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The Big  Bang Theory S07E22: "The Proton Transmogrification"


The Big Bang Theory has always had the weird honor of being a show that I just can't figure out whether I like it or not. I should love it, but I don't. I've been accused of hating it, but I don't, really. I just don't know. I DON'T KNOW. So when word came through the nerd-vine that there was a Star Wars themed episode of The Big Bang Theory in the works for this year's May the Fourth celebrations, I was both delighted and a little scared. 

In conclusion: I'm just delighted. There was so much good stuff in "The Proton Transmogrification," from the obligatory awesome Bob Newhart appearance to Penny actually understanding the Star Wars puns to Sheldon being vulnerable and human in a human way (as opposed to just in a Sheldon way). The Big Bang Theory has brought him so far in the past seven seasons. When the news of Professor Proton's passing appeared to have little effect on Sheldon's May the Fourth plans, I think we all knew better than to assume that Sheldon was being deliberately callous. 


To their credit, Sheldon's friends have also made a lot of progress over the last seven season with regard to their interactions with Sheldon and their understanding of his needs, his quirks, and his processes. The days of forcing Sheldon to be "normal" have passed, and the result is a more balanced dynamic among Raj, Leonard, Howard, Sheldon, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette. That's led to stronger (in my opinion) writing that looks at these characters in a much broader sense than "Sheldon is weird. Everyone reacts accordingly." 


The story at the core of "The Proton Transmogrification" couldn't have been told in The Big Bang Theory's earlier seasons. Back then, Sheldon's oddness and antics were too often played for laughs; no one would've taken him seriously in the wake of his childhood hero's death. Someone would have played the "You're being a dick," card and it would have been awkward and stilted and we would have reached the same conclusion—that everyone reacts to loss differently, and that's okay—but it wouldn't have been as natural of a progression. The Big Bang Theory's fans are perceptive and smart. The sentiment that Sheldon isn't "wrong," he's just "different" made the rounds in fan discussions much earlier than it was addressed on the show itself. Sure, such a heavy-handed display of this reality would've still worked back in the day, but it wouldn't have been as eloquent and as enjoyable as it was in "The Proton Transmogrification."


For a series nearing the end of its seventh season (with at least three more on the way!), The Big Bang Theory is the antithesis of a tired old show. Instead, it delights in being comfortable with itself. When Leonard broke down at Professor Proton's funeral while Penny was perplexed by her own lack of emotion, she thanked him for being "the emotional one" in their relationship and it was funny, but it was also sweet. Yes, Leonard is a bigger girl than his girlfriend. Yes, it makes excellent comedic fodder. However, Leonard's emotion runs in the same vein as Sheldon's quirkiness in that it's an essential part of who he is—and it's not a bad thing. 


I am, however, disappointed that the death of Professor Proton (probably) means no more Proton sightings in the future—unless Obi-Wan Proton becomes a thing. That could work if it's not overdone. It worked for Luke Skywalker, and all the men in his life bailed early, too.

We tell ourselves that when we attend funerals and wakes, we're doing it to honor the dead—and that's true—but frankly, the dead are dead and they probably don't care either way. That's not to say that funerals are silly, and I don't think that's actually what Sheldon was referring to when he said that mourning the inevitable is a waste of time. Rather, the rituals that humans uphold surrounding death and mourning are in place to ease the living into the idea of death. They give us closure, but they can't carry any meaning unless those who participate accept that meaning, which is why Sheldon couldn't attend Proton's funeral himself. To him, there's nothing sincere in some public display of organized mourning. 


Amy mentioned a few times how absurd it was that Sheldon called the funeral a waste of time, but readily devoted hours upon hours to watching "goofy" sci-fi movies that he's probably seen dozens of times. She misunderstood the ritual itself, and the meaning it held for Sheldon and his buddies. These guys sincerely love Star Wars. Their love, like that of so many fans, runs deeper than a mere appreciation for Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini. The marathoning, the themed snacks, the T-shirts: May the Fourth is a ritual loaded with feelings for Sheldon. Notice that when Leonard and Penny went to Professor Proton's funeral, Sheldon instead stayed home and watched reruns of Proton's show on YouTube, elevating his work to the same level at which Sheldon and the others hold Star Wars

"The Proton Transmogrification" was a goofy, funny, Star Wars-y episode with all of the obligatory geeky trappings, but it also countered with some genuinely thoughtful ideas about why we keep the rituals that we keep, how we develop new ones, and a sincere celebration of why nerds are so freaking nerdy and why that's actually a wonderful thing. 



THE STRAY OBSERVATION ADDENDUM

– "Your heart might be in the right place, but your head, chest, and arms certainly are not." —Sheldon

– Penny and Leonard's "competition" was further evidence of The Big Bang Theory's comfort with itself, as Penny and Leonard poked fun at their own ridiculousness when it comes to marriage proposals... all without having an emotional meltdown and subsequent break-up. Yay!

– The smooshed Death Star Cake was such a lost opportunity for a post-Death Star Alderaan cake. 

– LOL @ Girlsprouts. "She didn't want me selling cookies on the street like some whore."—Amy

– Re: The Phantom Menace: "Let's get this over with." I'm so torn on The Phantom Menace. On one hand, it's really awful. On the other hand: Liam Neeson. How do you guys make peace with this? 


What did you think of "The Proton Transmogrification"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 4/28/2016

Season 9 : Episode 22

Next Episode

AIRS ON 5/5/2016

Season 9 : Episode 23

102 Comments
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how do you get the shows to play I registered and I can't get them to play
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how do you start watching the shows I registered and can't get it to play the shows
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my favorite part in the proton transmogrification was when Sheldon hug Leonard. Leonard was shock and surprise.
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Just read a spoiler about the final ep in two weeks. It's like an earthquake. There is so much upheaval and change that next season the show and characters we have loved for 7 seasons will be almost unrecognizable.
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I watched TBBT's "fourth" episode last night and thought is was terrible, probably the weakest offering the show's ever made. Total disappointment, I don't know if I'm more embarrassed for their writers or for Bob Newhart.

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It was so sweet...the scene of Sheldon huging Leonard...
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Really didn't like it. A whole episode on the death of a character we saw like twice (I had to check if the actor playing him was dead at the beginning because I couldn't believe they would do a whole episode on him without it being an hommage), and the Star Wars thing that couldn't interest me because of my very low interest in SW.
A couple of good jokes at the beginning, but overall I didn't like it
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Good review, MaryAnn. I really can't add anything right now, you hit a lot of great points.

The Phantom Menace is a mess, it stinks, it has an adequate foundation - if you throw out Lucas' own statement that it should never have been made as that stuff was designed to be backstory the audience never got so the A New Hope and OT stories could be told, but the foundation has some Star Wars charm, unlike its 2 sequels which are bereft and dry - but horrendous execution and decisionmaking (it's clear from reading the illustrated script that up until halfway through, Anakin was going to be a teenager, and that alone would have lent more credibility than a cherubic 7-year-old trying to play a 9-year-old for a part that should have been a 14-year-old). Its directing and producing and editing were wrongheaded, too much focus on the wrong elements and not crafting an engaging tale but getting challenges out of Lucas' way (challenges are what made Lucas' best movies, but he carries the wounds of the A New Hope shoot challenges very deeply, he thinks his panic attack was a heart attack). And then there's the problem of it being just 10% of the prequel story, all of which could have been TOLD in a matter of 3 lines in dialogue.

So Neeson, Neeson was great, but he cannot save the movie for 2 reasons:
1) Qui-Gon Jinn was created to die. He was originally written as Obi-Wan Kenobi, but then Lucas split the youthful Kenobi elements off into Ewan McGregor's character while giving the sage wizard to Neeson who simply cannot exist later on in the prequel saga.
2) Neeson is stuck with some of the dumbest stuff that is only there to move the story along. Bad decisions, bad choices, bad mystical science, the film puts far too much story weight onto Jinn's shoulders and then undermines him at nearly every turn. The original dealing with Watto is wrong-headed. Every decision with Anakin ends up being a failure. He is the one forced to push the midichlorians angle. He spouts off about 2 different Forces without the explanation the concept deserved, so it comes off feeling only confusing. He makes odd fight choices at every turn.

So Qui-Gon Jinn is the film's best character, the most sage and the most interesting and the most roguish, yet he's saddled with awfulness from outside and in.
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Okay, can someone please explain to me all The Phantom Menace hate? I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and I would not call any of the movies bad, so all the jokes regarding how awful The Phantom Menace is don't go down well with me.
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It's overproduced, the characters are nearly all dull, the situation isn't clear and the goals are muddy, there is too much focus on politics and business elements, the little kid is too young for the part, the ending is a deus ex machina brought about by an accident (the script had Anakin making choices along the way and even in that moment, Lucas took Spielberg's advice and cut that stuff out), Jar Jar is a few steps too far into goofy territory and is written and presented with a touch of uncomfortable racial stereotyping, the dialogue is awkward even for a Star Wars movie ("are you brain dead?!?" is a horrendous line), the directing is terrible, it is very long yet not that much actually is necessary to the prequel saga.
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After reading your explanation of why Sheldon didn't attend the funeral MaryAnn I was shocked by how similar I feel about death in comparison to the character.

I agree that, at least for me, 'there's nothing sincere in some public display of organized mourning' and I also often think that 'We tell ourselves that when we attend funerals and wakes, we're doing it to honor the dead—and that's true—but frankly, the dead are dead and they probably don't care either way.'

Great analysis of the major theme of the episode MaryAnn, it was very thought-provoking.
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I didn't enjoy the episode all that much, Penny was painful early on when the others were obviously excited about May the 4th, and she made no effort whatsoever so share their enthusiasm, only berate them for it. Similarly, I grow more and more tired of her and Leonard's repetitive relationship problems, and it was Leonard's turn to be the painful one when Penny obviously wanted to drop the subject of their proposals. The only part I found remotely funny with them was the fact that Penny couldn't cry on cue, once again demonstrating just how horrible an actress she is.

I'm disappointed that we won't be seeing Bob Newhart as Professor Proton again, he had a wonderful screen presence and I would have loved him to have had more of a long-term recurring role, but as you said MaryAnn, at least his death was an important part of Sheldon's continuing development as well as that of the show.

I also loved the subplot with Amy and Berenedette baking the Death Star cake (that's how you be a great girlfriend, Penny!) and how they discussed how both of them first got into science. They were small, but very important insights into these characters' backstories.

My favourite line of the night would have to be from Sheldon, 'I've already lost eleven Doctor Who's'
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Bob Newhart is awesome.
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Kidding aside, it was an endearing take on grieving rituals. They are important but not standardized, and what works for an individual may not work for another. Just like the normal reaction for one individual is not the same for another.

Sheldon grieved and let go his way, which isn't the same as Penny grieves and lets go or Leonard's for that matter. In acknowledge their differences, they acknowledge how different individuals they truly are.
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I think someone said Bob Newhart wanted to be a regular (not every episode) on the show. We will probably see him making ghostly dream visits again.
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I hope they bring in a padawan of Professor Proton's--an ex-student who was taught by the professor but has since turned to the dark side (didn't complete a doctorate, maybe?). He would be the Vader to Sheldon's Luke.

Played by the awesome Bill Nye, of course.

Ah, unrequited dreams.
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I love that idea, good one!
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Thank you.
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Just posted to say I hate Jar Jar Binks.
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I loved the episode. All the characters had some great scenes. I guess I am one of the few that don't like Bob Newhart. I hope this is the last we see of of Professor Proton. I like Penny and Leonard together. Why not have Leonard move in with Penny. Or Penny moving in with Leonard and Sheldon.
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The thing that bothered me is Penny suddenly surprised that she knows Star Wars issues? We've been over this so many times in the past.
Heck, in season 1 she gave analogies about the guys having their shields up like in Star Trek and was caught by surprise. So 6 years later that's not much of a surprise.

It might have been funny once, but they repeated it waaaaaaaay too much in this episode.


Also... They were constantly mentioning the whole "I love you" for Leonard and Penny. The first time he told her "I love you" was after she quoted Star wars.
Heck, she even corrected him a second later by saying she actually quoted "Empire Strikes Back"

It really didn't fit in the episode at all.
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I don't know.....considering that her character is likely to never go further than playing bit parts and working forever at the Cheesecake Factory (not that there's anything wrong or ignoble about Waitressing), it doesn't really surprise me that her attention span might fall a bit short.

OTOH, considering that her character is likely to never go further than playing bit parts and working forever at the Cheesecake Factory (not that there's anything wrong or ignoble about Waitressing), it doesn't really surprise me that her attention span might fall a bit short.

:-)
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She's also an aspiring actress and has, or should have, awareness of film and pop culture. Her getting the references was not funny, as it should be obvious to her. She's not a complete idiot. She just doesn't get the hard science stuff, which is something else altogether.
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Agreed, it was painful to watch when the series used to do it, doing it seven seasons in is unbearable.
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Penny's hair is much lighter in this ep..
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Never thought of it before (i usually avoid 1-3, but order of eps 4,5,2,3 then 6 would be the best way to watch Star Wars :)
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Really liked it. Supposedly the last few episodes focus around a proposal and end up in somebody taking a leave of absence. That worries me. If Penny and Leonard split up I'll be disappointed. TBBT is one of the shows that has successfully brought two people from single to couple status without it ruing the show (New Girl I'm looking at you).

On the other hand, I hope they don't rush marriage too fast, as that could ruin the show too. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
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Jess and Nick getting together was not what ruined New Girl, that was Schmidt's character becoming a two-timing bastard, and the series' continued inability to know how to use Winston as a character.
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I agree that those were issues, but really those were issues that remained since the beginning of the show. Jess and Nick, while seeming to belong together in some ways, weren't right for each other and were in constant peril. That's not the kind of relationship that makes good TV.
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The Star Wars bits were so boring, and so unoriginal, the fact they all hate Episode One, wow what a surprise, they couldnt think of another gag except ripping into Phantom Menace and no offence to Bob Newhart but every scene thats hes in, it just slows up the show so much and your waiting for it to end, I actually found myself waiting for the Penny, Leonard bits, this show has to change dramatically because this season is killing it, oh and yet another Big Bang mistake, Leonard regretted not learning a language, but was speaking fluent Spanish with Sheldon when they were playing physics fiesta
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He's always had that hesitant way of speaking that can bug you, but can be funny as a kind of comedic timing in his reactions to things. Unfortunately, he is showing his age and it seems more slowed down now, His speech seems more compromised by health and/or dental issues because of his age. It doesn't help he dyes his hair to still look younger than he is. It could be why he may have left the role at this time, if he has.
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You'll also note that Sheldon was speaking spanish in that episode even though in earlier episodes he said his spanish isn't that good (Physics bowl episode)

Leonard and Sheldon might simply know a few words here and there.
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One of the better episodes this season especially the parts with professor Proton and Sheldon.
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Wonderful epsiode. I'm not that big a fan of Star Wars, but I appreciated how much dedication to the series they put in this episode. Well done! Loved the Death Star cake btw!!
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It's definately a areal problem: in what order do I let my kids watch Star Wars? I do think the Machete approach is good, but I would keep episode one as a side movie, just like the christmas edition.

Still not sure though.
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So the Machete order is actually a thing? They explained it so fast on the show that I didn't really get it. I'm a traditionalist myself, so if I ever have kids (or a girlfriend that hasn't seen Star Ward), it'll be A New Hope to Revenge of the Sith. Although I have been know to watch from The Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi fairly often as well.
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I assumed that Sheldon's Meemaw had passed away, but she didn't make his list of people he lost, so I guess she is still alive and yet to be cast.
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I would love to see Sheldon's Meemaw!
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I agree that there was a lot of good stuff in this episode, but did they have to kill off Bob Newhart?!?! I hope Prof Proton continues to show up from time to time and give Sheldon, well, useless advice. Loves me some Bob.
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Use the force Professor Proton!
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So, is Newhart going to make appearances as a sprit now, or is he done? I know he asked this to be a recurring role when he signed on.

I thought the funeral could have been better. It seemed lacking in a real way such as Penny and Leonard not talking to anyone and being somewhat absorbed in themselves, yet we get Leonard towards the end mentioning Proton's son or someone. The funeral could have used a another guest star to play the son or have Bill Nye on...something to give it some better/deeper connection and/or interaction with Penny, Leonard, and Proton's death and his legacy, or lack thereof.
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And what was with Leonard and Penny sitting in those ridiculously fancy looking chairs while the rest of the other guests sat on normal wooden chairs? You'd think they'd want to reserve them for more important guests...
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I have a hunch we will be seeing Obi-Wan-Proton again.
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The force is strong in him
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the shot of the urn wasn't in it.
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Yeah, I didn't see that too. What the frak?
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I don't know, I guess I kinda melted a little bit when Proton gave the advice and Sheldon hugged Leonard...
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Huh, this is not a thing my friends and I have ever celebrated.
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Start on the 4th. ;)
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I never have either, but I just watched all the movies with my roommates after I received the blu-ray boxset for Christmas, so I won't be doing that... I've been meaning to marathon The Clone Wars, so maybe I'll just to that?

Or walk around in public wearing my Princess Leia metal bikini, I haven't decided which.
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Please do show us your Princess Leia look if you do it. ;)
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I thought this was a pretty good episode. I liked the Star Wars stuff and how Sheldon dealt with Professor Proton's death and the dreams he had. I expect the marriage thing between Leonard & Penny to come again soon - probably the season finale.
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There is no excuse for Jar-Jar Binks, not even Liam Neeson.
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Agreed. The "Phantom Menace" premiere obviously will never rate as the worst day of my life, but to date it's the most disappointing.
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This is the first episode in months that TV.com did a recap for. What's up with that?

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Usually I'd say they aren't reviewing something due to a lack of page hits and/ or comments, but The Big Bang Theory is a ratings juggernaut that's not slowing down, so I find it a little odd that they don't.

@Grumpyclown did a fair few reviews earlier this season and majority of them received 100+ comments, maybe the audience the series attracts isn't the same demographic tv.com tries to cater for with it's reviews?
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Once and a while Big Bang hits it out of the ball park and that's exactly what happened tonight.When the show focuses on the guys and their geeky life and love of pop culture movies/TV/comic books/video games,we get the best laughs.Being a Star Wars fan myself,I loved all the Star Wars humor.But at the same time we got a life lesson from Professor Proton,it's o.k. to have our hobbies,but once in a while,poke your head outside and see what else is happening(classic Sheldon didn't get the message).
The legendary Bob Newhart was great as always but was sadden that they killed his character off,hopefully he'll make more appearances in spirit form to Sheldon.
This is one of those rare episodes that the entire cast was simply great.A much needed return to good old fashion laughs and comedy but with some tender moments too.And a great episode that celebrates geek culture and life and reminded me why I started watching this series in the first place.
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Couldn't agree with you more. :D
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Leonard is a jerk.
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Whoosh...
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I make peace with Liam Neeson/Phantom Menace by only watching the parts with Liam Neeson, but without Jar Jar in them, and by skipping that whole stupid race.
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Find a copy of the Phantom Edit. It's easier

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So that'd make it last, what, seven minutes? I'd be down to watch that version. ^___^
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Yeah, it's quite a time saver.
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