Two helicopters circled overhead. The paparazzi were out in full force. Security guards were everywhere. And there was a full moon.
But for all the insanity this week surrounding Bristol Palin's inclusion in Monday night's Dancing With the Stars finals — like the man who shot his TV set in anger, and whoever sent that threatening letter containing what turned out to be a benign white powdery substance to the show's production offices — everything inside the studio was relatively normal.
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All three finalists danced well, the audience had a good time, and no one held up a sign saying "Bristol, Go Home." Still, Palin's cage had to be rattled, because during the commercial break before her first dance, she went over to her mother and held her hand, listening to words of encouragement. Sarah Palin has been ringside in the ballroom several times, and her daughter has never done that before. "We were just having a little moment together," Bristol explained right after the show.
Did she and her pro partner, Mark Ballas, have a difficult week? "It wasn't too difficult," said Ballas. "People shooting their televisions? That's ridiculous to shoot your TV over a TV show."
"Yeah," added Palin, "a dance show." Continued Ballas, "It's like, get a life! There's much bigger things happening on this planet than a dance show."
But is it really that easy to tune out all the resentment and anger that's been directed Palin's way? "This is the same kind of typical stuff that I've gone through for the last two years," she said. "I'm used to it. I'm immune to it. I'm used to having it just roll off my back. I'm more focused on doing well." Added Ballas, "for us, it's like, whatever. We got to the studio every day, did six to nine hours. Yesterday we had an eleven-hour day, to do our best, and to come out here. People can be mad all they want. It's out of our control."
Her competitors feel the same way. Kyle Massey and his pro partner, Lacey Schwimmer, genuinely admire Palin for what she's accomplished, don't seem to mind that politics has altered the ballroom equation, and welcome the fact that the fans have become so worked up. "I think that's an excellent thing," said Massey. "I think that just means that the fans love the show so much that they're emotionally invested."
Jennifer Grey, who racked up two perfect scores, also seemed resigned to her fate. "I say, let the chips fall where they may. Our job was just to dance. The rest of it is up to the voting public," she said. "We don't do it for the trophy. We do it for the experience. If the trophy's there, beautiful. But if not, it's been an amazing experience. And now I have to go eat something because I have to go rehearse!"