Lance Bass and Lacey Schwimmer, Dancing with the Stars

Sure, he kept a big smile on his face and got a near-perfect score. But when Lance Bass accidentally kicked off his left shoe doing a high-stepping jitterbug on Monday night's Dancing with the Stars, he panicked. "The only thing I could think of was to fast-forward in my head to all the moves I had to do — and that I had to land on my left foot," says Bass. "I was thinking, 'Do I have to change something so I don't slip and make Lacey [Schwimmer, his pro partner] fall?' Because we had a lot of lifts and this is, like, the worst dance to do with a shoe off."

It wasn't like he stepped on the heel and sent the white tennis shoe flying. "No, I just kicked it right off," he says. "In the adrenaline of a live show, you just kick a lot harder."

Shoe and foot problems have plagued Bass the entire season. He broke his right toe in the weeks leading up to the premiere, making any shoe uncomfortable. Then he hurt the toe next to it practicing the jive. Adding insult to injury, he got slammed by head judge Len Goodman for going shoeless in the rumba. "With two shoes on, Len was not so happy," says Bass. "With both shoes off, he wasn't happy either. So I think we found our little niche: With one shoe off and one shoe on, he's happy."

Schwimmer wasn't too worried about her one-shoe wonder. "I was just laughing because I thought it was so funny," she says. "But you know what? I knew he would concentrate harder on the dance. And, sure enough, he danced it better than we've ever performed it."

Bass says his 82-year-old grandfather sitting in the audience, James Bass, Sr., was his good luck charm on Monday night. But the Bass/Schwimmer team has two other creatures — inanimate — watching over them: Tigger and Pluto. Stuffed, fuzzy, and imported from their recent visit to Walt Disney World, the two mascots have been sitting on the side of the stage every performance night (just out of sight of the cameras), to watch over the struggling team. They've been planted there since Week 6, the week they did the jive. "Ever since we got our animals," says Schwimmer, "it's just been a lot easier." Says Bass: "They hold us up. We put them on stage to watch us so we don't mess up."

Read Mickey's recap of Monday's show here or watch clips and full episodes of Dancing with the Stars in our Online Video Guide