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Shocking Elimination
"You guys raced hard. [I] Thought you'd be in the final three for sure."
Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race (Season 19).

In competition-based Reality TV, certain contestants establish themselves as the front-runners very early in the season. They exude so much of the required skill needed to win, they've been the overwhelming favorite to win for a long time. It also helps that they're usually very likable. In fact, their victory is more or less a Foregone Conclusion.

And then, they're eliminated.

Often in a measly fourth place.

Expect a huge outcry on message boards claiming the show is rigged or stupid or something along those lines. Expect the cameras to pan over to the other contestants with their jaws scraping the floor. Expect the powerless judges to look utterly miffed.

This trope is, of course, less surprising on shows where the contestants themselves vote. Putting a voting alliance together to knock out apparently strong competitors is an expected aspect, and one can expect the nail that stands out to be hammered flat, so to speak.

Sometimes, the shockingly eliminated contestants will prove that they shouldn't have been eliminated with a very successful post-show career. Other times, they will try to make it big outside the show, but only prove that their elimination, as premature as it was, was ultimately justified.

Usually, a Shocking Elimination is linked to an Elimination Houdini, as the latter probably wouldn't exist without the former.

Sometimes may overlap with Non-Gameplay Elimination. Sometimes, an early favorite is actually eliminated because of factors out of their control. (Commonplace in shows such as Survivor where people often get hurt and are eliminated as a result of their injuries or ailment, or The Amazing Race where bad cabs often are a huge factor.) While the circumstances that leads to a Non-Gameplay Elimination can be shocking, it may just be the situation.

Compare Crack Defeat.


  • Almost every Elimination Houdini from American Idol got his or her status from outlasting at least one favorite to make the final two, if not win. These favorites include:
    • Tamyra Gray and Christina Christian (season 1, the latter getting help from the contestant being absent during her elimination). On Television Without Pity, "Tamyra'd" is the name of this trope for American Idol.
    • Frenchie Davis (season 2, due to disqualification)
    • Jennifer Hudson and Latoya London (season 3)
    • Constantine Maroulis (season 4)
    • Chris Daughtry (season 5, who outdid the three who beat him in record sales, afterwards)
    • Melinda Doolittle (season 6)
    • Michael Johns and Carly Smithson (season 7)
    • Siobhan Magnus (season 9, with the week after her elimination having the lowest amount of viewers in American Idol history.)
    • Pia Toscano and James Durbin (season 10).
    • Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine (season 11).
  • Elimination Houdini Wendy Pepper made it to Fashion Week on the first season of Project Runway... over fan-favorite Austin Scarlett.
    • Going into Fashion Week on the third season, Mychael Knight was the overwhelming favorite. Instead, he was the first one eliminated.
    • More recently, Terri Stevens, who had never before been in danger, was eliminated, thanks to a double elimination episode.
    • Viktor Luna placing third in Season 9.
    • Rami Kashou, who came in second in season 4 and was heavily favored in All Stars, didn't make it close to the finale.
  • If it wasn't for Richard Hatch and his alliance changing Survivor from a mere feat of survival on a "Deserted Island" to a battle of Machiavellian strategy, Gretchen Cordy (probably the best genuine survivalist of the initial cast) would have easily made it much farther than the merge.
    • Paschal in Marquesas was eliminated due to both his own refusal to vote for his alliance-mate Neleh and a tiebreaker that exposed him to elimination despite never being voted for in the entire game. At a deadlocked final four, Vecepia and Kathy had voted for Neleh, while Neleh and Paschal had voted for Kathy. When both Paschal and Vecepia refused to change their votes, the newest deadlock solution was implemented - drawing for the purple rock. Paschal, Neleh and Kathy would draw rocks and whoever received the purple one would be sent home (Vecepia had won individual immunity and was thus immune). After 37 days and no votes ever cast against him, Paschal drew the purple rock and was thus eliminated. Despite the accusations of unfairness, it should be noted that Paschal knew exactly the risk of tying the vote, as all the contestants were informed of this course of action in their pre-game briefing. However, due to the perceived "unfairness", the purple rock has been removed as a tiebreaker solution at the final four ever since (it is still a solution at any other time, however). Ironically, Paschal might have actually been evacuated had he stayed in the game, one of the jury members revealed he collapsed before the final three tribal council.
    • Despite that people may not even know there were people other than Shambo on Galu in the 19th season of Survivor, Brett.
    • On the Redemption Island season, there were only Rob, Natalie, Phillip, and Ashley remaining... And Ashley was absolutely shocked to be eliminated.
    • One of the most famous eliminations on Survivor was the blindside of Edgardo in Fiji.
    • Survivor: Cagayan was filled with these. To specify, David, Garrett, Cliff, Alexis, Sarah, LJ, Jefra, Trish and Kass all was blindsided.
  • On The Amazing Race: All-Stars, Reality TV Super Couple and season 7 runners-up Rob & Amber finished in first place on each of the first three legs, only to be eliminated on the fourth after one of the worst streaks of horrible luck and bad decisions in race history.
    • Toni & Dallas from Season 13, who seemed a lock for the Final 3 until Dallas made the fatal mistake of leaving their fanny pack, containing all their money and passports, in a taxi.
    • Derek & Drew (Season 3) and Dustin & Kandice (Season 10) were both favorites to win their respective seasons, only to get lost looking for a task (a Roadblock for Derek & Drew, a Detour for Dustin & Kandice), and wind up finishing fourth.
    • Azaria & Hendekea, Season 12, won three of the first four legs, but had airport trouble on the sixth leg, resulting in their elimination.
    • Margie & Luke on Season 18, after Luke fell apart at a tea tasting roadblock. This was the first time in a season and a half they had ever been in danger of elimination, and was made especially shocking by the Producers breaking one of their main guidelines in that they showed Margie & Luke to be in danger at the end of the previous episode, which usually means that team is safe.
    • Both of Zev & Justin's eliminations (on Seasons 15 and 18) probably would have been shocking had CBS made promos not spoiled both eliminations.
    • Andy & Tommy (19) came in first on 6 legs, and were looking like they were going to get a 7th in the second to last leg. However, due to nothing more than bad luck they ended up falling just short of the Final 3.note  Even Phil was surprised, (see the page quote).
    • Season 21 had two surprises:
      • The elimination of Amy & Daniel, who nearly won the first leg, only coming in second due to Amy telling a team where the clue was, then being passed up in a footrace to the Pit Stop. The next leg, however, their taxi driver got lost looking for the shop where their next clue was, dropping them from second to last place and eliminating them.
      • Later on was the elimination of Abbie & Ryan. They won 2 of the first 6 legs and had three 2nd place finishes, but fell hours behind during legs 7-9 due to missing two different connecting flights in Frankfurt. They were eventually U-Turned into elimination in leg 9, when Natalie & Nadiya, Trey & Lexi, and Jaymes & James collaborated to waste the second U-Turn slot, preventing them from saving themselves by U-Turning Josh & Brent.
    • Jessica & John in Season 22, who finished in the top 3 in the first three legs, only to struggle with both the Detour and the Roadblock in leg 4, and were eliminated despite still holding the Express Pass, which would have allowed them to skip either task.
    • There's actually a trend of early frontrunners being eliminated in 7th, 8th, or 9th place. Starting with Season 2, there's Shola & Doyin (2), Heather & Eve (3), Aaron & Arianne (3), Steve & Josh (4), Bob & Joyce (5), Lena & Kristy (6), Debbie & Bianca (7), the Schroeder Family (8), Wanda & Desiree (9), Duke & Lauren (10), Rob & Amber (11), Lorena & Jason (12), Mark & Bill (13), Amanda & Kris (14), Zev & Justin (15), Monique & Shawne (16), Joe & Heidi (16), Connor & Jonathan (17), Katie & Rachel (17), Michael & Kevin (17), Margie & Luke (18), Jessica & John (22), Dave & Connor (22), Pam & Winnie (22), Chester & Ephraim (23), Brandon & Adam (23), and Margie & Luke again (24).
  • Tre Wilcox won three elimination challenges on Top Chef: Miami, more than anyone else. Yet he finished 8th, thanks to one bad dessert.
    • Kenny Gilbert was eliminated in very similar circumstances (taking the fall as Executive Chef in Restaurant Wars) in season 7, after being a prominent rival of front-runner Angelo throughout the season.
  • On season 2 of Shear Genius, Glenn placed in the top 3 on three elimination challenges and never appeared in the bottom three. Predictably, the other designers were shocked when she left in 7th place over Elimination Houdini Nekisa.
  • Sabrina Bryan on Season 5 of Dancing with the Stars was pegged to be a finalist even by host Tom Bergeron. She was eliminated about halfway through in 6th, before the two individual dance part of the competition. She got the axe again in the All-Star edition, finishing eighth despite placing in the top two in judge's votes.
  • "Strictly Come Dancing" has at least one of these every season, especially with the onslaught of older contestants with two left feet in recent series. The latest (and possibly most shocking) example of this was the elimination of Jimi Mistry in week 6 of series 8. Whilst not the best dancer, he had gotten his best score of the series in that week and was easily one of the more enthusiastic contestants. However,he lost out to Michelle Williams who had been in the bottom two 3 times previously.
  • The elimination of Maria Lawson from The X Factor 2 and Laura White from The X Factor 5 was Serious Business.
    • And on the American version, the double elimination of Drew and Astro, as well as Rachel Crow in the following week was a huge shock to fans. Death threats were sent to Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul after Drew was voted off. Made worse by the fact that Elimination Houdini Marcus Canty was chosen twice; first over Drew by the judges and then over Rachel by the public vote.
    • Rachel's elimination was even worse than just being eliminated in favor of Marcus. Nicole Scherzinger, following in the footsteps of Paula Abdul who'd tried to abstain from a vote earlier in the season, voted to keep Marcus because she "didn't want to hurt his feelings". This sent it to deadlock and to the public vote.
    • Ella Henderson's elimination from The X Factor 9 also qualifies. From her first audition, Ella was considered THE favorite to win. In the final 6, she was up against: James Arthur, a highly talented singer/ guitarist and the second favorite, Jhamene Douglas, a handsome young singer with a strong voice and mass appeal, Union J, a One-Direction type boyband who gave a bad performance on the night, Rylan Clark, a camp joke act, and Christopher Maloney, a mediocre-at-best singer unpopular with the judges, but kept in by a legion of older fans. Most viewers expected that Ella would be safe against her mostly weak oppostion, but she ended up in the bottom 2 along with James. All four judges, and viewers everywhere, were horrified by this result, and the judges vote went to deadlock, with Ella going home. James went on to win.
  • In the UK charity version of The Weakest Link starring various Doctor Who actors, the first person eliminated, to most viewers' surprise, was Robot Buddy K-9.
  • The Apprentice UK:
    • Karen in Season 2; she led her team to a crushing victory on the first task, and even though they nearly got into serious trouble for selling overripe food, it was noted they would still have won by a decent amount even if they had bought all their produce at full-price. Two weeks later, she was casually fired because Sir Alan "didn't need another corporate lawyer," despite the fact she hadn't really done anything wrong on the task. The firing was so out of the blue that it ended up being re-filmed to make it look like she was being fired for being too soft, an equally spurious reason.
    • The following episode may also count, as Sir Alan fired Alexa despite the fact it was Syed who had been responsible for blowing the budget by ordering 100 chickens — though for his part, Syed strongly defended himself in the boardroom, while Alexa just sat there with a deer-in-the-headlights expression. Sir Alan admitted he wanted to fire both of them, and partly for this reason, multiple firings were permitted in subsequent series (which they weren't in the first two).
    • Raef in Season 4. He had screwed up pretty badly on that particular task, but prior to that he had been a popular and strong performer and most viewers had expected he would be spared in place of Michael, who it was agreed was completely useless and now in his third consecutive appearance in the boardroom. On You're Fired!, Adrian Chiles went as far as to call Michael an "odious little twat". Michael was finally fired in the next episode.
    • Maj in Season 5. While James and Ben were more to blame for the spectacularly lopsided defeat, Sir Alan was reluctant to fire either of them. Ben had designed a horrible product and not listened to the instructions given by James, but he was the only person on the design team who had actually made any effort, while James' only real mistake was not supervising the design team to make sure his instructions were carried out. Maj was then fired for failing to contribute to the tasks; it should be noted that Nick Hewer disagreed with the decision.
    • Liz in Season 6. Although she had lost her way in recent weeks, she had shown to be very good at sales. On the other hand, Stuart had constantly irritated both viewers and the other candidates with his cocky attitude and he was mediocre at best on the tasks. But Lord Sugar was impressed with the fact Stuart ran a telecoms business and decided to give him another chance. The following episode, Lord Sugar was furious to discover that Stuart had in fact lied about the size of his business on his CV. He fired Stuart and openly regretted the decision he had made the previous week.
    • Glenn in Season 7. In the final boardroom with him that episode was project manager Jim, who Sugar flat-out said had only avoided being fired two episodes prior because then-project manager Vincent was too spineless to bring him back. Also in the boardroom was Susan, who despite Sugar clearly having a soft spot for, had been accused of not contributing for the second week in a row. Sugar had more reason to fire either of them than Glenn... but got rid of him anyway solely because he believed an engineer had no place trying to run a business. He even implied that Glenn would have been fired as early as the second task, if not for him happening to be in the same boardroom as the completely useless Alex.
    • Jenna from Season 8 was a borderline example. Though it's true she directed a laughably awful commercial which single-handedly cost her team a task they would easily have won, many viewers (and the whole You're Fired panel) thought her team-mate Stephen was more at fault for letting her direct the bad commercial without contributing anything, as well as generally being an obnoxious jerk, and that at the very least it should have been a double-firing with both of them exiting.
    • Neil from Season 9, albeit a self-inflicted example. He was considered the best candidate from that year's bunch, albeit just ahead of three very strong fellow candidates in Leah, Luisa and Francesca, but dealt his chances a fatal blow by presenting quite possibly the second-worst business plan ever seen on the show.note  Sugar gave him a chance to present another one, but he refused to do so and was immediately fired (though Sugar subsequently said he would have been fired even if he did submit a better plan, since the three women had all submitted excellent plans on their first attempt).
  • Jeff in Big Brother 11. There was a large outcry when he was eliminated.
    • Mike in Big Brother 5, on a smaller scale, mostly because he actually could have been quite the powerful player, but was evicted first. The same goes for Brian in 10, who several fans thought "Yeah, he and Dan are gonna win" only for him to be put up on the block as a replacement for Jessie in week one.
    • This actually happened a bit with All Stars, in which some of the fans' favorites had been eliminated early, such as Nakomis, Jase, Diane, and Kaysar.
    • Nikki Grahame getting eliminated from Big Brother 7 was a huge shock considering all the housemates had to face the public vote as punishment for Jayne Kitt's rule breaking (Jayne herself was exempt from eviction that week or else it might have been her who was eliminated). Aisleyne and Susie were the favorites to be evicted that week. Even more surprising was that when previously evicted housemates were given a shot to re-enter the house and have one last shot at the final, Nikki received the majority of the public vote. Then she finished in fifth place.
    • Will in Big Brother All-Stars basically dominated the whole season with his best friend Mike "Boogie", and everyone expected him to win. Then, in the final 4, the girls they were shomancing caught on to their lies and he was sent packing.
    • Nick in Big Brother 15 was a very Genre Savvy player, forming and all-male alliance, pointing out they had over a 25% chance of winning MVP, and even targeted the only physical threat outside of their alliance. Unfortunately, Candice & Helen figured out there was probably an all-guy alliance, and he ended up being the second one out the door.
  • Happens almost every season to a very strong competitor on So You Think You Can Dance, usually around the final 6 contestants. Danny in Season 3, Will Wingfield in Season 4, and most recently Janette in Season 5. The presenter, Cat Deeley, has sometimes been noticeably shocked when she reads the results. When Janette was eliminated, one of the judges even said that he had thought she'd win the whole thing.
    • And going way back, Allison in season 2. Watch the video. Mary's teary eyed, most of the other contestants are in shock (especially her former partner Ivan) and Travis is literally bawling.
    • Season 6' elimination of all three tap dancers. It's shocking because this was dubbed by the producers and judges as "Year Of The Tapper" and it came about because during the first two weeks of the show the audience wasn't even allowed to vote like they normally would have.
    • Sara Van Gillern getting eliminated in the top 8 of Season three over Elimination Houdini Lauren Gottleib. This was only the last of Lauren's antics with the season. Early favorite Jessi was eliminated to raucous response after not being able to dance the previous night over Lauren,who the judges even called out on actually dancing for only half the time she was given to dance for her life.
  • Chance's elimination on I Love Money. Who knew Pumpkin would actually have the guts to do something big besides trash talking?
  • On The Mole, being eliminated was referred to as "execution." In Celebrity Mole: Yucatan, the promos repeatedly promised a "shocking execution." Later, in the second season of The Joe Schmo Show, the promo at the end of each episode promised "the most shocking elimination yet." This may have been an intentional bit of a good-natured fun-poking at The Mole, as both programs were made by the same production company, Stone Stanley Entertainment. These promos continued for several episodes until finally they said "the most shocking elimination yet... and this time, we mean it," then finally dropped the gag.
  • The Finale of Tough Enough 2 had the two male performers, Jake and Kenny Layne, surprisingly lose to the female competitors Jackie and Linda, despite advertising that there would be one male and one female winner each.
    • Despite losing Tough Enough, Kenny has become fairly well known on the independent circuit as Kenny King.
  • The first season of WWE NXT (completely scripted) pulled a Shocking Swerve and eliminated Daniel Bryan on the first elimination (along with two others) when he had been the favorite to win the season. He ended up being kept on the show for his own storyline.
    • A more shocking elimination was AJ from season 3 where the fans voted for who they wanted on the show. At the time AJ was arguably the most popular rookie that season. Even wrestling critics were calling her elimination a miscarriage of justice. AJ would eventually return to the main roster as the tag partner of season 3's winner, Kaitlyn. The other shocking elimination of the season, runner up Naomi, would eventually resurface, but as one of Brodus Clay's backup dancers.
    • A less shocking example, but still an example, was Derrick Bateman from Season 4. He was generally considered to be the best in ring technician of that season's rookies, his over the top personality, and having the backing of the best wrestler alive today made him the most consistently over. However, it's less of an example because he actually managed to make it to the final three, and the other two, Johnny Curtis and Brodus Clay, were considered to be fairly good as well, but many thought Bateman would last until the end.
    • Bateman, fully recovered from the injury that caused his elimination, was reinstated in the competition during season 5. As that season's gone off the rails, it's impossible to know if he'll win.
      • It could be argued that he was the de facto winner since all the others were either formally eliminated or moved to the main roster. Bateman was the only one that remained when NXT changed its format but he was released soon after and eventually ended up wrestling in TNA as EC 3.
  • In the revival of WWE Tough Enough, early on, Mickael was in the bottom three alongside his hated rival, Ryan (whose biggest challenge for the show was overcoming the Embarrassing Nickname "Skidmark" given to him by, ironically, Bill Demott). In order to decide who was leaving, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin made them cut promos on one another. Mickael choked, and Ryan buried him. Everyone was stunned, but whether it was Mickael's failing or Ryan stepping up to the plate depends on who you ask.
  • From Canada's Worst Driver:
    • Season Two: Colin's expulsion was truly shocking, not only for the audience but for the other contestants.
    • Scott's expulsion in Season Six was a surprise as well, considering it happened so fast.
  • This happens in both seasons of Top Shot. JJ Racaza was favored to win throughout the whole competition, but places third after missing a shot against a target with a pistol that he chose. Season 2 has Jermaine and Daryl, current and former marines, respectively, eliminated by Jay Lim, a golf instructor and amateur shooter.
  • Ayako Miyake failed on the third stage during her fourth entry in Kunoichi. Given that Kunoichi is just as hard as its male counterpart, what makes this shocking? On her first three tries, she won the final stage.
  • The Glee Project has done this twice already in its first season.
    • In week six, Ryan eliminated Marissa (whom many people agreed on as one of the strongest singers and most likable competitors).
    • In week eight, he eliminated Hannah, whom he'd just praised as a great actress, likable, and "the show" in a nutshell. Both girls had also won the challenges for that specific week, and both competed against people who did much worse in the video shoot or in the "last chance performance" than they did.
    • It's happened again in season 2; Ryan just eliminated Shanna, who had reached the final 6 without ever being in the bottom 3 until the week of her ouster.
  • Chef Monti from MasterChef was one of the most solid competitors in the 3rd season, consistantly turning out dishes that seemed far beyond her experience level. However, on her first time up for elimination, she was removed from the show in favor of a contestant who had been kicked off previously, made his way back onto the show, and been a fair-to-middling competitor since then.
  • In the 2014 World Cup, Spain was eliminated in the first round, despite having one of the stronger teams and being the winner of the previous World Cup. Likewise in the 2002 World Cup France were eliminated without so much as scoring a goal, despite being defending champions at the time.

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