Bristol Palin, Dancing with the Stars All-Stars

Adam Taylor/ABC

The competition is fierce on the all-stars season of Dancing With the Stars, and Monday's episode started to separate the best of the best from the...medium of the best.

Sabrina Bryan and Louis van Amstel scored the first nine of the season, leading the pack last night with 26, while Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas found themselves last with 18.

You'd be surprised at who was feeling confident and whose nerves were running high when E! caught up with the cast backstage last night:

If Bristol and Mark were worried about likely being in the bottom three tonight, they didn't show it.

"She's coming out of her shell and constantly improving, so I'm proud," Ballas told us, with Bristol smiling and adding she had "a lot of fun."

Oh, and for the record, don't be fooled by their shooting-range bit.

"They love to edit it to make us look like idiots," Ballas said (whose shotgun skills looked pretty weak).

From her costume to personality, Bristol said it was all about embracing being a "redneck woman" during this week's performance.

"I'm not that materialistic; I'm not worried about that kind of stuff," Palin said explaining what she thinks that means. "I'm very normal, very grounded; I shoot stuff, go fishing."

Onto Sabrina and Louis, who killed it last night. 

"It's awesome to be up at the top of the leader board, but the judges are going to expect more from us," Sabrina explained. "It's a tough spot. I'm just glad we improved. Last week I was disappointed."

Sabrina performed with a cut arm after being dropped down the stairs during rehearsal, but Louis said it was her decision to keep the last move in their final routine. Love it!

In other almost-serious-injury news: We all saw  Apolo Anton Ohno headbutt partner Karina Smirnoff in rehearsals, but he joked it was just retaliation. 

"Ya, I messed up really bad at dress rehearsal," Anton said before turning to Karina: "You kicked me in the head earlier this week! It's definitely not helping my memory, that's for sure."

Gilles Marini had to overcome some hamstring issues before performing one of our favorite jives of the night. So how did he dance through the pain?

"When you're on the spot, the adrenaline, and not wanting to make Peta look bad—I just wanted to nail it," Gilles explained. "It would have been a shame to go out of the competition in that kind of way, so I gave it my all."

And he looked damn good doing it! Gilles even joked he "won't need" his hamstring anymore now that the jive is over. Oh Gilles, we love you...but yes, you will!

—Reporting by Will Marfuggi

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