As the gang prepares to leave Seaside, Ronnie and Sammi have one final blowout, and Deena spoils Vinny's fun
Jersey Shore Family Vacation CR: MTV
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If there is a real story within Jersey Shore‘s third season — if there is more to the show than just smushing and smashing and bashing and crashing — then you can sum it up with the immortal words of Neil Sedaka: “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” Ronnie and Sammi arrived at the Shore house this season united in their mutual hatred for everyone and everything around them. They spent the first few nights sitting alone in their tower, listening to the gang play drinking games outside the window. Sammi stared into the mirror and brushed her hair. Ronnie stared up at the ceiling and drank some Xenadrine cocktails. They insulted their housemates, fought their housemates. They skipped Sunday dinner, and when Situation asked them why they were ignoring the family, they denied the family’s very existence, which is kind of like a morally depraved child using Confession as an opportunity to tell a kindly old priest that there is no God.

It was easy to recognize that Sammi and Ronnie were just denying the obvious: That they were utterly consumed by their hatred for each other. Sammi knew that Ronnie had lied about Miami, knew that he was grotesquely jealous of any man she even looked at, knew that it probably wasn’t healthy to date a guy who drinks like a sailor and fights like a frat dude and cries like a drunk fratboy sailor-baby and is secretly a shaved gorilla raised in human society as a social experiment. Ronnie knew that Sammi was emotionally unavailable, knew that she had single-handedly ruined his friendship with J-Woww, knew that his fundamentally weak personality was slowly being subsumed by her much stronger will, knew that her only true love was the face she saw in the mirror. Here were two people who were desperately wrong for each other.

But they were also desperately in love. The chubby little fat fifth grader who forever lurks in Ronnie’s soul could never quite believe that he had found himself in bed with the totally hot popular girl. And Sammi was equally fascinated by Ronnie. She’s a fundamentally passive person, and I think it’s fair to say that Ron’s unhinged nature — again, drinks and fights and cries and swings from trees — was fantastically attractive. So they convinced each other that they really hated everyone else. But the warm light of human companionship began to shine into the cold, dark Ron-Sam void. Mike and J-Woww both, in their own way, told Ronnie how much they missed being his friend. Sammi, realizing that Ron had left her all alone in the tower, made peace with the other girls.

Unfortunately, opening themselves up to the light of the outside world had a terrible flip side: It revealed to both of them just how miserable their existence had become. So the fighting started. Almost immediately, Jersey Shore treated their fights as a joke — cut to Vinny rolling his eyes, cut to Pauly shaking his head, cut to Sitch eating a grilled cheese sandwich, cut to J-Woww’s dogs laugh-barking. It continued on and on, right up until the Arvingate fiasco, which began last night’s episode. Ronnie wasn’t offended by the fact that Sam tried hooking up with a guy right after the break-up. He was offended by the fact that he hadn’t been strong enough to try hooking up with a girl. (You’ll recall that he spent a week crying into his grubby ape-hands.) You could laugh at his overreaction, or at Sammi’s hilarious attempt to deny, deny, deny:

Arvin: “Sam, we made out before.”

Sam: “No, we haven’t.”

Arvin: “Yeah, we have.”

Sam: “No, we haven’t.”

She’s not a good argument person! And it was kind of funny when Sam admitted about three minutes later that she had hooked up with Arvin. But her explanation rang true: “I hooked up with him when I was 21 years old. I’m 23, going to be 24. It was years ago.” Ronnie, ridiculously, threw this simple logic back in her face: “You have the chance right now to right your wrongs, or you can go away.” But Ron-Ron, what wrongs are you talking about, and how can she right them? By traveling back in time and preventing her younger self from making out with a dude named Arvin? By giving you a list of every guy-friend she has, along with a signed promise to never speak to any attractive heterosexual man ever again?

NEXT: A fabulous timeThe simple truth is that Ronnie and Sammi were never really honest with each other. Ronnie never came clean about his big Miami lie. Sammi accrued a million little white lies on her record. (Remember the cop who indirectly broke them up at the first Jersey Shore reunion?) This is because Ronnie and Sammi don’t really understand themselves: They both claim to want a quiet monogamous relationship — feeding each other spaghetti, staying in on Friday to watch a movie on broadcast cable, waxing each others’ bodies as young lovers will do — but they both clearly feel the call of the wild, the urge to go out late and dance and meet someone new and different.

The endgame, when it came, was swift. It began at Boss Danny’s party. Ronnie had a few and began lurking. Sammi, sounding for just a moment like Katherine Hepburn in a screwball comedy, said, “I’m not trying to fight with you, because I’m having a fabulous time.” They fought, but they focused their anger on The Situation, as if it could be even Evil Uncle Mike’s fault that they’ve spent a year making excuses for each other.

The next night, they were at Karma. Sammi was talking to a group of her guy-friends. Ronnie was sweating. These dudes looked heterosexual. How dare she! Ronnie lurked passive-aggressively. When he got home, he announced loudly to the household, “I’m going to bed!” He walked upstairs. Sam had reached what former President George W. Bush would call a “Decision Point,” which is also the working subtitle for Mission: Impossible 5. (The other working title is Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol, Part 2; Legacy. Seriously, a semi-colon!) She could go to her downstairs room and fall asleep. Or she could go upstairs and yell at Ron-Ron. It was a simple choice: Order or chaos? A quiet night all alone, or a loud night with the person you used to love?

Chaos! Sammi ran upstairs. She screamed at Ronnie. Ronnie screamed at Sammi. They fled into the bathroom, away from the prying eyes of the camera-people, but not away from the prying ears of the boom-mike guy. The whole house positively sighed with exhaustion. Cut to J-Woww and Roger, in night-vision, sighing. Cut to Vinny, mumbling, “It’s like a comedy.” Cut to Snooki and her Smush-Man — in night vision, their glowing eyes looked a little bit like the disembodied peepers in an old Looney Tunes short. Cut to the toilet, which barfed up another shirt. Cut to Deena, who said, “Why’s Ronnie and Sammi fighting?” sounding for all the world like a confused sleepy child wondering why Mommy was kissing Santy Claus.

Why, indeed? Ronnie: “I’m real, and you’re not! F— you, you crazy bitch!” Sammi: “Don’t ever talk to me or look at me every again, you f—ing idiot! My biggest regret in my life is you!” At this point, they were just yelling to yell — both of them trying to get the other person to admit that everything was their fault. The bathroom door opened, and wonderfully, our first sight of the combatants was Ronnie, already beginning to cry. Uncle Sitch, bless him, swooped right in: “C’mon, c’mon, let’s go outside.” Upstairs, Sammi was left all alone, still screaming: “G’bye! Enjoy your f—ing life!”

NEXT: The Situation finds an apt metaphorThe next morning — the last morning — J-Woww’s horrible dog crapped on the carpet. “That rug reminds me of Ron and Sam’s relationship,” said Sitch. “Hahaha!” laughed everyone. That’s a good line, but it’s not really fair — most relationships kind of look like that by the time they reach the end. (Also, that doggie-doo almost certainly sums up how The Situation looks to every single girl who has ever been fooled into thinking a casual Sitch-smush-sesh was a good idea.) Outside, Sammi was trying to reconcile with Ronnie one last time. In the process, she somehow stumbled into one of the most weirdly beautiful descriptions of young, stupid, passionate love I have ever heard: “I love you. You’re the only one who makes me laugh, cry, be happy, be sad, miserable, excited.”

“I’m not a very sensitive person,” Sam admitted, “And I don’t know how to be lovey-dovey.” Ron was inconsolable: “I think my heart’s broken at this point.” “So are we together or are we single?” asked Sammi. And that was when — finally, finally, finally — Ronnie realized the same thing that his housemates and we viewers knew two seasons ago: “I think I need to be alone for now.” It was a simple truth, but Ronnie had fought against realizing it for a very long time. Once it was out in the open, it could not be put back into the bottle. (Sammi had already realized the same thing many episodes ago — which is why she didn’t really fight back.)

Sammi and Ronnie had arrived together at the start of the summer. They left separately. Ronnie fell back on his silly catchphrase: “I definitely regret breaking my number one rule: Never fall in love at the Jersey Shore.” Sammi was more somber: “There is no Sam and Ronnie right now. I’m alone. It’s not a good feeling.” No. No, it’s not.

But break-ups, for all the pain and suffering, are healthy. Have you ever read Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece? It’s the story of a little creature that is almost a complete circle. But it’s missing a tiny sliver — it looks kind of like a depressed version of Pac-Man — and it goes in search of that missing piece. Remarkably, it actually finds it — a tiny creature who fits perfectly into the space that was empty. For a short while, our little circle-creature feels whole. But then, the problems start. It can no longer live the life it used to live. Everything has to be done with the consent of this other, strange being. So, in what amounts to the most existential conclusion to any children’s’ book ever — oh, take your dumb Giving Tree and stuff it; Have some self-respect already, Tree! — the little circle creature leaves the Missing Piece behind. There’s plenty of different themes you can tease out of this little story, but the most obvious subtext is: Relationships are hard. And sometimes, being “complete” isn’t the same as being content. At a certain point, you will never completely know another person — and that is a frightening thing. (This point would be hammered home in Silverstein’s sequel, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, which if nothing else is probably the porniest-sounding children’s book title besides Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.)

It’s easy to laugh at them, these strange Jersey Shore stars. They are shallow, dim-witted, dull robot-people who live like cartoon hippie rappers. They do not work; instead, like French university students drunk on yuppie socialism and expensive wine, they want to be paid high salaries just for living happy lives. But really, they are no more ridiculous than the rest of us. Even Xenadrine-addled ape-men can dream of true love. Even hair-obsessed she-droids can strive, desperately, for something like happiness. Maybe Ron and Sam just need to grow up on their own. Maybe they’ll find each other again. Maybe, like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, their love is such a blinding white-hot flame of anger and frustration and passion and joy that it is simply incapable of existing on this silly planet. Human life is nasty, brutish, and short. Don’t we all deserve at least one great love story?

NEXT: Farewell, PartyA Few Quick Hits Before Götterdämmerung Arrives

–Boss Danny threw an end-of-summer for the Shore gang, which reintroduced some of our favorite supporting characters — namely, Uncle Nino! There is a part of me — the part that occasionally wishes Jersey Shore could just transform into a full-on fictional show, because it’s already so close — that wishes the producers had invited all the random characters from this season. Imagine a party with Bizarro-Ronnie, Pauly D’s stalker, the funny cab driver who drove Snooki and Deena to New York, and the Uncle who wouldn’t let Vinny steal his niece’s questionable chastity. Sparks would fly! Still, I’ll take Uncle Nino. “Oh, did you ever work in a flower shop? Get those tulips over here!” Tulips! He’s insane! Spin-off?

–Snooki: “If I could have Ron or Sam back next summer, I would want Ron back. Don’t tell her I said that.” YOU ARE ON TELEVISION.

–Deena brought along her girl Lisa to the going-away party. Lisa liked Vin-Vin. Vin-Vin liked Lisa. Deena didn’t like any of it. Possibly out of loyalty to Snooki, possibly because Deena secretly yearns for Vin-Vin’s pale-skinned charms, possibly because alcohol is a hell of a drug, Deena decided to put the kibosh on their interaction. That’s when Vinny unleashed the great invective: He said about Deena, “I just thought, like, she wasn’t Angelina.” She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named! “Being called Angelina is one of the worst things you can be called,” said Pauly D. Fortunately, Deena eventually reconciled with Vinny by making him a redemptive grilled cheese sandwich. I have to say, I don’t necessarily think Deena has been the insane addition to the household that was promised — she basically peaked on her first night, with that weird striptease and the near hook-up in the hot tub with Vinny. But I don’t think it’s her fault that the back half of this season turned out to be so boring. (Seriously, think about it: Can you guys even remember them using the hot tub after the first episode? Not using a rooftop hot tub is a terrible crime against humanity.)

–Actually, here’s something worth thinking about for a second. The first seven episodes of the season featured quite a bit of strife for almost everyone — Ronnie and Sam’s dissolution, the end of J-Woww’s relationship, Snooki’s arrest, Pauly’s ongoing attempts to become a real boy. I’m not sure you can call a show like this “good,” but it was certainly compelling. By the end of the season, pretty much everyone was functional and happy — when you consider that Sam seemed much calmer after her break, only Ronnie was still engaging in actively destructive behavior. And it was, for the most part, boring. Which leads me to wonder: Are reality shows like Jersey Shore fundamentally immoral operations? When we say that Jersey Shore has gotten “bad,” don’t we just mean that the Jersey Shore castmates are making good decisions, drinking less, and not hooking up with awful people?

–Snooki wanted to smush. She found a Pauly D lookalike, and they smushed. “Whiskeyd—,” Snooki explained, “Is definitely the best sex. It’s when a guy can have sex for five hours because he’s so drunk.” My, what fun heterosexuality sex we’re having!

NEXT: Ronnie loses his shirt–Ronnie wore a Rush shirt to his last day of work at the Shore Store, because Boss Danny “can’t stand the Rush store at the other end of the boardwalk.” And how: Boss Danny literally tore the shirt off Ronnie’s back. Ronnie responded by falling asleep on the job. Boss Danny poured water on Ronnie’s face, and sent Ron-Ron off with a final summation: “Thanks for the nap, douchebag!” I wish that Boss Danny were my father, just so I’d have something to rebel against, but then eventually learn to respect when I became boss of my own T-shirt shop.

–Snooki: “After I run for President, Deena’s going to be my Vice President. I would get s— done in this country. The economy would rise. Everyone would be tan. And all the radios would play house music.” You guys do realize that a reality TV star will be elected President in your lifetime, right? So wouldn’t you rather it be Snooki than, like, Russell from Survivor? Actually, that would be awesome. And by awesome, I mean I’m moving to Sweden.

-That just about wraps up our coverage of season 3 of Jersey Shore, but check back here next week for my recap of the Jersey Shore reunion. I was going to skip it, because I have a terrible allergy to Julissa-Bots, but Jersey Shore producer SallyAnn Salsano told EW’s James Hibberd that the reunion provides “new information that connects the dots,” and also assures us that “Ronnie and Sammi are an interesting segment to watch.” I am intrigued, terribly intrigued! And be sure to check out my list of the 25 Most Outrageous Moments in Jersey Shore history, which was just going to be called “25 Moments Picked Entirely at Random From Jersey Shore” before the advertising people assured us that “random” is not a word that tests well with our key demographic: Xenadrine-addled ape-men, ages 24-26.

–Be sure to write down all your favorite moments from the season finale in the comment boards, and hit me up on Twitter if you want to talk more about Shore. Or even just rap about life, man!

-One last thing before we go. In the midst of all the sadness and frustration of this season finale — as Ronnie and Sam fell apart, and Snooki and Vinny missed each other again, and Pauly D prepared to return to his alien brethren to inform them that humanity is still not ready to join the Galactic Federation, and The Situation continued situating forever and ever — there was one single ray of light. J-Woww began this season in the midst of a terrible relationship. She suffered an awful break-up, and was left with no real home besides a smush factory filled with tandroid freaks who never learned how to flush a toilet.

But then, magically, she met somebody new: a knight in shining armor, with incredible facial hair and a Bradbury-esque array of tattoos. Last night, they took the final step: The awkward “define-the-relationship” talk. “Us? Yes? Exclusive.” Yes! You! Exclusive! Jenni forced Roger to skip work, and on the phone to his boss, she said: “Don’t worry! I just chopped his balls off because now he’s officially my boyfriend!” Now, you could argue that J-Woww, a serial monogamist, is getting into another relationship far too quickly. You could argue that a relationship built in front of cameras can’t help but suffer when the show is over. Who knows what the future holds? But I have to admit: Putting aside all questions and concerns, putting aside even the instinctive urge to intellectualize everything into oblivion, it just feels really, really good seeing Jenni Farley look so happy.

“Jersey this year was my home,” she said. “I left my scumbag of a boyfriend. I met someone new. I had the best summer I ever had in my life.”

Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Episode Recaps

Jersey Shore Family Vacation CR: MTV
Jersey Shore

Follow Snooki, the Situation, Pauly, Ronnie, Sammi, Jwoww, Vinny, and Deena as they party, smush, and GTL

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