There's a voting controversy. Sarah Palin
and the tea party
may be involved. Twitter and Facebook are abuzz.
Welcome to the semifinals - and the finals - of "Dancing With the Stars
"! It's "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey vs. pop star Brandy. It's Disney star Kyle Massey vs., yes, teen activist (and single mom and Sarah's daughter) Bristol Palin.
That's pretty much the way it stood for Tuesday's elimination round. Grey topped the leaderboard Monday with a perfect 60, followed by Massey with 58 and Brandy with 57. Bristol finished at the bottom for the seventh time of her nine weeks on the show, but with her best scores yet, 53 out of 60.
In the end, Brandy went home Tuesday and Bristol is headed to the three-way finals.
The controversy that's been brewing came to a full boil on Twitter
after Tuesday's results show. But Bristol's partner, Mark Ballas, addressed it head-on during rehearsal sessions aired Monday night.
"I hear a lot of people saying the only reason you're getting this far is because of who your mom is, the tea party," Ballas said to Bristol. "What I think is that people are at home, they're thinking that's exactly how I would be."
"I think I'm definitely relatable to the audience out there, and untouched and raw and vulnerable," Bristol said, adding later, "No offense to anyone else, but I'm not fake. . . . I'm not typical Hollywood."
She does come from politics, however, and that's where the voting controversy comes from. Certainly, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate and her friends have used their social media prowess to promote Bristol
during a DWTS season that coincided with the midterm elections.
But they aren't the only ones using Twitter and Facebook to promote their favorite dancers this season, according to Annie Barrett
, who reports on DWTS for EW.com
"It could just be a question of how many high-profile celebs (let alone fans) are retweeting the contestants' calls for votes on Mondays. For example, Erin Andrews is always encouraging people to vote for Maks (and Brandy). I'm sure many of her ESPN fans aren't even watching DWTS this season, but if she provides a link, it's that much easier," Barrett said in an e-mail. "After so many seasons, it could be the pros (Our Pros!) who are pulling in just as many votes. Last year I wondered if people voted for Evan [Lysacek, the Olympic gold medal ice skater] because they really wanted Anna [Trebunskaya] to get her first COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY. This season, I think people might be voting for Maks . . . just as much as Brandy and her overblown emotions."
Host Tom Bergeron also discounted the Palin political impact on the voting in a Movieline interview
"I'm going to put on my political hat," he told Movieline. "I'm a liberal Democrat, and I state that proudly. But I have no patience with my friends who believe there is a conspiracy keeping Bristol on the show. I think Bristol is clearly not the best dancer here, but she's a charming young woman who's shown an incredible growth from week one to this week. If she happens to get more votes for whatever reason, more power to her. If you don't like it, vote for someone else. But that's been the part of the show that's amused me, how quickly people are to seize on conspiracy theories when people aren't involved in the process."
There's also a demographic factor at work on DWTS that benefits Bristol, who outlasted Audrina Partridge of the MTV reality show "The Hills."
"I definitely think Audrina was at a disadvantage compared to Bristol," Barrett said in her e-mail. "Nearly everyone in this country knows that Sarah Palin has a daughter who's also a mother. I've never met a DWTS viewer who knew there was a TV show called 'The Hills.' I'd guess few viewers had ever heard of Kyle Massey, either. I certainly hadn't. But he's endearing and he's trying and he loves to talk about pizza. Audrina had one out of three of those qualities at best."
You can't say Bristol isn't being herself on the show. During rehearsal footage, her "What the . . ." ended with a pointed "bleep." It was soon followed by "I feel like I'm screwed."
Instead, she went on to garner a big hug from judge Carrie Ann Inaba and her best score of 27 for the paso doble.
Then came time for the personal stories before the second round dance of the evening. For Bristol, her parents recollected her playing football as a girl, and the news that she was pregnant at 17 -- news that came just before Palin accepted the vice presidential nomination. It's that spotlight that led to her inclusion on "Dancing With the Stars."
And it may be her mother's star power that's kept her on the show this long -- or the fact that, as Barrett says, "some people might just see her as the normal-person contestant and vote for her."
"The bottom line is that we never have any idea how many votes anyone is getting," Barrett said in her e-mail. "That'll always be ABC's dirty little secret."
And it's a big difference from the votes cast by Americans two weeks ago, counted publicly and with lasting impact from town halls to Congress.
Bristol learned Tuesday that she's one of three who will have a shot at the Mirrorball Trophy.
And if she doesn't win next week? Hey, maybe in another 30 years, Bristol will want to return for a repeat on DWTS. If so, she can only hope she looks as hot and dances as spectacularly at 50 as Jennifer Grey.