Yeah - that's essentially what Matt Cutts said, too. I'm also amazed that no flags were raised on this.
About that fall to #52 - notice that was the average position for 59 different query terms that previously averaged #1.3. So it's not losing just one ranking. Even though we don't have the list, my guess is that nothing like that level will be achieved again so widely.
Sure, they'll achieve some decent rankings again, just like BMW did. But here Penney's were stealing the game in a very big way. It's very unlikely to see them again at #1 for [dresses] and [bedding] and [arearugs] and [Samsonite carry-on luggage] and 55 others.