Susan Lucci and Tony Dovolani, Dancing with the Stars

Susan Lucci swears she didn't mind flying back and forth from New York to Los Angeles every week to compete on Dancing with the Stars. It was a grueling schedule that lasted seven long weeks — and often made her cry. "The airplanes were not the problem," she said on Wednesday night, moments after getting her walking papers. "We could lie down on the plane and sleep."

The real fly in the ointment, she says, was her day job. If Lucci could have changed anything about her Dancing experience, "I probably would have asked for a leave of absence from All My Children. Because I think to learn these dances in four days is challenging enough. But working on both coasts, we only had the evenings to practice. I don't mean to whine at all — I'm so thrilled with everything that happened — but to do this justice, I think you should simply focus on this, which is plenty."

Lucci, at 61, is not a whiner. If she wasn't her best in this week's Team Cha Cha, it might be because she lost critical practice time, coming down with an intestinal bug after working on AMC last Friday morning. The audience knew nothing about it. "I got hit with the bug big time," she says. "But the main thing was the dehydration, because that really puts you out of commission. So we missed a whole day."

All of which made the learning curve that much steeper. Monday night's pre-dance video package showed Lucci starting to cry in rehearsals out of frustration. She says it wasn't the first time. "It seems to be part of the process with me," she says. "Just before I'm there — before I get it — I think I can't do it and I feel completely overwhelmed. And then Tony [Dovolani, her pro partner] comes in and says, 'Get over it!'"

"We're teaching these guys dances that take years to learn in four days," says Dovolani. "So, yes, the tension was high."

Did he cry this season, too? Dovolani laughs. "I don't cry. I try to keep it together. One of us had to!"