Did judge's comment make the difference?

LOS ANGELES Cloris Leachman made it past the halfway point in this competition. At 82, she wowed the crowd with sheer guts, a heavy dose of comedy and a love for dance.

Cloris re-invented herself by putting her best foot forward as millions marveled at her willingness to give it all a go.

Cloris Leachman became the seventh star eliminated in the seventh season.

"Did you think you would last as long as you did on this show?"

"I didn't know anything," replied Cloris. "I just thought, 'Oh boy, "Dancing With the Stars."' And that's what it's been. Oh gosh."

She began with a Foxtrot and moved on to the Mambo; she tackled the Paso Doble -- or it tackled her ... and she eventually got her best scores with her tantalizing Tango.

"Corky, what did she bring to this show that this show has never seen before?"

"I would say the element of surprise," said partner Corky Ballas. "If you look up 'surprise' in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of Cloris' face."

I know I was always pleasantly surprised by Cloris ...

Another surprise came Monday night when Judge Carrie Ann Inaba expressed disappointment at Cloris' Cha Cha by being blunt.

"We lost Toni Braxton for this and it kind of makes me sad," Inaba said on the show Monday night.

When Cloris was eliminated, she told Carrie Ann she knew she didn't mean what she said.

Actually, Carrie Ann did mean it.

She acknowledges it may not have been eloquent, but it was honest. But she did feel some backlash.

"Thank you for all the e-mails. Ha ha!" said Carrie Ann. "No, I did. I got a lot of e-mails, actually, and I really respect people's opinion because it makes me a better judge, because I voice my opinion and I have to be able to take the consequences. It makes me a stronger person."

"Is there anything you would like your fans to know about this experience?" I asked Cloris.

"What did you do that voted me off? Did you forget to vote again? What the Sam Hill?" answered Cloris.

Cloris said she'd be back next week. And in a way, she will be. She's going to work for one of the entertainment shows as a "Dancing With the Stars" correspondent.


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