|“|| You have been subjected to enough pain. But you deserve someone to show you mercy. How different I would be if someone had.
Ratched is a prequel to Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the subsequent 1975 film adaptation, and follows the younger life of Nurse Ratched, the proto-typical heartless and corrupt psychiatric nurse. Ratched explores what events in Mildred's life preceding the original work led her to become so cold, and the concept that "monsters are made, not born".
- 1 Biography
- 2 Character Creation & Development
- 3 Appearances
- 4 Trivia
- 5 Gallery
- 6 References
Mildred was born in California in approximately 1909 or 1911 to a mother and father in an unstable marriage. Her father wanted children, having strong feelings that a family was not a family without them, whereas her mother did not want children and felt they were a burden. The strain of this irreconcilable difference in opinion caused the couple to separate and divorce, however her mother learned shortly after their separation that she was pregnant. Her father convinced her mother not to terminate the pregnancy, which she did despite her negative feelings towards children, and so Mildred was born.
When Mildred was very young, her father unexpectedly passed away. Her mother, who never wanted Mildred to begin with, became an alcoholic and raised Mildred for a few short years alone in a loveless home, eventually abandoning Mildred on the doorstep of an orphanage. Mildred's loss of her parents was so early in her life that she had no real memories of them and was unable to picture their faces, only remembering a "feeling" of them.
At the orphanage, Mildred was told the white lie that one day her parents would come back for her, but they never did. The false hope this instilled in her destroyed her trust in others and was something she carried for the rest of her life, later telling Dario Salvatore: "Your family doesn't ever want to see you again. It's something I wish someone had told me when I was young, so I could stop believing otherwise. How different I would be if someone had."
From the orphanage, Mildred was transferred to her first foster home, where she met her foster brother Edmund Tolleson. Their foster parents were physically and emotionally abusive, leading to them falling under the care of Anna, a kind caseworker who became a guardian angel figure to the children. Anna saw how Mildred and Edmund had bonded during their time with the abusive foster parents, and falsified their paperwork so that they were listed as biological siblings to keep them from being separated in future foster placements. Sadly, each subsequent foster placement was more abusive than the last, coming to a head when on one occasion Edmund was beaten so badly that Mildred feared he might die.
After Edmund's beating, Mildred and Edmund ran away to Anna, who found what she believed to be a "forever family"; they were to be adopted by a wealthy couple who lived in a mansion-like home. Initially the parents were kindly and generous, giving them presents, candy, and all the ice cream they could eat. This was a grooming tactic, however; in reality, the couple had adopted Mildred and Edmund in order to sexually abuse and exploit them. The couple had an oversized version of a marionette puppet theatre in their basement, where they forced Edmund and Mildred to perform sexual acts on one another for the entertainment of paying clients who would watch from the audience.
Mildred and Edmund decided they had to try and escape, but Edmund insisted the couple had to pay for what they had done. He went into their bedroom while they slept and gouged out their eyes with a pair of sharp scissors, ultimately killing them. Witnessing this act of violence, Mildred begged for him to run, for them to escape together, but he told her to leave on her own. Edmund was apprehended, while Mildred remained in the foster system for several years until she aged out. She spent two years trying to locate Edmund, eventually locating him at a juvenile detention center. The two planned for her to collect him on the day he was due to leave the facility so they could be together again, but Edmund lied about the day he was due to leave. When Mildred arrived he had already gone, disappearing once again.
In her adulthood, Mildred was compelled to become a nurse. She felt a calling to help others, which she later told Betsy Bucket was "a genuine calling that I knew was deep and abiding and true". However, as an orphan who had been passed between foster homes her whole childhood, she was poor and had no education. She decided to enlist in the military, where she successfully lied about her qualifications and was accepted into the United States Army Nurse Corps in March of 1943 as part of the Pacific Campaign in World War II. She served under Admiral Nimitz on the USS Rocky Mount, island hopping from Tarawa, to Saipan and Okinawa. Despite having no formal nursing training, she was a quick study "on the job" and soon became experienced in all aspects of nursing, chiefly administering anesthetics, blood products and other drugs, performing oxygen therapy, treating wounds, and helping treat shock and battle fatigue,. In at least one crisis situation was forced to amputate a soldier's destroyed leg in order to save his life, an event she found deeply traumatic.
Some soldiers she encountered were beyond saving or suffering through excruciating pain. On one such occasion, when pain medication would not arrive until the morning, a soldier with extensive explosive injuries and a missing limb begged her for death. He told her:
"My mother always believed each of us had angels. But they only appear when death is near, to help be a comfort to us as we pass. I think I see one. I think I see angels. You're an angel of mercy."
Though she initially said no, his implication that to end his suffering would be a kindness and a mercy resonated with her own experience of suffering through torment with no hope. She granted his wish and suffocated him with a pillow. From this point onwards, Mildred became an angel of mercy, suffocating the injured whose suffering she felt was too great to bear. By June of 1945, the unusual number of asphyxiations under Mildred's care who had no associated lung or throat injuries came to the attention of her superior officers, who initially recommended a court-martial. Because there was not enough evidence to prove what she had done, she was instead asked to leave of her own volition.
Having been forced out of military service, she returned home to California and worked as a waitress at a diner to make ends meet, but was filled with bitterness that she had been discarded despite, in her mind, her nursing service having been just as valid as all other nurses.
Mildred did not find Edmund again until 1947, when she heard he had been charged with the brutal murders of four priests and would likely be given the death penalty. From the news she learned that Edmund was to be transferred to Lucia State Hospital and, based on her past experience of successfully lying about her qualifications, and emboldened by all she had learned as an army nurse, she hatched a plan to lie about her qualifications once again and gain employment at the hospital in order to save Edmund's life, as he had saved hers. She forged a letter from Dr. Richard Hanover inviting her to come for a job interview, and moved into the Sealight Inn. While there, she began a sexual relationship with Charles Wainwright, a fellow resident of the motel, though she was only able to have sex with him by enacting elaborate and unsettling roleplaying scenarios.
Her job application to Lucia State Hospital was initially rejected, despite her impressive nursing experience, due to lack of state funding for additional nursing staff. Before leaving, she recalled stumbling upon nurse Amelia Emerson having sex in a bathroom, and decided to blackmail her into leaving the hospital in order to create a job opening. Following Amelia's exit, and without being accepted for any position or being given approval to do so, Mildred began working at the hospital on a volunteer basis. During an official visit by California governor George Wilburn and his press secretary Gwendolyn Briggs, she deliberately administered blood pressure medication to a patient in order that the visitors and Hanover would witness her "cure" him and improve the hospital's image. Based on her "heroics" she was chosen by Gov. Wilburn to appear in his publicity photos for the local paper where it was announced he would be increasing funding for the hospital.
That same day, she learned that Dario Salvatore's brother had died, and that the rest of his family had no plans to ever allow him to leave the hospital, but that the hospital personnel were not going to tell him. Resonating with her own history of being abandoned by her family and given false hope, she decided to be honest with him, disclosing that there was a letter opener in Dr. Hanover's office with which he could end his own life if he wished. Though his orchestrated suicide was an Angel of Mercy act on its surface, it was a calculated act; in helping Dr. Hanover to clean up after Dario's death in order to save his reputation, she was able to blackmail him into granting her a job at his side.
Now employed by the hospital as a Nurse, Mildred witnessed Edmund being brought into the custody of the hospital by the police, where he was to be kept in a makeshift maximum security jail in the hospital's wine cellar under armed guard. She was able to visit him in the cellar, where she was overjoyed to be reunited with him and promised she would stop him from being put to death.
S01E02: Ice Pick
Mildred was able to witness a pioneering psychiatric treatment being trialled by Dr. Hanover: lobotomy. The procedure was performed on four patients simultaneously and attended by a fairly sizeable crowd of local luminaries, press and nursing staff. The procedure, performed only under mild sedation instead of full anaesthesia, involved Dr. Hanover performing an excision on the head, trepanning back the skin, and then drilling through the skull and into the temporal lobe with a hand drill, with the goal of severing connections in the prefrontal cortex. The treatment was so graphic that several of the onlookers become visibly disgusted and nauseous, escalating until Ms. Hardcastle fainted when Dr. Hanover drilled into a patient's skull. The disgust of the other attendees necessitated Dr. Hanover using an alternative technique in future lobotomies, using a trans-orbital (through the eye socket) technique with an ice pick and hammer, instead of drilling through the skull. Mildred was completely transfixed by the procedure, and as the only member of the audience who was not disgusted, she used the experience to bond with Dr. Hanover over their shared aspiration of rehabilitating the mentally ill. She used this bond to negotiate for more humane treatment of Edmund.
Gwendolyn Briggs, who had also attended both version of the procedure, ran into Mildred in one of the hospital break rooms, formally introducing herself. She asked as to the possible whereabouts of her sack lunch, only to have Mildred tell her Nurse Bucket - who had previously stolen her own lunch - had almost certainly eaten it. In the ensuing conversation, Gwendolyn asked Mildred if she would be interested in being shown around the Monterey area that afternoon, particularly an oyster bar Gwendolyn had been wanting to try. Mildred eventually agreed to go, and they shared an intimately charged moment as Gwendolyn taught Mildred to eat oysters out of the shell. Briefly discussing the lobotomy procedures they had witnessed, Gwendolyn suggested a nightcap after their food. She drove them to what was ultimately a women's bar, assuming Mildred was similarly interested in women and had been reciprocating her subtle flirtations. Mildred rebuked that idea harshly, insisting on calling a taxi, and leaving Gwendolyn to drive home by herself.
The modified version of the lobotomy technique using an easily obtainable household tool inspired Mildred to use it to incapacitate Father Andrews, the only living witness to Edmund's murder of the priests. Going to meet with him, she manipulated Father Andrews into trusting her by feigning that she was a fellow Catholic who had lost her faith after hearing what Edmund had done. He agreed to have a meeting with her in a hotel where she said she would record an interview about what he had seen in order to prove Edmund's actions were pre-meditated. Instead, she drugged Father Andrews with a sedative, tied him to the bed, and performed a deliberately botched lobotomy on him using an ice pick. Following the lobotomy, Father Andrews was rendered brain damaged and no longer able to communicate, and thus would not be able to be a witness at Edmund's trial or provide an affidavit, effectively removing another obstacle in the way of Edmund's freedom.
S01E03: Angel of Mercy
The lobotomies Dr. Hanover had performed were unsuccessful for Lily Cartwright and Ingrid Blix; the lobotomies only decreased their inhibitions, and thus Lily and Ingrid, who were both closet lesbians, began engaging in a sexual relationship at the hospital. Lily was witnessed performing oral sex on Ingrid by Nurse Ratched, who reported what she had seen to Dr. Hanover. In response to the failure of the lobotomies, Dr. Hanover had specialized baths installed in one of the basement rooms for a new "hot and cold" treatment which had reportedly had a good response for patients in Switzerland. Dr. Hanover allowed Nurse Bucket to take the lead in the treatment protocols for these new baths, and she followed his protocols to the letter, despite their barbaric nature. The protocol involved introducing the patient into a "balmy" 99F (37C) temperature warm bath, then sealing the patient inside the locked chamber leaving only their head unsubmerged, then increasing the temperature to scalding 117F (47C) for twenty minutes. After the twenty minutes was complete, the patient was then removed and submerged in an ice bath for five minutes. Lily was the first patient at the hospital to receive this treatment, suffering to the point of nearly passing out, only able to cope with it due to being soothed by Mildred. At the end of the treatment Lily was unable to stand and, delirious and barely conscious, having to be carried out of the baths and back to her bed.
Because the treatment was essentially torture, both Mildred and Nurse Huck Finnigan were completely appalled by having to assist in it, with Huck in particular determined that no other patient would be put through it again. The treatment did not have genuine pathological results in patients, instead acting as a type of aversion therapy, where patients are so afraid of having to go through the same treatment again that they lie and insist they are cured of their ailments. Indeed, following the treatment, Lily told Nurse Bucket that all her "sapphic ideations" had gone, and Nurse Bucket believed her, which unfortunately only lead to Dr. Hannover approving for Ingrid to receive the same hydrotherapy treatment as Lily.
Following Lily's "successful" hydrotherapy treatment, Mildred was instructed the following morning to bring Ingrid to her hydrotherapy session. Ingrid disclosed to Mildred that after her first sexual encounter with Lily, it cemented for both her and Lily that being attracted to women - and each other - was undeniably their true self. Ingrid begged for Mildred to boil her alive in the hydrotherapy bath so that she could be free from the emotional torment that denying her true self brought her - imploring that Mildred could not possibly know how it feels to endure. Mildred tried to comfort her, but had to bring Ingrid to the hydrotherapy room on Dr. Hannover's orders. Fortunately, Huck had sabotaged the pipe for the hydrotherapy bath ahead of time, blaming it on rats when questioned by Bucket, so Ingrid's hydrotherapy treatment was delayed.
Mildred invited Charles Wainwright back to her room for another strained and awkward sexual encounter, this time using a roleplay scenario based around her own experiences in the war. While trying to absorb herself in the fantasy of kissing a soldier in order to get through the experience, she found her fantasy getting interrupted by intrusive thoughts of Gwendolyn in the place of the soldier, kissing her. She quickly made Charles switch positions so he could no longer see her face, unable chase away the thoughts of Gwendolyn and their implication. Afterwards, as Charles got ready to leave, he let slip to Mildred that he had spent the day chasing a "dirty Pinoy" (Filipino) all over town. Surmising this could likely only be Dr. Hanover, as one of the few Filipino men in the small town of Lucia. The following day, Charles shot at Hanover's car in a failed assassination attempt, but he managed to successfully flee.
The following day, Mildred invited Hanover to dinner at the oyster bar to discuss why he was being hunted. He disclosed to her that a few years prior, he met Lenore Osgood, a wealthy heiress who had asked him to treat her son Henry. Henry suffered with piquerism, the sexual compulsion to prick people with needles, which had escalated to the point he had stabbed their gardener with a leather punch. Hanover agreed to treat him with LSD, but while Hanover was distracted, Henry poured the rest of bottle into Hanover's glass, overdosing him. Both Henry and Hanover soon felt the effects, with Hanover incapacitated on the floor. Henry became increasingly manic, rambling that a deity had been coming into his room and had stolen his arms, replacing with someone else's (Body integrity dysphoria). He left the room and returned with the gardener's arm's, which he had amputated, then amputated and mutilated his own arms so that Hanover would be forced to sew the gardener's arms onto him in order to save his life. In the aftermath Henry had become septic, necessitating the amputation of both arms and both his legs. His mother, Lenore, developed a vendetta against Hanover, and had employed private investigator Charles Wainwright to locate and assassinate him. Mildred told Hanover she would help to protect him.
S01E04: Angel of Mercy, Part II
Unnoticed by Mildred, Edmund, who had gone years without physical affection, had become infatuated with nurse trainee Dolly, who was sexually attracted to dangerous men. Mildred heard from Huck that a guard had caught her masturbating him and was repulsed by this, thinking that Dolly was beneath him, and so tried to dissuade Edmund from pursuing her. He became angry and then distressed, pleading that he had never had the chance to learn to love after the abusive childhood they had both shared, and that it would benefit them both if his mental health could be improved by knowing the love of a woman. Mildred was unmoved by his pleas and threatened to remove Dolly from Edmund's life altogether, prompting Edmund to turn and come on to Mildred instead, grabbing her hand and forcing it towards his crotch, saying, "If you don't let me form a relationship with a real woman... well then, you're going to have to suffice." She quickly retaliated, digging her nails into his arm in return and stating in no uncertain terms, "Let me be very clear. I will never do that with you again". Realizing Edmund's interest in Dolly could be used as a benefit to him as well as Mildred's plan to save him, Mildred formulated a plan in which Edmund and Dolly would be able to have an unsupervised sexual encounter in the hydrotherapy (hot and cold treatment) room.
Shortly thereafter, Gwendolyn moved into the Sealight Inn, having just left her husband, unaware that it was where Mildred was also living. Mildred bumped into Gwendolyn in the reception area, and helped her get situated in her hotel room. Questioning if her husband had hurt her, Mildred had no way of knowing Gwendolyn was a publicly closeted lesbian and had been in a marriage of convenience with a gay man, Trevor Briggs, for three years. Gwendolyn explained that she could no longer live a lie by denying herself the opportunity to form a real, meaningful, loving relationship with a woman, leaving the implication that she left him because she had fallen for Mildred floating in the air. Panicked, Mildred left the room to go to work.
At the hospital, Mildred arrived to bring Ingrid to her hydrotherapy session, and Ingrid disclosed to Mildred that after her first sexual encounter with Lily, it cemented for both herself and Lily that being attracted to women - and each other - was undeniably their true self. She explained that Lily had told her what the hydrotherapy would entail and begged for Mildred to boil her alive in the bath so that she could be free from the emotional torment that denying her true self brought her - insisting that Mildred could not possibly know how it felt to endure. Already discomfited at having to administer the hydrotherapy, Mildred tried to comfort her, pushing down her own complicated feelings about her attraction to Gwendolyn in the process, but had to bring Ingrid to the hydrotherapy room on Dr. Hanover's orders. Fortunately, Huck had sabotaged the pipe for the hydrotherapy bath ahead of time, blaming it on rats when questioned by Bucket, so Ingrid's hydrotherapy treatment was delayed.
That evening, Mildred left a note at the front desk, and when he arrived at her room, confronted Charles about the fact she'd learned he was hunting Dr. Hanover, offering to help him get access to him. He was initially hesitant to ally with her given that she was willing to give Hanover up so easily, but she countered that she had no sympathy for Hanover because of him being potentially responsible for "a brute who murdered four priests in cold blood". She then began to seduce him again in order to fully convince him to work with her, but insisted nothing could happen until he apologized for saying she was bad at sex. Charles didn't seem keen to take her demand seriously, and in her anger she grabbed him by the throat, realizing he preferred his sexual encounters to be rough. With this knowledge she threw him onto the bed and initiated a much rougher sexual encounter than their previous one. Afterwards, Mildred made a phone-call to draw Hanover to the hospital so that Charles could assassinate him.
Unbeknownst to either Mildred or Charles, Gwendolyn had followed Charles outside to Mildred's room and had heard them having sex. Waiting until after Charles left, she knocked on Mildred's door to confront her about what she'd seen and heard. Mildred coolly dodged Gwendolyn's questions about Charles, aware of how upset Gwendolyn was, given her feelings for Mildred. Eventually Gwendolyn gave Mildred Wilburn's ultimatum - have Edmund deemed fit for trial, or lose funding to the hospital. Mildred agreed to pass on the message, but pointedly added that was all she could do for Gwendolyn, closing the door behind her. Mildred drove Charles to the hospital, unaware that Gwendolyn had decided to travel to the hospital as well to follow her.
Arriving at the hospital and ensuring Charles snuck in without suspicion, Huck interrupted her and worriedly informed her that Nurse Bucket had fixed the hydrotherapy bath and intended to give Ingrid the protocol the following morning. Putting her plans for Hanover to the side for a moment, they both quickly decided that they needed to act immediately, and hatched a plan where Huck would smuggle both Ingrid and Lily out of the hospital by car. Huck's part involved entering Lily's room, having her pack and put on a disguise, and helping her escape through a side door and into a waiting car. Meanwhile, Mildred woke Ingrid from her sleep and helped her to dress and pack, bringing her outside to Huck and Lily's awaiting car. Mildred helped Ingrid inside and gave Huck an envelope of petty cash she stole from Nurse Bucket's office, instructing him to use it to put them on whichever train was going furthest away from Lucia. Ingrid was appreciative, but asked Mildred why she had helped them; Mildred told Ingrid that despite Ingrid's earlier assertion, she did in fact understand the pain of hiding one's true self, effectively disclosing out loud for the first time that she, too, was attracted to women. Mildred and Lily touched hands through the car window before Mildred quickly fled back into the hospital before anyone noticed she was missing.
When she had called Hanover to the hospital as part of her and Charles's "plan", she had actually informed Hanover that Charles was coming, so that Hanover could be prepared and kill him first. When Charles entered Hanover's unlit office, Hanover snuck up behind him and smashed him over the head with a large paperweight, incapacitating but not killing him. Mildred arrived in the office and assisted Hanover, putting gauze on Charles's head injury to disguise him as a patient and using a wheelchair to transport him to the hydrotherapy room. There, they sealed him into the hot bath and raised the temperature to 150F (65C). They left him there, believing the hot water would be enough to kill him. He managed to smash his way out of the bath and escape, covered in such extensive burns that he could barely walk, only crawl. He managed to make his way to one of the main corridors, where he was confronted by Peter, accompanied by Harold the guard. He got onto his feet and began walking towards Peter. Harold shot Charles dead in self-defense.
Meanwhile, Gwendolyn had made her way inside the hospital, traveling to Dr. Hanover's darkened office and discovering Wainwright's still-wet blood on the floor. Seeing an opportunity, she passed Wilburn's ultimatum on to Hanover, emphasizing how important it was while pointedly wiping the blood off her hands. Mildred started to interrupt their conversation before all three were distracted by the gunshot, and quickly moved to find its source. Stumbling onto the body of Wainwright, Gwendolyn was horrified at his burns, and questioned what had happened to him. Hanover and Mildred constructed a lie that he had been a schizophrenic patient that they had left in a warm bath as part of his treatment protocol when they were interrupted by an intruder alert, which Mildred said was Gwendolyn herself, at which point he must have raised the temperature on his own. At Mildred's implication the blame was on her for intruding into the hospital, Gwendolyn insisted on speaking to the police, only to have Mildred turn the tables and question what the governor's press secretary being involved, no matter how accidentally, in a death would do to his re-election campaign. Upset, she left the hospital and returned to the Sealight Inn. Mildred and Hanover cleaned up the evidence of Charles' murder and incinerated his body and clothing, but not before Mildred took his Sealight Inn room key.
When she arrived back at the Sealight, Mildred joined Gwendolyn where she was sat smoking in her car, trading barbs with her until Mildred explained she could see Gwendolyn was truly shaken and wanted to offer some comfort. To Gwendolyn's surprise, Mildred then asked if she would like to go out again, with Gwendolyn warily clarifying Mildred knew what she was asking. Mildred then explained they could celebrate her new life without a husband, and openly confessed that Gwendolyn's courage inspired her. Gwendolyn agreed to Mildred's suggestion, and walked Mildred to her door before continuing on to her own.
However, instead of entering her room, Mildred headed for Charles's, and using his stolen room key looked for information regarding Lenore Osgood, locating her phone number in an address book, along with a large check. She then headed to reception, which was empty, and used the phone to contact Lenore, informing her she had killed Charles and arranging a meeting with her at the Starlight Inn.
The following morning, following the escape of Lily and Ingrid, the police had been notified and although Lily's husband Mr. Cartwright was furious about Lily's disappearance, Huck assured Mildred that they had gotten away safely on the train. Huck feared that Betsy would be furious, but Mildred reassured him that she had plans for her. Huck called her an angel of mercy for what she'd done for Ingrid and Lily, instantly reminding her of the soldier who had called her the same thing. She was very touched, though lied and told Huck she had never heard anyone call her that before.
S01E05: The Dance
Mildred later had a tense meeting with Dr. Hanover at Guido's, an upper-class restaurant and bar. She tried to negotiate with Hanover that Edmund should not be deemed fit to stand trial, but, when he stood up to her and tried to tell her he would not be bullied by neither her nor Govenor Wilburn, she leveraged that if she revealed his involvement surrounding the deaths of Charles and Dario, both his career and the future of Lucia State Hospital would be over. Backing him into a corner, she successfully blackmailed him into firing Betsy Bucket and installing herself as Head Nurse at the hospital.
Now Head Nurse, Mildred took advantage of her new position to organize a "spring fling" dance for the patients and staff. Her aim was to have Edmund attend alongside the rest of the hospital population and give him an opportunity to prove, once and for all, that he was mentally unstable and not fit to stand trial. Edmund told Mildred his plan was to start speaking in tongues and cut himself in front of everyone, using a razor blade that Mildred would hide for him.
After speaking to the hospital staff about the dance, Mildred approached Betsy to try and smooth things over, gifting her a peach as a peace offering. Betsy was frank that it was difficult to see Mildred in her old position, but she was not going to undermine Mildred's authority. Mildred said she appreciated her honesty and falsely told Betsy her consistent appeals to Hanover hadn't been for naught as Mildred knew he had feelings for her. At Betsy's surprise, she insisted that his coldness had been a front and that perhaps he hadn't known how to approach her, telling Betsy she should ask him to the dance. When Betsy didn't know how to respond, Mildred suggested her demotion had maybe had a reasoning behind it - with her no longer an authority in the hospital as Head Nurse, Hanover could view her as a woman instead. Leaving a pleased Betsy with the parting idea to 'think about it', as they would make the 'perfect couple', Mildred immediately went to Hanover's office and told him in no uncertain terms he was to accept Betsy's invitation to the dance, insisting he needed to trust her judgment.
In truth, Nurse Bucket, who was devastated and seeking revenge for being deposed as Head Nurse by Mildred, was cordial to her face but behind her back hatched a plan with her close friend Louise - while Mildred was busy attending the dance, Louise would break into Mildred's room and rifle through her belongings for information and blackmail material.
A short time later, a new patient, Charlotte Wells, self-admitted to Lucia State Hospital. Charlotte became increasingly more agitated and aggressive during her initial interview with Hanover, and was given and proscribed a sedative "sleep cure" for six days to allow her nervous system to rest. Despite different diagnoses from previous doctors, Hanover diagnosed her with post-traumatic Dissociative Identity Disorder. Mildred watched as Hanover, showing an unusual amount of tenderness, managed to convince Charlotte that she would be safe at the hospital under his care. Following him, Hanover initially pushed back at what he thought would be new orders from Mildred regarding Charlotte's treatment, but Mildred agreed that Charlotte was an extraordinary case. She pointed out that if Charlotte could be cured, it would draw Governor's Wilburn's focus away from Edmund as well as bring money in to the hospital, and encouraged him in his single-minded endeavor to properly treat Charlotte. He began a series of hypnosis sessions with Charlotte in which she disclosed she had been tortured over a nine-day period in which she was kidnapped, trapped in a closet, stripped naked, and repeatedly assaulted. Over time these hypnosis sessions reduced her general panic response, leading to fewer events of her alternate personalities taking control. Because of this marked and measurable improvement, it renewed Hanover's belief in the ability of psychiatric medicine, and Charlotte became Hanover's well-known pet project.
As promised, that Friday Mildred went on their second date to the oyster bar with Gwendolyn. At Gwedolyn's questioning, she revealed to Gwendolyn that she did have feelings for her that she was still coming to terms with. Gwendolyn quickly assured her that she understood, that it had taken her quite a while to understand her own attraction, and revealed she'd been very in love with a nurse who had served and died in the war. Mildred mused that it was funny, then, that she was a nurse, and told Gwendolyn about her promotion and the upcoming dance. She invited Gwendolyn to attend the dance with her as her "companion", to which Gwendolyn enthusiastically agreed.
Mildred later met with Lenore Osgood, who had initially traveled to Lucia to meet with her, but was staying in San Francisco due to insufficient lodging. Mildred explained that she would be willing to aid Lenore in her plan to assassinate Dr. Hanover in exchange for $1,000,000. She tried to bargain that she understood Lenore because she, too, was acting as a guardian for a sick family member, and wanted to use the sum of money to help him. Lenore saw through her emotional manipulation and became horrified and angry at Mildred's attempt to take advantage of her, and stalked out of the meeting. Later, after learning that Lenore had begun pursuing Hanover herself, Mildred met with her again at Lenore's luxury apartment. This time, Mildred was able to successfully negotiate that she would assassinate Hanover herself for $100,000.
The day of the scheduled dance arrived, with Mildred attending with Gwendolyn, where they held hands behind a table where they could not be seen, and Gwendolyn lamented that they weren't able to be seen dancing like any other couple. Edmund arrived at the dance, and Mildred informed him where she had hidden the razor blade before returning to Gwendolyn's side. Hanover, high on prescription medications and who had been forced to attend the dance with Betsy by Mildred, reached his limit and snapped at Betsy, emotionally tearing her down. Betsy fled the room weeping, pursued by both Gwendolyn and Mildred, who helped to patch her up in the bathroom. Mildred was able to build her confidence back up by highlighting all of Bucket's good qualities, in the first moment of personal connection between the Betsy and Mildred since her arrival at Lucia.
Mildred returned to the dance in time for Edmund to enact what she believed was the plan they had agreed on. Unbeknownst to Mildred, Edmund and Dolly had hatched a new plan, which they set in motion: Edmund retrieved the razor blade and used it to slit the throat of Harold the guard. Dolly then took Harold's gun. Hearing the screams, Gwendolyn entered the room and tried to talk Dolly down, but Dolly shot her in the chest. Seizing the opportunity, Edmund and Dolly fled, escaping the hospital. Mildred ran to Gwendolyn's side as she laid on the ground and cradled her as she began bleeding out on the floor.
S01E06: Got No Strings
Gwendolyn survived her emergency surgery, which Mildred watched through the window. She sat at Gwendolyn's bedside and held her hand as she recovered, unconscious and attached to a ventilator. Mildred was distraught, realizing how acting as an accomplice to Edmund had nearly caused her to lose Gwendolyn forever. Believing Gwendolyn was still unconscious and could not hear her, she began confessing the truth about her relationship with Edmund, only for Gwendolyn to open her eyes and interrupt her. Elated to see her awake and alive, Mildred called for a doctor who attend to her.
During Gwendolyn's recovery, Mildred became disturbed at a marionette show playing on Gwendolyn's television, reminded of memories of her past sexual abuse. She snapped at a nurse to put on more age appropriate programming, but Gwendolyn reassured her that she'd chosen the program. Mildred tried to tamp down her thoughts so that Gwendolyn could enjoy the program, but was inwardly very distressed. Some days later, when Gwendolyn was ready to be discharged from the hospital, Gwendolyn suggested that Mildred help her drive to a work function, with the two of them stopping to attend a marionette show on the way. When Mildred reacted badly to the suggestion - becoming once more distressed and agitated - Gwendolyn assumed Mildred was pushing her away and became defensive, accusing Mildred of never letting anyone close to her and plainly stating she was tired of the 'cat-and-mouse' in their relationship and was ready to end things. Mildred, seeing her opportunity to be with Gwendolyn slipping through her fingers again, pushed her feelings down once more. She told Gwendolyn that she was willing to do whatever she wanted to do - including attend the marionette show - because nearly losing Gwendolyn had made her confused feelings clear.
At the marionette show, as they found their seats Mildred was initially uncomfortable but happy that she had been able to please Gwendolyn, who was excited and grateful that they had come together. However as the lights came on and the narrator began, Mildred began dissociating, viscerally reminded of the sexual abuse inflicted on her in the recreation marionette theatre in her adoptive parents' basement. Instead of the puppet show that the audience were seeing she instead envisioned a recreation of her own traumatic childhood recreated in marionettes - from her parental abandonment, through the abusive foster homes, to her sexual exploitation and Edmund murdering their adoptive parents. Eventually reaching her limit, she rose from her seat and began yelling at the narrator, fleeing the theatre.
Back in the car, Gwendolyn confronted Mildred about what had happened, demanding she stop the car and revealing she knew Mildred was about to confess something to her as she awoke from surgery. She asked who Mildred really was, resulting in Mildred explaining her history and subsequent complicated relationship with Edmund to a shocked and horrified Gwendolyn.
Edmund and Dolly were successfully hunted down by police at a nearby farmhouse, where Dolly was shot to death after taking down two officers with a shotgun. He was returned to Lucia with increased security, with Mildred there in her capacity as Head Nurse to sign off on his re-internment to the hospital. Edmund tried to talk to her, but she spoke back to him with hatred, telling him he should "thank his lucky stars these officers didn't blow your head off".
Following Edmund being re-apprehended, Mildred and Gwendolyn attended a meeting between Governor Wilburn and Dr. Hanover, with Wilburn expressing his disgust at his choice to support Lucia and how poorly the Tolleson case was being handled. None in attendance were able to successfully negotiate with Wilburn, only able to watch as Wilburn demanded Hanover sign the paperwork to deem Edmund fit to stand trial or lose funding for the hospital, which Hanover ultimately caved to.
S01E07: The Bucket List
While on shift at the hospital, Huck interrupted Mildred to check up on how she was feeling after the violence at the dance. Like Mildred, for Huck it had put things into perspective for him, and gave him the courage to ask Mildred out on a date. Mildred kindly turned him down, disclosing that she was coming to terms with the fact she was attracted to women. Though disappointed, Huck was respectful of her, explaining that it was not so much love that he was missing in his life, but a sense of purpose. He told her he wouldn't tell a soul about her secret, and left quickly.
Louise, in cahoots with Betsy, had successfully broken into Mildred's apartment during the dance and stolen a number of items, including Charles' papers, newspaper clippings about Edmund, and Mildred's recording of Father Andrews' forced lobotomy. Betsy began putting the pieces together, as well as doing some additional investigation of her own, accessing Mildred's army records. She took all she had unearthed and confronted Mildred at the hotel, presenting the lobotomy recording as the smoking gun. Realizing she was backed into a corner and had met her match, Mildred broke down and confessed about her relationship to Edmund, the fact she had been an angel of mercy during the war, and had lied her way into Lucia State on false credentials. Mildred and Betsy had an unexpected moment of true emotional connection, bonding over the fact that they both had "done stupid things in the service of stupid men". Knowing all the information Betsy had on her, she agreed to work with Betsy on a plan to depose Hanover as head of Lucia State.
Mildred and Betsy met with Doris Mayfair, a wealthy heiress whose family were the greater part of Lucia State's funding. Doris was extremely invested in financially supporting the hospital, as Doris' sister had developed severe mental illness which was poorly managed, leading to her being forced by her parents to live in a cage within their home for years until she escaped and jumping to her death out of a window. Mildred and Betsy originally planned to argue that Hanover should be deposed due to his drug abuse, but Mildred - on seeing it did not have the desired impact - revealed Hanover's true identity to Doris and Betsy, and his botched attempt at treating Henry Osgood. Seeing the seriousness of his crimes, Doris agreed Hanover should be stripped of his role, and agreed with Mildred and Betsy's suggestion that Betsy should take over the hospital in the interim. In the car, Mildred implored Betsy to promote Huck to Head Nurse, seeing an opportunity for him to have the sense of purpose he desired.
Back at the hospital, Bucket handed Hanover a letter detailing his dismissal from the hospital. She revealed that she knew about his crimes, but out of her long-held respect for him up until this point, she was willing to give him the opportunity to flee the hospital before the police arrived. Hanover hastily began leaving the hospital, collecting Charlotte Wells on the way, intending to smuggle her out with him. He was confronted by a guard who tried to prevent him from leaving with a patient, but Mildred, seeing this, intervened. Mildred asked Charlotte if she believed Hanover's treatments had helped her, to which Charlotte enthusiastically agreed. With this consent, and the fact Charlotte had voluntarily admitted herself, Mildred was able to use her position as Head Nurse to convince the guard to allow them to leave together, but not before reminding Hanover that she knew the price on his head. Mildred phoned Lenore to inform her that because Hanover had fled, she would no longer be able to assassinate him.
On the run, Hanover and Charlotte checked into a hotel where he purchased two rooms for the night under an alias. The mild sedation Hanover had given Charlotte to make the journey more tolerable and safe had begun to wear off, leaving her feeling woozy and disoriented. When there was a knock on the door of their motel room, Hanover panicked and forced Charlotte to hide in a closet. This triggered an episode for Charlotte, who was traumatized by her previous incident of being trapped into a closet. When Hanover let her out she was dissociating, switching rapidly between multiple personalities, before her dominant, aggressive personality Apollo took control. Charlotte as Apollo hit Hanover around the face repeatedly, then stabbed him multiple times in his chest and torso, killing him.
Charlotte woke up sitting on the floor of the bathroom covered in blood, but with no recollection of the incident. She discovered Hanover's corpse and, panicked, called Mildred for help. Mildred arrived and helped to de-escalate Charlotte's panic, reassuring her that she knew that Charlotte would never have done anything to deliberately harm Hanover and that it wasn't her fault. She helped clean Charlotte up, gave her clean clothes to wear, and took her to the bus station. She booked Charlotte on a bus to San Diego, and instructed her to cross the border to Mexico, where the San Luis Hospital in Ensenada would be able to help her continue her treatment. Mildred gave her $50, with the promise to send her more in a few weeks.
With Charlotte gone, Mildred obtained a bone saw from a local hardware store and used it to decapitate Hanover's corpse. She put his head in a box and presented it to Lenore, in exchange for the $100,000 reward. Lenore showed the severed head to her son Henry, hoping it would help bring him closure. Instead, Henry had the gardener stab Lenore to death with a pitchfork in her back.
At the motel, Mildred had a visit from her old foster system case worker, Anna. Anna was still wracked with guilt about the abuse Mildred and Edmund had endured. She gave her several documents about Edmund's case, and told Mildred that Edmund's murder of the four priests had been pre-meditated in retaliation; his mother had been raped by one of the priests, and Edmund was the result. Edmund had never told her any of this, including Mildred, and Mildred was struck by the feeling that she had been wasting her time trying to save someone who might be beyond redemption.
When Mildred arrived at Gwendolyn's house and she reluctantly let inside. Gwendolyn bluntly explained that she had lost her job and was moving, and accused Mildred of lying and using her and her position to manipulate events from the beginning of their friendship and into their relationship. In the ensuing argument, Mildred tried to justify her actions, with Gwendolyn refuting her justifications, pointing out how Mildred's lies had cost her everything, and that she could put no trust in Mildred's declaration of love or her own feelings because of her manipulation.
As Mildred continued to try and convince her to accept her plans for their future, explaining Dr. Hanover's death and her newfound wealth, Gwendolyn continued to pull away, growing more and more agitated with each reveal. When Mildred demanded to know why she couldn't leave and start a new life with her, Gwendolyn finally revealed her real reason for moving - a follow-up x-ray to check her healing progress the day before had found a lump in her left breast, and the prognosis was terminal. She fought Mildred's insistence they would find a treatment before giving in, reciprocating Mildred's declaration of love and embracing her in a kiss.
Mildred was there to witness Betsy becoming the official interim head of the hospital, giving an impassioned speech to the assembled about the bright future of the hospital under her care, and promoting Huck to Head Nurse.
S01E08: Mildred and Edmund
Mildred moved into Gwendolyn's home and helped support her through the beginning stages of her chemotherapy treatment. Mildred began researching treatment options for Gwendolyn, and had found a doctor in Mexico with a pioneering new treatment that had some success. With Edmund due to be executed, she hoped that she and Gwendolyn would be able to start a new life together in Mexico, and presented her idea to Gwendolyn; Gwendolyn praised this idea, imagining herself able to die peacefully next to Mildred, who she was sure would go on to accomplish great things afterwards. Mildred rebuked this notion, however, and Gwendolyn eventually agreed to Mildred's idea of moving to Mexico in order to procure a doctor to treat her.
Their plans were put on hold after hearing about the Governor's insistence in reverting back to the electric chair for executions, and Gwendolyn arranged for a meeting with Wilburn in order to appeal for a humane execution by lethal injection, but Wilburn rebuffed them. Mildred came up with a new plan in which she would herself deliver the lethal injection to an unsuspecting Edmund in the animal barn. Mildred and Gwendolyn presented this idea in a meeting with Betsy, who agreed with their plan but asked if it would be less upsetting for Mildred if Betsy were to deliver the lethal dose, but Mildred insists that it has to be her.
While visiting Betsy, Mildred also visited Edmund and served him his dinner. Their conversation was tense, with Edmund suspicious that Mildred must have a plan, and questioned whether this meant his execution had been brought forward and if it was his final meal; she assured him that he still had two weeks left to live. They finally got some of their long held grudges out in the open; Mildred felt she had given up her life to try and rescue Edmund, but Edmund felt that he had given his life up for Mildred when he let her run away from him murdering their adoptive parents. Some of the weight off the shoulders, Mildred told Edmund that she'd convinced Betsy to allow them an hour alone in the animal barn together in the coming days, which pleased Edmund.
Mildred was never able to enact her plan, however; Charlotte Wells, who had greatly mentally deteriorated since Hanover's death, arrived at the hospital to free Edmund, believing herself to be Hanover himself. In the process of freeing Edmund she held Betsy at gunpoint and executed Huck and another guard. Edmund took the guard's shotgun and forced Betsy into his cell, interrogating her about Mildred's plan, and she was forced to tell him that Mildred planned to kill him herself. Edmund felt angry and betrayed. He fled the hospital with Charlotte in a car Charlotte had purchased with the money Mildred had sent her. Mildred witnessed Charlotte and Edmund driving in the opposite direction as she arrived for their barn visit.
By 1950, she and Mildred had since moved to Mexico, living peacefully while Gwendolyn received treatments of mistletoe which had nearly cured her cancer. There, they were visited by Betsy Bucket. Despite two years and many miles separating them, Mildred was still plagued with night terrors about Edmund coming after them, and Mildred still insisted on checking the newspapers each day for any news of Edmund. On one such occasion, Gwendolyn read an article aloud about a multiple murder in Chicago involving seven nurses, and Mildred immediately suspected it was Edmund sending a message. Mildred received a call from Edmund on the hotel restaurant phone and Mildred, angered that someone in her life had betrayed where they were peacefully living to him, warned Edmund that although he might be coming after her, she too would be coming after him.
Character Creation & Development
Nurse Mildred Ratched originated as a character in Ken Kesey's 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the subsequent 1975 movie adaptation of the same name by Miloš Forman, where she was portrayed by Louise Fletcher, for which she won the 1975 Academy Award for Best Actress. Nurse Ratched is the main antagonist to protagonist McMurphy, a criminal newly admitted to a mental institution. Nurse Ratched as depicted in Cuckoo's Nest was a cold, heartless tyrant and the prototypical metaphor for the corrupting influence of institutional power and authority.
Ratched is a prequel planned to plot Mildreds origin story over four seasons, spanning from the 40s until it catches up with her character as she appears in Cuckoo's Nest. Co-creator Ryan Murphy says the plan is to explore: "How did she become a Hannibal Lecter figure? What happened to her to make her do that? It’s also a feminist tale because it starts in 1947. It really looks at the birth of a lot of things that were happening in our health care system. The last season of that show will be Sarah (Paulson) facing off against the Jack Nicholson character from the movie. It’ll let you understand how she became that person. It'll sort of be Sarah Paulson versus the male villain every year until you get to a worthy adversary. That’s the structure of that show but it has leaps of time forward because I'm interested in looking at health care in the '40s, '50s, '60s and ultimately where it ends up in that last season."
Screenwriter Evan Romansky wrote the pilot spec script for what would become Ratched in the Spring and Summer 2016 while still studying film at Loyola Marymount University. He started on the idea of exploring Nurse Mildred Ratched's backstory while trying to figure out a premise that he could use to show off his screenwriting skills: "I was really just trying to think of some sort of IP that I could reimagine as my own and would have a title that people would recognize and actually want to read." Nurse Ratched appealed to Romansky as someone he could "deconstruct.", telling Vulture: "She didn’t have a backstory — all we knew about her is that she was an army nurse. I wanted to look at why McMurphy threw her off and rattled her. I thought maybe if the worst things in her life happened to her when she did open herself up sexually and emotionally, then that would make sense as to why that would make her vulnerable. In the movie, Nurse Ratched is representative of this authoritarian system and she’s a product of that system. I thought it’d be interesting if we're exploring the idea that she was the product of a different system that is incredibly flawed, the foster-care system."
Due to some fortunate connections, his script made its way to the desk of producer Ryan Murphy, best known for his work on the Glee and American Horror Story series, who was very interested in his premise and picked up the show as a co-creator, along with Murphy's long-time collaborator Ian Brennan, and the three workshopped the initial pilot script together. They chose to position Nurse Ratched differently with regard to her trust in mental hospitals. "We, the writers, all believe that she’s not a character who is inherently evil but is instead trying to define her moral code. A lot of the horror of the show is from the grim reality that these were the mental procedures that actually happened" Romansky told Vulture, "She is abiding by a post–World War II society that saw increased attention on mental illness, because of soldiers coming back from war, often with misdiagnosed mental trauma. Mildred is operating within that."
Casting Sarah Paulson
Actress Sarah Paulson has starred in multiple Ryan Murphy vehicles since 2004 and the two have built a very close working relationship. Unusually, he did not initially contact Sarah about Ratched, unsure whether it would be a role she would be interested in, and so she instead heard about the project through her agent. On receiving the script from Murphy, Paulson fell in love with it from the first page, and quickly contacted Murphy to let him know that she'd love to play the part of Mildred. 
Although she had vague memories of seeing the Louise Fletcher in Cuckoo's Nest when she was much younger, she rewatched the movie multiple times before the series began shooting, and had a great amount of respect for Fletcher in the original role, though was apprehensive about how taking on the role would lead her to be compared to Fletcher's award winning performance. She told Collider: "The only reason I get to do it is because she was so brilliant and there was so much mystery around her character and so much not known, and the steeliness of it and the commitment. So many actresses of that day did not wanna play the part. They all turned it down. Nobody wanted to be associated with playing somebody so awful. I wanted to think about Louise Fletcher’s performance, almost as the spine of what I would do and how I would stand. I thought about her often. I had her dancing around my thoughts, as much as I could. But then, I had to have elasticity around this. This is 20 years prior. It precedes Cuckoo's Nest by 20 years. Are you who you were, 20 years ago? So, the idea that she would have some characteristics that are familiar to us, as viewers, versus me trying to do a carbon copy of her voice or of her, at all, it just seems like our Mildred is not where her Mildred is yet. She’s just not there yet. She’s still in process. She's still becoming. So, I had a little bit of latitude."
Ratched costume designers Lou Eyrich and Rebecca Guzzi, who also worked with Murphy on American Horror Story, were inspired by 1940s films and fashion magazines from the period but had been instructed by Murphy that he did not want the first season to look anything like Cuckoo's Nest. They did however include small references linking back to the wardrobe of Fletcher's iteration of the character in Mildred's accessories: the dark pewter "N"-pin on her collar is a U.S. Army Nurse Corps pin, the pin on her bodice is a "trained nurse" clip, and her watch is a replica of the one worn by Fletcher's Ratched.
The designers employed the use of tailored skirt suits throughout the season for Mildred in order to evoke confidence and intimidation, which matches her character. "From our first fitting with Sarah, we discussed the idea that Mildred uses her clothing as a manipulation tactic. Her clothing and outward presentation helps Mildred persuade, comfort and control others in an attempt to move closer to her personal goals." "Sarah was really keen on Mildred dressing the part for the particular character or group she's interacting with, manipulating, comforting, consoling, whatever her goal was. That's why she has this variety of looks and silhouettes. Sometimes it's soft, it's feminine, it's separates. Sometimes it's really structural and hard and tailored, like when she goes to have her interview at the hospital with Dr. Hanover."
- Ice Pick
- Angel of Mercy
- Angel of Mercy, Part II
- The Dance
- Got No Strings
- The Bucket List
- Mildred and Edmund
- In papers shown during Mildred's dissociative sequence in Got No Strings, the birthdate December 1st, 1911 is shown, though it is not established if this is Mildred or Edmund's birthdate. Dependent on which of the two's birthdate it is, and because Mildred is two years older than Edmund (having aged out of the foster system two years before him), this means that Mildred is either 36 or 38 years old at the beginning of the series in 1947.
- Sealight Inn for the first time in S01E01: Pilot, she passes a car on the Bixby Creek Bridge that is the exact same make, model and distinctive navy color as Gwendolyn's. Lucia has a small population, and Gwendolyn lives in the area, so this is likely to be Gwendolyn's car.
- The locations where she was stationed and when they were active theaters historically as part of the Pacific Campaign indicate that Mildred was likely in active service right up until the very final months of World War II. The resume she is seen typing in The Bucket List indicates that she served from the Battle of Tarawa in 1943 until the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, which ended two months before the end of the war.
- According to her resume, prior to working at Lucia State Hospital she was living at 5851 Hawthorne St. in Lakeside, California.
- Mildred's favorite food is bologna.
- For a gallery of images of Mildred Ratched, see: Ratched (series)/Gallery
- In papers shown during Mildred's dissociative sequence in Got No Strings, the birthdate December 1st, 1911 is shown on the foster documents as belonging to either Mildred or Edmund, though it is not established which of the two. Dependent on which of the two's birthdate it is, and because Mildred is two years older than Edmund (having aged out of the foster system two years before him), this means that Mildred is either 36 or 38 years old at the beginning of the series in 1947.
- S01E01: Pilot
- S01E06: Got No Strings
- S01E07: The Bucket List
- S01E03: Angel of Mercy
- S01E04: Angel of Mercy, Part II
- S01E02: Ice Pick
- Slash Film: Netflix’s Nurse Ratched Series Will Include Jack Nicholson’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ Character (JAN 6 2018)
- Vulture: How a 25-Year-Old Film School Grad’s Spec Script Became Ratched (SEP 16 2020)
- Collider: Sarah Paulson Talks Playing an Iconic Character in 'Ratched' and the Future of 'AHS' (SEP 20 2020)
- Fashionista: The Many Meanings Behind the Costumes in Ryan Murphy's 'Ratched' (SEP 16 2020)
- The Independent: Ratched: How to recreate the gorgeous 1940s outfits in the Netflix series (SEP 18 2020)
- Refinery29: The Dark Significance Behind The Many-Colored Costumes Of Ratched (SEP 21 2020)
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