Kanye West kept his cool, and Chris Brown completely lost it on what turned out to be a night of hyped comebacks and flashy arrivals at the BET Awards 2010. (Because it certainly wasn't a night of time management, with the show running a long-winded three-and-a-half hours.)
Sure, there was some déjà vu, too, with Mo'nique scoring her bazillionth Best Actress award, and an expectant Alicia Keys winning twice, for Best Female R&B Artist and Best Collaboration, which she shared with an absentee Jay-Z for "Empire State of Mind."
But it was the long-lost wild cards that the fans were tuning in to see.
West and some dramatic pyrotechnics, including an explosive lava flow and a sparkly snow flurry, opened the show with "Power," marking the venerable rapper's return from Taylor Swift-interrupting exile.
T.I., backed by Travis Barker on drums, did a hot version of "Yeah Ya Know" for what was his first big post-prison performance.
And while Todd Bridges showed up to give a shout-out to Gary Coleman ("I was even hearing [that phrase] in prison!") it was Brown who was tasked with the expected yet still-surprising Michael Jackson tribute marking the first anniversary of the King of Pop's death. Brown even started out in silhouette, making us squint at first to see who was donning the trademark fedora.
Brown did justice to Jackson's dance moves (as much as anyone could, that is) and his sweet timbre, but whether it was out of feeling for Jackson or introspection directed at his own past foibles, the tarnished 21-year-old choked up and never recovered when "Man in the Mirror" got going.
And that was OK, considering the circumstances.
It was also a big night for honoring Mom.
"My mom didn't even know what channel this was going to be on," half-joked Best Female Hip-Hop Artist winner Nicki Minaj, clad in a prom-ready white gown and topped with a rocket-red wig.
Canadian upstart Drake praised his mother for raising him as a single mom while accepting his award for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist, and Trey Songz, named Best Male R&B Artist, peered into the crowd and wondered where his mom went, only to realize she was already onstage behind him.
Performance highlights included Eminem's thundering rendition of "Not Afraid," which at one point included a massive gospel choir; Keys' medley of a bunch of her hits; Songz' covering "Purple Rain" in anticipation of Prince being honored with the BET Lifetime Achievement Award; and the all-lady tribute to Prince, featuring Keys, Patti LaBElle, Janelle Monae and more.
Prince's turtleneck with the drawing of himself on it was pretty cool, too.
"I'm just so thankful to be a part of this world of music," the wee, dapper legend said in thanks. "Thanks for a wonderful night. I'll never forget it as long as I live."
Smooth crooner John Legend was honored with the BET Humanitarian Award for his good works, particularly his efforts to eradicate poverty through improved education.
The show was hosted by the multi-costumed Queen Latifah, who didn't just wear a bunch of different gowns, but also a leopard-print muumuu, a basketball jersey and her prison-warden outfit from Chicago.
Centric Award: Monica
Subway® Sportswoman of the Year: LeBron James
Subway® Sportsman of the Year: Serena Williams
Best International Act: Dizzee Rascal
Lifetime Acheivement Award: Prince
Humanitarian Award: John Legend