Ronnie + Sammi = 4ever.
Alas, that's not how it turned out, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola and Ronnie Ortiz-Magro ultimately going their separate ways after years of intense back-and-forth, and Sammi even choosing to skip the Jersey Shore: Family Vacation this year.
For Ronnie, his destiny—and his image—seemed inextricably tied up with Sammi for the majority of the time he spent GTL-ing on Jersey Shore, and old habits were hard to break, both for him and the MTV show's devoted fandom, which mourned what seemed to be the real end of their relationship in 2016.
Over the past year, however, despite his return to the pack with The Situation, Vinny, Snooki, JWoww, Deena and Pauly D, Ronnie's life outside of his MTV-packaged existence has taken center stage, with the 33-year-old becoming a first-time dad to daughter Ariana after breaking up with Ariana's mother, Jen Harley, in explosive fashion. Then getting back together with Jen. And breaking up again. Then becoming a reported "person of interest" after Jen's house got trashed.
Happy new year.
Even though he was on one of the most talked-about reality shows ever, it hasn't always been easy to get a read on Ronnie amid the ups and downs with Sammi, his temper, which has landed him in varying degrees of trouble, and his inevitable angst over his misdeeds during the series' original run.
Because surely there's more in there other than volatile but sensitive meathead.
The Bronx-born, gym-buffed Ortiz-Magro was tailor-made for Jersey Shore, which fed on the carefree lifestyle enjoyed by the eight housemates assembled to live, work (a little) and party (a lot) in the popular vacation spot that's been a destination for families seeking a slice of beach to summer on for a century.
Overseeing the six eventful seasons of the hit show was executive producer SallyAnn Salsano, whom Ronnie has expressed his extreme gratitude for, for essentially helping him shape a career out of just being himself after working for his father in real estate before being discovered by MTV.
"I love her," Ronnie told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011, when the show was shooting in Italy. "She changed my life for the better. I had nothing; I came from the bottom. SallyAnn is an amazing person, and I know she loves me—I don't know why, but I know she loves me to death and would do anything to make sure that I succeed."
It wasn't easy to root for Ronnie sometimes, especially when he was using his brawn for the worse, being indicted on an assault charge and sentenced to community service; getting in a bar fight; throwing punches at his own roommate, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino; or, in season three, tearing through Sammi's stuff in a jealous rage and breaking her glasses, on purpose. (No, you don't deserve her, Ronnie!!)
"Everything is destroyed of mine," Sammi lamented afterward. "Everything is broken and ruined."
At least he spent the night crying for his efforts.
"I miss her and I love her and I definitely regret all the negative s--t I've ever done," Ronnie lamented later in the episode after Sammi said she had to leave the house. "Definitely more now than ever."
They got back together and broke up, and then reunited, during the course of season four in Italy.
Catching up with THR in March 2012 before heading back to shoot season six, Ronnie said he had moved out to Los Angeles "to try to get into the acting," he had plans to get Ron Ron Juice (the fruity cocktail he first concocted in season one—while the guys were waiting for the girls get ready to go out—and which restaurant menus and fans were quick to replicate) on store shelves, he had an appearance as a version of himself in The Three Stooges movie that was coming out and he had just been Punk'd by Bam Margera.
Starting in Italy he'd been spending a lot more time with all the ladies in the house, not just Sammi, working to strengthen his friendships with everybody.
"I've become like an older brother to all of the girls in the house," he said. "It feels great to have everybody in the house actually want to be around you, instead of 'em being like 'oh god, here they come, they're gonna fight,' you know?" He smiled. "I'm really good friends with Jenni, Snooki's like my little sister, Deena's like my little stepsister—she's just always so hyper!--but I'm best friends with Jenny's boyfriend Roger, so we're all really close." (The cast had an unofficial reunion when Jenni "JWoww" Farley and Roger Matthews tied the knot in 2015.)
However, after shooting back-to-back seasons in Italy and New Jersey, he and Sam were released back into their "normal lives, where it's business and family and it's not just each other, and it just became overwhelming to control all of it. So, we're not together right now but we do remain good friends."
When Jersey Shore signed off for good in December 2012, however, they were again a couple, with plans to move in together (without six housemates).
Her success with Roger in mind at the time, the since-separated JWoww kept her watchful eye on Ronnie's behavior, having no qualms about chewing him out on Jersey Shore: Family Vacation for his still-promiscuous ways—an old habit that refused to die, even though his then-pregnant then-girlfriend Jen Harley was about to visit.
After Jen visited, Ronnie mused in a May episode about how much he loved her, "'cause she's so much fun."
"If you love her then why wouldn't you just be with her?" Jenni asked him, to which he replied, "Why would I be with somebody when I have so much temptation?"
Jenni pointed out that she managed to be faithful to Roger during her time in the house, and they didn't have children tying them together, to which Ronnie replied, "I'm not Roger."
"I'm you!" Jenni raged back. "I could be a big ho, too, motherf--ker, but I choose not to be 'cause I found someone I love! Like, come on. Own your f--king s--t, bro. You can be Ron, the good guy with the really good girl, and you can put her on a pedestal in this house and outside this house. Basically, what I'm getting from you is she's not the one, but she's the one right now 'cause she has your kid."
She went on, "I'm trying to save you! I'm trying to be a good friend right now to you! Be a good guy here. F--king hoes isn't what this is about, it's about f--king family. Be the person that loves Jen, can't wait for your baby girl. F--k all these bitches! Say, 'F-k you. I got a great woman at home.'"
The Situation, for instance, took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend, Lauren Pesce. (They got married on Nov. 1 with the whole gang, minus Sammi (she sent a gift) attended, and Ronnie brought Jen.)
A year ago it certainly felt as if Ronnie never really got over Sammi, or at least hadn't processed the breakup in a healthy way.
"I think I just miss the feeling of security 'cause that's what she gave," he explained to Snooki on the April 26 episode of Family Vacation. "It's so f--king hard to find and I think that's why I am the way I am..."
To the cameras at a different time, Ronnie said, frankly, "Every man wishes he could be with the love of his life. Being with someone for seven years and then you don't end up with person? Yeah, it hurts."
Despite leaving Jersey Shore together with the best intentions, he and Sammi revealed in August 2014 they had broken up again, with Ronnie telling People, "We were drifting apart and not really spending any time together. I still care about her...She's a great girl, but we were growing distant. It was for the best."
"I wish him nothing but the best," Sammi, who had moved back to New Jersey, told E! News. "Right now, I'm focused on myself."
He probably shouldn't have cheated on her, then.
"She gave me a timeline. She was like, I want to get married in six months—and I'm still trying to figure my life out," he recalled on the series premiere of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. "I got cold feet. I wanted to do the right thing, but there was a part of me that was like, 'I'm not going to do the right thing.' So I didn't do it. I ended up cheating, she found out. I blew it."
A source told E! News in March 2016 that Ronnie and Sammi were cautiously dating again, but by the end of that year Ronnie was dating Dash Dolls star Malika Haqq, whom he met while both were on E!'s Famously Single. That relationship lasted for just a few months.
But doing Famously Single, Ronnie explained to TooFab in 2016, was a chance to truly put his relationship with Sammi behind him.
"It definitely helped me realize what I want and what I don't want," he said, "and that certain things that I was looking for that I realize, you know...it's not that I have to settle, but I have to lower my bar a little bit, you know. And it's like, I'm not perfect, so I can't expect the person that I'm with to be perfect...it'd kinda be a double standard, it's not gonna work, and that was always my thing. Like, 'you have to be this, this, this and this,' but at the same time I'm not 'this, this or this.' You really can't do that."
The checklist "got a little shorter, and I'm a little bit more lenient."
As of June 2017, Sammi was dating Jersey boy Christian Biscardi, and Ronnie skipped the last two nostalgia-packed events she participated in—E!'s Reunion Road Trip: Road to the Jersey Shore and Deena Cortese's wedding. Sammi would later explain that she skipped Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, which concluded its second season in December, in order to avoid "potentially TOXIC SITUATIONS."
Which, of course, was a huge milestone for everyone involved—but it didn't mean that Ronnie had turned over a new, non-dramatic leaf.
Ariana was born on April 3 (after all the Family Vacation drama had been shot but two days before it would start to unfold for the world to see on MTV), and two weeks later Ronnie got emotional on Instagram, writing, "So excited to be a #Father. Words can't describe the feeling. You live your life not ever really knowing the meaning of true love until you have a child. True unconditional love. You love your Significant other, you love your family. I have to say I understand when everyone said you'll understand " when you have a child of your own or when you become a parent" I know I have still tons to learn but im excited for this new journey & chapter In MyLife with my beautiful girlfriend & my Daughter #ArianaSkyMagro."
Eleven days later, the new parents got into a knock-down, drag-out fight on social media, which began with Ronnie taking to his Instagram Story to write, "Note to self, can't turn a natural born HOE, into a HOUSEWIFE, if you find them in the gutter then leave them in the gutter, not all people can be saved when they are so far gone. All you can say you did ur best and keep it moving!"
"#Facts," he tagged the post.
Jen fired back on her story with, "Can't turn a coke head into a father!"
The exchange continued and, though Ronnie did publicly and privately apologize, their relationship didn't survive it.
"He apologized for everything and admitted where he had been wrong but he also wants what's best for his daughter and he realizes this is not a healthy environment for her," a source told E! News. "They have split but for now they are both living in his Las Vegas house. Jen will most likely be moving out."
Yet at the same time, despite the toxicity, Ronnie does seem to be settling into fatherhood and relishing his new role.
"Karma's a bitch" is the message JWoww says she texted to Ronnie when she found out they were having a girl." She told Us Weekly, "I was like, "Remember all those girls? The hearts you broke? Now you're gonna try and make sure that your daughter doesn't have the same thing happen to her.'"
Perhaps that was what all his bro-ness was leading up to all along—insider knowledge of just what d-bag guys are capable of, in order to better protect his own little girl.
He's since celebrated his first Father's Day, and last June introduced Ariana to one of Daddy's favorite places—the beach.
"Every day she is changing so much," he told People. "Now, if I stick my tongue out she will stick her tongue back out at me. It's so cute. I've had a lot of blessings in my life, but she is the biggest blessing of all."
Things had mellowed out between Ronny and Jen, for Ariana's sake, the exes having no choice but to put their bad blood aside when they had to take their baby to the hospital in May when she fell ill.
"Right now they're just trying to focus on their daughter and make sure she's okay," a source told E! News. "They're trying to work things out for her sake. They're giving it a shot." Another insider had explained, "They both really regret how ugly and public their split was so they're doing everything they can to keep things private right now."
Which is harder to do when the cops get involved.
Jen Harley, who has gone toe-to-toe with Ronnie in the hot-temper department, was determined to be the "aggressor," according to police, when the two got into a physical altercation at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas in June, reportedly over Jen's recently deceased dog (she actually accused him of drowning the dog, which he found dead when he went to her house because she wasn't responding to his messages), but Ronnie declined to press charges.
"Ron's done a lot of stupid s--t in his life, but he isn't in the wrong this time," a source told People.
On June 24, Harley was arrested in Vegas for alleged domestic battery. Bail was set at $3,000 and she has since been released. Further details weren't forthcoming, but TMZ reported that the pair got into a fight while driving home from a barbecue. She reportedly smacked him in the face, he demanded that she pull over and, as he was getting out, she took off, dragging him—all while their daughter was in the car. Ultimately, she did not face charges.
Suffice it to say, stability remains a work in progress.
The Jersey Shore: Family Vacation gang continued shooting their second season in Vegas, and Ronnie and Jen eventually reconciled—but their issues did not dissipate.
"I'm with him because I love him and we have a connection that most people do not have and it sucks you guys do not get to see it on JS but it's there and it's real and I do believe he's my soulmate," Harley wrote during an Instagram Story Q&A in October. A week later, Ronnie showed off a black eye on his Story, and seemed to imply that Jen gave it to him.
"I don't post my s--t on IG lol. He's lying," she wrote in response. "I'll prove it again with the car thing I can't deal with a drug addict anymore it's getting so out of control."
Yet they were spending her birthday together in Miami basically at the same time.
E! News learned, however, that the pair had a huge fight on New Year's Eve and again broke up. "They got into a huge fight and she threw something at his head," a source said.
Now, according to reports, Ronnie is considered a "person of interest" as police look into an alleged break-in at Jen's house in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. Per TMZ, Ortiz-Magro is not officially a suspect, but Harley told police she thinks he was involved.
Ronnie's most recent Instagram post is a picture of Ariana from New Year's Day—"I love you soo much baby girl!!!"—and his Instagram Story at this moment is a slide about Kim and Kanye expecting baby No. 4, followed by a slide that leads to a story about Teen Mom's Kailyn Lowry, and then a tease saying "Another baby is on the way!!" that, when you swipe, leads to another story about Kimye.
So he's in a jovial mood.
"I always wanted to be known for being from Jersey Shore," Ronnie told TooFab in 2016, "because, you know, that's made me who I am. I feel like that's what made us pop culture. It's always 'Ronnie from Jersey Shore.' I don't want it to be like 'Ronnie from Jersey Shore and then he did this show and that show and that show...' I don't want to be like that reality star that does everything."
(This story was originally published June 26, 2018, at 12:39 p.m. PT)