Dancing With The Stars by Kelsey McNeal/ABC
You've got to give it up for Shannon Elizabeth. She got a middling score of "23" for her samba on Monday night, but the actress should have received extra points from all three judges for exhibiting tremendous grace under pressure.

For the second time in three weeks, Elizabeth had to watch as her pro partner, Derek Hough was carted off to the emergency room - this time just hours before she had to perform what head judge Len Goodman calls "the most difficult" of all the Latin dances. Two weeks ago, Hough wrenched his neck during rehearsals for a results-show pro number with his sister Julianne and Mark Ballas. Hough was confined to a neck brace all week and was touch-and-go for last Monday's Viennese Waltz. Pro Jonathan Roberts was called in to guide Elizabeth through the rehearsals.

Then on Monday morning, Hough was taken down by a case of possible food poisoning - or something even more serious. "The doctors think it might be a stomach ulcer," says Hough, who had thrown up, he said, "like 20 times in the space of about an hour and a half. And there was a bit of blood, as well."

Hough thinks it started with a bad protein shake he had whipped up in his trailer that morning. "I think the blender might have been dirty," he says, "because it made me sick as a dog." But Hough left the hospital against medical advice citing, "They think it might be a stomach ulcer," he says. "But I left before they took blood samples or anything. I [had been] there for two hours and they hadn't done anything. And I said, 'I've got a show to do.'"

"Derek's a trooper," says Roberts, who was called at home about one o'clock on Monday afternoon and asked if he could come in. "First they said, 'Are you in town?'" he says. "And then they said, 'If Derek's not back, you go in.'"

Give it up for Jonathan Roberts, as well. Here's a guy who was asked to perform a complicated samba routine after looking at a tape of Hough and Elizabeth "for about 15 minutes," he says. Dress rehearsal was to begin at 2:30pm, and at 2pm, Roberts could be seen dancing in the ballroom, by himself, holding a piece of paper that outlined the steps.

But Hough made it back just in time, and despite his spray tan, looked thin and pale. "Thank goodness he's okay," says Roberts. "Derek really wants to be there for Shannon. And it's a great routine."

"Maybe another time I would've said to Jonathan, 'Go do it,'" says Hough. "But this is a really important dance - a tough dance. And I really want her to do well because it's so hard."

But how is he feeling? "I feel sick, but I feel fine," says Hough. "I don't feel like I want to throw up." So would he dance if he had to crawl around the ballroom? "Yeah," he says. "I'm not good at stepping out."

And neither is Elizabeth, resplendent in her samba ruffles. This girl is one tough customer. Despite being left alone during the time that for all the celebs is the worst part of the week - the hours leading up to Monday night's performance - her sole focus was on Hough's health. This is the time when nerves unravel, when the stars count on their pros to talk them off the ledge of performance anxiety. But Elizabeth has an amazing attitude. "This is just a TV show," she says. "I just want to make sure that Derek's okay." - Deborah Starr Seibel