What do you do with a problem like Roger? Never have I met a reality TV character so vexing, so ever-changing, so unnaturally shiny and red for no readily apparent biological reason. I want to like him. I do like him. I just can't tell if I like him despite the fact he's an asshat, or if that's entirely a fabrication of the editing process.
Take his fight with JWoww about finding out she was being sued, for example. As JWoww broke down into hysterical tears on the phone, it slowly occurred to me that I literally couldn't understand what was going on. Roger heard something about JWoww on the radio? Why would someone still be listening to the radio? It doesn't add up. I desperately needed contextualization; I presumed that contextualization was the fact that Roger is an ancient petrified douche. However, we soon find out that JWoww did lie to him about being sued. Why? To what end? Suddenly Roger's bizarre volatility was in fact a (semi) normal reaction to their on-going struggle with . . . I'm not sure. The fact JWoww is a compulsive liar? I feel like the editors went overboard trying to avoid having a bad guy in this fight, paring information away from emotion until the entire argument was incomprehensible. "I was 22 years old!" JWoww sobs into the phone. Wait, what? What happened when she was 22? What could they possibly be arguing about that happened that long ago, before they were together? How can I feel anxiety over a relationship I have literally no information about or investment in?
Thank God for Jionni, is all I'm saying. A sweet disposition, a kind heart and a lifetime of short jokes have made Snooki's beau a good candidate for fatherhood, as well as a focal point for all of Roger's alpha male energy. "Can I have a fiber bar?" he innocently asks. In response, Roger lifts a refrigerated bag to Jionni's nose. It is not a fiber bar. "That's Jenni's NuvaRing!" Snooki screams, laughing. And so Roger and JWoww stayed together to not have sex another day.
Of course, when Jionni doesn't work to neutralize Roger, there's always the drag queens of Lucky Cheng's. "Uh oh, Roger . . . is this Indian?," Jionni gasps as they enter the glittery red East Village room. No, my friend, I'm afraid it's something far, far worse. It is a drag queen rubbing her butt in your face as you wait for your apps and zerts. Roger handles his impromptu lap dance with a grace and class I wouldn't have expected, given his palpable discomfort with one or all Gay Joeys – which is to say, he didn't flip over any tables while his biceps exploded through the sleeves of his Rollin Stoned shirt like I would have assumed. "I need a shot!" Jionni gasps after they made it back to their table. "I need to wash my hands!" Roger declares. Alright . . . I'll take it.
The next evening, Jionni's parents invite the gang to join them and Snooki's parents for dinner. "Anything weird I should know about beforehand?" JWoww inquires. Shockingly, no! Did anyone else realize halfway through this scene that we were watching a totally normal family eating dinner? It was bizarrely fascinating. No characters, no drama; just wood paneling and lasagna. There was an Uncle Joey, but if he's gay, they're keeping it close to the vest until the producers hash out the angle for his spin-off, and my money's on Celeste anyway.
Afterward, while the ladies tucked 80 pounds of leftover green beans into all available Tupperware, Jionni and Roger retire to the basement for shots and for Roger to talk out his neck some more. "That's an extremely naive statement," he sighs when Jionni claims to be prepared for a baby. Roger warns against Jionni and Snooki living with their parents when their child is born. If they don't have to live on their own now, he drones, they'll never learn. Roger knows the mother of Jionni's baby is a reality TV show millionaire, right? And that he's being recorded by one of her cameras as he speaks? Jionni grows defensive, but lets it go. He's a bigger man than I, though of course not literally. Maybe Jionni is simply the most mature person on this program. Alternately, maybe he remembers how Roger could almost get his leg high enough to kick Jionni's head clean off his shoulders. Lord knows I haven't stopped remembering.
As much as I want to constantly spritz Roger with a cooling cucumber mist before slapping some sense into him, I'll admit that the night-vision juxtaposition between Snooki and Jionni's canoodling and JWoww's methodical refusal of Roger's sexual advances did make me kind of sad. Until Roger had to comment on it, of course. Jionni and Snooki emerge from their fleece-draped bed of pre-connubial bliss and Roger immediately demands, "Did you have sex?" Again, Jionni gets mildly offended, but overall no one reacts to Roger's query as the grotesque boundary violation it is. "We need to stop at the pawn store," Roger grumbles. "To see what we can get for Jenni's vagina." Whaaaa? Through it all, JWoww's face remains perfectly motionless, but moreso than usual. Maybe it's for the best the girls are apparently headed to Cancun next week. It'll give Roger some time to calm down, visit his grandkids, maybe see a doctor for whatever is going on with his heart. Not emotionally-speaking, of course; I mean I think something is actually wrong with his heart. No man should be that russet.
Last week: Remove Stick, Shake Booty