Peta Murgatroyd and Gilles Marini
10/11/2012 AT 12:35 PM EDT
Great looks, all the right moves, and he's still
Gilles Marini, a fan favorite and likely finalist on Dancing with the Stars
, tells PEOPLE that he was so sure he'd be eliminated after Monday night's show that he needed to fortify himself.
"I opened a $400 bottle of wine," the handsome French-American actor, 36, said on Wednesday. "I didn't even pour it in a glass. I drank it right from the bottle!"
Marini danced an intense tango on Monday's show, and while his scores were good, he says, "I wanted to do more, do better. I wanted to excel."
The judges found him and partner Peta Murgatroy a bit rushed, and Marini found it hard to object. "I always agree with them," he says.
Anxieties aside, Gilles is fully enjoying the DWTS
experience this season, after having previously competed on the show in 2009.
"The first time I felt a little bit more like a puppet," he says, "but now I have to bring the acting, the choreography ... creatively speaking, I have a lot more input."
And he's making new friends in the process.
Asked if he has discussed November's election with Bristol Palin (Marini recently received his U.S. Citizenship), he said, "No, but I have to tell you something ... I shattered my hamstring, and of the entire cast [besides Peta], the only person that came to me and asked how I was doing and said she was praying for me was Bristol."