It could have been the last-chance saloon: one last grab at fame, power or parliamentary perks. The minor party leaders' debate was civilised - but will the follow-up debates be mad, mud-flinging, ill-tempered affairs?
Political scientist Joe Atkinson is doubtful. He says last week's debate succeeded at being intelligent, even though TV tries its best to prioritise tantrums over policy discussion.
"I thought it was a really good debate - and that was almost in spite of the format."
The magnified drama - of the medium close-up, the wagging finger breaking into screen - was absent. But Atkinson said ineptitude was not.
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"I agree with the general feeling that Brash was inept. He's been around too long. He just gets laughed at."
Atkinson says voters won't forget the derision Brash endured any time soon. "His reputation is now thoroughly established. I don't think there's anything he can do to throw that off."
In the polls, Winston Peters' gains made headlines. Being in the debate probably helped - but Atkinson says Peter Dunne's lack of charisma is useful to NZ First too.
Atkinson says Peters gained by squatting in the spot Dunne usually occupies.
"Winston's very carefully positioned on the conservative side of the minor parties. He agreed with Brash but he also agreed with the people to the left. Peter Dunne really has no charm."
Off-camera, Peters even saw the ad breaks as a chance to woo a few voters. Moving off the stage, his twitching eyes and contorted grimace gave way to a seemingly easy charm that quickly won over audience members.
Perhaps the dozen people he addressed could decide whether he re-enters Parliament. He needs every vote.