April 8, 2014 at 10:27 AM ET
The much talked about "Dancing With the Stars" partner switch-up finally happened on Monday night, but that wasn't the cause of the show's drama this week. Instead, it was guest judge and former pro Julianne Hough's criticism of pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy that got fans booing loudly.
After the bad boy of the ballroom performed a jive with his temporary partner of the week Danica McKellar, Hough told the pro that she felt like he couldn't wait to get past this week's twist so he could pair up again with his regular partner, Olympic gold medal skater Meryl Davis. "You just had to phone it in so you could go back to Meryl," she said to the displeasure of the audience.
Chmerkovskiy vehemently denied the allegation during the show, and afterward, McKellar defended her pro for the week.
“That comment (from Julianne) was not true in the least,” McKellar told TODAY. “I don’t know why she said it. I can’t get inside her head.”
Several pros agreed with the former "Wonder Years" star.
“I love Julianne but I’m not sure where that came from,” pro dancer Sharna Burgess told us. “All Maks did was be there for Danica to make sure she was getting through their routine. His performance level came down so he could make sure that she was OK. He took care of his partner. That’s what we do. It was really an unfair thing to say.”
“It was a little bit inappropriate,” Cheryl Burke concurred. “Some people have chemistry from the beginning. Some don’t, but it doesn’t mean that Maks wasn’t trying. He knows he’s going back to Meryl next week. It was kind of like, ‘What just happened?’”
But not everyone thought the guest judge's comments were off base.
"Real Housewives of Atlanta" star NeNe Leakes, who was temporarily partnered with Julianne’s brother, Derek Hough, supported the guest judge.
“I have to agree with Julianne,” Leakes said. “It felt like (Maks) wanted to be back with Meryl — he probably does! What professional dancer doesn’t want to dance with another professional dancer?”
Ultimately, the exchange made for good TV.
“It doesn’t matter,” Chmerkovskiy said of Hough’s remarks. “It’s not about me. People want to be entertained when they tune in.”
The Hough/Chmerkovskiy post-dance exchange was reminiscent of other interactions he’d had with judges in past seasons — there's a reason he's often referred to as the bad boy of the ballroom — and that’s a place Chmerkovskiy would prefer not to visit.
“We were brought back to where things were,” he noted. “I don’t like that. Just like (I don’t like) the switch-up or Disney Week or Outer Space Week. But it’s not my call. I just have to enjoy it. We’re all in the same boat together.”