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"You guys raced hard. 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 favourite 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.

Examples of Shocking Elimination include:

  • 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)
    • 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.
    • One word: Mondo.
    • Viktor Luna placing third in Season 9.
  • 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 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. Guess who was shocked to be eliminated.
  • 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 (only Jeremy & Sandy got the clue right, but their cab driver shared info with the drivers of the two teams by them; Andy & Tommy weren't with the pack and so missed out).
    • There's actually a trend of early frontrunners being eliminated in 8th or 9th place. Starting with Season 2, there's Shola & Doyin (2), Heather & Eve (3), Steve & Josh (4), Bob & Joyce (5), Lena & Kristy (6), Debbie & Bianca (7), 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), and Margie & Luke (18).
  • 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.
  • Since it seems like the requirements to be America's Next Top Model changes with every episode, it's not as surprising to see fan favorites and consistent performers like cycle 3's Toccara, cycle 6's Nnenna, cycle 7's AJ, and cycle 10's Katarzyna get axed just like that.
    • This is mostly Executive Meddling. Toccara was the show's first plus-size model. And apparently, no one behind the scenes liked having her around (particularry Janice Dickinson). In fact, when the judges talked about her losing her spirit on the episode she was eliminated, you could hear fans scream "CAUSE YOU BROKE HER SPIRIT!"
  • Sabrina Bryan on Season 5 of Dancing With the Stars was pegged to be a finalist by even host Tom Bergeron. She was eliminated 6th, before the two individual dance part of the competition (in other words, about halfway through).
  • "Strictly Come Dancing" has at least one of theses 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.
  • In the UK charity version of The Weakest Link starring various Doctor Who actors, the first person tossed off, to most viewers surprise, was Robot Buddy K-9.
    • That was scripted - they were concerned that the robot might have technical problems so wanted minimal filming time. The bigger surprise was that they voted off the actual freakin' Doctor! The eventual winner was Camille Coduri, who was Rose's mum Jackie.
  • Karen Bremner during Season 2 of the UK version of The Apprentice; despite leading her team to an utter, crushing victory in the first week, she was casually fired just two weeks later because Sir Alan "didn't need another corporate lawyer," despite her not putting a foot wrong in 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.
  • Almost too many to count in other seasons of Survivor, but one of the most famous was the blindside of Edgardo in Fiji.
  • Jeff in Big Brother 11. My gosh, was there a large outcry when he was eliminated. (Of course he deserved it with how he made the exact same mistake other power alliances did)
    • 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, I know it" 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' favourites 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 favourites 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.
  • 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.Nigel said her elimination ruined the 100th episode celebration for him.
    • 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.
    • Less egregious examples include: 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 fuckery 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 balls 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." Viewer's mileage varied as to whether these executions were shocking or not. 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. Not surprisingly this led to major complaints that the WWE only held the competition just to get more eye candy.
    • Despite losing Tough Enough, Kenny has become fairly well known on the independent circuit as Kenny King.
  • The first season of NXT (completely scripted) pulled a Shocking Swerve and eliminated Daniel Bryan on the first elimination (along with two others) when he had been the favourite 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.
  • 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 Canadas Worst Driver, season Two, Colin's expulsion was truly shocking, not only for the audience but for the other contestants. For all that he was an utter jerk, nobody outside the crew thought for an instant that he'd actually get kicked out! To put it another way, he wasn't Canada's worst driver. He wasn't that good!
  • 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 likeable competitors). In week eight, he eliminated Hannah, whom he'd just praised as a great actress, likeable, 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 rapidly becoming clear that Ryan has his favorites (Cameron, despite quitting; Alex; and Lindsay) and will eliminate a more deserving competitor in order to give them a second chance.
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