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"Dancing with the Stars": Jaleel White out after dance duel

Jaleel White Eliminated on May 1, 2012. Occupation: Actor/Former "Family Matters" star Partner: Kym Johnson
ABC
Jaleel White and partner Kym Johnson perform on "Dancing with the Stars," April 30, 2012.
ABC

(CBS News) Tuesday marked a remarkable milestone in the history of "Dancing with the Stars" - this was last time we would see the dance duel, an event that rivals the Super Bowl for tension, build-up, sweat and millions bet in Vegas.

Pictures: "Dancing with the Stars" Season 14

In the end, it would be Jaleel White who would sever his familial ties with the show. But first, the excitement had to be built like the Tower of Babel or a bonfire in late November.

With peculiarly heated haste, William Levy, Donald Driver and Katherine Jenkins were all told they were safe. The show was only seven minutes old.

There was then a pause when we were told of the story of Steelo Vasquez, a wonderful professional dancer who suffered a brain aneurysm last year and couldn't walk or talk. Suddenly, here he was in the ballroom, dancing a little hip-hop for the first time since his misfortune. He did his proud best to pull off what many believed would be impossible. They call this perspective.

There were only four couples left - and almost 40 minutes of show. So ousted contestant Gavin DeGraw was brought on to sing, as his former partner Karina Smirnoff danced with someone who could keep up with her - Louis Van Amstel.

Somehow, even the behind-the-scenes footage - normally such a fine source of hissing and secrets - was a little subdued. Roshon Fegan merely feared he'd be in the dance duel again. Jaleel White admitted that he was desperate to please Len Goodman, but that Goodman always winked to him that he wasn't deserving.

Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chemerkovskiy did, though, offer deep musings upon whether judge Bruno Tonioli had ever been to Coney Island. Tonioli has, unquestionably, been around. However, Gilbert and her partner were clearly miffed by his suggestion that their dance had been like "riding the Cyclone on Coney Island."

"I highly doubt Bruno's ever been to Coney Island," suggested Maks.

"No," replied Gilbert. "If he has, I'm sure he's not ridden the Cyclone."

While Maria Menounos was told she was safe - after a stunning, vampire-themed performance - Fegan was again told he was in the dance duel. He pouted, though he must have realized by now that this has little to do with his dancing and lots to do with his personal popularity among the (largely) ladies who vote. (The average age of the viewership on this show is not far off 50.)

Gilbert, on the other hand, would not have to duel. Her relief was as palpable as the scowl on Goodman's face when he sees a hip-hop move in a jive.

So the final dance duel would be between Fegan and Jaleel White.

"Len is the old guy outside the grocery store who won't give the little kid any money for candy," was White's considered view of the head judge. This was perhaps not the most politically astute comment to make before a dance duel.

Fegan, on the other hand, offered to buy Goodman a tie.

The duelists had already rehearsed their rumba. Sadly, the footage we weren't shown was that of the other couples rehearsing for this duel. It would have been fun to see the hobbling, grouchy Chmerkovskiy growling his way unpleasantly through a rumba routine after midnight - or at 7 a.m.

Or might it be that Fegan and White were already told last night that they would be in the bottom two? Might it be that the other contestants didn't rehearse at all?

Fegan and partner Chelsie Hightower had something of a spat in their morning practice. In his eyes, she had shown him disrespect. Had she tossed spittle in his direction? Had she called him effeminate? No, she had told him: "Shh."

In the duel, White decided to show a decided portion of his fine upper body. Fegan stayed demure in a deep red, shiny shirt. In both couples, the professional ladies seemed to do more of the energetic work, while the gentlemen did their best to swivel their hips from a relatively stationary position.

Carrie Ann Inaba said it was very close. Goodman talked about cruelty and his own heart being broken. Tonioli felt White had corrected his arms, while Fegan and Hightower had a wonderful connection.

Then it was down to the verdict. Inaba favored Fegan, as did her fellow judges. Yes, even the old guy outside the grocery store.

"I really only thought I would last three dances in this competition," said White, the former Urkel.

He then explained politely to Goodman that, by the way, it was Fegan who was the little kid outside the grocery store.

  • Chris Matyszczyk

    Chris has been a multi award-winning executive creative director with some of the most celebrated advertising agencies in the world. His creative work has been recognized at the Cannes Advertising Festival, the New York Festivals, Clio, the One Show, as well as many other festivals around the world. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Financial Times, the European, the Sacramento Bee and The Singapore Press Holdings Group.

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