Ralph Macchio limped off the Dancing With the Stars stage Monday night, hobbled by Baker's cyst, a painful build-up of joint fluid behind the knee, most often brought on by arthritis or overuse of the joint.
"I'm trying to do all the right things," says Macchio, wincing when he puts weight on that right leg. "One of them is to stay off of it for three to five days. I don't have three to five days."
He doesn't have three to five minutes, as he enters the home stretch of the Dancing With the Stars marathon. The injury occurred at noon last Thursday. On Friday he was in a doctor's office getting the knee diagnosed. "Saturday," he says, "I was barely able to walk."
Macchio and his pro partner, Karina Smirnoff, toughed it out Monday night, doing a gorgeous Viennese waltz, but his downtime during the week meant that the duo couldn't properly prepare for their instant cha cha. "I've had better days," he says, "but I'm personally proud of what we were able to do tonight. I could only think of one dance, the Viennese waltz — nothing with the cha cha. I can only go out on my terms, and my terms are to perform the best we could."
His only pain relief? Ibuprofen. "I'm taking a lot of it," he says. "More than I want to. And working with a physical therapist."
Smirnoff says the 49-year-old Macchio has taken to yelling at his body during rehearsals, frustrated with his aches and pains. "The first time he did it, I was like, 'Who's he talking to?'" she says. Macchio nods in frustration. "Because I can move like I'm in my late 20s and I bring that energy. So I have to remind myself. I yell at my body all the time."
He's hoping the fans will come to the rescue tonight, because his weakened condition has put him squarely in last place, a full nine points behind leader Chelsea Kane and eight points behind second place Hines Ward. Macchio really wants to keep dancing. But for the next 24 hours, he says, he won't be moving much. "Tomorrow, as I wait for my fate, maybe they'll give me a chair. It'll be Standing With the Stars, I can promise you."