• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
    —ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

FILM/TV COMMENTARY, Part I: Adaptation, Logistics, and Testicles

Reaffirm Life memeSince book-touring is done (thank GOD!) and the show is on hiatus, we have a bit of time to stop, think, and catch up on the email…

So—I thought I might address a few recent comments and questions on Episode 8. Not to refute people’s opinions—everyone’s entitled to think as they like, and say so—but just to show you a bit about How Things Work.

While most people were riveted—as they should have been; it was a terrific episode—there were a few who were upset at things they perceived to be "missing"—these including:

  • Scenes of one-on-one dialogue between Jamie and Claire
  • More scenes of intimacy
  • Claire patching people up and doing healing
  • And specifically… the "waterweed" scene following the Grants’ raid.

(One person also thought we should have seen the redcoats stalking Claire, rather than have them pop out abruptly to seize her as she reaches for the stone.)

And there were a number of questions regarding the "Deserter" scene—mostly as to whether Claire had actually been raped or not (and if she had, what kind of doofus was Jamie for going off to talk to Dougal instead of tenderly cradling her and soothing her, etc.).

OK.

As I replied to one such commenter:

"Well….your comments pinpoint the major difference between Book and Show: Time.

ALL the things you wanted to see—one on one Jamie and Claire, more scenes of intimacy, relationship building, Claire patching people up, etc.—ALL of them, are things that would require extended chunks of time (‘extended,’ in a TV show, is anything that lasts more than 60 seconds). None of these things are ‘action,’ none of them move the plot in any direct way.

The show has 52-55 minutes in which to do everything that has to be done. They don’t have time to do nice-but-nonessential "Oh, wait while I triage the whole group, bandage Angus’s scorched hand and reset Ned Gowan’s tooth," or "Oh, my God, I know we just had sex, but let’s do it again…"

In short…if you want more of all those things—you can have ‘em. In the book. <g>"

Now, a successful adaptation is always balancing the needs of the story versus the exigencies of the form. As Andrew Marvell notes to "His Coy Mistress,"— "Had we but world and time, this coyness, mistress, were no crime…" I have world and time in a novel; pretty much all I want. I can shape the story to fit my own notion of pace, rhythm, focus and climax. So can a show-runner and his gang of writers—but they don’t have world and time. They have to decide what’s essential, and then shape the story to the time available and to the necessity for each 55-minute episode to have a satisfying dramatic arc of its own.

So—

(in reply to the person complaining about the redcoats’ abrupt appearance):

"But…the redcoats came out of ‘nowhere’ in the book, as well, when they pull Claire out of the stream. It isn’t that they aren’t ‘there’—it’s that in neither case does Claire see them, because she’s so totally focused on her goal…and we’re in her head, so we don’t see them, either.

To have shown the soldiers sneaking in from the side, while Claire was laboring up the hill, calling for Frank, would have given us a different sort of suspense in the scene—but would have been a distraction from the growing sense of desperate hope between Claire and Frank. And that was the true point of the scene.

See, one of the main tools of good story-telling is focus; getting the reader/viewer to look where you want them to look. And physical reality is really a pretty small part of that. The fact that X must have been there may be logical—but it isn’t relevant, so you don’t show it. Q.E.D. <g>"

Now, the focus of that scene is really what’s controlling it, and thus dictating changes from the book. Several people expressed disappointment at not seeing Claire fall into the water and be pulled out by the redcoats. Amusing as that might have been, it’s merely a way of interrupting her headlong rush toward the stones and getting her into Captain Randall’s clutches. The way it was done instead accomplishes that same plot goal—but also makes a very solid and dramatic point about her longing for Frank and his for her. So the adapted form is not detracting from the original version; in fact, it’s adding to it, and giving us a really good two-for-one, combining plot and character development/backstory reminder.

When Ron and I met in New York for the first-ever Outlander Fan Event, we shared a long cab-ride to the event, during which we talked Book. I told him why the flowers at Craigh na Dun are forget-me-nots and why the ghost is there (and no, I’m not telling you guys; you’ll find out, eventually <g>), and he told me about his vision of that scene with Claire and Frank approaching the stones from either side. I thought that was a great idea and said so.

See, that’s something that I couldn’t have done in the book, because it’s told entirely from Claire’s point of view. We can’t see what Frank was doing and going through after Claire disappeared. I preserved Claire’s worry about/attachment to Frank by having her think about him and grieve for him periodically—but that’s all internal; the only way of doing internal monologue in a visual medium is voice-overs, and I think y’all would agree that it’s best to keep that technique to a minimum…

But it’s simple to change time, place and viewpoint in a visual medium; one shot and you’re there. Also, since you’re working in a constrained time-space, the balance of viewpoints is easier to manage.

Technically, it’s possible to use multiple viewpoints in a book — (in fact, I got a note from one of my editors (regarding a chunk of MOBY I’d sent him) saying, "Congratulations… I think you’ve just done the literary equivalent of juggling half a dozen chainsaws.") — but OUTLANDER was my first book, written for practice, and I wasn’t out to make things too complicated. Had I used flashbacks of Frank’s life in the context of a book of that size, they’d either be overwhelming, or trivial distractions. Used in the context of a 55-minute TV episode, they were beautifully balanced against Claire’s 18th century life.

In addition, there’s a visceral punch to seeing Frank’s actions that gives you an instant emotional investment in him and his story. I probably have the chops to do such a thing effectively in print now, but I didn’t when I wrote OUTLANDER (and in fact, I wouldn’t have thought of doing it; I wanted most of the focus on Jamie and the 18th century, both because that’s where most of the color and action and Story was, but also to assist the reader in falling in love with Jamie along with Claire, so that we would understand her later choices. But just as the visual invests the viewers in Frank, it does the same for Jamie—are we in any doubt, following "The Wedding" that Claire is falling in love with him?).

See, a visual medium speeds things up. You don’t necessarily need the longer build-up that you have in text, because the images are much more immediate, and easier for the audience to absorb in an emotional way.

OK, moving on to the was-it-rape? scene and the aftermath…

Well, the people who’ve read the book (and remember it <g>) know it was attempted rape. Claire grabbed her attacker around the neck while he was fumbling for a, um, connection, pulled him down and stabbed him in the kidney—but he never did succeed in penetrating her.

The TV-only people probably think he did succeed because one of the "warnings" at the beginning was an "R" for "Rape," even though there isn’t one in the episode. Now, whether whoever put the warning on thought that’s what happened, or whether it’s merely a "trigger" warning (i.e., people with a sensitivity to scenes of sexual assault might want to know there is such a scene in this episode)…I don’t know.

But this is one of those things where stuff from the book actually can’t be shown adequately. It’s absolutely clear from the book, because we’re in Claire’s head, and we know what she was perceiving. But the shot can’t be under her skirt—and unless they put in a line where Claire tells Jamie, "Don’t worry, he didn’t manage to get it in…" (which would not only be crude, but would grossly undercut her—and the audience’s—sense of shock and dislocation)…then it’s not going to be clear to viewers, who will have to be left to draw their own conclusions.

Same diff with the "waterweed" scene. This is a scene in the book that occurs between the fight with the Grants and the men instructing Claire next morning in the art of killing people. It’s a very vivid scene (sufficiently vivid that the U.K. editor asked me to remove it from her edition of the book, she thinking it "too graphic" for her audience. <cough> So this scene is in OUTLANDER but not in CROSS STITCH. The relevant part of the scene is available below, for convenient reference), and extremely memorable to readers, many of whom complained about its omission in the episode.

I didn’t discuss the decision to omit this scene with the production team, both because I try not to nitpick them, and because I could easily see why it was omitted:

  1. It doesn’t advance the plot or develop an important bit of character. It reaffirms Jamie and Claire’s strong sense of/need for each other, but there are a lot of other scenes that do that (we see one within the next five minutes). Ergo, it’s not necessary. (And that consideration is why I reluctantly agreed to remove the scene from the U.K. book. Its removal didn’t damage the plot structure or deprive us of anything we really needed. In that respect, it’s one of only two scenes in OUTLANDER that aren’t structurally attached to something else (the Loch Ness monster scene is the other one)).
  2. See remarks above about time. Including this scene would have meant leaving out something else; and everything in this episode is necessary to the purpose intended by the writer/production team.
  3. The scene wouldn’t have been nearly as effective on film as it is on the page—and the reasons have to do with Claire’s subjective sensory perceptions. You simply can’t show most of what she’s experiencing without it being pornography (and even so, there’s no possible way of showing a man’s testicles contracting at the moment of orgasm, no matter how professionally accommodating your actor may be). But you can describe it, vividly and straightforwardly in text, without it being gross. Without those subjective bits from Claire’s interior point of view, though, the scene doesn’t have either the deep sense of intimacy or the intense sensuality that you have in the book version; it’s just another sex-scene (albeit one admittedly with some fairly funny dialogue). And while some shows would likely use repetitive sex-scenes just because people will watch them… that’s luckily not a technique this show goes for. Every sex-scene you see has an emotional point or a plot point to make.

And now I really must go and do some work. <g>

-Diana


#ReadWhileYouWait #OUTLANDER #RaidersInTheRocks #NoSpoilersInThisOne

[The rent party has retired for the night, and Jamie and Claire are conversing quietly under their blankets.]

I rolled over and put my arms about his neck.

"Not as proud as I was. You were wonderful, Jamie. I’ve never seen anything like that."

He snorted deprecatingly, but I thought he was pleased, nonetheless.

"Only a raid, Sassenach. I’ve been doin’ that since I was fourteen. It’s only in fun, ye see; it’s different when you’re up against someone who really means to kill ye."

"Fun," I said, a little faintly. "Yes, quite."

His arms tightened around me, and one of the stroking hands dipped lower, beginning to inch my skirt upward. Clearly the thrill of the fight was being transmuted into a different kind of excitement.

"Jamie! Not here!" I said, squirming away and pushing my skirt down again.

"Are ye tired, Sassenach?" he asked with concern. "Dinna worry, I won’t take long." Now both hands were at it, rucking the heavy fabric up in front.

"No!" I replied, all too mindful of the twenty men lying a few feet away. "I’m not tired, it’s just—" I gasped as his groping hand found its way between my legs.

"Lord," he said softly. "It’s slippery as waterweed."

"Jamie! There are twenty men sleeping right next to us!" I shouted in a whisper.

"They wilna be sleeping long, if you keep talking." He rolled on top of me, pinning me to the rock. His knee wedged between my thighs and began to work gently back and forth. Despite myself, my legs were beginning to loosen. Twenty-seven years of propriety were no match for several hundred thousand years of instinct. While my mind might object to being taken on a bare rock next to several sleeping soldiers, my body plainly considered itself the spoils of war and was eager to complete the formalities of surrender. He kissed me, long and deep, his tongue sweet and restless in my mouth.

"Jamie," I panted. He pushed his kilt out of the way and pressed my hand against him.

"Bloody Christ," I said, impressed despite myself. My sense of propriety slipped another notch.

"Fighting gives ye a terrible cockstand, after. Ye want me, do ye no?" he said, pulling back a little to look at me. It seemed pointless to deny it, what with all the evidence to hand. He was hard as a brass rod against my bared thigh.

"Er…yes…but…"

He took a firm grip on my shoulders with both hands.

"Be quiet, Sassenach," he said with authority. "It isn’t going to take verra long."

It didn’t. I began to climax with the first powerful thrust, in long, racking spasms. I dug my fingers hard into his back and held on, biting the fabric of his shirt to muffle my sounds. In less than a dozen strokes, I felt his testicles contract, tight against his body, and the warm flood of his own release. He lowered himself slowly to the side and lay trembling.

The blood was still beating heavily in my ears, echoing the fading pulse between my legs. Jamie’s hand lay on my breast, limp and heavy. Turning my head, I could see the dim figure of the sentry, leaning against a rock on the far side of the fire. He had his back tactfully turned. I was mildly shocked to realize that I was not even embarrassed. I wondered rather dimly whether I would be in the morning, and wondered no more.


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127 Responses »

  1. Are there any more missing scenes in Cross Stitch or any of the other UK versions?
    I have the UK version (I actually have book 1~6 in UK version and the rest in US version).
    I’ll have to find the exact page where to insert this “waterweed” scene in my book :P

    • No, there were no changes to other books in the series. There are also a few terminology changes from the US/UK version in Cross Stitch (horses changed to ponies, etc.), not really enough to quibble about, but all of the others remain the same word-for-word. :)

    • Diana,

      You made some very good and valid points about things that were in the book, but not in the series. I feel we have the best of both worlds. The books to read and the visual effects in the series.

      I have especially enjoyed how they have fleshed out Frank. I felt it was very important to show the torment he was going through and wondering what happened to Claire. The last episode recently shown is especially poignant and leaves much to the imagination of when Frank shouted her name and she his, did they hear each other. Something for each to interpret.

      To say the least, I am enjoying the series immensely and I thank you for the gift you have given us by creating these wonderful characters.

  2. Wowsome!!! That’s why YOU are the writer; I really do understand your explanation of the difference in the medium of story telling. I’ve read the books & applaud Ron’s version on TV. It is also, I think, smart that a woman director did “The Wedding”. Not turning it into soft porn but showing the evolution & unfolding of Claire’s emotional & physical feelings for Jamie, bringing her to the fork of her dilemma as she holds up both hands with rings. Wonderfully done. I can’t wait for the 2nd half of the season.

  3. Once again, thank you! Even though I did not have the concerns mentioned, the post was enlightening.

    • Ye thanks ye. The writen words are a mental conduit that reach into each of our fantasy worlds filled with heightened andorphines and hope. Where can I send my ‘thank you’ card?

  4. well I love everything about the tv series, but think that an avid reader should watch the episodes a few times to get lost in the series. what I especially like in the visual medium is the body language between Claire and Jamie, and of course, the costuming. it’s absolutely wonderful. can’t wait until april 4.

  5. Once again, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!! I agree with Marjorie, I Have no concerns, Only my Profound Gratitude that it is on Television. I’m just grateful somebody bought the rights and developed it………… my husband sat and watched with me…………he loved it, although he had to shush on several occasions ,as I would recite a line!!!!!!!!!!! I Cannot wait for the other 8 shows!!!!!!!!!!! I do believe Congrats are in order!!!!!!!!!!!! Sit Back , take a breather, have a drink, and think about of it later……….. Scarlett would, and I’m quite sure Claire would too, for about 5 minutes……. maybe.

    Seriously Ms. Gabaldon, Thank You !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Thank you for taking the time to respond to complaints or corrections from non-authors and non-producers!

    The series is wonderful, the costumes are great, the books are wonderful and thank goodness Ron pursued you and more importantly, you accepted…………Thank you for waiting for the right combination. . He is doing a fantastic job and looks the part to be in the series. I am re-watching as I miss the series already. Thank you SO much and have a well deserved rest, relax, spa time etc. etc. “Not to worry Sassenach about the wee complainers, the night fairies will get them”!!

  7. LOVE THE BOOKS LOVE THE SERIES – in fact your the only author that has made me laugh till my stomach hurts. Watching the series got me to reading the books and I just have to comment that I hope if they ever get to make A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES – the scene with Jezebel Morton
    “Isaiah Morton! You gonna die, boy!”
    Is the best laugh I’ve had from a book!! PLEAAASSSEE put this on TV!

  8. From what I have seen, the series is respectfully and faithfully realizing the books. Fans who fall deep into a particular book series, always crave more, but the screen has it’s own set of unique limitations no matter the book series. It’s wonderful how the series has been brought to life on screen and we are grateful for having this. It’s been a great journey so far, and looking forward to continuing. Thank you and Starz, production company, crew, and cast, for this inspiring and unforgettable gift

  9. Great post! My husband and I have been loving the series — there is still episode 8 to air on Canada. I love the added emphasis on Frank in the series and look forward to more in ep. 8. The changes you talk about in your post make sense; the emphasis is of course on action. But I do appreciate that the series makers took the time to give over an entire episode to the wedding, and I loved the flashback format used.

  10. Hello: Never would have imagined that the series could have been adapted for TV. Delighted that it is!
    The writers/producers doing a wonderful & creative job of it. Plus the cast is outstanding!
    Thanks again!

  11. I’m so excited that this is finally being filmed! My sisters and I have had the movie cast for each role in our minds for several years! While the cast we had in mind could never be the one that was chosen, obviously we are ecstatic that someone chose a cast at all! I know there are lots of grumblers….the book is ALWAYS better than the movie because of the time issue you speak of. That’s just how it is! You’re right! In text you have to use a lot more words to create the image that a camera instantly captures. I have never heard anyone come out of a movie and say, “That was so much better than the book!” Keep in mind that for every person who comments or complains, there’s THOUSANDS more of your fans who are dying to hear from you & eagerly anticipating the next book or episode! The books are so popular and you’ve made the characters so alive for us that we all have strong emotional connections to certain people/plots. But for every naysayer, there’s thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands who are excited, happy, thrilled, overjoyed that this is a TV series and NOT a 2 hour movie! We get SO MUCH MORE having it in a series! Don’t forget those of us who are contented & thoroughly enjoying every single second and fully understand the constraints of putting writing to film!

  12. I LOVE the differences. I LOVE seeing something new added to your wonderful story.

    Ignore the _blankety-blank_ people that have no concept of what is entailed to create a TV show. I thank you for trying to educate them, but I really think it is a lost cause. They will never be happy unless it is EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE BOOK! I have a couple of friends of that ilk, and there is just no talking to them or explaining. Gaaah!

    Just know that _most_ of us love it and appreciate all the hard work it is taking from everyone involved to bring it to the screen for us.

    Thank you for the wonderful stories that gave us this marvelous TV show. I can fill in the blanks in my head.

  13. Dear Diana,

    I have been trying to explain this concept to people on Outlander Series Facebook Page for a long time (OK a week), and there is a community (which shall remain nameless) full of people whining about scenes Which Should Have Been Included. It’s really nice of you to take the time to clear up our misconceptions and educate us so when we get our novels on TV we’ll be ready!

    Personally I think the amount of story content in each episode is amazing. As long as the integrity of the story remains intact, I don’t care how far off the reservation Don and you go. I’m still going to enjoy an incredibly well- crafted TV show, the best I’ve ever seen.

    Than k you,

    h-

    • Dear Hilary–

      Well, all you can do with people like that is give them this simple mantra with which to soothe themselves: “The Book is the Book. The Show is the Show.”

      Best,

      –Diana

  14. Translating book to screen always has a cost, usually paid in the resetting and/or reorganizing of scenes, and the leaving out of (especially inner) dialogue.

    I do think that they have left something important out about Jamie. They left out his insistence of honesty in his and Claire’s conversations “…when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. We have nothing now between us save — respect, perhaps. And I think respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies.” and his understanding that, on occasion, Claire would think of Frank. I have always (since my first reading) been impressed with how mature and insightful those statements made Jamie, and they have yet to include them onscreen (which would have necessitated no more than a few extra lines.)

    But I also understand that, although these lines are important to _me_, I am not the person in charge. I’ve enjoyed the adaptation in general, and I look forward to it continuing. Congratulations on your happy collaboration.

  15. I agree with Sally H. These lines are important. When Claire confesses to Jamie about her origins, Jamie takes her at her word. Even if he doesn’t believe her, he trusts her enough to take her back to the stones.

    • Dear Kathy–

      At the risk of repeating myself…don’t _worry_ so much. The fact that you didn’t get a particular line in the exact place you expected it doesn’t mean you won’t get it at all. I happen to know where that particular line/speech _is_, and it works fine in that context. Really, y’all will be much happier if you stop catastrophizing about everything.

      Best,

      –Diana

  16. Ms. Gabaldon, you would do me a great honor with a reply:

    Do you cry as you type?
    Do you feel anger and frustration alongside your characters?
    Do you encounter dissonance as you write?

    I find the beauty of your books to be the nuanced polarity of .every. character and situation. You compel the reader to begrudgingly admit that no human, no society, no ideology can ever be comprised exclusively of righteousness nor disgrace. OUTLANDER perfectly encapsulates the truth that all of humanity is juxtaposed in a way that makes the isolation of one thing impossible.

    My question to parallel this is: Are you ever taken aback by your _own_ duality when you reflect on it?
    Are you surprised by what streams from your fingertips; knowing that it was first borne in your heart?
    I ask because while each of us harbors a good/evil duplicity, your ability to craft both breathtaking love scenes and heartbreaking despair with EQUAL potency is truly a literary enigma.

    • Dear Victoria–

      Yes, sometimes–of course. And no, I’m not taken aback by the spectrum (duality would be much too simplistic [g]) of emotion and possibility I encounter within myself. I was born with it; I accept it and try to use it honestly, that’s all.

      Best,
      –Diana

  17. Hi Diana, thank you for a wonderful post! I read the books in the early nineties before I had my children. I always remembered the books with fondness and when I heard it would be a series I was happy to see it. Rereading and loving the show! I love the actors, especially Sam as Jamie and think they are doing a wonderful job, also love the cinematography and the lovely Scottish light and scenery. Also love the costumes. Okay, love it all!!

    Thank you for the explanation about the “waterweed scene” I just thought it was so sexy that I was sad that it was gone but you are absolutely right about the detail and also about the narrative movement. Another great sexy wartime sneaked sex scene is from Enemy at the Gates. I think the idea of the immediacy of danger and war is very moving and you captured that very well here.

    Thanks for writing these and translating them.

  18. LOVED THE FIRST 8 episodes…Why do we have to wait until April??? What happened to the original plan for January? Did I miss some tidbit of news about this?

    I do find it interesting that some of your devoted fans are a trifle disappointed that the show isn’t exactly like the book. Having read the entire series too many time to count-since it was first published-I have found the STARZ series authentic in its purpose and ‘feel’. While I admit some differences in my personal vision of some of the characters, their true essence is front and center in the TV series, just as you created them.

    Well done, Ron and Diana! WHY APRIL?!

    Best Regards,

    Loretta Remington

    • The crew JUST finished filming the last eight episodes (9-16) on September 24, 2015. It takes three to four weeks of post-production work to prepare an episode to air. (Post-production includes editing, scoring, sound and titles.) 8 months of work, which will be crammed into seven months (October to April) and they begin filming Dragonfly in Amber in February 2015.

  19. I love your books and enjoy the TV series. I think the most notable thing to me was the clothing. Clare’s clothing has been describe in detail (which I loved) but not what the men wear or how the kilts are put on. It is all one long piece of fabric? We learn a little bit about it during the wedding but just see it folded and later on. It would be interesting to see.

    Are they going to do all of your books in the series? I hope they do!

    • Maybe, if we’re lucky, when the DVDs are released (somewhere down the road) we’ll get some Bonus Material that will show the various ways of putting on the kilt. Since the various men wear them differently, depending on preference, something like that would be interesting to see.

  20. Just to add to the love pile–WOW!! I’m rewatching the episodes, and I’m finding that I missed little bits of dialogue or acting the first time through that are so marvelous. I find myself being more sympathetic to Frank in the show, probably because as Diana pointed out above–it is so visual and thereby emotional. That step of imagining it in your head is eliminated. I find those sequences with Frank add to the story. As readers, we had no idea what Frank was doing because Claire had no idea what Frank was doing while she was gone. Now we have some insight into Frank, and I can understand a bit better why Claire was so anxious to return. She truly does have to fall in love with Jamie AFTER the wedding! The book being the book, we had plenty of foreshadowing.

    Tobias Menzies is fantastic in the Frank/Jack roles. Honestly, I’ve never seen his work before, but if this man isn’t nominated for an Emmy, there is no justice in the world.

    I know why Starz has postponed the start of the second half–all the viewers who signed up in August for 6 month memberships will be expired by then–but not by January (I think that was the original return date). Hey–they know a good thing when they see it.

    Like other women who have posted here, my husband is watching and enjoying the shows–I was going to say as much as I am, but that’s not possible. He read the first 4 books, so he has an idea of what’s going on, etc, but I love that we’re watching it together!! Who says that men aren’t romantic? Jamie and Claire’s story resonates with men as well as women.

    • Airing the last eight episodes beginning in April will mean that the final episodes of Season One will be shown during May sweeps. (And shortly before the Emmy nomination period begins.)

      Also they just finished filming Season One on September 24th. It does take awhile to go from raw film to finished episodes.

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