'Dancing' 's Maksim Chmerkovskiy Denies Saying, 'I Don't Like Bristol'

"It's been a very challenging season," the pro says as he comforts Brandy after their elimination


Dancing with the Stars took another surprising turn Tuesday night, when former frontrunners Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy were sent packing, leaving Jennifer Grey, Kyle Massey and Bristol Palin to compete in next week’s finale.

“It’s going to hit me tomorrow,” Brandy told PEOPLE after the show. “But I gave it everything I had and I don’t have any regrets at all.”

As Chmerkovskiy comforted his teary-eyed partner backstage, the pro dancer admitted to facing some hurdles during the season.

“Most recently, Bristol said I don’t like her,” Chmerkovskiy said. “I never said it. I just want to make sure that people understand that I’m just a dancer. That’s all I am, and I don’t aspire to be a politician at all. I express my opinion when it comes to only dancing. This season, I’ve been so focused on Brandy that I really didn’t look at anybody else.”

Meanwhile, the flawless frontrunners were shocked to see Brandy and Maksim hang up their dancing shoes.

“I’m really happy for Bristol and Mark – that’s really awesome – but I can’t believe Brandy’s going home, because I always assumed she’d be in the finals,” Hough said.

Added Grey, “We always assumed [she’d be in the finals].

But Maks, who has never won a mirror ball trophy in his career on Dancing, ended on a positive note. “It’s been a very challenging season,” Maks told reporters. But “I’m absolutely fine. When one door closes, another one opens, and there’s definitely a bunch of doors being opened right now.”

What You Didn’t See

• Mark Ballas explained the black nail polish he displayed on his fingers during Tuesday night’s show, telling PEOPLE that it wasn’t Palin who gave him the manicure, and for the finals, he is “thinking hot pink with rhinestones. I’m trying to get a nail endorsement.”

• Enrique Iglesias received one of the warmest welcomes of any of the guest performers this season. When cameras weren’t rolling and he hopped on the stage, a group of girls chanted, “Hi Enrique!” The crowd then screamed as Iglesias gave several friendly waves. But when he asked everyone to sing the lyrics to his hit single, “I Like It,” he told them their attempt “sucked,” adding, “That was bad. Let’s try again.”

• The two couples deemed safe right away during elimination – Grey and Hough along with Massey and Schwimmer – came out during commercial break to hug and kiss the two couples in jeopardy. But the couples up for elimination didn’t interact at all. Standing right next to each other and not saying a word, Chmerkovskiy looked slightly nervous, swaying back and forth with his hands in his pockets, while Palin flipped her hair and giggled.

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