On almost all of Dancing With the Stars‘s 28 seasons, at least one of the best dancers in the competition has been eliminated in favor of one of the worst contestants sticking around. In fact, it’s practically a given that the penultimate week of competition will see a truly heartbreaking elimination. With the All-Star edition of DWTS occurring as Season 15 and the show coming up on 30 seasons, here are 10 contestants who found themselves in this unfortunate position that we’d love to see back for a second go!
The Fallen Angels of ‘DWTS’
Joanna Krupa – ‘DWTS’ Season 9
One of the earliest instances of a “semi-finals robbery” this show has become notorious for, Joanna came in fourth place during Season 9 despite having a higher average score at the time of her elimination than two of the three finalists in Kelly Osbourne and Donny Osmond (the latter of whom went on to win the Mirrorball and tie her in average score by the time the season was over).
But at least Joanna can say she holds the distinction of being the Dancing With the Stars semi-finals eliminee to beat out the most amount of people, as Season 9 had a total of 16 contestants as opposed to the usual 11-13 (which, evidently, turned out to be a mess and something they’ve never tried again since).
Brandy – ‘DWTS’ Season 11
Brandy was one of the strongest contestants of Season 11 but ended up losing to not one, but two lesser dancers in Kyle Massey and especially Bristol Palin, who had been long overdue for an elimination by that point. Both ended up losing to Jennifer Grey in the end, but Brandy being there would have made the finale much more competitive from a technical standpoint.
Charlie White – ‘DWTS’ Season 18
Both Charlie and his figure skating partner Meryl Davis competed on this season, but only Meryl took it all the way to the end. The judges were noticeably harder on Charlie compared to the other contestants – Meryl included – and he got some strange song + dance assignments too. (A samba to “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”? Really?)
Unfortunately, fans tend to split their votes when there are two closely-connected people on a season resulting in one of them being “sacrificed” for the other, and in this case that sadly ended up being Charlie. His elimination likely drove up the votes for Meryl, and she won the Mirrorball a week later.
Nastia Liukin – ‘DWTS’ Season 20
This elimination hurts a lot to think about, because it seemed to mostly be driven by the way Nastia was portrayed on the show. There were jokes about her supposedly “nasty” attitude and one notoriously bad video clip played over and over again (which was later revealed to have been taken out of context). Her dancing was stellar, and she began to show more and more of her vulnerable side as the weeks went on, but too many viewers may have gotten turned off by her “icy” portrayal. Nastia finished in fourth place, and the season went on to be won by Rumer Willis.
Wanyá Morris – ‘DWTS’ Season 22
We were so close to having the three best dancers as the finalists for this season (a rarity on DWTS) but a misplaced scarf may have ruined it all. Wanyá was yet another one of those contestants the judged tended to be harder on (despite being a non-dancer who turned out to be quite good) and this combined with an unfortunate slip during his jive on Week 8 – the week determining who would leave in the semi-finals double elimination – sent him packing before the finals.
Deaf America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco was pretty much a shoe-in to win this season as soon as we found out he could dance, but we still deserved to see what would surely have been an epic freestyle from Wanyá.
Terra Jolé – ‘DWTS’ Season 23
This one wasn’t as much of a robbery as the previous entries on this list; Jana Kramer, Calvin Johnson Jr., James Hinchcliffe, and eventual season winner Laurie Hernandez were all strong dancers and we can’t truly call any of them undeserving finalists. However, there was definitely an argument for Terra to take one of their spots as she was also a great dancer, and a better overall performer on the floor than some who made it all the way.
Simone Biles – ‘DWTS’ Season 24
There were a lot of cases of strong female dancers being eliminated before weak male ones this season, but it was Simone who filled the “robbed in the semi-finals” role. Female gymnasts who break the mold of “cute, smiley girl” are often viewed with disdain by the public, and sadly that’s also true on DWTS. Just like with Nastia Liukin, it seemed like the show was determined to paint Simone in a negative light, culminating in her being asked why she didn’t look happy when receiving her judges’s comments live on air. This possibly contributed to her subsequent elimination in the next round.
While Simone didn’t win the Mirrorball trophy (which ultimately went to Rashad Jennings) she did drop one of the best comebacks in reality TV history. We’d say “smiles don’t win you gold medals,” is a pretty good claim to fame (along with, y’know, those gold medals themselves).
Mirai Nagasu – ‘DWTS’ Season 26
In a similar vein to the aforementioned Meryl vs/ Charlie battle, Season 26 featured three figure skaters, two of them being Olympic teammates and close friends Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu. And just like Meryl and Charlie’s season, the victory of the former didn’t come before the fall of the latter. These two were clearly the best technicians of the season, but this four-week long Athletes Edition season was ruthless, with multiple celebrities leaving every week and the Week 3 semi-finals featuring a triple elimination with half of the remaining cast heading home.
All things considered, Mirai’s elimination wasn’t too shocking – Adam was always the more popular of the two and there was hardly enough time to build a strong connection with the audience in just a few short weeks – but Mirai showed a lot of potential during her short time on the dance floor, and we reckon she could hack it in an all-star season even with less experience on the show (kind of like how Season 1 winner Kelly Monaco did in the first All-Star season!).
Juan Pablo Di Pace – ‘DWTS’ Season 27
If this were simply a list of biggest DWTS robberies, we could arguably include Season 27’s entire cast minus winner Bobby Bones, who was one of the worst dancers and had the unquestionably worst behavior and attitude of any of them. But since we’re sticking strictly to those eliminated in the semi-finals, we’re talking about Juan Pablo, who was cut in a double elimination alongside Bachelor Nation favorite Joe Amabile (the other worst dancer of the season).
James Van Der Beek – ‘DWTS’ Season 28
The latest in a long line of semi-finals robberies, James was the early frontrunner of the competition and for much of the season it was looking like he’d come in second place at the very worst. However, the judges started beating down on him a bit during Week 9, and ramped that up even further the following week. James was the only contestant to receive any “8” paddles in the semi-finals despite being pretty on par with some of the other contestants that episode and on top of that was fresh off a huge heartbreak; his wife, Kimberly, experienced a miscarriage and had to be hospitalized.
At the end of that night, James ended up in the bottom 2 with Ally Brooke, who the judges unanimously elected to save (for the third time that season) and was therefore eliminated from the competition even though Ally begged everyone to let him take her place in the finals (she ultimately went on to compete in the finale and finished in third place, while Hannah Brown took home the trophy).
‘Dancing With The Stars’ Honorable Mentions
Even though we limited this list to contestants cut in the semi-finals, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention some of the amazing celebrity dancers who were eliminated even earlier in the competition. So here’s to you, Audrina Partridge, Roshon Fegan, Christina Millian, Elizabeth Berkley-Lauren, Danica McKellar, Lea Thompson, Willow Shields, Heather Morris, Nancy Kerrigan, Vanessa Lachey, Tinashe, Sailor Brinkley-Cook, Sabrina Bryan (twice!) and the rest of the celebrities who lost out because good dancing sometimes just isn’t good enough to take it all the way on Dancing With the Stars.
Which Dancing With the Stars elimination left you the most heartbroken? Let us know in the comments below!