NEW YORK - The entertainment summit of the season - Sarah Palin and her impersonator, Tina Fey - earned "Saturday Night Live" its best ratings in 14 years. But if you blinked, you might have missed it.
Fey was answering questions at a news conference, something Palin hasn't done yet as the Republican vice presidential nominee, when Palin walked on the stage. Fey beat a hasty retreat in the opening segment, walking past the real Palin with a barely perceptible nod.
If anyone was hoping for a side-by-side photo of the identically dressed women, they were out of luck.
Palin's guest shot, widely anticipated since Fey began imitating her a month ago, led "Saturday Night Live" to its highest mark in overnight Nielsen Media Research ratings since March 1994, when assaulted skater Nancy Kerrigan was guest host.
Although a complete audience estimate for the rest of the country won't be available until later in the week, it is likely to be around 14 million.
Her running mate, John McCain, watched clips of the broadcast on Sunday.
"Did you catch Sarah Palin on 'SNL'?" he asked a crowd in Toledo, Ohio. "She did a great job."
In the show's opening, Fey's Palin said at a news conference: "First off, I just want to say how excited I am to be in front of both the liberal elite media, as well as the liberal regular media. I am looking forward to a portion of your questions."
Moments later, the camera cut away to the real Palin watching a television monitor alongside the show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels.
Palin stood quietly as Fey's "30 Rock" co-star Alec Baldwin came by, mistook Palin for Fey and pleaded with Michaels not to let the actor go onstage with the governor.
"This is the most important election in our nation's history and you want her, our Tina, to go out there and stand with that horrible woman?" Baldwin said.
When Michaels introduced him to Palin, Baldwin feigned embarrassment and replied: "I see. Forgive me. I feel I must say this: You are way hotter in person."
Palin got even, saying: "Thank you, and I must say, your brother Stephen is my favorite Baldwin brother." Stephen Baldwin is a born-again Christian who attended the Republican national convention in 2004.