When Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy were declared safe on Dancing with the Stars last week, the Little House on the Prairie alum let out a scream and then got bleeped. "I cussed at Maks," Gilbert tells TVGuide.com. "I got mad at Maks because he had whispered in my ear, 'Get ready to [do the Dance] Duel.' I think I said, 'Goddammit! You scared me!' That's when they bleeped me." Bleep or no bleep, Gilbert is thrilled to not only still be in the competition after suffering a mild concussion and whiplash two weeks ago, but also to have avoided the bottom two Dance Duel despite having the second lowest-score. "That's all thanks to our fans," Gilbert says. See what else she has to say about her stagnant scores, the "mixed message" from the judges and why she cries so much.
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How's your head?
Melissa Gilbert: It's good. I haven't had a headache since the second or third day.
So Maks has stopped talking to you?
Gilbert: [Laughs] I've had heartache! But no headache! I was hoping to be able to milk it. I certainly wasn't expecting a full-blown concussion, but I was hoping maybe I could get a couple days rest out of it. But there was no way. We had a gentle Wednesday rehearsal last week, but by Thursday, we were right back in it like usual. Thursday seems to be our toughest day. This week, we also have the marathon and we have to be prepared to jive if we're in the bottom two, which I'm hoping we're not.
How's the Viennese waltz going? You finally get to do a slow dance!
Gilbert: [Laughs] We've had every fast dance there is! ... We get to slow down a little bit here, but it's not any easier. It's going really well. I'm really having fun with this. It's Motown Week. We're dancing to Smokey Robinson singing "Oh, Baby, Baby" live. I'm so excited! Maks choreographed an amazingly beautiful waltz — even he was smiling! We are in hold more and it's coming a little more easily than the quickstep. ... The quickstep seemed impossible, but it definitely prepped me for this. I have to be reminded sometimes. That's why the pros are so amazing. They can multitask; they talk to us all during the dances. "Hold, frame, pelvis." In my case, "step." The hardest part for me, honestly, with almost every dance is the huge height difference between Maks and me. It's unusual for a dance couple to have almost a full foot of height between them. For every one stride he takes, I take two.
That's what the judges were commenting on.
Gilbert: Yeah! I look like I'm trying to keep up because I'm trying to keep up. It's been six weeks, but it's only been six weeks. It's not like we've been dancing together for 20 years. We're finding the happy medium between me looking like I'm leaping and him looking like he's taking tiny baby steps.
Your reaction when they called you safe was priceless. And then you got bleeped.
Gilbert: [Laughs] I thought for sure — I really did — that we'd be in the bottom two and we'd have to do the Dance Duel. We were all worried. This was the first time any of the pros had to do it. It was horrid. Maks called it a gladiator duel. When Maria [Menounos] and Derek [Hough] were safe, we looked at each other, like, "We're in the bottom two." Because generally, if you have three couples up there, one of them is in jeopardy. So when Brooke [Burke] said we were safe, it took me a second. ... I got mad at Maks because he had whispered in my ear, "Get ready to duel." I think I said, "Goddammit! You scared me!" That's when they bleeped me.
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Maks said he underestimated your fans. Did you?
Gilbert: I don't know if I did, but I was definitely surprised because he had me convinced we were in the bottom two. But they came through for us and they have every week. We don't know the results, but there's no question that the fans have carried us through this competition. We were the second lowest-scoring couple and we weren't in the bottom two.
Does that boost your confidence? Do you think you can avoid the next two Duels?
Gilbert: I don't know. I still feel like it's anybody's game. We never know week to week who's going to at their best and who's gonna be at their worst. The only thing that's been steady is Maks and me getting 7s! [Laughs] The scores are up to the judges. I get what they're saying to a certain extent. I have been really uncomfortable in the past, but not so much anymore. I had a blast last week.
The past two weeks, they've told you it's your best dance yet and then they give you 7s.
Gilbert: [Laughs] "This is your moment, Melissa!" And then "Seven!" I'm confused. It's a mixed message, that's for sure. It's hard not to find it disheartening. It's hard to take it gracefully initially, but 24 hours later, I'm over it and you move on. Next dance! I know that there was a lot of concern among the fans, just from reading Twitter, that their votes were essentially being taken away and put back in the hands of the judges. I understand the logic of the Dance Duel. I think it's experimental. It's certainly suspenseful. Derek was running back and forth, like, "This is not good. This is not good."... It's just nerve-wracking. The looks on everyone's faces were just awful.
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You all looked really upset. Was that more about the Dance Duel itself or Gavin leaving?
Gilbert: Watching it, I don't think anyone of us knew who to look at! But I think we were all really upset about Gavin. This is a really supportive group. We are in each other's rehearsals. Their pros come work with us, Maks goes and works with them. Each week it gets harder. ... Gavin — because [he carried me out after my concussion] — it was definitely the most emotional one for me.
How did that all go down? Do you remember?
Gilbert: He did that without hesitation and before his dance. The decision was made and he just swept me up. And I was not light! That dress weighed 20 pounds! Literally 20 pounds. He carried me down two flights of clanging metal stairs, and he's not a big guy. I'll never forget it. He's my knight in shining armor. Aside from being a huge fan, I went into this competition with two of his songs on my list of songs I want to dance to. When I walked in to the cast announcement and he was standing there, my jaw dropped open. I said, "Wow! You're on my list of songs!" I drive my son to school every morning and he sings "Chariot." That's his anthem. Michael, my youngest son, was just beside himself that Gavin was there. He's a really sweet guy.
You can still dance to his songs.
Gilbert: Maybe now he'll come sing them! Smokey and then Gavin? I have no problem with that!
We haven't seen a lot of tears from you the past few weeks, but why do you cry at everything?
Gilbert: [Laughs] Has anyone watched Little House on the Prairie? It's my way of venting. I didn't cry for a really, really long time in my life. I saw it as kind of a weakness. It took me years and years to actually own my feelings. ... At this point, I'm almost 48 years old and it's harder to hold things back. I don't have the armor that I used to. I've been through so much in the last three years that it's not who I am anymore. I don't walk around telling everyone, "I'm OK!" when I'm not. Just let it out! It's only crying! We're the worst mourners and grievers in the world — humans, Americans, especially. We're the first to say, "It's OK. Don't cry." No, you should cry! Otherwise it's gonna be really hard later. That's why we're all on meds. So I cry, Maks cusses, and it's perfect. We're a good match. We balance each other out.