This case has had more twists and turns than your average episode of Law & Order.
In the latest surprise, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett on Tuesday. But he can't just return to his old life.
It turns out that folks on the set of Empire remain fiercely divided over him, his case, and whether he can ever return.
TMZ reports that, according to production sources, there are faction lines being drawn on the set of Empire.
Some people, especially within the writer's room, believe that Jussie is innocent.
They see the prosecutors dropping the case as a vindication.
The belief is that it proves that he was the victim of both a brutal attack and then a malicious arrest and the beginnings of an unjust prosecution.
After what they see as a smear campaign, they want him welcomed back.
At the same time, there's another group on set.
These folks believe that Jussie staged his own attack, manufacturing a fraudulent hate crime.
They are reportedly shocked that he will not be facing any legal consequences for this.
What really strikes a nerve is a claim by police that Jussie did this in an effort to squeeze more money out of the show.
(Notably, an earlier police claim was that his motive was to keep his character from being written off, though this was debunked)
As you can imagine, those who are pissed as hell at Jussie don't want him back.
If Empire is renewed for a sixth season, they want him cut from the cast.
That can mean recasting or writing him off.
It's not just that they're angry with him that has them reluctant to take him back.
It is their position that he is a liability to the series.
(Somehow more so than Terrence Howard, who admitted in an interview to hitting his wife yet continues to star on the show)
But TMZ notes that there's one thing that unites the cast about this issue.
They're all, for the most part, breathing a sigh of relief that the case has been cut off.
Cases like this can go on for months or even years, and the cast was not looking forward to the show's name being associated with a criminal case.
Not like this, anyway.
So no matter how they feel about the charges being dropped, at least part of this story seems to be over.
But without a verdict, there seems to be very little closure for anyone.
And declaring the case closed may be a mistake.
The FBI is still conducting an investigation into the letter which threatened Jussie's life that was mailed in 8 days prior to the alleged attack.
If the FBI identifies some hateful bigot as having sent it, that could cast Jussie's case in a new light.
If the investigation concludes that Jussie himself sent it, he could face federal charges.
Some doubted Jussie's story as far back as January, expressing that the crime seemed to have too many components.
Very rarely are hate crimes as artfully conceived as they are on television shows.
With all of the different components of the crime, from the noose to the bleach to him being identified by name, people had to wonder.
They wondered how his assailants had found him.
Real hate crimes happen all of the time, and are massively on the rise, but some felt that Jussie's sounded too scripted.
At the same time, many have doubted the story that the police have been telling about this.
First of all, Jussie's alleged motive has changed.
We worry when investigators have too many explanations for what happened, because it sounds like guesses -- at best.
The Chicago Police Department has a notorious reputation, even among metropolitan police departments.
Chicago has been forced to cough up $370 million in excessive force payouts over a span of just six years.
The CPD has been accused of covering up murders committed by its officers. There is a file on alleged torture committed by its officers.
So ... many people are not willing to take the Chicago police at their word on just about anything.
We're not going to tell anyone what to think about Jussie Smollett or this case.
Whenever there's doubt in a situation such as this, we recommend that everyone brace themselves for the worst.
It is always entirely likely that neither party did the right thing.
In fact, it is widely believed that prosecutors dropped the case against Jussie because of police wrongdoing that would have been exposed at trial.
If that is true, that does not mean that Jussie is innocent, but merely that State's Attorneys chose the least humiliating option.