Episode 205: "The Letter"

Should've been called: Old School

Best. Episode. Ever.

Picture the best gift you ever received. The anticipation of lying in bed, wondering what was about to come. The tip-toeing down the hall/stairs to the Christmas tree, or waiting with eyes closed as said gift is placed in front of you.

You're taking it all in. What is it? It's not a tie. Not another stinkin' turtleneck. Does it rattle when I shake it? Can I open it? Please-please-please? I don't wanna wait until later!

And then it's time, but you don't rush. No, you begin peeling back the edges of the paper so gingerly as not to disrupt its perfectly formed folds, taking as long as possible to unwrap it, wanting to drink every intoxicating moment in until the point of no return. Maybe you've realized what it is. Maybe not. But the anticipation is too much by now, so in one last, furious rush you rip the paper from the box and stare in awestruck glory at the treasure held within.

Only then, after taking it all in, does it hit you: This is even better than I could ever have imagined.

Welcome to tonight's "Jersey Shore."

I was looking forward to tonight because I thought it would kick touchy-feely, really, I'm just a misunderstood sensitive guy Situation to the curb like so many empty aerosol cans of hair care product. And it did, in a BIG way - "Now, I have Kristin, and she brought her friend who just happened to be a ... hippopotamus." - but it also delivered on so many other levels:

Snooki decides to give Emilio a second chance, then breaks up with him - Again - because he's not down with her hangin' with gay men;

Situation and Angelina get into a screaming match about her lack of dishwashing ability;

Even the endless and rather maddening adventures of SamRon go down smooth, with Sammi discovering Jenni and Snooki's anonymous letter and the light bulb finally seems to click with her about how abusive Ronnie has been;

And Jenni's real feelings for Sammi seem to come out: "If they end up back together, she looks like THE dumbest bitch."

I'm giddy. Don't quite know where to begin.

How about with the return of Jenni's breasts? The episode's barely five minutes old, Snooks and Jenni have once again declared "oh, woe are us stuck in the middle of the terrible relationship between our sister Sammi and our boy Ronnie. Whatever shall we do to navigate the harsh waters of their love without torching our friendships with one or both of them? Oh, woe, oh, woe... Eh, let's hit the club. It closes in 20 minutes!"

But first, Jenni has to get the girls ready for the town. Which involves looking in the mirror, using her hands to lift and position them just so, and, in what can only described as a mantra for rapidly eroding youth, chant: "Want 'em like that. ... Like that ... Want them like that." - here, she seems to realize gravity, and last call, wait for no woman - "... Oh, well."

Off to the club! Which is where Snooks and Jenni run into men taking part in what Jenni alternately calls Gay Pride Week and Gay Parade Week. They're dancing. They're partying. They're having fun without anyone asking them to - paging Marvin Gaye - get it on. So, upon arriving home, Snooki decides this is the perfect time to give her love, her Emilio, her cheating slug of a boyfriend, a second chance. She calls. He answers.

He does not like where she's been and who she's been with. Emilio, it seems, is homophobic. And this, more than his, oh, I don't know, sleeping around, makes our Snooki decide to end it once and for all. ...

Instead of an ending, Mike, Pauly and Vinny are looking at a beautiful beginning and some fuzzy math when they bring two girls to share between them. Good thing Mike's a thinker. He's already invited a couple of other girls over to the house, in case they didn't find anyone else at the club. That Mike, he's pretty quick on his feet... maybe he should write a book.

"What the (expletive) is going on?" he says of this embarrassment of riches. "But sure enough Imma gonna wing this. See what happens."

What happens is like the punchline of those contraceptive commercials on TV, the ones with a cutaway to Old Faithful exploding and then back to a disheveled couple grinning from ear to ear, cuddled in a heap on the bed. Mike Sorrentino, not only have you hooked up your pals Pauly and Vinny, you've successfully separated a third hot chick from a grenade and bedded her. What are you going to do next? "I'm goin' to ... the gelato shop!" (anticlimactic, I know, but I will NOT make a Disney joke. Won't be defiling the Mouse House tonight, thanks.)

The boys are feeling so good about things, it's time to cook again. Only, when Angelina balks at doing the dishes beforehand, Mike lets her have it:

Mike: "Clean the house, you dirty mess!"

Angelina: "Shut the (expletive) up! Say please! Say Please!"

Mike: "You know what? You know what? Please hit the (expletive) treadmill ... You know what, don't even hit the treadmill. Hit the elliptical. It's better for you."

(In the confessional, Angelina says: "I think that Mike was totally out of line, and if Mike pisses me off one more time I'm going to keep exploding on him until I hit him in the face." Yeah, cuz that worked out so well for you last time you hit someone in the face. Pauly all but disowned you, and had Jenni ready to break out the brass knuckles. Granted, she'd probably not come to Mike's defense, at least not so quickly. But he does have a workout video on the way, and you're ... well, you're Angelina. Empty promises are your game.)

But that Mike-Angelina spat is like a flash flood -- brief, destructive, then gone - compared to the raging waters that come almost halfway through the episode when The Letter surfaces, that anonymous note written by Snooki and Jenni to clue Sammi into all the junk Ron-Ron's been pulling while in Miami.

Conveniently, Snooks and Jenni are at work with Mike when The Letter surfaces, Sammi reads it, and then tries to ferret out the truth from Vinny and Pauly. I've seen deer stuck in headlights that can think more efficiently on their feet. You can see the wheels spinning on the turntables in Pauly's head as Sammi grills him about it.

Naturally, Vinny goes spillin' everything to Ronnie, just as he's about to dig into breakfast. But the way in which Vinny does so - very silent movie, barely whispering and using hand gestures (does a heart shape = note in his world?) - you'd think "Jersey Shore" went to Florida and a Buster Keaton comedy burst out. Leave it to Ronnie to sum it all up, starting with the longest, loudest sigh in the history of reality television:

"This is (expletive) (expletive), bro. I'm sitting down, ready to eat my food, and Vinny's like, ‘(Expletive) just hit the fan.'"

There goes that well-balanced diet.

What follows is a lot of SamRon fighting, cursing, blah-blah-blah. Heard it all before. But two things jump out.

One: Our little Ron-Ron's a VERY big bully. Did you spy how he kept pinning Sammi into a corner, forcing her into confrontation when she clearly wanted nothing to do with him. Domination through intimidation. Kinda scary. So good for her for not backing down, even when The Creeper went rooting through his things to find his phone book to call his Hometown Honey just to make Sammi jealous. All while strutting around the house in jeans and no shirt. How very Brando. Minus the charisma.

Two: For weeks we've seen Jenni talk about how conflicted she is about SamRon and how to deal with it basically without any blowback coming her way. "Sammi needs to know about the horrible way Ronnie's been treating her" etc. etc. So what does she do when Sammi asks, pointblank, if she wrote the letter. DENY!-DENY!-DENY! Next season, I suggest the house add a polygraph; hook it up to a generator and producers won't pay a dime to the electric company. If anything, the utility will end up owing them money.

We end where so many episodes seem to these days, with Sammi and Ronnie under the sheets. Only they're in separate beds, and while Sammi sobs in hers, Ronnie is left to brood in his.

If this episode were a gelato flavor, it would be Rocky Road: A little fluffy, a whole lot nutty and more than a little addictive. There was a little bit of everything in "Jersey Shore's" special blend of crazy tonight, and it all went down smoothly. All together, a totally satisfying episode, the best of this season by far.

In many ways, it was the ultimate throwback to season one, which bodes well for next week, which already looks delicious thanks to a glimpse at a Jenni-Sammi throw down.

But there's no way I'm looking ahead just yet. Too much to explore in The Letter, which we'll do in the next couple of days. But first, here are a few choice quotes in an episode full of them:

"I put the hippopotamus to bed, then I take Christine or Kristin - whatever her name was - into the Smush Room and ... um, do you want me to say what happens next?" - Uh, Mike, I think we can figure it out. We are willingly watching "Jersey Shore," after all....

"You're excluded from asparagus night." - Pauly, about Angelina after she and Mike have at it and he "excludes" her from Sunday dinner. He later relents, but didn't you want her bounced for good? She could sit at the end of the table, munching on pretzels, forlornly looking at all the good eats. If only she had done the dishes...

"Whoever it is, give me his social security number and I'll have him taken care of." - Pauly, trying to cheer Snooki up after her breakup. This is also part of the night's Stereotypes on Parade (not to be confused with Gay Parade Week), which also include Mike uttering "badda-bing, badda-boom" and Pauly's "that's a good-a meat-ball."

"Word of the day: Sympathetic. That's a big word." - Snooki, about her housemates rallying around her.

"We just don't want to deal with that drama. ... That we've caused." -- Snooki, about her and Jenni not wanting to return to the house post Letter. Something tells me there'll be a teeny bit of drama coming your way. Soon.

"I'm definitely not a saint. If I probably walked through church right now, I'd (expletive) burst in flames, to be honest with you." Ronnie. Yup, and that's five Hail Mary's for cursing, too, Sinner.

"I'm not stupid. I'm pretty sure, like, all the guys aren't going to say anything to me. I just wanted to see if they would." - Sammi, after pressing Vinny and Pauly about the contents of The Letter. Two observations: One, it's taken you this long to wise up to Ronnie's ways? Yeah, you're kinda stupid. Or seriously blind. And two, you may not have thought the guys were going to say anything, but I'll bet you're going to be shocked when you find out exactly how much your girls know.

Like I said, plenty more to hash out in the days ahead, about SamRon, about Jenni's take on friendship and on the possible reemergence of Snooki's wild side. What did you all think of The Letter. Did you think it was as completely off-the-wall fantastic as I did? Share in the comments, but first, the Magic 8 Ball question of the week:

Magic 8 Ball, This week was so good, do we dare hope for next week to top it?

Answer: "Outlook Not So Good." I was afraid of that. Not going to let that ruin my enjoyment though. It's Christmas morning. And I'm just beginning to unwrap my present.