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Back to the boardwalk! Last night’s Jersey Shore took a step back from the norm. Instead of being a PSA of how not to act/dress/drink yourself into a combination of regret, remorse and oblivion, it was more a study in sociology. This show has long been touted as a gluttonous look at very tan, very blinged out people with too much money, time and booze… but not quite enough sense. As it should be.

However, before I ever got this dream job of blogging for RT, I watched religiously — and not for the antics and the ridic catch phrases and abbreviations (although those are Ah. Maze. Ing!) — because, unlike with any other heavily scripted reality show, these folks really seem to care about one another. They brawl, they bitch, they hook-up, things get awkward, but no matter what, at the end of the day, they really are a family. #SundayDinners

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Vinny is homesick and his Brad Goreski glasses make him appear even more pensive. Ronnie and Pauly D are trying to talk him into staying at the shore house. Vinny is donezo. I’ve been there, done that. Mike meets up with Paula, who MTV labels as the Situation’s “friend with benefits.” You may know her as the girl who face planted down the stairs in the guidos’ first season. Potatoes, po-taw-toes.

It’s a torrential downpour, so the FWB (friends with benefits), the meatballs and Jionni go running for the shelter of the shore house. Mike is kind enough to lend Jionni some dry skivvies, as Mike opines, we shared the same girl, why not the same underwear? Touche. Snooki is concerned as the Situation and Jionni are acting like partners in Top Chef Restaurant Wars: Wasted Challenge. Snooki is terrified that Mike will say something to Jionni and the Situation loves watching the drama unravel.

Benefit friend leaves the following morning, as does Jionni. Ronnie takes off his silky spa sleep mask (he’s so manly) so he can crawl in bed and spoon with Pauly. They both think it makes Vinny jealous. JWoww and Sam head to their first day at the Shore Store. Vinny is MIA and they explain to the boss man that he’s in a bad place. Back at home, Snooki duck phones Jionni who begs her to go easy on the jello shots.

Vinny arrives very late to work and he confides in boss man Danny that he is suffering from pretty severe anxiety. My heart breaks for sweet Vin because that stuff isn’t easy to deal with, but sharing it does make a world of difference. After their conversation, Vinny doesn’t feel so isolated. The ladies are LTGing — laundry, tanning, gym. Clearly they don’t understand the importance of sequence. Pauly D wants to take Vin out for a guys’ day… even though he may have burned off part of his face from tanning. What’s on tap for guys’ day? Rifle range! Mixed martial arts! Or… mani pedis! Oooh, I can feel the testosterone radiating from my TV screen.

Pauly’s face is peeling off much like that dude in the scene from the original Poltergeist movie which scarred a six-year-old me for life (I wasn’t allowed to watch You Can’t Do That On Television, but movies about evil spirits and clowns? It was basically the same to my parents as Mr. Belvedere). Pauly knows he has white boy problems… a.k.a. don’t ever exfoliate after peeling from multiple burns tans. I don’t know if I’m sad or proud to learn about Pauly’s love of exfoliation. Hmmm… verdict’s in. I’m proud.

KARMA, B*TCHES! The aliens are being called back to their mothership. Snooki dresses in her fanciest undies with Jionni’s name emblazoned across her arse. She is also sporting a sequined bra leotard dress situation. Jenni reminds her that showing undie covered bits was what got her in trouble with Jionni last time. Great call. It’s best she goes commando. Deena contemplates holding out for the sex and abstaining from alcohol. JK! LOL! Where does MTV find these people? Seriously? Because I might want to move there and be like a modern day Jane Goodall with guidos in the mist.

The cast is sporting shades and club dancing at their home away from home. I learn the hard way, but I’m thankful for it that Snooki did put on alternate underwear. Jionni is less that thrilled with her “dancing” and he isn’t digging his gig as baby-sitter. Pauly finds a DTF while Mike creepily stares at the boobalicious masses. He’s like a character in a Lifetime movie. Mother May I Sleep with Danger Creepy? Vinny isn’t feeling the club scene, but Mike and Pauly find some ladies to accompany them back to the casa. Pauly, ever the good friend, wants Vinny to be out his funk so he heads up the smush room so that Vinny can sleep uninterrupted. Am I the only one who noticed that when Pauly was hooking up with his chick that she looked like she had a third butt cheek hanging out of her sequined hot pants? I hate myself for picking up on that, but after a rewind, I can’t imagine how I could possibly miss it. {Shudder}

Pre-sunrise, but post-smush, Pauly (always the gentleman) calls his damsel a cab. The grainy security cameras totally catch her stealing his gold chain and hiding it in her camel toe jorts. All around, it’s totally romantic. After a few hours of sleep, Pauly wakes to find he’s missing a kidney… or his beloved diamond chain. Snooki clearly thinks his midnight skank stole it and hid it in her a$$. Perhaps she’s not as dumb as she appears… Snooks clearly has street smarts. Might I add that Snooki’s evening ensemble looks even better with fuzzy slippers.

Stalker DTF girl arrives midday wearing a bikini and Pauly’s chain. “I don’t know how I ended up with this!” Perhaps you shoved it down your pants, clepto! Vinny is a major buzz kill, and not just to his roommates, but to me as well. All of the guys are trying to cheer him up, and I have to say I love that everyone in the house feels a special affinity and loyalty to Vin. He’s been consistently normal, nice, and drama-free and it’s refreshing to see his friends recognize that as well. Rawn knows Vinny isn’t crying foul… he’s clearly in a bad place, and Ronnie hates to see his friend like this.

Ever the romantic, Rawn returns from another boy bonding rendezvous with a giant stuffed Ewok? Teddy bear? Slug/mole hybrid? for his lady love Sam. Snooks approaches boy biffle/former paramour Vinny about his depression and his thoughts on leaving. While both she and Rawn express to him that they want him to stay because they love him, they both want him to do what is best for him. This is what brings me back to this show. They (minus maybe Mike) all truly care about one another regardless of how ridiculous they are. They have a bond that is missing in all other trashy reality shows.

The roommates debate staying home while Vinny retreats to his twin bed, but they don’t want him to feel smothered. After much discussion, everyone but Pauly heads to the club. Again, I love that they are like brothers. Pauly overhears Vin call his sister to come pick him up from the shore house. Pauly is visibly distraught, wishing he knew how to help his friend. He hates that he can’t relate to Vinny’s suffering. He respects his decision, but it is still upsetting. Pauly helps Vinny pack while teasing his friend that he’ll be back soon so he shouldn’t take all his stuff. Those two are my clear favorites.

Vinny’s sadness has made the Karma bound group appreciate their friendships. Instead of hitting on grenades and pole dancing, the roommates focus on drinking and dancing together. Vinny has a hard time leaving his friend Pauly. He knows that Pauly is beyond upset, but he’s thankful he has a friend who loves him enough to respect his choice to go home. The bros/dudes/guidos embrace before Vinny heads off into the night with a year’s worth of track suits and stark white tennis shoes in tow.

Next week, Vinny returns home and the meatballs revert back to falling down drunk. Mike and Pauly D celebrate their birthdays, except that the cake from the roommates only has Pauly’s name on it. We’ve got a situation here!

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE? CAN YOU RELATE TO VINNY’S SITUATION? AS IT WAS A SEEMINGLY DRAMA AND BLACK-OUT FREE EPISODE, DO YOU VIEW THE ROOMMATES IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT?

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