Johnson safe in first 'Dancing with Stars' elimination

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

Former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. and actress Jana Kramer of Rochester Hills will return next week to compete among the 12 celebrity dancers on ABC’s 23rd season of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Former Lion Calvin Johnson was pure comedy as he dressed as iconic television character Steve Urkel.

The first elimination episode of the season sent home “Wizards of Waverly Place” star Jake T. Austin and partner Jenna Johnson, who earned the second lowest score of 24 points during Monday’s TV-themed episode for their cha-cha to “Go Diego, Go!” (Austin was the voice of Diego on the Nickelodeon series “Go Diego, Go!”) The duo were eliminated based on votes from fans and combined scores from the judges this and last week.

Austin and Johnson tied with Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and his pro partner Cheryl Burke, who also earned 24 points. Knowing he was in jeopardy, Lochte emphasized he didn’t want to go home.

“Especially after what happened last week ... this is like my family now, and I don’t want to leave my family,” he said.

The two-hour episode revealed unaired comments from the judges and dancers as they performed as well as the stars' reactions once they exited the stage – including more behind the scenes moments from when Lochte was rushed by protesters last week.

Backstage, Vanilla Ice offered encouragement, telling him, “You’re the man bro. You won a gold medal for this country, bro. We love you.” Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, who danced immediately after the incident, agreed with partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy that what happened was “unfair.”

“It just sucks because he came to get away from everything,” Hernandez said. Lochte has been banned from the U.S. swim team for 10 months due to false claims of being robbed at the Olympics in Rio.

Johnson and Kramer, the two stars with Michigan ties, were deemed safe. Asked by co-host Erin Andrews what has surprised the retired NFL player about the show, Johnson said the “amount of attention” and “details” that go into the dances.

“And the amount of time we spend in rehearsal every day, “ he said, assuring Andrews that he’s enjoying the experience. “I’m having a heck of a time.”

On Monday , Johnson and his pro dance partner Lindsay Arnold danced to the “Family Matters” theme song “As Days Go By,” earning a score of 28 out of 40. That was 2 points better than last week.

“The Detroit Lion has come out with a roar,” judge Len Goodman said on Monday. “Watching you dance gives me joy. It was terrific, well done.”

After, Jaleel White, who played Urkel in the '90s sitcom, surprised Johnson by congratulating him backstage on his foxtrot moves and fawning a bit over the 6-foot-5 wide receiver.

“I’ve had this dude on my fantasy squad for so many seasons ... and then they call me and they tell me me you’re doing me,” said White, who competed in season 14 of DWTS.

On Tuesday, Johnson, who's a “Family Matters” fan, said it “surreal” to meet White.

“During the week in our practice, me and Lindsay were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be so cool if he showed up?’ And it just happened,” Johnson said.

Despite a rib muscle injury, Kramer earned 29 points for her tango with partner Gleb Savchenko. They performed to “One Tree Hill’s” theme song “I Don’t Want To Be.” Kramer played Alex Dupre on the TV series from 2009 to 2012.

Recapping the dance, Andrews commented on the judge’s off-mic reactions that were aired Tuesday for the first time.

“Every time you twisted and turned last night everyone was like, 'oooh,'” Andrews said, sucking in air.

Kramer’s response: “He’s turning me into an athlete," she said, referring to her dance partner. "And I’m going to get through it...we got this.”

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Emma Slater came in last on Monday with 22 points from the judges for their quickstep to "Green Acres." But the viewers at home helped them move on. “It doesn’t hurt that Rick has Emma, who’s pretty fantastic,” said judge Julianne Hough.

In honor of this year’s 50th annual Country Music Awards on Nov. 2, Tuesday’s episode featured a sneak peek of the “Forever Country” music video with 30 CMA award-winning artists. Singers Gavin DeGraw, Charlie Puth and Daya also performed live.

Watch “Dancing with the Stars” Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

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