Sometimes we forget that the Jersey Shore cast are just like you and me. You know, like when you don't show up for work and your boss comes to your house and threatens to make a girl in an Express Men fedora sleep on your couch if you don't shape up. We open this week with a very unhappy Danny calling a staff meeting (ha) to reprimand the crew for being crappy employees and failing to pick up Vinny's slack in his absence. Mike, whom we last saw on the patio shadowboxing his own emotional fragility, is nowhere to be found. "Mike's pretty much useless anyways," he says, which I think is emblazoned on the shop's best-selling terrycloth shorts.
Depending on whether Mike comes back from his patio vision quest feeling changed and appreciated, Danny may be down two men. This may force him to bring somebody new into the house, because as we know, the T-shirt shop is basically the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and demands back-breaking manual labor for unconscionably low wages.
Mike reemerges and explains that he disappeared because they forgot his birthday, and that he's sensitive about things because he's a Cancer. That's also his sign.
The next morning, the gang hit the shop in the hopes that if they really step up their productivity, they might not have to add a stranger to their already cramped quarters. For them, this means moving at roughly the speed of a waterlogged Teddy Ruxpin that desperately needs new batteries. And after a long day of work, they like to unwind just like a graveyard shifter in a Springsteen song: with Henna tattoos. Snooki gets a flower/rosary thing and some rainbow stars, which I'm pretty sure signify in Russian mob tattoo language that you've killed a child.
The meatballs have taken pity on Mike and are plotting a surprise party for him and birthday twin Pauly. But will Vinny come back?
They head to Karma to meet with the Wizard of Ass, who is a stripper wrangler, which apparently is a job and a person and a thing. Who knew?
"Do you want them to smack them with a belt? Pull their pants down?" he asks. Uh, are these strippers or teen bullies? Do they do swirlies, or is that extra? Well, you know you're creepy when Sammi thinks you're creepy.
The next day, Jenni is the only one who shows up to work, so Danny decides to light a fire under them by advertising for a new housemate by printing out the world's jankiest MS Word "HELP WANTED" flyer and stapling it to some panties. It seems suspiciously low-fi for television casting, but that's actually how they got Maggie Smith for Downton.
The guidettapplicants start trickling in, which is when detective JWOWW, PI, discovers Danny's brilliant thongvertisement and tears it down. Ronnie and Pauly should just make an adorable song about a girl who has a bellybutton ring, French tips, and Gardisil shots, send it up the chimney, and summon a magical skank to come flying in on the east wind.
Work crisis on hold, it's time for the surprise party, which Team Meatball managed to keep a secret from Mike and Pauly. "It's hard to surprise me," muses Situation Holmes, and "I was not expecting this," adds his wiser brother, D.J. Pauly Mycroft. Really? You two seem so self-aware.
There's a boob cake and a butt cake and … uh, wheelchairs. The birthday boys are handcuffed in front of a pair of giant wheeled cakes. Poor Mike! From the look of horror on his face, he thinks that cake contains a remedial math teacher bearing his real birth certificate and a Senate bill to criminalize mousse.
Alas, it's just a stripper who's all about breaking the fourth wall of the Champagne room. Pauly, meanwhile, finds a brunette from his other birthday party and they all adjourn to the house. Mike takes the stripper upstairs, where she proceeds to … reverse strip? Why does she want to put on socks? Poor circulation is a sign of diabetes, stripper, please get your glucose levels tested so I don't worry.
Ronnie and Deena drunk-duck Vinny, and he doesn't pick up. They both make valiant efforts to cry.
The next night, Deena decides it's "Couple Night" and asks out Ronnie's friend Joey. But first, the meatballs decide to shake things up by putting on the bunny suits they bought at the party store and scaring the bejesus out of Jenni. Dressing up "like a serial killer" is excellent foreplay for Snooki, who immediately adjourns to the smush room with Jionni, who has very thoughtfully brought his own sheets. Keeper!
Down one satiated Snooki, the crew head out to Bamboo, where Sammi immediately proceeds to get into a fight. "You don't attack my new weave that I just got," she says, "I was taught, like, self-defend myself." Yes. Fair enough. Bounced and bloody, the couples head home, where Deena's efforts to sex on Joey are thwarted by an alarm clock that keeps going off, apparently one of those new kinds that is so technologically advanced it doesn't unplug.
But, because the fifth season of Jersey Shore has gotten bizarrely Lars Von Triery, I can't allow myself to expect a happy ending when the crew decides to retrieve Vinny from Staten Island. Clad in a slew of obscene custom crop tops, they caravan to his home to ambush him, which is totally what you should do when somebody is dealing with mental health issues. I think the DSM-IV specifically states that the most effective treatment for chronic anxiety is "airbrushing" and "pep rally."
"We barge into Vinny's house like we're a SWAT team," says Sammi. Again, helpful. Only quibble: no air horns? Where did you go to medical school?
Surprise of surprises, Vinny agrees to come back to the house with them. I don't know, you guys, I'm scared. I read The Marriage Plot. I guess I should just take a cue from his new chest tat and "Let Go and Let God." So until next week, grant the JS cast the serenity to accept the things they cannot change, like their sheets or $17 from a twenty.
Welcome back, Vin. Stay well.