Derek Hough, Maria Menounos

After doing a lackluster fox trot on Dancing With the Stars last week — and being judged the second to the worst couple during that show's dance marathon — talk show host Maria Menounos and her pro partner, Derek Hough, came back with a vengeance Monday night, taking a bite out of the paso doble and getting the first perfect score this season.

"The Queen of the Damned is the Queen of the Night!" raved judge Bruno Tonioli, before all three judges waved their "10" paddles.   

But perfection comes at a price. "I'm not gonna lie," says Hough, the show's only three-time champ. "I didn't like leaving the dance floor second in that marathon."

The two were convinced they would be in the bottom two and have to compete in last week's dance duel. They weren't, and Menounos was so relieved she couldn't concentrate later that night on learning this week's Team Tango. "Last week, we were sitting here, horrified and thinking that it could be over," says Menounos. "And I remember seeing Derek at the team dance rehearsal and I jumped on him and wouldn't let go. And he's like, 'Babe, we gotta work.'"

What viewers may not understand is that in the space of five days, these stars have to learn not one dance, but three: Their main dance of the week, then a group dance, and finally, the dance they will have to perform if they land in the bottom two. So this week, Hough dropped the Mr. Nice Guy and turned into Mr. No Time For Playing Nice. "I was super tough on her this week," he says. "Super tough. But looking back, every time one of my partners has got a '10' or a really good score, I've been really tough. And I'm wondering if it's because I know there's a possibility that they could be really good. And then that puts more pressure on me. Because I never tell her. I never say, 'I think you could nail this routine,' because I don't want to put that kind of pressure on her. So the pressure builds up within myself."

Menounos noticed the change. "There are definitely moments when it's painful," she admits. "Everyone gets tired, everyone's hurting, everyone gets frustrated, but that's what this is all about."

The good news is that the classical music, Prokofiev's score to the tragic story of the Montagues and the Capulets, inspired Hough. "When I first heard the song, I said, oh, I love this song," says Hough. "It's so sinister and dark. And she said, 'I wanna put the [vampire] teeth in,' and I was like, 'alright.' I was so proud of her. It was Maria's night."

Biting Derek's neck at the end of the dance and wiping the "blood" off her mouth was the perfect metaphor for a rough week: Both of them were able to do damage.

So what does getting a perfect score mean to Menounos? "The 30 is validation for all the hard work, and pushing through all the things I've had to push through," she says. "I just look at it like it's my Rocky moment. No one will ever know — Derek knows — but no one else will ever know what all of this has been like. And to be able to go out there, and push through, and to do it well, and to love it, it's crazy."

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