In praise of the goofy, shocking, endearing Double Shot at Love finale
I caught feelings for Double Shot at Love, bro. We just clicked. MTV rented some grody mansion in L.A. County, the kind of big bland house cartel accountants buy for tax purposes. Then two Jersey Shore castmates and 20 women spent 13 episodes dating toward love or whatever.
This was all obviously artificial, the AstroTurf version of a dating competition. The house became a prison, even with the occasional getaways to a private jet or a bowling alley. You imagined the walls smelled like laundry. It always looked like rain outside. “Clubbing” meant hours of beauty prep to walk through the back yard to a big room lit like an 11th birthday party. There was a family visit, confused relatives shaking hands with men kissing their daughters on national television. This very important meet-the-parents situation featured a special dinner… in the back yard!
It helped that Double Shot was a goof, and it helped that Double Shot had a secret authenticity. Pauly D and Vinny are reality veterans, self-aware enough to doubt this whole process, funny enough to earn laughs mangling the ceremonial lingo of elimination events. “I’m a realist,” Vinny said in the finale. “I’m not gonna sit here and say, ‘I’m in love!'”
Vinny still looks awkward on camera, which is his superpower. Whereas Pauly D has ascended (descended?) to a futuristic state of being: He seems to assume that he is always on camera. So he was the brightest star. Most of the women barely seemed to notice Vinny in the early weeks. Surprisingly, that was another Vinny superpower. And it turned into Pauly’s secret tragedy. Everybody wanted to truly know him. Nobody ever did.
Double Shot executive producer SallyAnn Salsano imported the goofy spirit of Jersey Shore along with her stars. (In the premiere, the contestant Mish admitted she had no clue who Vinny and Pauly D were.) And Salsano found contestants who were pretty chill. The structure of a dating show leans toward cruel embarrassment, but the middle stages of Double Shot caught a party vibe. With one exception, everyone seemed to get along.
My favorite person on the show was Maria, who sparked gawky-sweet chemistry with Vinny. Maria’s “problem,” I guess, was that she wouldn’t “open up,” language that sounded like offscreen producers. Last week, Maria got eliminated, a choice Vinny accurately regretted. It looked to me that, like, Maria’s biggest problem was not wanting to reveal too much on camera — an admirable quality in reality, an unforgivable sin in reality TV.
But here’s where Double Shot‘s secret authenticity comes in. Pauly D and Vinny understood the synthetic quality of the show. And they also explained how their strange lives require some synthetic qualities: Months filming partyfights with public friends, loud appearances with fans, headlines when they tweet toward the President. Pauly D is a DJ, turns out, and oh the life of a DJ, long nights, crowds, every country’s Vegas — and the beats, my friends, always the beats.
So, like, really: Why not meet the love of your life on a sex-idiot soap opera? Stranger things have happened, and never forget how many costars marry. So it was possible to laugh at Double Shot and feel invested in the potential for romance. Vinny’s great life is relatable, at least. You got the sense his main mission was finding somebody who will love his dog and not mind Staten Island. He felt a connection with Alysse: “When you ask me why, I can’t even really name it.” They seem sweet together! You could tell me they’re still dating, and you could tell me they already wound down.
But, then: Pauly, Mister Positivity, local supernova, dominating every room. He spent the season in close prox to Nikki. Nikki was an essential piece of the Double Shot experience because she was the one person fully dedicated to the excessive emotions of the dating competition. She told Pauly that she loved him; she said he knew her better than anyone ever had. These are ludicrous statements, and yet you could buy Nikki as an ideal match. She didn’t seem to care what anyone thought about her, a valuable character trait for anyone in the public eye. And yet she also seemed to care entirely too much, a whiplash energy that mesmerized Pauly. “Nikki consumed me,” he admitted in the finale, “Consumed my energy.” A line like that belongs in some kind of Dark Phoenix saga, but nobody ever accused Pauly of being subtle.
For obvious reasons, I was rooting for Nikki’s nemesis Derryn. She’s funny. She’s driven. “She wants to open up a club,” said Pauly, and yo, he’s a DJ! I don’t know. The yenta part of me thought Derryn was a good match, and she already sits prominently in the Council of Darrens. I was bummed to see her eliminated, would happily watch a Double Shot with her and JWoww.
The final cab ceremony was held on a platform in the pool — in the back yard! It was a freezing cold night in Los Angeles. Derryn left, leaving Pauly and Nikki staring at each other, Vinny and Alysse hugging for warmth. Nikki looked so happy. Pauly got scared. The editors montage’d every time this season anyone expressed concern about Nikki: J-Woww and Ronnie, Angelina and Pauly’s mom, other contestants. The final twist: Pauly chose nobody. He’s rolling solo for now.
The soundtrack for Double Shot leaned toward ambient party junk, songs written by a vending machine. The final tune was legitimately catchy. “KEEP WAAAAALKING,” said a computer-sounding lady tone, “KEEP WAAAAALKING.” (The song is “Keep Walking” by the Night Pulses.) In this very cuckoo moment, Double Shot turned sincere, even sad. You realized Pauly had been (has always been?) going about this dating thing wrong, sparking chemistry with everyone, walking away with nobody.
“There’s too many dope things in life to do them alone,” Pauly said last week. And yet, alone is how he must do those all those dope things, ever spinning, ever spinning.