It may not have been evident at the time, but when Tom Cruise was leaping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch, he was like a piston, churning the wheels of fate.
Had Cruise not chosen to express his love for Katie Holmes on that momentous May day, 2005 might have been very different. Just imagine:
Hurt by Cruise's cold, somber manner on "Oprah," Holmes storms out of the studio and announces that she's leaving the "War of the Worlds" star.
"He could have at least hugged an ottoman," Holmes says. Spurned by the 27-year-old beauty, Cruise undergoes a period of self-examination and gives up Scientology. Devastated over losing its most famous member, the church quickly recruits Russell Crowe.
Enlightenment soothes Crowe's anger, and the notorious phone-tossing incident never happens (although there are reports of the actor flicking a Cheez-It at a hotel bellboy).
His good reputation takes a hit, though, when Crowe (promoting "Cinderella Man") calls "Today" host Matt Lauer "glib" while discussing medication. The word is apparently central to Scientology beliefs - like "sin" is for Catholics.
Crowe's "Cinderella Man" co-star, Renee Zellweger, thrown by the brouhaha, seeks solace not in country star Kenny Chesney, but someone just as surprising. She marries "American Idol" finalist Bo Bice, a decision criticized by Simon Cowell.
The wedding news breaks just as the circulatory dating of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn hits full stride. It becomes too much for tabloid editors, who begin referring to them as Brangelinastonaughn.
The partner-swapping also elicits fierce debate over whether each relationship is based on true love or strategic image-making and movie-selling. The theory - dubbed "intelligent design" - doesn't quite make it to the Supreme Court.
One case that does make it to a courtroom, though, is Anna Nicole Smith's suit against Kanye West alleging that his hit song "Gold Digger" is about her. The trial is dismissed, though, after Smith shows up late to court in her pajamas.
West remains bitter, a feeling intensified by the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. At a telethon, his co-presenter, Mike Myers, is replaced at the last minute by Michael Jackson. A confused West then proclaims: "George Bush hates white people."
Distraught over his mistake, West joins Dave Chappelle in South Africa.
Paris Hilton never meets her would-be fiance, Paris Latsis. Instead, she becomes engaged to herself. "That's hot," she claims.
The engagement lasts three weeks before splintering amid a dispute over the prenuptial agreement.
Jessica Simpson, witnessing Hilton's breakup drama, opts to stay married to Nick Lachey. Their "Newlyweds" show is renamed "Mildly Satisfied, Sort of Unhappy Married Couple, Remaining Together for Financial Reasons - Like Everyone Else."
By some strange coincidence, Martha Stewart and New York Times reporter Judith Miller end up at the same prison. Stewart brightens up Miller's cell with curtains and Miller helps Stewart with her "Apprentice" catch phrase.
The pair rules the jail, forming the "Valerie Plame Gang" in which each member must get a tattoo reading "VPG for Life: Disclose this!"
In this alternate reality, though, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline remain together. Even history's left-hand turns can't stop true love.