Tom Bergeron's wish came true.
After Dancing with the Stars' predictable Season 10 — in which practically everyone foresaw Nicole Scherzinger winning — the host was hoping for more surprises from this season's hodgepodge of evenly matched contenders.
"We got it! Really, it all started with David Hasselhoff [who was eliminated first]. That was the most shocking moment for me," Bergeron tells TVGuide.com. "I have no idea what happened there. I was like, 'What the hell?' I figured we had at least four good weeks of comedy coming and boom! He's gone!"
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That set the tone for the season: Following Hasselhoff — whose only performance left much to be desired — out the door went respectable contenders Audrina Patridge, Rick Fox and Kurt Warner. And then there was last week's shocker: Brandy got the boot, while Bristol Palin advanced to the final despite having the lowest scoring dance for the seventh time. It enraged many fans.
"The complaining amuses me to no end," Bergeron says. "Whenever someone says that Bristol shouldn't be there to me, I almost inevitably say, 'Of course, you're voting for...?' And they go, 'Yeah, I didn't vote.' I have no sympathy for people who are kvetching about — and this is from a gentile — who's still there and who's gone.
"If you want a technical dancer, watch PBS," he continues. "It's part dance show, part popularity contest. It always has been and always will be. If you don't get that by Season 11, I don't know what I have to say to you."
Palin and her partner, Mark Ballas, will face off against front-runners Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, and show-stoppers Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer, who twice were one point shy of perfection last week. (Grey and Hough have nabbed three perfect 30s.) While Palin doesn't have the dubious distinction of earning the lowest score of the season (that goes to Michael Bolton and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, who each got a 12), she's only averaged, well, an average 21 points.
Still, Bergeron can make the winning case for Sarah Palin's daughter.
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"She's not the strongest dancer, obviously," he says. "But she ... represents what I think is the best of our show, somebody who comes Day 1 and is completely out of their element and has shown a clear growth as a dancer. And she clearly has a massive or sufficient amount of viewer support to keep her in despite low scores."
"Is it political? I don't know," he says. "But that just speaks to the importance of voting."
Palin's run recalls that of Marie Osmond's in Season 5. Another mediocre, average-scoring dancer, she made it to the final on the strength of votes. She finished third after her bizarre rag-doll freestyle turned more viewers off than anything else. "The freestyle isn't always the decider, but a lot of times, momentum can stall that close to the finish," Bergeron says. "You see couples like Drew [Lachey] and Cheryl [Burke], who set the gold standard for what a freestyle can be and, on the other end, you have Marie's rag-doll! It was like, 'Oh my God!' You can make it or break it with that last image that's burned into your retinas."
Palin and Ballas have more to worry about than the freestyle. Grey and Hough are arguably the heavy favorites who, Bergeron says, have "rallied back" after a midseason slump. "[Grey] dealt with physical injuries, some emotional uncertainty, but she's looking as strong as ever the past few weeks." Massey and Schwimmer, meanwhile, are Mr. and Ms. Consistency, and they seem to be peaking at the right time.
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"They haven't hit the top or the bottom. They have been relentlessly entertaining," Bergeron says. "My favorite moment ... was watching [their] Instant Dance. They blew the roof off the place. I immediately thought, 'Gee, I'd hate to be any of the other couples back there getting ready!' It put the spotlight on why they're so good as a couple. Kyle's just a fun, charming kid with a great self-aware sense of humor."
The Instant Dance was one of the new elements, along with new theme weeks, that Bergeron says he loved and made for a strong and, yes, unpredictable season.
But how will it all end? After kicking off the season with a surprise result, will Season 11 wrap with one too?
"I think it's going to be very dramatic. It's been a season where you really can't be sure how it's going to play out, which I thought was lacking last season. I've really enjoyed this season and [the producers] have done a remarkable job of keeping it fresh coming off Season 10," Bergeron says. "I guess all I can say now is just vote."
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