The end of the affair: Last waltz for John Sergeant

An estimated 10 million people tuned in last night to witness the end of an infatuation. Unlikely screen idol John Sergeant waltzed off Strictly Come Dancing to the strain of Norah Jones's "Come Away With Me", bringing to an almost elegant end a drama that has seen the BBC bombarded with viewer complaints.

Sergeant, 64, who quit the show last week after weeks of criticism from judges for his clumsy but crowd-pleasing and vote-winning efforts, performed his most light-footed dance of the series, a waltz, with Siberian partner Kristina Rihanoff. She, at least, was moved to tears by the end of their partnership.

Last night he described his time on the show as "strictly fantastic", paying tribute to Ms Rihanoff and everyone who voted for him. "I certainly wasn't pushed, that's not me," he told the show's host, Bruce Forsyth. "I've had a marvellous time. It's been strictly fantastic. And I want to thank the judges for the extraordinary way they whipped up public support in our favour."

This was a wry jab at the judges' harsh criticism which is believed to have bolstered viewers' determination to keep Sergeant dancing. More than 2,000 viewers complained that as they had voted to keep him in the show, the BBC should not have allowed him to leave. The BBC has offered to reimburse those who voted for the former political correspondent last week.

Last night, however, the judges were in conciliatory mood. Len Goodman said, on behalf of the panel: "We're sorry John decided to leave because he's given us and the viewers so much entertainment. We wish him well."

Sergeant added: "I've got to say something about the beautiful Kristina. With her sense of fun, her smile, she's the best dancer in the world."

Last week Sergeant said he quit because there was a "real danger" he could win the competition, which would be a "joke too far". He added: "If the joke wears thin, if in fact people begin to take it seriously, and if people really are getting so wound up that it's very difficult to carry off the joke, then I think it is time to go."