John Key said New Zealanders wanted to talk about trade and the economy, not his cup of tea. We wanted to talk about trade and the economy too - but it turns out, he didn't. We review the longest week yet in politics.
The grin on John Key's face as he flipped pancakes in his Parnell kitchen was boyish, goofy. It was just before the 2008 election, the prime minister-in-waiting was the sweetheart of the nation, and he knew it.
He placed a pancake on the plate for Herald on Sunday writer Paul Holmes, and arranged three strips of banana on top. "Look," he grinned, "N for National."
A few weeks later, just before the election, and he sat down with us again in a private room off the Auckland domestic airport Koru Lounge. He talked about the economy, tax cuts, roading infrastructure and how he planned to maintain work-life balance if elected Prime Minister.
"The main thing is to make the time I spend at home quality time, as far as possible."
As recently as a week-and-a-half ago, speaking to us after a Helensville candidates' meeting in Whenuapai, he was friendly and chatty.
But John Key's genuine warmth, one-on-one, belies a gradual loosening of his embrace with the political media, of his public engagement with the tough issues.
Even before the 2008 election, he tripped up when he suffered a memory lapse about his ownership of shares in Tranz Rail while opposition rail spokesman. Similarly, he struggled for a while to remember whether he had supported or opposed the 1981 Springbok tour. "Mildly pro-tour," he eventually concluded.
Over the course of his premiership, Key has done fewer and fewer big sit-down interviews with experienced political journalists; more and more "fluff" interviews and photo-shoots with women's magazines and tame talkback radio hosts.
But the scowl captured on his face during the now-infamous Epsom cup of tea sullied some of the previous three years of soft soap.
After the Herald on Sunday revealed that a freelance cameraman had inadvertently recorded that conversation with John Banks, the Prime Minister went on the attack.
First, he compared this paper to the News of the World, then he called in the police, then he suggested tabloid eavesdropping could drive a hypothetical teenager to suicide, then he walked out on two press briefings saying he only wanted to talk about important issues like trade and the economy.
But Radio NZ has been counting the number of times he has turned down interview requests on Morning Report. And its website reveals that National declined to answer any of the 100-plus written questions it sent parties about their policies.
And this week, Key's chief press secretary Kevin Taylor pulled his boss out of a planned Q&A interview with the Herald on Sunday - an interview that was intended to canvass just such policy issues as trade and the economy.
Neither would he agree to answer a question from Mike and Emily Wilson - the young Auckland couple who had been chosen in a readers' poll to speak for Kiwi families about the challenges finding quality time together as a family.
And that was the very issue on which he had placed so much importance in his pre-election interview three years ago. A week may be a long time in politics; three years is a lifetime.