Everybody loves a montage! Even Rocky had a montage! In “The Gang Goes To The Jersey Shore,” the looseness of the season pilot has been blown out into a jangly, jazz brain franticness. Every time the frenetic pace of the plot threatens to spiral out of control, the gang just reacts faster, has bigger and better reactions. And then we get that montage. I could have watched that montage for the rest of my life.
But to back it up a little bit: struck with a sudden nostalgia for their pre-crack-and-despair days, Dennis and Dee convince the reluctant group to head to the Jersey Shore for a brief vacay. Since it’s been established that Charlie has never left Philly before, he is understandably intrigued by the strange new land formations he finds. “Now this ocean, explain it to me. It goes on forever?” he ponders. Luckily everyone else knows enough to keep an eye on him. “Do not try to swim to Europe!” Dennis warns. Sadly, not everything about the shore as Dee and Dennis remember, as the filthy beach, feral dogs and two homeless men fucking under the boardwalk can attest. While Charlie opts to frolic on the beach, getting drunk on sunblock and sea water, Dee gets one of her Bo Derek braids ripped out of her scalp on a carnival ride while Dennis vomits in distress. My personal pick for best moment of the episode was one of the beach dogs snatches Dee’s bloody braid out of her hand in the hospital waiting room, and no one even notices the dog is there.
Meanwhile Mac is just fucking sitting in a hole in the middle of the syringe-strewn beach. Frank brings over a ham soaked in rum for them to get eat-drunk on, because Frank himself is a little shiny gross rum ham. Bothered by all the WILD DOGS roaming the sands, Frank and Mac take to the water on an inflatable raft where, inevitably, they fall asleep and drift out to sea. Waking up with their only source of pineapple-covered sustenance drifting away like Wilson, the dynamic on the raft takes a dark turn. “I’m sorry, Rum Ham,” Frank murmurs, fondling his knife. “Did you just call me Rum Ham?,” Mac whispers with dawning horror. Luckily a party boat filled with guidos happens by and takes them aboard. Those people aren’t all bad!
It isn’t until we need it most that we get our montage, that time being the moment that a filth montage set to the dulcet pop strains of The Go-Gos’ “Vacation” is the only way to elevate the insanity. Aboard the guido boat Mac and Frank are embraced by the beautiful silicone-enhanced fist-pumpers, before being spray-tanned and shot full of steroids. A muscle-bound stud happens to fish the now-disintegrating rum ham out of the ocean and Frank descends on it like a piranha. Back on the beach Charlie runs into the Waitress and they have a magical puppy-kissing, fire-works-illuminated night. Desperate to lift their spirits, Dee and Dennis accept an invite to hang out from a Shore dweller they meet at the hospital (who sounds like a Southie, right?). It almost goes without saying that they end up smoking angel dust before becoming unwilling accessories to a liquor store robbery and multiple murders.
Dee and Dennis escape their captors, and Mac and Frank return with a new positive outlook on the great state of New Jersey, but sadly all summer loves must fade, as the Waitress wakes up confused and admits that she was rolling on E the night before. And here Charlie thought they were falling in love. The fact that they can break our hearts with a character that was hours before drinking pure sunblock to get wasted is a testament to character development. At least Charlie and the Waitress always have that dead crab. At least they’ll have that.