we either have
1. another cold fusion debacle
2. groundbreaking fundamentally new science
do i understand the em drive status quo correctly?
Not exactly. The cold fusion debacle led to a lot of failures right away. There were people trying to replicate the cold fusion that got nothing, and others that saw some results. It turned out it depended on your source of palladium whether you would see any results.
In this case, all attempts to replicate the machine have detected some thrust coming from it, and at fairly consistent levels (as far as the measurements go). So it's clear in this case that the claims are correct and the EM works. There are lots of questions, the answers to some of which will mean it is not a viable engine for any practical use. But it's not really comparable to the "cold fusion debacle".