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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - She landed in last place again, but Bristol Palin won the hearts of the judges on Monday in the finals of "Dancing With the Stars" despite a week of public controversy and mystery on the popular TV contest.
Palin, the 20 year-old daughter of conservative politician and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin, wowed the judges with a Jive, but in came up short in her freestyle routine. She earned 52 points out of 60 to trail her rivals, actress Jennifer Grey with a perfect 60 and actor Kyle Massey with 56 points.
Still, Palin showed improvement and no apparent nervousness after a week in which critics deplored her appearance in the finals, one man shot his TV because she is, and an envelope turned up on the "Dancing" set filled with a mysterious white substance that officials later determined was talcum powder.
"There's lots of haters out there who are just waiting for me to fail. That's just going to give me more motivation to prove they're wrong," Palin said in an interview on the show.
Each week, the stars and their professional dance partners are scored by a three-judge panel, and fans also vote for their favorite contestants via phone or the Web. A combination of judges' scores and public voting keeps stars coming back.
In recent weeks on "Dancing," which is among the top-rated programs in the United States reaching nearly 20 million viewers weekly in each of two shows, Palin has consistently performed at the bottom of the pack where the judges are concerned. Yet, each week fan voting has brought her back.
As she has progressed, critics have speculated that her mom's popularity has helped her, but the young woman has consistently said she has worked hard to get where she is.
On Monday's show, co-host Tom Bergeron alluded to the voting controversy only once when he said, "If you don't vote, don't complain, and please don't shoot your TV."
There was no mention of the powder, which had the makings of an anthrax scare. Some media outlets reported the envelope was addressed to Palin, but that has not been confirmed.
When asked on the show about the past week of controversy, Palin said: "I just had to let it roll off my back and focused on my dancing."
This week, each contestant performed two numbers: one a repeat of a routine that earlier in the season was disastrous and a second freestyle dance.
In her Jive, Palin gave a strong performance, and judge Carrie Ann Inaba called her "brighter and more vibrant than ever." But later, her freestyle routine to a song from the stage musical "Chicago" failed to impress the panel.
"Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey, who has been a consistent leader throughout the season, wowed the judges and audiences with a Paso Doble and later her freestyle.
Similarly, Disney star Kyle Massey scored high on his Fox Trot early and nearly came up perfect on his freestyle.
The show climaxes Tuesday when a winner is named.
Editing by DGoodman