The episode opened in Las Vegas, where the cast had convened to support Vinny Guadagnino at his Chippendales debut in April. But Ronnie’s evasive, isolating behavior immediately began raising eyebrows amongst the roomies.
“He’s put us through so much that every time he’s quiet, he’s buried in his phone, we’re all like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on with him and Jen?’ ” Vinny wondered. (The two have a well-documented history of alleged abuse on both sides.)
“Clearly, Ron has a pattern of keeping a lot of stuff quiet and not opening up and then kind of waiting to explode and everything comes out,” he continued. “It’s all or nothing with him.”
Pauly “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio was also concerned that things were about to get ugly.
“If you were ever curious about the ingredients for a Ron-page, they are: a pissy look on your face, check; buried in your phone, check; disheveled hair, check; storming off to the bathroom, check. Tick, tick, tick. That’s a ticking time bomb to a Ron-page.”
They headed out to brunch the morning of Vinny’s premiere, and while Ronnie was in the bathroom, Angelina Pivarnick got a message from none other than Jen herself.
“All of a sudden my phone is blowing up and it’s Jen,” she said. “And those text messages are f—ing insane. ‘Ron went to Cabo, went MIA, been texting me crazy s— all hours of the night, stayed longer, blocked me from everything. He just went completely whack.’ “
“Like, what is really going on right now? I don’t know if he’s sober or not,” Angelina wondered of Ronnie, who at the time had just completed a 30-day stint in rehab. “I don’t know who the f— is lying at this point, and I’m very scared.”
Everyone else was equally confused.
“To me it’s weird that Ron’s baby mama Jen is reaching out to our family, our friends, instead of reaching out just to him,” said Pauly. “She’s going around [his] back and talking to the girls. Sometimes I just wish Ronnie would be honest with us about what’s going on.”
Still, no one brought it up with Ronnie, and things didn’t come to a head until Jenni “JWoww” Farley, who had just landed, arrived at the pool party to meet the rest of the group. Heading into it, she already knew things had been tense.
“I don’t know what’s going on with Ron. The group chat was informing me that Ron was literally on his phone all day yesterday,” she said. “It’s uncomfortable. If you’re going to be with the roommates, engage. That annoys me.”
When Jenni found out Jen had messaged Angelina, she demanded to see the phone — and just as she started scrolling through the conversation, Ronnie returned to the table.
“Jen messaged me on Instagram, telling me that Ronnie has been missing for a week. She doesn’t know where he is, she hasn’t spoken to him for a week,” Angelina explained. “So Jenni grabbed my phone. I’m always team Ron, I really am, but at this point, I don’t even know what to do.”
Despite Jen’s claims that Ronnie went “MIA,” a source close to the father of one tells PEOPLE that the two were “broken up at the time.”
“Ronnie didn’t disappear. One of his best friends had a bachelor party in Mexico — this is something that was planned months in advance. Jen was aware,” the source says. “Ronnie’s mom was watching their daughter while he was away.”
The source adds that “the reason Ronnie was on his phone the whole episode is because he was launching his business and was working with his business partners.”
“He had just gotten out of rehab and didn’t want to party and talk about drinking,” says the source.
Jersey Shore: Family Vacation airs Thursdays (8 p.m. ET) on MTV.