"My heart is racing right now, but at the end of the day, I have to be prepared to hold my head high and face whatever's coming," Mike's heard saying at the top of the two-hour mid-season premiere (it's a continuation of last season). "All the things I've been through the last couple years has gotten me ready for this day."
Footage showed Mike and wife Lauren Sorrentino getting out of a black SUV and being instantly swarmed by photographers. Also present were Mike's "Jersey Shore" castmates to hug him and wish him well. Deena Cortese was particularly distraught as she sobbed through her sunglasses, but Mike and Lauren both put on a brave face as they made their way into Otisville Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York, where Mike currently resides. He began his sentence in January of this year.
But let's backtrack because, well, that's what the episode did.
A little over a year ago, Mike popped the question to his college sweetheart on camera with the help of his co-stars. There was not a dry eye in sight (TooFab was sobbing, too). But they both knew his legal troubles were looming, which would light an eventual fire under their butts to get married ASAP.
Back in New Jersey, Mike and Lauren brought their families together to celebrate their engagement at a local Italian restaurant. In the car on the way there, Mike said he hoped the legal talk would be kept to a minimum as the two began to realize his impending sentencing would affect the date and location of their big day. Originally, Mike and Lauren wanted to get married in Sicily since both of their families are from there, but as Lauren explained to the families, she didn't want to have her heart set on anything with so many unknowns still floating around.
Mike eventually revealed his court-mandated travel restrictions prevented him from leaving the country, so they settled on getting married in Jersey...on Jerzday...because of course.
The venue looked like it was plucked right out of Italy, which Mike jokingly referred to as "Tuscany off the turnpike." (Lauren didn't think it was as funny as the show producer who fist-bumped Mike did.)
Later, while the two were going over their wedding to-do list, Lauren said she needed Mike's help reconciling the RSVPs.
"What does reconcile mean?" Mike asked.
"Like how you reconcile a bank statement?" Lauren replied.
Staring blankly back at her and then directly into the camera, Mike replied, "I don't even know what that means either, and that's partly why I'm in this mess today."
As the girls were all catching up, Nicole looked over at Jenni and asked, "What about you?"
"Life?" Jenni scoffed. Rolling her eyes, she replied, "You know, it's fine," then looked up at the ceiling, trying to avoid crying. "I don't know. I can't figure out how to express it, so I just shut it out and move on."
"We have a huge elephant in the room," Angelia said during a later confessional. "Jenni's going through a divorce."
During her confessional, Jenni abrasively said she's been "living the dream" since cameras last caught up with her. "Mom shit," she added as her face got red and her eyes got watery.
"Um, how's Roger?" an off-camera producer asked while Jenni was fidgeting with her shirt.
"Pffffft," she let out. "So, moving on." (When JWoww says to move on, you move on.)
We also caught up with Ronnie Ortiz-Magro and his baby mama, Jen Harley, in their home in Las Vegas. Their tumultuous relationship has seemingly calmed down.
"Are you happy with the way we've been lately?" she asked him as the two cooked a meal together.
"Yeah, I'm really happy with the way we've been lately. It's amazing. We haven't been fighting, we've been getting along," Ronnie replied, later telling the camera, "The storm has calmed, and there's a little bit of sunshine."
"I've made the decision to slow down and try to get things right at home between me and Jen and the baby," he added, noting that he and Pauly D would be flying to Jersey for Mike's sentencing.
Days before his court date, Mike met up with Jenni and Vinny Guadagnino, where he vented about how Ronnie RSVP'd to his wedding shower but never showed up. He also didn't send a gift or a card, which is a major no-no in Italian culture.
"This guy's facing court, and his biggest issue right now is Ronnie didn't send him a gift," Vinny noted. "I love Mike's reasoning."
All jokes aside, when Vin asked how he was feeling, Mike said he was "ready for anything, from probation to maybe even a year in jail." He said he was trying to keep everything as positive as possible so that Lauren could focus on the joy of planning their wedding and nothing else.
The girls then met up with Lauren at the same wedding gown store Nicole and Jenni used.
"What the? It's probably, like, weird being here," Angelina said to Jenni, who barked back, "No. Do you have a mute button?"
When Lauren was in the fitting room, Jenni whispered to the girls that she had ordered her outfit for court, which prompted a conversation about what everyone was going to wear to Mike's sentencing. Deena was dying.
"This is what we're talking about?!" she reprimanded. "Oh, my God. He might go to jail, she's trying on dresses and she's ordering a court outfit."
Lauren walked out in the most gorgeous, quarter-sleeved lace gown. She told the girls she had spent "every minute of every day" of the last three weeks planning her big day.
"And it's probably so crazy, like, you planning a wedding around the whole Mike thing, too, right?" Angelina blurted out. Evidently, she does not have a mute button.
Everyone's mouth fell to the floor. "This is sad to make her talk about in her wedding dress," Deena said. Jenni added, "In her wedding dress, dude?" Nicole tacked on, "Seriously?"
"How do you feel, like, all in all, going into this now?" Angelina pressed. With grace, Lauren replied, "It's not a thought in my brain."
When Lauren came out in her reception gown, most of the girls showered her in compliments because she looked absolutely stunning, but Angelina decided to blurt out, "He's gonna cum in his pants when he sees you like this."
"This bitch is so Staten Island, I cant!" Nicole later vented. "The worst!"
After recovering from Angelina's unsolicited "raunch," Lauren opened up to the girls about why she wanted to get married so quickly. (They tied the knot on Nov. 1.)
"People may think it's weird that Mike and I are married now, but bullshit in life is gonna come and go," she explained. "And like, when this leaves, there'll be other little shit that isn't ideal to deal with, either. You know what I mean? It's not ever gonna be perfect. It's like, he's healthy, he's sober, we're getting married. Nothing can take away that happiness."
After the girls offered up some words of encouragement, Lauren said, "I appreciate all of that and each of you, and I know how important you are to Mike. It's really special that he had mended those fences with you guys and got those strong relationships back so that he could go through something like this and have the positive outlook to know he has so much love around him. I appreciate you guys so much for being those people for him and for me in the future."
Once Ronnie and Pauly got into town, the boys went to go get haircuts because that's what Italian boys do together.
"Today's gotta be the most guido-est thing we've ever done: get our boy ready for court," Pauly joked.
"We never had to get court cuts before. Usually, we'd get haircuts for Karma. Now, we're getting haircuts for court," he pointed out at the barbershop before asking Mike if the judge was female. "Maybe she'll be DTF: down to forgive?" Only Pauly.
Mike laughed it off, then thanked Pauly and Vinny for their wedding shower gifts, trying to get a reaction out of Ronnie. But Ronnie didn't seem to regret not giving Mike and Lauren anything, even though they went all out for his baby shower.
Also while at the barbershop, Mike took the opportunity to ask all three of the guys -- even Ronnie -- to be his best men. They were touched and all said yes. (TooFab sobs once again.)
Later, on their way to a group dinner, Jenni opened up to Deena about her struggles with her now-3-year-old son, Greyson. Jenni explained he had been diagnosed by two different doctors as autistic. She said when she was at the airport heading back from Orlando (where one of the doctors is located), Greyson threw "the biggest fit" she had ever experienced. He scratched his own face, slapped Jenni, snapped her glasses, yelled, screamed, kicked. She said she was desperate for help, but when she looked up, she just saw everyone recording her. She instantly started crying because she felt so "defeated."
"I took the initiative for getting him help," she told Deena. "That was a huge argument between Roger and I. 'He's fine. He's fine. He's fine.' He had a nervous breakdown in the pediatrician's. My heart broke for him because he was like, 'I just want my son to walk down an aisle and have a family of his own.' I say it's f--ked up, but I always say I'm gonna hold his hand until I can't, and when I can't hold his hand anymore, my money's gonna hold his hand. I'm preparing, not for my retirement, but like my kids' retirement."
"Roger believed that Greyson was just a slow learner and he was gonna learn on his own, and that caused a lot of tension in our household because you have one parent that's like, 'I need to get ahead of this,' which is me, 'and fix it,' and you have another parent that's like, 'What are you doing? It's not a big deal. There's nothing wrong with Greyson.' So it is such a shitty situation to be in. It's really hard to explain it to people that don't have kids, the level of sacrifice we make for them. It's like, bitch is tired," she said with tears in her eyes.
Once at the restaurant, everyone exchanged life updates. Jenni was still not in the mood to talk about her martial issues, letting out a cold, "Nothing's really changed." She then put Ronnie in the hot seat and asked about his life, which pissed him off. Why can Jenni ask me about my issues, but we can't ask her about hers? We paraphrased, but that's essentially what Ron told the camera.
At dinner, Angelina hit Mike with the, "What would you do in your last 24 hours before prison?" question, which eventually came back around to her. She said she'd get "pounded out." By who? Her fiancé? No. By Ronnie. Jenni was furious, shouting, "You're disrespecting your fiancé!"
Angelina barked back, "My relationship is great. Stop talking about my relationship! Thanks. I could go in right now, but I'm shutting my mouth. I'm shutting my mouth, Vinny. I'm shutting my f--king mouth."
"Chew toy!" Jenni fired back. "Like, he's actually dumb to stay with you." The others were going wild, Pauly especially. We love an instigator this time o' year!
The second part of the premiere captured the ins and outs of the morning of Mike's sentencing. Even the crew was somber as they geared up to film Mike getting suited up for court. He said he couldn't sleep very well but was eager to get it over with. Lauren also had a positive outlook, reminding Mike that this would be the end of his years-long ordeal. As Jenni and Pauly both pointed out, the man who got charged is not the same man who went in for sentencing. Mike was now 30 months sober, working at two different rehab facilities and speaking to children about substance abuse.
Mike and his attorney were hoping for probation, but they knew he was facing up to 14 months in prison. According to Mike, he was a "level 11," meaning he was "eligible for probation in this zone, and also eight to 14 months. What's giving me a little bit of comfort right now is that no one in level 11 has ever gotten jail time." Mike turned out to be the first.
While Nicole, Jenni and Deena made their way to the courthouse, Vinny and Pauly waited for Ronnie, Jen (who just got into town) and Angelina to meet up at Vinny's house so they could all drive down there together.
Ronnie was late in showing up because he had gotten jumped the night before. We know what you're thinking: Was it Jen?! But no, he said it was some dude in a parking lot of a random diner in a sketchy part of town who was taunting him about taking a shot and having two girls with him (Jen and her friend). Ronnie said the guy even stole the chain around his neck! He was a bit bloodied and bruised but seemingly fine. (Thank God.)
As the roommates waited nervously outside the courthouse for Mike to arrive, they joked about how terribly they were all dressed. While everyone did wear all black, Pauly had on Yeezys, Angelina's jeans were ripped and Ronnie was wearing a backwards snapback. We expected nothing less.
When Mike and Lauren arrived, they hugged every single castmate, held hands and made their way into the swarm of photographers. Nicole was a wreck. "Ugh, God. You could just see it in his face. It's not fair," she said as she wiped away tears. Pauly added, "That's our brother."
"Before you get into a fight, there's a feeling that you get -- a little anxious feeling," Mike explained in a confessional. "That's how I feel right now."
The group decided to send only Jenni and Vinny to sit in on the hearing. If they all went in, they'd cause a scene, so the others tearfully made their way to a local sports bar to get some food while they waited for the verdict.
While there, the subject of Ronnie getting jumped came up. He told the same story he told the guys earlier in the day, except this time, eyebrows began to rise. Pauly thought it was "fishy" that a guy would leave scratch marks on Ronnie's face. Nicole, Deena and Pauly then excused themselves to go to the "bathroom," but really, they wanted to talk about the possibility that Jen and Ron got into a physical altercation.
Soon after, they rejoined the group to watch with heavy hearts as news anchors gave an update on Mike's hearing. The television reporter said Mike's judge understood he had turned his life around but that he made decisions that bore consequences.
"And with that, she sentenced him to 24 months in prison," the reporter said. The group could not believe their ears. Deena burst into tears. Nicole and Pauly shouted, "OH, MY GOD!" Ronnie was a mess.
"Wait, they sentenced him to 24 months?!" he shouted. "Are you f--king kidding me?!" Pauly hugged Nicole as she sobbed into her hands. Deena couldn't even speak. Angelina wiped away her tears.
Ronnie was livid. He stormed off and into the bathroom, cursing and crying.
"Two years?!" a blubbering Nicole kept asking.
"Jersey Shore: Family Vacation" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on MTV.