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I can’t believe we’re only days away from Dark Matter “Episode 22: Going Out Fighting”.  It honestly seems like just yesterday we were touring the Hyperion-8 prison sets in preparation for season 2.  Time IS speeding up!  And I’m having a hard time keeping pace!

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Dark Matter overviews and interviews!

A series overview to date.  Dark Matter: A Shipload of Antiheroes by the Capricious Narrator

Anthony Lemke, Dark Matter’s THREE, talks with Adam A. Donaldson at Nerd Bastards.

I chat with The TV Junkie’s Kelly Townsend about “Stuff To Steal, People To Kill”.

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“Stuff To Steal, People To Kill”!  More recaps, reviews, and reactions!

“This was a very enjoyable take on one of science fiction’s most popular, and favorite tropes in a straight forward, action packed episode that did a good job in also moving the series narrative forward….” by Craig Suide at SciFi Movie Page

“All in all this was ‘Dark Matters’ take on the classic ‘Star Trek’ mirror universe trope, but with much darker hues…” by Ian Cullen at SciFi Pulse

Dark Matter, Stuff To Steal, People To Kill, Alternate People To Deal With by Patricia at Wormhole Riders

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“It wouldn’t be a sci-fi series without at least one parallel universe episode!” by Jessica Anson at MyM Buzz

How’s your German?  Die Doppelte Raza! by Tim Kruger at Serien Junkies

“There are many doors that could be opened by what’s come out this episode. It gives great promise for what’s to come…” by Aaron Billingham at Kneel Before Blog

“I’m not all that fond of alternate universe episodes on the whole, but “Stuff to Steal, People to Kill” was both interesting and lots of fun (though it did make me realize that I probably never want romantic Two/Three)…” by Siobhan Dempsey at Word of the Nerd

Hey, comic book fans!  Join our Comic Book reading club on reddit!

As I mentioned in a previous post, two my favorite sub-genres of SF television are AU (alternate universe) and time travel.  They both allow us to shed light on our characters, and the show’s world, in ways we wouldn’t normally be permitted within the established narrative.  “Stuff To Steal, People To Kill”, for instance, answers a few outstanding questions, some going as far back as our very first episode, while also teeing up a bunch of future storylines as well.  There was A LOT going on in this episode and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if you may have missed a few crucial tidbits even on second and third viewing (which is de rigueur for every episode of Dark Matter).

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First off, can I just say what a fantastic job VFX Supervisor (and Dark Matter Supervising Producer) Lawren Bancroft-Wilson is doing this year.  That shot of The Raza moving through the debris from the destroyed space station?  Wow. Kudos to Lawren and his VFX team, with FUSEFX at the forefront, delivering some truly spectacular visuals this season, from The Raza’s atmospheric entry and landing to…well, the finale.  Great, great stuff!

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Earlier this season, someone was asking about ship to ship battles.  Specifically, why hadn’t we seen any yet?  Well, we’ve seen some pretty good ones so far this season, once again thanks to LBW and co.  Always fun to see The Raza in action but, in particular, to check out how far the ship has come in its level of detailing.

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Android: “A slight variance in the temperature of the cosmic microwave background suggests an extremely unusual possibility.”

I received a fair amount of love for this theoretical conjecture on the part of the Android, but must give credit where credit is due.  When crafting a hypothetical explanation for the inter-universe jump, I consulting with the experts – in this case, former Stargate science tech advisor Mika McKinnon who stepped up with the assist (GeoMika).

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One of my very favorite guest stars, Torri Higginson, reprises her role as the opportunistic Commander Delaney Truffault.  The character was originally supposed to meet her end in Episode 11 of the show’s first season, but a scheduling conflict and some serious reconsideration of her role in the grand scheme of things saved her.  When it came time to casting the role I knew Torri would be great – but her performance surpassed my lofty expectations.  She played Truffault with such sass and bemused confidence that I instantly fell in love.  And, boy oh boy, that shot of her swaggering down the corridor of The Raza after she takes out FOUR and SIX? Perfection.

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The crew’s research uncovers intriguing tidbits of information, hints of what could have been and clues to what may come…

There’s a corporate war in full swing, something that has only been hinted at back in our reality.

The war finds its roots in long-standing corporate conflicts, but was seemingly sparked by the destruction of a space station, EOS-7, during a summit attended by representatives from the various corporations as well as the League of Autonomous Worlds.

Ferrous Corp is suspected as being the culprit behind the station’s destruction, although they have steadfastly denied the charge.  Oh, hey, Commander Nieman!

Kal Varrick (SIX’s alter-ego) uploaded a virus to the ship’s computer before going into stasis, one that would disable The Raza, thus rendering it “dead in space” (see Episode 1).

He has arranged for the ship to emit a subspace distress call to make it easier to track (see Episode 1).

The Raza’s security system is an Android who can be take offline with a verbal shutdown command.

If the Android perceives an insurmountable threat, she is programmed to wipe the ship’s data stores (see Episode 1).

We learn that The Raza paid a recent visit to the headquarters of Dwarf Star Technologies, killing over two hundred company personnel including company CEO Alexander Rook (see Episode…oh, it won’t be long).

The script’s first draft included another scene, a file SIX accesses prior to the video of his death…

He double-clicks, bringing up various sub-files (SERVICE, MISSIONS, RECORD, COMMENDATIONS) including the one he clicks on: DEATH. We switch to a deposition video – Commander Tarvis of the Galactic Authority (last seen in Episode 106)is being questioned.

COMMANDER TARVIS: He was our best agent up until the incident on Hydaum-12. That mission – it changed him. Though, in all fairness, over ten thousand lives lost – it would’ve changed anyone.

She fields an unintelligible O.S. question –

COMMANDER TARVIS: He requested a leave of absence and we gave it to him. I honestly wasn’t sure he’d ever come back – but he did, six months later. And requested the toughest assignment on book. In retrospect, I should’ve turned him down. He wasn’t ready.

Unintelligible O.S. question –

COMMANDER TARVIS: He went undercover to bring in the crew of the outlaw ship, The Raza.

Unintelligible O.S. question –

COMMANDER TARVIS: He was murdered while sending a data burst back to G.A. Central Command. He died on camera. The visual evidence was logged as part of the inquest into –

SIX freezes the video, enters another sequence, bringing up another video.

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This reality’s Ishida Ryo has retaken the throne of Zairon with the help of his step-brother, Hiro, and other loyal agents within the court.

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To quote actress Melissa O’Neil on the Portia-Boone “sexy time” scene: “My butt clenched reading it.”

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Some awesome twinning sequences in this episode.  Kudos again to VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson and director Andy Mikita.  Find out how they pulled it off here: The Fine Art of Twinning

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Bring on the bad guys!  One of my biggest regrets of season 1 was the loss of Wexler and Tash, two psychotic but colorful mercs who met their spectacular ends back in Episode 10.  Well, here was an opportunity to bring them back – along with the duplicitous Jace Corso.  Scheduling was a huge challenge here as all three actors – Ennis Esmer, Jessica Sipos, and Marc Bendavid – had other commitments we needed to work around.  But, thankfully, we were able to make it work in the end and all three delivered delightfully diabolical performances.

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Since the episode was running long, we had to cut some dialogue for time.  FOUR’s conversation with the captive Portia and Boone offered a little more insight into Blink Drive’s workings in the script…

Portia and Boone are on their feet when he enters.

PORTIA: You didn’t account for temporal displacement. That’s why you and the rest of your crew are here. You tested the drive without making the proper adjustments.

Off FOUR –

PORTIA: So instead of going from point A to point B in your universe, you punched a hole in the fabric of space-time and ended up here in ours.

FOUR: We didn’t know we had to make those changes to the drive.

PORTIA: Didn’t the scientist you tortured tell you?

FOUR: We didn’t torture a scientist.

BOONE: Rookie mistake. You ARE different from the Ishida we know.

And, oh yeah, we also find out a little more about this reality’s ongoing conflict between Zairon and the Republic of Pyr…

PORTIA: After EOS-7, the corporations backing Pyr had bigger things to worry about than some regional conflict. They pulled their support and we took advantage, targeting your homeworld’s enemy and destroying their fleet.

BOONE: And Zairon welcomed you back with open arms.

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Jace Corso’s launching of the nuclear missile, with TWO still on the planet, is a tip of the hat to the AU machinations in Star Trek: The Original Series’ classic “Mirror, Mirror”.

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It’s TWO and Tash Round #2 in one of the greatest fights the show has done to date.  Let’s give it up for stunt coordinator John Stead, director Andy Mikita, editor Teresa Hannigan, actresses Melissa O’Neil and Jessica Sipos, and their stunt doubles.

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Commander Truffault’s double-cross and taking of The Raza results in an exchange between her and TWO that was a little meatier in the director’s cut…

TWO: I thought we had a deal.

COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: We did – a deal you never had any intention of following through on. We both know that. So here’s the new deal: the lives of your crew in exchange for the drive.

TWO hesitates. Beat.

COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: Look at the big picture. You just need it to get home. We need it to save millions of lives by putting an end to a war that has ravaged this reality for years.

TWO: By winning it? How long is that going to take? Ferrous Corp had the drive on their side in this conflict, and you’re still fighting.

COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: I’d argue our enemy didn’t make the most efficient use of a very valuable asset. They also made a mistake by letting your counterparts keep it.

TWO: I’m guessing they didn’t have a choice.

COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: Probably not. Still, it’s hard to win a war when you’re relying on an ally who thrives on chaos. (beat) Look – this universe or your own, what difference does it make? What the hell’s really waiting for you back there?

TWO: Our own mess.

COMMANDER TRUFFAULT: (sighs) Your people in exchange for the drive. So, what’s it going to be?

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The final goodbye twinning sequence was, in a word, a nightmare.  Director Andy Mikita had planned to shoot the entire thing as a oner, one continuous shot that followed TWO over to a waiting Alt Android and Portia, captured their exchange, then ended on our originals as the doubles left the shot.  And it almost all went according to plan.  Andy carefully planned the shot.  He informed the cast and crew.  We ordered the special equipment required which arrived..MINUS a crucial piece that made shooting the sequence all but impossible.  They persevered but, when it came time to assemble the cut, it was clear the eyelines were not matching up.  Most baffling was the fact that the Androids were surprisingly way off in their exchange.  We couldn’t figure it out until VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson realized our new Android outfit includes boots with heels that add another three inches or so.  As a result, the entire sequence had to be reshot in the Episode 210 schedule.

A couple of notes on this scene…

Melissa O’Neil loved Portia Lin’s coat so much (she was almost reduced to tears during her fitting) that I rewrote this scene so that her character could actually keep it.

When we originally broke this story, we’d planned for our crew to take the AU Alt Raza back to they reality with them, but ultimately decided against it because it complicated some of the developments we had planned later on down the line.

There’s this exchange between the androids that many of you picked up on:

ALT ANDROID: My presence on the other Raza would be redundant. Besides, my loyalty is to my original crew – and Portia in particular. I owe her a debt of gratitude.

Our Android finds this curious –

ANDROID: For what?

ALT ANDROID: For making me more.

The episode that offers the backstory on this one is going to blow your minds!

With the change in Raza’s, I ended up losing a scene from the original draft that opened with this preamble:

FOUR steps onto the bridge to find the Android standing there, listening to a discordant new age MUSIC that plays over the speakers. She notices him and the music automatically LOWERS.

FOUR: What are you doing?

ANDROID: While going through the new Raza’s database, I discovered a music library. I thought it might be interesting to play a piece and learn what kind of emotions it engenders in me.

FOUR: And?

ANDROID: Initial confusion followed by slight irritation, then discomfort, frustration and, ultimately, disappointment. I don’t like this at all.

FOUR: Well, there you go – an interesting emotional response.

The music turns OFF. The Android, clearly pleased –

ANDROID: Yes. I look forward to experiencing an equally visceral reaction to more selections.

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Finally, the crew returns home…with some unexpected guests in the form of an FTL-capable Marauder that jumps before they have a chance to deal with it, opening the door to all sorts of new potential storylines.  Aint scifi grand?

I’m taking a break from the writing to do a little a lot of reading.  Although I fell behind earlier this year, what with the demands of production, I’m pleased to report I’m back on track to well exceed my goal of 100 books in 2016.  I read anything and everything – genre, graphic novels, non-fiction, bestsellers – and typically put together a “Best Of” list at year’s end.  2014, for instance, was a fantastic reading year –

https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/december-2014-top-books-of-2014/

with a slew of recommended reads.

2015, sadly, was not.

When selecting books, I try to cast wide net, relying on everything from book shop recommendations to impulse buys to award nominees.  This year, I’ve really tried to focus on 2016 releases, short fiction and novels, so that, when I offer up my list of the year’s best reads, I can honestly do so from a well-informed position.  Ultimately, I end up recommending works in various categories that, perhaps not surprisingly, fail to make the short lists for many of the big name awards.

Check out my 2015 favorites here:

https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/may-23-2016-presenting-the-2015-rogue-star-award-winners/

There’s nothing better than a really great book.  And, quite frankly, I don’t even mind the occasional bad book.  It’s true and let me explain why.  Given the choice, I’d prefer a truly terrible book to a mediocre book because, in the case of the former, I can quickly identify it as a crap read and immediately set it aside.  Books in the latter category, however, are big unmemorable time-wasters.  And, unfortunately, the majority of the titles out there fall into this category – which is why good recommendations are so important.

Nothing makes me angrier than shitty reading recommendations.  I’m the guy who will walk into chain bookstores so that I can peruse the staff picks and subsequently track down the individual staff members to call them on their crap picks.  Once subjected to a little scrutiny, they invariably crack, often declaring they never actually read their picks but insisting the reviews were “great!”, or shamefully admitting they were simply following marching orders from head office.  It really depends on the bookstore I suppose.

Earlier this season, I walked onto set one morning to discover actress Melanie Liburd reading a book that had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award.  I immediately recognized the book because, a month earlier, I’d been foolish enough to check it out based on the fact that it had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award.

“How’re you enjoying the book?”I asked.

Not all that much as it turned out.  And I wasn’t surprised.  Apparently, she’d gone into one of Toronto’s local hipster douchebag bookshops and had someone there recommend it to her because, well, it had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award.  I was so annoyed that I left set to go back to my office, retrieved my emergency copy of Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle (one of several titles I keep stocked for just such emergency situations.  Other “In Case of Shit Reading Break Glass” titles include: Camp Concentration, The First Law Series, The Empire of Ice Cream, Old Man’s War, Saga vol. 1, The Man Who Ate Everything, City of Thieves, Fool, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Rosie Project, The Princess Bride, Me Talk Pretty One Day, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Speed of Dark, Afterlife with Archie, the first three books in the Ice and Fire series, The Player of Games, The Lies of Locke Lamorra, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Misery, Flowers for Algernon, This is Where I Leave You, Stories of Your Life and Others, Childhood’s End, and The Psychopath Test) and gave it to her.  She loved it.  I don’t recall what happened to that other book.  I think I might have tossed it.

Just as bad as big box bookstore head office staff recommendations are “Best Of” picks that suspiciously include novels written by editors or fellow writers from the site hosting said “Best Of” article.  Sure.  Maybe they are deserving, but it looks sketchy as shit and, unfortunately, undermines the credibility of  your selections.

Instead, I’ve been increasingly relying on the following as proven sources of solid recommendations:

Rocket Stack Rank: This site offers up monthly aggregate ratings of stories (short, novelettes, and novellas) with short synopses and estimated reading times for each along with links to online reading copies.

Reddit is a great source for recommendations as well.  Subreddits I regularly check out include: science fiction, scifi, books, and comic books.

My favorite local bookshops: White Dwarf Books and The Book Warehouse.

So, how has YOUR summer reading been coming along?  Any books YOU’D recommend?

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Well, that was fun.  I have a lot to offer up on this episode in the coming days – script and production insights, BTS pics, deleted dialogue – but, for now, I turn this blog over to everyone who took the time to respond with some well thought-out reviews of “Stuff To Steal, People To Kill”:

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Dark Matter 208 Review: Old Faces, New Enemies by Tom Gardiner at Three If By Space

“Okay, I’m going to start my Dark Matter 208 review by saying this was easily my favorite episode ever. This may not be the last time I say those words, but the Dark Matter gang are going to have to work pretty darned hard to top themselves after this one. “

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Dark Matter Takes A Vacation to the Multiverse in “Stuff to Steal, People to Kill” by Jen Stayrook at The Workprint

“Maybe it’s my affinity for fan fiction, but I LOVE stories that involve a parallel universe. Taking characters we know and love and flipping them around because of one change in the timeline gets me all gooey inside.”

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Dark Matter – Stuff To Steal, People To Kill – Review: “A Tale Of Two Raza’s” + POLL

“In all of my years of television watching I’ve seen a ton of alternate universe episodes of shows and I can’t recall a single one that was as tightly written and perfectly executed as this episode.”

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A Sashurai’s Review: Dark Matter – Season 2×08 (Stop me if you heard this, two androids walk into a Raza…) by Sashurai at Blade of the Sashurai

“A delightful venture into experimental technology results in Dark Matter’s first profound arc into the sub-plot of parallel dimensions. Not withstanding a few kinks in the hull, this episode collectively straddles the space-fence with a fresh plot and sees the return of characters long distant from the series.”

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“Dark Matter is back in its groove as the payoffs from earlier episodes come about in a satisfying, logical, and well-paced manner…” by Michael Ahr at Den of Geek

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Dark Matter: Stuff to Steal, People to Kill – Another Shocker by Michael Knox-Smith at Mike’s Film Talk

Dark Matter flew into parallel worlds in “Stuff to Steal and People to Kill.” Mallozzi and Mullie continue to throw fans off balance. This time by “punching a hole” in space time.”

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“For something that you looked at as just another op in the previous episode of Dark Matter at first, it really shook up your perception of where things are going. And just when you were starting to figure things out…” by Jideobi Odunze at Geeked Out Nation

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“There’s something so inherently tantalizing about alternate-reality episodes in sci-fi. Dark Matter Season 2 Episode 8 doesn’t spend a ton of time contemplating the philosophical implications at all, but the actors sure had fun…” by Kathleen Wiebel at TV Fanatic

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Veronica Scott recaps Dark Matter episode ‘Stuff to Steal, People to Kill’: Let’s visit a parallel universe

“I thoroughly enjoy the varied and creative ways the writers have taken this season to show us what truly nasty and unpleasant people the crew of the Raza were before Five wiped all their memories.”

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“We loved this week’s exploration of parallel universes. The writers have set up an alternate version of the crew that they could potentially use again in the future, and we love that prospect…” by Christopher Hart at The Nerd Recites

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Geeksiders Josh and Anna weigh in:

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A sneak peek at tonight’s episode:

Et encore, mais cet fois en Francais:

Ad another sneak peek for you:

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Pay close attention to tonight’s episode!  Plenty of clues related to past episodes, and hints as to what’s to come!

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Your first exclusive clip from tomorrow night’s episode of Dark Matter, “Stuff To Steal, People To Kill”.  The crew receives a distress call from Regulus-12…

http://www.space.com/33782-regulus-12-space-station-heavily-damaged-in-dark-matter-show-clip.html

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Your second exclusive clip from tomorrow night’s episode.  THREE receives some troubling news from “The Android”…

http://parade.com/499805/rielyhaven/dark-matter-exclusive-clip/

I talk to Baz Greenland of The Digital Fix:

Exclusive interview with Dark Matter showrunner Joseph Mallozzi

“TDF: We’ve seen the evolution of several characters over the last twenty episodes. Which character has been the most fun to write?

Mallozzi: As I often tell interviewers, picking favorites on this show isn’t as simple as picking your favorite child. There are no disappointments in this group. Each one of them brings something different to the table and each one is fun to write for different reasons.”

More BTS tidbits to get you in the mood for tomorrow night’s episode…

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Thanks to those of you asking about Bubba.  He is on the mend and should get his stitches out this weekend.  To celebrate, Akemi made him a new bowtie – and a matching collar for Lulu:

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One of the biggest challenges about approving episodic stills for this episode was actually finding non-spoilers photographs to sign off on.  I don’t recall how many finally made the cut but I do recall it was significantly fewer than previous episodes.  Such is the life of a producer on a heavily-serialized science fiction series – especially when it comes to AU episodes.

So, to make up for the lack of official promotional photos, I thought I’d post some of the behind-the-scenes photos I snapped during the production of this episode – directed by Andy Mikita, written by yours truly.

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A shot of the monitor.  Notice anything…unusual?

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A rare scene (for season 2) scene in the ship’s underbelly.

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Another monitor shot, this one featuring Torri Higginson (as Commander Truffault), one of several surprising guest stars this episode.

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The crew gathers for the first shot of the day.

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Director Andy Mikita in action.

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