In a moment sure to live in GIF and meme history, brain surgeon Ben Carson started off the ABC-sponsored Saturday debate by failing to take the stage when his name was called. For a moment it looked like he was ready to suspend his campaign, protest his treatment from the media, or announce that he and Donald Trump were about to stage a military coup. No such luck. It was purely Carson existing in a different, more relaxed universe than ours. (To be fair, they said his name quietly.)

The other side has its story now – it’s Democratic realism (Hillary) or socialism (Bernie) on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. However, over in the Republican corner, weirdness still runs rampant – not the least while Carson insists upon staying in the campaign. He had one coherent answer about reforming the VA, but that’s all.

Sen. Ted Cruz couldn’t quite sustain his first place Iowa momentum, but he didn’t entirely drown. Donald Trump came back, in the sense that although many of his answers began like a hybrid of Charlie Sheen and Miss Teen South Carolina 2007, at least they ended in intelligible policy sentiments. But the former was still the vibe of the evening.

ABC’s strange moderation, which the candidates trampled over, did not help. Everything was there, but…off.

Still, the evening managed to confirm again that the Republican nomination is still open. Somehow-scrappy-underdog and former Gov. Jeb Bush went after Trump on the latter’s nasty eminent domain habit. Trump in turn argued that eminent domain is necessary for America, and having roads, schools, hospitals and bridges.

The low-polling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went full attack dog on Sen. Marco Rubio in a surprisingly successful attempt to rattle the neocons’ new fair-haired boy. Christie said that only a governor knows how to graduate to the executive big times, and that Rubio is all Congress (this being a devastating insult). Hilariously, in a clash with Christie over the accusation that he repeats talking points, Rubio repeated his talking point about how Obama “knows what he is doing” four times. He only got sweatier and more off-kilter as the evening continued.

Your DVR is not glitching, but Rubio is. It’s still anyone’s Republican primary, or maybe it’s still Trump’s. These elections are such David Lynchian fun until we actually get stuck with someone.

Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Twitter: @lucystag.

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