It's almost a little jarring when a reality TV show like "Jersey Shore" (Thurs.  at 10 p.m. on MTV) drops the party/screw around/drunkenly screech at one another script and actually shows real human emotion inspired by the kinds of traumas to which everyone can relate. It's enough to make you want to give Snooki and her pals a group hug, if you didn't think you'd be covered in fake tan residue as a result.

As we all know, Snooki likes to drink. Snooki likes to dance and drink. Snooki likes to wear itty bitty dresses that offer only slightly more coverage than underwear while dancing and drinking. This is Snooki, in a nutshell, and something anyone who spends more than five minutes watching "Jersey Shore" will soon realize. She may not be a candidate for the Junior League (although an excellent candidate to do PSAs on sexually transmitted diseases or alcoholism), but she is who she is.
 
And yet her boyfriend Jionni, who claims to love her, can't accept her for who she is. I'm not saying flipping up your skirt and shaking your underwear at people is necessarily a great idea, but hey, that's Snooki. She isn't hurting anybody, unless you count Jionni (and then, only his feelings). To Jionni, Snooki's behavior is piggish and disrespectful. I'd argue that Jionni's protests show he's a controlling jerk who sees women as possessions instead of individuals, but tomato, tomahto. And yes, I can't believe I'm rising to the defense of anyone on "Jersey Shore," but there you go.
 
Last week, we watched as Jionni, so horrified by Snooki's behavior, decided to cut short his long-awaited visit to Florence and storm home in a huff of testosterone-fueled indignation. And that was when Snooki fell apart. 
 
Snooki sobbed. She wailed. She crawled out of bed the next morning and went in search of beer, dancing miserably to the subpar sound system in the back of a pizzeria, sunglasses covering her swollen eyes. It was the worst day of her life, or so she claimed seconds before she loudly belched, clutching her beer like a baby's bottle. Even though the moment was funny, it was also, yes, a little sad. As much of "Jersey Shore" seems manipulated by producers, Snooki's reaction to Jionni's deep freeze seemed authentic. For whatever reason, she loves this guy (or thinks she does) and had been looking forward to seeing him in Italy for weeks. Despite being surrounded by friends, really good food (which just seems to go limp and rotten in the kitchen all day) and easy access to nightclubs, Snooki was homesick -- for Jionni, for a reminder of her old life, for the loveliness that is Jersey. It was hard not to feel for the kid, even if you do want to smack her and say, "You're in FLORENCE. Go to a friggin' museum or walk around or something!" 
 
Of course, feeling for the kid was probably a little harder for her dad, whom she called long distance for the purpose of dumping on him. "No, you don't understand!" she shrieked. "You have no idea what I'm bleeping going through right now!" It could be argued he might have a better idea if she calmed down, told him coherently about what happened, and let him listen, but Snooki was well past the point of being calmly rational. She was tired, heartbroken, mad and possibly a little (or a lot) drunk and/or hungover. The anger that she wanted to vent on Jionni had to go somewhere, I guess. Her dad didn't seem to mind one bit and happily yelled back. I'd love to see these guys in family therapy or, say, a library.
 
To Jenni's credit, she boldly stepped into the role of caretaker despite still having cause to be irritated with Snooki's drunken behavior from the night before. In fact, throughout the episode JWoww is admirably comfortable handling everyone else's shenanigans, like a saline implant-enhanced mother hen, whether it's Snooki's apparent break-up or Deena's feared pregnancy. The girl knows how to get stuff done. While Snooki sobs, she stomps over to the phone, calls Jionni and begs him to talk to Snooki, even as he says he's in Rome (he isn't) and can't come back to the house. Jenni offers to pay for his ticket back to Florence if she has to, but she needs him to talk to Snooki. Jionni wisely doesn't argue (who'd want to mess with JWoww?), and we soon learn 1) he's not in Rome and 2) he's actually walking toward the train station. If Snooki hustles, she can at least say goodbye. 
 
Snooki does, of course, hustle. But saying goodbye to Jionni doesn't quite patch things up. He'd already called his family (and probably guaranteed she's not welcome to come over at Thanksgiving without his parents investing in plastic slipcovers) and they'd changed his plane ticket, so he has to leave the country -- and he isn't exactly bubbling over with forgiveness and apologies for his own retro-macho attitude, either. Snooki's tears soften his delivery, but it's pretty clear -- he's leaving and he still thinks it's her fault for flipping her skirt up at the club. Stupid skirt!
 
Jenni then deals with Deena's problem, which is a missed period. Dragging Deena out of the club and pounding on the door of a pharmacy to get a pregnancy test, Jenni's not going to let Deena obsess on her problem -- there's an easy fix, and it involves peeing on a stick. And lo and behold, Deena's not pregnant. I'm wondering at what point the producers of the show will tell JWoww to cool it, as letting the housemates devolve into panic is probably better television than coming to their rescue, but for the time being, she's taking care of business. 
 
Snooki decides to check in with Jionni once he's returned home. Big mistake. Jet-lagged and unrepentant, he declares she danced like a pig (his word choice, not mine) and he couldn't stay in Florence after so much disrespect. Finally, Snooki finds her spine and declares she doesn't deserve his crap. And this time, she declares that she needs a break and hangs up on the guy. Now, that's more like it! At this point in the show, I'm rooting for Snooki, hands down. Girl power, yada yada yada.
 
"I need nails done, I need to shop, I need Jersey attire and I need to go to Karma," she declares, no longer the puddle of self-pity she was the day before. "I swear to God, if I went to Karma tonight, I'd feel fine."
 
And so, she and her housemates move the furniture, get dressed up and create Karma in the living room with Pauly D DJing. There's something weirdly endearing about how Snooki's roommates eagerly move furniture and get dressed up in an effort to cheer up their friend. It's not putting on a play in the old red barn with Judy and Mickey, but let's just think of it as the 21st century version with cigarettes, booze and sunglasses. As long as nobody sings, it's adorable.
 
Mike (The Situation), seeing an opportunity to get some, tells Snooki he can take care of her far better than Jionni can. He loves her! And then he has to remind her that they've hooked up multiple times. Which she disputes. And he has to tell her that Ronnie told him to kick Jionni in the head. So, instead of feeling passion for The Situation, Snooki feels betrayed and has to confront Ronnie. Sigh. Ronnie makes nice, and Snooki doesn't know who to trust. Here's a hint: don't trust Mike. 
 
Sammi declares The Situation a rat. Then, The Situation has to  tell everyone about the time when Snooki was blowing him to make the point that at one point Snooki chose him over Jionni. No one is particularly impressed with this revelation, even as Mike insists on pointing out that it's the truth. The Situation seems more committed to the idea of being right at all times than to being committed to any other person, including Snooki. Yeah, maybe Snooki should just be single for a while. 
 
Snooki decides, after the day she's had, she wants to cuddle, first with Pauly D and then with Vinny. And then, she instigates sex with Vinny. When he asks if she's still with Jionni, she shakes her head. And so, with Pauly D in the next bed over, the deed is done. And poof goes my full-fledged support for Snooki. I felt like I'd been rooting for a team until the last five minutes of the game, only for them to tuck the ball under the umpire's shirt and drag him into the end zone. 
 
I'm not saying it was exactly wrong of Snooki to sleep with Vinny -- but she may have wanted to be more clear with Jionni that "I don't want to talk to you for a few days" meant "heads up, I can screw around for a while" or "we're done" or something along those lines. Didn't we all learn on "Friends," oh so long ago, that "we're on a break" must be clearly articulated and spelled out to all involved parties? 
 
Alas, judging from the scenes from tonight's episode, not only does Snooki want Jionni back, she never really thought they were on a break (despite what she implied to Vinny). I would hope she would just take this as an opportunity to stick a fork in her relationship with Jionni, but it doesn't look that way (I suspect he'll pull the plug if she doesn't) instead of crying and confessing and trying to make amends. For most of this episode, she was moving in the right direction -- tears, anger and then, finally, a split. This continuing drama is just delaying an inevitable process, like yanking off a Band-Aid in stages or keeping "Unforgettable" on the air. 
 
The only up side is that The Situation apparently decides to use her indiscretion with Vinny as a tool to sniff out the gossips in the house (everyone in that place gossips; who cares?) and in so doing will probably turn Snooki against him, if not forever, at least as boyfriend material. Maybe that will stop the constant "we did it/we didn't do it" banter. Or so we can hope.