The two-hour premiere, which aired Thursday on MTV, tackled all of the group's personal highs and lows over the past year, with the main focus on Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino. Cameras followed the crew in the days leading up to the reality star's highly awaited court sentencing last October, for the tax evasion crime he and his brother, Marc Sorrentino, pleaded guilty to in January 2018. Both were initially indicted in September 2014 for tax offenses, with additional charges added in April 2017.
"I have to be ready for anything that day," explains Mike, who later turned himself into the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, in New York on Jan. 15 for his eight-month sentence. "I'm ready to put it behind me. It's been years now."
"Everybody is coming together for Mike's court week," Vinny Guadagnino adds. "We're like the Avengers. We're just all coming from wherever to support him and I'm so happy that's happening because that's one positive thing that's happening out of this situation."
In addition to Jenni and Vinny, Mike's co-stars Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Deena Cortese, Pauly "DJ Pauly D" DelVecchio, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro and Angelina Pivarnick were all by his side as he counted down the days until he learned of his fate. His then-fiancée (now wife) Lauren Pesce was also there for support, helping him stay positive through it all.
"Things in life are going to happen the way that they're supposed to, and the fact that my fiancée, Lauren, understands this, just re-enforces the fact that she's my soulmate," Mike says in a series of solo interviews that aired during the two-episode premiere. "I couldn't have dreamed to have such a rock in my life than Lauren. It's unbelievable. She is my best friend, my true love, my college sweetheart. She makes me a better person and at the end of the day, when it's all said and done, I got the girl."
"We are very proud of what you've done and how far you've come," Lauren's dad says at one point. "'Cause it was bad, Mike. It was very bad, and she didn't give up on you. Keep up the good work. We want to see the best for you."
On Oct. 5. 2018, the day of Mike's sentencing, everyone was feeling nervous and on edge. "I feel like one of us is dying," Snooki explains, in scenes of the cast right outside the courthouse. "We're scared, we're terrified for Mike. We're talking about prison."
The cast was still able to find some humor in the situation, however, when they took a look around to see what everyone was wearing. "Pauly looks good, but here's wearing Yeezys," Vinny jokes, telling his pals that he thought it was best to only have two of them go inside the actual courtroom. "Jenni looks like she's a former prosecutor mixed with a porn star, and Ronnie looks like he's going to court… as a criminal."
Unfortunately, those laughs quickly turned back to tears at the end of the second episode. While Vinny and Jenni heard the news in real time, the rest of the Jersey Shore crew learned of Mike's fate while watching the local news at a restaurant. Snooki and Deena burst into tears, while Ronnie ran to the bathroom to handle his emotions privately.
Mike wasn't the only Shore member battling major drama during filming this season. The premiere also shed light on Jenni's pending divorce from Roger Mathews, and the challenges she's faced with their 4-year-old son, Greyson, who was diagnosed with autism last year.
"Life? It's fine," Jenni says in one scene, holding back tears. "I don't know. It's like, I can't figure out how to express it so I just, like, shut it out and move on."
While she wasn't keen on discussing the details of her divorce with the whole group, she got emotional while talking about a recent situation with Greyson at an airport that left her in tears and feeling helpless.
"Greyson scratched his face, snapped my glasses, was headbutting me in front of everybody, hitting me, slapping, biting. I see people recording and I'm like, 'Oh my god, f**king help me,'" Jenni recalls. "I literally looked at the agent like, 'Can you help me? My son has no idea what he's doing right now and he's completely manic, like freaking.' I started crying right there in line. I'm like, 'I'm defeated, done,' like just started bawling. I walked on the plane crying the whole time."
"It's really hard to explain it to people who don't have kids, the level of sacrifice we make for them," she added in a solo interview. "It's like mmm, b***h is tired."
Meanwhile, Ronnie talks to the guys about how he's been working on patching up his relationship with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Jen Harley, in an attempt to do what's best for their 1-year-old daughter, Ariana. It appears the two have been going strong lately, spending Father's Day and the Fourth of July together.
"It was like a black cloud pouring, nothing but bad luck," Ronnie recalls of their highly publicized drama. "[The] storm has calmed."
Jersey Shore Family Vacation airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV. Ahead of the premiere, ET exclusively chatted with the cast this week at Patsy’s Italian restaurant in New York City, where they gave us even more updates on how Mike is doing as he continues to serve his sentence.