Jersey Shore: "Back To The Shore"
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Jersey Shore: "Back To The Shore"

It’s been a scant 13 months since the world was introduced to the leather-skinned, rhinestone-encrusted hydra known as the Jersey Shore cast, yet here we are, kicking off a third season of the show. America’s (and The A.V. Club’s) opinion of and tolerance for the show and its now-legitimately-famous cast members has fluctuated lo these many months, and now, we arrive back where it all began—the titular shore, following last season’s Miami detour—with a decidedly different outlook on our guido guys and gals.

Back when I reviewed the first-season finale, I fretted that the show’s strange cachet would be lost as the once-clueless cast members achieved self-awareness and began playing to their “characters,” and wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what happened in season two. Poor Nathan Rabin had to endure the opportunistic return of and subsequent ousting of Trashbags, The Situation’s ongoing mission to become the rapiest character on all of television, something about a Fossil watch, and of course, fucking NoteGate. Miami was a bad look on Jersey and caused many viewers—as well as Nathan—to peace the fuck out, leaving your weekly recaps in the hands of myself and Marah Eakin; our shared fascination with trashy TV and tabloid culture has imbued us with the power to withstand pretty much anything Snooki and Co. can throw our way, and we’ll be sharing Shore duty this season. So grab your best T-shirt and cast aside your self-respect… CABS ARE HERE!

Actually, no, the cabs aren’t here; the black BMWs are, as the cast members roll up in their leather-interiored ill-gotten gains. Snooki’s dead-Muppet slippers have been replaced with hooker boots. JWoww’s extensions are monochromatic and well-cared-for. Vinny has a classy shower tote. Clearly these kids have gone Hollywood. Even the house has gotten marginally swankier. Thankfully, the duck phone is still there to remind everyone that no matter how famous they may get, they’re not above talking into a duck’s butt.

Yes, they’re all professionals now, having spent a year getting paid and celebrated for partying and being generally distasteful. They know how to push each other’s buttons and guarantee screen time, and they can generate quotable malapropisms and catchphrases in the blink of an eye. Which is why the addition of a rookie to the cast seems promising: Snooki’s friend Deena is still generally unspoiled by fame, and, more importantly, she’s an unknown entity. (And she seems to have proper luggage and the ability to smile without wincing, which already gives her a leg up on Angelina, whom she’s replacing.) The rest of the cast has so carefully carved out and burrowed into their personas, every fight and affair seems more like the one before. Deena could bring new variations to the worn-out Jersey Shore disagreements, which are generally some form of “disrespecting” or “not being straight” with each other. Which is why it’s so disappointing that the first episode of the new season kicks off with the housemates fighting because someone got disrespected by someone who wasn’t being straight with them.

To be fair, Deena lashing out at Sammi was entirely provoked, as Sammi spent the entire episode proving that her “Sweetheart” designation isn’t just dubious, it’s straight-up satirical. After arriving with Ronnie—yeah, they’re still togethSNORE—at the house before the rest of the housemates arrive, she spends the rest of her day ruining everyone else’s. First, she and Ronnie plop down in the upstairs bedroom, taking two of the three beds and guaranteeing that someone is going to have to bear witness to their whiney courtship every night. (If it was anyone but Mike, I would feel sorry for them, but because it is Mike, it’s sorta brilliant.) Then she scurries upstairs to hide from JWoww, who arrives at the house to their chilly non-embrace. JWoww greets Sammi with a more-than-appropriate “ugh.” The shadow of NoteGate looms large over the house.

But when Snooki arrives with Deena, Sammi really turns on the bitchface. True, Deena is a Snooki ally, giving Sammi even more reason to act like a martyr. But despite Sammi’s chilly reception of her—and the fact that she and Ronnie call her a “meatball” and “gremlin” behind her back—Deena displays something resembling maturity and tries to reach out, attempting to start a conversation with Sammi as she stares down her nose at her. Dissuaded, Deena turns the charm on the rest of the house, rattling off the same sort of self-congratulating descriptions of herself that Snooki introduced herself with the first season: she’s a “single and ready to mingle” “blast in a glass” who’s “a walking holiday.” After noting what a respectful person she is—all of these people believe they’re respectful, yet they’re constantly getting disrespected by one another; paradox!—she admits that she will throw down, and “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” at which point Sammi LITERALLY GETS UP AND WALKS OUT OF THE KITCHEN. Looks like someone has no tolerance for clichés.

Sammi’s passive-aggressiveness continues all night, as she holes up with Ronnie in their room while the rest of the housemates play flip-cup and make ill-advised passes at each other: Snooki is apparently nursing a serious crush on Vinny, and a serious chip on her shoulder about him hooking up with her friend Ryder; Deena somehow “accidently” shows Sitch her regional-colloquialism-for-vagina. It’s a pretty boring and fairly fractured night of “bonding” that reveals, for all their claims of being “family,” the bonds connecting these people are becoming more tangled and frazzled by the day. Then Deena heads up to the Sammi/Ronnie/Situation Happy Fun Time Room looking for a sympathetic snuggle, at which point Sammi turns on a firehose of passive-aggression and Deena—rightly, I would say—calls her another euphemism for vagina, this one not nearly as cute as “naanaa.”

You know the drill from there: Yell yell yell, fight fight fight, to be continued. For all the proclamations of “having fun” and “the best summer ever,” these people sure do spend a lot of time screaming and crying. Then again, the boys—minus Ronnie, who’s forced to defend Sammi with his special blend of yelling and crotch-grabbing—seem to be enjoying the show very much, staring wide-eyed as Sammi and Deena, then Snooki and JWoww, throw insults and, inevitably, fists. Sitch even encourages Deena, calling her “rookie of the year” for flashing her junk and throwing down with Sammi on the same night. As much as I hate to encourage him, that’s actually a pretty fair assessment. I think this Deena girl is going places.

So far though, Deena isn’t enough to resuscitate the hemorrhaging Jersey Shore, nor is the return to more familiar, nostalgic environs. But there are signs of hope: Snooki, JWoww, and Deena seem to get along famously—nothing says “female bonding” like comparing vibrators—and if the “this season on” montage is to be believed, Sammi might eventually find her way back into their good graces. (Whoo! Stair sledding!) And after watching the cast get the VIP treatment at posh Miami clubs for a season, I’m looking forward to them returning to the more low-rent environs of Karma, Bamboo, and Headliners. And of course, there’s Snooki’s arrest to look forward to. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re also in for more Sammi/Ronnie drama as wellSNOREEEE—whu-uh? Things may never be the same on Jersey Shore, but they’ll also always be kinda the same, you know?

Stray Observations

  • Paulie’s mom asks him if they clean the hottub. Aw/ew.
  • “I hope they get a fucking incurable disease up there,” says JWoww about Ron and Sammi; I don’t think you have to hope too hard for that to happen, Jenni.
  • Mike says Deena is Thanksgiving because “she has a lot to give and she’s down for a lot of stuffing.” A for effort, C- for execution, Sitch.
  • Snooki’s love for Deena only extends so far: When she and Vinny start getting cozy in the hottub, all of a sudden, Deena is “this girl,” and Snooki is threatening to “done ties.”
  • Similarly, two seconds after he tells Deena her accidental denuding is between the two of them, Sitch gleefully relates the story to the rest of the house. Deena better watch her back.
  • “Cowboy hat is another term for Deena’s kooka,” says Pauly D. So if you’re keeping track, that’s “naanaa” and “kooka” so far.
  • Gotta love the Jersey Shore post-commercial recap that replays everything that happened before the commercial, just in case that Skins promo took up too much mental real-estate and you forgot what happened 90 seconds ago.
  • You’re in Ronnie’s fucking house!!! That he shares with seven other people and is owned by MTV or maybe that guy who owns the T-shirt shop wasn’t he their landlord oh who the hell knows anymore!! So don’t disrespect him, okay?
  • Sammi’s preferred method of discourse? Echoing everything you say in a funny voice. PLAYGROUND-STYLE, BITCH!
  • Okay, I’m tapping out; Marah will jump in next week and we’ll trade off as long as there’s still interest. On that note: Is there still interest? 

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