It's one thing to see a celebrity stumble on Dancing With the Stars. It's quite another to see one of the show's most experienced pros — Maksim Chmerkovskiy — do the rumba and fall to the ground after suffering a muscle spasm in his left thigh. And to make matters worse, he was balancing his star, actress Kirstie Alley, at the time so she tumbled to the floor with him.
Moments after the show, Alley explained how they recovered. "He just stood up and said, 'Let's just keep dancing.' And I said, 'I don't know where we are.' He said, 'Just follow me,' and I'm like, 'All right.'"
But when they got up, he put his hand up for a moment. When asked if he was signaling the producers that he needed to stop, Maks, who comes from a tough Ukrainian background, said, "No. Never say stop. You know how I learned to swim? They pushed me in the pool and they said, 'There you go.'"
It was a remarkable ballroom recovery, because during the dance, it was clear that it took everything Maks had in him to keep going. He winced painfully throughout the number and limped up to the Celebraquarium after getting the judges' comments. When Maks and Kirstie were done with their post-dance interview with Brook Burke, he ducked out to get ice while the couple was still on camera. "I massaged his leg a little bit," said fellow pro and good friend Tony Dovolani. "It had spasmed pretty badly. He was devastated. People don't understand, we don't want to fail anybody."
Meanwhile Alley came out of the ballroom looking stunned — but stronger. Her worst nightmare had come true, and it wasn't half as bad as she had expected. "If anyone asks me how did it go, I'd say, 'Well, it was a little rough in the beginning.' There's something very exciting about live TV. That's why you're so scared. I was so scared because I knew something could happen, and now that it's happened, I'm like, so what?," she said. "I'm not saying I'm glad Maks is injured. I'm saying I don't give a f--- if we fell down."
"I don't know how I'd react if that ever happened to us," said former pro wrestler Chris Jericho, who is partnered with Cheryl Burke. "It was awe-inspiring to see that, because that's what show business and live performing is about. The lights could fall down, you gotta keep going. And they showed that tonight. They won the crowd back. And when that happened to Kirstie? You can almost do no wrong."
But it remains to be seen if Maks will be one hundred percent healthy going forward. "He might be sore tomorrow, but he'll be back," said Burke. "It's scary, because when a dancer is hurt, you rarely know because we can fake it through anything."
Maks was still limping after the show. Does he feel well enough to dance tomorrow? He nodded his head. "May 24, we'll talk about this," he said, referring to the night of the show's finale. "You don't have to worry."