Tonight’s MTV Video Music Awards began with Nicki Minaj, who performed alongside Taylor Swift just a month or so after Swift clumsily inserted herself into Minaj’s pointed critiques regarding the racial makeup of this year’s nominees. It was supposed to be a Shocking VMA Moment but was entirely pre-packaged, which may or may not also be true about Minaj confronting Cyrus over her rather boneheaded comments about race.

Minaj was onstage accepting the award for Best Rap Video when she broke off her speech to call out Cyrus, who in a pre-VMA interview with Joe Coscarelli of the New York Times, said that Minaj’s brief beef with Swift was “jealous” and “disrespectful.”

“And now... back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press,” Nicki said. “Miley, what’s good?”

Miley’s responded by blaming the reporter: “Hey, we’re all in this industry, we all do interviews, and we all know how they manipulate shit. Nicki, congratulations.”

It seems pretty clear that Cyrus’ quotes were not manipulated—the Times printed what appears to be an unedited and, given the length of the story, relatively protracted discussion between Cyrus and Coscarelli about Minaj and Swift. Coscarelli tried to ease Cyrus off her comments, but Miley doubled and then tripled-down on her characterization of Minaj as boorish.

What is less clear is whether this Shocking VMA Moment was scripted, too. The primary argument in favor of it being pre-planned is that with the “surprise” Swift performance, Minaj had already participated in one meta acknowledgement of a VMA-related “controversy,” so what was another? There was also a flash of a smile, which could be interpreted several different ways, one of which is that Minaj couldn’t even be bothered to keep up the charade.

There’s also this image, posted to Instagram by MTV News (may the Lord forgive us), that hyped the clash and which went up suspiciously quickly.

On the other hand, MTV is insisting that nothing was in the works, though it would behoove them to play along. That said, an online-only shot of Cyrus watching seems to show her being taken aback by Minaj’s affront.

That interpretation is backed up by Jezebel’s Kara Brown, who was at the show and reported that “it definitely didn’t seem like Miley knew Nicki was going to say that.”

After Cyrus attempted to deflate the situation, Minaj stepped away from her mic and said “don’t play with me, bitch” a few times. Maybe that looked staged to you, or maybe it didn’t.

Regardless, I’m sure we’ll all get a chance to revisit this fascinating mystery at next year’s VMAs.

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