The denouement in the regrettable tragedy of David Petraeus was not a blockbuster, fireworks-filled, epic courtroom scene as some expected (hoped?) it would be. Rather, it was a whimper, a quiet legal resignation, and a tactical surrender to the legal forces arrayed against the former celebrated general and CIA director.

One of the country’s more sordid political controversies of the last decade, one that indulged perfectly the prurient public’s need for scandal, came to a quiet end, possibly in the back room of a judge’s chambers or in a plush law office conference room. One can almost taste the palpable disappointment of countless political reporters who no doubt looked to further explore the salacious details of the affair.

After all, what more could you want? Titillating love affair between attractive reporter and handsome Army man? Check. Flirtatious Tampa socialite upsetting the dynamics of the romantic liaison with her attentions? Check. Jealous lover threatening one whom she sees as a potential rival, leading to an FBI investigation revealing passage of classified information to a reporter? Check and check. Spectacular fall from grace of a once-revered leader? Oh, yes.

According to reports, Petraeus’ lawyers this week reached a deal for the former four-star Army general to plead guilty to mishandling classified information—a misdemeanor—which will surely prevent him from having to endure a lengthy trial, and will likely preclude him spending any real time in federal prison.

According to the same reports, Petraeus will admit to retaining personal notebooks that contained classified information, and providing those same notebooks to his biographer-cum-paramour Paula Broadwell. At the time, Ms. Broadwell was writing a biography of the general, and one might infer that she perhaps wanted more intimate details of the general’s mental state and reasoning for her book, hence her procurement of the personal notebooks.

Had Ms. Broadwell not threatened Tampa socialite Jill Kelley for flirting with the general, and had Ms. Kelley not subsequently notified the FBI of the harassment, this affair might have never entered the public eye. Alas, jealousy, pride, and poor judgment came before Petraeus’ fall.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular public collapse for such a celebrated military leader. General Stanley McChrystal’s sacking, due to his unfortunate comments to a Rolling Stone reporter, comes close. Petraeus, though, was seen as the preeminent military strategist and hero of the George W. Bush “surge” strategy in Iraq. He was credited with executing a highly effective counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq, thus providing President Obama the opportunity to draw down forces, as promised in his 2008 presidential campaign.

In addition to pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, Petraeus also faces a possible two-year probationary period and a $40,000 fine, according to the Washington Post. Thus, though he may be out of the woods legally with respect to serving a long prison term, Petraeus nevertheless faces at least some degree of monetary and judicial punishment for his actions.