The former Cheetah Girl, 28, was sent home this same week when she competed during season 5 with Mark Ballas. The current dismissal came on the heels of scoring a perfect 30 for her routine the previous night.
“It just felt all too surreal,” she told PEOPLE backstage after learning her fate. “It just felt like a flashback. I want to forget about that whole experience. Louis [Van Amstel] wanted to talk about it all week, but I just didn’t want to. It didn’t matter to me. It felt like the past is the past. We’re here in the present.”
Adds Bryan, “It sucks to go home, and nobody’s going to say it doesn’t. Obviously this is a stinger, but you move on from things like this. Dancing with the Stars is awesome. And yes, would I want that damn sparkly mirror ball? Of course I [would]. Why did I sign up? Obviously I want it. But at the same time, I realize how blessed I am for everything I have.”
To Bryan, the biggest perk of being on the show was getting to dance with Van Amstel.
“Louis has brought so much more out of me than I could have asked from anyone with any kind of partnership, so I feel amazing,” she said. “He pushed me. He wanted to know about me. He wanted to know about what mattered to me. Every step of the way, I think both of us just grew so much, and I’m so incredibly grateful to this guy.”
Van Amstel’s feelings are mutual.
“She put it all on the line,” he told PEOPLE of his partner. “She did more than I even expected. This is a tough moment.”
Now that Bryan’s out of the running to win that coveted mirror ball, she’s rooting for her “little twin,” Shawn Johnson.
“Love that girl,” she says. “Man, she’s awesome.”