Sometimes you come across something that strikes you deep, that peels back the layers of predetermined opinion pegged to its medium or genre, and forces you to gaze hard at the heart of its message. For what it really is.
So what is the The Walking Dead, really? It’s just an extraordinary story that tests your humanity, through and through.
Jun has covered previous installments of The Walking Dead here and here. I’m just here because Jun is too emotionally distraught to write a review and I agreed to do one. So here I am, after having shed some womanly tears to tell you how brilliantly painful – and I mean that in the most bittersweet way – this game is. Mega spoilers.
1. Immediate attachment to characters
Very early in the series, many of the pieces are preset. Every character introduced has a rich backstory that doesn’t defer much even when you have the options to answer differently, but this doesn’t matter. As I pick the responses, their life’s history unfold slowly at a comfortable pace.
The Walking Dead has a very skillful way of building characters through conversation. When you first meet Lee and he’s in a police car, you get the idea that he’s a murderer from the little nuggets of confessions he reveals to the cop in front. Yet his forlorn, forsaken expression hints at an associated tragedy that goes much deeper beyond the surface we’re scratching.
But before it goes any further, you smack right into trouble. A strolling undead body kind of trouble. It’s the weaving and bobbing between adrenaline-packed situations (facilitated by quick time events), and emotionally involving dialogue that makes the game experience feel so well-balanced. Rationing the backstories into bite-sized portions is carefully handled – they just know where to sprinkle bits of it so that you’re always wanting more.
When you actually get to dive headfirst into conversation with anyone, the connections are as real it gets, whether you decide to be civil and honest or a cautious, defensive person. Lee isn’t just Lee; you are Lee. I’ve never felt the line between me and a game character blurred so much. When I discuss any part of this game with Jun, we automatically don’t bring up Lee at all – we do our recounts using “I”. It’s fascinating how seamless the transition from casual observer in a zombie narrative to active participant in the fight is for me. You don’t know much about Lee at first, but as you make your decisions, become accountable for your responses and the lives of other characters, you become Lee, and Lee becomes you. His history may slowly trickle into the story, but it doesn’t remove you from that first person perspective. It’s like soul searching, reflecting, thinking, damn, I did that. It’s entirely your decision whether or not you want to pay penance for your past mistakes.
And that’s just assimilating into Lee. As you carry on with the decision-making and bonding (or sneering), you build and burn bridges. You have a stake in everyone’s misery and/or survival. Especially with Clementine; she’s the daughter you never had. Everything about Clementine turns me into a protective supernova of parenting. She’s the first person you come across after your first encounter with a zombie. The first time you protect her is the first time you feel like you’ve been given a shot at redemption, at doing something right. She’s always been an innocent child that represents a beacon of hope. Smart, optimistic, and surprisingly discerning for a very young girl, Clementine may be scared but she has fight in her. Where kids commonly irritate with their childish aggression and inability to understand danger, she listens and learns, is resourceful and actually quite brave – she’s just an overall good kid.
This is the kind of complex development that goes on with the characters as you continue to communicate with them. You learn small parts of them, who they are, what they’ve lost, and before you know it, you’re invested in them and want to push forward so they have their shot at getting out of this shitty apocalyptic mess too. The game’s dialogue structure and its emotional depth helps achieve that hyper-attachment to the characters that is critical to the success of the game’s story itself – I must commend it. Because when characters are killed, I feel terrorized. Gutpunched. Like a total failure. It hurts especially badly. And that is the first reason why The Walking Dead is so good.
2. The pressure is real
You never feel safe, even when you catch a breather. Out of that quiet calm you’ll start to grow a certain amount of paranoia and always practice caution whenever you go exploring or decide to open a door. Sometimes you can sort of predict that something’s going to happen, but you can never be too sure. After a few mishaps and losses, this is a lesson that you learn very quickly… usually the hard way.
On top of this, many of your decisions have to be made within a certain amount of time. Otherwise you’ll die or your answer will be a default one, and no one wants to lose control of their ability to make a choice when it comes down to it. This has happened to me a few times over, and I truly hated how stupid it felt to have another party force a decision on me. The hard truth here is that sometimes we just don’t have the luxury of taking our time to respond to pressing situations. Because of this, you often want to take the reins and make sure that everything is done your way, even if it’s ends up being the bad way. A simple but clever mechanic, that one. Then again, there are times when the game pressures you to do something (like kill someone) when you have the option of not doing anything at all – that in itself is a choice.
In my game, everyone seemed to look to me as a leader. I suppose it’s natural progression when I try my best to remain collected and rational during disputes. I try my best to be decisive but I can’t tell you how many times I doubted myself and felt that cognitive dissonance bother me throughout the episode. It in turn made me put a lot of pressure on myself to perform to my own idea of what I thought was “correct” or best. I spent a lot of time obsessing over whether I would be doing the right thing, so the timer was a secret blessing too in that way. And this is only just during the times you are standing around having chats with the other people inbetween attacks.
When you toss in the chaos of encroaching walkers, you can hardly think, because these fights for your life are often made up of button mashing and frenetic mouse swiping/clicking during quick time events. The game can and will dangle two lives in front of you and you have to pick one in the middle of the batshit crazy heat of battle. Just like that, you choose, and you live with that for the rest of your life.
The first time this happened to me, I thought one person was more capable of fending for herself, so I saved the unarmed man. Carley was overwhelmed instantly and I was thoroughly disappointed with myself, even if the truth of the message was, “You can’t save everyone.”
Yes, there are plenty of super-pressuring life or death scenarios throughout the game. Sometimes you need to escape, sometimes you need to decide to shoot someone, sometimes you have to get to that particular item before someone else dies. Just know this: the game doesn’t give you a break. When it’s not stressing you out with choice-making, it’s building suspense and suspicion in the most theatrical manner. What’s that noise beyond the door? Why is there a wire here? What have I just walked into? Is it too quiet or am I just overthinking it? It allows itself to indulge in a few horror tropes, and rightfully so. Definitely adds a lot to the grim atmosphere and drama going on.
3. Whose moral compass are you on?
One thing I love about deciding things in the Walking Dead is that everything is gray. There really is no wrong or right. As Jun and I discussed the differences in our playthroughs, we found that we had our own reasons for choosing to do things a certain way; to us, we were being neutral and reasonable, but if we took a step back we would see that we had made ourselves twist a subjective and believe it to be objective instead.
For example, there is a point in the game that gave you a choice on whether to save a character or not. Jun saved him, saying that he wanted to do the noble and right thing. But I did not save the guy. He was a liar and a troublemaker, the cause of many characters’ deaths. I defended him, and wrongly exiled someone for their actions. I thought it sensible to be rid of him forever because he was unreliable, cowardly, and a danger to us all. So I let go of his hand. He fell down the full height of the bell tower, broke both his legs and was eventually devoured. I felt a tiny pang of guilt afterward for not sparing his life, but stood by my decision in the end – ain’t no one in hell was going to endanger Clementine’s life again.
The game made me hate so much that I may have imposed my own moral compass on others, when they themselves had their own idea of what was the right or wrong thing to do. No matter how you push your reasons, if the other person just doesn’t agree, you’ll have to leave it at that, because your agendas don’t align. At times I also fell off the wagon and partook in some truly gruesome and cruel choice-making and backed it with some heinous excuse (see above example – I intentionally took Ben’s life). What a hypocrite I was, judging someone else for being a crappy human when I was being the same kind of crappy. Maybe it was more disgusting that I lived.
Ironically, this is also the same reason why I loved the whole CHOOSE UR FATE shebang. It made me question who I was as a person, and if I was really fit to be in that leader’s spot people somehow nudged me into. I felt intense guilt about being harsh with Clementine, but chose not to feel guilty about Ben’s death. So does that make me a monster?
With that said, even when we’re guided by our own definitions of right/wrong, it’s especially hard to be our own versions of impartial when lives are at stake. It’s hard to be impartial during a zombie apocalypse, period. On TV, it’s easy to yell at someone (I have many times, particularly at Andrea) for their actions because you can see the whole picture at one go and as an observer, your mind is constantly riding on whatever moral high horse you attach yourself to. But when you’re put in the middle of it, right here, right now, with little time or information to make a choice, all the world on your shoulders because you’re the deciding factor, you start second guessing yourself. Many times.
4. Choices do bring about legitimately different consequences
The idea of conducting a relatively linear narrative through decision-making is a tricky one to execute. The road is the same, but the experiences vary for everyone.
I will occasionally cite what Jun and I did differently. For a breakdown of my own choices:
Episode 1: Welcome Home
Here I tried my best to be an honest guy. A convict on the mend – that’s the path I would tread on this journey. I wouldn’t lie that I was on my way to a penitentiary but I wouldn’t broadcast it either. There was no point in lying – lies are the hard and fast way to endangering someone else and yourself. I saved the kid with autism over the farmer’s adult son, knowing full well that the child would be a liability. And I thought Shaun would’ve had a better chance of defending himself (I was wrong). Larry was a huge asshole, but we still had to check if Duck was bitten or not. I really didn’t want to risk the life of anyone else.
Irene was the woman up in the motel, who wanted to commit suicide because she had been bitten. Jun had picked not to give her the gun. In his scenario, she grabbed it and killed herself anyway, but it was the decision that shaped your own character and contributed to the kind of person you were. “I never want to do that to anybody,” he said to me.
I on the other hand, did give her the gun to off herself. Why? I explained to Jun very simply, “Because if anyone decides that they don’t want to be a walker, they have a right to.” Two very different viewpoints on the same issue, but both valid on their own.
Finally, it was between picking Carley or Doug – Jun took Carley, as did most of the other people who thought that having a person who could wield a gun would be a far more practical choice in the long run, and that she knew the truth to my story better. Which may be true, but at this point, I had a weak spot for the more helpless – so I picked Doug, thinking that Carley could’ve put out enough bullets to save herself. I was wrong again, and learned from then on that if I had a choice, it would literally be the life or death of one or the other.
Episode 2: Starved For Help
To me, to chop or not to chop was a no brainer – better without a leg than leave someone for dead. Most people felt the same way, but I think it was more of a case of not knowing that you didn’t have to chop off his leg, or so I read on forums. Nevermind, we brought the poor teacher back to the motel and hoped that Katjaa could use what vet skills she had to save him.
The Jolene decision was an accident – I wanted to hear her out but Danny shot her before she got to the important bits. By then my suspicions about the St Johns were at their peak.
Larry was one of the easier choices – you could always resuscitate someone who isn’t bitten. That, and I had to spare Lilly. I spoke to her a lot and found that Larry and I had more in common than we first let on – we wanted to protect our daughters the best we could. I respected what she was doing and in truth, it’s always tougher to be sympathetic to the people who are more aggressive/defensive/protective, until you understand why they are that way. While everyone had to pull their own weight, they didn’t have to like it, and that was always the case with Lilly and Larry. I was appalled when Kenny killed him without letting us try to save him; I even felt betrayed. In retrospect, it was more practical/safer to kill Larry, but I just couldn’t bring myself to. Lilly was a strong reason why.
I killed one St John brother in front of Clementine, and I regretted it. Not because I murdered a person, it was because Clementine had seen a despicably ugly, remorseless side of me. I wished she didn’t witness it, but that man had to die. That glimpse of fear on her face, like she didn’t know me anymore or found out that I wasn’t who she thought I was – man, that hurt. Because of this, I spared the other brother, and simply beat the shit out of his face.
Finally the car – we took the goods. Our starvation was apparent, and I had to make Clementine understand that survival took slightly more importance over integrity at this point. My own ideas of integrity were shaken and turned out to be a different monster from when I began the game, but I didn’t tell anyone. I had grown a pack mentality; my group’s safety held precedence over the life of anyone else. Suddenly, upholding what I previously thought was noble seemed stupid and foolish in a time of true desperation. And that’s why folks, Ned Stark’s head is on a wall in King’s Landing.
Episode 3: Long Road Ahead
If this had been in episode 1, I would have shot her. But by now I was a different person. We left her to be eaten. I should have felt guilty. I wasn’t.
Just like that, in the span of 2 episodes, I went from trying to do the right thing to trying to protect the unit I’ve built. This would change the way I decided on things forever.
I believed Ben. However, I abandoned Lilly because she had accidentally killed Doug. I sacrificed Carley to save Doug. Doug loaded his guilt and angst on me, and I worked hard to get us over that barrier. He later proved to be useful. And now in a fit of anger, all that I had done and decided was in vain when Lilly shot him in the face. It didn’t help that the game was intentionally trying to make her appear mentally unstable – by now everyone was on the edge. I tried to be on her side. I tried to be patient. But that kill was the last straw because if she could snap now, she could snap again.
I kicked her out of the group.
My relationship with Kenny was up and down. Sometimes I sided with him because we bonded as fellow dads. The things you want to believe when your child is at the end of his/her road. A lot of people were really annoyed with the way he lashed out and how unreasonable he seemed, but I found it to be a perfectly normal reaction for someone who’s just unable to accept the truth in front of them. I thought that getting physical would achieve nothing, so I talked him down instead, where he could think about what I was saying instead of focusing on the fact that I just kicked his ass.
Later on I shot Duck. No parent should have to kill their own child. I felt it too cruel to let either Kenny or Katjaa do it. I spared Kenny the trauma of having to put him down – he seemed like he would go insane if I let him do it.
Omid or Christa was an old habit dying hard. Priority: injured man. I helped the one who seemed weaker at that point in time. I got hell from Omid about it, but I wasn’t about to let him die after he saved me from being flattened by a falling truck. Yea, loyalty still counts for something here.
Episode 4: Around Every Corner
The boy who resembled Duck in the attic was simple. I felt that Kenny still wasn’t ready to do it, and he wasn’t ever going to be ready. He had to come to terms with his grief, yes, but shooting a zombie that looked like his son wasn’t going to be the way to resolve it. Don’t remember him as a walker, but remember him as your son, who gave you joy and love.
Vernon wasn’t threatening to me, so there was no need to be rash or aggravate the situation with a lie – it would bite me in the ass later for sure. (People always find out.) He, like me, wanted to protect his unit. So if a rational, upfront person came to me asking for help, I would definitely be more receptive to letting him be part of us temporarily.
Did I want to leave Clementine alone at home with Omid, who might possibly turn into a walker and attack her? No. I brought her so I could keep an eye on her and keep her away from the danger back at the house. In my opinion, she was safer with me than she was with a dying person.
I let Ben die (mentioned in point 3). Kenny doled out plenty of reasons for me to leave him, but I didn’t need the convincing. If he hadn’t negotiated with the bandits, Duck might not have gotten bitten. People wouldn’t have blamed Lilly. Lilly wouldn’t have been pushed to the point of killing someone. I abandoned her, dammit. And he went against my advice to keep his trap shut about being the culprit for all those things. The way he wanted to alleviate his guilt like that without even thinking of how it’d turn Kenny upside down was so selfish. And when he abandoned Clementine as the walkers crowded around her? Thank god Chuck was around to fend them off. He didn’t fight; he fled. It rendered him irredeemable.
So as he dangled from the highest floor of the bell tower, I took a breath, and let him go.
When it came down to it, I only thought it fair to show everyone that I had been bitten. I needed them to be prepared to kill me when it was time. I needed someone to know that I was already in the process of dying and someone must care for Clem when I couldn’t be there.
I asked them to come along with me because I didn’t know how soon I would die, and I needed all the help I could get to save Clementine. Father mode at maximum. Their loyalty and resolve to aid me in Clem’s rescue was a great comfort. Until now, I don’t know why I stuck with Kenny for so long, but it seemed to have paid off. I didn’t mind that Ben wasn’t there, it was most probable that he would botch our rescue attempt again.
Jun chose to go at it alone – he couldn’t let the others take on his burden. He did hide his bite though.
Episode 5: No Time Left
This is when things come full circle, where all the choices come back to haunt you. This is when it all finally pays off. This ep turned out very differently for me and Jun and it is where everything unravels.
Greatly influenced by Hershel in the TV show, I removed my arm, thinking that maybe I might be okay, but as the episode went on, I prepared for the worst. Jun did the same, except that because he had chosen to be a loner, he had to saw his own arm off. Ouch.
Because Ben had survived in Jun’s version, there were a number of scenes I missed out on. For example, as we regrouped at the Fivel house where Vernon stole the boat, his team of five had been trapped in the shed by Vernon. For me, since everyone was already by my side, I simply found an empty shed. As the zombies arrived and we were trapped on the second floor, we held our ground with guns. Each of us had a fixed amount of ammo.
Jun used up all his bullets, I didn’t use up mine. When we were forced up into the attic, I actually dropped my gun. I remember because I was furious that I didn’t pick it back up. Apparently, in Jun’s game, Ben picks up the gun for Lee and hands it back to him.
Another example: When we had to leap from a balcony to another building, my game had Kenny jump last. We only had four people, so we all made it without much difficulty, but because Jun had an extra body, the balcony gave way and Ben fell to his death. Kenny went down to mercy kill him and ended up being overwhelmed by walkers in the alley. For me, Kenny accidentally slapped me on the back and Clem’s walkie fell down a hole in a room to the floor below. Christa insisted that we get the walkie or we wouldn’t find Clem. She jumped down, grabbed it, but she couldn’t get out because the ceiling was just too high. I tried to find something to help her, a pole to pull her up, but nothing worked. Walkers started approaching her. In a last act of heroism, Kenny went down and gave Christa a boost, then got overwhelmed by walkers. I didn’t have the option to help him.
The finale played out way different for us too. Jun and I discussed this – again we both realised that there was no right or wrong about it, just our varying perspectives on the same situation. I admitted that I was very stressed because Lee was looking deathly pale in the jewelry store. At first I thought that I could survive long enough to get her out, but the moment I sat down with half-lidded eyes, I knew there was going to be no such thing. “I changed my mind and asked her to shoot me,” I confessed.
“I just wanted to talk some more, but then I was worried I’d just turn into a zombie and eat her face,” Jun told me.
First I asked Clem to cuff me because I wanted to be sure that she was safe from me. I could turn anytime. Then I talked her through getting the keys and gun from the zombie. “Always reach for the gun first.” It got loose, and even in dying, I manage to kick over the baseball bat she used to open the door. Jun wasn’t cuffed so he could grab the bat and hand it to her.
“Of course I didn’t let her shoot me,” he said. “I would never get her to do something so traumatic.” In Jun’s scenario, they talked about being strong and her walking away, leaving Lee to turn.
I, on the other hand, got her to euthanize me. “This is her final stage. After this, she’s ready for the world,” I rationalized. It was also partly what I wanted – I’d rather be dead than reanimate. I wasn’t really thinking; who knows what kind of psychological damage I did to that girl by asking her to put a gun to me. But I thought Clem was strong, and I’d always been honest with her. This was a step that she needed to take – she had to know that I wanted her to be safe. I’d never want her to meet my zombie self, no way. I didn’t want to spare her from the brutality of shooting because I’d sheltered her enough from this sort of thing – everything’s eventual, right? So now that she’d be on her own, I’d be the first person she would have to put down, and I wouldn’t be the last. Because even people you love die. At least, I hoped that was what she felt about me. I hope that she loved me as a dad like I love her as my child.
Even conversational bits that weren’t the “standout” choices were hard to get through. I asked Christa and Omid to take care of Clem; I don’t know if I could trust them but I felt like I had to make sure someone was watching over her. As we were stuck in the attic, choices I made in Episode 2 resurfaced again – Omid and Christa asked about Larry and what the deal was with Kenny. I chose not to talk about it. But when Kenny sat back down and I brought it up, we made amends. Come on, it’s the finale.
Asking Clem to flee to the countryside and find Omid and Christa was just me clinging to hope that they’d find each other. I don’t know if I should’ve told her that. Maybe I should’ve told her to go on her own. Maybe I didn’t want her to be alone. Clearly, I am still bothered by what I had said to her in my final minutes. Now I have to live (or die?) with it.
It’s why I can’t replay The Walking Dead. The first playthrough is my first instinct, my first response to the situations around me. Whether it ends in relief or regret, it’s the purest, truest form of my choices. I’d like to think that there are no do-overs and there’s only one shot at getting through the story. Playing it all over again just to see what the other choices are would make the integrity of decision-making that much less authentic – I know what’s coming. Of course, it’s up to you if you want to replay it to see how your the alternative story is shaped, but I’ve put my first play on a pedestal already.
Although the choices are not as diverse as say, a Suikoden piece, it still ultimately feels like you had a significant hand in the plot’s development. I know some gamers are flipping about not having a million different possible endings, but that’s not what it promised. The options presented to you are varied enough for you to feel like you have a choice, that your pick matters in the grand scheme of things with simple character feedback, like, “Christa will remember that” or “You chose to be honest with Clementine”. When it comes back up in the future, it makes for more interesting conversation, and it feels good to be able to peg the consequence to something you said much earlier in the game.
A lot of people, when told that the game is “tailored to the way you play”, expect to have tens of options presented to them. To curb that expectation, the Walking Dead does offer those tens of options, but not all of them will affect the final outcome. It may have three or four branching roads that one can take to reach the end, but it would be wrong to say that TWD cheated because it lacks variation – you would have to overlook the quality of story, characters, personal involvement and drama for the nitpicking to carry weight. And if you still insist on ignoring the brilliant way this narrative is built and executed, then you sir, are a fool to let that get in the way of your enjoyment of the game. You don’t need a million different endings; you only need one. I find it more interesting to read the rationale behind others’ choices anyway. We can pick the same thing, but our reasons for selecting it is much different. The motivations are just as important as the results.
That’s why it hurts this much, I suppose. I changed Clem’s life more than I could ever imagine, and I don’t know if it’s for the better. I don’t know if I did it with good intentions or selfishly. Maybe it was both?
5. A master at invoking raw emotion
Telltale did well giving rich, distinct characters plenty of moments to develop. The immersion is absolute despite the fact that you’re in a world of cel-shaded comic book-like people. The story is simple, the struggles are complex. The game is brave enough to put lives in jeopardy worthy of questioning your moral fabric. And boy, are the decisions difficult.
When you talk to someone, you’re always conscious of what they’re thinking and how they’re responding. Especially with Clementine. I don’t know one person who doesn’t feel accountable for that girl. And the way Lee talks to her, god. As I lay dying, the tears pouring from her eyes, I didn’t want to leave her alone. I really didn’t. When Lee said to her, “Just close your eyes and do it, sweet pea,” I just completely lost it. What’s curlier than fetal? Because I was rolling up into that.
That’s all thanks to good writing. You get to know everyone organically. The voice acting that supports the writing is top-notch. They knew when to offer that little glimmer of hope you think you’re going to get (picking between 2 people thinking one can survive on their own), they knew how to string you along (that your short-term objectives are being fulfilled in quick succession and there was no possible way anyone else would die at that moment) and where to cut it off (proven wrong on both accounts). Then you fall into this really grim pit of sadness, loss and despair. Time and time again I thought, “Why did I think it was going to be okay?” No one gets a breather.
Take this scenario in Episode 4 for example. There is a questionable character Chuck, who’s been homeless and a drunkard for a long while. His appearance, his tone suggests that he’s threatening, and I always erred on the side of caution with him, especially when he started asking about Clementine, telling me how I should raise her. Here’s this guy, this stranger, who suddenly appeared out of nowhere and planting himself in my system of survival. My opinion changed in the beginning of episode 4, when Ben fled from the swarming zombies and Chuck jumped in to save her, asking that we leave him behind to sort out the walkers; he would catch up with us later. There it was, that hope that he’d survive.
Cut to much later when Lee found himself trapped in a walker filled-sewer with nothing but a pick. By now meeting with Chuck was completely out of my head because I was focused on the task at hand – get the hell out and meet with my group again. I spent some very intense minutes trying to draw the walkers elsewhere, and when I could finally move past them undetected, feeling relief and satisfaction rising, I saw it – I saw Chuck, guts out, on the ground. I wrongly judged this man, he protected my kid, and then he died for her. There was no victory. There was only loss. What a terrible (yet amazing) way to hit this home.
I’ve tried to fault TWD for things, but I failed. I don’t have anything terrible to say about it, because I’m still heartbroken knowing Clem is out there on her own where I can’t be. The focus for the game has been pulled from “this is an adventure point and click” to “this is your tragic story in the zombie apocalypse”. I didn’t mind that sometimes I had to move around slowly and have Lee inspect things and go “hmm”. I didn’t mind that the game sometimes had long-winded, clunky puzzles. By episode 3’s end it stopped with the cumbersome puzzles and brought the story in full force.
The Walking Dead will certainly be talked about for a long time, there’s no doubt about it. The journey you’re put through is a colossal success on its own – it proves that you don’t need flashy combat mechanics or fluid fighting to stir life to a dead heart. In fact, much of its gameplay doesn’t take a lot of brainwork, and it’s a good thing because it means that all your attention is on the story that it’s trying to tell. It’s a traumatizing, enlightening, deeply emotional one at that.
Okay, any more of this and I will turn up for work mildly depressed tomorrow. My verdict is simple. Buy the game. Play it. Then you can come back here and sob with Jun and me until we have goldfish eyes and frog voices the next day. Man, do I need a cuddle.