J.R. Martinez said his biggest regret about suffering an ankle injury before this week's episode of Dancing with the Stars was feeling like he disappointed his partner, Karina Smirnoff.
"Even though ... an ankle injury is something you kind of can't control, you still get frustrated, because [Smirnoff] put some routines together that were really amazing," Martinez told PEOPLE after the show.
"It's kind of like that mentality you hear from guys that serve in the military," the veteran added. "They don't want to let the rest of their guys down. That's what it comes down to."
"He didn’t," Smirnoff interjected, leaning affectionately on Martinez.
After Martinez twisted his ankle during rehearsals last week, he and Smirnoff were unable to work on their routine on Saturday or Sunday, which are usually their days to "polish everything," he told PEOPLE.
"All week we were like, man, once we fine-tune this, if we nail it, it's going to be amazing," Martinez said. "I was just frustrated at myself, because I felt that we could have done so much better."
Though he and Martinez received perfect scores the previous week, Martinez's injury caused him to struggle through the paso doble and a tango Monday night, earning a 23 and a 27, respectively. They also came in third place for the cha cha relay, behind Ricki Lake and Rob Kardashian.
"We did a great job tonight," he acknowledged. "I was able to pull through it and do as well as I could have done. But I know that I could have made it that much better."
But he's now determined to put the injury behind him.
"It is what it is," Martinez said. "No crying about it."
If he and Smirnoff survive the eliminations, Martinez added, they're looking forward to putting together "something exciting" for next week's finale, when all the finalists will perform the anticipated freestyle dance.