Dancing‘s Disappointing Departure
10/21/2009 AT 12:00 AM EDT
"I'm pretty bummed," the Olympic champion swimmer said after the show, her eyes red from shedding tears.
She wasn't the only one who felt that way. Although the judges awarded her just 22 points on Monday -- a night when Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson scored 29 and Mya and Dmitry Chaplin earned 27 -- the entire panel was regretful seeing Coughlin and pop star Aaron Carter, who scored 24 with Karina Smirnoff, in the bottom two.
"I'm not only surprised. I'm heartbroken," Len Goodman said. "I do understand with the viewers -- they want to support underdogs, but justice must prevail."
"I'm very disappointed," said Carrie Ann Inaba. "You've always had this incredible ability to mix strength with flexibility as well as fluidity, which is very unique ... I hope this is not going to happen."
Sadly, it did. "You can't prepare for it," Coughlin said about exiting the show. "I'll survive but it's not life or death."
Of her DWTS journey, Coughlin said, "I enjoyed the entire process. I enjoyed making good friendships along the way. I enjoyed the training. It's been wonderful."
Her partner said he had a similar experience working with her. "We get along really well," Mazo said. "I made a very good friend and I hope we get to see each other again."
As for the remaining contestants, it's getting more difficult to say goodbye to the competition -- even as that disco ball trophy gets a little more within reach. "You get so close to everyone," Kelly Osbourne said after the show. "And after, I thought, 'It shouldn't have been Natalie.' And then I thought, 'Who should it have been?' I couldn't pick anyone on that stage. It's harder and harder every week."
Tell us: Do you think Natalie deserved to go home? Who else should have gone?Craig Sjodin/ABC