The boys’ Vegas vacation has come to a bittersweet, hungover end. Mike has a “full disclosure, full transparencies” relationship, so he phones the lovely Laurens, just back from meeting with a florist. He fills her in on the precious night’s debauchery: There was a “sea of girls” at the club, some of whom (a tributary of girls?) came back to their hotel suite and got varying degrees of naked. Mike didn’t do anything wrong, exactly, but the irony of his bride-to-be looking at wedding flowers while he looked at strangers’ areolas is not lost on Lauren, who suggests it is perhaps a good time for him to come home.
If you plugged the question “Where will Jenni and Angelina meet for lunch?” into my powerful patented Jersey Shore 3000 algorithm, it would generate this result: A restaurant called Godfather Pizza. The algorithm is never wrong. They are here to bury the hatchet, possibly in one or the other’s faces. Angelina is tired of having everyone else’s closeness rubbed in her face; Jenni is tired of the social-media shit-talking. She asks Angelina to be herself, and improbably, they hug. I am an avowed Angelina apologist, so I’m happy to see her return to the fold, even if she won’t manage to remain there for long. (The over/under is 1.5 episodes.) Meanwhile, our Vegas locals Ronnie and Pauly meet up for a spin class. I would never go to a Jersey Shore cast member’s club appearance, but a Chelsea Clinton–style SoulCycle class? I wouldn’t miss that for the world.
Remember Deena? I miss Deena! Our MIA meatball is positively glowing in a beautiful pregnancy caftan that I am wondering if I could pull off in normal, non-pregnancy life (no). Nicole and Jenni pick her up in a limo for a schmancy Italian dinner — surprise, the boys are waiting there, too! Except Ron, that is. The gang is unhappy to hear, via Pauly, that he may very well be back together with Jen. “Keep that shit out of the public eye,” Jenni advises in a confessional. “Deal with it inside your house.” (You guys. I know. You guys.)
The conversation turns, as all of them always seem to, to the shore. Hey, it’s summer — what if they went back, to the fabled house, all together? Pauly calls up the contact saved as “Danny T-Shirt Shop” (love you miss you, Danny) in his phone. It’s happening. I guess somebody sent a fruit basket to whoever’s in charge of approving filming permits in Seaside Heights!
Before we can dive back in the sweet hedonism of youth, we learn some disturbing news: Jen has been arrested for domestic battery after dragging Ronnie with her car. What is there to say about this? It’s fucked up. It’s awful. I hope their daughter is okay. (Also, just a reminder that, in time and space as we know it, these people remain an on-again-off-again couple.)
A week later, our grown-up hooligans head for Ocean County. Most of the episode from here is an Olympic-sized pool of shameless nostalgia that I am more than happy to take a dip in. There is clip after clip of uncannily young, uncannily bronzed faces engaging in GTL and T-Shirt Time. We rewitness Deena’s arrest, Nicole’s arrest, and Jenni peeing behind the bar at Karma, then thoughtfully watering her urine puddle down. I love all of it. Is this why people who like superhero movies like superhero movies?
Angelina and Nicole are the first to arrive, pulling in front of the unmistakable garage door painted in its proud Italian flag colors. They lug their suitcases up the front steps. “Party’s here,” Nicole yells, followed by Angelina shrieking her trademark “Um, helloooooo,” as was prophesied centuries ago. Nicole packed both Crocodilly (more likely a spiffy new Crocodilly) and the most recent incarnation of the duck phone. Angelina says she doesn’t remember much, which makes sense, given how brief her original trash-bag-filled tenure on the shore really was. (If you’re keeping track, this will be Angelina and Deena’s first Jersey vacation together. “That’s more my house than her house — just saying,” says Deena on the ride over, and she is technically correct.) The girls take a self-guided tour, wine glasses in hand. The deck is still decorated with furniture that is both outdated and definitely not intended to live outdoors. “There was a fight here, someone was having sex there, there was alcohol and chugging over there. A lot of shit went down in this house,” Nicole fondly recalls.
Mike and Vinny are next through the front door, and Angelina reassures them, relatably, that she’s “cool now, and nice.” “It smells exactly the same,” Deena declares of the house. “Like a seashell.”
Angelina and Vinny snap right back to their annoying siblings dynamic. He parades around wearing her back brace; “Vinny, just let me know if you want me to get close to you,” she teases. “Why?” Nicole asks. “Would you do it!” Angelina acts horrified at the suggestion. Deena, reminding us why we need her among us, brings up an extremely reasonable question: “Can I just ask, why do you not like him? What caused the animosity?”
The root of their strife dates back to before Jersey Shore was even a twinkle in SallyAnn Salsano’s eye. Angelina maintains they knew each other growing up on Staten Island, but that when they moved into the shore house, Vinny rudely pretended he didn’t know who she was. He used to date her friend, she insists! They only met, like, twice, he insists! Then Angelina drops a bomb: They went to high school together. Vinny says he didn’t know that —he describes her in a confessional as an “urban legend,” which, okay, is pretty funny — but I don’t buy it. (Did you go to high school with Angelina and Vinny? I want to hear from you. Please send any tips to email@example.com, and yes, that email address works.) Also, not for nothing, but they did bang that one time.
Ronnie FaceTimes in to confirm that he isn’t going to make it to the shore — he seems in relatively good spirits, showing off his sling to the camera. The gang all misses him, but universally agree that his staying home with his daughter is the right choice. Everyone — including you and me and the cabinets of our respective Jersey Shore TV-book clubs — needs a break.
Reunited once more, Nicole, Jenni, Deena, Angelina, Mike, Vinny, and Pauly toast to “Seaside!” with shot-sized red Solo cups, a drinking innovation that I don’t believe existed back in the old days. How far we’ve come.