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Under the Queen’s Umbrella: Episodes 11-12

The king has made the call: it’s up to the scholars to select the new crown prince. Trouble is, with a whole new host of people to bribe, it’s open season on the scheming front. The dowager queen won’t be outdone at her own game — and our heroine risks losing everything.

 

EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP

As dozens of Confucian scholars ponder over who will be the next Crown Prince, a single locked door proves insufficient against the corruption of the court. The Dowager Queen and the Chief State Councilor are furiously scheming, in opposite directions. The former smuggles a flurry of bribes out on Bogum’s behalf, only to find that the Chief State Councilor has arrested her minions for corruption. Consort Tae retaliates by leaking information about Uiseong’s assaults against the palace servants. Opinions in the hall fluctuate — whilst rumors of their secret deliberations flow like water from a leaky teapot.

One thing’s clear: with Uiseong and Bogum’s supporters at war, something’s got to give. Thus, Consort Hwang and the Chief State Councilor swallow their considerable pride, kneeling before the Dowager Queen. Won’t she join with them once more? The Dowager Queen hems, haws, and feigns reluctance until Consort Hwang bites the bullet and offers her what she really wants: if Uiseong wins, she’ll forfeit the queenship to her mother-in-law.

The Dowager Queen is all sweetness and lethality when she meets with Bogum and Consort Tae. Remember, she asks, how Consort Tae agreed to do anything for her? The two listen, powerless, as the Dowager Queen explains that Bogum was never a contender. Not really. He was just there to help her squeeze her allies for favors. Now, it’s the end of the line. Despite Consort Tae’s tears, and Bogum’s fierce stoicism, there’s nothing they can do. Bogum must unhook his nametag from the taekhyeon roster.

Hwa-ryeong, of course, was anticipating this — now is her cue to act. Secret notes have been streaming in thick and fast from the scholars’ hall; so far, she’s turned a blind eye, for the sake of the maids who smuggled them. Now, she receives permission from the King to approach the hall.

Hwa-ryeong strides silently through the ranks of scholars. At every desk, she uncovers a note promising bribery. When she finally speaks, it is with all the gravitas of a head of state — and the unimpeachable authority of a mother who isn’t mad… just disappointed. She’d thought they were better than this. The scholars watch in agony as she holds the notes aloft — before dropping them onto a nearby fire. She turns to leave. This flawless performance is topped by one last twist: when she reports back to the King, she claims she found no evidence of corruption.

Her confidence is not misplaced. Public shaming did the trick. One by one, the scholars throw the remaining bribes on the fire. They refuse any more contact with the outside — even food — until their selection is made.

Later, Hwa-ryeong tackles another question: how do you solve a problem like Consort Tae? Well, first of all, you slap her back down to the rank of maid. Consort Tae is ordered to scrub, slop, and toil for hours on end — plenty of time to ruminate on the consequences of betrayal. But our heroine, ever-merciful, only lets her suffer for long enough to remember how much she really, truly hates needlework. Later, much like Consort Ko, she receives a lesson from the Hwa-ryeong School of Royal Parenting. It’s all very well to want her son to achieve great things, Hwa-ryeong says — but, Consort Tae’s greed caused Bogum great pain. Motherhood is difficult; she struggles too. Still, for all his maturity, Bogum is a child — and he’s been putting on a brave face for too long. It’s time Consort Tae cleaned herself up and comforted him.

Bogum, alone and hurting, can’t look at his mother. Nonetheless, when she hugs him, he finally lets himself cling to her and cry. Privately, to Court Lady Shin, Hwa-ryeong admits that back when her King fell for her personal maid, she cried a few tears of her own. Still, at the end of the day, how do you solve a problem like Consort Tae? Accept that she makes you smile.

The scholars reach their decision. In one last bid of desperation, the Chief State Councilor insists that Seongnam’s legitimacy be tested before the results are announced. After all, if — as rumor suggests — he isn’t the King’s true son, he couldn’t possibly inherit.

Stiff with rage, Hwa-ryeong submits Seongnam to a paternity test. However, instead of using the Chief State Councilor’s ridiculously rigged blood test, she proposes her own method. The King has an unusual protrusion of bone behind his ear — a genetic trait that all his sons should share. Hwa-ryeong invites the Dowager Queen to prod a series of princely ears: all four of her sons, plus Uiseong. The Dowager Queen is forced to confirm that Seongnam does indeed share this trait. Why is she backed into a corner? Because Consort Hwang looks like a cat that’s been sprayed with a water bottle. The Dowager Queen remains expressionless, but it’s easy to deduce that Uiseong’s ear is — well — insufficiently bony.

Hwa-ryeong, however, has more to say. It’s time to reveal the secret behind Seongnam’s exile. Long ago, the Dowager Queen claimed Seongnam was improperly conceived during the mourning period for the late King. This was a lie — and Hwa-ryeong will be forever ashamed of not standing up for her son. In private, it’s all she can do to apologize to Seongnam, knowing that Consort Tae and Consort Ko were not the only ones who failed their children. However, Seongnam forgives her readily. He knows how much she always cared.

The next day, Hwa-ryeong revisits another deep regret. The late Crown Prince’s rooms are opened for the first time in weeks. Quietly, she touches the hem of his robe. It’s time to let go. When she emerges, it is to congratulate her eldest living son… for Seongnam has been announced as the new Crown Prince.

Later, the King has great fun bartering with one of his own subjects — because, frankly, Gyeong-woo couldn’t give a damn about being Minister for Taxation. There’s one role he does want: Seoyeongwan — chief tutor to the Crown Prince. What’s more, he’s willing to work two jobs to do it. (Rather him than me… ye gods, the marking load alone!) Meanwhile, Uiseong announces he’s leaving the palace — though, with his mother and grandfather already brainstorming regicide, it’s more like an evil gap year than anything.

Another day, another scheme: the politicians of the palace turn to the matter of the Crown Princess. The question is, can Hwa-ryeong find Seongnam an eligible bachelorette who isn’t in the pocket of the Dowager Queen? It’s tough going: snooping around the market reveals that too many of the palace’s hot young singles are liable to sneer at retail workers — a clear red flag! Soon, however, she stumbles on the perfect candidate… in the unlikely form of a girl causing a ruckus in a public street. Cheong-ha is a hurricane in human form, but she has a heart of gold: Hwa-ryeong watches her defend a divorced woman being cheated by a sexist stallholder.

A Joseon proto-feminist after her own heart! Hwa-ryeong ushers Cheong-ha into an earnest chat about family law, and a little-known legal clause by which women can shield themselves against divorce. When Cheong-ha declares that she has no interest in marrying the Crown Prince — she’s already in love with another man — Hwa-ryeong is prepared to give up gracefully. Luckily, Cheong-ha is also in the very normal habit of carting around a large portrait of her crush… the Crown Prince. Still, if she wants to win him, Hwa-ryeong advises, she mustn’t let on that she knows him. Princesses don’t roam around with young men on distant islands.

Cheong-ha joyfully flings herself at her father, imploring him to let her be Crown Princess. She’ll be good, she promises! She won’t stomp about! She won’t chatter in banmal to all and sundry! She won’t — oh, oops, he’s in an audience with the Dowager Queen. Ah well! Turns out, the Dowager Queen has been looking for precisely someone of Cheong-ha’s unruly mold — to undermine Seongnam.

Seongnam, for his part, has been crushing it as Crown Prince. This involves various unofficial duties like verbally jousting with the Dowager Queen, and outsmarting the Chief State Councilor. He’s taken a leaf from Bogum’s book, and keeps a tight grip on any and all facial expressions, aiming for princely serenity even with his mother. Still, on occasion, he’ll peak at the seashell Cheong-ha gave him as keepsake. If they meet again, she told him, they can consider it fate.

Love is in the air elsewhere, and Muan’s considerably louder about it. In fact, Gyeseong and Ilyoung have been forced to hear him gush about Cho-wol so many times that they can recite his passionate speeches along with him. When they first met, Cho-wol was determined to stay Muan’s friend, not his lover — but only because she knew that this would keep him in her life. Now that things have changed between them, Muan has high hopes… that are scuppered entirely when he discovers that she’s fled.

Meanwhile, a plot brews. Ham-seok, the rebel in chains, is poisoned with ice-cold efficiency by Physician Kwon. He returns to the fold of Master Toji’s rebellion — before meeting with Consort Hwang. She needs to know precisely what he used to poison the Crown Prince.

Hwa-ryeong is equally determined to locate the missing physician — for the same reason. For now, though, she must begin the delicate process of championing Cheong-ha without cluing in the Dowager Queen. When three prospective brides are interviewed, Hwa-ryeong throws Cheong-ha a curveball question, making it look as if she’s picking on her. It’s about divorce laws — and she’s certain Cheong-ha has the answer. This sells the ruse: when Cheong-ha is selected, even Seongnam remarks that the Minister of War’s daughter is a pawn of the Dowager Queen. In actuality, Hwa-ryeong saw Minister Yoon and his wife in secret. The latter is disillusioned with the decidedly dodgy Dowager Queen. He’s willing to take a chance on Hwa-ryeong, provided she looks out for his daughter.

There’s a long, long curriculum ahead of Cheong-ha and Seongnam before they have a hope of meeting. Seongnam must memorize volumes’ worth of Confucian sex ed. Cheong-ha must learn to… step daintily without breaking into a stampede. With the Power-Walking Queen herself as mentor, she’s in good company. Hwa-ryeong even offers her the same exam cribsheet she gave her own children — proof positive that Cheong-ha is now sheltered under the queen’s umbrella.

The day of the wedding dawns. Seongnam approaches with grim dignity — Cheong-ha, with barely-suppressed delight. It’s only now that Seongnam recognizes the girl from the island. Surprise modulates into stern resolve: he’s sure she’s the Dowager Queen’s ally. They are escorted to the bedchamber. Cheong-ha meets his eyes and smiles. Coolly, Seongnam walks out.

Meanwhile, at the palace gate, a woman approaches with a baby in her arms. Cho-wol has returned — and she’s here to find the father of the child.

Hers and Muan’s child? If so, it’ll be interesting to see how Hwa-ryeong handles it. Will she put her money where her mouth is and protect the vulnerable Cho-wol, or will she choose to be a hypocrite for the sake of her sons? What I love about this show is how committed it is to exploring parenting. At times, it wears its Joseon setting lightly, using it to color conflicts between characters whilst bringing in slightly more modern debates about parenthood. How do you shield your children from the metaphorical rain? At what point do you let them walk into the storm? Even the simplest characters in this drama become more complex the moment the show reminds us they are parents. Minister Yoon is your standard political schemer, right up until his daughter’s welfare comes into play — then, he seems more human. Watching Consort Tae break down and admit she struggles, only for her to try her best to be a comforting presence for Bogum, was unbelievably moving.

I love that we’re seeing how Hwa-ryeong handles being a mother to adult children, especially her changing relationship with Seongnam. He’s not the rebellious child she had to cajole into minding his lessons; he’s a political figure in his own right — they’re family, but also allies. Those tearful smiles they traded when he said he turned out better for having lived outside the palace all but broke me. It was a beautiful moment of understanding and respect: there was a conspiratorial element that reminded me of her relationship to the late Crown Prince, but it was recognizably its own dynamic. Sooner rather than later, she’ll face a changing dynamic with Muan, too — and he, like Seongnam, must learn what adult responsibilities look like. I look forward to what next week brings!

 
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Great recap once again @alathe! Your thoughts about how the drama is ruminating on parenting are excellent - this is just a show that refuses to come to easy conclusions.

Each week I appreciate more and more the care with which each character has been crafted. Take, for example, Chowol who could have been a vague character in the background, played for the laughs of having a sex-obsessed prince in the palace. But she's not - she has her own ideas, her own agenda, her own way of reacting and although she has minimal screen time (which might just be about to change), she is interesting. I'm curious about her. Similarly with Cheongha, who could simply be an airhead, she has depths to her - and the writer is not afraid to put her in a position where she is going to have to dig deeply into what she wants - and the restrictions that she now has to accept in getting what she wants. It makes for such a rich drama - I'm genuinely fully focused when watching.

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Agree with all this. I love the fresh take on a silly girl-crazy prince. I wonder if she'll just leave permanently and not end up with him in the end- even for this show, her being able to marry him as the main wife is highly unrealistic and she doesn't seem like one to want to tie herself down as a concubine.

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Never thought I'd love a fusion/highly-unrealistic sageuk so much, but the writer is killing it, so here I am. Besides Kim Minki who I've already seen in Taejong Yi Bang Won, I've been thoroughly impressed with the main man Moon Sangmin, in the midst of what [always] seems like an epidemic of young and pretty newbies that are a little too green in the acting department (and I'll freely admit to having a soft spot for a few of them too lol).
If the show so far is anything to go by, I trust they won't drag out the misuderstanding between the now CP and Cheongha. Queen's got some explaining to do!

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@alathe: Due to life and work demands, I have fallen way behind in watching this but love reading the recaps in any case. I hope we get to read your recaps of a little unknown and hardly popular drama that’s coming out in December. Fingers crossed. Take care.

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Totally this drama will be in my top 10 best sageuk piece.
The only things that are lacking are their OSTs. Neither in intro, middle nor ending have a memorable one yet. Even in Wiki doesn't list anything about it.

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Good point about the OST. I just looked it up~ Only two songs have been released.

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My mother's eyes are glued to the screen every time she watches this drama. And, I just happened to watch the latest three episodes with her.
Btw, what are your top three?
Mine would be:
1. Queen Seon Deok
2. Princess' man
3. Jewel in the Palace

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Queen in-Hyun's Man
Mr. Queen

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I was just searching the ost this week and could only find one by Elaine. But you’re right, nothing captures my attention yet.

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Enjoyed the subtle scenes between Hwa Ryeong and Seongnam.
Their smiles. She was so proud of him.

The Queen's compassion yet again warms my heart. I hadn't thought about Bogum's origin.... I really thought he had a chance. He was intelligent, calm, and thoughtful. His rare crying was sad to see, but it was comforting that his mother was there for him.

The way Hwa Ryeong 'punished' Consort Tae was nicely done lol. I'm glad Consort Tae learned her lesson and didn't become corrupted. She looked so funny laid out on the Queen's bed!

The show had tried to make it seem like Seongnam was not of royal blood, but ah, it was really Uiseong! I wasn't expecting this twist. Interested in how the Dowager Queen will react or use this new revelation.

Cheong Ha is soooo lovely. Seriously. Her smile brightens my mood. I'm enjoying the lighter moments while I can. I liked her scenes with Hwa Ryeong and her exclamation of delight when she discovered Hwa Ryeong's identity.

I hope Seongnam won't be mad and suspicious at Cheong Ha for long. I wanna see them happy and working together~~

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@alathe i like your comment on how the Minister of War became human on his concern for his daughter.

I love Chung Ha. She is such a bright spot in these episodes full of palace politics. I sure hope the palace will not break her.

I understand Seongnam's reasons for walking out on his wedding night. At the same time realize how heartbroken Chung Ha is with how he reacted. I sure hope the new couple communicate and clear it up soon. They will only be stronger if they work together as a unit. Chung Ha needs to know the real deal about the DQ.

Now that the Crown Prince and Crown Princess is successful for the Queen. Another curve ball is thrown. Looking forward to how the Queen and Prince Muan deal with it.

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I think Cheong-Ha is already suspicious of the Dowager Queen because when DQ asked her why she wanted to be the crown princess, she smartly said it was because she wanted to be elevated to the highest portion. Of all the excuses she could've given, that one gives the impression that she's ambitious and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there. That's exactly what the DQ wants to hear.

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She lucked out on that answer unless she knows somehow how the DQ's mind works with some insight from her father. She needed to give any answer other than the real one so she gave that reason. I hope Cheong Ha is smart enough to suspect. I have not seen an indication yet that she knows or suspects that the DQ is not looking for the CP's best interest. So she may still make a mistake. Although she already lied to the DQ about her reasons, so her promise that she would no longer lie and be her spy can still put her in a tight spot soon.

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Thank you @alathe for this week's weecap. Your thoughts make the drama's message much clearer to me.
As for Bogeom, his behavior changes 180 from the cohort selection to the Taekhyeon At the cohort selection, he only wants to test his abilities, with no greed and no over-ambition. However, after he gets beaten by Uiseong, he seeks the queen dowager for help to become the crown prince. In reality, deep down he just wants to prove he isn't any lesser than them. As for consort Tae, she looks young so it is no surprise that she struggles with motherhood. However, she unintentionally hurts her son and they both need time to heal and return back to being each other's support system. I really respect how the queen handles consort Tae's situation. She could have demoted her for good but that was never the queen's intention.
I want to see lord Hwang's face when he finds out that Uiseong isn't the king's son. The trap he digs for Seongnam makes the queen dowager find out the truth. What a turn of events.
I admire how strong Seongnam is. With all the rumors regarding his birth, he must have deeply been hurt but he stood his ground and held his head high even when the blood didn't blend.
As for the selection, I really respect lord Yoon after watching how he really cares for Cheong-ha and refuses to let the queen dowager make use of it but I have a question, he was going to send one of his either two daughters even when he knew they could be in danger so Why did he refuse when it came for Cheong-ha?
It is beautiful to see how Cheong-ha is now one of the people getting shielded under the queen's umbrella. The queen really admires her and their relationship is so beautiful.
I hope they won't drag it on and Seongnam finds out soon that Cheong-ha won't do him any harm as she only has eyes for him

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I believe that is because Cheong-ha has a heart problem since young and it is already a miracle that she could live for so long. So I can see that Minister Yoon is especially protective of her, that she is a special daughter that cannot be traded for anything.

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His affection for her is great indeed

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Lord Yoon wanted to be the father of the Queen one day, but he expected the new heir to be someone approved by the QD (Uiseong or even Bogeum), meaning a safe future for his own child. So I doubt he was looking forward to having any of his daughters married to the CP given the current situation (you can see how uncomfortable/upset he is when the QD was questioning the two girls). But he is loyal to the dowager and forced himself to tolerate the idea that one his daughters could be sacrificed while probably still having some hope that the QD will stop going after Yi Kang (after all, Lord Yoon served her for so many years so the QD wouldn't knowingly choose his daughter only to sacrifice her later, right?). Those hopes were shattered when she wanted Cheong-ha, because the only reason she'd select such a girl is to use her to bring down the CP and Queen. Lord Yoon might tolerate the posibility that his child could suffer in the future, but not the certainity of it.

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Yes you are right I have understood his point of view better Thanks a lot

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I really like how this drama focus on the different mothers.

I wish the Queen spoke more to her son. Seongnam would have reacted differently if she told him about Cheong-Ha. I'm kinda sad for them. Both of them wanted to live outside the Palace. But Seongnam had to sacrifice himself for his family, he didn't ask anything about his future wife, he just followed the processus. I really hope that the Palace's intrigue won't kill Cheong-Ha's enthusiasm and free spirit.

I don't remember who guessed right about Seongnam's conception and birth connected to the mourning period, but I'm impressed!

The Queen Dowager is in a difficult position. She doesn't want Seongnam as Crown Prince because he's the son of Queen Im Hwa-Ryeong but she agrees with Uiseong who is not her son's son? He doesn't share her blood. I'm surprised she didn't react by the fact the first grandson she hold wasn't her first grandson in the first place.

I like to see how Queen Im Hwa-Ryeong is rallying the Consorts to her side by just showing love to their sons.

I was a little bit disapointed by the announce of the Crown Prince. I was hoping for a bigger moment.

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I think the DQ just wants power for herself and will use anyone she can control to get it. So it’s not really about protecting her lineage or the kingdom, she’s just power-crazy. She hates Hwa Ryeong cos the Queen is not one that she can control & also makes her feel inferior. That aside to the fact the King defied her and chose HR as his wife instead of Consort Hwang.

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It was the now-deposed Queen Yoon who selected Hwa-ryeong, not Yi Ho.

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I think the Dowager Queen *is* upset about Uiseong, but she's biding her time. This proves that "her people" have been lying to her, and she doesn't like that. She'll continue to use Uiseong for now, but she's going to throw him under the bus as soon as the DQ no longer needs him for power.

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I'm impressed with how the storytelling never lags, new arcs always keeps it interesting.

Their paternity testing methods made me laugh.

Touching scene with the Queen and Seung-nam. I also enjoyed the Queen's scenes with Bogum and Consort Tae. I love that she's gaining allies because she cares about people in contrast to the QD who only cares about herself.

Normally, a character like Cheong-ha might get on my nerves, but she's delightful. I hate to see someone so full of life stuck in the Palace, but hopefully, she can forge her own way like Hwa-ryeong.

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Ohooo is that what the crown prince was learning? I had no idea..but did he just crush Cheong Ha’s heart on their wedding night?? My poor girl.

Anyway i loved these latest episodes, the storytelling is marvelous. Whenever the queen dish out her beans of wisdom i feel like i’m right there learning a lesson too. I bet the DQ will have a right fit if she ever finds out she was played by the Queen with the Princess selection.

I guess next week it’s Muan’s turn to grow up.. but i hope we see more of the CP couple too.

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Is it me or does Moon Sang-min as Seja (Crown Prince) carry himself somewhat in the manner that Joo Sang-wook did as Yi Bang-won in KING OF TEARS? Particularly when he is in a pose the way he bends his head slightly I thought I was seeing a young Yi Bang-won again. Lol. I know it is crazy.
Seriously how sad is it that after all these years the Queen Dowager, the Grandmother from Hell, can only think of amassing power.
The entire marriage arrangement for Seja was done pdq however I love that Cheong-ha was named Crown Princess. Seja ran off to get his half of the shell.

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I had a grin on my face almost the whole time I was watching episode 12. It was nice to see some lightness after all the tension of the previous episodes.

But already next week it's guaranteed to be a matter of life and death again. After Consort Hwang has shown so much interest in the poison that killed the Crown Prince, I'm sure there will be an attempt to poison the new Crown Prince.

If things go on like this, by the end of the drama the Queen will have gradually drawn all her mother-in-law's supporters to her side.

There is a theory that Physician Kwon is the only surviving son of the former queen and that he is the real father of Prince Uiseong. If this is true, I look forward to seeing the face of the queen dowager when she realises that she has supported her enemy's grandson for years.

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Somewhere in eps 2, I think I saw Physician Kwon at the former queens house and HR also saw him. I can't seem to wrap my head around this.

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