In the end, there would be no baby dolls dropping from the rafters, giant Jacuzzis filled with writhing background dancers servicing a fading pop star's exhibitionistic sexual needs, or even a female albino python with which Britney Spears might share a same-sex, cross-species kiss to open last night's VMAs.

There was just Britney, looking as though a handler had narcotized her to the point where she could be convinced to put on an outfit tailored for her 2001-era body and take to the stage with only the vaguest idea of her act's choreography, telling her, "It's only three minutes, baby. Just get out there and be yourself. You don't need to 'do stuff,' you're Britney Fucking Spears, and the people love you just as you are!" Despite the overall failure of her latest comeback attempt, it wasn't completely devoid of highlights—the moment where she greedily clasped that back-up dancer's junk was a winner, demonstrating that even in the midst of a total disaster, she's retained some of the improvisational flair that once made her a must-see performer.