ET speaks with the cast ahead of their 'Family Reunion' premiere on Thursday.
Jersday is making its return, and the whole family is back for the fun!
The first half of Jersey Shore Family Vacation's sixth season ended with the shocking return of Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, and the second installment will give fans even more from the unexpected reunion.
ET's Rachel Smith spoke with the returning cast -- which includes Paul "Pauly D" DelVecchio, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, Vinny Guadagnino, Angelina Pivarnick and Deena Nicole Cortese as they navigate their own personal and family dramas when the latest trip kicks off in snow-filled Pennsylvania -- and they break down exactly what fans have to look forward to when the series returns on Aug. 3.
"I thought it was amazing to see the dynamic in real-time," Sorrentino tells ET of Giancola's return to the franchise. "It was almost like the filming didn't stop in  years. The first day that we started filming was like yesterday, so it was really amazing."
Jersey Shore fans haven't seen the reality star since the original MTV breakout series ended with its sixth season in 2012. When Family Vacation was announced, Giancola was the only person not listed among the cast.
At the time, Giancola took to Instagram to share why she wasn't returning. "I have chosen not to join the show this season because I am at a completely different place in my life right now focusing on my businesses and relationship," she wrote. "I am not the same person as I was when I was 22. At 31, I am currently extremely happy in every aspect of my life and want to avoid potentially TOXIC SITUATIONS."
"However, it was a difficult decision as I love my roomies. I've decided to focus on me, my future and what truly makes me happy," she continued. "I will forever be grateful to Jersey Shore and everything it has brought to me! I've just decided to live my life for me these days."
"It feels like I never left, honestly, through all these years," Giancola says, adding that she kept up with the new series "here and there."
"I missed them... it was never like, my cast, it was kinda like I didn't come back for my own personal reasons," she says of her decision not to join Family Vacation initially. While Farley admits she assumed that her past "beef" with the star was part of the "toxic situations" Giancola previously mentioned, the latter clarified that their differences did not influence her decision.
"I say this all the time, I feel like I'm repeating myself, but I was 22 when I did the show, and I was in a really bad relationship and being on TV, in general, is just a lot," Giancola says. "There's a lot of pressure and outside voices you're hearing. [And] social media can be a lot, so I couldn't really handle it. When they decided to go back to the show years later, I was just like, I am working on myself. I don't want to put myself in an environment that wasn't really healthy for me at the time. I'm in a different place now, and I'm feeling good, and I feel like it was the right time to come back in."
"I never thought in a million years that Sam would come back, I thought it was gonna be someone else," Sorrentino admits. "It's been over a decade and we always were like, 'Oh, why hasn't she come back?' And next thing you know, she walked through the door and everyone's mouth dropped."
In the years since Jersey Shore went off the air in 2012 after six successful seasons, Giancola has earned other sweet monikers, including sweetest entrepreneur. In 2013, she launched Sweetheart Styles, an online boutique store that hawks jewelry, clothing, home decor and other accessories. In June 2021, she opened a brick-and-mortar shop for the line in Ocean City, New Jersey.
And her love life is looking up as well! Giancola introduced her new boyfriend, Justin May, to the world in November 2021, four months after revealing that she and Christian Biscardi had split.
While May doesn't have quite the starring role in the upcoming batch of episodes, Giancola teases that fans will "see a little bit of him."
"My boyfriend's very supportive of me, he's like, 'Do whatever you want to do,' and he's just very loving," she shares with ET. "He was nervous because he's just a regular, normal guy so he was like 'What is going on here?' But he did good!"
Sorrentino and Polizzi echo Giancola's praise for May, with the latter adding that she "approves" of the star's beau.
Meanwhile, Giancola isn't the only original cast member making her return during the midseason premiere. Ronnie Ortiz-Magro is also making a comeback to the franchise after taking a step back last season.
"Every now and then, he sends me little check-in texts," Sorrentino shares. "He's doing well; he's focusing on his mental health for the past couple of years and I think that everyone is going to be able to see a little bit more from this season."
When asked whether the season includes a reunion between her and her ex-boyfriend, Giancola plays coy. "Oh that's a wait and see."