October 18, 2011 at 04:12 AM EDT

Karina Smirnoff had to crack the whip on J.R. Martinez to get him into sexy mode for Dancing with the Stars Monday, but her actions paid off big time: The always consistent pair pulled their highest score of the season with a 28 (two 9s and their first 10) for a samba to Gloria Estefan’s “Conga.”

Carrie Ann Inaba called it “friggin’ amazing.”

“It’s funny, she kept telling me, ‘Be sexy here! Be masculine!’ and I would do something and she’s like, ‘That’s not sexy! That’s

not masculine!'” Martinez — whose first initials stand for Jose Rene — told reporters afterwards. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know how to be sexy!’  I really don’t. It’s not my thing.  I don’t think I’m a sexy and masculine type of guy, but tonight, it was fun. “It’s great to be on top, but the fact that we got our first 10 of the season was really cool.”

Way better than being on the bottom,” Smirnoff added, more saying, “Well, it depends on the circumstances, I guess.”

The two especially loved how well Bruno Tonioli teased the unveiling of his 10 for dramatic effect. “It was like, what’s he gonna do? What’s he gonna do?” recalled Martinez. “I thought it was going to be another 9. I thought it was gonna be three 9s across the board but when he pulled out a 10, it was like, ohhh that’s what we’ve been working for.”

If the pair makes it to next week, Smirnoff said they’ll dance a quick step for the Broadway-themed show with a possible fedora, cigar, and newspaper as props.

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