This is no spoiler alert. I’d be a liar or a fool if I told you what will happen next in the soap opera that is Donald Trump’s attempt to nominate Brett Kavanaugh for the US Supreme Court.
The US – and much of the world – sat gripped as Mr Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testified before the US Senate.
With the fever broken for the moment, here’s a look at what has emerged as the key elements going into next week, as senators await the results of the FBI’s week-long investigation into allegations from Mr Kavanaugh’s past.
Christine Blasey Ford’s authenticity
The power of Dr Ford’s testimony – guileless, gripping, tremulous and certain – seemed insurmountable in the moments after she finished speaking on Thursday afternoon (US time).
It’s only become more durable and persuasive in subsequent days. Even Republican senators knew they had to applaud her “credibility” – if only then to trash the entire hearing as a Democratic plot against their man.
The GOP figured they could hurry past that contradiction by ramming Mr Kavanaugh through the committee the morning after Dr Ford spoke. But the week’s delay – regardless of what the FBI finds – will only force more Republican senators into contortions of illogic, trying to reconcile their lip service to Dr Ford with their fealty to their conservative choice. That won’t be easy.
His blistering tirade played well in the still-smouldering ruins of Thursday’s hearing. His outrage seemed authentic, his tears a sign of genuine suffering.
But just hours later, his partisan flame-throwing against the committee’s Democratic senators and accusations of a left-wing conspiracy (this is “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” he sputtered) suggested a man ill suited for the impartial confines of the Supreme Court.
Weeks earlier, he’d testified to the need for non-partisanship on the bench. Now it seemed some mask had been ripped off, exposing the paranoid party apparatchik below.
Beyond that, his answers to Democratic senators’ questions revealed a guy for whom “privilege” seems defined. He was qualified because “I worked my tail off”.
He even challenged a female senator by throwing her question about his drinking back at her. He later apologised, but so what?
He looked like a spoiled rich jerk, bullying a woman. This jeremiad may not prove disqualifying, but it won’t age well over the coming week.
The power of two
It’s clear GOP senator Jeff Flake’s call for a week-long investigation was influenced by two sexual assault survivors who cornered him in a Senate elevator on the way to Friday’s hearing.
For several minutes, Ana Maria Archila and Marie Gallagher pleaded with a visibly uncomfortable Senator Flake to reconsider his decision, announced just minutes earlier, to support Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“You’re telling women that they don’t matter,” Ms Gallagher said, “and they should just stay quiet, because if they tell you what happened to them you’re going to ignore them.”
A grim-faced Flake finally made his way to the hearing room, where he sat silently listening to his fellow senators squabble.
After several hours, he signalled to his friend, Democratic senator Chris Coons, to join him in the hallway outside the committee room, where they hashed out the compromise investigation.
Senator Flake’s semi-reversal is a testament to the power individuals still have to affect policy. Amid all the anger and hate choking American politics, that’s not a bad thing. Look for more of that this week, from both sides.
Follow the clues
Aside from the politics, there’s the plot. What exactly happened that night in 1982, and why the hell can’t we get some answers?
The GOP senators’ hand-picked inquisitor, Rachel Mitchell, may have failed at poking holes in Dr Ford’s testimony, but she did seem genuinely interested in trying to ferret out some facts around the alleged incident.
Any armchair sleuth watching the hearing couldn’t help but wonder why investigators hadn’t fully questioned any of the people said to be at gathering.
Why wasn’t Mr Kavanaugh’s pal, Mark Judge, who Dr Ford says was in the room during the attack, called to testify? Why hadn’t the others present been asked about whose house the party may have occurred at? Why hadn’t Dr Ford’s parents been asked about the summer in question?
Now that the FBI is finally involved, perhaps some answers will emerge about not only the Ford accusation, but the other allegations looming around Mr Kavanaugh.
In an era where facts seem to be unfashionable, that’s an essential step in this volatile climate.
Again, it’s about the FBI
According to The Washington Post, as senators Flake and Coons were hammering out their compromise, they telephoned FBI director Christopher Wray.
He couldn’t be found, so they ended up consulting with Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration. He told them the bureau was ready to assist if asked.
The weirdness is almost too much. Mr Rosenstein, Trump’s bete noire, signing off on an investigation into Mr Trump’s cherished Supreme Court nominee.
In fact, Mr Rosenstein was only able to take the call because his own appointment at the White House – where he was expected to be dressed down, if not fired, by Trump – was postponed so Mr Trump could watch the hearings.
Mr Trump’s contempt of the FBI is well documented. Should they find anything damaging towards Mr Kavanaugh, you can be sure Mr Trump will stop at nothing to undermine it.
While Americans are desperate for an unbiased finder of facts to lead us out of this bitter controversy, Mr Trump will do what he can to sink it in the mire of mistrust if he has to.