In the end, the "interrogation" of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was no more than a one-act show.
Some in the audience of the Western press put out critical reviews --- "His Jokes Fell Flat" --- but those missed the significance of the production. This was a play designed not to run and run, but to open and close in the same morning.
The clue lay in the format. The President's antagonists would have only 15 minutes before Ahmadinejad took centre stage for an hour-long response.
Actually, there was only one antagonist. Ali Motahari, the conservative MP who had worked for months to raise the curtain on this questioning, set out the 10 challenges to Ahmadinejad. Those inquries were substantial --- covering the economy, the President's attempts to control ministries such as Intelligence and Foreign Affairs, his violations of law in relations with the Parliament, the turmoil over the budget, his "soft" line on cultural matters --- but there would be no follow-up.
That meant that prominent accusers of Ahmadinejad, such as Ahmad Tavakoli and Elyas Naderan, did not have to make an appearance. And, indeed, those men and other MPs had signalled on Monday that they did not want a confrontation to push the President towards impeachment --- this would be a "discussion" in which they could be observers.
Instead, the President held the stage, putting out his chest and his jaw in defiance: ""There are no hard questions. I have asked myself better ones....The architect of the summoning [Motahari] was not very well educated." The 60 minutes was more performance than engagement with the questions --- was Ahmadinejad reallly going to admit that he had challenged the Supreme Leader for power last year? or that the economy is in a state beyond fragility? --- but this was a show, not a discussion.
There will be sniping at the President today. Indeed, there was yesterday after the play ended. But the MPs who got their one-liners in the international as well as the Iranian press were not the leading players who have threatened Ahmadinejad with retirement. Those legislators held their tongues.
So that's it? A new Parliament is seated in June --- one in which many of those who signed the petition for interrogation will be absent --- and Ahmadinejad serves out the last 14 months of his term?
Pretty much. But that summary misses another event yesterday, one which took place without fanfare and jokes.
As Ahmadinejad and the Parliament were holding attention, the Supreme Leader put out a statement that confirmed the members of the Expediency Council for the next five years, including the re-appointment of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani as head of the Council.
The Council, which officially resolves conflicts between Parliament and the Guardian Council, is rarely in the spotlight. However, it still has the designation of an advisory role to Ayatollah Khamenei and senior officials, and it is also the only formal location for Rafsanjani's power these days.
So the Supreme Leader effectively struck a deal with Rafsanjani who, as recently as the 2 March elections, had threatened to upset the system with his coded warning that the people's will could be set aside by fraud and manipulation. Hashemi gets the appearance that he still has influence while being reminded that this is to be used for good --- the Supreme Leader's good --- not evil. Ahmadinejad is shown that his influence is fleeting, as his rival Rafsanjani is tapped on the shoulder by the man who has the real power.
Everyone in his proper place on the Islamic Republic's stage.
Of course, none of this resolves the problems beyond the show, like the economy or the fraying legitimacy of the leaders, if not the system itself. However, it deals with the immediate annoyance that Ayatollah Khamenei has faced since June 2009. No man, no bloc within the Iranian establishment will have the base to defy him.
And that, now that the curtains are drawn on Wednesday's one-act drama, is the critical review that the Supreme Leader wanted.