Strictly Come Dancing's reigning champion has been sent home after just the second elimination in a dance off that left viewers in shock.
Pro dancer Giovanni Pernice, who won the 2021 series with Rose Ayling-Ellis, was voted out tonight (Sunday) with his partner Richie Anderson, but viewers thought it was unfair that either of the bottom two couples was in danger.
Anderson and Pernice were up against Fleur East and her partner Vito Coppola, but three out of the four judges decided to save East for her Little Mermaid themed American Smooth ahead of Anderson's Samba inspired by The Lion King.
With both couples finishing in the middle of the leaderboard after Saturday night's scores - East and Coppola were on 29 points, while Anderson and Pernice were on 27 - they ended up in the bottom two from a lack of public votes, but some viewers were outraged.
One viewer tweeted: "Neither Richie nor Fleur should've been in the #Strictly dance off. Both were much better than some other couples. Will miss Richie's enthusiasm."
Watch: Who is Strictly's Richie Anderson?
Someone else added: "I don't want Richie to go, but Fleur shouldn't of been in that dance off to begin with."
Tony Adams, Matt Goss and Ellie Taylor had been the celebrities at the bottom of the leaderboard, while Tyler West was in the top spot with 38 points after earning the series' first 10s.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) October 8, 2022
Judge Motsi Mabuse said: "I think it’s heartbreaking actually because I think both of you do not deserve to be here, but this is how the public voted and based on this dance off I’m going to save Fleur and Vito."
Shirley Ballas wanted to save Anderson and Pernice, but with Craig Revel Horwood and Anton Du Beke agreeing with Mabuse, East and Coppola went through to the next round.
Anderson, dressed in costume with Pernice as Lion King characters for the movie week performance, said: "As a Strictly fan I always thought it was a magical thing to be a part of, and being here it really is and it’s not just the people that you see on camera, the judges, and you and Claud and the amazing people that I’ve got to meet on this show. The people behind the scenes in hair, make up, costume...everybody."
He added to Pernice: "I feel so lucky that I’ve got to dance with you every day. Not only are you a fantastic dancer but you are also a fantastic guy on top of that."
Pernice told him: "It’s been an honour to be able to dance with you because I know how much you love Strictly Come Dancing, you really are a superfan. And I’m glad that you got to do this experience and glad that I got to do it with you.
"It’s been a shame its been too short for us but I hope you’ve enjoyed every single second of it, and it stays in your heart forever. Look at us we’ve gone out dressed as Timon and Pumbaa. So lovely jubbly, well done Richie."
Anderson and Pernice were the second ever all-male partnership on the show, after last year's John Whaite and Johannes Radebe who went up against Pernice and Ayling-Ellis in the final.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6.30pm on BBC One.