Episode #6.07 – Author Commentary (spoilers through 6.07 only)

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode #6.07: Via Dolorosa, pt. 3

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode #6.07: Via Dolorosa, pt. 3

Well hello. Fancy meeting you here!

Yes, so, let’s take it as read that I am, as ever, very sorry for the lengthy delay before publishing Via Dolorosa, Part III. I had hoped that such egregiously long breaks were a part of my past, but… I’m not entirely sure why I had that level of hubris.

I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been fantastically busy producing dozens of books. Wouldn’t that be nice? But while I have spent much time working on other projects, including helping a co-author with the middle book in a trilogy, I wouldn’t say that’s what’s kept me away from ASF. As usual it’s the ongoing struggle with my own mind that is primarily to blame.

But no one wants to hear me complain about that, not even my shrink and I pay her, so let’s move on.

One of the non-Depression-related mental clogs, so to speak, is actually worth speaking about here. When I started this “Six Weeks” experiment–i.e., writing from the POV of one character (or a small set of related characters) throughout an entire installment–I thought it would be a terrific challenge.

Well… it was a challenge, anyway.

After spending so many years writing for multiple viewpoints, sticking with one person for so long, especially when the actual plot beats (reactions to the wedding massacre) have been similar, turned out to be more stifling than freeing. I’m not saying I regret the experiment, because I think (in particular) the Hannah installments were effective and couldn’t possibly have been as impactful as I believe they were, if they’d been written in the standard three-or-four plotline/POV format of ASF.

But when it came to Ian’s storyline, I wanted to cover so much of his torturous experience in Tag’s cellar, and his first day of freedom, that it took much longer–imagine that, Kira’s writing becoming too wordy!–to get through. And that meant pushing it to three installments, and I simply didn’t want to go back into Ian’s mental state yet again.

And yet, I’d made the commitment. Being somewhat perfectionist (and not in a good way–that isn’t a humblebrag, it’s a genuine flaw that is toxic to a creator who wishes to produce material regularly), I felt unable to break the format and swap to someone else’s POV. No, I had committed to Ian, and so, damn it, the next episode would be following through on that.

That, my dear friends, colleagues, readers, and spambots who visit this page, is what led to a mental standoff. I refused to budge, even though it meant I also felt trapped and uninspired. And that meant paralysis.

So here we are, nearly two years later. What helped me through this latest obstacle was the decision that, while I would stay with Ian’s POV through to the finish line, I would trickle more hints about what’s going on with other characters and their own arcs as possible. Which is why (spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the episode yet…) Julie shows up and I teased the heck out of whatever happened to the Fiores–not to mention Laurie–at the wedding; Tristan appears with a curious bruise and a somewhat tougher attitude, at least through Ian’s perspective; Chelsea’s hearing situation is clearly more pronounced than before; and Jason’s behavior (and a teaser that he’s spent more time with Becca) continues to seem out of character.

Finally, I also decided to focus more on depicting Adele as a human being, a possibility thanks to her strong feelings for Ian and her grandchildren. What keeps Adele from being Cruella DeVille (I hope) is that she does have real emotions. We don’t see this side of her that often, but here I could let her drop her defenses, all as a result of Hannah and Nick’s devastating loss.

It would take a monster not to react to parents losing both children in six agonizing weeks (hence Danielle’s sociopathic lack of response), and Adele–as horrible and cruel as she is–isn’t a monster. Even as awful as she is to Laurie, and as cold as she is to her son, and calculating/vicious regarding Martina and that damned necklace… Adele isn’t inhuman.

(Heck, even Dean is shown to be affected by his boss’s grief.)

These are the elements added–some of them planned all along, others not so much–that made me able to produce this final (yay!) part of Via Dolorosa. Of course, the Daphne/Ian pairing remained an important through-line of the piece, and this time I showed the identical scene as in #6.04–Daphne in the waiting room after Tyler’s liver transplant, then discovering Ian’s family and realizing just who Tyler’s mystery donor was–all from Ian’s POV. The gimmick isn’t a well from which I want to draw too often, because it can get too repetitive. But for characters whose thoughts and reactions to the same event are especially important, I do want to keep using this technique.

In any event, now that Via Dolorosa has been travelled at last, we can move on. And because I desperately need a break from the Nichols side of the equation–and the wedding tragedies as a whole–I’ll be switching to a new set of characters whose lives were frozen with fairly significant cliffhangers at the end of (what is now) Season Five. Which ones? Well, you’ll find out. But yes, this means you’ll still be waiting to find out who lived and who died. Sorry!

One last thing. As mentioned at the end of this installment, I’m dedicating this to the memory of Eadie Silverberg, who passed away on December 7, 2014. I wrote a post on Facebook about Eadie, but I’ll add briefly that Eadie was one of ASF’s first readers, a dear woman whose encouragement and enthusiasm–and even ASF-evangelism in the early days when she posted to soap opera newsgroups about this new web-based story she’d discovered–meant the world to me. I am so sorry that I never got a chance to meet or speak with her in person. If the many emails and messages through the mailing list were even a glimpse of her humor, kindness and effervescence, Eadie’s family and friends were lucky indeed.

Thanks to everyone for reading and, as always, your patience. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

P.S. happy new year (or L’shanah tovah ) to those who celebrate Rosh Hashana!

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Episode #6.06 – Author Commentary (spoilers through 6.06 only)

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode 6.06: Via Dolorosa pt 2

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode 6.06: Via Dolorosa pt 2

I intended “Via Dolorosa, Part 2” to be the final segment of the “Ian” tale. I really, really did. Just in the last episode’s commentary, I boasted how quickly I was zipping through time. No turtle-esque, overly detailed pacing, nossir.

Well, okay, this week I couldn’t help myself. Ian’s story is just too character-changing, and there were beats that simply needed to be played, and… in the end, only about two or three days pass in this installment. In fairness, that’s still better than 99% of ASF episodes. But it wasn’t what I wanted for this miniseries, so I’m still disappointed in myself. Nevertheless, if readers are into Ian’s tale, I don’t think they’ll feel the same disappointment. At least, I hope not.

Spoilers, as always, are ahead. Read more ›

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Episode #6.05: Reader Commentary

Webserial About Schuyler Falls: Reader Commentary 6.05

Reader Commentary on ASF Episode #6.05
By Joseph McDonald

Note from ASF author Kira Lerner: to enhance the interactivity of ASF, I’ve solicited these reader commentaries, which will be written by an avid ASF reader and community member. All opinions are completely independent and may contain criticism and/or praise, or simply ruminations on individual storylines/characters/the webserial as a whole. I have no editorial control over what’s written (except maybe regarding typos–what can I say, it’s my job!). Please enjoy and share your feedback. Thanks for reading! — Kira

Welcome to the official About Schuyler Falls Reader Commentary!

For those not in the know (which is… all of you!), I have been asked by Kira to write down my live play-by-plays down on the blog. So from now on, once you have read the episode, you can migrate to the blog to see my thoughts and reactions. I will try and summarise as I go along but again you should really read the episode first.

And now the post!

Episode 6.05: Via Dolorosa Part I

Scene 1: We pick up almost immediately where we left off with this storyline, with Ian seeing Daphne getting shot. The thugs start attacking him. They tell him to ‘shut the fuck up’ and then begin talking among themselves. Ian learns that they plan to keep him as a hostage. He tries to fight back but it clearly isn’t working. The thug starts choking him as he silently asks for someone to help them.

Commentary:  I think I’ll outline the post thusly, summarising and then commenting scene by scene. Anyway my primary reaction to this is Oh Ian… It’s gotta be rough seeing the girl you fancy (I hesitate to use the word ‘love’) and your rival shot and stabbed.

But this whole thing must seem completely surreal to him right now – if it weren’t for all those punches and nearly being choked to death, I imagine it must seem like a dream – a particularly bad one. The only other character with which I’ve been getting this sensation is Hannah, and understandably so.

Scene 2: Ian wakes up in a limousine. Turns out the whole kidnapping thing wasn’t exactly planned. Still Tag is prepared to roll with it. Ian sees and hears the whole church massacre while I mentally tell Tag to fuck off because damn! That is evil. Tag does what all the evil villains do and rants about why he’s getting revenge. He slams Ian’s face into the glass partition.

Commentary:  Seriously just go away Tag! I cannot even deal with you right now.

Lordy poor Ian. (I had a feeling before I even sat down to read this episode that I’d be saying this a lot). For all he knows, his family is dead right now. And he could be tortured, messed with, etc.

Even without the knowledge that Ian survived this, I wouldn’t think he’d die anyway because he’s a hostage. He’s far too valuable. Then again I guess if the ransom is paid, the kidnapper doesn’t have to follow through.

This is pretty heavy so far so on a light-hearted note… look, I’m the son of a church organist so this may have only occurred to me but that sign saying ‘no parking during services’ at the top of the page in the scenery box thing? Seems harsh to me. Of course now I’ve typed that, it doesn’t seem harsh at all. Naturally.

*Resists sudden urge to google ‘Via Dolorosa’*

Scene 3: Cameron stops shooting at the attackers to look for his family. He finds Danielle but not the children. Not at first. But after a while, he finds Becca trying to protect herself from the gunfire. She seems to have been shot in the thigh. He then locates Adele and Simon who both seem okay (considering the other injuries). He breathes a sigh of relief and then realises he hasn’t come across Ian. He then comes across Justin’s body and I start tearing up again because FUCK.

Excuse me a minute.

*downs alcoholic drink*


A paramedic asks Cameron to come outside to ID some bodies. He recognises Daphne immediately but not Tyler. They then show him the bloody trail Ian left behind. He’s questioned by some cops but doesn’t answer. He then vows to kill every last Vaughan man until he finds his son.

Commentary:  If ever I said this webseries drove me to drink before, I didn’t mean literally. But I challenge anyone not to be emotionally affected by the description of Justin’s body. (He was, what, five? That’s just all kinds of messed up right there!)

Anyway back to the point of the episode, I’m torn!

On one hand, I’m all in favour of Cameron getting revenge on the Vaughans because it might lead him to his son. And because I like Ian. I don’t want to see him get hurt.

On the other hand, I was shouting at Nick for wanting revenge in the first episode because if the Nicholses weren’t in the mob, none of this would have happened. So if I’m suddenly supporting Cameron in his mission, doesn’t that make me a hypocrite?

Maybe I should read on before making my mind up.

And like I said in the forum, of course Adele survived. The whole state of New York could be completely destroyed by an earthquake and she would survive. Because she is invincible.

Scene 4: Ian regains consciousness. He’s in some dark room somewhere (today is specific day!). He manages to get up, and, as if waiting, Tag and a couple of heavies enter the room. Ian feels resentful that his father and uncle managed to win a mob war against the Vaughans without protecting their own (and really, who can blame him?). Apparently Ian has been out for ten hours. Tag offers to tell him what happened to his family but Ian fails at giving the acceptable answer and is punched in the gut for his troubles. Tag lies that Ian’s family is either dead or dying (and I really wasn’t expecting anything else from that douchebag). But Ian believes Tag anyway.

Okay apparently I was wrong. They’re going to kill (or attempt to kill) Ian anyway? Okay then. Taggart gets a hammer and strikes Ian’s kneecaps (OW!!!). He screams as Tag takes a second swing.

Commentary: Oh lord.

At least I was wrong about Tag killing Ian. But I’m not sure the alternative is much better because OUCH!!!

I think the only scene more painful to read (physically, I mean) than this was that scene in The Blackthornes where Suzanne broke Lon’s manhood. But this really is a close second.

I do hope the rest of the episode isn’t just a chronicle of Ian’s torture.

And my god, he knows about Justin’s death as well. Okay I may be fixating a little too much on that particular mortality but something like that is just soul-destroying!

I literally cannot think of a single good reason for Ian not to give up and die right now. And that’s just sad.

Scene Five: Apparently Cameron and Tag have been speaking. Tag congratulates Cam on staying alive but then ruins the moment by having Cam listen to Ian being tortured (lordy!). Tag tells Cam not to have anyone trace him else Ian gets it. Naturally Cam doesn’t listen.

He then thinks back to his introduction to Hannah Tierney who was probably a pole dancer or something before meeting and marrying Nick. He respected her for not rising to Danny and Adele’s japes, and respects her even more so now. She asks about his family and he fills her in. She seems resentful that Simon saved Adele’s life but he doesn’t blame her.

He asks her what she’s planning for Justin’s funeral. He puts a hand on Hannah’s shoulder, mainly to feel her touch (although he’s not attracted to her). He offers to take care of everything. Hannah wonders why so he tells her he needs to keep busy. She realises the Vaughans were behind it all. She shouts at him for continuing the mob war then screams at him to get out. He begs her again to let him plan the funeral and she grudgingly agrees.

As he approaches the elevator, he thinks if he plans a funeral for Justin, he won’t have to for Ian.

Commentary:  These summaries are getting longer and longer!

Anyway I’m glad Hannah showed up. Still torn but glad. She reinforced my original arguments on the mob war. In that the Nicholses should get out before they’re all sleeping with the fishes.

But I’m still torn. Because Ian? Is being tortured by… there are no words for Tag right now. Apart from maybe ‘sick in the head.’

The one thing I’ve loved about SkyFalls (and I’m not gushing, this is my honest opinion) is the idea of the Nicholses. In one sense, they’re supposed to be villains. Pick a crime and they’ve probably done it, or ordered someone to do it.

And yet they’re not being presented as completely evil. Nick and Cam especially are three-dimensional characters. I for one still care about them. I even like Nick! (he will only be a favourite when he gets out of the mob. I’m not a complete sucker!)

And that’s why this particular moral dilemma works. Because yes being a mobster is all sorts of wrong and evil on so many levels. But in this case, Cameron doesn’t really have a choice, does he? Not one that I can think of anyway. Because Ian’s being tortured.

Full disclosure: If that were my son? I would probably be doing the same thing. If I were in the mob of course.

This episode so far is brutal but gripping! And for me, it’s solely because of that moral dilemma.

Scene 6: Ian’s lost track of the time but thinks ten to twelve days have passed. He starts to give in to the knowledge that maybe his father is dead. He realises he’s grown grateful for Tag in allowing him to live. He’s got food, water, and a drain so the basic necessities at least are covered. He hates himself for not being stronger (Oh Ian… and there I go again!). After all the beatings and torture, Tag seems to revel in taunting Ian out of hatred.

More graphic descriptions of torture. This definitely ranks as the most painful episode of Skyfalls ever!

He apparently fought back a few days ago, when he was drawn to a green apple Tag was eating. As per usual, Tag’s going on about family, loyalty, and how and why the Nicholses are shitheads. Talk about your one track man! And of course as soon as I say that, Tag goes on about wanting a piece of Becca (there is absolutely no way I can summarise that paragraph without coming off skeevy, is there? Because ewwww!!!) Ian reacts appropriately and I clap. Tag keeps on about Becca until Ian is sufficiently provoked and puts his hands around Tag’s throat.

Commentary:  Kill him, Ian. Just do it. Seriously some guys do not deserve to live.

I cannot put into words how much I HATE Tag right now. It’s almost close to ‘hate him so much, I’d organise a church massacre just to kill him off’ except I wouldn’t organise a massacre because I’m not sick in the head UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE!!!

Okay so Tag only said this to provoke and torture Ian mentally. I get that. I do. But it was pretty torturous for me to read (in a good way…. is there a good way?). I don’t even like Becca and…


There really is not a lot for me to say except to rant about what a fucked up piece of shit Tag is. And that could take several pages. So in the interest of finishing this week’s commentary off, I’ll just go to the next scene.

Scene 7: Ian was obviously punished for his little rebellion, and he’s now wheezing thanks to his cracked ribs. He holds onto the hope that Daphne is alive (since Tag hasn’t mentioned her) and tries to remember being embraced by her.

Tag comes in with his thugs, holding a noose (gulp!). He’s bored with Ian’s company so has decided to kill him (naturally!). Ian meanwhile is wondering whether to escape through the open door.

Or he’s letting Ian go? Wait, really? What the hell is happening here?

Seems Tag is sending Ian off with a message. Knowing him, it’s probably Thank you for checking out the Tag Vaughan Torture Workshop. Please come back soon for more hammertime! Ian agrees to pass the message on, not that he has much choice. He says that if the Nicholses attempt any kind of revenge against the Vaughans, they’ll all die.

Tag tells Ian to close his eyes. The noose slips over his head and onto his eyes. Tag tells him if he does anything against orders, the noose will tighten. They take him outside and put him in a car trunk where he begins to fear for his life.

After a while, he’s taken out of the trunk, the rope around his hands loosened and shoved into some grass. One of the thugs tell him to wait until they’ve gone to move. He frees himself after they’ve gone. He’s been dumped on a highway access road. Alive but fearful for his family.

Commentary:  Well at least Tag followed through on his promise, I guess?

I don’t really have a whole lot to say at the end of this episode. Which is pretty unusual for me.

It was very painful for me to read (I don’t just mean physically but it took me four days to recap this) because I’ve spoken to family members who have had relatives tortured by the Serbs when I was in Kosova. To see the same type of thing happen again here, in albeit an entirely different setting, is a little weird. And I’m not sure whether it needed to be that graphic, especially considering we knew Ian lived before the episode even began.

But that nitpick aside, the reason why it was painful generally is because I’m invested in Ian in particular. He’s not a favourite character of mine but he’s just outside the list.

And of course the character development following this must be a writer’s dream!

Anyway that’s where I shall leave it. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on this episode. There will be an article like this for the remainder of the sixth season, and then we go on the Great ASF Reread! Which I hope some of you will join me for because it’ll feel lonely with just me!

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Episode #6.05 – Author Commentary (spoilers through 6.05 only)

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode 6.05: Via Dolorosa pt 1

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode 6.05: Via Dolorosa pt 1

In “Via Dolorosa, Part 1,” readers at last learn just what happened to Ian Nichols the day of the church massacre and subsequent weeks — a puzzle that seems to be one people want solved already. Well, you all know the expression “Be careful what you wish for…”

This pair of installments (it’s possible it may grow to three, but I think I can keep things within a total of 16 scenes) was one of the most difficult to write, on a par with the Hannah “Whom the Gods Love” episodes. If you haven’t read this half yet, consider this fair warning that things are not pretty. This is a dirty business and Ian is one of the survivors who gets the closest to the center of it.

Spoilers, as always, are ahead. Read more ›

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Episode #6.04 – Author Commentary (spoilers through 6.04 only)

Episode 6.04 Title Image

Episode 6.04 Title Image

And so the second half of “The Price of Gratitude” brings this second installment of the “Six Weeks” miniseries to a close. The whole “The Price of Gratitude” was leading up to the final three or four scenes, of course, and in a way the majority of the scenes were meant to be deceptively normal. Well, I mean, normal as far as an installment that takes place in the aftermath of a massive shooting at a wedding is concerned. Please note there are spoilers, so don’t read this until you’ve read the latest episode!

Daphne, Daphne, Daphne

The majority of both episodes is seen through Daphne’s perspective, and here I had to be careful. She can often be pretty self-absorbed, and that’s not a highly attractive quality in a POV character. Realistic for a teen? Absolutely. And for many people in other age groups, for that matter! She’s also at the cusp of adulthood–it’s revealed in the first half of TPoG that she’s had her 18th birthday while in the hospital–and thus she’s straddling two worlds. Read more ›

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Episode #6.03 – Author Commentary (spoilers for #6.01 – 6.03 only)

Episode 6.03 Title Image

Episode 6.03 Title Image

If this half of “The Price of Gratitude” feels a bit short and anti-climactic, I apologize. TPoG was really intended as a single episode, more so even than last week’s. Together, the entire thing will encompass either 13 or 14 scenes. Admittedly that isn’t huge for an ASF episode, but I’m quite conscious of the fact that ASF episodes are too damn long for a single sitting. They’re daunting. The two solutions I can think of are: eliminating the details that make the episodes long, or splitting them up.

The Devil’s in the Details: Playing All the Plot and Character Beats

The thing is, I don’t want to eliminate the details. I’ve said it before, possibly on an EpiCast but maybe just in conversation with Michael (author of the webserial Footprints), who’s my co-host on the EpiCast as well as a writer I admire: I try to make ASF a mix of the high-stakes plots of a nighttime serialized drama with the detailed character development and exploration of a daytime soap. I love that character exploration; it’s what I miss most from the daytime serials I loved as a teen through my late twenties (basically, the mid-1980s – 1992), and why I got sick of them and today can’t bear them–because they no longer care about characters. Read more ›

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Episode #6.02 – Author Commentary (spoilers for this episode only)

Episode 6.02 Title Image

Episode 6.02 Title Image

The second half of “Whom the Gods Love” was the harder of the two installments for me to write, and possibly (if I managed to do my job) for many to read. As a writer, I found it difficult for reasons both technical and emotional.

I should say that the entire two-parter was originally conceived as a single episode. It was only once I started to post the season premiere–which, by the way, I began to do back in August but changed my mind–that I simply felt the weight of the story would be too onerous for readers to absorb in one shot.

So apparently there is a limit, even in ASF, to how much misery I’m willing to inflict on the audience! Read more ›

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Episode #6.01 – Author Commentary (spoilers for this episode only)

About Schuyler Falls Episode 6.01 Title Image

Episode 6.01 Title Image

I thought I’d do something a bit different, considering this entire season will be a departure from the usual, and talk about the behind-the-scenes mechanics for some of these episodes. I’ve never done this before–except within the ASF discussion forum, of course, usually in response to reader questions. This new format seems to cry out for more rumination, or maybe it’s just me navel-gazing that makes me think so.

Readers should read on with caution; I’ll be talking about stuff assuming you’ve already read the episode in question. There won’t be any spoilers for future episodes, I promise. Still, suffice it to say, go read Episode #6.01: Whom the Gods Love, Pt. 1 before continuing. Read more ›

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ASF’s Sweet Sixteen Party Begins with Miniseries

Happy birthday to webserial About Schuyler Falls!

Happy birthday to About Schuyler Falls!

Today, November 15, is the official birthday of About Schuyler Falls, which launched sixteen years ago in 1997. To celebrate the occasion, and also, y’know, continue the darn series, the Sixth Season has begun in an entirely new format: a miniseries, called “Six Weeks.” If I’d been clever I’d have gone with “Sixteen Candles” but I didn’t want four months to pass, and I can’t think of another non-meta reason for using “sixteen” in the title. So, the banal “Six Weeks” it is!

What is this miniseries, and what’s so special about it, and why is it called “Six Weeks,” you may ask? Read on, good reader. Read more ›

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Official: ASF’s fourth season to be split in twain

No, I’m not talking like Elmer Fudd. 🙂 After angsting about the crazy length of the fourth season, and preparing for next season’s start (which should be by the end of spring), I finally bit the bullet and decided that sixty-three episodes are just too much for one season to bear.

Part of me dislikes the decision; I always intended the fourth season to end a certain way, and that was with the Laurie/Victor wedding. That stubbornness is why I stuck to my guns (um, pun not intended) and forged ahead with the season, episode after episode, until the season bloated to a crazy length and finally, at long last, that damn wedding finally made its appearance.

But it is bloated, and I just can’t get around it. The bulkiness of the episodes is daunting for anyone to look at, much less newcomers to the serial, and I just don’t want people reading through ASF to make it through three seasons, only to find themselves at the fourth and seeing sixty-three episodes still to go. That would overwhelm anyone. (And these are generally not short episodes, either! The last four episodes alone are nearly 100K words!)

As serendipity would have it, there was a set-piece big enough (almost) for a finale: the destruction at PlayCity, which comes at #4.38, or a little over the midway point. The episode itself is full of action involving the biggest storyline of the season (at that point), with four characters in grave jeopardy, and a ticking clock that keeps things moving forward. There’s also the smaller cliffhanger involving Martina, Mike and a certain DVD. Read more ›

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