Of course, it didn't occur to me to take photos with my phone until the work was all done, but the white clip that holds the cable in the black metal bracket had slipped out of there entirely. There were two barb things at the top and bottom of the clip, which click into the two holes in the metal bracket, visible immediately above and below the clip. They are designed not to let go again unless they break. And they not only weren't broken, they had no signs of abrasion or other use. All I can guess is that the clip was never fully pushed into place to begin with, thank you American workmanship. The clip slid into place easily enough now, and while it took some leverage with a large screwdriver handle, it slid all the way in until the barbs clicked soundly into place. That clip ain't going nowhere now and the car shifts exactly as it should (and did).
Anyway, I complain but the truth is that this was worlds better than the alternative - attempting to have an American car fixed in Romania. Even the thought just gives me a shiver. But the laws of entropy being what they are, I'll have to face that music someday and must prepare myself!
- k -