Cheryl Burke and Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke didn't top the leader board on Dancing with the Stars last week, but she thinks their sassy samba, which scored a 29, was just what the doctored ordered. "I think we're peaking at the right time," Burke tells TVGuide.com. "Now we're in the middle of the season, so you really have to start stepping it up to get over that hump and try to make the finals." The two, who won Season 3 together, have the foxtrot this week and a group dance with the rest of the cast for Country Week. Find out what they have in store. Plus: How did Burke feel about being the most-wanted pro this season?

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That samba was a nice little comeback for you guys. You had been in the middle of the pack since you led in Week 1.
Cheryl Burke:
Yeah, I think it was perfect for us. We're obviously trying to go out there and do the best that we can, but at the same time, we want to improve throughout the competition. I think it's great that we did as well as we did on the premiere, but it's also good for us to leave some room for improvement. I think now you'll really be able to see that since we've gotten a few weeks to settle into the rhythm of the show.

Was that the difference? Or just the dance itself?
Burke:
I think it was just stepping it up. We both want to do well. Emmitt loves the samba and he really put on what everyone's been wanting to see from him: his personality and charisma.

And you had that insane "Gangnam Style" team dance.
Burke:
Oh, my God! That was pretty crazy. [Laughs] It was definitely the most fun I've ever had dancing on that dance floor. It was so ridiculous! I couldn't actually believe that it came together because it was really challenging to get all of us in unison dancing a dance like "Gangnam Style." We definitely went all out with the craziness, so it's a good thing it was a freestyle. There was so much silly string on the floor. It was very, very slippery. Maks [Chmerkovskiy] and Emmitt almost ate it at one point, which probably would've fit in.

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What do you have planned for the foxtrot?
Burke:
Well, it's Country Week, which I prefer over Rock Week any day. Rock Week is annoying. [Laughs] I love rock music, but to do ballroom dancing to rock music? It doesn't make sense. It's a lot easier to ballroom dance to country. The foxtrot will be very cute. It's a soft dance, and Emmitt hasn't done a ballroom dance since the quickstep, so I'm just excited for everyone to see a different side of him. We did the bolero, but that was more of a sexy dance. This is will be more elegant. And we'll have the group dance too, which will be country as well, obviously.

What's been the same and what had been different working together compared to Season 3 besides being six years older?
Burke:
Um, we're just older! [Laughs] He hasn't danced since then. When I was showing him the cha-cha choreography for our first dance, he was so freaked out. He was like, "I don't think I can do this. I don't think my body will get through Week 2." I was like, "You'll be surprised." He still has the talent and ability and work ethic. The show is so much harder now, but he's ready for the challenge. We all want to take a vacation, but we all want to say here and do well before that.

What do you think he still needs to work on?
Burke:
Everything. He's competing against Olympians and almost everybody else is younger than him. We're not young anymore! [Laughs] I think we need to show maturity in our dancing and not repeat something we've already done.

You're the only original pairing that has won before. Do you think that gives you an advantage?
Burke:
I don't think so. It's been six years and the level of dancing has gone up so much that it doesn't really matter at the end of the day.

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You were the most-wanted pro — you have three former pros back, and Drew [Lachey] and Gilles [Marini] haven't exactly hidden their disappointment in not getting you. What was it like when the cast was announced?
Burke:
Yeah, it was a little bit awkward in the beginning. I didn't know what was going to happen — the pros have no say in the pairings. Obviously not dancing with my old partners was really hard. Seeing Drew leave the competition early was really weird for me. If I had gotten a new partner, then I think it would've been easier. But the fact that I got Emmitt — which I love — I just knew that when the cast was announced that my other partners would be a little bit upset.

They had to have known that getting a new partner was a possibility.
Burke:
Yeah, but I think it was still weird for them — for all of us. But we're all adults. And Gilles and I got to dance again [in the team dance]. And I'm so happy to be with Emmitt. The last time I won was six years ago with him. We have great chemistry together. He's like my big brother. I would not have it any other way.

Did you see Carrie Ann [Inaba] fall out of her chair last week?
Burke:
Yes, we all thought she fainted! We thought she pulled a Marie Osmond. [Laughs] But she just fell off her chair, which was hilarious. She was in position for baby-making. It was so funny.

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.