April 15, 2014 at 12:08 PM ET
It was an emotional night for "Dancing With the Stars" pro Tony Dovolani and his star partner NeNe Leakes Monday. They knew they were one of the couples in jeopardy before they even hit the dance floor, but the stress started long before that for the duo.
As rehearsal footage revealed, the day after last week's switch-up twist, tension built between them. Leakes talked about her one-off experience with pro Derek Hough, and Dovolani showed what seemed to be resentment about it.
“It was a tough night,” Dovolani told TODAY after the show.
And one of the things that made it tough for him was the fact that the editing on the show framed the fracas in a way that made him look like a bad guy — at least that's how he saw it.
“That package made me out to be the villain," he insisted. "It made it seem like I hate Derek. I don’t hate Derek. He’s an incredible choreographer.”
Dovolani added that the spat he had with Leakes about it all was short compared to the entire week of rehearsals they shared.
“That dance we did (this week) didn’t come from nowhere," he said. "Did we have a tiff at one point? Yes. But they never showed us making up. We walked in the day after and said, ‘Sorry, sorry; love you, love you,’ and we moved on.”
The couple’s Foxtrot — set to “Cruella De Vil” from Disney's “101 Dalmatians” — earned an impressive score of 36 (out of a possible 40 points) from the judges. But Dovolani and Leakes weren't all smiles after the number.
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba told them that despite the rehearsal drama, last week's switch-up was "the best thing that ever happened" to them. It was clear they didn't see it that way.
“I accept Carrie Ann’s compliment, but I didn’t agree with her that the switch-up made us better," Dovolani explained. "It actually set us back a day. We lost a day of rehearsal because after the tiff, which happened early in the day. We didn’t rehearse again until the next day.”
In the end, Dovolani didn't have hard feelings for anyone — not Inaba, not Hough and certainly not his partner.
"They took the argument that NeNe and I had that was a little bump and made it into a mountain," he said. "The truth is that NeNe and I have gotten along since day one.”
And they'll have the chance to keep getting along. By the end of Monday's show, they learned they were safe, as Australian pop singer Cody Simpson and his pro partner Witney Carson got the ballroom boot.
See what next week holds for the pair and their competition when "Dancing With the Stars" airs Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.