“I was just flabbergasted,” Chmerkovskiy’s fiancée Peta Murgatroyd told PEOPLE backstage moments after the results were revealed on the ABC reality dance competition. “Maks had just come back [from his ankle injury] and was so positive and really excited to be back and dancing again — and now to just get out like that, it hurts me as much as it hurts him. I just thought they would stay.”
“I was so bummed,” added Murgatroyd’s partner Nick Viall. “Maks has been such a supporter of me and helping me. He was so excited to get back.”
The elimination proved particularly shocking because Morris and Chmerkovskiy received the season’s first perfect score earlier in the night.
“It’s nuts,” said pro dancer Sasha Farber. “It just shows you can get perfect scores and then something like this can happen. It just puts into perspective and proves we have to be on our toes the whole time.”
“I always have a love hate relationship with Mondays because you can get a perfect score but at the end of the day no one is really safe,” said Normani Kordei, who is partnered with Chmerkovskiy’s brother Valentin. “It’s super unpredictable because it comes down to the fans voting. That could have been us even. But she’s an amazing dancer and an amazing spirit and it’s been fun.”
Val called his brother’s elimination “bittersweet.”
“When we play pickup ball we always try and play on the same team because I want to win but I never want to see him lose,” he said. “But that’s the nature of the show. I couldn’t help him.”
The female contestants had grown especially close to Morris in the past week while they worked on a group dance together.
“It’s sad to see anyone go because we were working as a team tonight and we spent a lot of time together. Just that the whole thing stinks,” said Nancy Kerrigan. “We were thinking with the two groups maybe they wouldn’t send anyone home because they were really strong teams. It was hard.”
When saying goodbye to Morris, Farber’s partner Simone Biles embraced her with both arms and sent her off with a warm sentiment.
“I hugged her and said, ‘We love you mom.’ Because she is like our mom. If we ever need anything, she’s on it,” said Biles. “She’s like the leader of the group so it’s sad to see her go.”
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.