Oct. 7, 2013 at 11:36 PM ET
It's been an emotional journey for Valerie Harper on "Dancing With the Stars" this season, and frankly, fans knew it would be before she ever stepped on the dance floor.
After all, the 74-year-old joined the competition while battling terminal cancer. But in the first few weeks of "Dancing," it became clear that while an old knee injury and tough-to-remember choreography posed major problems for her, she never let her diagnosis hold her back.
Still, on Monday night's show, those other issues finally caught up with her. After following up last week's 16-point cha-cha with an 18-point Viennese waltz, Valerie got the ballroom boot.
"It has been absolutely wonderful — completely unique, like nothing else in the world that you would ever do," she said of her "Dancing" days after learning that they were coming to an end. "It was an opportunity for me to carry a message to folks, not just with cancer, whatever they have — whatever challenge."
That message was to simply "carry on." And one of the folks who learned it best was Valerie's own pro partner, Tristan MacManus.
"Sometimes you get very lucky to do well with your partner," he told host Tom Bergeron. "Sometimes you get very lucky in your life to meet someone who can affect (you) more than this (show) could at all. I feel like I've been very lucky to get that. And I feel like maybe me life's a little bit better since I met Valerie Harper."
It was a tender moment for the pro, but he was far from the only one moved by his partner. In fact, Julianne Hough, the former show pro who returned to the ballroom to act as guest judge in Len Goodman's absence, was left teary-eyed after watching Valerie dance earlier in the evening.
"I don't think that I've had the chance to tell you how courageous I think that you are," Julianne said after seeing her on the dance floor.
While Monday's show marked the end of the competition for Valerie, Julianne had several other hoofer hopefuls to evaluate — including Amber Riley, aka her brother's partner. And just where did she rank her (and him)?
At the top of the heap.
But before there's any handwringing over unfair sibling-related scoring, it should be noted that Amber and Derek Hough deserved every one of the 27 points they earned for their intense, precise tango.
"Honestly, I was actually hoping that something was going to go terribly wrong so that I could give you a horrible score, so I wouldn't get in trouble for liking your performance," Julianne joked after the dance.
No such luck. But really, no one could have accused her of unfair judging during the show. That's because the scores she handed out all night precisely matched those of fellow panelists Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli — every time.
When Carrie Ann and Bruno gave Elizabeth Berkley 9s for her Argentine tango, which was punctuated with perfect snap-to motions and phenomenal leg lines, Julianne joined them.
The group 9s made another appearance after Corbin Bleu delivered a flamenco-filled paso doble.
Of course, not everyone could tie with those top marks. Throughout the evening, 24 proved to be the lucky number for most of the stars. That's what Jack Osbourne nabbed for his quickstep. It was also what Leah Remini cha-cha'ed away with, what Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi jived to and what Christina Milian took for her foxtrot.
Then there was the back of the pack. Julianne and the gang reached for the 7s for funnyman Bill Engvall, which marked a three-point slip from his score last week. But it was the 7s they held for Brant Daugherty that was the real shocker of the night. Last week, he topped the leaderboard with 27.