By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 12:07 AM
Just eight judging points separated "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey from daughter of famous politician Bristol Palin on Monday night as viewers began voting for their fave in the final round of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" competition.
Studio audience members began to boo when the show's three professional judges gave Bristol just 25 points for her freestyle dance, which she performed to a well-known tune from "Chicago" - the play/movie Bristol said she has never seen.
Grey, meanwhile, nabbed a perfect score of 30 for her freestyle dance, which she did to a tune from the flick "Dirty Dancing" - though not the flick's most iconic song, "Time of Your Life" because, Grey told show sidekick Brooke Burke, that one was all about her and movie co-star Patrick Swayze (who died of cancer a little more than a year ago).
"By the way, you may have noticed the subject of our voting has become a bit of a news story this week," show host Tom Bergeron told viewers during Monday's show, regarding comments that had popped up on conservative Web sites from people claiming to have figured out how to game ABC's voting system on the show. (One commenter on conservative blog Hillbuzz claimed to have cast 300 votes for Bristol, and the blog's creator said he was urging people to vote "creatively" for Palin to repay Democrats for years of voter fraud at the polls.)
"Here's the deal: We tell you every week you have to vote for your favorites to win. If you don't vote, don't complain," Bergeron said in response to the kerfuffle that was kicked off over those press reports.
"And please - don't shoot your television," Bergeron cracked - a reference to a guy in rural Wisconsin who last week pulled out a shotgun and blasted his TV after one of Bristol's performances. The guy's wife told the cops he was upset that a politician's daughter was dancing on the show, even though he felt she didn't have talent, the AP reported (adding that the wife told police, "He scared the bejebees out of me").
Remember when this show was this nice little, kinda quaint, cheesetastic dance competition?
"It sucks people still don't think I deserve to be here," Bristol complained in a taped bit at the top of the show.
"There are a lot of haters out there just waiting for me to fail. ... This just gives me that much more motivation to prove them wrong," she added.
And she did -- at least during Monday's first round of dancing, when each of the show's three finalists was asked to repeat a dance style at which they'd done poorly during this edition of the hit reality show.
Bristol re-did the jive - which she'd first attempted this season in a gorilla suit. This time, in a much nicer blue dress, she delivered one of her best performances of the season, for which the judges rewarded her with 27 points.
"Last time you were a gorilla - now you're a thrilla!" raved judge Len Goodman.
Her freestyle didn't go over so well, as she had forecast during rehearsal, though judge Carrie Ann Inaba enthused: "Did I just see Bristol Palin dancing in a cage!?" - which, Bergeron joked, is exactly what Bristol's mother, Sarah (who was in the audience rooting for her daughter) had said about the number.
Just like last week, Jennifer wound up with a perfect score for the night, including 30 points for her freestyle and another 30 for her do-over of the paso doble.
"It was an evening in sultry Seville - the flamingo dancer and the golden matador, igniting the flames of passion, feeding off each other with relentless pleasure, from dusk til dawn. I don't want this night to ever end!" judge Bruno Tonioli effervesced about that performance.
"You're been consistent, persistent ... like a juggernaut heading for that Mirror Ball Trophy!" Len forecast after Jennifer's second dance.
Between the audience getting agitated over Bristol's scores, and the geyser of love pouring over Jennifer from the judges' desk, poor Disney star Kyle Massey kind of got squeezed out of the drama Monday night, even though he achieved two of his best dances of the season.
For his much-improved Redemption Round re-do of the fox trot, judges awarded him 27 points.
"You've gone from messy to marvelous," Goodman said after that number.
Kyle followed that with an exuberant, exhausting freestyle dance to "Tootsie Roll." Len called it "boogaloo," but Carrie Ann insisted it was "old school hip hop" but whatever it was, two of the judges - Carrie Anna and Bruno - felt it merited a perfect 10 points while Len gave him a 9 for a dance total of 29 and a night's total of 56 points. That's four better than Bristol.
So once again, Bristol the Pistol has wound up Monday night with the fewest points from the judges. Once again, public votes could put her back in the game. But this week, each dancer will perform another two numbers on Tuesday, though Bergeron says the judges' scores from both nights will still account for just half of the competitors total scores. The dancer who winds up with the highest score Tuesday night walks off with the hideous-yet-coveted Mirror Ball Trophy.
Put Bristol in a corner?
Fifty-four percent of Americans think Bristol is one of the finalists on "Dancing With the Stars" because of large-scale voting by viewers who support her mother, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News.
Just 14 percent of respondents think Bristol is still in the competition because she is one of this season's best dancers on the show.
An additional 26 percent responded that they had no opinion on the subject. (The remaining respondents cited either "both" reasons or "neither.")
This edition of "Dancing With the Stars" - on which Bristol is a finalist with "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey and Disney star Kyle Massey - is being watched by an average of 21 million viewers. That is a very big audience for a TV show these days, but that audience represents only about 7 percent of Nielsen Media's universe, which is now estimated to be nearly 295 million people between the ages of 2 and death.
Among those who think Bristol is still dancing on the show because of large-scale support for Sarah, they were asked whether that was a good-enough reason for Bristol to have survived to the final week. "Not good enough," responded 68 percent of the people: "Good enough," responded 26 percent, while 6 percent had no opinion.
The Washington Post-ABC News telephone poll was conducted this past Sunday - five days after show host Tom Bergeron announced that Bristol would be one of this week's finalists and pop singer Brandy Norwood had been booted from the competition. Brandy's outster prompted some members in the studio audience - a vocal bunch of fans who don't hesitate to shout out how they feel about, for instance, the judges' scoring - to begin to boo.
The poll was conducted among a random national sample of 514 adults, and interviews were conducted on conventional phones and cellphones. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Speaking of Bristol's mom, the Alaska governor turned Fox News Channel contributor and TLC reality TV star was interviewed for Monday night's "Hannity" on FNC, during which she was asked about the criticism of Bristol's run on "DWTS."
"Bristol has said, 'Mom, it doesn't matter what we do, we're going to get criticized anyway, so we might as well dance,' " Sarah said.
"For me, it's, 'You're right, honey, you might as well dance and fly and soar and surf and speak about issues that are important to this country.' We might as well do it, and we'll take that criticism, because we know that, at the end of the day, truly, being committed to a cause is worth it," Sarah added, becoming, we believe, the first person to ever refer to "Dancing With the Stars" as a "cause."