Jersey Shore recap: Why 'Jersey Shore' has become every reality show
Once again, nothing really happened on this week’s episode of Jersey Shore. At this point, that’s not really a criticism. Over the course of the last two seasons, Jersey Shore has evolved into a show about inaction. The housemates threaten to do something, but essentially keep to their routine. Karma one night, Aztec the next, then a trip over to Jenks just to shake things up. Even that routine has been mostly drained of exciting particularities. In days gone by, the dudes would bring girls home and host a hot tub party. The Situation would make a sandwich for one girl. Pauly D would conduct a cruel social experiment on another. Ronnie and Sammi would be fighting about something. Snooki and Deena would bounce off each other and lick the walls, or vice versa. Now, the dudes bring girls home, smush, and phone Dr. McQuack’s Quack-Taxi. Ron and Sam are comfortably numb. Last night’s episode began with the possibility of Vinny and Snooki sleeping together, but that faded away quickly. Deena wanted to get serious with Joey, but he turned out to be a jerk, so she remained the only person in the house without a boyfriend.
The posterboy for Jersey Shore‘s new period — call it the Era of Passivity — is The Situation, who has spent two seasons forming an incredibly vague plot to destroy Snooki and Jionni’s relationship. Originally, his evil master plan was to steal Snooki for himself. At this point, though, Snooki has transformed into the object of his aggression. “She tried to play me like a chess piece recently,” he said, “So the girl’s got to get her medicine!” (Pause to imagine an angry chess piece screaming “Vengeance is mine!” while feeding Snooki two gelcaps of NyQuil.) You’ll recall that The Situation is angry at Snooki because, a few episodes ago, she tried to help him.
“I’ve been trying to plan this master plan for a number of weeks now,” said Sitch, “And time is running out.” Viewers, let’s try to analyze this master plan for a second, shall we? The Situation claims that he hooked up with Snooki while he was hanging out with The Unit, thus making The Unit the witness to a crime. (Keep in mind, this was a crime committed by The Situation himself — even if Jionni is startled to learn that his girlfriend who became famous for doing terrible things to herself and everyone around her isn’t exactly committed to monogamy, surely Jionni will be equally angry at the 45-year-old man who slept with his girlfriend.) So The Situation wants The Unit to tell Jionni. Why? Is The Unit somehow more trustworthy than The Situation?
The utter pointlessness of this plan became clear later in the episode. After spending an entire night at Karma staring at Jionni and Snooki, Sitch took the Unit home to the Shore House to have it out. Unfortunately, The Unit was a drunk mess, and quickly got picked up by the fuzz. (The Situation knew bad things were on the horizon. He referred to himself as “Sitchtrodamus.”) Uncle Sitch was angry. “Every time I’m ready to drop the bomb on Jionni, something happens!” he screamed, sounding like the world’s stupidest supervillain. But then the next morning, Jionni ambled past him in the kitchen. The Situation declared, “This is my moment!” and proceeded to tell him all about AND CUT END OF EPISODE.
Following the show’s recent trend of ending on cliffhangers that turn out to be non-events — and taking into account the rumors that Snooki is currently pregnant with Baby Jionni — we can assume that this much-anticipated showdown will quickly be resolved next week. The Situation will have once again proved just how little he can be trusted. Snooki will get briefly angry. To everything, turn, turn, turn.
NEXT: The Unified Theory of Jersey Shore
And yet, whole misadventure indicates that there is something deeper at work in this fifth season of Jersey Shore. The castmates have clearly grown tired — of each other, of the show’s format, of the whole central Jersey Shore notion of living a neverending Spring Break lifestyle. So, in a sense, they’ve all broken off into their own independent reality shows. For some of them, that’s a canny career move — MTV only has room for so many Shore spin-offs. For others, it’s accidental. But Jersey Shore is no longer a single reality show. It’s become an entire network unto itself. And what does that network look like? It features shows from several different genres, all of them crafted with various degrees of success. Last night, here’s how they measured up:
Dating with Deena: Essentially a Bachelorette clone, the ongoing story of Shore‘s newest, least essential housemate, and most human housemate has quickly spiraled into a recurring tragedy. A Deena storyline essentially goes one of two ways: 1. She promises not to fall for a guy and then falls for him, or 2. She falls for a guy who turns out to be a champion douche rocket. Last night was a 2, with Deena falling head over heels for Joey, a man so apparently sleazy that even Sammi didn’t like him. (Sammi also announced that she thinks she’s a psychic. Hi Sammi! Bye Sammi!) Like most seasons of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, Deena’s search for a man is an exercise in futility — the only question is how long it takes her to realize that a man is wrong for her.
J-Woww and the Girls: The only reasonable way to understand J-Woww’s current role on Jersey Shore is to realize that she has become the Bethenny Frankel of the Shore universe. She used to be the harsh-talking cynic who provided everyone with a wake-up call. Now, though, she’s in a very happy relationship, which means that — in order to stay relevant — she needs to undertake strange “missions.” On last night’s episode, she decided to celebrate her and Roger’s first anniversary by decorating the smush room with rose petals, thus fulfilling every man’s secret American Beauty fantasy.
I’m Stupid, With?: Shows about two people in a relationships tend to lean in two directions. On one hand, you’ve got shows like Khloé and Lamar or Ice Loves Coco, where the two lover-protagonists are inherently interesting on some gut level — they’re rich, or they’re good at basketball, or they’re a rapper-turned-actor who moonlights as a videogame critic, or they’re a bleached-bond true-life incarnation of Jessica Rabbit. On the other hand, you have shows like Giuliana & Bill or the pre-controversy days of Jon & Kate Plus Eight, where the inherent appeal is the protagonists’ lack of extremist sparks. Ronnie and Sammi used to be more like the former. They seem to be attempting an evolution, but the result has been to turn them into non-entities in the house.
Pranxstaz, with Vinny and Pauly: Vinny and Pauly are arguably the only people left in the house who are genuinely fun to watch. They’re quick to banter — when they moved the smush room out to the porch, Pauly exclaimed, “I just got pregnant.” Vinny said, “I just got some of Mike’s babies on my chin!” Pauly: “How’s that different from any other night?” On one level, Team VP are fun because they seem to genuinely just want to enjoy themselves — they’re like the Jackass guys. On another level, they seem to be almost providing a running meta-commentary on the shenanigans inside of the house. They’re like a pair of Joel McHales, sitting on the couch watching the sparks fly.
Snooking for Trouble: The most morally troubling and yet undeniably fascinating show on the Shore network. Snooki clearly fancies herself a Bethenny figure, but whereas Bethenny (and J-Woww) seem to realize that they need to play to the camera, Snooki has essentially been on cruise control for the last couple of seasons. (She doesn’t seem to interact with her housemates on a deep level anymore — notice how it was Sammi, not Snooki, who was looking out for Deena last night.) At the same time — and there’s no kind way to say this — Snooki has been getting absolutely smish-smash-paddywack drunk this season. The tension in Snooking for Trouble comes from the fact that Nicole has become an unpredictable livewire. In that sense, it a little bit like watching an Intervention-esque TV show that only focuses on one person.
No Understanding, No Mercy: The Situation’s Story: To me, the only wrong move that The Situation has ever taken, careerwise, was appearing on Dancing With the Stars. On that show, success is based on two very important qualities: Likability, and actual athletic ability. The Situation, a top-heavy jerk, possesses neither quality. What he does have, though, is a fanatically devious mind. He is always plotting something. The wheels are always turning. Five seasons in, he’s the only person in the house who still seems aware of the need to perform for the cameras. In his mind, Jersey Shore is really a competition series, a Big Brother, a Survivor. And it’s a series that he’s winning, every time he performs an action he knows to be transgressive. When he said hello to Jionni’s dad, that was a success. When he gave the Delivery Boy a protein bar as a tip, that was a success. In real life, The Situation’s actions would be seen as silly, even cruel. But the brilliance of The Situation is that he left real life behind two years ago.
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