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Michael Dante DiMartino Hello once again, this is Mike DiMartino, co-creator and executive producer of Avatar.
Bryan Konietzko And this is Bryan Konietzko, the other... guy.
Mike Who does a lot of stuff.
Bryan Like co-creation. [Laughs.]
Mike [Laughs.] Uh...
Bryan [Interjects.] I usually-I usually co-create between like 9:30 AM and 9:41.
Mike And then you-then you're executive producer in the afternoon?
Bryan I make executive [Mike laughs.] products between like 10:01 and 10:14 PM.
Mike Wow.
Bryan What about you, Mike?
Mike Um, I-I take the uh, 2:00 to 3:30 shift on the [Bryan chuckles.] executive production.
Bryan So, this episode, uh, as we mentioned in the commentary on, uh, the previous episode, this was one we knew was going to come, you know, pretty much when we came up with Zuko. But uh, we didn't-I guess we didn't uh, put it where a lot of fans thought it would in the series cycle.
Mike Yeah, you-you, story-wise, you want to drag these things out. [Bryan chuckles.] You want to...
Bryan [Interjects.] Well, you wanna...
Mike ... 'til that la-that last moment where it's, you know, really important that he, he changes sides, 'cause if he joins too early then, then you got all this time with Zuko and it's-and... not as-not as uh, emotionally rewarding, I feel.
Bryan Yeah, a-as we said last time, you wanna feel that he earned it... and that he's got a lot of baggage. [Mike affirms.] So, we were just talking about the-the title of this episode, "The Western Air Temple", um, sort of keeping in... the tradition every time they go to one of the Air Temples, that's the name of the episode. Um, but there's another, [Laughs.] there's a history to the name.
Mike It was originally called "Zuko's Cool".
Bryan And then?
Mike "What About Zuko?"
Bryan [Laughs.] Now, I-I...
Mike [Interjects.] Two-two titles that didn't quite make the cut.
Bryan ... I recall the reason that was the working title was that our uh, episode titles kept leaking, um, through various leaks. And, so if it was like "Zuko Joins The Group", [Mike laughs.] you know-then um, you know, every...
Mike [Interjects.] Kind of gives it away.
Bryan ... gives it away, everybody would know what was happening when. So we, uh, I-I think Aaron was like, "well let's, you know, let's just call it something ridiculous so we'll know what it is," but um, so yeah, it was called "Zuko's Cool" for a while. And then, you know, we just had where they started releasing season three DVDs a lot sooner compared to when the episodes were coming out. So, like all the episode titles are on the internet before...
Mike [Interjects.] Yeah, before they air. [Laughs.]
Bryan ... before they air, so.
Mike Zuko is cool though, so it would've been an appropriate title, I think.
Bryan He's a'ight. [Mike chuckles; refers to Zuko's flashback to his first visit to the Western Air Temple with Iroh, right after his banishment.] So, here we see that um, you know, the-the Western Air Temple is located on this massive land that's pretty much due north of the Fire Nation. So, years ago when Zuko was banished, this was the first place they went, they were looking for an airbender, and uh, when he was searching for the Avatar. So...
Mike [Refers to the bandage Zuko has over his scar.] Is that why he has a bandage over his eye?
Bryan It is. Uh, that's...
Mike Fresh-freshly wounded?
Bryan ... that's just 'cause Zuko's cool. [Mike laughs.] That was all the rage.
Mike That was one of his looks [Laughs.] back in the day.
Bryan That was all the rage back then.
Mike He's like, [Imitates Zuko's angsty tone.] "Uncle, I'm going to wear this bandage for many years. [Bryan laughs.] It will become a trend throughout the F-Earth Kingdom."
Bryan [Laughs.] So, yeah, so they went to the nearest, uh, Air Temple... and started their cycle around the world.
Mike [Refers to the foundations of the Western Air Temple being on the underside of a cliff, with the "tops" of the buildings pointing toward the ground.] So, one-this Air Temple is very unique in that it is clearly upside down, [Laughs.] or that the spires are kind of the-hanging off the-off the rock rather than going up. Where did that come from?
Bryan I just, I don't know, I was getting um, tired of just doing the, you know, the first Air Temple, the southern one didn't really come out the way I wanted, and then um, so, with the second one, uh, I had been up to Whistler, Canada, and uh, we had based some of the mountains on that for the Northern Air Temple, and, yeah, I thought that one was-was a lot cooler. And then for the Eastern Air Temple, I thought uh, let's break it up and have-you know, put it on three different peaks and have these bridges, and, you know, it was cool, but nothing was like really that different. It was just [Mike affirms.] some temples up on a towery mountain. So, I don't know, I just had the idea to flip it upside down, and then uh, we thought we'd base the architecture on like uh, Tibetan and Bhutanese uh... rooftops and stuff, and um, you know, through-throughout the years, Mike and I always see these cliffside temples that are just so cool, and then you just had the opportunity to visit many of them.
Mike I actually went to Bhutan, which some of this architecture is based off of, and I did this hike to a place called Tiger's Nest, which is the holiest s-Buddhist site in Bhutan, and uh, uh-it really was like walking to an Air Temple 'cause it's way-it's about nine thousand feet, and gotta hike up this crazy winding path, and the temple is literally built in the cliffs. So, I don't know, it was built-originally built in like the fourteenth, fifteenth century, and, and it's since been rebuilt and-and stuff, but when you try and imagine like someone building it on those cliffs, like there's no like roads, there's nothing, [Laughs.] there's no easy way to get there. [Bryan affirms.] So, it's pretty amazing, and they didn't have flying bison either, so.
Bryan That's true.
Mike Although the guy that, the monk that hung out there supposedly had a flying tiger, so, [Bryan laughs.] maybe he did, [Laughs.] maybe that's how they got the wood up there...
Bryan [In the background.] And they...
Mike ... I don't know.
Bryan ... they had some flying tiger general contractors [Mike affirms.] who were uh, building it for them.
Mike Could be. [Refers to Zuko imitating Iroh and Azula's hypothetical approaches to his problems.] I like this scene where Zuko tries to impersonate Uncle and Azula. Dante had a fun time with this, 'cause he usually doesn't get to do a lot of [Laughs.] comedy. So, wha-seeing Zuko doing comedy is-is, is pretty funny, 'cause he's not that good at it. [Laughs.]
Bryan [Laughs.] I don't know, I think he's pretty good at the Azula one.
Bryan laughs as Zuko starts his Azula impersonation, addressing an imagined Avatar with a stilted cold and threatening cadence, gesturing his hands out for effect.
Bryan I like these-like cocking his hip out to the side.
Mike Yeah.
Bryan [Brief pause.] So, this uh, creepy little... badgerfrog-what is it, what is it-it?
Mike It's a badgerfrog.
Bryan Badgerfrog?
Mike He's like if one of those badgermole things, right? I think? [Laughs.]
Bryan Angie and I based it on this crazy drawing that Ethan Spaulding did, uh, director of this episode.
A brief pause in commentary until Toph brings the rest of Team Avatar's attention to Zuko.
Bryan She says, "what about Zuko?"
Mike [Laughs.] And then Katara goes, "Z-Zuko's cool". [Bryan chuckles.] So, this is, you know, one of our favorites from the season I think 'cause it's got so much emotion, and it's got, you know, [Refers to Zuko trying to join Team Avatar, with their response being to go over everything Zuko's done to them.] Zuko just trying to fit in, trying to, trying to do the right thing now, and the kids not accepting him right away. You just, you kind-you're-you're on Zuko's side, you're like, "yeah, finally, he's gonna-he's gonna team up with them," but, you know, it would be too easy if the kids just accepted him right away. So, it's...
Bryan [Interjects.] Then...
Mike ... it's, it's cool to see that struggle, and, and the conflict.
Bryan [Refers to Toph trying to convince the rest of Team Avatar to look past their grudges acknowledge Zuko's sincerity, and realize that he's Aang's best option for a firebending master.] And the per-the person who has the least amount of baggage with him, Toph, is the one who's able to see, [Mike affirms.] you know, it's easiest for her to forgive him and kinda be pragmatic about the situation. [Refers to Katara reminding herself that despite their conversation in Ba Sing Se over their similar traumas and backgrounds, Zuko still chose to join Azula.] Katara has the hardest time. [Mike affirms.] You know, she was probably the most emotionally inve-invested in Zuko.
Mike [Refers to Katara asking Zuko how he could think anyone in the group could trust him after what he's done.] I felt-I always feel like Katara's speaking for the fans in this episode. [Bryan and Mike laugh.] Like, [Imitates Katara.] "like, you've betrayed us. We know you did-you made the wrong choice before. We don't trust you".
Bryan Well, fifty percent of the fans, [Mike affirms.] or whatever percentage the... Kataang people are.
Mike I think it's a fifty-two/forty-eight split now. The latest polls have come back...
Bryan [Interjects.] Yeah, how's uh, [Mike chuckles.] Zutara doing in the Iowa caucus?
Mike [Laughs.] Yeah, I think uh, they're [Bryan chuckles.] ahead of, uh, John McCain, believe it or not.
Bryan Yeah. [Brief pause.] Think we got Oprah back in the uh, Kataang though. [Mike chuckles.] Once Oprah's behind it...
Mike It's gonna-it's gonna co-it's gonna win. [Bryan chuckles; refers to Zuko, trying to acknowledge all the hurt he's caused Team Avatar, mentioning he hired Combustion Man to assassinate Aang.] I like that moment 'cause Zuko doesn't even realize he just spilled the beans on that one.
Bryan Little Freudian slip. [Brief pause; refers to Zuko reminding Aang of when they saved each other from Zhao, and Aang's unanswered question if the two of them could ever be friends.] So, now he's... appealing to Aang's, you know... well, the side of Aang that um... Zuko saw wi-in-in like episode 113, where, despite everything Zuko had done up to that point, Aang, you know, was still interested in trying to be his friend and didn't really think of him as an enemy. Obviously made an impression on Zuko and so, and he's in this tough situation here, he's appealing to that side of Aang.
Mike [Refers to Aang refusing to let Zuko join the team.] But he had made a lot of bad choices, so, Aang is reluctant to just be pals with him.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to Momo drooping his ears and crying as Zuko walks away from the group.] I think Momo likes him now, he's a little sad.
Mike [Brief pause; refers to Appa repeatedly licking Zuko.] Appa likes him.
Bryan [Laughs; refers to Zuko's frustrated and exasperated self-criticism, as he paces back and forth at his camp.] Some more great acting by Lauren Montgomery, she's very, very good at... very good at all these... character nuances.
Mike Yeah.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to the orange color palette on Team Avatar as the sun sets, long shadows being cast by the temple architecture.] The lighting came out pretty cool on this.
Mike [Refers to the sheer cliff faces in the background.] Yeah, it's a great location, really feel like you're up in the mountains, up in the cliffs.
Bryan I think if uh... if they get to make the third movie, Night's gonna have a hard time with this [Laughs.] location. [Mike chuckles.] Might have to...
Mike You don't think they can just build that?
Bryan Upside-well, [Mike laughs.] maybe there is an upside-down temple in the world, I don't know. They could just build a set, hang it off a cliff, [Mike affirms.] put some child actors in there, [Mike chuckles.] it'd be fine. [Brief pause; refers to the point of view shot from Sokka's perspective, framed from the inside of his mouth, his uvula in center-frame.] This is a fun shot. I remember a shot like this in uh... uh, Little Shop of Horrors...
Mike Oh yeah? [Laughs.]
Bryan ... the dentist, yeah. [Brief pause; refers to Aang revealing to the rest of Team Avatar that Zuko, disguised for the first time as the Blue Spirit, saved him when Katara and Sokka were sick.] So, we learn there that Aang never actually shared that story with them, um, when they were sick, and the whole crazy Blue Spirit adventure, [Mike gives an affirming murmur.] kept to himself. [Brief pause; refers to Sokka mockingly praising Zuko for not being cruel to animals, in comparison to all the other horrible things he's done.] That line always uh, raises a red flag for me because Avatar won a Genesis Award, which is the Humane Society [Bryan and Mike laugh.] Award, and then uh, now they're sort of making light of animal [Laughs.] cruelty. Sorry about that, [Mike chuckles.] Humane Society. I don't think we're...
Mike [Interjects.] We're just-we're just-just saying that Zuko maybe should win...
Bryan ... I don't think we're going to...
Mike ... su-such an award...
Bryan ... I don't think we're going to win another Genesis Award...
Mike ... for saving Appa.
Bryan ... at least not for this episode. [Mike chuckles.] It was an honor though, for the first one, thank you.
Mike Oh no, we didn't, there's no animal abuse in this episode.
Bryan Mike.
Mike What?
Bryan Pen is mightier than the sword. [Mike laughs; brief pause.] Kids, be nice to animals.
A brief pause in commentary until Aang ends the argument the rest of the group is having with Toph over accepting Zuko, saying he won't accept him as a firebending master.
Bryan Oh yeah, we-I just love this script, it's-it-we have really long dialogue scenes, which we don't normally have, [Mike gives an affirming murmur.] and uh, there's just so much, so many different points of view, and so much scene value in every one. It's really nice to-it's kind of like all of the different sides of an argument that would pop up in your head represented by these characters.
Mike [Refers to Zuko accidentally burning Toph's feet as she approaches his camp while he's asleep.] So, Zuko again makes it-a bad mistake here. [Refers to Zuko trying to apologize to Toph for his mistake.] See, as he says.
Bryan [Laughs.] He says, "I'm cool! [Mike chuckles.] C'mon, what about me?" [Brief pause; refers to Toph bending a pillar of earth into Zuko's chest, sending him flying back.] So, somebody was like, "hey, that's the move that hit Jet, and Jet didn't make it," but this was more of a shove, [Mike affirms.] it was a rough shove. Jet had more of a... boom.
Mike Well, there's also in martial arts that idea of like the intention behind a strike, right? Where, [Bryan affirms.] you know, Long Feng was evil, he had, he meant to uh...
Bryan [Interjects.] He had nefarious intentions.
Mike ... do something bad to Jet, [Bryan affirms.] I'm not sure what it was. [Bryan affirms] And uh...
Bryan [Interjects.] Toph is just like, "get away".
Mike Yeah.
Bryan Yeah.
Mike [Refers to Aang, Sokka, and Katara resting with Haru, The Duke, and Teo in the temple.] So, here's the, the f-the pilot episode of the Haru, Duke, Teo spinoff show we're working on.
Bryan [In a dramatic tone.] St-The Last Street Luger.
Mike So, there's...
Bryan [Interjects; refers to Teo coming into frame.] There he is.
Mike ... [Refers to Haru, The Duke and Teo heading back to explore the rest of the temple.] there's a lost episode um, where we follow them into the temple and stuff.
Bryan Twenty-two minutes [Mike chuckles.] just luging through corridors...
Mike [In the background.] That's pretty-pretty wild.
Bryan ... around statues, phosphorous... mushrooms.
Mike [Refers to Haru, The Duke, and Teo.] I remember, I think-I think it was this episode, since we had those characters, we're like, "should we do like-like a side story with them, you know, B-story or something?" and people pitched some ideas, and like they find some more Momos in the temple. There were all sorts of fun ideas, [Bryan laughs.] and uh, they just never really-they would always felt like, you know, we don't really need to know [Laughs.] what they're doing.
Bryan True filler.
Mike [Laughs.] Oh yeah.
Bryan I mean there's-but there's so much to say in this episode, [Mike affirms.] there really wasn't room. [Brief pause.] So uh, this script is just fantastic, and uh, Elizabeth and Tim wrote it and did an amazing job. [Brief pause.] It's really... probably-I mean, it feels like our most dialogue heavy episode ever.
Mike I think so, yeah. There's some action at the end, but... and it's also there's no side characters. Usually when we have to cast an episode, there's a number of, you know, new characters, or some generals, and whatever, this one's just... just the regulars, which was-which is cool. It's a f-it's fun to do just episodes like that.
Bryan And then even though we designed the, the Western Air Temple for this episode, we actually got to reuse it for a bunch, which we [Mike affirms.] almost [Laughs.] never get to do.
Mike Yeah, 'cause we kind of needed a, a base for them to, to stay at for a while, since they had already kind of walked around the Fire Nation for a while, they were now... you know, now the Fire Lord knew they were in the Fire Nation, so they, they needed a more secluded area to lay low for a bit.
As Zuko swings in from a vine, he knocks Combustion Man's aim off before he can hit Team Avatar, a triumphant trumpet playing in the background, to which Bryan imitates, laughing afterward.
Mike [Laughs.] Now we see Zuko come to the rescue.
Bryan Trying to clean up the mess he made with... putting this guy on uh, Aang's trail. [Refers to Zuko trying to order Combustion Man to stop targeting Aang, only for the assassin to turn on him.] So, the problem is Zuko got-you know, he hired uh, Combustion Man to take out Aang, but um, even if Zuko, you know, doesn't want him on the job anymore, uh, I think Combustion Man has pretty much figured out that it would be good for him in the Fire Lord's standing if he uh, did it anyway.
Mike Yeah. I could see too maybe Azula found him, told him to finish the job.
Bryan I think he's got [Mike laughs.] his own thing.
Mike He's a deep character, or something.
Bryan Yeah. So...
Mike [Interjects.] Lots of backstory that we don't know about.
Bryan ... [Refers to the now ruined fountain Team Avatar are using to take cover.] Kisu wa-uh, was happy to point out that the... fountain above uh, you know, this fountain right there [Mike gives an affirming murmur.] on their little... that it got blown up in this episode, but then it's totally fully formed in the next one, or something.
Mike Uh-huh. Oh, the...
Bryan [Interjects.] Yeah, but I just said, you know, Toph and Teo were bored, and...
Mike Yeah, they could've, they could've just fixed it.
Bryan ... just doing a little general contracting, you know.
Mike I thought we did track that though. 'Cause we-we knew there was going to be this fight, so we were like, "well, we need like a destroyed version too".
Bryan Well, but sometimes we say those things, [Mike affirms.] and they don't really happen.
Mike But that's the convenient thing about having earthbenders, they can fix stuff. [Bryan affirms.]
Bryan Yeah. I mean, I think earthbenders built this place in the first place. [Mike affirms.] Air Nation was like, "look, we need to add uh... [Mike laughs.] seventeen thousand square feet, uh, it's a-a negative grade, and uh, you know, we built it". [Mike chuckles; refers to Sokka throwing his boomerang directly at Combustion Man's third eye.] So, most of this action scene was boarded by Dean Kelly, and uh, I think Joaquim stepped in for this little bit. [Mike affirms.] So, this was my-I think this was my idea, I'm sorry if I'm [Mike affirms.] stepping on someone else's toes, or...
Mike [Interjects.] The boomerang stuff?
Bryan Yeah.
Mike I remember, yeah.
Bryan I just thought it was cool that, you know, especially like episode 304, Sokka's always feeling inferior. [Refers to Combustion Man evading or shrugging off Aang and Katara's bending.] But turns out none of these super benders can take this guy on, and Sokka has this skill. That was the key. [Refers to Sokka doing a twirl in the air as he grabs his returning boomerang.] I love that, [Laughs.] that's such a great Joaquim pose. [Refers to Sokka saying "aw, boomerang" after Combustion Man gets up, despite being hit by his expert throw.] And Jack does a great read here. [Laughs.]
Mike So...
Bryan [Interjects; refers to a dazed Combustion Man trying to bend another explosion out of his third eye, only to cause several small popping cracks, and one major, fatal explosion in his own vicinity.] So, we saw little hints of this [Mike affirms.] in 207.
Mike Where he's been-his third eye has been stunned. So, the...
Bryan [Interjects.] Kind of his chi is blocked.
Mike Yeah.
A brief pause in commentary until the building Combustion Man was standing on breaks apart, falling into the misty chasm below, with a nearby Haru, The Duke, and Teo poking their heads out from behind a pillar, clearly confused as to what just happened.
Mike There they are again, [Bryan chuckles.] they're like, "hey guys we just had this crazy adventure, what happened out here?"
Bryan [In a dramatic tone.] Tune in next week, for the [Mike chuckles.] exciting luging adventures of...
Mike [Brief pause; refers to Sokka angling his arms out as he takes credit for doing "the boomerang thing" to Combustion Man.] I love this one.
Bryan Man...
Mike [Laughs.] That pose and that read is hilarious, and the line.
Bryan Was that uh...
Mike That was Dean's pose, yeah.
Bryan Is that Dean's? Yeah. Looks like Yu Jae Myung did a g-nice job animating it. It's on par with when Sokka grabs Katara's hand at the end of 304, and she's like...
Mike [Interjects.] Oh, really-the really fast action?
Bryan Yeah. [Mike affirms; makes a "whoosh" sound effect.]
Mike I believe that was 306. For the record.
Bryan You're right! [Mike laughs.] I just work here. [Refers to Zuko calmly explaining the journey he's gone through to try and become a better person, what he needs to do now to continue doing the right thing, and apologizing to Toph for burning her feet with his lack of discipline.] So, yeah, here's where you're like, hey, you know, he's heartfelt, he's-he's not nervous this time, he's [Mike gives an affirming murmur.] speaking clearly and making his points well, and now that they saw, you know, how he threw, [Refers to Sokka's mouth being agape as Aang says Zuko was meant to be his teacher; laughs.] I love Sokka's expression-how he threw himself uh, into danger for their sake. [Refers to Aang personally accepting Zuko into the team, namely for saving them from Combustion Man and their mutual understanding of how easy it is to unintentionally hurt someone with firebending.] Um, they're buying it... but, as Mike said earlier, um, [Refers to the rest of Team Avatar following Aang's lead, but ignoring and walking away from Zuko after he tries to thank them] even though they accept him, you know, it's not like a-it's not like they have a big party.
Mike [Brief pause.] Yeah, in fact at the end, you know, he's all excited to-th-thinks there's going to be like a big group hug, and the kids just kinda quietly walk away from him. It's like, they realize they need him, but they're not super pals yet.
Bryan I remember when we started this series, I-I really thought Sokka would be the one who saw things more black and white, would have a hard time viewing Fire Nation members as, um, people. You know, I thou-I thought he would be [Mike gives an affirming murmur.] more sort of prejudicial, black and white, like they're evil, they're bad. But, you know, as the story progressed and we got to know the characters, and, um, it-you know, it really made more sense that Katara, and it's more interesting that way, [Mike affirms.] Katara, the person who was probably the most empathetic, um...
Mike She was hurt more emotionally by him.
Bryan Yeah, it's a, it's an interesting... comparison.
Mike [Refers to Sokka showing Zuko to his room, and awkwardly trying to welcome him to the team.] I like this awkward dude scene between [Bryan and Mike chuckle.] Zuko and Sokka.
Bryan [Refers to Zuko smiling at Sokka.] It's rare-it's so weird seeing Zuko smile. [Laughs.]
Mike Yeah.
Bryan [Refers to Sokka, in a slightly disconcerted tone, saying that interacting normally with Zuko is weird.] Yeah, more great voice acting by Jack.
A brief pause in commentary until Zuko flashes back again to his time with Iroh at the Western Air Temple, clinically stating that his destiny is to capture the Avatar.
Bryan A flash to the old, robotic Zuko, just [In the emotionless, distorted cadence of a robot.] mmm, destiny. [Mike chuckles.] Must capture. [Laughs.]
Mike It's nice to see Uncle too, even though he's, you know, he's-he's out there somewhere, we don't know where right now, but his spirit is still alive.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to Iroh advising Zuko to keep an open heart and mind as he finds his destiny.] So, that's a, you know, a very realistic thing I think for most people uh, the parents or mentors in your life give you some advice, and at the time you just, goes in one ear, out the other, and you're just not ready to accept it, and then years later you're like, "wow"...
Mike [In the background.] Oh-oh yeah...
Bryan ... often too-often too late to affect them.
Mike That makes sense, yeah. [Bryan affirms; refers to Katara telling Zuko she will end his destiny permanently if he ever hurts Aang again.] I just love this end scene with-'cause it's got this kind of like, you know, hey, everything's cool, they're all hanging out, and then you're like, "oh, oh man. She...
Bryan [Interjects.] She just snap.
Mike ... [Laughs.] she just told him s-some, some stuff.
Bryan [In a high dramatic voice.] Woman [Mike chuckles.] scorned! So, great job Elizabeth and Tim, and Ethan. Was one of our favorites, we hope you liked it too.
Mike Thanks again everyone who works on our show. It's-and we know it's not an easy show to make, but you've all made it, uh, really high quality, really great art and writing and music and it all, all aspects of the show.
Bryan Yeah, and nine more to go, right?
Mike I think so.
Bryan Wow.
Mike So, from this point on, Zuko's with the group and things are going to be different.
Bryan [In a dramatic high voice.] Field trips!
Mike We will prove to you that Zuko was cool.
Bryan [Laughs.] In case there was any doubt. [Mike laughs.]


See also