PureDWTS Conspiracy Theory – Have We Finally Figured Out What Happened with the Casting in Season 21???

It’s been a year and a half, but there’s been a little itch in the back of my brain that I haven’t quite been able to scratch: what exactly happened in season 21 that led to Artem sitting the season out? Especially after he was confirmed as a pro for the season, initially? Well, 18 months later, it appears we finally have enough information to piece together a cohesive theory for what went down.  I’m finally getting to scratch that little itch 🙂

First off, a special thanks to Colleen for pointing out the line in Heather’s blog that set all of this in motion, because Heidi, Vogue, & myself often get so caught up in actually getting stuff posted for you guys that we don’t actually thoroughly process everything we read, especially if it’s a one-off sentence here and there.  Also thanks to Laura & Kimmie for helping to locate the old Val tweets, and anyone who bounced ideas off me on Twitter after some of these tidbits came to light. So let’s dive right in…

…I guess it would be best to start out with a recap of what exactly went down prior to season 21 that left us all scratching our heads. It started on Aug. 19 of 2015, when GMA announced 9 of the pros that would be on season 21 – among them were Artem & Val. In the coming days, DWTS toyed with a new format for announcing the celebs – they announced one celeb per day for the nine days leading up to the cast announcement, thereby saving (4) celebs to announce on GMA (along with the partnerships). It was all a bit of a mess, and when the dust settled after the announcement on GMA, Artem ended up without a partner – even though he had originally been confirmed as one of the pros for the season.

Heidi & I have long speculated that Tamar was not originally Val’s partner – and that she may have actually started off as Artem’s partner, until it became clear that the returning champ might end up partner-less unless they did some shuffling around of the pairings. But we never really had any solid intel to back that opinion up – until the last few months, when various items of interest suddenly came to light courtesy of some tweets and interviews. Keep in mind that what follows is still just a theory – short of Artem, Val, or someone else directly involved with the show coming out and explaining exactly what happened, we’ll probably never get confirmation on how it all went down. But there is enough evidence here that this seems like a plausible explanation.

First, let’s start off with a timeline of events that are relevant to this theory…


August 19, 2015Artem & Val both confirmed as pros for season 21 on GMA, along with 7 other pros.

August 24, 2015GMA announces Bindi Irwin as the first celeb confirmed for season 21; various other news outlets begin revealing nine of the other contestants in the following days.

August 25, 2015 – Val starts complaining on Twitter about not having a partner yet:

August 26, 2015 – Artem posts a selfie of himself at the studio, captioned “First day at work”.

First day at work?#DWTS

A post shared by Artem (@theartemc) on

August 27, 2015 – Val continues tweeting about not having a partner:

September 2/3, 2015Season 21 cast announcement on GMAVal is paired w/Tamar, and there’s a bit of an awkward energy between them; Artem announces he’s sitting season 21 out, citing “last minute casting changes” in a terse Instagram post:

A post shared by Artem (@theartemc) on

February 27, 2017: Kaitlyn Bristowe goes on a Twitter rant, claiming that she had signed on to do DWTS a year and a half prior, only to be told “no” by Mike Fleiss, creator & executive producer of The Bachelor franchise.

March 17, 2017: Maks tells Hollywood Life that Heather actually wasn’t his original partner for this season.

March 20, 2017: Heather Morris writes her first DWTS blog for People, and mentions that she was first asked to do the show back in August of 2015, but had to decline because she was already 2 months pregnant.

Court’s theory, given this information: Kaitlyn was Val’s original partner for season 21, which makes sense considering that she has a fairly extensive dance background and seems to fit the pattern of young, at-least-moderately-ringer-y partners he’s had for the past 10 seasons, and she’s about the right height. Tamar was originally supposed to be Artem’s partner. Both ladies signed on prior to Aug. 19, so it made sense that their respective pros would be announced as part of the initial nine pros that GMA confirmed on the 19th – with the exception of Val & Artem, all of the other pros announced that day got celebs that were part of the nine announced prior to the actual cast announcement (Peta initially got Andy Grammar, but had to withdraw due to injury – which shifted Allison to partner Andy). At some point between Aug. 19-25th, Fleiss put the kibosh on Kaitlyn’s DWTS ambitions, and she was forced to withdraw, leaving Val partner-less. Enter Heather Morris, who I believe wasn’t necessarily a first choice for casting (given the controversy that would likely follow casting a professional dancer), but would be a suitably-ringery replacement partner for Val in a pinch – casting called to extend an offer, but Heather had to decline due to her pregnancy. Casting continued the desperate search for a replacement partner for their returning champ, to no avail – which led them to start eyeing an already-cast (and possibly already-paired-off) female for Val. I would assume that, by virtue of Derek & Mark’s seniority, their partners were off-limits; Keo’s partner, Chaka, wasn’t ringer-y enough; Louis & Tony’s partners (Paula & Kim) may not have even been cast yet, and also not ringer-y enough. That left only Artem’s partner, Tamar – maybe not as ringer-y as Kaitlyn would have been, but also not likely to be a total slouch, and likely to keep Val in the competition for awhile. Desperate times call for desperate measures…sorry Artem – better luck next season.

Given all this information, there are also a few other minor theories I’ve deduced:

Heather probably wasn’t a first-choice casting for this season: Maks straight-up said in the Hollywood Life interview that Heather wasn’t his original partner, and seems to hint that it was he who was originally paired with Normani, but he didn’t want to travel due to the new baby. Given that Glee wrapped 2 years ago and Heather hasn’t done a whole lot since then, I can’t imagine she would be someone “current” and hugely in-demand for this season – Heather was probably a name they kept in their back pocket for a rainy day after initially extending the offer in 2015, so they gave her a call when they needed someone suitably-ringer-y enough for a Chmerkovskiy brother. Given that the original narrative of this season seemed to focus on Maks, Peta, & Val, it would stand to reason that they’d want all three to have partners that would keep them in the game for awhile. I also think the producers were fully aware of the shitstorm they might encounter from casting her, both back then and now, and so I doubt she was a first choice back in season 21, either – a casting of desperation, if you will. No wonder they’re tying themselves in knots trying to justify it now.

Allison’s original partner for season 21 was most likely Hayes: Note that they started out by confirming 9 pros (4 men, 5 women) before the actual cast announcement, and 9 celebs (3 women, 6 men) before the actual cast announcement. I think the intent here was to announce the pros and celebs from the pairings they had already set in stone – and for the most part, it matched up: six of the nine pros initially announced (Derek, Mark, Witney, Allison, Karina, & Sharna) ended up with six of the nine celebs initially announced (Bindi, Alexa, Carlos, Andy, Victor, & Nick); of the three remaining pros, Peta had to withdraw due to injury, but we know she was originally paired with Andy; Artem ended up partner-less in the end; and Val ended up with one of the last four celebs announced at the actual GMA announcement. The only other male celeb announced ahead of time was Gary Busey, and I know he was a last-minute add and Anna was brought in specifically to partner him – so logic dictates that the only other male celeb announced ahead of time (Hayes) probably was meant for the only other female pro announced ahead of time (Allison). Could explain why Allison ended up with him for switch week, despite the actual voting seeming to put him with Lindsay – maybe just a “let’s just see what could have been” thing?

Now I know you guys are gonna find holes in this theory – and that’s fine.  Here’s some questions I’m sure will get asked:

How are you so sure that Val’s original partner backed out? Maybe they just hadn’t signed yet and he was waiting on a partner! I go back to the producers opting to confirm 9 pros and 9 celebs prior to the official cast announcement – I don’t think they would have confirmed the pros that they weren’t sure they had partners for, and they don’t officially count someone as “in” until they have a signed contract in-hand. So it leads me to believe that they had signed someone for Val, and then that person had to back out, forcing them to search for a replacement.

How do you know Kaitlyn wasn’t actually supposed to be Artem’s partner, and then she had to back out, leaving him without a partner? One, Kaitlyn was a FAR bigger ringer than of Artem’s other partners at the time – hell, she’s probably a bigger ringer than any of the partners he’s had since. I don’t see them wasting her on a pro that they didn’t seem quite as invested in yet. However, she fit in PERFECTLY with the type of ringer Val usually gets.  Additionally, if you look at the timeline, Artem posted a selfie on Aug. 26 that said “first day of work” – this was the same week most of the other pros were meeting their partners, and the promo shoot didn’t happen until around Aug. 30; I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Artem probably met his partner that day. I also got the impression from Kaitlyn’s tweets that she never actually got to the “meeting your partner” phase of DWTS – she made it seem like she had signed the contract, and not long after, Mike Fleiss put the brakes on the whole thing.

Could it have been that Tamar was actually Val’s original partner, but she was just too busy to meet with him right away…hence his whining about not having a partner? I remember checking Tamar’s schedule leading up to the DWTS cast announcement – literally, the only thing she had going on was taping The Real, which tapes in L.A. And if memory serves, it might actually get taped on the same backlot as DWTS. I find it hard to believe that she couldn’t carve out an hour to meet her partner that week. Tamar’s a diva, but she’s not THAT big a diva.

UPDATE: Adding this one in as a few of you have brought this theory up…

What about Jodie Sweetin? Rumor has it she was supposed to be on season 21, but had to bail due to scheduling conflicts – maybe she was Val’s original partner. I actually got to ask Jodie in person on 8-22-15 if she was going to be on DWTS that season, and the answer was no, but the impression that I got was that she had just kinda been chatting with Maks & Val (after they made a cameo on Fuller House) about it, and that it was never anything contract-official – and according to the Fuller House Wikipedia page, filming for season 1 started in July of 2015 and didn’t wrap until November, so I think she knew long before they started casting season 21 that she wasn’t going to be able to do it. I do get the impression that she had maybe made some sort of verbal/handshake agreement to do the show the following season, though. Also worth mentioning: Kaitlyn would have been more relevant at that time than Jodie would have, as Kaitlyn’s season of The Bachelorette had just finished airing, and the first season of Fuller House wasn’t due to air until Feb. 2016…which lined up perfectly with season 22 of DWTS.

So I guess that sums it up – that’s my best explanation for what happened back in season 21. Not sure it’s something that the average viewer really cares deeply about, but I thought it might pique the curiosity of some of the regulars here 🙂 Thoughts?