Mario, Karina Smirnoff, Dancing with the Stars

ABC

Maybe Mario should have played up the fact that he was dancing with an injured shoulder.

The 21-year-old R&B singer, the youngest contestant on Dancing With the Stars to date, was eliminated from the show Tuesday despite landing in the middle of the pack after last night's ballroom-Latin double feature.

"I've had a great time performing on the show. I had a great partner," Mario said, making sure to give props to pal Karina Smirnoff, as well as a shout-out to "the real brave ones"—the U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East.

"Len, thank you for all your comments," he said graciously to the man who yesterday told him he had "bloody big, ugly" feet. "Ultimately, you helped me become a better ballroom dancer."

He was a better dancer than Jason Taylor and Marissa Jaret Winokur—last night, anyway—but both of his lower-scoring cocontestants made it into next week's semifinals, along with Kristi Yamaguchi and surprise leaderboard-topper Cristián de la Fuente.

Actually, it wasn't so cut-and-dry for Taylor, who after nearly achieving perfection with his tango was given the lowest score of the night—a 23—on his samba. Perhaps dismayed by his overconfidence in round two, not enough fans showed their support for the strapping Dolphin to keep him out of the bottom two.

After Yamaguchi and Winokur were ushered to safety, you could almost read Smirnoff's thoughts: We're obviously through; Jason's too good, and they're not going to send the injured guy home.

De la Fuente didn't need a whole lot of help, however, after ending up with a season-high 57 after what viewers feared might be two one-armed dances.

But the Chilean actor, who ruptured a tendon in his left bicep last week and needs surgery to repair it, turned his setback into an asset, impressively hoisting partner Cheryl Burke into the air with only his right arm to cap off their second dance of the night, a 29-caliber mambo.

So with little fanfare, thanks in part to the fact that there were only five couples left and also because most of the hour was spent celebrating DWTS' 100th episode, de la Fuente's rise—a combination of skill and sympathy, no?—meant there was no room on the floor left for Mario.

The evening also featured Mario Lopez dancing the opening number from A Chorus Line, which he's currently starring in on Broadway, and dual performances by Rascal Flatts—"Every Day," background music for Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough, and "Life Is a Highway," which heralded the return of Mel B and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

 

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