Fatone, last season's runner-up, was visiting old friends, including his former pro partner, Kym Johnson. Pros and celebs were milling about, changing into street clothes and getting ready to call it a night. "It's a great show this year," says Fatone.
And its greatness comes from its unpredictability. Many in the audience Tuesday night thought that Jennie Garth was toast. Instead, All My Children's Cameron Mathison danced his last dance. "I've had such an amazing time," says Mathison. "And I'm so grateful. I couldn't have done any of it without [his pro partner] Edyta [Sliwinska]. I really met my match in terms of endurance."
If anyone should get a trophy for hard work and determination, it's Mathison. "I think he was really the housewives' choice," says head judge Len Goodman. "He's a hunk," says Bruno Tonioli. "He really took this seriously and applied himself. And he and Edyta were so sexy."
Part of the surprise Tuesday night was that all the judges regarded Mathison as the most improved dancer on the floor. But with Castroneves and Mel B. on fire and the outpouring of affection directed toward Marie Osmond, his place in the lineup was in jeopardy. And he knew it. Just last week, he considered what it would mean if he was sent home. "What am I going to do with myself when I've only got five or six episodes of All My Children to shoot every week?" he said. "I really don't know if I'll go stir-crazy. No, I won't. I'll just spend all my time with my kids. And I think my wife's looking forward to me being home a little bit more."
The great news for Mathison is that his family had planned a vacation at the end of November. If he were still dancing, he'd have to wave goodbye at the airport. Now that he's off the show, he says, "I'll be able to go with them."
Meanwhile, everyone is looking ahead to next week's semifinals. Donny Osmond, Marie's constant support, rushed to the stage after the cameras stopped rolling when her name was called as being "safe." He grabbed his sister in a bear hug. It turned into a group hug between the two Osmonds and Marie's partner, Jonathan Roberts.
Everybody wanted to shake off the sadness and party. And nobody is better cast for that than singer Gloria Estefan. All three judges — for the first time — stood up at the judges' table and danced while she sang. Tonioli in particular loves to let loose, and he shimmied his shoulders throughout "Conga."
Sabrina Bryan snuck into the audience to watch her boyfriend, pro dancer Mark Ballas, dance with fellow pro Julianne Hough. Mark's father, ballroom great Corky Ballas, says that next week, "Mark and Sabrina are going to tear it up. They're going to do a dance that's like a medley — a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And it's going to be really edgy, because now, there are no rules."
Goodman flies back and forth to England every week (along with Tonioli) to judge the British version of the show, Strictly Come Dancing. How do those dancers compare to the talent we're seeing this season? "They don't compare to this lot," says Goodman. "The celebrities here have been incredible."
Take a spin around the Dancing with the Stars ballroom in our Online Video Guide.
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