Ronnie Ortiz-Magro Is ‘Jersey Shore’s New Villain — on TV and IRL
By the time the cast of Jersey Shore fist-pumped their way off-screen for what was, ostensibly, the final time in 2012, the cult series had long established its indisputable villain: Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, a Staten Island fitness buff who'd spent six seasons antagonizing his roommates, toying with their personal lives, and treating women like walking sex dolls. (He was far from the only man in the house guilty of the latter charge, but was, if memory serves, the worst of the bunch; He got visibly angry any time a woman he'd thought was "DTF" declined to sleep with him).
But after six years, a stint in rehab, and a tax evasion wake-up call, the Big Bad torch has been passed to none other than Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Sorrentino's on-off frenemy throughout the show's original run. It's not that Ortiz-Magro was ever unproblematic. He was arrested during the first season for assault after knocking a man unconscious on the boardwalk, and his make-up, breakup romance with Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola was certifiably toxic. During the second season, the group's first trip to Miami, he openly bragged about making out with "grenades" then snuggling up with Sam in bed, and once destroyed half of her belongings in a rage — an incident for which she, equally unexcusably, punched him in the face.
But that was at the turn of the 2010s, when watching 20-somethings self-destruct for the sake of entertainment far outweighed ethical policing, and when someone like Ronnie could fly under the radar without facing the wrath of Twitter. The entirety of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, then, has been a sort of thought experiment for whether or not its flagrant Guidos can hold up amid a since-changed culture — and if, perhaps, they may have changed with it, too.
In Sorrentino's case, it seems he has. He's still dealing with some of the aftershock of youthful stupidity, but he comes off astoundingly grounded: He's since cut back on the dramatics, settled down with his college sweetheart, and appears to be taking responsibility for his past mistakes. Ortiz-Magro, on the other hand, has gone the opposite route.
From the premiere episode of Family Vacation, it's been clear he's stuck in the past. He is, quite obviously, still in love with Sammi despite having recently welcomed a daughter with his former girlfriend, Jen Harley, and continues to nurse an aging grudge toward Sorrentino. When the cast sat down for an otherwise nice, amicable dinner early on in the season, he gave a long-winded speech about the Sitch's past transgressions, concluding, half-heartedly, that he was ready to put it behind them — then spending the next few episodes ribbing him with low blows about his legal battle. And when Deena Cortese confronted him about not reaching out after her father died, he immediately deflected blame before finally caving in to a fairly empty-sounding apology.
But the most damning blows have arrived over the course of the last week. In Thursday night's episode, Ortiz-Magro invited a group of women back to the house insisting it was harmless fun, then proceeded to blatantly grope one woman in the hot tub before bringing her into the bathroom for some off-camera fondling. It's unclear exactly how far things went, but his behavior was inarguably over the line, and he only stopped because Pauly Delvecchio — the only single cast member this season — interrupted and told him it wasn't "worth it" to cheat on his then-pregnant girlfriend.
Afterward, Ortiz-Magro flip-flopped between drunken guilt-tripping and asserting he'd done nothing wrong, a muddled reaction that seems to suggest he knows he made a mistake, but at 32, isn't yet mature enough to own up to it. The episode ended before viewers were able to see how he explained the whole ordeal to Harley, but things played out in real-time only a few days later.
Over the weekend, the two posted a series of Instagram stories directed at one another in which Harley alleged he was a "coke head" and Ortiz-Magro called her a "natural born hoe" that he should have "left in the gutter." Then, on Monday (April 30), Harley live-streamed an encounter in which Ortiz-Magro referenced the mother of his child getting "f---ed in the a--- like a hooker" and followed her around as she repeatedly asked him to back off. The video ended abruptly after they got into a physical altercation, which for Ortiz-Magro, continues a documented history of violence.
Perhaps in 2010 it was fun to watch Sorrentino stir the pot, but in Ortiz-Magro's case, it's just sad. Not only has he not grown up, he's gotten worse — and frankly, it's no longer entertaining.