The time has come to say good-bye to Vinny, Pauly D, Sammi “Sweetheart,” Mike “The Situation,” Ronnie, Jenni “JWOWW,” Nicole “Snooki” and Deena… except for spin-off shows, cameo appearances on sitcoms, future reunion shows and God knows what else. While the “Jersey Shore” cast doesn’t seem to be fading into the background anytime soon, there was still a poignancy to the final episode. And, yes, some infantile pranks and pointless fighting and the death of a defenseless duck phone, but poignancy nonetheless.
Nothing much happens in the last episode. The guidos and guidettes build a bonfire on the beach. The gang enjoys a last day at work selling T-shirts. Paula sends Mike a birthday cake, which we later learn she’s “doctored” by having a male friend rub his genitalia on it. When Mike calls Paula and she pretends not to hear him, he reacts by smashing the beloved duck phone to bits. I had to appreciate the end card saluting the duck and its years on the show — 2009-2012. R.I.P., duck phone, R.I.P.
Vinny and Pauly D prank Ronnie and Sammi by moving their air mattress and accidentally poke a hole in it, which causes Ronnie to irrationally blame Sammi for his inability to get a good night’s sleep. This difference of opinions — Ronnie feels a good girlfriend grovels to make her man happy no matter what, while Sammi rightly believes he’s blaming her for something the guys have done — blossoms into a fight that continues until Pauly D and Vinny get snacks in order to more fully enjoy the screaming, Ronnie and Sammi break up, and finally, weirdly, they hug it out.
As usual, these two seem devoted to one another, but why they are is anyone’s guess. This time around, Sammi seems tired and maybe just a little too mature to put up with Ronnie’s pouting, but in the end, she takes him back anyway, as much out of routine as anything else. When Sammi informs her family at the bonfire she thinks she and Ronnie will be moving in with one another, her father reacts with wide eyes and horrified head shaking. I can’t blame him.
At the end of the episode, there’s crying and reminiscing, packing and group hugs. These are scenes that have played out in every dorm room, at every season’s-end football game, and it’s the familiarity of these moments that makes them resonate. As much fighting and punching (really, a lot of punching in six seasons, and not all of it among guys) and hair yanking as there was on this show, there was also a deep and sincere loyalty and affection. Okay, maybe that last part applied to everyone but Mike. But even he served a purpose, playing the role of the creepy cousin whom no one really wants to hang out with but invites to every event because at the end of the day he’s still family.
MTV is already launching the “new” “Jersey Shore,” “Washington Heights,” which will focus on an equally voluble group of Dominican-Americans. I’m fairly sure the network has found characters who will bond and act out (and possibly drink excessively) to match Snooki and her tribe. But it’s worth noting that the stars of “Jersey Shore,” while often ridiculous and shameless, were also funny, and not always intentionally so.
Snooki, with her poof and her micro minis, was a walking, wisecracking cartoon with surprisingly tart punchlines and spot-on comic timing. It’s no surprise she has a spin-off, and even though motherhood has necessarily slowed her roll, she’s the most likely candidate from the show to make her 15 minutes last.
Although it sounded awful on paper, I’m curious to see “The Show with Vinny.” He always seemed a little too normal (and pale) for this show, but his sense of family was in many ways what helped him fit in. If he can share that warmth with celebrities, “The Show with Vinny” could stick around.
Finally, a for rent sign is nailed to the beach house and our “Jersey Shore” personalities go their separate ways. After six seasons, they’re a little older but not necessarily more mature, and that willingness to be silly, to play, to drink and screw up and screw around is what made them relatable to a sizable audience who loved them as much as they clearly loved one another. Whatever you think of “Jersey Shore,” these strangers who became friends via MTV reflected what we all love (secretly or not) about summer vacation — a sense of freedom, a lack of responsibility, a time to be kids again even when that means spending the night in jail or getting knocked up. It’s the guido (or guidette) in all of us, I suppose.