Actress Melissa Gilbert has been a surprise on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," overcoming injury, tough judges' critiques and low scores on the leaderboard to return week after week to the show's season 14.
No one is more surprised about making it to the final six competitors than Gilbert herself.
"I am kind of shocked, actually," the "Little House on the Prairie" actress told "Good Morning America" contributor Melissa Rycroft in an interview that aired on the show today. "I tried not to have too many expectations going in to where we would be, so each week has been a surprise, but then having people vote us through when we've gotten lower scores has been really validating and amazing, surprising."
Her pro partner, ballroom dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, said they will try to please the judges more.
It's been a rough road for the pair.
Early on in the season, Gilbert hit her head on Chmerkovskiy's foot during a performance and sustained a mild concussion.
Chmerkovskiy has also had his own challenges. Last week there was doubt about whether he would perform because he had an ankle injury, but he partnered Gilbert in a dramatic and athletic Argentine tango that pleased fans but seemed to fall flat with the judges.
Chmerkovskiy downplayed his injury and focused on his partner.
"I'm very proud of her, I really am, especially with us trying to stay entertaining, it's physically very hard," he told Rycroft.
Getting the routines down requires a lot of work, and during the vignettes of the pair practicing that air before each performance, Chmerkovskiy has appeared to be a tough taskmaster.
Asked what he was like the rest of the time that the public didn't see, Gilbert replied: "He's really sweet and he's really got a big heart and he's very protective of me and he's very caring."
Chmerkovskiy reminded her he had "an amazing ass," and she agreed.
Tonight they will face a new challenge: Each of the six remaining couples will be paired with a pro who has already been voted off this season. Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy will dance a samba, and they'll be joined by his younger brother, Val.
"I think we're going to be great, I think we're going to be fun and entertaining," Chmerkovskiy said.
Gilbert says she's not ready to go home yet, and sent a message for all the fans who've kept her in the competition: "Just keep doing whatever you're doing, we're working really hard to earn all of your hard work."
"It's my birthday on Tuesday and I don't want to get eliminated on my birthday," she said.
"Seriously?" her partner asked.
"Seriously," she replied, to which he added: "It will be my birthday on Tuesday, too, if that's what it takes."