Vinny has a beard. Snooki has a boyfriend. There are rumors that Sammi’s breasts are bigger. J-Woww’s breasts are not smaller, and she wants to be very clear about that. Ronnie has magically transformed from a depressive crying caterpillar-boy into a beautiful butterfly-man: Single Ronnie, reborn with a smile. Deena is still Deena, and the unabashed way that she continues to drop her three main catchphrases — “blast in a glass,” “do sex,” and “Ya like da boobz? — while doing her muppet booty dance makes her seem almost like an adorable remnant of an earlier pop culture era, a character who wouldn’t have looked out of place on Laugh-In, or in a traveling vaudeville show. Pauly is still Pauly, mysterious, unknowable, with the perpetual grin of a man who seems to be listening to the director’s commentary of his own life. And The Situation is the same, only different. He has a plan. The fourth season of Jersey Shore began with Mike blasting a warning out to the anxious fathers of Italy: “Lock up your daughters. Handcuff your wives.” And hell followed with him.
Yes, fellow travelers: The gang is all here, preparing for an exciting extended vacation to Florence. The season premiere took us through everyone’s preparations — Vinny practicing essential Italian (“No grenada, por favore!“), Snooki hiding her “I Heart Vinny” undies from her new boyfriend Jionni. We saw everyone in their separate worlds, surrounded by friends and family (or, in Pauly D’s case, his DJ equipment.) The boys met at Vinny’s house, where Uncle Nino said something inscrutably authentic. The girls met at Deena’s house, where her father genially offered to strip.
An inordinate amount of the episode was devoted to the Amazing Race-style contest to see which group would arrive at the Florentina villa first. The dudes had a layover in Madrid; the girls had a layover in Dusseldorf; and it turns out that layovers even more boring on television than they are in real life. (This always struck me as the essential problem with The Terminal, a film that labored desperately to convince audiences that being trapped in an airport would not drive a man insane with boredom.) The girls finally landed in Milan, where J-Woww’s Bronzer exploded and Snooki somehow managed to fit eight suitcases onto a single luggage cart.
Uncle Situation one-upped Shnookums with a mesmerizing nine suitcases. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have even owned enough things in my life to fill nine suitcases, (besides maybe my comic book collection which could unfortunately fill 90 suitcases.) The events on Jersey Shore tend to have a weirdly symbolic edge, as if the eight cast members are the playthings of a god who loves easy metaphors. In this case, it doesn’t take an expert to note that Sitch and Shnooks both came into this season carrying a lot of baggage. Like, figurative baggage. More on that later.
NEXT: The Telltale Bidet