In the first Dancing With the Stars shocker of the season, Florence Henderson was eliminated on Tuesday night – and Bristol Palin, whom many thought would get voted off for getting the lowest score, was saved to dance another week.
Incredibly, the famed TV mom, 76, was given her walking papers the night after her feel-good tango to her Brady Bunch theme song with partner Corky Ballas. She scored only 21 out of 30 for her dance, but Kyle Massey and his pro Lacey Schwimmer got 20 and Bristol and partner Mark Ballas were in last place with 18 points.
After the show, Bristol told OK! the reason she felt she’d been voted through against all odds this week: “I think people see my rawness and my vulnerability and I’m just so grateful they kept us in another week and they see potential in me. Hopefully I can just prove more to them that I can be a performer and I do belong here.”
Meanwhile, a wistful Florence said she was “a little surprised” when she was sent home. “But I’ve watched this show since it began and I’ve seen absolutely shocking things happen on it. Somebody had to go.” Florence had a bad feeling when the two lowest scoring couples were declared safe early in the show. “Corky, we’re in trouble,” she told her partner backstage. Corky sighed, “That was wild.”
Florence’s devoted partner added, “It was kind of sad we went on our best dance. She was just starting to crank it up. She was getting strong, just learning how to really speed up her feet. We were just getting a breakthrough.”
It wasn’t meant to be, but the beloved TV icon will be left with a lot of happy memories of being on DWTS for five weeks. “I’m going to miss seeing Corky Ballas every day and just learning new dances. I’ve always loved dancers since I started in the business.”
Florence said of all her DWTS co-stars, “oddly enough, I think I bonded the most with Bristol.” When asked if she had been a mother figure to the 20-year-old politician’s daughter having her first Hollywood experience, Florence said, “I think so – from the very beginning. Bristol was always close to me.” In fact, Corky mimicked Bristol for reporters, showing how she would stand behind Florence on the set and give her adoring looks.
Don’t cry for the veteran star — Florence has plenty to do now that her DWTS journey is complete, including finishing her memoir, which will come out on Mother’s Day, performing her one-woman show, and doing commercials for Bausch & Lomb.
Brandy, who led this week with a score of 27 with partner Maks Chmerkovskiy, was in tears on the press line as she bid Florence farewell. She later told reporters, “I had a lot of intimate conversations with her, I watched her rehearse and she’s come and watched me and has given me so many words of encouragement to just let my light shine.”
Those were sentiments echoed by Bristol, who said, “I love Florence. She was definitely my best friend on this entire thing and I’m going to miss having her backstage. She’s so supportive, happy and upbeat.”
Many DWTS viewers, however, thought Bristol had reached the end of her reality show experience. On Monday, Bristol and Mark performed the jive to the Monkees’ theme song and opened the dance in monkey costumes. Although judges were kind, it was obvious Sarah Palin’s daughter made many missteps. Tuesday night, Bristol herself laughed backstage to reporters, “I completely forgot what dance moves I had next and I was so focused on getting the [monkey] suit off. I was kind of just looking around like, ‘oh, great, and finally got it off’ and then got the routine rolling — but definitely a big hiccup on my part.”
Bristol admitted, “I was definitely shocked and surprised when they said we were safe and with our low scores and stuff, it was pretty stressful. [Being called safe] was a huge relief lifted off my shoulders. I was scared and nervous going into tonight but I was thrilled that we got through and we’re moving on to another week.”
She wants viewers to know “I’m really shy and pretty timid and like to keep to myself and I’m super close to my family so it’s hard for me to get out there and show my personality — but I am fun and happy and upbeat and stuff, and hopefully that will continue to unpeel and show to everyone out there.”
The teen abstinence advocate turned 20 on Monday and told OK! that for her birthday celebration she had “a mellow dinner with my family and watched Mark perform at The Mint,” the Los Angeles music club.
Now Bristol and the other dancers move on to next week, in which all the couples must perform TWO dances, including one to a rock song. “Usually I retain routines pretty well, so hopefully I’ll be able to get both of them down,” Bristol said. “I’m nervous about the four minute-long dance for the rock and roll routine — just because that’s a long time. We’re used to only dancing a minute 40 seconds. We’ve got lots of work to do this week [but] I’m excited. ”