Sabrina Bryan and Louis van Amstel

What was going through Sabrina Bryan's mind when she was in the bottom two last week on Dancing with the Stars? Her shocking Season 5 elimination, of course. "Oh my God! I totally thought of it. How could you not?" Bryan tells TVGuide.com. "It was gut-wrenching, I was ready to throw up. I was like, 'This is crazy right now!'" The former Cheetah Girl and her partner Louis van Amstel survived the close call, and now she's tackling the season with renewed purpose. Find out what Bryan has planned for her disco and why this season is all about her fans.

How's the disco going?
Sabrina Bryan:
It's really fun. I was excited when Kirstie [Alley] picked it for us, but once I started thinking about the costuming, the set and started to do a lot of research on it, I got even more excited. The '70s is one of the best eras.

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How '70s is it going to be?
Bryan:
We're not really doing so much of the Saturday Night Fever. It's more Studio 54 — really edgy and bringing back that glam that was going on in the '70s in Hollywood. ... There are lifts. We went a little conservative last week and kind of got nailed for it, so this week, we're going balls-to-the-wall. We really want to amp it up and do everything we can.

You followed the rules, but Shawn [Johnson] and Derek [Hough] didn't for their quickstep. What do you think about the judges not penalizing them that much for it?
Bryan:
I think this season is going to be like that. It's going to be the curveballs that they throw at us. When they say they want to see things that have never been done before — I mean, they're on Season 15 so pretty much every ballroom move has been done — that means you've got to up the level and take more risks. Louis and I took some risks technique-wise, but they're looking for the wow factor. Sometimes it takes an "Oh, OK" for you to realize that. Of course, you want good scores, but this season, beyond any other season, is 100 percent about the audience. The votes matter so much more right now because everyone's scores are so close together. There were four couples that were tied for third place. The half-points really make a difference of keeping us very, very close together. You have to keep that in mind and put a performance on for the fans and win them over. Their votes count more than anything right now.

Did you have flashbacks to Season 5 when it was between you and Helio?
Bryan:
Oh my God! Totally. ... Out of everyone, I know what it feels like to be up there like that. No one else at this point didn't make it to the finals. I'm the only one who hasn't made it that far. It's kind of, like, "Wow!" It did put me right back there. And I was like, "Man, if I get another chance, I'm not gonna hold anything back. I'm gonna go full-out crazy this week." And we are!

How much of a relief was it when Tom [Bergeron] read Helio [Castroneves]'s name?
Bryan:
I was so not expecting that at all. What was so crazy to me was that Helio won the season I was in, so both of us, Season 5, were right there in the bottom two. I couldn't see him going home. He's so good, he has so many fans, he won the last time — I couldn't even think about it being him going home. It was pretty crazy when Tom said Helio. Plus, everyone at this point has known each other forever. We're all hanging around talking about the Indy 500 and having watched him race. It's sad, especially since he was on my season and I've known him for so long.

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Were you surprised you were in the bottom, especially since you were fan-voted back in?
Bryan:
I think this whole season is unpredictable. I think every week it will be surprising. It's hard for fans. My hairdresser's wife just told me that she was voting [for me] on Facebook and her mom was like, "I absolutely love Helio. Give him at least one vote." My hairdresser said, "I got so mad! I told them, 'See, people are trying to save other people and Sabrina almost went home! That was bad!'" [Laughs]

I think that's part of the problem. Fans could've voted for five people in their different seasons who are in the cast now, so now they have to pick and choose.
Bryan:
Yeah, exactly. And with the double elimination, it was really hard to not vote as much as you want for your favorite so you could vote for the people you didn't want to go home. The double elimination in the third week was rough! It was definitely nice to get that one over with.

Do you still look at this season as redemption for Season 5?
Bryan:
Being in the bottom two makes me feel like this is a start of a new journey. Yeah, I was eliminated on Season 5, but I'm really past Season 5 and I'm focused on this season. If there is any kind of redemption, it's for my fans. They've been supporting me since Day 1, and my redemption would be for them more than anything. I have a lot of fight in me. I had to fight to get on this show, I had to fight to earn my spot. What's awesome about this season is that every week is a clean slate. If you think about who's been at the top — Emmitt [Smith] topped Week 1. He went into the middle the second week and stayed there third week. We were in the middle, then we went to the top, then we went to the middle. Melissa [Rycroft] and Kelly [Monaco] were toward the low middle and they hit the top this last week, so each week is a clean slate. It really depends on the dance and your performance. It's so important for the judges to say what they really feel and not just spit something out to be funny or whatever because the viewers at home definitely take that into account. And the audience votes are really what's going to count.

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I have to say, I loved that you didn't pick rock 'n' roll for Kirstie after Louis told you that would be a tough one for her.
Bryan:
That whole thing was crazy! We only had 10 seconds! He told me that rock 'n' roll is really fast and I remember Kirstie saying, "God, I'm going to die with this jive." Kirstie's such a great actress and such a character — she takes a character and lives in it. I thought of the Charleston and I thought of the flapper costume and her, and I felt like that was a dance that was made for her and she'd be so cute. Plus, who wouldn't love Maks [Chmerkovskiy] in a little tank and some overalls and a derby hat? [Laughs] With their last performance, he's obviously going all the way with his looks. And I also only had two choices! I didn't have a lot of options, and I just saw her doing the Charleston to the tee.

You weren't cutthroat about it. You could've given her the harder one.
Bryan:
I don't think any of us were really cutthroat. I know [the producers] wanted us all to be! [Laughs].

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