancer.

The episode as a whole was filled with typical Braverman hijinks: Adam and Kristina adopted a puppy for Max; Julia made a breakthrough with her new son Victor; and Crosby and Jasmine bickered like the newlyweds that they are.

But in the hour’s final minutes, Kristina underwent a mammogram, received the diagnosis and then, in a haunting closing sequence that featured nary a line of dialogue, delivered the devastating news to husband Adam.

Here, Monica Potter talks to TVLine about the surprising origin of the storyline, how she’s approaching the heavy material and what’s next for the now-ailing Kristina.

TVLINE | How did you feel when you heard that this would be Kristina’s arc this season?
I actually was really supportive of it. I had talked to [exec producer/showrunner] Jason [Katims] about what we were going to do with Kristina this season and had sent him an email asking if we could introduce this storyline, and he said, “I just got chills because we just broke that story for Kristina.” I knew we hadn’t explored [cancer] yet [on Parenthood], and breast cancer is such a huge issue. I also know that Jason has been touched by it personally with his wife, and I thought that maybe we could explore that… And he was way ahead of me! So, it [felt] like we were supposed to do this.

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TVLINE | Why did you want to do a cancer story?
I had just gone for my first mammogram and I was nervous, but thought that it would be okay. Then [the doctors] saw something — I don’t have breast cancer, but I do have to go back so they can keep an eye on a little [growth] — and it’s scary. When that happened, I wanted to bring more awareness to it… It was very timely and it was meant to happen.

TVLINE | Talk a little about that final scene in this week’s episode. Was there anything written in the script for you and Peter [Krause] to say? Or was it always meant to be a silent moment?
We always knew it would be a silent moment, because that’s how it was written. I dunno, we just sort of talked and made it a real moment. I haven’t seen the episode yet, but in doing that, hopefully, the point we were trying to make came across.

TVLINE | It absolutely did. And what made it even more potent were the doctor references that were just casually sprinkled throughout the episode, not drawing any attention to what would come from her appointment.
The way that Jason wrote it, he wanted it to be subtle and he wanted it to be real. It’s just like you said, it’s sprinkled in throughout, but not smacking you in the face. Maybe some people [picked up on it], but if I had just read the episode, there’s no way I would have known.

TVLINE | How much focus will be on the medical aspect of Kristina’s battle? And how much will be on the emotional fallout at home?
It’s cut right down the middle; it’s both. I’m learning so much about breast cancer and chemotherapy — we’re just starting [to shoot scenes with] chemo this week.

TVLINE | Is one aspect of the story more challenging to play than the other?
Just hearing the diagnosis and all of the things that people and women go through — it’s hard to hear that even when it’s just acting. But I would say that the stuff at home, how the kids are reacting, that tears at you emotionally. It’s not really about yourself, it’s about how your kids are taking it and dealing with it.

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TVLINE | What kind of reactions are we going to see from the family, particularly Max, who already has difficulty expressing emotion?
Max being Max, he has his own way of digesting everything. It’s only in certain scenes that you’ll see his curiosity and concern come out, like when we’re watching a baseball game and he just blurts out, “Well, you have to get chemo.” He knows all about it because he’s Max and he’s studied many things. He knows what she’s going to go through and shows his concern in his way. Haddie, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She takes it really, really, really hard, which you’ll see in an upcoming episode.

TVLINE | How quickly will everyone learn Kristina’s diagnosis?
We actually wait a little bit and talk about when we should tell people, because we don’t want to disrupt their lives — especially Haddie’s life in college. That’s a big deal. We want to deal with it quietly, but as you know with the Bravermans, nothing is dealt with quietly. [Laughs] After the cat’s out of the bag — which is where we are now [in production], Episode 7 — everyone’s concerned, and how it’s incorporated into everyone’s lives and storylines is very interesting.

TVLINE | Does her battle with breast cancer bring about any surprising new dynamics within the family?
I would say Camille and Kristina have an interesting exchange. We’re shooting that today, actually. You don’t know too much about Kristina’s background, but in this episode you find out a little bit more. Kristina can be very standoffish and, I wouldn’t say cold, but sometimes not as welcoming to Camille, and it’s because she’s so vulnerable. There’s so much in her backstory that you don’t know yet, and when you see her with Camille you start to understand why she keeps her at an arm’s length.

TVLINE | Should we expect this to be a season-long journey? 
It might last most of the season, but I don’t know. It’s not going to be tied up in a pretty bow. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Kristina, honestly. They haven’t told me yet, so I don’t know if I should be looking for another job or what. [Laughs] I’m kidding. I think she’ll be okay though… There are going to be lots of ups and downs, and it’s going to be a really fast-moving roller coaster ride. The [writers] told me to be ready and to make sure I get my sleep. [Laughs] I’m going to be as real with this [storyline] as possible. I [want to] do the writing justice.

How do you, the Parenthood fan fam, feel about the rough road ahead for Kristina?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Cheryl says:

    Parenthood is the BEST! It’s so real-true to life! Love the cast-writers are awesome! Last nights episode was awesome & gut wrenching. Had me laughing & in tears! I can not wait for next Tuesday! Keep up the great work!

  2. Rusty in Calgary says:

    I am wondering why some would stop watching with this new “twist”

    I totally understand those that of you who feel it hits close to the heart. However if the producers want it to be as real as possible they have to hit the real stories.

    It has obviously hit Katims personally so I would imagine he will approach this storyline with a personal angle that will not look like they are over dramatizing it just so that they can get a few votes for an Emmy!

    Using Kristina’s character is the perfect choice in my honest opinion, she is always trying to keep life on an even keel, and life keeps tossing stuff at them, what with the Autism angle, and it always appears (to me at least) her life is always right on the edge of going over a cliff. She obviously is OCD so things that derail life are a little harder for her to take.

    My wife and I started watching the show last year as we had heard a local Calgary DJ constantly talking about it, that and the fact that we love Ron Howards stuff! We purchased the first three seasons on DVD, but this year we are taping and watching the shows on network tv. Not really liking the choice of music but other then that we truly love watching this family!

  3. Lisa says:

    I know a lot of people are saying this is a deal breaker and they may not want to watch because it’s too sad but this show actually parallels my life. I started watching the show because my middle daughter has Aspergers and it’s nice to see how other people deal with it. My husband was diagnosed with stage 3C Melanoma cancer and is undergoing treatment. I know it’s a sad story line but for some people it’s life. Now just add somebody in the military deploying and you have my actual life :) Hmmm maybe Drew with join the Marine Corps. Lol. Too much?

    • Angela says:

      You took the words out of my mouth. . Life isn’t always pretty. . It’s how we deal with it. . and the Braverman’s in my opinion are dealing with so many issues with grace. . I love the Marine Corps twist. . because your right. . . that’s what America is dealing with. . .

  4. Anne says:

    I had read a bombshell was coming, and when Crosby read “gynecologist appointment” on Adam’s phone, I KNEW what was coming. This will be hard to watch because what was depicted was EXACTLY the way I was diagnosed with breast cancer — blindsided at a routine mammogram.

  5. Angela says:

    I love this show. . It’s about LIFE!!! From the first episode in Season one.. I laughed and cried and every episode since then. Things are not always pretty and this show deals with them head on. I have a life that is very similar. . and I have to say. . they deal with them like real life and I appreicate that. Life isn’t always pretty, but how we deal with it is what makes it beautiful. BRAVO Parenthood!!! for those that disagree. . this isn’t a comedy! For myself, it makes my life for 1 hour every week better and I feel that people out there are learning about my life and what I go through and vice versa, I am learning about other things and how others deal with them. LOVE THE BRAVERMANS. . .

  6. Kelly Welch says:

    The storyline also hits me at home… and I hate to criticize because I do think they handled it beautifully, but I also wish they had drawn out the process of finding out there is a lump to having a biopsy, waiting for the results, etc, and ultimately finding out that it’s cancer. That is one of the most memorably difficult parts of my experience with my Mom’s breast cancer, the “not knowing,” and I think they could’ve done a lot with that. Rushing through it (come on… you’d never have a mammogram and find out the same day that they found cancer) felt like they weren’t doing the process justice. But I’m sure they will do a great job with other tough aspects of having cancer, like how it affects your family and the overall treatment and recovery.

    • Angela says:

      When I found out on a Friday. . I was having surgery on Tuesday. . .It can and does happen that fast. . it really depends what they find and see. . and if it’s significant, they know immediately. . It totally mimic my situation.

  7. Teri says:

    I love PARENTHOOD, it has story lines that follow real life. I think the cancer story is a good one and the fact that she has a young baby, a child with a Disabilty and a child in college will show women of all ages & income can be affected by cancer. I know it maybe hard for some to watch, but think it’s a topic that needs to be covered.

  8. Susan Buddemeyer says:

    I really love this show. My only problem I have with the show is that everyone talks over everyone else. It is very annoying.

  9. Josie says:

    I feel the show is doing a huge service in tackling the reality of breast cancer. It seems they are doing so in a very delicate and informative way. My recent mammogram showed growths that did not test as cancerous but I need to go in more often for testing to keep an eye on things. I know too many women who have had to fight breast cancer, but they are proof it is curable if caught early enough. The show might help women come to terms with reality of such a situation.

  10. ginger Terry says:

    I LOVE Parenthood. Mainly because it deals with every day real life issues. The acting does not really seem like acting! They act just like a normal family would. I commend you on all the stories and the actors.

  11. Jamie says:

    I am a survivor myself at 31. I think attention should be brought to younger women. Noone is safe. We need more awareness. I also participate in Relay for Life in my hometown and the number of people that do not have time or dont care is ridiculous. It seems as if most people dont care until it hits home. If this storyline touches just one person then Parenthood has done a great service to society.

  12. Last night hitnme like a ton of bricks. I am a 7 yr breast cancer survivor and last night was nervously awaiting my oncology check up today when I watched the ending. I would like to tell Monica that my book that I wrote ” it is what is is…beating breast cancer using chemo radiation and email” may help her to understand what actually goes on in a cancer patient’s life and in the lives of everyone around her.

  13. rmetoxen@phoenix-development.com says:

    With orders from Washington D.C., and the crazy lib’s out there in Hollywood – get ready for the praises or Obamacare, or a woman’s right to birth control, or Planned Parenthood. I’m just sayin’ – this is a Ron Howard production

  14. Mary Jennings says:

    I agree w/michelle. Let’s get some HAPPY stuff going on! ….do you HAVE to put Kristina thru something else? (NO!…no normal family has ALL of this!)….BTW…I thought they were going to have financial problems sending Haddie to school? What’s with spending $1,200. on a dog? THAT’S not what avg Americans can afford. I’ve watched this show because it was ‘real’. Let’s KEEP it real, OK?

    • Huh? says:

      Are you kidding me? I want to live in whatever dream world you live in because in the real world there are many, many families dealing with everything they’ve dealt with and more. This show is the most real show on TV, in my opinion. If you want something “happy” as you say, go watch a different show.

  15. CJ says:

    I haven’t missed an episode yet, and i think that though Christina has been put through a lot, she is also a VERY strong women, who better to show the strength and courage of women fighting breast cancer? Women never know how strong they are until they have cancer. I will not enjoy seeing Christina’s pain and struggles but I will enjoy seeing her overcome and rise above! As a matter of fact I am most looking forward to the way the Bravermans will band together as they ALWAYS do! :)

  16. Daid Levy says:

    Parenthood is both a window and a mirror of life today…and all it’s complexities. I totally believe that all families experience horrors like cancer (or worse) and so many of us still have such a hard time coping. Show’s like Parenthood which have such a capitve audience already make the perfect venue to reach the greatest number of people.
    I too was looking forward to seeing what Ray Romano’s character would bring to the show and now that I see he’s somewhat of a downer, but sorta cool, I am ready to handle something so life altering like in Kristina’s battles with cancer and how the entire clan deals with it…no matter how many episodes it takes. It’s a huge subject.
    Besides, as the weeks progress (in my opinion) this plot line will become so embedded in the ongoing narrative that the other stories lines will shine right through even if they are slightly skewed.
    David L

  17. Karen Allen says:

    I absolutely relate to this show so much it’s as though it is about my 2 brothers and my sister and I. This isue with breast cancer is so close to my heart right now since I am high risk due to family history of cancer and I have 3 very dear friend’s going through this issue right now. All 3 at different stages now. Roller Coaster ride for sure!

  18. Tina says:

    This show is great, I love it! It deals with real life issues whether we like it or not. That’s life! The episode with Haddie going off to school really hit home, it was very touching. My daughter is in her second year and I remember exactly how it felt. Very good job on that episode and every other episode.

  19. SA says:

    As a Breast Cancer Survivor, the final scenes brought me to tears and gave me chills. It was only four years ago that I was in the office getting the diagnosis, telling my husband, etc. The last scenes were very well handled. I only hope the rest of the storyline is too.

  20. Kristina's World says:

    I am calling for the mammogram I have been “too busy” to schedule for an embarrassingly long time. Oh, but my kids get to all their appointments. I think that was my takeaway. The show is so realistic – and the character of Kristina is a busy mom probably too busy to take care of herself, too. Thank you, writers and actors, for showing me I need to do this.

  21. Theresa David says:

    It’s funny because when I saw her having the mammogram, I kind of knew right away what was coming and I actually laid my forehead on the palm of my hand and said to myself, ‘Oh my God, not Cristina.’

    I had to remind myself it’s just a show. Still, I was already worrying about Max and feeling the load with Adam and I could only guess how Haddie was going to take it. I guess I just realized how emotionally involved I am with the Bravermans.

    That’s a good thing… right?

  22. sasha kaplan says:

    This is the best show on tv hands-down. Sadly I have lost friends, an aunt, and know many who died of breat cancer. My mom had it as well and it was her sister who died from it. I have had two scares from it and because I am high risk, I have had mammograms yearly since I was 32. I wish more places had digital screenings, since I also worry about the radiation from all those mamms!

    If any show can deal with this accurately, it is Parenhood. Fantasic acting and it is so well written!!!! Sure having an autistic child is tough(the young actor who plays Max is so good! I wonder if he has studied kids with Asbergers for this role. Any info on his background?Hope Sarah’s wedding is held before spring sweeps! don’t want to wait till May for levity.
    Keep up the great show!

  23. Gloria says:

    I love,love love this show I wish they would make a soap opera out of it cause it it so real of everyday ups and downs . I think everyone should suggest this idea!!! Don’t ya think???

  24. Joyce Roberts says:

    My identical Great Granddaughters are playing Nora this year on the show. We were so excited to see one of them last night. We thought she was so cute of course Grandma bragging. Love the show.

  25. CJ says:

    Parenthood is just SO GOOD. Every single episode, I laugh, I cry, and I relate to the characters. I’m really disappointed to see so many people who say they will stop watching because of this storyline. Parenthood has always stayed true to itself, and true to life. I can’t see any reason why it won’t continue to do so, and why fans wouldn’t want to see that played out, especially such a realistic topic that affects so many people year after year. Personally I will still be watching, laughing, crying, and encouraging everyone I know to watch the show. I hope others will do the same.

  26. Tracy says:

    I love this storyline and I think they are going to do well with it! Cancer is an unfortunate part of life, but it is a part of life and should be explored. On the other hand though, I am afraid all the attention this season will be spent on Adam and Kristina’s family, and they’re not my favorites. I’m interested to see more of Julia and Joel and their new son. The show is still called “parenthood” after all.

  27. Chels says:

    I think it will be a very interesting and real thing to see on a show that’s as real as real life could make it to be and the fact there bringing an important but scary thing like breast cancer to TV just makes you want to watch it because it’s interesting to see what Kristina will go through as the show progresses in the upcoming season and i for one loved parenthood from the start just as i said, it’s as real as they can make it containing real life situations like asbergers and also i can now relate to something like breast cancer because my mom who was 42 at the time found out she had it and i was only 12 when my parents told me, it’s just really a scary thing but i’m so glad my mom is a survivor as of now and she is doing so much better, her hair is all grown and just as strong as she can be, to point out we also go on the yearly Susan G.Komen Breast Cancer walks because it’s a great cause and when a family member like a mom or dad has cancer or any other type of disease, it’s just best to make them feel as normal and let them have a good time when your walking to help out others, i’m glad i can walk with my mom every year and look up at her and just i know that she’s the strongest person she can be. Parenthood continues to be one of my favorite shows!

  28. Melinda Sundby says:

    Hands down the best television show on the air!

  29. Liz Johnson says:

    I HATE HATE HATE HATE this storyline!!!! Real life is scary and sad and challenging enough, without having to go through this on TV! Who HASN’T dealt with breast cancer with someone?! TV is escape, entertainment, relaxation, NOT for real life issues. If this is the season story, you’ve lost a fan. I’ve had breast cancer and don’t need or want the adreneline pumping through me and reminders of how tough this can be. Why does every good program have to turn into a damn soap opera? I think the stupid sit-coms on ABC will have to be my new entertainment. No need to put myself through another cancer ordeal.

  30. Jo Ann says:

    I don’t want this story line. I go to work and when I come home and sit down to watch TV I don’t want to be depressed. I love this show but I am very disappointed that we have to watch this story line.

  31. Jeannette says:

    Oh my. I think it is admirable for Parenthood to do this storyline. And Peter & Monica did a phenomenal job in the diagnosis/reveal scene. However, I’m not sure I can come aboard for this journey. The scene dropped me straight back 7 years to when my late husband was diagnosed (2 year cancer battle). Cried for an hour straight after the show last night. Reminder that some wounds never heal and time can collapse on itself in a heartbeat.

    • Josie says:

      Peace to you Jeannette.

    • Sandi says:

      I am so sorry to hear about your own personal loss to cancer and the emotions this episode caused. There is no shame in missing a season – we all do what we need to do to get by and you have been on a painful journey many of us have been fortunate enough to escape – at least so far. I hope time will help heal what I can only imagine is one of the most horrific experiences in anyone’s life to go thorugh. To have survived this you are brave and strong and you have the wisdom to know when something is going to be too much for you to deal with and say “no” to it.

  32. Susan T says:

    Does anyone know if the kid that plays Max really has Asberger’s cuz if he doesnt he is one of THE best actors ever!

  33. Josie says:

    Thinking about the reference to roller coaster ride, I think back to the original movie where the reference was actually used. The bickering of family, the real life elements…. the writers and producers continue the legacy of Parenthood, and should not stop now because people who can’t handle it right now should change the channel. Parenthood has always been about tough stuff and breast cancer awareness, autism, kids needing families, are all dramas people live with everyday and this show is a DRAMA. It brings awareness. It takes the blanket off of those facing fear. I do not believe the show will portray this story in a negative light. I believe it will be a story about survival to show that in most cases, if caught early enough, breast cancer is curable, autism is about brilliance in a crazy world, and kids just want to love and be loved.

  34. NIMB says:

    I would like to see a different approach like ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE so that people know there are other options out there besides chemo. We need to bring this out so that DOC’s and Hospitals bring other alternatives to patients and get the insurances to support alternative medicine.

  35. lauren says:

    I’d read spoilers before but I that last scene still got me, when she put on the brave face and he ran to her cuz he knows her so well, damn. Adam and Kristiina became my favorite couple to watch quickly, and I totally wasn’t expecting that since Initially tuned in for Lauren G, but Peter and Monica are so great together, so honest, just love them, and I know they will rock this. I also love that cancer is clearly not being used as relationship fixer, like lesser shows have used it ( ahem, brothers and sisters.. ) so it doesn’t feel like a cheat, it just feels real. I can’t wait to see how this plays out, I hope she has scenes with everybody, especially the sisters, the ladies seem pretty bonded and I hope that continues….

    on another note, my favorite part was actually the little last scene w/ Drew and Sarah razor blades/ sleeping pills..cracked me up/ was sweet. Sarah tries so hard, it was a relief that he didn’t clam up, if that’s the result of Hank, I’m all for the guy haha.

  36. Twinmom says:

    To all those who say they will watch sparingly this season, I am sorry the reality of the show bring you to that decision.

    To those of us( husband included) who are continually bombarded with LIFE….Cancer, Loss, Son serving our country on his 4th tour, Medical nightmares, Alzheimers, PTSD, Depression, Custody, Child support, Court drama, Battles of single motherhood, my daughter, AGAIN simply LIFE. We watch it together. To be able to know that this TV show is not afraid to bring story lines that are not sugar coated. We both cry, empathize, and for 1 hr we in some simple way, know we are not alone. I will take real Life drama over Wife swap, Voice, Survivor, how I met your Mother, so you think you can dance, last man standing.
    All those mentioned are I am sure great. No issues or disrespect. Just entertaining TV.
    That is what separates Parenthood for me. I applaud the actors, writers, all.

  37. Lia says:

    I balled my eyes out when we found out she has cancer. In college today we were talking about health care in Geography and the different types of cancer and Kristina was all I could think about. Kind of weird but hopefully normal. I know she will be ok but I can not wait to see how it will change everything for the family and how everyone will react.

    And Monica is amazing and she will do this storyline justice and will make it her own and will hopefully bring TV cancer storylines to a different type of storytelling.

  38. MontiraLei says:

    My understanding of this series is that it is a Drama . That usually means there will be some emotionally loaded content, occasionally. If you want a feel good show, there is a myriad of sitcoms to choose from. Those who worry that the cancer storyline will be sensationalized and unrealistic might consider the following: the author of the article only interviewed Monica Potter for some magazine, and used the words “shocking” and “devastating” to grab attention to the article. Judging by the number of comments, that person clearly succeeded. The author does not write for Parenthood, which is very realistic and not particularly inclined toward sensationalism. Exec. producer Jason Katims reportedly has a son with autism and a wife who’s had breast cancer. It would seem, then, that he has had enough experience and has done the necessary research to be able to present the topics with as much accuracy and poignancy as possible.

  39. Carlos says:

    Parenthood always emotionally touches me in ways that no other show has since Six Feet Under, but the episode this week really hit home for me because my mom died of cancer less than two years ago. Also, I love Kristina’s character. She’s one of my favorites on the show, so by the end of that last scene I was completely drained.
    I just happened to glance at a couple of the comments made before mine just now, and I couldn’t believe how people view things so differently. Yes, that family yells over each other, but that’s how big families are. I think it’s the most realistic, well acted show on tv in many, many years.

  40. Sandi says:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion about this show. Mine is that you will not find a better show on TV that emulates the realities of many familes in today’s society. I am not much of a TV watcher due to time constraints but I feel pulled to this show and it would be a very poor business decision to ever remove it from the network’s program line-up. It is not often you actually “become” part of a show but the Braverman’s remind me so much of my own family it is heartwarming, nerve-wracking and emotional to watch. I DVR the show so I can curl up with my own family (my 23 year old daughter loves it too) on a Friday night after what always ends up being a 60 hour work week and let the entertainment value rule. Rescue Me and 24 are about the only two shows that have come close.

  41. Sue Lemke says:

    I love your show and will watch it hopefully a long time!!! I think it’s sad though that you picked breast cancer as the cancer for your story line! Awareness is everywhere for this cancer! There are so many different cancers that could use some awareness! My mother died of ovarian cancer the silent killer of many women, so I get tired of seeing pink all the time! My heart goes out to anyone who faces breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or any cancer for that matter! I just think that it’s time to help make awareness out there for the many other cancers that need monies and awareness!

  42. Alex says:

    I was just diagnosed on Friday. I am 41. I’ve told no one yet. This is real, and I’m grateful for having the outlet to cry and laugh and forget when needed. They are doing it well.

  43. Kelley Moore says:

    Not sure why I haven’t seen a reply since September, or so this says… But anyway, I think that Monica Potter is incredibly awesome for shaving her head!! I have a new found respect for her. Loving this show!!

    • Derry Bunting says:

      Knew nothing about this show til a daughter told me to watch past seasons on Netflix. I did, and didn’t stop til I got to tonight’s finale. I have been amazed at both the quality of the writing and the acting. I am so moved by the story lines and the difficult topics that have been addressed in such thoughtful and classy ways. I am hooked!

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