It was a long time coming. The season's first perfect 30 was finally awarded on Dancing with the Stars last week. "Jennifer [Grey] and I really couldn't believe it, especially for the Instant Dance," Derek Hough tells TVGuide.com. "I was so proud of her and I'm so impressed. It was a tough week. We were waiting for the doctors to give her the green light for her knees, and they did, and she just killed it." The Dirty Dancing star's injuries and doctor visits have been well-documented — perhaps to a fault, Hough says.
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TVGuide.com: How are the waltz and cha-cha going?
Derek Hough: She's doing really well and picking them up. It helps that we did the cha-cha in our team dance. Someone made a YouTube video of us about our journey on the show and it's almost like we're making our own film. We've had our highs and we've had our lows because of injuries and physical issues — and tears. We've overcome that and now we can end the show on a good note. That's what we're going for.
TVGuide.com: Her injuries have taken over your packages the past few weeks.
Hough: It's kind of a shame because we have a lot of fun together. We laugh and joke around. I'm always being dumb and weird. But with her injuries, that's what they've been showing. But I don't want people to get the impression that that's all that goes on. It's a minute package out of a 30-hour week.
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TVGuide.com: How serious are her injuries? Did you ever consider withdrawing?
Hough: No. Once we found that she wasn't going to do permanent damage, she was like, "OK, cool. That's all I needed to know." I don't think that was made explicit on the show. But everything you've seen and heard is 110 percent legitimate. It has been quite serious, but she's not going to give up. It did knock her confidence. When your body isn't doing what your mind wants you to do, you kind of lose faith in yourself. It's hard to see happen, but I think people will see a new confidence and a new excitement now.
TVGuide.com: What are you hoping to do this week to move into the final? It's the first week since Week 2 without a theme or a gimmick.
Hough: Yeah, it's pretty funny. It's like, "Holy crap!" This season has felt like three seasons in one. It's been pretty hard-core. We're not doing anything drastic — just trying to get as good as we can and do good quality routines you look at and go, "She deserves to be in the final."
TVGuide.com: Some fans are upset at Bristol outlasting Audrina, Rick and Kurt. What do you think?
Hough: I think it all depends on what you want to see and what America wants to see. Obviously they want to see Bristol carry on. If you base it on dance ability or dance quality, Audrina should still be here. But it's not just about that. It's about story, about people. It's a people show. The dancing element is the catalyst that creates these human moments. So the actual scores, they're important, but it's not the end-all, be-all.