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S17.E12: Lucca

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The final five travel to Italy, where the chefs must make an aperitivo for 30 locals from the town of Lucca that pairs perfectly with a Peroni beer; then, they hunt the elusive white truffle which they must use in a dish for a Tuscan food festival.

Original air date: June 4, 2020

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So few used the truffles well, apparently.  That kind of sucks.  Really sad to see Gregory go.  But I would have been sad with any of them going.  Glad Melissa and Bryan did well, though!

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Thirty portions in a QF – wow.  Have they ever done anything like that before?

I’d have loved to be one of those 30.  Stephanie is the only one who made something you could eat with just two fingers, so I was bummed her execution fell short.  I really wanted to eat Melissa’s, so I was hoping she’d win.  (I also found myself wishing I had some Peroni in the fridge.)

Not to mention wishing I had some white truffles.  (And could play with those dogs.)  Tom going along on the truffle hunt made me smile.  It was very dude, this is my show, I’m taking the opportunity to hunt for white truffles.

I cannot believe how most of them fell short at highlighting the ingredient, especially that ingredient!  They all made great food, but most didn’t make great truffle dishes.

Melissa’s was the one I most wanted to eat, even with the salami, so I was very glad to see her win.  (And her having to joke about being ostracized by “ew, what’s that smell?” kids about her unfamiliar lunches really hit me.)

Poor Gregory having to cook while in pain; pain is distracting and tiring on top of being, well, painful.  He chose a meat with a strong taste -- the amount of truffle he used for the dish still to not taste like truffle, yikes. 

But it seemed like Kevin’s polpette used overwhelming spices, so I wasn’t sure from the editing which way they were going to go between those two.  This is an elimination where I really wish I could taste both dishes to properly evaluate what I think of the elimination decision.

Stephanie’s braised radicchio puree looked awful and sounded worse, so I was glad it was a small part of what looked and sounded like an otherwise wonderful dish, and I cringed through her acknowledging everyone should be screaming at their TV, because she just made a critical and entirely avoidable mistake.  Don’t put something bad on the plate!  Especially when it’s not the featured ingredient!  (Yes, I was indeed yelling at my imaginary friend through the TV.) 

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1 minute ago, Bastet said:

Tom going along on the truffle hunt made me smile.  It was very dude, this is my show, I’m taking the opportunity to hunt for white truffles.

My thoughts, exactly. He was not going to pass on that. I really though Kevin would go😒

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Now I crying.....poor Gregory! I would’ve been sad seeing Stephanie leave, but boy-this sucks. 😢 I threw him allll my votes even before this outcome, such a sweet soul. 

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I am so, so, so bummed.  Love Gregory.  Gosh, I wish Bryan V would’ve won the Elimination Challenge.  He is *right there* so often.  No way was Tom going to miss that cool truffle hunt — I watched every teeny moment — so interesting!!

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Well, phooey. I really wanted Gregory to win. As soon as he said he didn’t feel well, I flashed to Angelo in his season’s finale when he was too sick to get up and someone else had to cook his meal.  As someone whose back has gone bad a few times, I sympathized with him. Hiking through the woods on a truffle hunt must have been agony for him. 
Is it just me, or were some of the diners kind of obnoxious? I’m specifically thinking of the woman who criticized Stephanie for making pasta, but there were others as well.

When I win the lottery, I want to sit on the balcony of their hotel and stare at the mountains. What a breathtaking view.

.Team Melissa all the way now, and I hope the classmates who picked on her feel terrible now.

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I really thought Stephanie was going home. The editing seemed to lead that way and her mistake seemed very avoidable with editing. Too bad it was Gregory. I mean, I liked all of them, even Kevin.

I really don't have experience with truffle. It seems like creating a somewhat bland canvas on which to feature it is key. The congee was a brilliant choice in that regard. Out of left field for Italians but features the ingredient well.

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Dawn, agree that Melissa's congee was a good call (it's in my list) but the salami was non buono. Was super surprised, too, when Melissa won. Big Melissa fan here, I guess the judge who hated the salami said he'd loved her congee. Or Tom really liked it. 😉

Edited by buttersister
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41 minutes ago, Dawn said:

Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but I was convinced Bryan had this one in the bag and was shocked when Melissa was declared the winner -- more so than at any other point this season.

ITA, the editors really put one over on us.  

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I was so rooting for Gregory to win this season and sad to see him go. 
When he began to say how badly his back felt, I flashed back to Angelo in the finale of season 7.

I’m really enjoying this session. I’m rooting for Melissa now but I would also be ok with Bryan pulling out an “end run” and winning the season.

 

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Just a guess Bryan’s dish was something they would expect and Melissa’s was not.  That would be my bet on why she won despite the fried salami. 
 

Haven’t counted but I think the congee and meatballs are probably tied.   
 

Sorry Gregory went. Happy for Melissa and Bryan.  Growing to love Stephanie despite the way she views herself.  Come on, girl.  Think positive, think winner. 
 

I think I’m going to be sad from here on out more than happy.   No clue how I’ll feel on the finale.  Maybe it will be determined by how many favorites are helping who. I don’t know. 

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8 hours ago, Bastet said:

Stephanie is the only one who made something you could eat with just two fingers, so I was bummed her execution fell short. 

I was really surprised that didn't get mentioned in the judging! How do you hold the beer!

I haven't quite finished but waited until Bryon's was tasted (since he's my fav) and it was clear he did well. I thought Gregory's sounded bad from the get-go-- it seemed like a very heavy stew to go with truffles without losing them.

8 hours ago, LucindaWalsh said:

Padma is the only one who could wear that darn ridiculous fluffy coat.

 

true-- but her Italian sounded pretty darn good to my uneducated ears.

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I’m in the minority, but Kevin is my guy; however I know he is fine financially.  It would be nice to see the $ from quick fires go to the chefs that need the $.  $10k to Melissa or Stephanie would be a much better feel good story (it’s a mere drop in the bucket for Brian Voltaggio’s debt issues).  
 

I was shocked that Melissa beat Brian in the elimination challenge.  

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6 hours ago, Quilt Fairy said:

ITA, the editors really put one over on us.  

Totally agree.  I'm so over congee.

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7 hours ago, GaT said:

“Bryan, your dish was perfect, the potato was exactly right for the truffle” “Melissa, the congee was very good, but never cook salami again”. "Melissa, you are the winner!"  Me: “HUH????”

It sounded like Melissa’s congee won because it was an unexpected food to pair with the truffles.  I know absolutely nothing about congee (what is it?) or truffles (what does it taste like?) but it seemed to spark ideas with at least one of the chefs on a new dish so I think that may have been the tipping point.  It sounds like potatoes were the perfect vehicle for the truffles, but more expected.

I love Gregory so I am bummed that he’s gone but I knew this would be hard for me because I like all the chefs left.  My two faves were Gregory and Melissa so it makes it easier to say Melissa for the win!  Gregory, I adore you and if I ever get the chance, I will make it a point to come to your Haitian restaurant that you open  

But I love Stephanie more each episode so go Stephanie!  I was so happy she got to see some of Italy. She was so giddily happy to be there.  I do believe she’s a dark horse and may continue to surprise.  I hope she comes in second.  But if Melissa gets eliminated, after I compose myself, it will be Stephanie all the way.

I’ve always liked Brian and the more I see of his personality, the better.  So I won’t be mad if he wins.

I’ve always liked Kevin and rooted for him in his season. This season, well, it’s the opposite of Brian. The less Kevin speaks, the better.  I’m having a real hard time reconciling some of the attitude I’ve seen in this season with the plantation food and the comments about California, which I didn’t realize what he was referring to but the wonderful people on here explained it very well, so thank you.  I’ve seen the apology and I’m trying but ... it’s especially hard this week. But it makes it a little easier because I can now be firmly in Melissa’s corner, all the way.

I adore Melissa and it was funny to hear her talking about getting a cute girl on the back of a bike and riding through Italy.  For some reason, that just cracked me up.  But she is a force and I’m rooting for her to win!  Just take Stephanie for a ride on the back and you two come back and kick ass!

Edited by VintageJ
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Couple of thoughts

1. For the start of the finale, the episode seemed really flat-very little emotion or excitement from anyone...even Stephanie, a very positive and humorous person, was muted. Maybe it was the infomercial for American Airlines or  Peroni commercial (someone's gotta pay the bills), but it felt off.

2. Well, let's get rid of one long standing conspiracy theory-Gregory's elimination should make it clear that they actually judge on the basis of the dish they get and are not looking at the season overall/past results. And, yes, sitting on a 12+ hour flight with a bad back must have been miserable.

3. I am also part of the group that can't believe that Bryan V didn't win that challenge and not just because I am a fan. For one of the first times this season, his dish was not only technically strong (shocker), but ALSO met the challenge-he highlighted the white truffle better than anyone. It seemed that Melissa made an error with the salami, but, as always, we don't get to taste the food and the editors do get to take some (ok lots of) liberties.

4. Padma, hair pulled back, speaking Italian like a pro......mmmmmm. Is it in her contract that in each finale they need to do something to make her look delicious-wasn't it the original All Star season where she suddenly appeared in a bikini running out of the ocean onto the beach!

5. And, no Stephanie, great as you are, you are NOT as cool as Bryan Voltaggio!

Edited by AriAu
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I guess Stephanie didn't learn the lesson about how she was eliminated in her first season. Nick made a terrible component for his dish that both Stephanie and Shirley begged him to remove, but he stubbornly refused to do so. It was so terrible that the judges laughed at how bad it was, but since Nick had immunity she was the one PYKAG'd in one of the more famous eliminations in Top Chef history. Maybe she now has some insight as to what he was thinking since I seem to recall that she was quite bitter about it afterwards.

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22 minutes ago, VintageJ said:

I know absolutely nothing about congee (what is it?) or truffles (what does it taste like?) but it seemed to spark ideas with at least one of the chefs on a new dish

congee is rice cooked in a broth for a long time until it essentially dissolves. It's something of a comfort food as it is soothing and easy to eat. I've never had white truffles (have had black once or twice). I assume they taste like very aromatic mushrooms, much like dried porcini?

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I was torn between Melissa and Gregory.  Now it’s Melissa all the way for the win!

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The appetizers were supposed to be eaten with two fingers (the guest judge even held up two fingers to show us).  Somehow everyone but Stephanie interpreted this as "make something you need to put in a bowl and eat with a fork."  Sigh.  Even the judges forgot that part.

Really dumb mistake on Stephanie's part in the EC.   Sorry to see Gregory go, but I do think he was the right choice.

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54 minutes ago, AriAu said:

Couple of thoughts

1. For the start of the finale, the episode seemed really flat-very little emotion or excitement from anyone...even Stephanie, a very positive and humorous person, was muted. Maybe it was the infomercial for American Airlines or  Peroni commercial (someone's gotta pay the bills), but it felt off.

 

Speaking of their plane ride on American, did it seem to anyone else that the chefs were the only passengers in first class?  They also seemed to be the only people in the first class lounge as well.  Those scenes almost felt like the chefs filmed them in an empty plane for a commercial.  

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8 hours ago, GaT said:

“Bryan, your dish was perfect, the potato was exactly right for the truffle” “Melissa, the congee was very good, but never cook salami again”. "Melissa, you are the winner!"  Me: “HUH????”

ITA with you and the others on this - It was especially obvious in this episode that Bryan is still there because they HAD to admit his dish was superior to the others, begrudgingly, because they obviously favor Melissa over him.  Melissa wins serving congee yet again plus after getting told never to cook salami again?  Seriously?  Then Kevin gets told his dish just didn't work at all, but he too is safe?  I'm also surprised about Steph because one off tasting ingredient (which she knew was a misstep but served anyway) is usually the kiss of death.  I think the perfect pasta saved her.  I get it that Gregory's dish didn't highlight the truffle well enough but at least they loved the dish itself. 

So who really should have gone home here?  A few dishes with one "off" issue or one that just completely didn't work all the way around between dish and truffles (Kevin's)?

I think I have my answer:  Kevin should have gone home.  But then again I have been thinking for some time now that the fix is in for him to win this season.

Edited by Yeah No
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8 minutes ago, BlackberryJam said:

That being said, I was totally fooled by the editing monkeys when Melissa got the win. Yay Melissa. On the other hand, it's not Top Congee. Nor is it Top Meatball KEVIN.

 

Hee! I'm having flashbacks to "It's not TOP SCALLOP". 🙂 

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7 minutes ago, Yeah No said:

ITA with you and the others on this - It was especially obvious in this episode that Bryan is still there because they HAD to admit his dish was superior to the others, begrudgingly, because they obviously favor Melissa over him.  Melissa wins serving congee yet again plus after getting told never to cook salami again?  Seriously?  Then Kevin gets told his dish just didn't work at all, but he too is safe?  I'm also surprised about Steph because one off tasting ingredient (which she knew was a misstep but served anyway) is usually the kiss of death.  I think the perfect pasta saved her.  I get it that Gregory's dish didn't highlight the truffle well enough but at least they loved the dish itself. 

So who really should have gone home here?  A few dishes with one "off" issue or one that just completely didn't work all the way around between dish and truffles (Kevin's)?

I think I have my answer:  Kevin should have gone home.  But then again I have been thinking for some time now that the fix is in for him to win this season.

After watching the editing of this episode, i think the finale will be Kevin vs Bryan.  I have to assume that Kevin was talking smack to all of his competitors, but the editors chose to keep in his digs at Bryan not knowing Italian.  

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Tom isn't going to let Kevin PYKAG, no matter how badly he flubs the challenge.

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1 hour ago, dleighg said:

congee is rice cooked in a broth for a long time until it essentially dissolves. It's something of a comfort food as it is soothing and easy to eat. I've never had white truffles (have had black once or twice). I assume they taste like very aromatic mushrooms, much like dried porcini?

Thank you for the explanation. May have to try that. 

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1 minute ago, Tess23 said:

Tom isn't going to let Kevin PYKAG, no matter how badly he flubs the challenge.

I hope you're not right.

I'm not a fan of Kevin, but I was surprised that the judges remarked on the mix of three meats being bad in some way. I mean, that's pretty traditional for meatballs. Did the fact that it wasn't all boar mean that it was a *worse* match for truffles? I didn't quite understand that.

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26 minutes ago, spacefly said:

The black and white dog was a Lagotto Romagnola, I have the joy of sharing my home with one of these little truffle hunters. I am training mine to hunt morels and animal sheds. If I lived in the Pacific Northwest we'd be hunting truffles. His name is Almars Heinz Keeper of the Home or Enzo for short.

IMG_1015.jpeg

I do live in the Pacific Northwest.  You're welcome to come visit any time!

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17 minutes ago, dleighg said:

I'm not a fan of Kevin, but I was surprised that the judges remarked on the mix of three meats being bad in some way. I mean, that's pretty traditional for meatballs. Did the fact that it wasn't all boar mean that it was a *worse* match for truffles? I didn't quite understand that.

I think it was an issue of bringing even more flavors into the dish, to compete with (or overwhelm) the delicate flavor of the truffle. Had it been only one type of meat, there would have been fewer flavors. At least that's how I understood it.

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1 minute ago, Dawn said:

I think it was an issue of bringing even more flavors into the dish, to compete with (or overwhelm) the delicate flavor of the truffle.

I guess, but for me, "meatloaf mix" (which is more or less what this was) just tastes like... meat. I would think, if anything, the pork and beef (was it?) would tone down the "boar-i-ness" flavor.

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Gregory is a solid chef and a sweet soul, but he's never been a favorite of mine. I would have been fine with him winning because he's very talented, but there are other chefs I prefer. 

Surprisingly, I'm pulling for Bryan or Melissa. Melissa has been my girl from day 1, but Bryan -- while he's my favorite Volt, he's kind of like Gregory to me -- excellent chef but doesn't excite me. He's won me over this season. 

I came in loving Kevin from his season and he was with Melissa from day 1, but over the course of the season, he's shown some very unflattering sides to himself. As good of a chef as he is, I think there are others more deserving. I won't be shocked if he wins, but won't be happy,

I think my biggest surprise has been Stephanie. I always thought she was a middle of the pack chef. She's shown some great skills and has a fun personality.

So, Bryan, Melissa or Stephanie FTW. 

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Won't they bring Gregory back to help another chef for the finals?    Just the way he was walking looked so painful.      I'll miss him, and think Kevin should have gone instead.  I'm sick of meatball everything.  

When they showed Stephanie talking to her husband, I was wondering if it was a bye-bye edit, or another fake out. 

Edited by CrazyInAlabama
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Since we can't taste the dishes, their appearance is important.  Melissa's congee looked unappetizing.

I think a lot of them cooked for black truffles which have a much stronger taste, than for white truffles which are more delicate.   Gregory's boar dish might have worked better with a black truffle garnish for example.

Kevin continues to bug.

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27 minutes ago, meep.meep said:

Since we can't taste the dishes, their appearance is important.  Melissa's congee looked unappetizing.

My thoughts exactly -- I think dissolved rice aka congee sounds a lot like oatmeal.  That consistency is not impressive nor appetizing to me unless I'm sick and only want oatmeal for breakfast. 

Bryan V should have won.  His dish is what I would've wanted to eat.

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13 hours ago, Dawn said:

Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but I was convinced Bryan had this one in the bag and was shocked when Melissa was declared the winner -- more so than at any other point this season. I may have to watch it again, because I don't remember a single negative comment about his dish, and lots of very positive comments, so I don't really understand what happened here. As much as he's been dinged over the course of the season for not meeting the particular challenge parameters or not properly highlighting the focus ingredient -- here he does the best job (according to Gail, at least) of highlighting the truffle, and makes a great dish overall, but still doesn't win?? What did I miss?

I really like Melissa and Gregory, and Kevin seems to be a top-notch cook, even if I don't like him quite as much as the others. Stephanie has been a surprise this season, but I've grown to love her personality. So I would've mostly been fine with any of these five winning. But for whatever reason, I think I'm rooting hardest for Bryan: I liked him on his original season (so much more than brother Michael), and he's just got this hot, intelligent, super skilled, and slightly nerdy thing going on that I really enjoy (despite how bad his Italian was), 

I also thought it would be Kevin going home rather than Gregory (or Stephanie: I was a bit nervous for her, but pretty sure she was safe), and I was prepared to be pretty happy with that outcome based on what we saw. So I was surprised on that end of things as well. But while I'm very bummed for Gregory, as much pain as he seemed to be in due to his back, his elimination was perhaps for the best, as terribly unfortunate as it was. I certainly do wish him all the best moving forward and am more intrigued by Haitian food than I've ever been previously, so kudos to him, and I hope I'll get to try his some day.

 

And she made CONGEE again...ugh Bryan deserved the win

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I read somewhere that they never film instead actual planes, so scenes like them flying are always staged.  Something to do with security.

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I enjoyed the scenes of the chefs traveling to Italy together as a group. Was it Bryan sailing across the airport concourse on his wheeled suitcase? (I've had an upcoming cataract surgery postponed twice already due to COVID-19, so my vision is unreliable.) They usually travel separately to the finale destination as there's a break between the initial competition and the finale. I'm glad that wasn't the case this season because had they waited a few weeks for the finale, they might have been in the middle of the pandemic in Italy, postponing the finale and we might not be watching S17 right now, which has been a bright spot in a dark time. OTOH, the way it was done this season, the finalists didn't have the opportunity to study up on the cuisine of a specific international area in advance as they normally do or bring any specific ingredients, which often makes things interesting. Of course, they're all in the same boat. It's not as if anyone has an advantage; it's just different. 

I loved the truffle hunt, especially Tom's enthusiasm. 

We've gotten to the part of the competition where I wish I could try ALL of the dishes, even those that land in the "bottom." 

I was worried for Stephanie and her choice to include the radicchio and wondered why she added it even though she didn't like the flavors it brought to her dish. It didn't make any sense during the scenes where the food was being prepared, so I appreciated seeing her at JT saying that she had included the radicchio on the menu she had submitted originally and felt she had to add it to the dish. The judges have definitely dinged cheftestants for that in the past so Stephanie's decision made sense, even though it could have been the item that could have gotten her PYKAG'd.

If I could have pre-selected a final four, it would have these chefs so I'm really happy with where we are right now!

 

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Ugh, Kevin. Oh, this is my favorite part of Italy...like all his international travel makes him so superior. He just bugs.

But those truffle doggies! So great. Dogs love doing a job, and these dogs obviously loved theirs.

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16 minutes ago, backgroundnoise said:

I read somewhere that they never film instead actual planes, so scenes like them flying are always staged.  Something to do with security.

I can see that.  When the various Housewives travel for their shows, the viewers get camera crew footage in the airport, but in flight footage is done by cellphones.

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Interesting that of the top 5, Bryan Volt, Melissa, Gregory and Kevin were the top 4 fan favorites.  Not Stephanie?  I did vote for Melissa, because she is my favorite, but I didn't expect to see Stephanie out of the running.  I enjoyed her sense of humor during her first season and am again now, and I would've definitely voted for her if I could have had a second vote.

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