Wearing a sequined turquoise dress and dancing to a song that only days earlier was meant for Nancy O’Dell, Melissa Rycroft – a.k.a. The Bachelor’s most famous reject ever – closed out the premiere of Dancing With the Stars Monday with a waltz to “show everybody I’m good, that I’m okay.” Rycroft stepped in for O’Dell on the morning of March 7 after a knee injury forced the Access Hollywood host to quit the competition. Rycroft, who was dumped on national TV March 2 by Jason Mesnick, had already returned to Texas to resume her career as an event planner when she got the call about DWTS on the morning of March 6.
“I thought, ‘What is going on now, I thought it was over!’” Rycroft told EW. She didn’t appear frightened at the prospect of performing complicated steps on the ABC reality show, since she studied ballet in grade school before becoming a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. “They said they had a dropout and they would love for me to come and be the replacement. I sat there going, ‘What?’ Did they know who they just asked?’”
It took about an hour for Rycroft to say yes. Twenty-four hours later, she began rehearsals in Los Angeles with Tony Dovolani. Rycroft spent all weekend learning O’Dell’s routine to “Moon River”; costumers even had to fit Rycroft with O’Dell’s floor-length dress while she was learning the steps. “I thought, you know what? Here I go again! Why not?” said Rycroft, who harbors no ill-will toward ABC. “I signed up for The Bachelor, and while it didn’t go quite as I had hoped, everything worked out. I’m fine, and this is definitely helping me to move on from everything.”
After Monday’s premiere, Rycroft got a hug (and a microphone in her face) from O’Dell, who was doing post-show interviews while sporting a blue-toned knee brace that matched her strapless mini-dress (O’Dell’s injury, a torn meniscus, will require surgery). O’Dell described her decision to drop out as “traumatic” and said it’s even been hard to hear the strains of her waltzing song. “I was here when they were doing camera blocking and when I heard “Moon River,” I called up my ortho doctor and said, ‘Are you sure I can’t do this?’ I’m like, ‘I can run really quick and get the cortisone shot and get my knee drained!’”
O’Dell, 43, also joked that it took Rycroft, 25, only two days to learn what she toiled over for a good two weeks. Melissa and Tony waltzed off with a score of 23.