Melissa Rycroft, Gilles Marini clearly lead ‘Dancing With the Stars’

If you were ready to crown Melissa Rycroft winner of Dancing With the Stars new season after one episode, just because she’s got all that good karma comin’, think again. Monday’s second full-bore performance show showed that it’s now a two-person race, and the leader in the pecking order (based on judges’ scores and how couples are slotted) is now French model — er, actor — Gilles Marini, who again performed sensationally with champion partner Cheryl Burke.

Gilles may not be well known in this country, beyond his buff-baring cameo in the Sex and the City film, but he is this show’s best “star” dancer so far, hands — or pecs — down. Of course, it’s still early, and Melissa still has had precious little time to rehearse. But I’m fully expecting these two to be the final two when the show winds down and the hype heats up in May.

Besides, Melissa can’t remove her top (what there is of it) like Gilles, who will seize any opportunity to bare himself, as he did in Monday’s behind-the-scenes footage. Shameless! But give the guy credit — he can dance. And the green-themed song choice — fantastic — with 3 Doors Down’s edgy Kryptonite and Gilles in Clark Kent nerd glasses and suit, which he ripped open (the guy just can’t help himself) to reveal a “G”-emblazoned superhero costume at the finish. Now that was a quick-step, not yielding to ballroom tradition, but kicking up heels with energy and creativity.

Melissa and Tony’s salsa was also grand in its own way, but the look didn’t do her any favors, and after last week’s sublimely romantic waltz to Moon River, it was an emotional let-down. Still, she’s in this for the long haul — and take that, wishy-washy Bachelor loser Jason. Your spurn spawned a star — the second, of course, to come from The Bachelor to Dancing With the Stars, in a smart bit of network synchronity (after Trista Sutter, who was nowhere near Melissa’s league). (In a further coincidence, both Bachelor alums on Dancing also were pro sports cheerleaders. Must be something in the water.)

At any rate, expect Steve-O to go home tonight after the weirdness of watching his tepid rehearsal footage as a substitute (a Dancing first, based on the “rules’ — yes, the rules they just wrote) when a pre-show injury kept him from performing. At this rate, perhaps Samantha will trip over her own outta control tongue (can you spell “enunciate”?) and go on the injured list, too. Well, we can only hope.

Meanwhile, bring it on, Gilles and Melissa. You’re the cream of this show’s crop, and you’ve gotta lot of dancin’ to do.

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