Derek Hough is feeling the pressure — not because he and Nicole Scherzinger are the Dancing with the Stars leaders, but because the swing marathon is taking place Monday. And who can forget how he and Joanna Krupa, uh, head-bobbed their way to a victory in the mambo marathon last season? "Everyone still talks about that!" Hough tells TVGuide.com. "I really feel like I've got to do something to trump that now." The swing marathon isn't the only thing on Hough's plate this week. He and Scherzinger, who bounced back from a tear-filled meltdown last week to earn a season-high score of 29, must also perform the samba. See how rehearsals are going, what he has to say to Kate Gosselin's haters and why he would never go pantless on stage.
TVGuide.com: You've had a roller-coaster couple of weeks starting with your quickstep. Why did you decide to break the rules knowing Len is such a stickler when it comes to that?
Derek Hough: Yeah, well, it was story week and with our song, I thought I'd take some liberty with it instead of doing the standard quickstep. I was doing the song — "Anything Goes." I was expecting to get a few comments from the judges, so that wasn't a surprise. I'm still happy with what we did and I think people enjoyed it. I'm not going to be breaking any more rules — I don't do them on purpose!
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TVGuide.com: Then Nicole struggled with the rumba and broke down. What do you think went wrong there?
Hough: I think so much pressure has been put on her, but most of it is from herself, and that week, she just reached the breaking point. One little thing seemed like the biggest thing. I just tried to reassure her afterward that it wasn't as bad as she thought it was, and of course, after she relaxed and watched it over, she realized it wasn't. ... The rumba's also a hard dance because it's so technical and the details show. You feel like you're walking on eggshells.
TVGuide.com: Do you think part of it is because it's so serious and you guys joke around? Maybe you should've used your "love hand" in the routine.
Hough: [Laughs] I think that's exactly what was missing! We needed to lighten the mood! But you know, as difficult as it was for her, it also completely changed things around. She realized she was taking it too seriously and just needed to enjoy it and do her best, and I think that showed in our tango. We had a much better time there. ... ["Oh, Pretty Woman"] was an odd song to tango to, but I think we did a good job with it.
TVGuide.com: You have the samba and the swing marathon. How are they coming?
Hough: Samba's going great. Nicole's very excited about it though since they told us [we had the samba]. It's a difficult routine — lots of choreography — but we're working hard, going nonstop. I'm hoping it'll be another great one. The swing marathon should be fun. I think everyone's looking forward to that. It also kind of eases you into doing more than one routine a week. I've got to come up with something good since I won last season!
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TVGuide.com: Yeah, with your infamous head-in-the-crotch bob. Are you going to pull that again? Can you even do that in swing?
Hough: [Laughs] Uh, probably not. But I can't repeat myself. I'll think of another move that will be as memorable — something else that's similar that gets everyone talking and into it, but helps us do well and maybe win, and is also a swing move! You've got to pull out all the stops if you want to win, you know?
TVGuide.com: Are you saying it won't be PG again?
Hough: [Laughs] I can't promise anything! I mean, that move last year, everyone thinks it was planned, but it wasn't. ... I'll come up with something else this time. I have to top it!
TVGuide.com: The celebrities also get to design the costumes this week. Nicole said she wanted "Derek Hough in the buff."
Hough: Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen! She keeps talking about putting me in a Speedo with diamonds and stuff. But I can never do what Jake [Pavelka] did and go out without pants! I keep telling her I can't show off my chicken legs.
TVGuide.com: What did you think about Kate getting the boot?
Hough: Someone has to go, unfortunately. I thought she did a fantastic job getting as far as she did. For someone who clearly came into this with a complete blank slate, I think she did a great job. There are so many different things about the show that people can take out of her being there, learning something that was obviously very difficult for her, and just trying her best. ... We have an eclectic group of people on the show, and she's a mom and has so much going on, and I think it's inspiring to her fans for her to be on.
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TVGuide.com: There are a lot of people who were dying for her to leave. What do you have to say to them?
Hough: To each their own. I think everyone has their share of fans and haters. We're getting flak for Nicole being a "ringer." It is what it is. There's always going to be something. Each person is different and have their own strengths and weaknesses, and you can't really let those negative comments get to you.
TVGuide.com: Your acoustic paso doble performance with Mark and Chelsie was great. Are you going to do something like that again?
Hough: I hope to. That was a lot of fun and something we've been talking about. I have a few new ideas for some future [results shows]. I definitely want to play more with performance styles and dimensions. I think that dance being stripped down definitely makes you look at it and appreciate it differently. Hopefully we can do something else soon.