Can Ryan Lochte bounce back on 'Dancing with the Stars'?

Lochte's 'DWTS' debut interrupted by protesters
Lochte's 'DWTS' debut interrupted by protesters

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Lochte's 'DWTS' debut interrupted by protesters 01:42

Story highlights

  • Ryan Lochte joins a long list of controversy-plagued "Dancing with the Stars" contestants
  • "If there was an upside to the incident, it was that it changed the subject from Ryan's mediocre dancing," says "Dancing with the Stars" expert MJ Santilli

(CNN)One week after "Dancing with the Stars" kicked off its new season with one of its most dramatic episodes to date, all eyes are on Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, the contestant at the center of last week's on-air interruption that left viewers -- and especially the dancers -- shaken.

Last week, two men who opposed Lochte's casting on the long-running competition series stormed the "DWTS" ballroom floor while judges were delivering their critiques of Lochte's performance with partner Cheryl Burke. Though not shown to viewers, the protesters were tackled by security and later formally arrested for trespassing.
    Lochte initially responded to the incident saying he was "heartbroken." Now the question is whether he and Burke will be able to shake off the drama and dance on.
    "If there was an upside to the incident, it was that it changed the subject from Ryan's mediocre dancing," said MJ Santilli, founder of reality show blog Mjsbigblog, in an e-mail to CNN. "The incident will definitely garner sympathy for him and could keep him in the competition longer. Without it, he was a mid-packer at best."
    In the past, controversy has at times worked in the favor of "Dancing with the Stars" contestants.
    Season 11 contestant Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, joined the show amid backlash from those opposed to her family's politics. Despite early criticism of the casting, Palin's supporters came out in droves and helped her and her partner make it to the final three, despite being among the lower scoring pairs.
    Meanwhile, former Food Network personality Paula Deen, who had been facing allegations of racism, joined the show in Season 21. She made it to week six of competition despite never scoring higher than a 26, but only because another couple dropped out that year.
    Lochte and Burke's Foxtrot earned them a score of 24 out of 40.
    The protestors' objection to Lochte stemmed from the Olympian's "over-exaggerated" claims that he and fellow swimmers were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro.
    Lochte had said in his video package prior to dancing last week that he saw his involvement with the show as a fresh start.
    "Now I want to prove to the world I've changed," he said.
    At least on the dance floor, that will be easier said than done, Santilli said.
    "In order for a redemption arc to work, Ryan needs to actually dance well, or at least show some dramatic improvement in the weeks ahead," Santilli added. "So far, he doesn't show much talent on the dance floor."
    Santilli said even if the duo deliver a poor performance on Monday's show, "the focus will remain on the prior week's drama."
    Protesters disrupt Ryan Lochte's 'DWTS' debut
    ryan lochte dancing with the stars protesters erin moos dnt_00004220

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      Protesters disrupt Ryan Lochte's 'DWTS' debut

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    Protesters disrupt Ryan Lochte's 'DWTS' debut 03:22
    Following the incident, a spokesperson from BBC Worldwide Productions told CNN: "The safety and security of our cast, crew and studio audience is of utmost importance. A full evaluation of security procedures/protocols is taking place and we will make any changes deemed necessary."
    In order to enter the "DWTS" stage, all audience members and guests are required to pass through metal detectors and most also relinquish their cell phones.
    "Dancing with the Stars" live show tickets are generally hot commodities. How the protestors -- later identified as Barzeen Soroudi and Sam Sotoodeh -- and four other anti-Lochte audience members made it into the crowd has not yet been made clear by BBC Worldwide Productions nor ABC.
    "Dancing with the Stars" airs Monday and Tuesday this week.