Dexter's Season 7 Finale: The Normal Reasons

By Cory Barker

Dec 17, 2012

Dexter S07E12: “Surprise, Motherfucker!”

Predictability, despite lots of evidence to the contrary, can be good. As viewers, we want to be surprised and bamboozled by what happens on television, especially during season finales, but when a good story builds to a likely and relatively believable conclusion, it can be just as satisfying as a MAJOR TWIST.

Last week, I postulated about a version of the Dexter Season 7 finale that involved sizable reveals about Deb poisoning herself to set Hannah up and what would happen to the two women in Dexter’s life once he discovered that powerful truth. If the show’s writers would have crafted that story, I’m willing to bet that the finale would have been more overtly exciting. However, the more I think about the one we did receive, I’m satisfied with the direction it took—because it’s the direction the show absolutely had to take. While “Surprise, Motherfucker!” had its problems, it also delivered the fitting end to the season Dexter needed, even if it was a conclusion we saw coming weeks ago.

For a season of Dexter that often engaged in a compelling meta-deconstruction of so many of the show’s big tropes, plot tricks, and rhythms, it is no surprise that the finale chose to dial back the shocking moments and instead dance with what brought it here in 2012: conversations, honesty, and a whole lot of Deb’s tears.

Weirdly, a good portion of the episode lacked the urgency that has defined so much of the season, but it ended up working out for the better. The first five minutes wrote Hannah out of importance with a surprisingly brief conversation between her and Dexter. Despite everything that's happened between the two of them, there’s still an attraction, and if their confused feelings are to be believed, there's love as well. Hannah did, in fact, poison Deb for the obvious reasons, which undercuts my big theory from last week, but ultimately better serves the characters. The conversation between Hannah and Dexter not only set up stories for next season—because Hannah later broke out of police custody and is therefore totally coming back in the final run—it also set up Dexter’s headspace for the rest of the episode.

All season long, Dexter has considered and then reconsidered a lot of things in his life. Now, that’s not particularly novel because the show has gone in that direction before, but for the first time in a while, it felt like Dexter’s voiceover monologues about family, identity, and whatever else had a real purpose for the character (and not just that episode’s plot). Dexter has finally started to embrace the fact that he can, at least in this show’s warped universe, have both parts of his life. He can fulfill his urges and kill whoever he thinks he needs to (and now he can hopefully do so independently, without the silliness of the Dark Passenger), but he can also try to keep his small family unit intact.

His feelings for Hannah are real, albeit conflicted and troubling for any normal, non-TV character, and we know that he cares about Deb and Harrison even more. Dexter’s altered relationship with Deb and his new one with Hannah showed him that he doesn’t have to hide who he is. For all its blood, violence, and terrible police work, Dexter is, at its core, a show about family. So much of what Dexter is inside is based on his familial experiences and relationships. While I’ve been disappointed with the kind of lip service the show has paid to “family” as a concept in the past, that hasn't been the case this season.

Thus, when LaGuerta arrested Dexter at his home, brought him into the station to embarrass him in front of all his co-workers, clamped down hard in the interrogation room, and eventually revealed to Deb some hidden information provided by dead cop Mike Anderson*, the stakes were very high and very real. Dexter has been able to weasel his way out of ridiculous situations a number of times, but here, Deb was in trouble too and Dexter actually considered his young son as well. A season’s worth of pretty solid storytelling helped make something involving LaGuerta bearable and even fairly interesting.

*I’m still conflicted over the random appearance of the gas station camera evidence. It was a nice way to further reinforce that LaGuerta is a credible threat to the Morgans and it was a fine callback to the season premiere, but it also came completely out of nowhere, and the way it had to be explained with a mouthful of exposition rubbed me the wrong way. It served its purpose, however, even if it felt a bit hackneyed.

What of course made the story work even better is what made much of this season great throughout: Deb. As I said, we’ve seen Dexter in these kinds of situations before. He knows what he has to do, even if it means throwing out the code and killing for “normal reasons.” But for Deb, the danger of being caught is still new and traumatic. She could barely keep it together when LaGuerta fired up the DVD of the security camera footage and was more or less a mess from there onward. Even though she begged Dexter not to take care of LaGuerta in his typical fashion, there was a sense that Deb had no idea what to do. She thinks she knows what is right and what is wrong, but she also knows that she loves and adores her brother. This has been the primary conflict of the entire season, and it’s fitting that it played a major role here.

With Dexter’s soul searching and Deb’s hysteria, the episode, while light on massive twists and turns, really serviced its two main characters in the proper fashion. And as a result, once Deb discovered Dexter’s kind of brilliant, kind of stupid plan to kill Estrada and LaGuerta but make it look like they killed one another—so he was going to shoot a bullet through the stab incision and that was just going to completely remove any evidence of the first wound? Okay, sure, show—both characters were almost primed to make drastic choices.

After a season of covering for Dexter by lying about procedure and tinkering with evidence, Deb was forced to consider what it truly means to be involved with this version of her brother. It’s not just killing people who probably deserve it. It’s not just covering up tons and tons of crimes and lying to friends and co-workers. It’s not just the morally gray. And after a season of thinking about what it means to be a killer and a family man, Dexter recognized that maybe this has gone too far for far too long. Harrison doesn’t deserve this and Deb certainly doesn’t. I think maybe he realized, in that moment, that he should never have let Deb see the “real him” after all. Dexter gave himself up, willing to die to save Deb’s sanity (and I really believe he was doing so and not just posturing to convince Deb to take out LaGuerta). But as we know, the Morgan siblings will always, always, always protect one another, no matter the cost. They just keep pushing the boundaries of family.

Were the episode and that final sequence pretty predictable? Of course. We knew that as soon as Deb showed up at the shipping container that she was going to have to kill LaGuerta. But the sequence worked so well precisely because we knew that Deb was going to have to make a choice. She had to know what it was really like to be Dexter (and almost to an even more disturbing degree). For the true impact of Dexter’s choices to be felt, he had to, inadvertently or not, pull Deb so far into his bloody, murderous lifestyle that she would have to make unbelievably tough calls like this one.

It was a predictable move, but a powerful one. A season full of dramatic, honest Dexter-and-Deb interactions ended with Deb first screaming and sobbing, but ultimately in complete shock. Who knows what’s going to happen to her in the future. But all she could do was silently grab Dexter’s arm. At this point, it’s all she has, whether or not it’s the right or healthy thing for her.

What a nice capper to a darn good season of television. Dexter always has its ups and downs, but as long as Dexter and Deb’s relationship is treated with respect and the awful stuff keeps getting heaped upon them, the show works. I don’t want to make any grand proclamations about this being Dexter’s best season, but I will say that it is certainly my favorite. Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall were so good here, and they’ve been so good all season long. The way in which they portray this deep, but mutated, bond between two people is really something to be admired. And they manage to make the big scenes like the one in the container, with all the crying and yelling, so great, but they do the super quiet ones—like the final walk through the party—even better. For the first time in a few years, Hall will deserve his Emmy nomination and dammit, Jennifer Carpenter deserves a first nomination herself.

It’s nice to have the good version of Dexter back. Let’s hope it’s here to stay in the final season. Until then.


– Thanks for reading and commenting this fall, folks. I’ve really enjoyed your insightful thoughts and feedback; you made this cool gig even cooler.

– The Doakes flashbacks were... interesting. I was surprised at how prevalent they were in the episode; while they had a thematic purpose, there was probably one too many.

– I don’t want to make this sound like a personal attack because you folks already know how I feel about LaGuerta as a character, but Lauren Vélez’s performance as REALLY WORKED UP LaGuerta was not particularly good. She oversold every scene she was in, particularly the interrogation and final sequences. I’d love to say I’m disappointed to see the character or the actor go, but I’m not a liar.

– Quinn and Jamie: Oh my god, someone please make it stop. Her rando potty mouth made me really uncomfortable.

– Batista is really retiring. No seriously. It’s going to be different, though. The good news is that he apparently dealt with those pesky health violations.

– If you’ve been able to stop picturing Masuka as the New Year’s Baby, you’re a better person than I. Someone Photoshop that for me, please.

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  • ericsmacy Mar 14, 2013

    Deb killing LaGuerta was totally out of character, it would have made a lot more sense for Deb to arrest Dexter. The idea that Deb had to shoot either Dexter or LaGuerta was a false choice, especially once Dexter backed down. This season has been better than season six, but not because of the writing, it's because they are featuring Deb a lot more and Jennifer Carpenter's acting is able to make up for the sloppy writing.

  • fallenepitaph Feb 27, 2013

    are you guys insane? How good the season was is another discussion; it was certainly better then the previous one, but where they took the characters? Dexter not killing a murderer because she's hot, but having no problem killing her father only because he's morally corrupted? That makes him like any other serial killer. Killing out of convenience, isn't that what they all do? Without the code he's not a hero, not someone that should be presented as a protagonist on TV. (As Hannah says. Why does she go to jail and he gets to be free?) and what they did with Deb, just to have an impact in the end? Getting her to kill an innocent person and a cop? what kind of a message is that? Even Dexter agreeing to kill her, should never ever be considered. Didn't he kill someone because he tried to kill her once?

    This was good, entertaining. But very, very wrong, and an insult to characters I once came to love.

  • WSD Jan 02, 2013

    Episode 1:The final season should explore how worst his dark passenger have gotten, where it all started with a harlequin-figure back at where deb and dex are cleaning the evidence of LaGuerta. As they were following Dex’s plan which was to make it look like a estrada and laguerta shot each other, Deb suddenly see the Harlequin (all hunch back witha heavy preverting and disgusting breathing) standing at the opening of the container and sickly said, “Me..saw You.” The harlequin flees and dexter persue him, but soon the harlequin appears nowhere in sight. Startled and aghast, Deb and Dex hears a container crane working, lefting the one where Estrada, LaGuerta, Deb’s Gun, Dex’s Knife…etc basically all the evidence that trace back to them and placing some place else. They see it was the Harlequin operating it, and now lifting a new container, the harlequin rapidly with acrobatic abilities drop himself atop of the container and pry open the doors which pours out masses of decaying, odious liquifying grease of past corpses on Deb, Dex, and LaGuerta’s cars while he queerly dance on top laughing “You’ll Never Find Them Before They Will!!!!!!!” (and by They, he means every police department in Miami) Then alarms sounds off, Deb and Dexter run into their own cars and flee. They go to Deb’s house and wash off their cars, she then breaks down as the grease of the bodies writhe off, feeling fear, regret, and guilt. Dexter is furious. with questions he ponders on “who was the harlequin? what game was he playing?” He know he has to go back and find the container or else it’s over, but it gets worse. Miami Metro were notify with the distrubence back at the Port where LaGuerta’s car is dicovered by a worker whom witness what happen, and also informs them that a container was missing, or misplace somewhere. Also, there were calls about two speeding cars cover with the same muck that’s on Laguerta’s (but they can’t distinctly identify the tag numbers or driver’s) Dexter goes back and is pulled over by police, due to the headlights, as he gets out he discover that a nocitable amout of muck was on the tires, so Dexter assaults the officer for a distraction and is sent to Sheriff’s department where he is held up. After an hour, dexter hears slaughter in the distance of his cell, shrieking and groaning…then a fire-alarm sounds as water sparkle down from the ceilings, at the end of the row of his cell, there the Harlequin stood with Estrada and LaGuerta’s corpses draged down the hall. Dexter sees how tall he was (nearly 8 feet). The Harlequin open Dex’s cell and now blocks the opening, standing in the way. “Who are you?” dexter said. “The one of whom he ask he is…” the harlequin says and Dexter noctice the Harlequin is no one, just a disrage, psychopathic sadist who loves mind-games they just cross each other’s paths at the wrong time and place. “You think you know the art of tribulation…..diseased by the living darken parasite compressing the sphygmic of the heart, clenching unto the oppressed brain affirming to the silver knife. You think you know games…is that why you attired your very being into this Mask: The Harlequin. The gallantry and games being bravely untaken by one who dosen’t even know what he’s bargaining for. You see, I am the master of the Gallantry and Games, and I will get you. You’ll be my sole pround posession as I can look back at today and see how the Man with no Mask hunts by night to Mask of what I’ve done to a Man with a Mask who hunts freely by day to Unmask what you’ve done….” here Dexter pause as he realized “or what I’ve Done.” ( As he see LaGuerta and The man he wanted all his life to take out and to see how it affected Deb, and how it could harm Harrison) “I will expose you someday, I will get someday, you hear me. I will get you on my table. You want a Game. You got one.” Dexter finished, the one on one battle. “I look forward to our Game” the Harlequin replied with his deep, disjusting tone. and walks away. (This might be Dexter’s worse decision, letting him go for a game he wants) As Dexter walks through the building, he sees the carnage the Harlequin done, every police is dead and there are countless pictures of Dexter’s past kills and association with them, evidences of him, every tv in the building plays rewinding tapes of Dexter commiting the murders. He realized his whole life was being recorded and watched by the Harlequin.

    That’s how it should go. Well, just an opinon, if the writer’s of Dexter got something better than their usual CW-soap opera gimmick crap. Bring it!

  • saraint Dec 28, 2012

    I think that Angel will be pulled back to the force to replace LaGuerta. I agree about Jamie. But I think that D & D are always amazing. They certainly give an interesting take on Bonnie & Clyde!

  • xubxerox Dec 27, 2012

    A great season ending in a good episode. For me, this season was "only" the second best, after S05. I hope season 8 will be abel to continue on this level of performance.

    To me, the theme of this season wasn't 'family' but 'love' in general, what it does to us, our descisionmaking. How it can completly change who we are. And how its loss can also affect us in the same areas. Strange theme for a show like Dexter, but then Dexter is a strange show :)

    I have to agree, some subplots were quiet boring, like Quinn's. Well, I quess they had to give him something to do. Even if his actions fit the theme..
    Viktor on the other hand was great.

    Well, I'm really looking forward to season 8.

  • LeahLefler Dec 27, 2012

    I think Vélez was so bad on purpose. LaGuerta rarely interrogates and she was nervous and just bad at it. I'm glad the character is gone but she actually made things more interesting. Quinn, on the other hand, was once again awful and pointless. The only purpose he served was to give Victor more screen time and that actor & his character's story was so great!
    I will miss Hannah, it was nice to see Dexter with her. But Deb was right cuz he could never trust her. What if burned the toast one morning?

  • Cavewoman22 Dec 27, 2012

    I had slightly considered the idea of Deb poisoning herself, that is, until I saw her car! No way could she have been in such a car wreck deliberately like that. She was pretty hurt too.

    And, lucky for me, I didn't see the ending going that way at all.

  • Carolinapereira Dec 23, 2012

    Dexter should have killed Laguerta, not Deb. It is one thing to love someone so much you're willing to cover up murder...but to actually pull the trigger?? That's way out of character. Even after all she went through this season. I think that the only way they can save the show, for me, is if Deb kill Dexter is the series finale. I was actually enjoying this season, but i think it went to far and know I'm not sure I'm going to enjoy where it's heading.

  • Cavewoman22 Dec 27, 2012

    I think Dex was ready to be killed by Deb than have to kill against his code with her waving a gun at him.

  • violetpretty Dec 24, 2012

    I don't think it was way out of character for Deb. Throughout this entire season we've seen her compromise who she is and what she believes for Dexter, because she loves him so much. This was a progression of where she was headed, in my opinion. She didn't want to lose Dexter because he was the one person who ever really made her whole. If she lost him, she may have lost everything. At least from her point of view.

  • mcepin3 Dec 22, 2012

    just a quick note....every show is at it's core about big discovery there

  • Stebano1 Dec 22, 2012

    Think I might have figured out Season 8. I Posted an earlier version of this on another site, but I had more thoughts and I’m curious what people think (couple spoilers):

    When Debra killed LaGuerta it took care of Dexter and the evidence by letting him do the dumping without actually breaking his code. It simultaneously slowly drives Debra to her breaking point, and eventually hardens her, in season 8. All the cops will think that LaGuerta had run away or killed herself, except for Doakes, who is still alive (by getting away from most of the cabin explosion in the water), and a few others who know the truth. Matthews, LaGuerta, Doakes, and Battista, were all in on what Dexter was doing. They agreed to put Doakes in a quiet place to hide him from the rest of the force and not tip off Dexter that he was still alive. Originally, it was just Harry who would have slowly confided in Matthews about what was going on, possibly for advice, but more so for an unofficial sanction of his services. Doakes eventually uncovered it on his own, brought it to LaGuerta’s attention, who confided in Battista when they were lovers, who tells LaGuerta to bring it to Matthews’ attention, and then Matthews, who already knows, convinces everyone to come to an agreement that it’s dangerous, but for the greater good, because he kills killers. Afterward, they allowed it to happen, kept an eye on him, and selected his kills by putting him on cases to give him ideas. LaGuerta lost her nerve after Dexter started seeing Hannah McKay, more people started dying, the risk of more innocent deaths went up, and she decided to expose him. Now she’s being set up after he got caught up in her investigation and arrested. Matthews, Doakes, and Battista all know this and are allowing it to avoid the fire. They kept on playing her just enough that she hoped that she could trust them after she broke from the group. Dexter is going to figure out they’re orchestrating his kills in the end and be perfectly happy about it, although vigilant about double-crosses like Maria’s. Matthews will recognize this, but not really care due to loyalty to Harry, and his past of forming Dexter’s plans behind the scenes. They will both see it as a symbiotic relationship. Dexter takes care of Matthews’ messes and his own needs while neither of them have to say a word about it. Battista will just start to fall by the wayside in the end because of Maria’s disappearance/death. He’ll prefer to not dig into it and focus on his restaurant so he can fade away in peace, and hopefully avoid any fallout. The remainder of the group would think about killing him after no control would be left on the force to watch him except Deb, who is definitely a changed woman by this point, but decide that he is good enough to stay okay, both with the cops and within his code, on his own. Dexter will start to figure out their plan with some evidence he finds at LaGuerta’s house they didn’t show us at the end of season 7. Most of the season will go to uncovering their plan and how everyone’s situation develops from LaGuerta’s fall. Doakes will feel guilty about LaGuerta and try to throw a monkey wrench in it after some thinking. Just by showing up alive, he’ll make waves in the police department that’ll convince everyone of their actual plan with Dexter. What Doakes doesn't know is that since Deb shot LaGuerta, Estrada’s hand won’t have any gunshot residue on it as Vince will realize. He'll think that Dexter was killing Estrada, LaGuerta walked in on him, Dexter doesn’t have a gun, but Deb does, Deb fired on LaGuerta to cover for her brother because she was in on the Estrada thing. After thinking about it he’ll conveniently leave out some questionable, but not directly linkable without tests, evidence a bit to make them come out okay. Dexter will end up using Doakes’ vendetta against him to make him look “insane” like LaGuerta, and that they were both doing this “crazy plan to get Dexter” for years. Matthews will end up corroborating the plan, but he’ll have written documents saying the investigation went nowhere and that Maria and Doakes kept going with it anyway in a witch hunt. Dexter will set up his story even better by using the info that LaGuerta was behind Estrada’s release, and say that she was going to pay him to kill Dexter. The deal went bad and they killed eachother. Doakes will take the fall as an accomplice and the arson investigation will go nowhere because of that craziness. Hannah McKay will run to Argentina, and probably won’t go after Deb or Dexter again because the entire city will be looking for her and she’ll be trying to start a new life. Dexter, Deb, and Harrison will keep going with some question marks about the long-term, and the series will probably end on a barbecue scene, in that fake-happy way, with Dexter talking about the future.

  • Stebano1 Dec 29, 2012

    This comment has been removed.

  • mcepin3 Dec 22, 2012

    hahahahahahaha....sorry but you are giving Miami Metro waaaaaaaay too much credit and brain power. Don't worry I read it from top to bottom,but even as you wrote,questions should come into your mind of what you are writing. If by any chance in any universe,season 8 would be what you wrote,I would quit watching Dexter 5min into first episode of season 8.
    Who in their right mind would wanna "help" serial killer keep on killing(guilty or civilians),giving him ideas,letting him walk around and while they are doing this,they aren't gathering any evidence on him. Yeah like you said,they are letting him kill guilty ones(killers,etc.),but why don't they collect evidence on him,so that when he kills innocents or civilians and by your theory,too many of them and they wanna "nail" him. Why would all 3 let LaGuerta hang herself,when they know what he is doing:D I can't even write,without laughing. All those years they let him kill and when he starts killing everyone,they will just turn their backs and let him doing what he was doing. For sake of constant back and forth,please read what you wrote again and again. Take as little offense as you can at my comment,but I am saying as it is to me. And what I read.

    Here is how it will most likely be:
    Batista gets a brain and because his ex was killed,when she looked into Dex,he will think that it is strange time for her to die. Either he comes back on force or starts to look into Dex and after some time Deb. He will bring Quinn on board as well. And his restaurant will probably be shut down.Hannah will come back at some point I guess and learned that Dex killed her dad. Oh-oh...romance is dead between them. Dex eventually kills her. Deb either dies or something along those lines(she kills herself-not likely scenario..or someone kills her)or she lives. Dex will also either get killed or run away to Argentina or something. Maybe he runs away with Deb.

  • Stebano1 Dec 29, 2012

    Here's what I'm thinking to address the issues you brought up:

    Too much credit/brainpower: Harry originally set Dexter on this path, so the framework was already laid out. We know that LaGuerta and Matthews are both very manipulative and smart to a point. If Harry brought the idea up to Matthews and got him on board, it's not too far of a leap that it could have started there and eventually involved the others after the Doakes investigation on Dexter (if he uncovered anything). Matthews would have kept quiet about it during the investigation to keep his distance/anonymity and brought it up to LaGuerta only after being confronted and not wanting to lose a resource like that. Slight stretch, but this show is huge on the morally grey areas, he is manipulative, and they've all been frustrated in the past by criminals walking due to whatever reason. Thinking of Dexter as more of a covert ops (without really knowing it) kinda guy in this scenario. Again, the group didn't really have to do the thinking because it was laid out by Harry to begin with.

    Collecting evidence on Dexter for civilian kills, etc: This is a very recent thing with him, and due to the volatile nature of even being connected with that kind of a plan there's no way they could really follow him with such limited manpower and not blow their cover. He was very good at sticking to his code for a very long time, so why would they think he would stray from it? Also, Doakes and Matthews are already off the force, with Battista to follow shortly, so that takes away some of the monitoring power they may have had to begin with. They would have thought they had him pigeon-holed into a "only kills killers" category up until now, so now that some of them are off the force, it turns into more of a crisis or wait-and-see kind of scenario, edpending on how they decided to act. LaGuerta went with crisis, the others with wait-and-see. Hence the split from the group. It would be a smart failsafe for them to stockpile evidence to use selectively if needed though, so I'll definitely give you that that's a hole here.

    Why they let LaGuerta take the fall: To avoid being implicated. They all have plausible deniability and have already started framing her as running a "witch hunt." Doakes himself mentioned something in a flashback about how he shouldn't have let any feelings for her cloud his judgment (or something close to those lines). They all know they could each be set up or killed in a heartbeat if they fall out of line after knowing about something like this, so it forces them to play nice. LaGuerta started getting away from that and they let her get taken care of without getting dirty. They know Dexter can set up pretty solid alibis and frame others, so they would have let the game play out between the two of them.

    Parts I'm really not sure on:

    Battista may not know the plan. There were allusions to it in some scenes and flashbacks, but I'm not sure of the extent that he knows what's going on.

    Vince's help to clear up the Estrada murder may not go like that at all. It was just an idea of how it could happen, but the gunshot residue would leave a pretty big hole if they just omitted it since they've talked about it previously.

    Anyway, those are the ideas. It actually comes together fairly neatly and full-circle if you look at character motives, but, hell, I know just as much about what's going to happen in season 8 as anyone else. :)

  • Stebano1 Dec 29, 2012

    Crap, accidentally removed the comment trying to hit a different button. Friday night, just got back from drinking, that's how it goes, lol. But regardless, no offense taken at all. I honestly hope it doesn't work out the way I was thinking with Matthews/Doakes/LaGuerta/Battista knowing about it and the rest, but here's some of the reasoning for it: The producers were planning on finishing the series at season 7, and I don't know how much they filmed before they ended up getting renewed for season 8 due to popularity, but it felt like the final episode was more "tacked on" to make more story than anything. I loved the season, but they ended up doing a lot more allusions and flashbacks than normal in the finale, and I think that may be how they end up working out season 8. I'm thinking of it as more of an afterthough extension, rather than something they planned. I think if they would have left it as a series finale like originally thought, the allusions, etc, would have given us some more idea of that plan, but left it more as a read between the lines situation. There were too many clues not to think that at least some outside people knew what was going on though. Again, maybe those were added as an artificial way to extend the series, but I have a feeling the writers were scrambling for ideas to do so and that's fairly close to what they came up with. With the character interactions and how close some of them are, it may not really be that far-fetched. Just an idea. :)

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