Darren Franich
March 25, 2011 AT 06:00 AM EDT

If there is a real story within Jersey Shore‘s third season — if there is more to the show than just smushing and smashing and bashing and crashing — then you can sum it up with the immortal words of Neil Sedaka: “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” Ronnie and Sammi arrived at the Shore house this season united in their mutual hatred for everyone and everything around them. They spent the first few nights sitting alone in their tower, listening to the gang play drinking games outside the window. Sammi stared into the mirror and brushed her hair. Ronnie stared up at the ceiling and drank some Xenadrine cocktails. They insulted their housemates, fought their housemates. They skipped Sunday dinner, and when Situation asked them why they were ignoring the family, they denied the family’s very existence, which is kind of like a morally depraved child using Confession as an opportunity to tell a kindly old priest that there is no God.

It was easy to recognize that Sammi and Ronnie were just denying the obvious: That they were utterly consumed by their hatred for each other. Sammi knew that Ronnie had lied about Miami, knew that he was grotesquely jealous of any man she even looked at, knew that it probably wasn’t healthy to date a guy who drinks like a sailor and fights like a frat dude and cries like a drunk fratboy sailor-baby and is secretly a shaved gorilla raised in human society as a social experiment. Ronnie knew that Sammi was emotionally unavailable, knew that she had single-handedly ruined his friendship with J-Woww, knew that his fundamentally weak personality was slowly being subsumed by her much stronger will, knew that her only true love was the face she saw in the mirror. Here were two people who were desperately wrong for each other.

But they were also desperately in love. The chubby little fat fifth grader who forever lurks in Ronnie’s soul could never quite believe that he had found himself in bed with the totally hot popular girl. And Sammi was equally fascinated by Ronnie. She’s a fundamentally passive person, and I think it’s fair to say that Ron’s unhinged nature — again, drinks and fights and cries and swings from trees — was fantastically attractive. So they convinced each other that they really hated everyone else. But the warm light of human companionship began to shine into the cold, dark Ron-Sam void. Mike and J-Woww both, in their own way, told Ronnie how much they missed being his friend. Sammi, realizing that Ron had left her all alone in the tower, made peace with the other girls.

Unfortunately, opening themselves up to the light of the outside world had a terrible flip side: It revealed to both of them just how miserable their existence had become. So the fighting started. Almost immediately, Jersey Shore treated their fights as a joke — cut to Vinny rolling his eyes, cut to Pauly shaking his head, cut to Sitch eating a grilled cheese sandwich, cut to J-Woww’s dogs laugh-barking. It continued on and on, right up until the Arvingate fiasco, which began last night’s episode. Ronnie wasn’t offended by the fact that Sam tried hooking up with a guy right after the break-up. He was offended by the fact that he hadn’t been strong enough to try hooking up with a girl. (You’ll recall that he spent a week crying into his grubby ape-hands.) You could laugh at his overreaction, or at Sammi’s hilarious attempt to deny, deny, deny:

Arvin: “Sam, we made out before.”

Sam: “No, we haven’t.”

Arvin: “Yeah, we have.”

Sam: “No, we haven’t.”

She’s not a good argument person! And it was kind of funny when Sam admitted about three minutes later that she had hooked up with Arvin. But her explanation rang true: “I hooked up with him when I was 21 years old. I’m 23, going to be 24. It was years ago.” Ronnie, ridiculously, threw this simple logic back in her face: “You have the chance right now to right your wrongs, or you can go away.” But Ron-Ron, what wrongs are you talking about, and how can she right them? By traveling back in time and preventing her younger self from making out with a dude named Arvin? By giving you a list of every guy-friend she has, along with a signed promise to never speak to any attractive heterosexual man ever again?

NEXT: A fabulous time

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