Richard Armitage seeks the truth?

•December 19, 2018 • 4 Comments

What does ice cream actually represent? #richardarmitage

•December 18, 2018 • 13 Comments

Berlin Station 3.3, first impressions [spoilers!] no #richardarmitage

•December 17, 2018 • 37 Comments

Continued from here. These posts will contain spoilers. PLEASE do not read them if you are not watching concurrently with the U.S. broadcast but still want a fresh look at them when the show becomes legally available in your region.

Reminder:  SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.


So, sorry, Richard Armitage — I wouldn’t be watching this show without you, which I realized tonight when I was kind of tuning out just before a significant implied plot development regarding your character. It’s not subtle enough about the situation in “Estonia” to be interesting otherwise, and it looks we’re heading for a repeat plot line with Frost, except we are supposed to be intrigued by the new twist, I guess. Oh, and again, many minutes of filming in the mostly-dark where you can’t see anything, and plenty of not very credible violence.

There was a lot of very casual scene-dropping in this episode — like casual things happening that you know will be important later. They seem to be hinting strongly (or aggressively holding open the likelihood) that Daniel is still alive. However, he doesn’t appear anywhere in this episode except on his passport. The thing is, though, they don’t really create the impression he’s actually gone. The loss has no time to resonate before they are already think he’s alive. It all feels very manipulative. I don’t know if I’m that curious about how they save him, as I don’t believe he’s dead. It’s going to make continuing to watch a little dreary. Shrugs. I just have a hard time watching without Richard Armitage to care about.

This should be shorter snark tonight, no? On the upside, I did finally finish my grades this afternoon.


The episode opens with Steven in the water, which we know after two seasons means he’s dreaming. This time, however, he’s swimming with a huge blue head. Lenin, maybe?

Is Steven (Richard Jenkins) dealing with the end of the Cold War in his subconscious? The Fall of the Wall in his own personal life won’t leave him alone?

He wakes up in Berlin …

in an expensive apartment with a view directly across to the Brandenburg Gate. Wow. Oh yeah we movin’ on up …

Cut to the titles.

Richard Armitage’s face is still in the titles but his name’s been erased. No wonder he looks so grief-stricken.

Rhys Ifans is still in the titles with a scene from season 2, but they removed his name.

So, the episode starts. In Tallinn, Torres has taken Sofia Vesik to the airport and booked her on a flight to Berlin via Oslo. He instructs her to call a number on her phone as soon as she gets there. She doesn’t believe she’s in danger, but he does. (This plot-line is completely dropped in this episode after that; I wonder if they forgot to pick her up at the airport?)

In Berlin, April (KeKe Palmer) has beautiful eyelashes. I mean, she’s worried about Daniel.

Kirsch is debating April’s concern with her (he doesn’t want to try to call Daniel now because it’s against protocol) when he encounters this beautiful young thing, who sounds a little bit Eastern European.

“Hi, I’m Nina.” (it’s when she says “I’m new” like “nyu” that I think she’s not a German, fwiw. That vowel feels unusually palatalized. Actor is Anja Antonowicz.

This is what I mean by conspicuously casual. He’s a CIA agent, of course he’s suspicious. OTOH if she’s an FSB agent, she will know that he’s going to be suspicious. He casts a long look after her: romantic interest? In any case, I don’t remember her from the previous episodes, and we don’t see her again tonight.

Then — ring! — Robert is walking away from his apartment (appears to be roughly in the same place as last season), and he’s on the phone with Torres, who tells us that Sofia is boarding (so, will she make it to Berlin? Or will she get hijacked?). He also tells us that the sniper from the last episode is someone he recognizes — he uses a “Russian rig, the ORSIS T-5000,” but for this job he used a Centennial 550 and “this wasn’t a kill shot.” He wanted to scare people in order to start a civil war. Also, Torres informs Robert that he saw the foxgloves in the waitress’ apartment and she saw him seeing them, i.e., the waitress killed Henryk. Male posturing about who’s tougher and who’s smarter and who’s a bigger asshole. Yawn. Torres hasn’t seen Daniel.

Somewhere else in Berlin, Valerie’s watching a little girl at a ballet lesson.

So Michelle Forbes gets to exploit those many years of dancing lessons she had. (Wish they’d do this with Armitage.) Also, they found a little Hungarian girl (Brigitte Szabo) who has a perfect US accent.

It’s not Valerie’s long lost daughter, apparently, but the daughter of a friend who’s visiting.

This is Robin Weigert, whose name is in the titles, so she must be a recurring character. (Another one??). She’s Valerie’s college friend and she didn’t know Valerie knows ballet, and it’s a bit strange because she’s “saving Euros” by staying with Valerie — but her child is enrolled in ballet? Is the overall code for “lesbian” or something else? Will Valerie switch teams?

This casual encounter kind of stinks of setting up a future hostage situation or something. Anyway, Valerie’s very distracted by the news from Tallinn which she is watching while talking to her friend.

Back at the embassy, April’s lashes are still beautiful.

The Berlin Station people are worried about Daniel as the digital clock strikes ten, when he’s supposed to call by. Valerie and Robert are in a secure room, conveniently reviewing the plot from last time for our attention, and arguing over whether NATO would really invoke Article 5 to defend Estonia if Russian were proven to be agents provocateurs. Valerie says yes, Robert thinks this could be cast as a civil war (implication: NATO wouldn’t intervene in that case). April interrupts them to tell them that Daniel’s late and it’s atypical. Valerie says they have to wait another two hours. April and Robert talk her down into proceeding with “failsafe” in one hour. Then April reminds us all of the incident at the café last time with the threatening onlooker, which is convenient because she has a date with the guy, Dove, again tonight.

Steven Frost (Richard Jenkins) and Robert Kirsch (Leland Orser) drinking up a storm just outside the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. The Adlon (the umbrellas) is right there, too, and nowadays the Akademie has a wine bar near its entrance. Very convenient for Robert as he just has to leave the embassy and he’s right there.

Robert meets Steven for a chat at a reception that turns out to be in celebration of Steven’s new vineyard or something. (Dumb joke about how he bought a vineyard next door that’s the German word for “frost.” The German word for “frost” is der Frost). Question: if Steven’s throwing the reception, why does he only talk to Robert at it? Anyway, Steven’s got lots of money to spend now (he’s going to vet a Russian business partner for the second biggest energy company in Germany — does he know Gerhard Schröder?) and he wants Robert to get on board. This feels like a mashup of plotlines from season 1 (Robert and Steven need money so they embezzle and season 2 (Steven needs Robert to help him do his intelligence). In the course of Steven reminding us of the political background in Estonia (this is the second time during this show, honestly, do they think we have no brains? or that we need to be reminded that the Russians are the villains in the show? I’m no fan of Vladimir Putin, but it’s only the most superficial picture he paints here), we learn that he unexpectedly knows Daniel is in Estonia — and Robert admits he isn’t back. (Shouldn’t Robert be more worried about Steven knowing that?) Steven suggests asking SUPO and Robert demurs. Robert also says he isn’t quitting his job.

This is “Langley” for season 3. Langley, thy name is “Jason”.

Valerie is on a satellite call with her boss in Virginia — who says her info about Estonia is just “a series of unfortunate events.” Jason tells her that there’s a retired Cold War-era agent in Berlin who’s podcasting and telling stories. This feels like a very coded conversation. Jason tells her the most recent story is a lie (then why do you care?), Valerie suggests getting a lawyer (is this code for “hit man”?), Jason says that they’re beyond lawyers but “I’ve been told that 40 years merits at least a courtesy call” (which seems to be warning for “tell him we will kill him to shut him up).

Next, Esther and Valerie meet at an art auction.

Fighting international moneylaundering, doncha know, but I think it’s just an excuse to show the fancy-shmancey interior.

Esther seems to have suggested the meeting place but not the meeting. Valerie asks about Estonia. Valerie thinks it’s serious enough to justify invoking Article 5 of the NATO charter. Esther notes that Russia provides a big chunk of Germany’s energy. She asks whether Valerie is speaking officially. Valerie apologizes for erratic US policy, and Esther slips in one of those neat German words, “Backpfeifengesicht,” — a face that makes you want to punch it. Esther agrees to support Valerie but notes Valerie will have to take the lead.

Then, just as Valerie wants to go — bang! Esther asks about Daniel.

I have no idea why Valerie is so surprised about the question, but Michelle Forbes does have a striking face.

Esther tells Valerie Daniel was distressed about his past the previous afternoon, and Valerie sort of brushes it all off. It’s probably fair to say that if I were Esther, I’d be undertaking my own search at this point, even though that isn’t hinted at here.

Shift to Tallinn / Sopron. Maret the Waitress and Basarov are observing a developing clash between Estonians and supporters of Russia in the square, where it looks like that monument is coming down after all.

Basarov is there and you can tell he’s thinking about murdering Maret the Waitress. The flowers are her undoing — because Basarov knows that Torres saw them. However she insists they were only snapdragons. Honestly, the level of flower lore among people in this show is outstanding — they could almost be hobbits.

As the violence grows, Basarov urges Maret the Waitress to go out into the brewing riot to defend her grandfather’s memory. He then gets in the truck that’s going to pull the monument down, throws out the driver who is in there, and starts forward. Maret the Waitress is part of a human chain standing in his way. You see that she realizes what is going to happen about a second before he runs her and several others over.

Back to Berlin about twenty minutes in, where the Valerie / Robert / April triad is watching events in Tallinn on the news. An agitated Robert recognizes Maret the Waitress’ body on the news. Om, my god, talk talk talk talk talk. They remind us that the Russians needed to kill her to prevent her from speaking and also that she makes a martyr. They once again rehash the question of whether NATO can intervene if it’s a civil war. DO YOU THINK WE ARE NOT LISTENING????? Valerie decides to go straight to extracting Daniel, but the hostage team is busy elsewhere. April thinks the Navy SEALs can rescue him but Robert thinks it will take too long. Then he fricking repeats what Daniel did in the last episode



Anyway, Valerie wants to send Torres in, and Robert will be Torres’ handler. Valerie thinks this is good because Torres believes in “no man left behind,” and sets off to do the favor for Langley which she thinks they will need.

Now, the scene with James Cromwell, who it turns out is the podcaster from episode 1, i.e., Gilbert Dorn.

He refers to Diver as the factotum for Bush I, before returning to a story about DARPA trained dolphins traded for information about the Russian negotiating strategy at the 1989 Malta summit.

The podcast host tries to get Dorn to say that Diver is a composite of different people, but Dorn says, according to you, i.e., wrong!

Clever camera work switches us back to a view of Steven that we are acquainted with from episode 1.

Of course now he’s older. He’s listening to the podcast as Dorn claims Russia is mad that the US extended NATO into the Baltic. (I think Russia territorial ambitions in the Baltic are a bit older than 1989, but okay, I agree that it sucks to have diplomatic agreements violated.)

Steven is having a chat with Valerie — he agrees to try to get Dorn to shut up. (This is a weird moment as we know that Steven is Diver, but I guess Valerie doesn’t even know Diver is a thing.). Also, it’s hard to believe that these people were at each other’s throats in season 1. This is kind of a galling conversation as Steven takes “paternal pride” in Valerie’s appointment and skills. He hints she’d like to be more in the field. She warns him off of recruiting Robert. And when her phone rings, he digs for information about Estonia and Daniel, and she admits she hasn’t heard from him.

(At this point, my vague memory of the Tourist novels by Olen Steinhauer pricks my brain — I feel like there was a senior CIA person in those novels who was supposed to be a good guy and wasn’t.)

Brief reference — Torres is on the move toward Daniel’s last known coordinates. That’s his little put-put car. Is it a Ford Fiesta? (Inside joke there)

Now Steven is visiting Dorn, with a bottle of Macallan.

His apartment is full of mathoms, including the “proof of WMDs in Iraq,” allegedly made from a tennis ball machine.

It’s not a comfortable conversation. Dorn suspects Steven has come to kill him; Steven tells him to stop talking; Dorn expresses feelings of under-appreciation and of not being anything like Steven, who he says “sold out”; Dorn quotes an abbreviated version of Wilfrid Owen; Steven says the next person who comes knocking will be there to kill him. Dorn makes a gesture that implies he’s going to stop talking. Steven leaves.

Back to “Estonia”. We see Torres at the site of the immolation last week, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. He takes pictures of the body, finds Daniel’s passport, and sends them back to Berlin, where Torres informs them the evidence is mixed (no way to identify scars or teeth) and this is Spetsnaz distraction. After a short discussion, Valerie tells Torres to leave the body there. Robert is torn up, and agrees to “start the paperwork.” At the last second Torres changes his mind and walks back out toward the body.

There’s a lot of emphasis here on how torn up Valerie and Robert are — at least they want us to believe this — but I am not convinced that Valerie even thinks Daniel’s dead. This felt like cynical manipulation to me.

OK — finally back to April’s plot line with her date. They show up at his dad’s office with dinner, but his dad doesn’t want to let them in. Outside, Dove complains about his father’s horrible behavior and notes that his mom left because his dad ignored her. He’d have gone to the U.S., too, except that he’s from a “shithole country.” The threatening guy from last week shows up and beats up Dove, before threatening him again.

and April holds him off with a broken beer bottle!

She helps Dove back into his father’s office, and his father lets them in but insists that April leave. She complies, but not before sees these things:

Clue 1! The tech!

Clue 2! The application of the tech! Looks dangerous.

Cut back to Tallinn, where Torres is carrying the body back to his car. Then he goes back to the underground site where Daniel was — cue lots and lots of darkness so I am not capping all of it. I guess this is supposed to be the most suspenseful part but I can’t tell because I can’t see it. (I couldn’t see anything on dad’s big TV, either.) I’m not sure what we’re supposed to see here. The floor is wet with something. Is it that the stuff that was there last time is gone?

In Berlin, lots of subdued music and thinking. They’re upset about Daniel.

In Berlin, Robert is filling out the MIA form. He is extremely torn up that he doesn’t know Daniel’s middle name but luckily Valerie saves the day — it’s “Adam.” I mean, they practically never have a scene together so why would Robert know his middle name? Orser can’t even pronounce “Armitage.”

Back in Turba / Tallinn, Torres scales a fence into an area around what looks like two nuclear reactors. It goes on for minutes and minutes. He sneaks into a building with a ton of what could be munitions but we can barely tell. Then he sneaks into a barracks. Then they notice him, and there’s a shoot-out, and then they chase him with their big armored vehicles and rifles as he frantically steers his tiny little put-put car. Cut to black.

Next, I would like Richard Armitage’s gravy instructions

•December 17, 2018 • 27 Comments

Ghost of Christmas Past: Gravy reference.

If my “funnybone” hadn’t been over-exerted yesterday

•December 15, 2018 • 28 Comments

I’d probably have found this amusing. Maybe the real problem with Twitter is precisely that we are invited to “overhear” everyone else’s conversations.

Q: When will Richard Armitage’s fandom reject his victimhood narrative? A: When Richard Armitage stops feeding it to us

•December 15, 2018 • 38 Comments

It’s a bit hard to remember now, but regularly for the first five years I was a fan, there’d be fandom-wide flames. (There weren’t quite so many platforms then, so it was hard to go out of the way of them; it’s much easier not to notice them now, and the “mute” or “block” options on many of the newer platforms also facilitate not seeing things that make one uncomfortable.) There were different types of flames, but the initial impulse of many of them went more or less like this:

Fan A: Richard Armitage ____________________” [insert somewhat less than laudatory statement, like “looked tired at that event” — I remember a truly heated fight about that in 2013]

Fan B: “How can you say that?” [Vigorous defense of Armitage, often via an attack on the first fan]


Fan A: “Richard Armitage said _______________” [in Fan A’s view problematic thing]

Fan B: You’re obviously an idiot because you don’t understand what he really meant.

[For instance: I remember a bitter flame on tumblr about Armitage’s feelings about his beard in the summer of 2014, I think]

Now, I’m not talking about vigorous discussions here, or informed conversations (“he meant x” vs “he meant y”) or discussions that included close reading of actual statements and quotations of remarks attributed to him — I’m talking all-out fights, with threats and flouncing. Almost everyone got caught up in it from time to time. I certainly did. A long-time fan even coined a term for the tendency to attack other fans (not disagree with them — attack them) who didn’t share the same rosy view of Richard Armitage: APM or “Armitage Protection Mode.

I wrote at great length about these “fandom identity battles,” noting that it was not typically possible for the fan to criticize or disagree with Armitage (and at that time, he didn’t have public social media, either), because he had the status of the crush. If something were wrong with the picture, it couldn’t be the person who generated the picture who had the problem, and it certainly couldn’t be one’s own picture that was the problem — the anger got displaced onto other fans who disrupted the picture instead. Hence the many flames. Observing all this (like Jas Rangoon linked below — make sure you check out that link if you haven’t read that piece), I was essentially of the viewpoint that these fights were generated by difficulties we were experiencing in accommodating new statements Armitage made to our picture of him.

Eventually, however, APM grew to cover a broader territory than just intrafandom disagreements. It also incorporated a clear strand that involved the strong insistence on the part of some fans that Armitage was a victim — of his management, for instance, or his stylists, or even of other fans (or of me, specifically, at times). This mood led to one of my favorite blog editorials of all time.

Armitage seemed aware of some pieces of this fan discourse about him. I assume that it popped up in his correspondence, too, as fans sent him creature comforts. At times he mused upon the protectiveness of his fans, calling us “motherly” or joking about how we’d go into battle at his back. In 2014 he was met at the stagedoor with throat remedies, and when he referred to it later, he seemed to want to brush it off.

So I had a tendency to think of Armitage as a different entity from our pictures of him. I spent and spend a fair amount of time thinking about fandom issues, and I’d long had a theory that Armitage’s attractiveness to many fans lay in a dual relationship. It wasn’t just that he was talented and attractive (though he certainly is), or that we admired him; it was that we identified with him or something about him. There was something about the mental or emotional profile of the typical Armitage fan (woman) that saw something of ourselves in him. I had always wanted to write about this, and filed a few drafts, but rather than developing it now, I’ll just outline it here as a moment for discussion: It was Armitage’s apparent vulnerability — his boyishness, his obvious discomfort in early interviews, his tendency to say things that revealed how unpolished he was — that women identified with. It didn’t hurt that he often played — and excelled at portraying — humiliated characters. And as his career did not take sudden, drastic flight into the stratosphere, despite changes in his demeanor, the feeling that he was being unfairly treated by the industry flowed into this identification. Women are typically more open than men about our feelings of being overlooked, under-appreciated, passed over; we tend to be more aware of our own humiliations and willing to express ourselves about them. To me, this also explains on some level the fact that Armitage has never attracted a large male following: men may feel humiliated, it’s true, but they don’t identify with humiliation or under-appreciation as an interpersonal or social experience in the way that women often do.

Now — Armitage has periodically referenced what he sees as his struggles with his career or dealing with his career himself. I typically accepted what British fans said about these statements — that they reflected a culturally typical modesty or self-deprecation. Some of them have been honest or disarming, as when he told greendragon that auditioning was awful and he’d had to play a mental game with himself to get through it. Sometimes that seemed to fit well, as when he stated that when he had to drive his car to the Spooks set, he’d get there early so as not to seem to be bragging. At other times, it didn’t fit well. I’m thinking of the times in 2010/11 when he was quoted as saying that he was trying to get through his career with the least amount of talent possible, something UK fans at the time told me was extreme, even taken as self-deprecation. Or the uncut version of the interview with David Stephenson, which includes remarks about him taking roles that Rupert Penry-Jones didn’t want, to the point that the interview ends up reassuring him slightly. Or the rather sardonic remarks at the end of 2016, when asked perhaps one too many questions about possible roles, stating he was there if JK Rowling wanted to call. I don’t deny that we fans invest these things with meanings — but that’s always the case. No trope works universally, even if things like “standing in back” seem obvious.

And tropes have unintended consequences. There’s a weird dynamic here, and we saw it at work today. It’s not unique to Armitage, of course; I run into it all the time in other places. The speaker tries to defuse potential criticism ahead of time by implying he has been victimized for saying something similar in the past.

tweet since deleted.

I suppose the emoji indicates that Armitage is joking here. But if so — why were exactly no comments in response to it joking? Probably a third of all the comments that responded to Armitage’s tweet spree this morning concerned this one and almost to a tweep they offered some kind of reassurance (mostly variations on: everyone has the right to an opinion, or you are not dumb, but with a few people saying they wanted to give the people who told him that a talking-to; this is another regular tendency, with fans saying that if Armitage deletes a tweet it’s fans’ fault — something I’ve been speaking against for years without success).

My take on this is that if it’s a joke, it’s a passive aggressive one that traps the listener into agreeing with the literal sense of low-esteem it projects, because it’s very hard to think of any way to respond to it in social media that isn’t sincere. You can’t tweet, “you’re right, shut up, laughing emoji” in response to this. (Or maybe you can, but I certainly wouldn’t.) There is no way that Armitage could have thought (especially after more than four years on Twitter) that this would produce anything other than what it did produce — a flood of reassurances. (It’s also obvious that he doesn’t have any doubts about his right to make the tweets, as his comments during the Brexit vote indicate — I’m thinking of his — now deleted — comment about how acting pays the rent and people who disagree with him should unfollow.) As soon as I saw it, I knew what the responses would be. So either he wanted those responses, or he was willing to accept them. Now: I’d be the first to say that someone who says something s/he knows is controversial doesn’t always desire the controversy to ensue — sometimes it feels like there are things that need to be said. But there is also a sense in which one says something and thinks “let the chips fall where they may.” I accept that there are consequences to what I say. This is the opposite of that. He wasn’t willing to accept the responses, because he deleted the tweet about two hours later. For him, the conversation was over.

I know that the recipient of self-deprecating speech is supposed to laugh or feel reassured that the speaker is not claiming power or attributing it to himself — but that never happened in this case, so if that was the intent of the communication it failed completely. But if self-deprecation is supposed to reassure us that Armitage’s political opinions are meaningless or don’t matter, it’s a dodge here. He wants to speak about politics, but he doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of political speech. It’s a distasteful pattern that makes us think we shouldn’t care about things that we should care about, and deeply. Self-deprecation might work as a technique for minimizing one’s power in a conversation in some settings, but in a setting as hierarchical as this one, it’s really not possible for Armitage to say he has no power. In fact, he has an audience because thousands are hanging on his words. So there’s another contradiction — I want to speak, but you shouldn’t take what I have to say too seriously even though the entire reason for you wanting to be on this platform with me is that you take me seriously. More fool you.

But what should we care about? He deleted all of those tweets, and then said (paraphrasing) “now for something completely different” and offered us career news. So — we weren’t supposed to think what he had to say was so important, but now he offers us information on what we are most interested in as fans, generating serious vertigo: “Enough of that — now about ME.” So even if the self-deprecation worked here, he completely undermined it and created the opposite effect. He is the powerful party in the conversation; he is the person who shares the information.

And then the topper, when fans began one of their (I’m excluding myself here, I don’t enjoy this, but many, many do) favorite activities: speculation on what the roles could be, he felt the need to intervene yet again with more “self-deprecation.”

I admit that I haven’t read all the responses to this tweet, but the ones I saw a few hours ago were running heavily as I would have suspected and he must know: you are good enough to be Bond, why are you running yourself down? This phrase has the feel of something he has said or heard a lot, but again: why self-deprecate? Why interfere with what fans are doing? He already has all the power, so why does he feel the need to take over the kind of conversation so many fans love and turn it yet again to him, leading to even more reassurance on top of it? I mean, this is one of his rare responses to what fans are saying, so why use it for this purpose?

It’s insulting to our intelligence and incredibly arrogant. Armitage has always behaved on Twitter as if the fandom were primarily about him, or as if it belonged to him. He’s refused to see it as a creation of the fans, and we had more evidence of that today. So I’d say to Armitage yet again: what we do or say is not about you. It’s about us.

For me: I always used to make fans more responsible for making him into a victim (of whatever: his advisors, other fans, people he worked with — as I argued above), because there often seemed to be a need in the air to see him as an underdog. But at the same time, he has regularly told the underdog story about himself (it’s strongly present in his early press). “Insecure actor attracts insecure fans,” so I said — but I always put that on the fans and our interpretations, and not on Armitage.

But the pattern’s getting hard to ignore. Maybe if Armitage would quit it with tweets that make himself seem like he’s been or being victimized, like he has at least a portion of self-esteem that corresponds to the actual achievements of his career, maybe if he would stop the regular projection of an aura of insecurity, fans would finally be able to leave this behind — or at least, we’d have less occasion to raise the topic. It’s difficult to indicate non-literal speech on social media. But after four years, it should be clear to Armitage that self-deprecation doesn’t work for him in the way it’s presumably intended. Indeed: it has the opposite effect.


•December 14, 2018 • 37 Comments

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