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Jersey Shore Recap: Things Start Getting Real

Today I struggled to come up with an apt cultural comparison to the way I felt after watching this week's Very Special installment of Jersey Shore. Was this episode more like the time the Diff'rent Strokes guys got molested, or the time that Matthew Broderick realized he didn't want chimps to die horribly in Project X? When Irene had lyme disease on Real World: Seattle? Whatever the case, the guidos and guidettes demonstrated their essential humanity this week, and for this, I have difficulty poking fun at them in any capacity.

The meat and bones of the show were this: Pauly hooked up with a girl who stole and then returned his diamond chain in a Washingtonian display of conscience. He also got a chemical burn from too much tanning, which he treated with Fla-vor-ice and precancerous indifference. Snooki got trashed. Mike was awful. But most importantly, Vinny revealed his ongoing struggle with mental illness, specifically anxiety and depression, and decided to leave the house, and the whole world took a good long look at themselves for judging GTL interrupted.

If the main reason for watching Jersey Shore is the mirth-making antics of the cast, then what happens when they all stop being funny ... and start getting real?

Let's do a character-by-character rundown here.

Vinny: Again, struggling with my feelings here. Remember when you found out that guy in high school who was so mean to you was hospitalized for testicular torsion? Okay, still not right. I haven't been the biggest Vinny fan, in the past, because he talks about women like an illiterate preteen commenting in the Maxim dot com forums, but finding out he was dealing with depression and anxiety were nigh on heartbreaking. Vin, I hope you get well and I'm sorry I doubted that your glasses were prescription.

Deena: One time I had free passes to see this movie I knew nothing about. It turned out to be about Holly Hunter reclaiming her sensuality as a middle aged woman getting a divorce. I think Queen Latifah was her imaginary friend and she ended up having sex with Danny Devito in an elevator. I was grossed out, sure, but also recognized that middle aged women can are sexual beings. Kind of  like, "Ugh, you go girl?" Which is sort of how I feel when I watch Deena put her giraffe tongue in a stranger's mouth like she's trying to find her keys in his stomach.

Ronnie: Ronnie looks like three Ken dolls stuffed in a condom with only one of their heads poking out. I can't really be mad at him for anything, but when he tried to cure Vinny's depression with skee-ball and bribing a carny into letting him win an oversized stuffed bulldog ... it was was truly tear-jerking. PS in this situation, tear-jerking is when you get Jamaican spices in your eye and involuntarily mist up.

Sammi and J-woww: Do they still live here, even? Unclear.

Pauly: Oh, PAULY. Pauly Pauly Pauly. Pauly was so sad when Vinny left that I had trouble laughing at the huge patches of proscuittoesque burninated skin on his cheeks. He even stayed home when the rest of them decided to go to the clubs and focus their altruism on making sure the employees at Kahlua get their pension packages. This prevented me from saying things like, "He looks like a racist ad man's idea for a special Tortilla Soup campbell's kid." Poor little barbecued Hummel. Poor North Carolina style Pauly. Poor, sweet part-of-steak-that-you-show-to-Ruth's-Chris-waiter-and-say-does-this-LOOK-medium-well-to-you?

Jionni: Jionni has always been nice, but a lot of us thought at some point that maybe he was in the Snooki business just for the camera time / money that would inevitably transform him into the Cannoli Gyllenhaal. But his actual concern over Snooki's drinking may have shown that he's not the Heather Mills parmigiano we all worried he might be.

Snooki: I know, I know. Nobody was too unlikable here, even Snooki, whose blackouts incur the same kind of affability that massive power outages do in major urban areas. Remember the big one of 2004? It was al, "Let's cook everything in the fridge and be best friends!" That's basically a Snooki Blackout.

Mike: So I feel a little down for everybody. Except for Mike, obviously. Mike is like the reason we're all able to have pets and still eat meat. While I would definitely let Pauly sleep on an oversize plaid pillow, take him to the vet for his sundry skin conditions, and feed him a variety of coat enriching treats, Mike has all the personhood to me as whatever goes into chicken nuggets at this point. Seriously, who declares themselves a reality show villain? Has he been reading Chuck Klosterman? Whatever the case, I am able to completely and wholly divide myself from the idea that Mike has a soul or feelings, and would gladly feast on processed bits of him breaded and fried in dinosaur shapes.

I hope that next week, everybody is back to being truly terrible. And if you or somebody you know is suffering from anxiety, there's probably a video on MTV.com about it now.