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Image: Bristol Palin, Mark Ballas
ABC via Reuters
Bristol Palin and pro partner Mark Ballas squandered the opportunity to improve their failed jive from earlier in the season.
TODAY contributor
updated 11/22/2010 10:52:37 PM ET 2010-11-23T03:52:37

Monday night’s “Dancing With the Stars” finals gave the remaining three celebrity contenders a shot a redemption, but really, only one of them needed it.

As anyone who’s followed the ballroom action this season knows, Bristol Palin’s best dance floor efforts have often left much to be desired. Sure, she’s made plenty of headlines during the competition, but few of those have focused on her perfect moves, graceful lines or well-timed steps.

Hey, it’s hard to focus on what isn’t there.

Vote: You be the judge! Rate the dancers (on this page)

So when Palin and her accomplished competition were offered a chance to make up for their respective weakest performances with a redemption dance, it was a welcome opportunity for the woman whose most memorable moves so far involved an ape suit.

Unfortunately, it was an opportunity wasted.

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As expected, the dance Palin and partner Mark Ballas gave the makeover treatment to was their notorious jive. The ape outfits didn’t take center stage this time, nor did any major improvements.

Slideshow: 'Dancing's' worst outfits (on this page)

While Palin remembered the steps, she seemed to perform them all in slow, lead-footed fashion. For what should have been a jumping jive, she lacked energy throughout the routine — with one notable exception. Palin frequently employed her go-to distraction move of the season, the shoulder shimmy.

The jive 2.0 was far from the teen-mom-turned-teen-activist’s best effort. If anything, when viewed side-by-side with the second chance performances from Kyle Massey and front-runner Jennifer Grey, the redemption dance just reinforced the fact that Palin is out of her ballroom depth.

Story: Stars weigh in on who'll be next 'DWTS' champ

It’s a shame the judges failed to notice that fact.

Rather than issuing some well-placed tough talk, head judge Len Goodman and his fellow panelists praised Palin’s first performance of the night and gave her a matching set of 9s for the flat footwork.

Video: Brandy weighs in on Bristol's 'DWTS' chances (on this page)

That put Palin just three points behind Grey, who earned perfect marks for her classic paso doble, and it tied her with Massey, whose foxtrot was without a doubt the better dance.

The moves mixed for the freestyle round, with lifts, tricks and worms (Go, Kyle!) taking over the dance floor, but Palin still underperformed. Except the second time around, the judges took note.

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Not much note, mind you. After a lackluster rendition of the “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago,” Palin received soft criticism and landed two 8s to go with one very generous 9.

By the end of the night, nothing had changed in the ballroom standings. Grey remained at the top of the leaderboard after another perfect performance. Massey was still the man in the middle of the action after slightly improving his overall score. And Palin? Back of the pack.

Story: How do you avoid TV and movie spoilers?

Never has the first night of the “Dancing” finals come to such a predictable end, and yet leave such a question mark about the would-be winner.

If dance dictates the results, it’s Grey’s mirror ball trophy to lose. If it’s all about charisma, Massey’s the man for that. If it makes no sense at all, it’s Palin’s.

Ree Hines wants closure on this crazy season. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and tell her what you’re hoping for on finale night.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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Video: Brandy weighs in on Bristol's 'DWTS' chances

Photos: Season 16

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  1. Call the fashion police!

    "Dancing With the Stars" is known for its lively judges, sexy dancers, and of course, its sometimes questionable costumes. Check out some of our favorite odd outfits from the season, and why they may have been better off left in the dressing rooms. -- Anna Chan

    On March 25, Wynonna Judd and pro partner Tony Dovolani donned cop costumes for a sad quickstep that was slower than molasses. Oddly enough, judge Bruno Tonioli "loved the bonkers cop idea." We're not so sure "Fashion Police" boss Joan Rivers would agree. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Throw them a life saver!

    "Bachelor" Sean Lowe and pro Peta Murgatroyd offered up a sloppy jive that left the judges wanting on March 25. But their matchy-matchy yellow outfits only sank them further. Granted, Peta can pull off pretty much any atrocity, but Sean? What's up with those lemon yellow pajama bottoms? Don't lifeguards wear swim trunks? (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Stayin' alive

    Head judge Len Goodman got into the theme on April 1 when "DWTS" went back to the prom. Ruffled shirts were never hot, so why not make them hot pink? (Hey, we all know the costume department doesn't always choose the best colors.) (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Pretty in pink

    Oh, the hair! The one glove! The pink bows on her dress! Co-host Brooke Burke has looked nothing but stunning all season (a surprise, as her wardrobe in the past has been rather questionable). Yet during prom week, she let go of the glam. We'll forgive her this one and only fashion faux pas of the season. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Going to the Y

    While the rest of the "DWTS" cast went to the prom on April 1, Peta and Sean somehow missed the memo and went to the YMCA instead as the Village People. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Prom? So what?

    Every prom has them: the anti-prom kids who are too cool for school. For the "DWTS" bash, that was Wynonna and Tony, who got all rockered out. Normally, we wouldn't take issue with this, but Tony! The mullet! Really?!?!? It's almost as bad as Maksim Chmerkovskiy's Mick Jagger wig from last season! (Nice boots, though.) (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. She's golden

    As gorgeous as Peta is, even she couldn't quite pull off those questionable gold bell bottoms and giant hair when she and Sean danced a highly praised quickstep on April 15. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Let's boogie!

    On April 22, Team Samba (or as Andy Dick preferred to call it, Team Pickler Dick) took the the ballroom bash with a '70s-themed dance complete with the decade's questionable fashions. Among the low lights? The guys' creepy mustaches. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Not so easy on the eyes

    On Latin Night April 29, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and pro partner Mark Ballas took on a salsa that had the judges raving. What the panel didn't rave about were the seasick green/blue getups both wore. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A little young?

    On May 6, Aly and pro partner Mark were joined by Henry Byalikov for a trio jive full of shimmies and shakes for the 18-year-old gymnast -- and also a saucy red garter. Not that we're prudes, but did we mention yet that Aly's only 18? (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Above: Slideshow (10) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - Season 16
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (14) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - All-Stars
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (17) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - Season 14
  4. Image: Cheryl Burke, Rob Kardashian
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (16) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - Season 13
  5. Image: Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (14) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - Season 12
    Adam Larkey / ABC
    Slideshow (13) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - Season 11
    Adam Larkey / ABC
    Slideshow (19) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - Season 10
  2. ABC
    Slideshow (27) 'Dancing's' worst outfits - Season 9

Discuss: Was Bristol's redemption dance an improvement over her first jive?

The judges seemed to think that her second attempt was much better. Though she remembered her steps this time, she lacked the energy the dance requires. What do you think?

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