It’s the end of the road on Dancing With the Stars for AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke. After nine incredible weeks in the competition, the Backstreet Boys star and his pro partner were sent home packing during Icons Night on Monday.
It all came down to the judges’ votes, and although Derek Hough chose to save #TeamPrettyMessedUp from elimination, he was beat out by Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba, who both opted to save the other bottom couple, Johnny Weir and Britt Stewart.
Speaking with ET just moments after the show wrapped, AJ opened up about how he was feeling about having to leave the competition ahead of next week’s Semi-Finals.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet, to be honest, but tomorrow it’ll be an emotional hangover for sure,” AJ, 42, told ET’s Lauren Zima.
The singer also shared his appreciation for his pro partner, explaining, “It’s been an absolutely gracious journey, and I’m grateful for every experience that I’ve endured with this amazing woman.”
On Monday, AJ and Cheryl paid tribute to Freddie Mercury with a Viennese Waltz set to Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” AJ had made an early mistake that the judges all jumped on, although the pair ended up recovering nicely and finishing the performance with grace.
The pair ended up earning a score of 7 from Carrie Ann Inaba, and two 8s from Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli, for a total of 23 out of 30.
“This was the first time we’ve messed up in a dance since the beginning, at all, but in my honest opinion I think the way we handled it was like a couple of pros,” AJ said.
Cheryl, 36, chimed in, telling ET that she felt frustrated and disappointed by their score, and what she sees as obfuscation regarding the rules and structure behind how the dances are judged.
“There’s rules in ballroom, and as far a I’m concerned this is a ballroom show, I thought,” Cheryl said, adding that she feels the way the couples are scored is “just not consistent.”
“I already had his other two routines choreographed for the Semi-Finals,” Cheryl added. “Normally I’m not that confident going in, but I was like, ‘For sure, there’s no way [we’ll get eliminated].'”
“I’ve always been one to bow out from whatever the situation is with ease and grace and with a lot of gratitude,” AJ said of his feelings on getting the axe. “Honest to God, I’ve made a lot of great friends here, both on the stage and off the stage.”
“It still sucks, it’s a major bummer, but there’s also kind of a sense of relief and calmness as well, because life goes on,” he added. “And my wife has been holding down the fort like a trooper… because this is seven days a week, every week.”
ET also spoke with Johnny and Britt about being in the bottom two, but being saved by the judges.
“We were crushed, to be completely transparent with you,” Johnny said of being in jeopardy. “It was not a nice position to be in the bottom two again.”
“But the positives of tonight are we got a perfect 30!” He added. :We danced our butts off and Britt gave me the ability to dance like that in one week.”
Tune into Entertainment Tonight on Tuesday to hear more from the season 29 contestants (check your local listings here), and be sure to catch Dancing With the Stars’ Semi-Finals next Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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