After DWTS pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy missed last week’s rehearsal and show for a “personal issue,” rumors flew that the real reason for his absence was tension between him and partner Vanessa Lachey. But Chmerkovskiy returned this week for the season’s most emotional night yet, and the emotions continued after the show, when he penned a touching note to Lachey, praising her for her performance.

“Everything I ever want for my partners is literally what @vanessalachey has brought to the dance floor last night,” he captioned Instagram photos of them performing. “Raw, unapologetic, real emotion expressed through a beautiful dance.”

“Yesterday also marked the first time when I completely lost it right before the dance,” he continued. “I rarely cry but this was something different, something I’ve yet to experience watching someone else’s story.”

It was indeed an emotional story. During this week’s show, Lachey opened up about the premature birth of her son Phoenix, whom she welcomed with husband Nick Lachey in late 2016. “I was in the hospital on bed rest and then my water broke. I was only 29 weeks,” she said in her rehearsal package.

A tearful Nick added in a taped segment, “I was scared to see him because I — I think as a man, you want to believe you can protect your kids, protect your wife. I’ve never felt so helpless. There was nothing I could do.”

After six weeks in the NICU, little Phoenix Robert came home healthy and happy, and Lachey danced in tribute to her family.

Chmerkovskiy effectively squashed any rumored beef with his shout-out to the TV host, hinting that it didn’t matter what happened off-stage — only on. “I’m proud of you partner!” he wrote. “They can say what they want but you’re a star and I wouldn’t want to be on this rollercoaster with anyone but you!”

He added: “We have so many more of these moments to share with each other, and everyone else who couldn’t stop their tears.” Um, guilty. We look forward to more of Maks and Vanessa in the weeks to come.

Did you get emotional during DWTS this week? Let us know @BritandCo.

(Photo via ABC/Eric McCandless)