Screenshot: MTV

Though you probably knew that Jersey Shore’s original cast (including Angelina, but sans Sammi) reunited in Miami of all places for Jersey Shore: Family Vacation earlier this summer, it may have escaped your attention that the series was quickly renewed for a second season, which premiered to less fanfare than it probably deserved last week on MTV.

This time, the gang—excuse me, “family”—is vacationing in Las Vegas, sans Deena (who backed out after learning she was pregnant, congrats). Why? The first episode constructs the flimsy narrative that it was all Pauly D’s doing, seeing as how he lives/works there and wants to show them all a good time in his home. But after last night’s episode, I’m starting to think it was all a devious plot by MTV to create the most unstable and potentially hazardous situation possible for Ronnie Ortiz-Magro.

Over the past few months, Ortiz-Magro’s relationship with a woman named Jen Harley, the mother of his four-month-old daughter Ariana, has been in the tabloids due to the couple’s tendency to air all their dirty laundry on their Instagram stories. Early in the summer, the two were accusing each other of cheating, abuse, and drug use. Then, in late June, Harley was arrested for “allegedly dragging [Ronnie] with her car.”

But before the alleged dragging took place, there was an incident in the cast members’ hotel room. At the time, a source told Us Weekly:

“Ronnie and Jen have been fighting over their daughter. Ronnie has been filming the show in Vegas the last couple of days and Jen wouldn’t tell him where their daughter is. She showed up to the hotel where they were filming. Jen lunged, spit and shoved Ronnie. Hotel security got involved, who then called the Las Vegas police department.”

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That incident was shown on last night’s episode (which means it’s looking like the season will culminate with the dragging that occurred some two weeks later.) “Today is, I think, the most stressful day any of us have ever had together,” Pauly says.

It begins when Jen and an unnamed friend stomp into their room (fully mic’d, by the way) as the roommates (sans Ronnie) decide where to eat for dinner. After claiming Ronnie harassed her over text the night before, she demands to know where he is. The crew pleads ignorance (refusing to tell her he’s asleep in the other room), and a show producer enters to diffuse the situation. He’ll be back at around 7:30, the producer assures Jen, who then rips off her mic and leaves.

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When Ronnie emerges from his bedroom, the roommates inform him that, hey, Jen came by and was mad, she’s coming back at 7:30, but we’re leaving to go eat Italian food, so byeeeeeee! And when Jen arrives (on time and mic’d), things quickly go south. Ronnie accuses Jen of being a bad mother, saying it’s ridiculous to leave a two-month old with a friend several nights ago. Jen accuses Ronnie of sending her “300" harassing text messages in which he called her names like “whore” and “bitch.”

“You’re a fucking psychopath, you’re a fucking loser, you’re a piece of shit,” she says, before spitting in his face and ripping off her mic. At this point, the show cuts away from the video feed, but we hear Harley shout things like, “I don’t give a fuck, I’ll go to jail.” See you next week!

Though neither party comes off well in the reporting, MTV producers appear to be doing the best they can—at least in the season’s first episodes—to paint Ortiz-Magro as a victim. Vinny, Snooki, Jenni, and Pauly, all used their interview time to tell viewers what a great guy he is. “Ronnie’s our brother at the end of the day,” Vinnie said in one confessional. “So we’re looking out for him.”

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Later, Pauly says both parties did “shit” to one another, but Jenni calls Jen “triggering.”

The only cast member who stays fairly neutral about the whole thing is Mike, who has legal troubles of his own. His commentary doesn’t go much further than, “We got a situation,” which applies to this season in more ways than one. What’s MTV’s plan here? I guess we’ll find out over the next few weeks.

The first season of Family Vacation was an oddly touching and melancholy look at the way life changes for hard-partying millennials in their thirties, and it’s more than a little disappointing that the show has returned to its terrible old crutch: depending on Ronnie for all the drama.