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Additional research has uncovered the fact that using the nvidia proprietary drivers means plymouth will break in FC16 - grub2 doesn't support the old 'vga' option used to enable graphic plymouth themes.

This blog post was very helpful, and rose above the sea of other "scripts" and "recommendations" out there (most for Ubuntu which may or may not apply to FC).

The blog post walks you through step by step the edits to grub.conf that are needed to enable graphic booting again. It includes an optional step of using a nicer font for grub2 too (bonus!).

I followed the instructions and they solved my problem even via copy/paste.

Now I hope an upgrade to doesn't bork this again in the future - it is nice to finally see plymouth themes.