DON'T trust anyone who tells you it was exciting. It was a sad, sad day. The outcome was inevitable. Wreckage is everywhere. A cloud of gloom hangs over the Parliament, not least because, after this bloody diversion, it's back to business as usual.
Everyone was themselves. One Kay Rudd (OKR) surged out of the party room after his defeat with a great smile fixed to his face and managed to hold it there for the next couple of hours as he faced, first the media and then the Parliament.
His followers looked shattered as they walked the green carpet. Chris Bowen had the same stricken face he had the day the High Court destroyed the Malaysia plan.
The member for McMahon's reward for backing the wrong horse will no doubt be to wake up in the morning still the Minister for Immigration. OKR observed the formalities. We gathered in the party room for him to thank the world for the "great things" achieved in his brief career as foreign affairs minister. As a plus we heard about Australia's contribution to "seed productivity" in Somalia.
On that unhappy stage were all the family OKR could muster. At least that poor kid who stood behind him as he struggled through his resignation speech in 2010 was spared another ordeal. His father explained he was ''in the tender care of the Chinese government at Peking University".
The jokes were agony. The rhetoric was huge: paths walked, journeys taken, no grudges and no malice. The smile never faltered.
"We will now take our leave," he declared and a mob of photographers scattered the chairs as they
walked backwards before him to the door.
Julia Gillard is looking shakier in victory than OKR does in defeat. She is saying good things about him now. She is even saying them in Parliament. But OKR paid little attention as he sat in an inconspicuous seat nattering to one of his backers.
He was still smiling. There was no sign yet of the basilisk face that glowered across the chamber after his defeat in 2010. So the attention of the Parliament drifted back to the main players: to Tony Abbott and the Prime Minister at each other again, as shrill and tedious as ever.
An odd mix of numerology and psychiatry is being practised in the corridors to try to answer the big unanswered question: what do 31 votes mean to a man of OKR's peculiar disposition? Does that number kill or keep alive his ambitions?
Don't trust anyone who says they know.
For Abbott the number is the makings of a great new mantra that he rolled out all afternoon: ''A third of caucus and a quarter of cabinet''. We're going to hear it for the next couple of years: this is the headcount of those who knew their cause was lost but cast their vote against Gillard anyway.
Rudd's face sagged. He swept the dreary proceedings with the old hard stare from last time. Life on the backbench is going to be so boring. But somewhere he found the makings of one last smile, picked up his papers and left.