'Jersey Shore' Recap: La Dolce Vita?

Snooki, the Situation, JWoww and the rest of the gang take on Italy

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Lock up your daughters, handcuff your wives, the fourth season of Jersey Shore is here – and it’s going down like a ice-cold glass of limoncello with a Ron Ron juice chaser. I hate to be That Guy, staring off into the middle distance at the end of the bar, hands trembling as the past creeps back in my mind once again. But after season three, a trip to a different continent is just about the only thing the cast could do to distance themselves from the 12-episode arc of despair that was Sammi and Ron’s relationship. Fortunately, it seems like the show’s producers recognize that the average viewer can only handle a certain sadness-to-fist pumping ratio that shouldn’t be violated (at least not in every episode), and have instead presented us something sweet, smutty and undeniably goofy. Viva Italia.

As each cast member of the crew gleefully mugs through a round of passport photos, the show quickly updates us on their lives. While 97 percent of season three revolved around the heart- and glasses-breaking trauma of Sammi and Ron, both survivors look blissfully normal (or as normal as you can be when you're made out of a series of orange triangles. Seriously, Ron Ron must lift in his sleep.) Snooki is in love with her hard-working boyfriend Jionni, who dutifully helps her pack 5,000 pairs of underpants. "Italy is that big country…oh no, Europe is that big crounchry," Snooki stammers, because she still knows how to get us after all these years. Vinny is psyched to learn more about the motherland, in particular the age of consent. "If you lift their arms and there's hair, than you're good to go," barks one of Vinny’s dozens of jovial, open-faced uncles. Meanwhile, JWoww has been replaced by a voluptuous E.T. of some sort.

And when they’re finally all back together, ah, that’s amore. The show is always better the more bodies that are on screen, and watching the girls on their four-hour quest to leave the Florence airport is no different. "Is that poop?" Snooki asks as Jenni shrieks over a tube of bronzer staining her suitcase. “This is what gives me blemishes," JWoww grumbles as everyone's mountain of luggage falls off their tiny carts for the third time. Later, Deena accidentally singes her extensions with a straightening iron as their plug adapters spark and sizzle. The girls’ group befuddlement is nearly as endearing as their stricken looks at the concept of losing part of your weave. They empathize – there but for the grace of god go all our weaves.

The group eventually heads to an Italian club with a flame-covered bar and go-go dancers, a club that looks . . . well, basically like the clubs back home in Seaside. So far Italy has yet to prove itself as fertile ground for novel hijinks, but hey, the kids just got there. The Ponte Vecchio will be there. Rumored restrictions on when and where the cast can be filmed drinking (a lot of cut-aways to the apartment this episode) plus something of a language barrier means we are likely going to be seeing a lot more in-house romance. Enter the Situation and Snooki, who apparently smus…fucked, they fucked is what they did, despite her having a man at home. "She's going to fuck up that situation for this Situation?" Ron says dubiously, while an extremely insincere sounding Situation admits he might have feelings. Sammi has her own explanation for Mike’s actions: "There's a switch in his head. It's like a disease.” Is it true love? Don’t matter me none, at least until the Situation starts dragging Snooki’s bed onto the roof in a rage. In the season promo, we see Snooki hurling a wine bottle at the wall and screaming. Please don’t make us go back to March just yet. We haven’t even had time for gelato.

The episode ends with the other prospective couple, Deena and Pauly, mouth-smushing at the club as their squealing castmates look on. As their lizard-y kiss refuses to end, the scene becomes shorthand for everything that would make for a successful season abroad. The thrill of shipping the Jersey Shore overseas is the giddy clash between a foreign culture seeped in rich history, and these completely inflexible mooks. You could put them on the moon and they will straighten their weave with a smoking flat-iron, they will require eight cans of bronzer to last 10 days, and they will dart their tongues into each other’s glistening mouths on-camera because for better or for worse that is who they choose to be. We can only watch as they now slowly drive their cars into police cruisers filled with people that might not even know who they are. It’s won’t be like it is in America. At least when they’re here, they’re family.