In an unexpected move, two contestants, Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad and former pro hockey player Sean Avery , were sent packing Monday night in the first elimination of season 18 of ABC’s reality dance competition, “Dancing With the Stars.”
“That was a full-on surprise,” Nyad said today on “Good Morning America” of Monday night’s double elimination. No one was eliminated when “Dancing” premiered last week and typically one star departs each week.
“But I have to say, the very first day we all got together, when Meryl Davis came over to the buffet table, she kind of did a whatever this is called, an arabesque, and then she did a plié and her shoe went up to the chandelier, and then I went, ‘We’re in big trouble.’ That was the very first clue.”
After her elimination last night, Nyad explained that she had wanted to perform on the show for nine years. “It’s spectacular, the spirit of it. Everyone since Neanderthal days has danced. It’s joy, it’s freedom,” she said, adding that she wished her pro partner, Henry Byalikov, could have had a few more weeks.
“It was too short,” the athlete said today on “GMA.” “If the dance had gone on for 53 hours nonstop, I think I would have beat everybody.”
Nyad and Avery were in the bottom two based on a combination of viewer votes and judges’ scores for their performances in last week’s premiere.
Olympian ice dancer Charlie White led the pack last week, earning 27 out of 30 judges points for his contemporary routine. Actor Billy Dee Williams was last week’s lowest scorer, with 15 out of 30 points from the judges.
Before the results were announced last night, Avery and all the other contestants danced for the right to continue to the third week of the competition. Nyad danced after her fate was announced during the mid-point of the show, so her routine was not scored.
Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke: The comedian and TV talk show host got the crowd going with his fun jive. Head judge Len Goodman told Carey that “if entertainment was judo, you’re a black belt … you’re so much fun to watch.” He cautioned him to work on his footwork and posture, and judge Bruno Tonioli agreed. Tonioli added that, even though Carey made a few mistakes, he covered the mistakes up “beautifully.” “That was a good jive,” Tonioli said. Inaba said she thought Carey did “excellent,” adding that he would have scored higher had it not been for “a few little mistakes.” Each judge awarded Carey 7 points, for a total of 21 out of 30 points.
Danica McKellar and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: The “Wonder Years” actress-turned-math book author sizzled with her sexy samba. Tonioli told her she was like “a gorgeous little jungle cat – beautiful to look at but not quite tame yet … .” He said there were times where she didn’t complete her movement. Inaba called McKellar “so sexy and so elegant and so grounded,” adding that her movements were “fantastic.” Goodman said the actress needed to straighten her legs a little bit more on occasion, but added: “Samba’s a really tough dance. Week two. Fantastic!” McKellar earned three 8s, for a total of 24 points.
Billy Dee Williams and Emma Slater: The “Stars Wars” actor’s tango was too tame for the judges. Inaba acknowledged Williams’ age – he’s 76, the oldest contestant in the cast — and hip problems, and commended him for not missing a step, but said his routine needed more content. Goodman said if the tango were a plant, it’d be a cactus – sharp and prickly — but Dee’s interpretation was more like ivy, “it just crept across the floor.” But he urged Dee to “keep having fun.” Dee earned three 5s, matching his last week’s total of 15 points.
Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: The ice dancing Olympian earned a standing ovation from the ballroom audience for her athletic swing routine. Tonioli told her the routine was “a swinging acrobatic extravaganza,” but pointed out that, possibly due to the routine’s difficulty, she lost timing a few times and made some mistakes. Inaba agreed, but said the routine was “fantastic,” and Goodman added: “That swing had wings, I’m telling you what. Fly on girl! You’re going to be here for a while.” Inaba and Tonioli gave Davis 8s, and Goodman gave her a 9, for a total of 25 points.
Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas: The “Full House” actress’ rumba brought her criticism from the judges. Inaba said the routine had too much contemporary styling. “I didn’t get to appreciate you doing the rumba … ,” Inaba said, adding that Bure needed to be careful how she held her arms. Goodman said Bure’s arms needed to be as expressive as her face, but said that, for someone with no dance background, she did well. Tonioli said he loved that Bure danced from her heart, but added that the routine had faults. The samba is a sensual dance style. Speaking to co-host Erin Andrews after the routine, Bure said that, as a Christian, she wanted to not be overtly sexual in her dancing and that was the routine was the compromise they worked out. She earned three 7s from the judges for a total of 21 points.
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: Speaking in a video before she danced, the double-amputee expressed the concern that her prosthetic feet could “fly off” during the routine. The routine unfolded without mishap, and Purdy wowed the judges and the audience with her swing dance. “You used every nuance in that music to great effect,” Goodman said. “I tell you this: You’re amazing. Well done!” Tonioli called the routine “clever” and “witty.” Each judge gave Purdy 8 points, for a total of 24.
James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd: The actor/singer’s intense salsa left judge Carrie Ann Inaba beaming in appreciation. “I’m so glad you chose the salsa. You knew what you were doing when you made that choice,” she said, adding that he’d entered the show’s “sexy hall of fame,” alongside past seasons’ contestants such as actors Gilles Marini and Corbin Bleu. Tonioli said there were “a couple of messy passes,” but added: “When you’re side to side with a professional and everybody’s actually looking at you, that is an achievement … .” Inaba gave Maslow a 9, and Goodman and Tonioli gave him 8s, for a total of 25 points.
Charlie White and Sharna Burgess: The Olympic gold medalist’s commanding tango was a crowd-pleaser but it drew mixed reviews from the judges. Inaba said: “You looked like (famed dancer Mikhail) Baryshnikov out there,” but Goodman felt White had broken the rules of hold. “You broke the rules. You’ve left me nowhere else to go. I do apologize,” he said. Tonioli added: “Don’t worry, Charlie. I love you when you’re bad … what I saw coming out of you was that predatory killer instinct. Go for the kill, my darling. Go for it all the way.” Tonioli and Inaba each gave White 9 points, while Goodman awarded him 7, for a total of 25.
NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani: The reality TV star’s sassy jive brought her praise from Tonioli, who, even though he said her footwork needed to be much sharper, thought she did well. “You can do your thing beautifully. You can shimmy, you can shake it …,” he said. Inaba said the routine was “really fun to watch.” Leakes earned three 7s, for a total of 21.
Sean Avery and Karina Smirnoff: The former pro hockey player’s salsa won him praise for the judges. Goodman found Avery much improved from his week one performance. “I’m going to tell you the secret of ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ All you have to do is, each week get higher marks, and that’s what you’re going to get from me, because that’s much, much better.” Tonioli said Avery was light on his feet, but added that he had “a couple of timing issues” and needed to “get those hips going.” Inaba said Avery was “very authentic” when he danced. “There’s just an ease of motion, and your rhythm is like, for real,” she said. Avery earned three 7s for 21 points. (He was voted off based on his prior week’s performance.)
Cody Simpson and Witney Carson: Judges’ critique of the pop singer’s tango focused on his highly stylized interpretation. Goodman appreciated that Simpson was able to work a moonwalk into the highly traditional dance, but said he’d have liked the routine to be a little more compact and tight. Tonioli said he could see that Simpson put a lot of work into the routine. “I loved the moonwalk. Getting into and out of that, I loved how you did it … I really liked what I saw,” he said. Simpson earned 7s from Inaba and Goodman and an 8 from Tonioli, for a total of 22 points.
The Judges’ Scores
Charlie White and Sharna Burgess: 25
James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd: 25
Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 25
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: 24
Danica McKellar and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 24
Cody Simpson and Witney Carson: 22
Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas: 21
NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani: 21
Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke: 21
Sean Avery and Karina Smirnoff: 21
Billy Dee Williams and Emma Slater: 15