The legal wrangling over Britney Spears' conservatorship has been raging for years, often in very dramatic fashion.
So naturally, those who had been watching the case closely assumed it would conclude with a climactic battle in front of a judge.
Instead, the situation came to a head in a satisfactory but somewhat anti-climactic fashion when Britney's father, Jamie Spears, filed to end the conservatorship earlier this week.
It was just about the last move that anyone expected from Britney's domineering dad -- but unfortunately, it seems he wasn't acting entirely out of concern for his daughter's welfare.
In fact, Jamie might still have a few tricks up his sleeve.
According to a new report from TMZ, Jamie's decision to finally surrender control of his daughter's life may have been a strategic one.
Insiders say as recently as a few weeks ago, the elder Spears was telling friends that he "was deeply concerned about his daughter's mental health" and feared that Britney would never be capable of running her own life.
"She's never getting out of the conservatorship," Jamie told a friend last month.
The insider assures TMZ that there was no cruelty in Jamie's remarks -- he was merely resigned to the fact that Britney might require professional oversight and day-to-day assistance for the rest of her life.
Why then did he agree to make moves to end the conservatorship just a few months later?
Well, insiders believe that Jamie might be backing away as part of a last-ditch effort to prove to that he's vital to Britney's well-being.
The idea might have first occurred to him back in July when the judge in her case granted Britney the right to hire her own lawyer.
She chose a former federal prosecutor named Michael Rosengart, whom Jamie reportedly despised from the start.
One theory for Jamie's sudden withdrawal is that he's hoping to embarrass and discredit Rosengart.
It seems that Britney's attorney has not yet filed a motion to end the conservatorship, a fact that Jamie mentions in his legal docs.
In a sense, Jamie is calling Rosengart's bluff and challenging him to join forces to bring the conservatorship to an end at Britney's next hearing on September 29.
This will likely require a full medical evaluation and other tests that Team Britney might not be prepared for.
Jamie might be hoping that the judge will decide to keep the conservatorship in place as a result of these tests.
It would be a win-win for Jamie, who's probably hoping to shed his "bad guy" label by asking the judge to lift the conservatorship.
Whatever the case, it appears that Jamie's true goal here is not to bring his daughter's conservatorship to an end, but to prove to her -- and everybody else -- just how necessary it is.
Insiders tell TMZ that Britney is "ecstatic" about these latest developments, but still wary of her conniving dad.
And from the sound of things, she's right to be suspicious.
One insider tells TMZ that Jamie is 100 percent confident of this gambit, as he believes that the end of the conservatorship will lead Britney to realize just how much she needs him.
"Jamie believes Britney will come back to him when things unravel again. She always has before," says one insider.
"He knows how mentally ill his daughter is, and has genuinely tried to protect her."
In other words, Britney's conservatorship might well come to an end before the month is out.
But her relationship with her father will likely grow even more complex and difficult.