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Mad Men: “The Rejected”

This episode begins with Don and Roger having a conference call with Lee Garner, Jr. Lee is worried about how some new tobacco advertising restrictions will affect Lucky Strike. Don frequently puts the phone down and uses the down time to pour drinks, approve Peggy’s idea for Pond’s, and to give his okay for Dr. Miller to have a focus group with the 18-25 year old secretaries at the agency. Roger excuses himself to go to the restroom while Don continues the call. While talking to Lee, Don goes through his mail and finds a letter from Anna:

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Roger and Lane (who has just arrived with Pete in tow) walk into the hallway and the two older men tell Pete that SCDP must drop the Clearasil account (which the agency got through Pete’s father-in-law) because Pond’s thinks it will cause a conflict of interest in the agency. It’s strictly about money: Clearasil is being dropped because Pond’s brings in almost twice as much money.

Back on the conference call, Lee worries that SCDP is overbilling him. Roger says that he will have Lane by his side in 20 minutes if he wants to go through the billings line-by-line. Don then fakes a fire near Radio City Music Hall, giving them an excuse to get off the phone.

A frustrated Pete then goes back to his office, where Harry has made himself at home. Pete, not in the mood for chitchat, asks Harry what he wants. Harry hands him a newspaper which has Ken Cosgrove’s wedding announcement. Harry says that Ken’s future father-in-law is the CFO of Corning and is insanely rich. Pete accuses him of always “looking for a job”, but Harry says that they (Harry, Ken and Pete) are all growing up together in the field and it wouldn’t hurt for them to be friendly. He says that he’s having lunch with Ken the next day and invites Pete along.

We then see Peggy getting in the elevator. There she meets Joyce, who works as a photo editor for Life magazine. Joyce shows Peggy some nude photographs her artist friend had taken but which had been rejected by the magazine.

Later, Pete meets Tom at a bar to tell him about the Clearasil account. However, before Pete can get to that, his father-in-law tells him some big news: Trudy is pregnant! Pete, overwhelmed by the news, neglects to tell him about Clearasil. Tom then feels guilty about Pete finding out by him while Pete drinks his Dewar’s.

At home, Pete walks in and screams for Trudy. She is almost in tears because of the way Pete found out about her pregnancy. But Pete is happy, and he hugs and kisses her. Trudy apologizes again and starts to explain why she took her mother with her, but Pete interrupts her and says that he met with Tom because SCDP wants to drop his account. Trudy volunteers to tell him, but Pete says that he must do it.

The next morning, Dr Miller starts the focus group while Don, Freddie and Peggy watch from behind a two-way mirror. The group starts off well, and Peggy admires Faye’s ring on her finger, which Dr Miller had given her for safekeeping. But things take a bad turn when an employee named Dottie says that her boyfriend never really noticed her. She eventually says that she gave him everything and got nothing. Allison, who has been looking in Don’s direction in the mirror, stands up and leaves in tears.

Meanwhile, Freddie has decided that young women just want to get married after all, and Lane visits Pete’s office, where Pete admits that he didn’t tell Tom about the Clearasil account. At first, Lane gruffly tells him to get on it, but after Pete tells him about Trudy he softens and apologizes.

Peggy finds Allison and tries to comfort her. But when Allison implies that Peggy has slept with Don too, Peggy tells him that she has the wrong idea. She suddenly becomes very harsh and tells Allison that her problems are her own.

Later, Pete and Harry meet Ken for lunch. Almost as soon as Ken arrives, Harry has to excuse himself to take a phone call. Alone with Pete, Ken accuses him of talking poorly of him behind his back. Pete apologizes for anything he might have said that offended him, and the two bond over Harry’s perceived gossiping. Ken then says he’s happy to be out of the office, and that there are more “retards” at McCann that at the mental institution where his mother worked. Ken then talks about being a slave to the “old men” that run their agencies. He further complains about how all his work for Mountain Dew is just a game to make BBDO (Pepsi’s regular agency) sweat. He then shakes his head at the thought of another Campbell in the world.

Back at SCDP, Don knocks on the door of his office. Getting no answer, he opens the door to find a disheveled Allison sitting there. He tells her to take the rest of the day off if she needs to. Instead, Allison says that she should just quit. Don insists that it’s not necessary, but Allison says she’d like to try working for a woman. She asks Don for a recommendation. Don says it would be even better if Allison wrote the letter and he just signed it. Allison, hurt and shocked by Don’s attitude, picks up a paperweight and throws it at him. She then storms out of the office.

“I don’t say this easily… but you’re not a good person.” – Allison, to Don

Peggy peeks into Don’s office to see what’s going on, but she’s interrupted by Megan, who’s buzzing to say that Joyce is waiting for her at the reception desk. At the desk, Joyce invites Peggy to a party hosted by the friend who took the nude photos that Life rejected.

That night, Pete comes home to find his in-laws waiting for dinner. Trudy shows her mother the maid’s room, which they plan to convert to a nursery. This leaves Pete alone with Tom. Pete tells Tom that he wants all their business. Pete explains that there is a conflict of interest at SCDP, and that he will need all their business to make it worth his while. Tom, shocked, sits down and calls him a “son of a bitch”. Pete shrugs his shoulders and pours himself a drink.

Meanwhile, Peggy shows up to the party and finds Joyce. She offers Peggy a joint, which she accepts. Joyce leans in to kiss (or nibble on) Peggy’s ear. Peggy gently rejects her.

Peggy: “I have a boyfriend!”
Joyce: “He doesn’t own your vagina.”
Peggy: “No, but he’s renting it!”

Don has returned home, drunk as usual, and he pulls out a typewriter and starts writing a letter of apology or explanation (or both) to Allison. But he only manages to type “I wanted to let you know I’m very sorry. Right now my life is very…” before pulling the paper out of the typewriter and throwing it away.

Back at the party, Peggy meets an writer named Abe Drexler, who can’t believe that she’s not writing anything on the side. She then meets the pretentious artist Davey Kellogg, introducing herself as “Peggy. I’m Catholic”. She tells Davey that SCDP is looking for photographers, and when he finds out that she works for an ad agency, he asks why he would do that.

The conversation is interrupted by a police raid. Abe and Peggy hide in a closet. In such close quarters, the two kiss. Just as they finish, Joyce opens the door. Peggy and Joyce take off down a fire escape.

The next day, Don walks up to his office to see the elderly Miss Blankenship acting as his secretary. Roger appears and jokes about the old lady. Pete and Lane then walk up, and Pete announces that he’s going to sign Vicks Chemical, a $6 million a year client.

In one of the open offices, Peggy and Joey talk about the party, and recent events. A secretary comes in with a congratulations card for Pete. Joey signs, but refuses to donate any money for a gift. Peggy holds the card for a few moments, then hands it back to the secretary without her signature. Peggy then walks to Pete’s office to congratulate him, and the two share a tense stare. Peggy goes back to her office and bangs her head against her desk.

Meanwhile, Dr. Miller stops by Don’s office. She officially states that “Peggy’s hypothesis” was rejected by the focus group, and that young women really do want to use Pond’s as a tool to marry. “Hello, 1925,” Don replies. Don then asks what they’re going to say to the client. Faye says that you can’t change the truth. Don asks how she knows that’s the truth. He says that a new idea is something the focus group doesn’t know yet, so how could it be an option? Miller then discusses how she mentioned “ritual” and everything Don and Peggy wanted, but it all came down to the group wanting a husband. Don says that you can’t predict how people will behave based on how they behaved in the past. Miller asks Don why he’s being so hostile to her, and Don says that she “sticks her finger in people’s brains, and they just start talking”. Don further says that it has nothing to do with what he does.

Peggy, lying on the sofa in her office, gets a phone call. It’s Joyce, inviting her to lunch. We then see Peggy and her young friends outside the office door, waiting for the elevator, while the older men in suits stand in the SCDP lobby waiting for Don. The gulf between young and old is obvious here. Peggy stares at Pete, who returns her look.

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Later that night, we see Don coming home from work. He passes an elderly lady carrying her groceries in the hallway. Her husband is standing in the doorway waiting for her. He repeatedly asks if she got pears. She says that they’ll discuss it inside.

OTHER STUFF

– As noted in the opening credits, this episode was directed by John Slattery.

– Loved Roger’s “sports” ideas with Lee: “Bowling… Bowling is a sport though… How about horse racing? Lee… Lee… the jockey smokes the cigarette!”

– Anna’s letter is dated February 19, 1965.

– Radio City Music Hall (B on the map below) is almost directly across 6th Avenue from the Time Life Building (A). Thanks to the area’s one-way streets, however, it’s almost a mile in a car:

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(click to enlarge)

Jean Seberg was an American actress. Although born in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1938, her trademark short haircut, her choice of “quirky” movie roles, and her later move to France and stardom in French New Wave films made her popular with America’s Europhile set. Seberg made the Breton Striped Shirt famous in the film À bout de souffle (translated as Breathless in the English-speaking world) in 1960.

– Completely unrelated to Mad Men: the French band Nouvelle Vague got its name from the French New Wave films (La Nouvelle Vague), plays mostly covers of American and British New Wave music of the 70s and 80s, and often plays them in the Bossa Nova style, which is Portuguese for… New Wave.

– Although most people think of Corelle and Pyrex when you mention Corning Glass Works (which became the Corning Corporation in 1989), the company has a long history of research and development with exotic types of glass and ceramics that are used in industry, by the military and by electronics manufacturers. One of the company’s most popular current products, Gorilla Glass, was developed in 1962 but did not enter the market until 2008, when the ultrastrong glass was used in tablet PCs and mobile phones.

Mountain Dew was created in the 1940s by Knoxville area bottlers (and brothers) Barney and Ally Hartman. It was originally intended to be used as a mixer with whiskey, and the name comes from a slang term for moonshine. In fact, the first labels featured a hillbilly shooting a fleeing tax agent. Pepsi bought the brand in 1964 and began distributing it nationally that same year. Having the Mountain Dew account was a big deal, as Pepsi was trying to rebrand the drink’s Southern roots into a drink for hipster teenagers, a reputation the drink still has today.

-Life magazine had a long and interesting history. The first issue rolled off the presses on January 4, 1883. For its first fifty years, the magazine featured humor and general interest stories, and was in many respects like a lowbrow version of The New Yorker. In 1936, TIME magazine founder Henry Luce bought the magazine solely for the name. He then turned it into a weekly news magazine with a heavy emphasis on photojournalism. The magazine was incredibly popular, selling 13.5 million copies a week at its peak, and many of its images became iconic (especially Alfred Eisenstaedt‘s photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II). By the end of the 1960s, Life’s popularity began to wane, and publication ceased in 1972. It appeared occasionally in “special issues”, and ran as a monthly magazine from 1978 to 2000. From 2004 to 2007 the magazine was printed as a newspaper supplement (like Parade). Publication ceased entirely on April 20, 2007.

– Dewar’s Scotch was first made in 1846 by John Dewar, Sr. His two sons made it a globally-known brand by 1896. In 1897, Dewar’s became the very first company to use a motion picture advertisement when a brief Edison-produced commercial was broadcast from a roof in Times Square. Traffic stopped to gawk at the ad. In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison received a barrel of Dewar’s from Andrew Carnegie after he (Harrison) was criticized for drinking foreign whisky instead of American bourbon; news of this caused a huge spike in orders for Dewar’s, and Tommy Dewar called it “the best and cheapest advertising I ever had”.

– Freddy: “Can you imagine? Your financial future’s in the hands of a room full of 22 year-old girls…” Don: “Not mine.”

– During the focus group, Freddie eats a bag of Wise potato chips. Earl Wise, Sr. started making potato chips at his delicatessen in Berwick, Pennsylvania in 1921 as a way to use up leftover potatoes. Within a year, he had put the deli on the back burner and went into the chip business full-time. In 1964, the company left the family when it was sold to Borden Condensed Milk Company, who had diversified into all sorts of new products, including chemicals. By the 1980s, many of the executives from the chemical companies were in charge at Borden, and they had little experience with packaged foods. One of those CEOs, Romeo Ventres, went on a $2 billion buying spree of regional food companies, which Forbes called “sensible enough, the execution disastrous”. Borden was soon bought out by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the famous 80s leveraged buyout firm that Oliver Stone so lambasted in Wall Street. Wise was finally bought by private equity firm Palladium Equity Partners L.L.C. in 2000 for $96 million.

– Jim Downey’s Steak House was a restaurant in the theater district at 705 Eighth Avenue at 44th Street. Legend has it that Downey came to New York from Ireland with dreams of opening a restaurant of his own. He worked as a bartender, steward and manager of several restaurants until one day when he went to the Belmont Park racetrack and won a longshot bet which gave him enough money to open his steakhouse. Since it was located in the theatre district, most of the rooms had names like “Theatrical Lounge” and the “Backstage Room”. One room, dedicated to all the people who played the horses, was called the “Last Chance Room”, and it was wallpapered with over $500,000 worth of failed betting slips. Downey also created, as a joke, the Society for the Rehabilitation of Broken-Down Horse Players, and gave away over a million membership cards during the restaurant’s run. Downey’s closed in the early 1980s, but Jim Downey’s sons opened other steakhouses in the city.

– It’s interesting that Harry referred to the people at CBS as “gonifs”. This is a Yiddish word meaning “a thief or dishonest person or scoundrel”. Since we know from season one that Sterling Cooper hadn’t hired any Jews (and since “Harry Crane” is as non-Jewish a name as you can get), one wonders where Harry picked up the term. The TV executives, maybe?

-According to De Proverbio (which it says was founded in 1995 and which calls itself “the world’s first multilingual electronic journal of proverb studies”), the proverb “the grass is always greener [on the other side of the fence]” only dates to the late 1950s. Instead, the 1970 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs lists an old Latin proverb “Fertilior seges est alieno semper in arvo”, which was prominently used by Erasmus and translated into English by Richard Taverner in 1545 as “[t]he corne in an other man’s ground semeth euer more fertyll and plentifull then doth oure owne”. The proverb was popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, but fell out of use sometime in the 18th. The first printed reference to the modern proverb dates to 1957. It was given a boost by a 1959 play by Hugh and Margaret Williams called The Grass is Greener.

- Loved Peggy peeking over the wall into Don’s office after Allison stormed out:

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– Washington Market began as an open air market in 1812, and once had 800+ vendors in what was for many decades the largest wholesale produce market in the United States. By 1956, the vendors had all moved out (most moved to Hunt’s Point in the south Bronx) and the building sat, abandoned, until it was razed in 1967 to make way for the World Trade Center. Here’s a picture from 1956 showing the facade of the building, which was renovated in 1940:

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Thanks to Shorpy for the picture.

– Pete: “Every time you jump to conclusions, Tom, you make me respect you less.”

– After Pete’s “confrontation” with Tom, we see Don, alone in his office, drinking. Suddenly there’s a sound: the janitor is buffing the floors. Don grabs his briefcase and exits, scarcely giving the black man a look. Seconds later, we see Peggy at the party, which has several black people being treated as equals. Telegraphing?

– Auuuuuggghh! Don’s life is very… WHAT? right now? Tell us, Don!

– GOOF? The song playing in the background when Peggy meets Davey and Abe at the party is called “Signed D.C.” by the 1960s group Love. It’s a reworking of the song “The House of the Rising Sun”, and it’s about the life of a junkie (“D.C.” stands for Don Conka, the band’s original drummer, who was allegedly kicked out of the band when he developed a drug addiction). The lyrics seem to relate to this episode somehow:

Sometimes I feel so lonely
My comedown I’m scared to face
I’ve pierced my skin again, Lord
No one cares
For me

My soul belongs to the dealer
He keeps my mind as well
I play the part of the leecher
No one cares
For me, cares for me

Look out Joe, I’m fallin’
I can’t unfold my arms
I’ve got one foot in the graveyard
No one cares
For me, cares for me

The problem is, the eponymous album it appears on wasn’t released until April 1966, a full 14 months from the time of this episode. Three singles were released from the album (some possibly released before the album itself), but none of them had “Signed D.C.” on them. Interesting sidenote: the guitar riffs on band’s cover of the Burt Bacharach\Hal David tune “My Little Red Book” (also on this album) inspired Syd Barrett to write “Interstellar Overdrive”, which appears on the The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn album.

– Any idea if Davey Kellogg is supposed to represent a real-life artist or not?

Vicks Chemical Company can trace its history to 1890, when pharmacist Lunsford Richardson took over the retail business of his brother-in-law, Dr. Joshua Vick, of Greensboro, North Carolina. The company’s most popular product was Croup and Pneumonia Salve, which was introduced in 1891, rebranded as Vick’s Magic Croup Salve in 1905 and finally rebranded as VapoRub in 1912. The company got a massive sales boost in 1918 thanks to the flu pandemic that hit that year. The company was sold to Procter & Gamble in 1985. On a trip to Germany in 1991, I saw several Vicks products there which were branded as “Wicks”, in order to maintain the same pronunciation as the American company.

– Amusingly, the “chicken salad” quote is attributed to LBJ is not once, but twice: “Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad” and “Son, in politics you’ve got to learn that overnight chicken shit can turn to chicken salad”.

-Wait… Joey’s straight?

– Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. To this day, it’s unclear why he was killed and who was behind it. It’s even more unclear as to why it was mentioned in passing in this episode. Malcolm X was one of the most prominent civil rights leaders of his time, and he was assassinated in New York, after all. It seems odd that Peggy would say something about it so trivially, as it was front page news only a week earlier.

– Ms. Blankenship: “Dr. Miller is here to see you… it’s a she.”

MY THOUGHTS

This episode didn’t do anything for me the first time I watched it, but like so many other episodes of Mad Men, I came to appreciate it the second time I watched it for this review.

First of all, congrats to John Slattery for directing the episode. Although this didn’t have as many amazing shots as some of the other episodes of this season, there was a lot more subtle personal interaction going on, from Don’s uncomfortable glances at Allison during the focus group, to Pete’s shrug at his father-in-law, to his smile at Peggy to end the episode.

But now let’s talk about the title of the episode: “The Rejected”. There was plenty of that to go around this week: Davey Kellogg’s photo’s were rejected by Life, Pete was ordered to reject Clearasil from SCDP, Dr Miller rejected Peggy’s idea for the Pond’s campaign, Joan was rejected from the focus group due to her age, Don has been rejecting Allison who in turn rejected him as a boss, Ken rejected his bosses at McCann and then of course there was the tension between Peggy and Pete thanks to Trudy’s pregnancy, which only reminded them both of Peggy rejecting their baby. Oh, and let’s not forget Bert, who continues to reject shoes and sat in the lobby eating an apple in his socks.

I’m curious about one of the main rejections of this episode, that being Peggy’s rejection of Joyce’s advances. She really didn’t push the girl away, or freak out or anything, did she? And this was after Peggy earlier called Megan or Faye “amazing” at the focus group (I’m unclear on whom she was referring to). I don’t think that Peggy’s a secret lesbian, especially not after the way she looked at Dr, Miller’s ring on her finger. Personally, I hope they keep her straight… not because I hate gay people, or think they didn’t have gay people in 1965… but just because I think it would be lazy writing, and a sop to the current politically correct bandwagon. Although I have to say I was confused by the scene with Abe: she kissed him, but was in a closet. Think about it.

Which brings me to another point. Although Mad Men has always hinted at the “youth revolution” of the 1960s, the writers aren’t even being subtle about it now, especially at the end of the episode, when Peggy’s new group of young and colorful friends contrasted so mightily with the older, staid men in business suits. This is the first time, however, I’ve felt that it might all go terribly wrong for those of the older generation. While watching the episode, I had an image of a drunk, out of touch Don sitting at home alone while some Young Turk takes his job. Then I imagined it happening to everyone else at SCDP… and I didn’t like it.

By the way, what’s with Pete and Peggy banging their heads, he on the column in his office, she on her desk?

This episode featured no Betty, by the way. Although I am one of the few Betty supporters out there, I’m really starting to dislike her. She was a sympathetic character when she was a lonely housewife getting her thrills from the washing machine. But now she’s just a cold bitch and horrible mother that I’m glad we missed her this episode.

Oh, but one more Betty-related thing: it wasn’t until this week that I put two and two together about the 1964 election. Nelson Rockfeller, for whom Henry works, was originally considered a lock for the GOP nomination. However, just before the California primary Ms. Rockfeller gave birth, which reminded everyone of Rockefeller’s divorce and marriage to a divorcee with four children for her previous marriage. This turned off many in the GOP (especially women), and conservative Barry Goldwater of Arizona ended up winning the primaries and the nomination. So it’s possible that Henry could be out of a job, and that’s why they’re still living in Ossining.

So… here we are. And I can’t wait until next Sunday!

11 thoughts on “Mad Men: “The Rejected””

  1. Any comment on the final scene with the two seniors in Don’s apartment with the old man asking “Did you get pears”? I’ve been trying to decide if Slattery threw that in there for the hell of it or if there’s more to it… your commentary is awesome by the way, much appreciated.

  2. I was wondering too about the photographer-the photos we saw in the portfolio looked very 1940’s-1950’s to me rather than a Warhol hipsters’ pictures might look in 1964. But since he mentions admiration for Warhol and also is a film maker, I wonder if he might represent Billy Name. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Name
    I have to say I was hoping for a Peggy photo session to happen -ha!

  3. @Steve_M: Oooo! Good catch on Billy Name. Sadly, I know precious little about art, especially “modern” art, so I have no idea who Warhol’s friends\contemporaries might be. Although, I have to say that the Davey Kellogg character came across to me as a “wannabe” artist moreso than someone who would hang with Warhol himself. But perhaps that’s just me. Like I said, I don’t know squat about art, so I will defer to your knowledge.

    @Conrad: I don’t think Weiner\Slattery just threw the “pears” line in for giggles, but I’m not entirely sure what it means. There’s obviously the “pears\pairs” connection, and they could be making a point about the longevity of the old couple versus everyone else on the show. Of course, the woman says “we’ll discuss it inside”, so it might just be a joke about us Mad Men fans running off to Internet message boards to discuss the meaning of the scene. Personally, I think it’s nothing more than to show that the old woman not only didn’t reject the old man (and his burning desire for fruit), but that she’s been with him for years… to contrast with Don, who is alone.

  4. @Steve_M: Yes, Elisabeth Moss is a cutie… but unfortunately she’s also a Scientologist. :( Strange that her marriage with Fred Armisen ended after what… 10 months? though.

  5. there was a David Kellogg that has directed commercials, but he would only have been 13 years old at the time.

  6. Regarding Harry — this isn’t the only time he’s brought the Yiddish in the show, either! There was once in season one or two. Incidentally, it matters not one bit that his name is non-Jewish, as it was very common for Jewish people either to have their names anglicized (gentilized?) at immigration OR to select a less-Jewish name to reduce the likelihood of anti-Semitism. There’s even a skit about it on either You Don’t Have to Be Jewish or When You’re in Love, the Whole World is Jewish … “Mr. O’Hara” gets a call from his mother, Mrs. Rabinowitz, who explains that the reason she didn’t show up to his housewarming party is that when she arrived at his building, she couldn’t remember his name! (i.e., the fake name he had changed to)

    Just because SCDP hasn’t knowingly hired any Jews doesn’t prove they haven’t. :) It’s been my personal little theory from early on that at some point maybe it will turn out that Harry’s secretly of Jewish extraction, and writers are dropping subtle clues over the years.

    OTOH, it could just be (a) language Harry’s picked up from the exec’s, as you say, or (b) sloppy writing. (Don’t think that good writers never slip up when it comes to giving Yiddish to characters who shouldn’t logically be using it; it used to happen with Gilmore Girls QUITE often — yes, Lorelai and Rory were very pop-culture-hip, but still, living in Connecticut with only rare jaunts to NY, and near-zero Jewish culture in Stars Hollow.) What interests me that no one in the scene ever seems to react to the Yiddish, either to wonder why he’s using Yiddish or to say, “What does that mean?” He’s the only character who ever throws any in, so it’s not just something everyone at the time would pick up just from living in NYC. And face it, isn’t Harry the ultimate nebbish?

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