It’s never a good sign when you’re going into a finale episode filled with abject dread. The audience doesn’t get a second to prepare before Ronnie is down Sammi’s throat for texting her male friend Arvin. The image of Arvin and Mike laughing on the phone as Ronnie goes ballistic pretty much sums up how foul this entire season has been.
The Situation snakes around, whispering and conniving in Ronnie’s ear as he slithers around the bottom of his tank. “I feel like a fool,” Ronnie says when Sammi admits that she and Arvin made out two years ago. TWO. YEARS. AGO. The details are, of course, irrelevant, just as reality and any sense of decency are. Sammi could have slept with Arvin yesterday or only in his dreams; she and Ronnie will figure out a reason to destroy each other anyway they can.
Which must mean it’s time for a BBQ! The going away party at T-shirt Danny’s place is a painful reminder of all the good times we could have had if we hadn’t been craning over the pit. So many big Jerrys could have done the worm. So many cucas could have dropped out of the bottom of a dress. So many Uncle Nino’s could have been hit with so many piñata bats.
Later, JWoww’s dopey grin as Rodger asks her to be his girlfriend is shockingly adorable against the rest of the episode. “He is my cup of tea,” the smitten kitten gushes. “Have sex with an old man, and steal a plant, and then get arrested and then do whatever,” Snooki advises for their last night at the Shore. How she’s been missed.
Rumors that the show is moving to Italy for their next season would be one of the only ways to revitalize the sticky, campy good times that the first season of JS had delivered. But you know what they say: wherever you go, there you are. They’ll import their own nightmare relationships with them.
While at the BBQ, despite having broken up for the trillionith time, Sammi tells Ronnie it comes down to her and Mike. “Bros before hos,” forever and ever, amen. Vinny’s upset that Deena doesn’t want him to fuck her best friend, so he decides to punish her in front of the rest of cast, despite the fact that the show is literally ending in 48 hours. “You let me down,” Vinny pouts, telling the rest of the house, “I just thought she wasn’t Angelina.”
Deena flips out, screaming that she has done nothing but befriend the “skanks” the guys bring home night after night. “What, are we evil?” Vinny snorts. “You’re not a good time anymore,” Paul tells her. Let’s talk a little about evil, shall we?
Can we just be real here? This season of Jersey Shore focused primarily on an abusive relationship. Some might dismiss it as merely tumultuous, but GOOD LORD. Whose stomach didn’t drop every time Sammi and Ronnie got into it, despite the distance TV provided? I can only imaging the foreboding that filled the actual people who had to witness their meltdowns in person. Some might even think that Sammi prefers terrible relationships, as co-creator and executive producer SallyAnn Salsano did, in what was either an incredibly naïve or a deeply cynical statement. Either way, it was profoundly idiotic.
But we knew. We knew what to expect when a new episode aired. Anyone who followed that relationship, the main plot line, could see the poison oozing out of it, and as its toxins gushed out, it destroyed the lighter, sweeter elements surrounding it. Once Ronnie trashed Sammi’s room, the show just wasn’t fun anymore. It couldn’t be. We knew we’d only be getting more of the same.
Towards the end of the finale, Sammi and Ronnie shut themselves in the upstairs bathroom and just scream and cry. Everyone else in the house is awake and on edge, silently waiting: to drag the screaming couple apart, to call 911, for the shouting to subside enough to go to sleep. It is, as always, horrible and unrelenting. It’s in that moment you realize: this show hasn’t just jumped the shark. It’s jumped into the shark’s mouth, then asked you to wait there awash in chum while it wraps up any loose story arcs.
Sammi and Ronnie’s decision to separate, like the Situation’s apology to Sammi, has no weight to it. It comes out of nowhere, and it doesn’t help that the Situation sounds like he’s reading off a cue card. The show can’t erase anyone’s memory of what happened with some pat resolution, unless it involves group trauma counseling, that we could all go to. When the gang finally drives away, you realize that they’ve been trapped in that house so long, the final long pan of the crowded beach could have come from a completely different show entirely.
While the cast might have been at the Jersey Shore, the audience was marooned on Ronnie and Sam Island, deserted and with no rescue in sight. “This was the best summer that we’ve had yet,” Mike says bafflingly. Maybe it was; we would have no idea. All we could see was the back of this shark’s teeth.