The Sammequin’s supernatural revenge will have to wait: Vinny has miraculously spotted Nicole’s missing wedding ring in the grass, averting a Polizzi-LaValle family missile crisis. In the confessional, Vinny and Pauly express their skepticism over the “superficial” trappings of matrimony. “That’s why I’m just going to hand you an apple when I ask you to marry me,” Vinny says. “And I’ll never eat that apple,” responds Pauly. “Yeah. Exactly,” Vinny agrees. Vinny, Pauly, and their symbolic, long-rotten apple of wedded bliss remain Jersey Shore’s OTP.
Though her ring was found, Nicole is nevertheless feeling homesick. Was this a sign she should leave? But after a happy-crying videochat session with her kids on an iPad — no, the duck phone has not developed the ability to FaceTime — she decides to embrace her Miami me time.
By morning, the Sammequin has been relocated, mysteriously, from within the pool to onto the grass beside it. As far as I can recall, we didn’t see anyone move her there. Is an Annabelle-style horror movie low-key brewing in the background of Jersey Shore Family Vacation? (In that case, Sammequin definitely switched off the house’s power last week.)
Jenni and Mike have a heart-to-heart about his sobriety — including the time he ran headfirst into a cement wall because he thought it was Sheetrock, which, let’s be real, still doesn’t qualify as a particularly good decision — and how he had to come to terms with his “obsessive” personality in order to recover. (Did you know Jersey Shore’s casting director originally predicted Jenni and Mike would hook up? They super did not, although Jenni did punch him in the face in Atlantic City that one time, which I guess is kind of romantic.) “I have no ego. I’m humble as fuck right now,” says Mike, from his mouth straight onto the Shore Store’s next best-selling T-shirt. Jenni reveals that, a few weeks before they began shooting in Italy, her grandmother died and she and Roger lost a baby. She was prescribed groggy-making downers, so she started taking uppers, too. That is terrible. I am genuinely so sorry to hear it, and so glad that both of these people who have enriched my life are in a much happier place in theirs. [Please take five full seconds here to pause before moving onto the next paragraph, so that the tonal shift doesn’t give you the bends. Thank you.]
Ronnie, meanwhile, has chosen to share his own innermost self with the house’s toilets, which he is methodically clogging one by one like Arya Stark with an intestinal kill list. If I were a Jersey Shore cast member, my commitment to Family Vacation season two would hinge on the hiring of a 24-hour on-call plumber. The second-most horrifying thing encountered by the roomies this week is a massive spider. In their heyday, these people were probably, collectively, the apex predator in the state of New Jersey, but this is Florida, a.k.a. America’s Australia, where a significant percentage of the fauna is actively trying to kill you. Deena, meaning to call the spider a “male black widow,” accidentally labels it a “male black guido.” I look forward to the inevitable, formidable Black Guido-Sammequin alliance.
The gang goes rock climbing (our first G, minus the TL, session of the season!), where it is decided that the responsibility of cleaning up Ron’s literal shitstorm will go to the loser of a battle of the meatballs. Deena and Nicole face off in a race to the top of the wall, which Deena beasts. “You might want to put gloves on,” Ron suggests to Nicole, helpfully. I have so many questions, but in the interest of keeping this recap moving, I’ll share with you just two of them: 1) Why isn’t Ron being forced to deal with his own poop? 2) More importantly, what is going on with his bowels? I’m one more shitcident away from searching Zocdoc for Miami-based gastroenterologists on his behalf.
Back at the house, Nicole pours herself a hefty glass of wine, the most powerful emotional disinfectant, and climbs into an improvised garbage-bag hazmat suit. Deena dry heaves at the smell. “Oh my God!” says Pauly, exactly five times in a row. Ron, if anything, seems proud. The actual contents of the bowl have been mercifully blurred, but the amorphous darkness that persists still manages to make quite an impression. Of Nicole’s two most memorable descriptions — “Pure, like, diarrhea shit soup” and “It looks like a brownie” — I can’t decide which is more upsetting. Unable to vanquish the turd dragon, she gives up. We’re going to need a bigger plunger.
In Dr. Pauly D’s medical opinion, eating dramatically low-carb has made the Keto Guido a lightweight. Vinny confirms this hypothesis by getting blasted on Sunday Funday, a.k.a. Sunday Vinday (“On the seventh day, it’ll be lit”). He insists on getting an Italian flag spray-painted onto his bare chest, the legal equivalent of blowing a .08 on a Breathalyzer. Throughout the day, tension has been building between Nicole and Vinny, who can’t help but notice she’s distinctly colder to him than she is toward any of the other roomies. For one thing, she refuses to sit next to him in a cab. Lest we forget, Vinny and Nicole hooked up in season four, by which point she was already dating her now-husband Jionni. Vinny wasn’t invited to the wedding and believes Jionni doesn’t like him.
I don’t think Vinny is hitting on Nicole — which is not to say that he isn’t absolutely being an inappropriate weirdo, trying to get physically close to her because he’s jealous of the fun she’s having with everyone else, and maybe specifically because she does not want him to. More than once, he attempts to dance on or hug or otherwise grab her and she flees from the situation (no, not the Situation). Also more than once, she says he’s going to ruin her marriage. As she explains in a talking-head interview, “Obviously, there’s history and I don’t want to cross boundaries because I’m a married woman and I have two kids.”
Finally, a frustrated Vinny asks Nicole for the “ground rules.” He’s tired of being yelled at for behaviors that are seemingly okay when their other friends engage in them, and wants some clarification as to how, exactly, to avoid making her angry. This sounds … reasonable! But Nicole is outraged at the suggestion that there are ground rules, despite the fact that it certainly seems like there are. “I’m friends with everyone,” she snaps. I’m not going to disrespect my husband.”
Jenni encourages her pal to take this opportunity to set some explicit boundaries with Vinny. Nicole won’t hear a word of this. “Thanks for being a good friend, idiot,” she says to Jenni’s retreating form, and from there, it’s on. Nicole and Jenni continuously scream at each other for the next few minutes, in the kind of ugly real-friends fight that can’t help but be extremely compelling — even if the text of the argument is mostly the words “idiot,” “annoying,” and “husband,” said in various orders and paired with various expletives. The highlight is when Nicole sarcastically addresses Jenni as “JWoww,” the nickname dripping with the kind of truly delicious bitchery that can only be summoned when you’ve deeply loved someone for the better part of a decade. “Own your shit, Nicole,” Jenni shouts. “Say to him, ‘I hooked up with you, so I can’t be around you.’ Simple! Being an adult!”
“You’re ruining my fucking marriage!” Nicole responds, which, while patently untrue in this case, does seem like it would be an awfully satisfying thing to scream at someone. Almost as satisfying as screaming, “Being an adult!”