Or is it just one of Phil's balls in my throat?
40 fps is much much better than 30.
Every VRR user knows that.
This has nothing to do with VRR.
40 FPS on a refresh rate that divides evenly into it will be smooth without judder.
By that logic, if you have a display that supports 90hz, you can run a 45 FPS game on it and it will divide evenly and play even smoother without any judder. It just needs to divide evenly.