House of Cards (U.S. TV series)
|House of Cards|
|Created by||Beau Willimon|
|Theme music composer||Jeff Beal|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||26 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||46–59 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Media Rights Capital
Trigger Street Productions
|Picture format||1080p (2:1 HDTV) (2013)
4K (2:1 UHDTV) (2014–present)
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original run||February 1, 2013– present|
|Related shows||House of Cards|
House of Cards is an American political drama television series, developed and produced by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of a previous BBC mini-series of the same name and is based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. The entire first season, thirteen episodes, premiered on February 1, 2013, on the streaming service Netflix. A second season of thirteen episodes premiered on February 14, 2014. On February 4, 2014, ten days prior to the release of the second season, Netflix announced that the show had been renewed for a third season.
Set in present-day Washington, D.C., House of Cards is the story of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th congressional district and House majority whip who, after being passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, initiates an elaborate plan to get himself into a position of power. His loyal wife, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), assists him in this endeavor. The series is primarily about ruthless pragmatism, manipulation, power and doing bad things for the greater good.
For its first season, House of Cards received nine Primetime Emmy Award nominations, becoming the first original online-only web television series to receive major Emmy nominations. Among its nine nominations were Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Kevin Spacey, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Robin Wright, and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for David Fincher. The show also earned four Golden Globe Award nominations and Wright won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama to be the first major acting award for an online-only web television series. For its second season, the series received 13 Primetime Emmy Award nominations.
Cast and characters
- Kevin Spacey as Francis J. "Frank" Underwood, a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th Congressional District, House Majority Whip, Vice President of the United States in the second season and 46th President of the United States in the final episode of season two. An utterly ruthless and conniving politician, he pursues only his own political agenda and manipulates everyone around him to grab influence and prestige, at the potential cost of utterly destroying everyone else to push himself forward. His name is derived from Francis Urquhart, the protagonist of the BBC version and the novel version of House of Cards, and Oscar Underwood, the first Democratic House whip. Just as Urquhart does in the BBC version, Underwood often breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the viewer.
- Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, Francis' wife. She runs the Clean Water Initiative, an NGO, in Season 1 before giving it up to become Second Lady of the United States. She often gets involved with Frank's political scheming, as an aid and an abettor. She proves to be just as cold, manipulative and power-hungry as her husband, often setting her own lofty goals to work alongside helping with his and letting nothing stop her.
- Mahershala Ali as Remy Danton, a lawyer for Glendon Hill and lobbyist who works for natural gas company SanCorp in Season 1 and Raymond Tusk in Season 2. Prior to the start of the show, he worked for Underwood before leaving to pursue a greater pay check over the influence Frank could offer.
- Sebastian Arcelus as Lucas Goodwin, an editor at The Washington Herald and later boyfriend of Zoe's. He is imprisoned after being manipulated by Underwood into walking into a trap, due to Lucas continuing to investigate him.
- Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner, a prostitute dragged into Underwood's plans by Doug Stamper and whose life grows increasingly complicated as a result.
- Kristen Connolly as Christina Gallagher, a headstrong congressional staffer involved in a secret relationship with Peter Russo, before becoming personal assistant to the President.
- Nathan Darrow as Edward Meechum, a member of the US Capitol Police and Underwood's bodyguard and driver. In season two he joins the Secret Service and becomes one of Francis' most trusted staffers. Edward was also involved in a threesome plan with the Underwoods in season 2, that served to amplify an ambiguous sexual reference between Francis and a military colleague during the class reunion.
- Michel Gill as Garrett Walker, 45th President of the United States, former Governor of Colorado. He trusts Frank as a close advisor and lieutenant while constantly allowing his administration to falter due to Frank's machinations.
- Sakina Jaffrey as Linda Vasquez, President Walker's White House Chief of Staff. She works with Frank as much as she can but also sees into his duplicity more than others. She resigns during the middle of Season 2 partially thanks to Frank.
- Michael Kelly as Douglas "Doug" Stamper, Underwood's chief of staff and confidant. Despite his unwavering loyalty and trustworthiness to Frank, he is shown to be just as merciless and psychopathic towards others as his boss. A recovering alcoholic sober going on 14 years, Stamper takes an almost obsessive interest in Rachel, displaying feelings of protectiveness and love but also relocating her several times for the sake of Underwood's regime. The end of the second season finds Stamper presumably dead in the woods, Rachel having bashed him repeatedly in the head with a brick.
- Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, a reporter for The Washington Herald (later moving to Slugline following an altercation with her boss). After meeting Frank Underwood, she quickly forms an intimate relationship with him with both of them using each other for advancement in their careers, with Underwood using her to leak stories to hamper the progress of his opponents. She is killed by Underwood after she tries to uncover the reason behind Peter Russo's death.
- Gerald McRaney as Raymond Tusk, a billionaire businessman with a wide network of influence. As a close friend of Walker for over twenty years, he exerts heavy influence over the President, which resulted in Underwood's snub for Secretary of State. He later agrees to form a partnership with Frank in exchange for supporting his VP nomination, though this alliance quickly crumbles due to their clashing self interests and degenerating into political war.
- Molly Parker as Jacqueline Sharp, a congresswoman from California and military veteran tapped by Underwood to succeed him as Majority Whip when he is made Vice President. While she claims to work for herself and not be beholden to others, she sees her position constantly tested through her ties to Frank, Claire, and Remy Danton. (Season 2)
- Corey Stoll as US Representative Peter Russo, a Democrat from Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District. Russo becomes loyal to Underwood after Underwood threatens to expose his alcohol and drug addiction. After going sober and running for Governor of Pennsylvania, he is killed by Frank Underwood when he tries to come clean about the events that Underwood was blackmailing him with. (Season 1)
- Constance Zimmer as Janine Skorsky, a reporter for The Washington Herald (later moving to Slugline) who becomes suspicious of Zoe's success but eventually joins her after Zoe gets her a job at Slugline. Following Zoe's death, she leaves journalism, moves home with her mother and starts teaching college courses.
- Jayne Atkinson as Catherine Durant, a Senator from Missouri who becomes Secretary of State after Frank brings about the downfall of the previous nominee.
- Gil Birmingham as Daniel Lanagin, a Native American casino owner in Missouri and friend of Raymond Tusk. (Season 2)
- Reg E. Cathey as Freddy Hayes, the owner of Freddy's BBQ, an eatery frequented by Underwood. One of Frank's only true friends and confidants who he turns to for a fun talk.
- Derek Cecil as Seth Grayson, a sinister political operative who becomes Press Secretary for Vice President Underwood through blackmail. Despite mutual distrust with Doug, his unorthodox methods quickly prove useful to Team Underwood. (Season 2)
- Kathleen Chalfant as Margaret Tilden, the owner of The Washington Herald. (Season 1)
- Terry Chen as Xander Feng, a corrupt Chinese businessman and backchannel diplomat who is Raymond Tusk's business partner. (Season 2)
- Curtiss Cook as Terry Womack, House Majority Leader from Missouri's 5th congressional district and the leader of the Black Caucus, rising to the position thanks to Frank.
- Ben Daniels as Adam Galloway, a photographer who lives a Bohemian lifestyle in New York City, and who is Claire's on and off lover.
- Joanna Going as Patricia Walker, wife of President Garrett Walker and First Lady of the United States. She befriends Claire during Season 2, supporting her legislative moves, while also dealing with marital stress. (Season 2)
- Jeremy Holm as Agent Nathan Green, the White House/FBI liaison. (Season 2)
- Sandrine Holt as Gillian Cole, the leader of a grass-roots organization called World Well that provides clean water to developing countries. Through the Clean Water Initiative, she grapples with Frank and Claire's interests.
- Kevin Kilner as Michael Kern, a Senator from Colorado and the President's original choice for the position of Secretary of State.
- Mozhan Marnò as Ayla Sayyad, a tenacious journalist working for the Wall Street Telegraph. (Season 2)
- Benito Martinez as Hector Mendoza, a Republican Senator from Florida and the Senate Majority Leader. (Season 2)
- Boris McGiver as Tom Hammerschmidt, editor-in-chief of The Washington Herald. As a favor to Lucas when he's imprisoned, Tom begins investigating Frank.
- Elizabeth Norment as Nancy Kaufberger, secretary to Frank Underwood and Doug Stamper.
- Samuel Page as Connor Ellis, a smooth talking media consultant who becomes Communications Director for Claire Underwood. (Season 2)
- Al Sapienza as Marty Spinella, a union lobbyist. (Season 1)
- Kate Lyn Sheil as Lisa Williams, a social worker who befriends Rachel Posner, and later becomes her girlfriend. (Season 2)
- Jimmi Simpson as Gavin Orsay, a hacker and informant for the FBI. (Season 2)
- Libby Woodbridge as Megan Hennessey, a former US Marine Private who was sexually assaulted by General Dalton McGinnis. (Season 2)
- Dan Ziskie as Jim Matthews, the Vice President of the United States, a former Governor of Pennsylvania. (Season 1)
- Reed Birney as Donald Blythe, Democrat of New Hampshire, a respected and long-serving Representative who constantly gets in Frank's way due to his extreme liberal beliefs. He has a wife suffering from Alzheimers.
Real-life media figures such as Donna Brazile, Morley Safer; CNN's Candy Crowley, John King, Ashleigh Banfield, and Soledad O'Brien; Fox News's Dennis Miller and Sean Hannity; HBO's Bill Maher; ABC's George Stephanopoulos; MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews; and CBS's Major Garrett make cameo appearances as themselves.
|Season||Episodes||Release date||DVD and Blu-ray release date|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|1||13||February 1, 2013||June 11, 2013||June 10, 2013||June 27, 2013|
|2||13||February 14, 2014||June 17, 2014||June 16, 2014||June 19, 2014|
Season 1 (2013)
The series opens with congressman Francis Underwood displaying his ruthless practicality by killing a suffering pet dog with his bare hands while explaining to the audience how there are times when we require someone to do the unpleasant thing yet the necessary thing. Along this theme we follow Francis "Frank" Underwood, a power hungry Democratic congressman from South Carolina and House majority whip. After securing the election of President Garrett Walker to gain himself appointment to Secretary of State, Underwood is devastated to learn that he is being passed over. Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez tells Underwood that the president wants him to promote his agenda in Congress and will not honor their agreement. Seething inside, Underwood must quickly gain control of his anger and hide his disappointment to present himself as a helpful lieutenant to the president and his agenda. In reality Underwood begins an elaborate plan behind the president's back, with the ultimate goal of gaining power for himself.
His wife Claire runs a charity, but her intentions are not explicit. She seems to use her charity for power and influence and yet the ultimate purpose for its need is unknown. In the opening episode, she deems the successful charity organization that she has put together to have too limited a footprint. Keen to be on the international stage, she decides to change her organization to one that supports international well digging to provide clean water. This is met with great misgivings by her office manager. Claire directs her to fire eighteen of her employees, cutting the staff in half. At the end of the day she checks in to ask how the process went, and then informs the manager she is being let go as well. It is clear from the outset that Claire is as cold-hearted, ruthlessly pragmatic and has a deep desire for power like her husband.
Underwood begins a highly intricate plan to obtain a cabinet position, acquiring pawns he can manipulate in his power play. He begins an extramarital relationship with Zoe Barnes, a young political reporter, and then makes a deal with her in exchange for the leak of damaging stories about his rivals in the House. Meanwhile, he manipulates Peter Russo, a troubled congressman from Pennsylvania, into helping him undermine Walker's pick for Secretary of State, Senator Michael Kern. Underwood eventually has him replaced with his own choice, Senator Catherine Durant. Underwood also uses Russo in a plot to end a teacher's strike and pass an education bill, which improves Underwood's standing with Walker.
Because the new vice president is the former governor of Pennsylvania, a special election is to be held for governor. Underwood helps Russo get clean and props up his candidacy, but later uses call girl Rachel Posner to break his sobriety and trigger his downfall shortly before the election. Distraught, Russo decides to make amends for his failure by coming clean to the press about his role in Underwood's schemes. As a result, Frank stages his suicide and leaves him in a closed garage with his car running. With the Pennsylvania special election in chaos, Underwood convinces the vice president to step down and run for his old position of governor – leaving the vice presidency open to Underwood, as was his plan all along.
Walker appears to have other plans. Underwood ends up vetting a surprising choice for Vice President, billionaire Raymond Tusk. Tusk later reveals that he is actually appraising Underwood for the position. Meanwhile, after Underwood brings their affair to an end, Zoe begins piecing together clues about Underwood's scheming. The season ends when Underwood receives and accepts the nomination for vice president.
Season 2 (2014)
With Frank on the verge of being sworn in as Vice President, Zoe and her colleagues Lucas Goodwin and Janine Skorsky continue to dig for information, ultimately locating Rachel Posner. Frank's aide, Doug Stamper, brings her to a safe house while Frank lures Zoe to a DC Metro station and, unseen to security cameras, pushes her in front of a train. As a result, Janine abandons the digging and heads to Ithaca to stay away from the potential danger that could get her killed like Zoe. Zoe's death galvanizes Lucas to continue the search alone and he solicits the help of a hacker to retrieve Frank's text history from AT&T. However the hacker is actually working under Doug Stamper to entrap Lucas, leading the reporter to be ultimately caught in an FBI sting and pleading guilty to cyberterrorism. Later on, the hacker uses the existence of Rachel Posner to extort Doug. Fearing relocation and potential harm, Rachel hits Doug with a rock, possibly killing him, before fleeing the scene in his car.
Claire becomes close with the First Lady and they support a bill to reform the military's prosecution of sexual assault after Claire reveals in an interview that she had an abortion as a result of being raped in college by a man who has just been commissioned as a general. She learns that the President's marriage is strained and offers the First Lady the aid of a spiritual advisor and marriage counsellor.
Though Raymond Tusk wields major influence over the President, Frank aims to drive a wedge between them. He meets Xander Feng, a Chinese businessman and ally of Tusk to engage in backchannel diplomatic negotiations which he intentionally scuttles, though he uses the chaos of the situation to make it appear as if Tusk is equally responsible for the failed talks. This sours Sino-US relations leading to a trade war over rare earth minerals and a spike in US energy prices. Tusk openly opposes the President's efforts to deal with the crisis and begins having a tribal casino funnel money into Republican PACs in retaliation. When Frank discovers that the source of the funnelled money is in fact Xander Feng, he gets Feng to end his partnership with Tusk in exchange for a lucrative bridge contract.
The Department of Justice discovers that Doug Stamper was videotaped at the casino and begins to investigate the relationship between Feng, Tusk, and the White House. Seeking to establish trust with the special prosecutor, Frank manipulates the President into volunteering his travel records, which reveal his visits to the marriage counsellor and raises questions about whether or not the illicit campaign donations were ever discussed. Wishing to avoid disclosure to the public of his personal issues, he has the White House Counsel coach the counsellor, which the special prosecutor interprets as witness tampering. As the House Judiciary Committee begins drafting articles of impeachment, both the President and Frank offer Tusk a Presidential pardon in exchange for implicating the other. Tusk sides with the President at first, leaving Frank no other option than to regain the President's trust as a friend. The President calls off Tusk's pardon deal as a sign of friendship to Frank, whereby Tusk reciprocates by incriminating the President by saying that he knew about the deal with China. This leaves the President no choice except to resign. Frank is sworn in as the new President of the United States.
Season 3 (2015)
Netflix announced on February 4, 2014 that House of Cards has been renewed for a third season and is expected to be released around February 2015. Two episodes of the third season will be directed by Agnieszka Holland.
Independent studio Media Rights Capital, founded by Mordecai Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, producer of films such as Babel, purchased the rights to House of Cards with the intent of creating a series. While finishing production on his 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher's agent showed him House of Cards, a BBC miniseries starring Ian Richardson. Fincher was interested in producing a potential series with Eric Roth. Fincher said that he was interested in doing television because of its long-form nature, adding that working in film doesn't allow for complex characterizations the way that television allows. "I felt for the past ten years that the best writing that was happening for actors was happening in television. And so I had been looking to do something that was longer form," Fincher stated.
MRC approached different networks about the series, including HBO, Showtime and AMC, but Netflix, hoping to launch its own original programming, outbid the other networks. Ted Sarandos, Netflix's Chief Content Officer, looked at the data of Netflix users' streaming habits and concluded that there was an audience for Fincher and Spacey. "It looked incredibly promising," he said, "kind of the perfect storm of material and talent." In finding a writer to adapt the series, Fincher stated that they needed someone who could faithfully translate parliamentary politics to Washington." Beau Willimon, who has served as an aide to Charles Schumer, Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton, was hired and completed the pilot script in early 2011. Willimon saw the opportunity to create an entirely new series from the original and deepen its overall story.
The project was first announced in March 2011, with Kevin Spacey attached to star and serve as an executive producer. Fincher was announced as director for the first two episodes, from scripts by Willimon. Netflix ordered 26 episodes to air over two seasons.
Spacey called Netflix's model of publishing all episodes at once a "new perspective." He added that Netflix's commitment to two full seasons gave the series greater continuity. "We know exactly where we are going," he said. In a speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, he also noted that while other networks were interested in the show, they all wanted a pilot, whereas Netflix – relying solely on their statistics – ordered the series directly.
Fincher stated that every main cast member was their first choice. In the first read through, he said "I want everybody here to know that you represent our first choice — each actor here represents our first choice for these characters. So do not fuck this up." Spacey, whose last regular television role was in the series Wiseguy, which ran from 1987 until 1990, responded positively to the script. He then played Richard III at The Old Vic, which Fincher said was "great training." Spacey supported the decision to release all of the episodes at once, believing that this type of release pattern will be increasingly common with television shows. He said, "When I ask my friends what they did with their weekend, they say, 'Oh, I stayed in and watched three seasons of Breaking Bad or it's two seasons of Game of Thrones." He was officially cast on March 18, 2011. Robin Wright was approached by Fincher to star in the series when they worked together in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She was cast as Claire Underwood in June 2011. Kate Mara was cast as Zoe Barnes in early February 2012. Mara's sister, Rooney, worked with Fincher in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and when Kate Mara read the part of Zoe, she "fell in love with the character" and asked her sister to "put in a word for me with Fincher." The next month, she got a call for an audition.
In August 2014, the show filmed a "mock-motorcade scene" in Washington D.C.
According to the Maryland Film Office, the state spent millions in tax credits to subsidize the production costs.
- For season 1, the company received a final tax credit of $11.6 million. Production costs were $63 million, more than 1,800 Maryland businesses were involved, and nearly 2,200 Marylanders were hired with a $138 million economic impact.
- For season 2, the company might get a tax credit of about $15 million because filming costs were more than $55 million, nearly 2,000 Maryland businesses benefited, and more than 3,700 Marylanders were hired with a $120 million estimated economic impact.
- For season 3, the company has filed a letter of intent to film and estimated costs and economic impact similar to season 2. Under the 2014 formula, "the show would qualify for up to $15 million in tax credits."
In Australia, where Netflix is not available, the series was broadcast on Showcase, premiering May 7, 2013. Australian subscription TV provider Foxtel, and owner of Showcase, offered the entire first season to Showcase subscribers via their On Demand feature on Foxtel set top boxes connected to the internet, as well as through their Xbox 360, Internet TV, and mobile (Foxtel Go) services. Although the entire season was made available, it maintained its weekly timeslot on Showcase. Season two returned to Showcase on February 15, 2014. As with season one, the entire season was made available on demand to Showcase subscribers while also retaining a weekly timeslot. The series has also been made available to non Foxtel subscribers through Apple's Apple TV service.
In New Zealand, where Netflix is unavailable, season 1 premiered on TV3 in early 2014 followed immediately by season 2. In India, where Netflix is unavailable, House of Cards premiered on February 20, 2014, on Zee Cafe, with episodes airing from Monday to Friday. In Latvia, where Netflix is unavailable, the series premiered on LNT on August 18, 2014, airing on Mondays.
The first season received positive reviews from critics. It has a score of 76 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 25 reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, based on 32 reviews, it received a positive response from 81% of critics with an average rating of 8.2/10. USA Today critic Robert Bianco praised the series, particularly Spacey's and Wright's lead performances, stating "If you think network executives are nervous, imagine the actors who have to go up against that pair in the Emmys." Tom Gilatto of People Weekly lauded the first two episodes, calling them "cinematically rich, full of sleek, oily pools of darkness." In her review for The Denver Post, Joanne Ostrow said the series is "Deeply cynical about human beings as well as politics and almost gleeful in its portrayal of limitless ambition." She added: "House of Cards is a wonderfully sour take on power and corruption." Writing in The New York Times, critic Alessandra Stanley noted that the writing in the series sometimes fails to match the high quality of its acting: "Unfortunately Mr. Spacey’s lines don’t always live up to the subtle power of his performance; the writing isn’t Shakespeare, or even Aaron Sorkin, and at times, it turns strangely trite." Nevertheless she lauded House of Cards as an entertainment that "revels in the familiar but always entertaining underbelly of government." Andrew Davies, the writer of the original UK TV series, stated that Spacey's character lacks the "charm" of Ian Richardson's, while The Independent praised Spacey's portrayal as a more "menacing" character, "hiding his rage behind Southern charm and old-fashioned courtesy." Randy Shaw, writing for The Huffington Post, criticized House of Cards for glorifying "union bashing and entitlement slashing within a political landscape whose absence of activist groups or anyone remotely progressive resembles a Republican fantasy world". Critics such as Time television critic James Poniewozik and Hank Stuever of The Washington Post compare the series to Boss. Given that the show is based on the UK show and novel of the same name which were in turn heavily influenced by both Macbeth and Richard III, it is not surprising that many have noted a strong resemblance to the aforementioned works of William Shakespeare. In addition, some critics find elements of Othello, such as Iago's bitter ire.
Awards and nominations
For its first season, House of Cards received nine nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2013, to become the first original online-only web television series to receive major nominations. Among House of Cards' nine nominations, "Chapter 1" received four nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards and 65th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards becoming the first webisode (online-only episode) of a television series to receive a major Primetime Emmy Award nomination: Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for David Fincher. This episode also received several Creative Arts Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic). Although Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series is not a category that formally recognizes an episode, Spacey submitted "Chapter 1" for consideration to earn his nomination. At the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Award presentation, "Chapter 1" and Eigil Bryld earned the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, making "Chapter 1" the first Emmy-awarded webisode. At the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, Fincher won for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for directing the pilot episode "Chapter 1" in addition to the pair of Creative Arts Emmy Awards, making "Chapter 1" the first Primetime Emmy-awarded webisode. None of the Emmy awards were considered to be in major categories.
For the 71st Golden Globe Awards, House of Cards received four nominations. Among those nominations was Wright for Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for her portrayal of Claire Underwood, which she won. In so doing she became the first actress to win a Golden Globe Award for an online-only web television series.
For its second season, House of Cards received 13 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, Kevin Spacey for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Robin Wright for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Kate Mara for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, and Reg E. Cathey for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.
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