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Episode 35


善罢甘休 shànbàgānxiū to leave the matter at that / to be prepared to let go / to be willing to take things lying down

hàochēng to be known as / to be nicknamed / to be purportedly / to claim (often exaggeratedly or falsely)

刀杀 jièdāoshārén to lend sb a knife to kill sb / to get sb else to do one's dirty work / to attack using the strength of another (idiom)

不得 bude (coll.) to be eager for / to long for / to look forward to

flank (military)

利益 lìyìshūsòng to make use of one's position to gain profit for oneself or one's associates

huǎngzi shop sign / signboard / (fig.) pretense

仗义 zhàngyì to uphold justice / to be loyal (to one's friends) / to stick by

栈道暗渡 míngxiūzhàndào, 'àndù Chéncāng lit. repair the plank road by day while secretly crossing the Wei River 渭河 at Chencang (idiom, refers to a stratagem used by Liu Bang 劉邦|刘邦 in 206 BC against Xiang Yu 項羽|项羽 of Chu) / fig. to feign one thing while doing another / to cheat under cover of a diversion

huòquē necessary / must have

to grant / to bestow

中箭落 zhòngjiànluò lit. to be struck by an arrow and fall from one's horse / to suffer a serious setback (idiom)

huí to shun / to avoid (sb) / to skirt / to evade (an issue) / to step back / to withdraw / to recuse (a judge etc)

rénzàijiāng, shēnyóu you can't always do as you like / one has to compromise in this world (idiom)

盗窃 dàoqiè to steal

锐气 ruìqì acute spirit / dash / drive

kuòqi lavish / generous / bounteous / prodigal

切记 qièjì remember at all costs

得饶人饶人 déráorénchùqiěráorén where it is possible to let people off, one should spare them (idiom); anyone can make mistakes, forgive them when possible

结舌 chēngjiéshé stupefied / flabbergasted

罪孽 zuìniè sin / crime / wrongdoing

猝不及防 cùbùjífáng to be caught off guard / without warning

自盗 jiānshǒuzìdào to embezzle

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Episode 36


心灰 xīnhuīlěng discouraged / downhearted

添砖加 tiānzhuānjiā lit. contribute bricks and tiles for a building (idiom) / fig. to do one's bit to help

yáowàng to look into the distance

得其 bǎidéqíjiě to remain puzzled after pondering over sth a hundred times (idiom) / to remain perplexed despite much thought

zhōng to be loyal to

yǎngjiākǒu to support one's family (idiom); to have difficulty feeding a family

móu to gain profit (by underhand means) / to exploit / see also 謀取|谋取

yāozhé to die young or prematurely / to come to a premature end / to be aborted prematurely

qiā to throttle / to choke to death

cháo nest

兢兢业业 jīngjīngyèyè cautious and conscientious

wǎn to regret / to feel that it is a great pity / to feel sorry for sb

物论 wéiwùlùn the philosophy of materialism, doctrine that physical matter is the whole of reality

bié having a unique or distinctive style

人无完人 rénwúwánrén nobody is perfect / everyone has their defect

之恩 zhīzhī'ēn lit. the kindness of recognizing sb's worth and employing him (idiom) / patronage / protection

无从 wúcóng not to have access / beyond one's authority or capability / sth one has no way of doing

wèi both selfless and fearless

触目惊心 chùmùjīngxīn lit. shocks the eye, astonishes the heart (idiom); shocking / horrible to see / a ghastly sight

nánchu trouble / difficulty / problem

diéchū emerge one after another

guānliáoshēng government officials have no way of making a living (a play on “the people have no way to make a living” 民不聊生 (idiom, from Record of the Grand Historian 史記|史记)

zhàohuí to recall (a product, an ambassador etc)

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Episode 37


chéngjiù to create / to bring about

阔论 gāotánkuòlùn to harangue / loud arrogant talk / to spout

huīchìfāngqiú full of vim

书斋 shūzhāi study (room)

Hǎi Ruì Hai Rui (1514-1587), Ming politician, famous for honesty and integrity

万历 Wànlì reign name of Ming emperor (1573-1619)

méng to instruct the young / to initiate / to awake sb from ignorance / to free sb from prejudice or superstition / primer / enlightened / the Enlightenment / Western learning from the late Qing dynasty

万事大 wànshìdà everything is fine (idiom); all is well with the world

滋生 zīshēng to breed / to flourish / to cause / to provoke / to create

杜渐 fángwēidùjiàn to nip in the bud (idiom)

yóushī doggerel / ragged verse / humorous poem / limerick

zhuānliè special train / abbr. for 專門列車|专门列车

yuǎnmén (to go to) distant parts / faraway / a distant relative

烟囱 yāncōng chimney

众目睽睽 zhòngmùkuíkuí thousands of staring eyes (idiom)

情同 qíngtóngshǒu as close as one's hands and feet (idiom); loving one another as brothers / deep friendship / closely attached to one another

tōngróng flexible / to accommodate / to stretch or get around regulations / a short-term loan

láishì next life

走险 tǐng'érzǒuxiǎn to take a risk out of desperation (idiom)

封疆 fēngjiāng border region / regional general acting as governor (in Ming and Qing times)

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Episode 38


直白 zhíbái frank / open / blunt

qiú to appeal / to demand (an answer) / requirement / demand / claim / appeal / (marketing) message

shī term of respect for your teacher's wife

zhíjiàn to persist in one's views

堡垒 bǎolěi fort

瓦解 bēngwǎjiě to collapse / to fall apart

fēngbào storm / violent commotion / fig. crisis (e.g. revolution, uprising, financial crisis etc)

来头 láitóu cause / reason / interest / influence

méndao the way to do sth / knack

直言不讳 zhíyánbùhuì to speak bluntly (idiom) / not to mince words

天方 tiānfāngtán fantasy story, The Arabian Nights (classic story)

服从 fúcóng to obey (an order) / to comply / to defer

殉葬 xùnzàng to bury sth along with the dead / sacrificial grave goods

核实 héshí to verify / to check

春风 chūnfēng flushed with success / proud of one's success (in exams, promotion etc) / as pleased as punch

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Episode 39


xiǎng fevered imagination, erroneous assumption

渎职 dúzhí wrongdoing / failure to do one's duty

引以为荣 yǐnyǐwéiróng to regard it as an honor (idiom)

shěn to audit / to investigate thoroughly

tiěmiàn strictly impartial and incorruptible (idiom)

dào memorial speech / eulogy

shìfēi major matters of principle; cardinal questions of right and wrong 

xuémo to look for / to seek (colloq.)

畏罪潜逃 wèizuìqiántáo to abscond (to escape punishment) / to slink off

shàngfāngbǎojiàn variant of 尚方劍|尚方剑 / imperial sword (giving bearer arbitrary powers) / in fiction, Chinese version of 007's license to kill

分心 fēnxīn to distract, distracted

笑面 xiàomiàn man with a big smile and evil intentions

非亲非 fēiqīnfēi lit. neither a relative nor a friend (idiom) / fig. unrelated to one another in any way

chúnshǔ to be purely / pure and simple / sheer / outright

无常 fǎnwúcháng unstable / erratic / changeable / fickle

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Episode 40


放纵 fàngzòng to indulge / to pamper / to connive at / permissive / indulgent / self-indulgent / unrestrained / undisciplined / uncultured / boorish

huīlèi to shed tears / to be all in tears

挥泪斩马谡 a story from 三国of how 诸葛亮 had an old friend 马谡 executed for disobeying orders and cause a big defeat for 蜀国

quǎnníng lit. not even the chickens and dogs are left undisturbed (idiom) / fig. great commotion / pandemonium

tiǎn brazen

大义灭 dàyìmièqīn to place righteousness before family (idiom); ready to punish one's own family if justice demands it

to take loving care of / to value

cōngmingshì, tushí even the wisest can have a momentary lapse in judgement (idiom) / every man has a fool in his sleeve

ruǎndàn coward

cǎobāo idiot / bungling oaf / straw bag

piěqīng to say a matter has no relationship with the individual referred to, to emphasise one is innocent or in the clear

gǎnjìnshājué to kill to the last one (idiom) / to exterminate / to eradicate / ruthless

人为 rénwéishàn to be of service to others / to help others / benevolent

duānzhèng upright / regular / proper / correct

万绪 qiāntóuwànxù plethora of things to tackle / multitude of loose ends / very complicated / chaotic

不见不落泪 bùjiànguāncaibùluòlèi lit. not to shed a tear until one sees the coffin (idiom) / fig. refuse to be convinced until one is faced with grim reality

俱进 shíjùjìn abreast of modern developments / to keep up with the times / progressive / timely

道不为谋 dàobùtóngxiāngwéimóu lit. persons who walk different paths cannot make plans together / to go separate ways (idiom)

zhé winding / (fig.) complicated

居心 jūxīn harboring unfathomable motives (idiom)

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Episode 41


tàopáichē car with fake plates

绸缪 wèichóumóu lit. before it rains, bind around with silk (idiom, from Book of Songs 詩經|诗经); fig. to plan ahead / to prepare for a rainy day

gǒutiàoqiáng a cornered dog will jump over the wall (idiom) / to be driven to desperate action

威逼利诱 wēibīlìyòu to make threats and promises

素昧 sùmèipíngshēng to have never met sb before (idiom); entirely unacquainted / a complete stranger / not to know sb from Adam

yōuhuàn suffering / misery / hardship

bīng lit. as if walking on thin ice (idiom) / fig. to be extremely cautious / to be skating on thin ice

不动 bùdòngshēng not a word or movement (idiom); remaining calm and collected / not batting an eyelid

guānliáo bureaucrat / bureaucracy / bureaucratic

好大 hàodàgōng to rejoice in grandiose deeds / to strive to achieve extraordinary things / have a fondness for the grandiose

劳民 láomínshāngcái waste of manpower and resources

tiǎojiàn to sow dissension (idiom); to drive a wedge between

无能为 wúnéngwéi impotent (idiom) / powerless / helpless

jué strategic decision / decision-making / policy decision / to determine policy

yóutou pretext / excuse / justification / reason

其才 rénjìnqícái employ one's talent to the fullest / everyone gives of their best

Shàonián Gōng Children's Palace, institution where children can take part in various extracurricular activities

duìkǒu to be fit for the purposes of a job or task / (of food) to suit sb's taste

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Episode 42


同凡 fēitóngfánxiǎng lit. not a common chord (idiom); outstanding / brilliant / out of the common run

圆滑 yuánhuá smooth and evasive / slick and sly

Nánsòng the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279)

yǒu groundless / baseless

Yuè Fēi Yue Fei (1103-1142), Song dynasty patriot and general

qiángdǎozhòngréntuī everyone likes to kick a man who's down, everyone takes advantage of a man who stumbles

印证 yìnzhèng to seal / to confirm / to corroborate / to verify

xǐng to come to / to awaken / to regain consciousness

xiàn to limit / to confine / to restrict sth within set boundaries

yíngyínggǒugǒu shamelessly seek personal gain

zhùwēi to cheer for / to encourage / to boost the morale of

zhī (lend) a helping hand

xián to avoid arousing suspicion

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Episode 43


quē very short of (food, clean water etc) / extreme shortage /deficit

zhàng to lean on / to rely on

兑现 duìxiàn (of a check etc) to cash / to honor a commitment

shíxiāngmán truth to tell / to be quite honest...

冤家宜结 yuānjiājiěyíjié It is better to squash enmity rather than keeping it alive (proverb)

fèijiě to be puzzled / hard to understand / unintelligible / incomprehensible

lúnluò to degenerate / impoverished / to fall (into poverty) / to be reduced (to begging), to wander

擅自 shànzì without permission / of one's own initiative

情人 zhīqíngrén person in the know / insider / informed source

义愤 yìfèn righteous indignation / moral indignation

xīn to make nothing of hardships

shǔguāng dawn / fig. the dawn of a new era

出淤泥而 chūyū'érrǎn lit. to grow out of the mud unsullied (idiom) / fig. to be principled and incorruptible

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Episode 44


随从 suícóng to accompany / to follow / to attend / entourage / attendant

bǎobiāo bodyguard

真金不怕 zhēnjīnbùpàhuǒliàn True gold fears no fire. (idiom)

刀割 xīndāogē to feel as if having one's heart cut out (idiom) / to be torn with grief

chàng to echo one another (idiom)

xing memory (ability to retain information)

商鞅 Shāng Yāng Shang Yang (c. 390-338 BC), legalist philosopher and important statesman of Qin state 秦國|秦国 whose militaristic reforms in 356 and 350 BC played a key role in establishing Qin power

běn sole existing copy

硬上 wángyìngshànggōng to force oneself upon sb (idiom) / to rape

xiǎo'ér pediatrics / pediatric (department) / sth of little importance / trifle / a child's play / (slang) childish / petty / stingy

Zhāng qiān Chang Dai-chien or Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), one of the greatest Chinese artists of the 20th century

日下 shìfēngrìxià public morals are degenerating with each passing day (idiom)

xīn what one has learned (through experience, reading etc) / knowledge / insight / understanding / tips / CL: 項|项個|个

zuìcóng innocent until proven guilty

huīháo to write or draw with a brush / to put pen to paper / to write

hóngxiùtiānxiāng a beautiful woman to accompany someone while reading

three-dimensional / solid / stereoscopic

跑腿 pǎotuǐ to run errands

jiěhuò to dispel doubts / to clear up confusion

yōng no need for

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Episode 45


cāoshǒu personal integrity

不在话下 bùzàihuàxià to be nothing difficult / to be a cinch

xuě to wipe away, off or out / to clean

Jìngkāng (1126-1127) last emperor of the Northern Song

to take prisoner / prisoner of war

chuǎi to analyze / to try to figure out / to try to fathom

赵构 Zhào Gòu Zhao Gou, personal name of the tenth Song Emperor Gaozong 高宗

qiāozhà to rip off / to extort (money) / extortion / blackmail

岂止 qǐzhǐ not only / far from / more than

闻其详 yuànwénqíxiáng I'd like to hear the details

鉴定 jiàndìng to appraise / to identify / to evaluate

感慨 gǎnkǎi to sigh with sorrow, regret etc / rueful / deeply moved

zhuīxīnzhītòng like a drill through the heart

cānzhào to consult a reference / to refer to (another document)

才华横 cáihuáhéng brimming over with talent (esp. literary) / brilliant

情洋 qíngyáng brimming with enthusiasm (idiom); full of warmth

formerly / in olden days

采取 cǎiqǔcuòshī to adopt measures / to take steps

雄难 yīngxióngnánguòměirénguān even heroes have a weakness for the charms of a beautiful woman (idiom)

gǒugāoyao dogskin plaster, used in TCM for treating contusions, rheumatism etc / quack medicine / sham goods

涉讼 shèsòng to be involved in a lawsuit

tōngróng flexible / to accommodate / to stretch or get around regulations / a short-term loan

难逢 qiānzǎinánféng extremely rare (idiom) / once in a blue moon

shēqiú to make extravagant demands / an unreasonable request

tiānlúnzhī family love and joy / domestic bliss

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Episode 46


qiānzuìrén sb condemned by history (idiom)

愎自用 gāngbìzìyòng obstinate and self-opinionated (idiom)

zhuài to pull / to tug at (sth)

存亡 shēngcúnwáng matter of life and death

提纯 tíchún to purify

zhuó turbid / muddy / impure

怀 jīnhuáitǎnbái open and candid (idiom); not hiding anything / ingenuous / open hearted / unselfish / magnanimous / broad-minded

diǎnxué to hit a pressure point (martial arts) / dim mak / see also 點脈|点脉

shéntōng remarkable ability / magical power

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Episode 47


相大 zhēnxiàngdàbái the whole truth is revealed (idiom); everything becomes clear

zuò lit. to wave a banner as if it were a tiger skin (idiom) / fig. to borrow sb's prestige / to take the name of a great cause as a shield

liǎncái to accumulate wealth / to rake in money

wēirán majestic / towering / imposing (the two lines this appears in are taken from a poem by Chairman Mao)

勋章 xūnzhāng medal / decoration

biānpái to arrange / to lay out

able / capable / competent / efficient

仿 gāofǎng imitation / quality fake

推脱 tuītuō to evade / to shirk

逼宫 bīgōng to force the king or emperor to abdicate

bīngguìshén lit. speed is a crucial asset in war (idiom) / fig. swift and resolute (in doing sth)

xiáng ominous / inauspicious

变卦 biànguà to change one's mind / to go back on one's word

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Episode 48


卓绝 jiānzhuójué persisting despite trials and tribulations (idiom); conspicuous determination

huīhuò to squander money / extravagant / prodigal / free and easy / agile

堕落 duòluò to degrade / to degenerate / to become depraved / corrupt / a fall from grace

méi to become moldy

biē ground beetle / (dialect) country bumpkin

huànhuànshī to worry about personal gains and losses

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Episode 49


shù to forgive

zuòfēiwéi to run amok (idiom); to commit outrages

xióngbiàn eloquent / oratory / rhetoric

镇定 zhèndìng calm / unperturbed / cool

zhāoshù move (in chess, on stage, in martial arts) / gambit / trick / scheme / movement / same as 著數|着数

出师不利 chūshībùlì lose the first battle

福兮祸所依,祸兮福所伏   good and bad fortune are mutually intertwined. Good fortune can quickly turn to bad fortune and vice cersa.

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Episode 51


二愣 èrlèngzi stupid person / dolt / rash (slang)

qīngshǐ annal / historical record / CL: 筆|笔

至义尽 rénzhìyìjìn extreme benevolence, utmost duty (idiom); meticulous virtue and attention to duty

惺惺相惜 xīngxīngxiāngxī people of talent appreciate one another (idiom) / to sympathize with one another

dǎnshí courage and insight

bǐnggōng justly / impartially

gǎnchèng a steelyard (a type of balance)

堕落 gānduòluò to abandon oneself (idiom) / to let oneself go

若要 ruòyàorénzhī, chúfēiwéi If you don't want anyone to know, don't do it (idiom). fig. If you do something bad, people will inevitably hear about it

zhěn meticulous / careful / deliberate / delicate / fine (texture)

'áng impassioned / worked up

yǒushìkǒng secure in the knowledge that one has backing

奸污 jiānwū to rape / to violate

浑浊 húnzhuó muddy / turbid

油盐 cháiyóuyán lit. firewood, rice, oil and salt / fig. life's daily necessities

xièzhuāng to remove makeup / (old) to take off formal dress and ornaments

子百 zhūzǐbǎijiā the Hundred Schools of Thought, the various schools of thought and their exponents during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods (770-220 BC)

jiā Mohist School of the Warring States Period (475-220 BC), founded by the philosopher 墨子

基金 xìntuōjījīn trust fund

言无不尽 zhīyán, yánwúbùjìn not hiding anything he knows, not stopping before he has said it through (idiom) / frank / outspoken

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Episode 52


色厉内 sèlìnèirěn lit. show strength while weak inside (idiom); appearing fierce while cowardly at heart / a sheep in wolf's clothing

shí corrosion / to corrode (degrade chemically) / to rot / corruption

途同 shūtútóngguī different routes to the same destination (idiom); fig. different means of achieve the same end

zhēnzhòng precious / extremely valuable / (honorific) Please take good care of yourself!

shēngqián (of a deceased) during one's life / while living

zhǔ testament / will

pàotāng to dawdle / to go slow deliberately / to fizzle out / to have all one's hopes dashed    

楚王好细腰,宫中多饿死 a story about a king called 楚王 who liked slender people, which led many of is courtiers and ministers to go on extreme diets, even to the point of becoming so weak as to become worthless. This story was brought up by 习近平 at a party meeting in 2016 to warn members to ensure that their personal actions and preferences don't have a detrimental effect on society.

zuìyǒuyīng guilty and deserves to be punished (idiom); entirely appropriate chastisement / the punishment fits the crime

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Well, that's the final episode finished. When I first started this I was under the false impression it was going to be a 20 episode series, not 52! In my experience, these super-long TV dramas tend to jump the shark around episode 30, but in this case I'm glad to report that the quality remained fairly consistent throughout (although that's not to say that it wouldn't have benefited from being just 40 episodes long, with some of the fluff cut out). While there were a couple of moments where it looked like the whole main corruption/conspiracy plotline looked like it was in danger of being sidelined (for example, by the mother of one of the anti-corruption officers desperately trying to get her 剩女 daughter married off), things quickly returned to the main story.


One of my biggest concerns before watching was the fact that the show was at least partially funded by the Supreme People's Procuratorate, and so might be a little too full of in-your-face government propaganda. Thankfully, the makers were pretty restrained on this point. Although the bad guys do predictably get their comeuppance in the end, they are all portrayed with a great degree of sympathy. It isn't just a case of a few evil people doing harm, but of imperfect people trying to make their way within an imperfect system. While I can't say how accurate a portrayal of Chinese political life it is, the petty rivalries and backstabbing on show do seem very plausible. It's not all about corruption either. One of my favourite characters (albeit a minor one) is a small fry official who, having been passed over for promotion one too many times, has basically stopped giving a shit about his career or the party and spends his working days getting away with doing as little as possible so that he can get home ASAP to indulge his astronomy hobby.


I don't usually make it through to the end of these kind of long TV series, let alone do a vocab mine of them, so it definitely comes highly recommended from me. At least watch the first two episodes. I think their fast pacing and interesting dialogue make them among the best in the series, so it's safe to say that if you don't like them, then the rest of the series won't be for you. However, if they do grab your interest, then you should enjoy the rest.

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Language Analysis


i don't normally do this, but since a had some free time, I thought it might be interesting to do some analysis of the vocab I learnt from watching the series. From my rough count (i.e. in my head), I came across a total of 1,455 pieces of new vocab in the whole series (although this may be a little lower in reality due to a few duplicate entries). That averages out to around 28 per episode. The episode with highest number of amount of new vocab was (unsurprisingly) episode 1 at 86, with the lowest being episode 50 with just 4 (I was really hoping to make it through a whole episode without encountering any new vocab, but I guess that milestone in my Chinese learning journey will have to wait for another day). I'm pretty generous with regards to what I include in the lists, so it wouldn't be accurate to say that all the vocab is completely new to me.Sometimes I'll include a word or phrase which I already know, but that I feel I don't use often enough in active speaking or writing, as a way to remind myself to use it.


I've attached a little bar chart showing the per episode vocab count (yeah, I've had far to much time on my hands today). It shows a large front-loading of vocab in the first couple of episodes, with a steady decline as the series gets closer to the end (albeit with a few spikes here and there). Nothing too surprising perhaps, but it still gives me a sense of progress nonetheless. 1,455 new words/phrases sounds a lot, and much of it was political, official and business related vocab, which I was pretty weak at before. I certainly would feel a lot more comfortable sitting in on a meeting of the politburo or being interrogated by anti-corruption police now than before I watched the series, which may or may not prove useful in real life... ;-)


Of course, merely having encountered 1,455 new pieces of new vocab doesn't necessarily mean that they are all now stuck in my brain and ready to use. I'll continue to do some Anki-style vocab retention practice and will watch through the whole thing again a few weeks from now. I'll should be in China by then, so I plan to write a few essays on the happenings and characters in the show to really solidify the new things I've learnt and have them marked by my tutor. I think I've tended to rush from one new book/TV series to the next in the past without properly digesting what I have just learnt (after all, it sounds more impressive to yourself to have read three books rather than just one), so I want to slow down a bit. That's the plan anyway. I'd welcome any advice on this matter.


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