"I think there should be a recount," says Mel B., who, like everyone else, was shocked that the Cheetah Girls' Sabrina Bryan was knocked out of the competition. Says Mel's pro partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, "It's crazy."
It was, in fact, the first time in five seasons that the audience erupted in anger over an elimination. There was loud and prolonged booing after Bryan's name was announced. "I couldn't believe it," says Helio Castroneves, who got down on the dance floor on hands and knees along with Cameron Mathison to do the "we're not worthy" bow to Bryan after the cameras stopped rolling. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to envelop Bryan in their arms to either break down in tears or tell her she was robbed: friends, stars, pros, wardrobers. "It wasn't right," says season two's Lisa Rinna, who was in the audience with her hubby, Season 3's Harry Hamlin. "It wasn't the right time for her to go. This season's all messed up."
The ballroom, still full of people, was unnaturally quiet. Bryan's parents, who've attended every performance, stood on the sidelines, seemingly in shock. Her mother held both hands up to her mouth as if she wanted to stop herself from sobbing. Bryan's splendid pro partner, Mark Ballas, looked stricken. Ballas and Bryan have become dear friends, and Ballas says he felt like he let his partner down. The two were slammed by the judges for having too hard an edge to their fox trot. "There's not one time when she didn't focus," says Ballas. "It's my job to make her the best she can be. And maybe this week I didn't do my job the best that I could...."
Bryan interrupts him. "Yes, he did. Don't even [go there]. Stop it." Ballas keeps his arms around her for every interview, protective and sweet.
"I think that putting yourself out there in front of millions of people takes a lot of guts," says Bryan, 23, a highly driven and amazingly self-possessed young woman. "And there were times when I didn't want to do it, but I did it and I feel like we had some great performances. I wouldn't change it for anything."
Does she have a message for her fans? "That it's OK," says Bryan. "And this is not the last of me. You don't win everything, but you work hard. This is just TV, it's not my life. My life now involves Mark and all the amazing people I've been around. And I've got a good family to go home to. I'm going to be Cheetahlicious."
Which was more than you could say about Jane Seymour tonight. In another Dancing with the Stars first, a celebrity was missing in action for the glamour shot of all the celebrities and their partners at the beginning of the show. Seymour's pro partner, Tony Dovolani, stood alone. Then, when the show got rolling, host Tom Bergeron announced that Seymour was suffering from food poisoning and would be out for the evening. That was on top of already feeling miserable for getting the lowest scores the previous night for their jive.
"We felt like we had failed the fans," says Dovolani, who was convinced that they would be the couple eliminated. "So then we came here today and we felt like, OK, let's go pack our bags. And then she ended up feeling a little bit ill. And safety first. Her health first. So I'm out there dancing by myself [in the group dance]. And then when I stood onstage [for the elimination announcements] and they announced our names, at first I didn't know why. I looked up and it was a white light — not red — that was shining on me and I just started screaming. I was so happy. And then my buddy Maks [Chmerkovskiy] came over to hug me because I had no one to hug! It was one of those surreal moments that I'll take with me for the rest of my life."
When the show finally cut to a commercial break, Dovolani raced backstage to grab his cell phone. "I called Jane and I screamed, ‘Yeah, baby! We're in it!!'" Dovolani doesn't know where Seymour was at the time, but probably en route home to Malibu. Seymour's husband, James Keach, grabbed the phone and told Dovolani, "She's really happy. She's asking, 'When are we going to get to practice?'" And then Keach said, "Tony, she's doing much better."
And Bryan will be better, too, after letting her hair down once she's done with the obligatory goodbye interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "The memories I have will be with me and in my heart forever," says Bryan. "I'm going to make more memories tonight with all of them, because I'm going out! This Cheetah is on the prowl."
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