Season 11 of Dancing With the Stars heads to next week's season finale without the woman who may have been its best performer. Singer Brandy was eliminated Tuesday, becoming the latest and certainly the most undeserving victim of a certain segment of America's affection for Bristol Palin.
While billed as a shocking elimination, once Jennifer Grey and Kyle Massey were declared safe, it seemed likely (and was predicted in this space) that Brandy would become the fourth dancer in a row with greatly superior scores to fall victim to the power voters fueling Bristol. Without the puppy-dog likability of Kyle or the built-in Dirty Dancing fanbase of Jennifer, Brandy was vulnerable and seemed to know it much of the evening. When the news came down, there were expressions of shock from Derek Hough and from the judges (the same judges who have been overscoring Bristol all season long), and a rarity -- post-elimination boos from the audience. Brandy held it together until her taped retrospective came up, which gave her the opening to literally cry on partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy's shoulder.
Those who anticipated this elimination were looking forward to the reaction of Maks, who is known to have a temper even in the best of times. Maks has had the worst luck of any DWtS pro, getting to the finals three times without ever winning, watching relative newcomer Derek getting paired with the most desirable partners, and in the judgment of many being robbed of a deserved victory with Mel B. in Season 5. It was clear that he chose his post-elimination words very carefully, but it sure sounded like a polite "I quit" to the show that made him famous. He made reference to his family's decision to come to the United States, saying "People vote and their voices count. And I love the fact that the show represents that, it represents people's choice. And I don't regret a second about the last five years of my being on the show, and definitely not a second of me being on this season. It's been an amazing journey."
Neither Maks nor Brandy addressed the Bristol factor directly on the results show, but by the time of their Wednesday morning appearance on Good Morning America, Maks was already beginning to feel more comfortable about assigning blame, albeit in a passive-aggressive way. "I'm think I'm just not a very good Dancing With the Stars professional for this particular reason," he told George Stephanopoulos. "I'm a trained ballroom dancer ... like a racer, you know, you cross the finish line first, you win. In this case, you cross the finish line first, somebody barely finishes and then you get a tie, because they showed heart. It's kind of difficult for me to deal with." Anybody think he's still seething about Brandy and Bristol getting the same score for their respective paso dobles on Monday night?
Brandy came onto the show drawing comparisons to two recent DWtS singers/ringers, Season 10 winner Nicole Scherzinger and Season 9 runner-up Mya, although she didn't have the immediate success of those two. But by the midway point of the season, she started to hit her stride, and combined with a mild slump for Jennifer and concerns that her body wouldn't hold up, it almost began to appear as if Brandy might be the new favorite. Her personality rubbed some the wrong way, however -- her rehearsal arguments with Maks, while never that serious, irritated some viewers; and her competitiveness often made her come across as overly desperate to win. But Mya overcame even bigger complaints about her personality, and until it became clear just how powerful Bristol's voting bloc was, it seemed a sure thing that Brandy could do the same.
Next week, the finals, and a new "worst finalist ever" in the person of Bristol Palin. Is it possible she could win? She has made a good many enemies now, and in a two-way fight, that would probably be fatal. But unless her detractors decide to rally around either Jennifer or Kyle exclusively, it would be smart to expect the Mirror Ball Trophy to head up to Trip's nursery in Wasilla.