After penning what can only be described as a sensational kiss-off to the jackals who run NBC earlier in the day, Conan O’Brien had to do the impossible and actually show up for work this evening. As the curtain pulled back and Andy Richter introduced the dead host walking to the Tonight Show audience, it felt like an eternity passed before Conan and his shock of red hair emerged from the shadows. It was an electric moment, as the audience gave Coco a standing ovation, one that helped will him through what must’ve been the most difficult monologue of his career to date. However, Conan displayed little of the bilious contempt for NBC that leaped off the page in his letter; rather, his jokes carried the unmistakable air of someone who was trying to put on a brave face after being deeply hurt. In particular, his joke about watching Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show when he was a boy and making a vow to himself that “Someday, I’m going to host that show for seven months” was one of the more heartbreaking moments we’ve seen on television in quite some time. And even though tonight’s monologue left little doubt that Conan is reeling, he should rest a bit easier tonight knowing that he’s winning the PR war by a landslide.