For a show built completely around plot twists and fraught situations, maybe the most surprising thing that Jane the Virgin could do is reveal that its lead character is painfully averse to conflict, which is exactly what the series did in this week’s episode. While TV has been populated over the years with plenty of characters who are peacemakers at heart, it’s rare that a show will dig into the deep discomfort that drives such behavior.
In the past, the show has made no secret about the influence that Jane's somewhat unique upbringing has had on her, and “Chapter 11” explores that history even further. A young Jane secretly attempts to mediate her mother and grandmother's frequent arguments, typing up forged apology letters in hopes of mitigating their anger. Inevitably, her machinations succeed, and their household returns to a state of tentative peace, temporarily avoiding the conflict she so despises.
It makes complete sense that an individual as caring and thoughtful as Jane would be so averse to anything as complicated and potentially painful as a straightforward argument. What’s slightly more difficult to comprehend is how an individual like Jane — so happy and well modulated in a world without chaos — is able to exist at the center of a literal telenovela without imploding.
As difficult as it is for Jane to see people she loves fighting (as happens this week when her mother and Rafael argue about how Jane’s career should proceed, and whether it’s appropriate for Rafael to offer to financially support the family), this is really the least of the conflicts dominating Jane’s life. She also needs to decide whether to continue on as a teacher at the Catholic school where she’s been working or to take a position as a writing intern on Rogelio’s telenovela. And that's to say nothing of the continuing strain of her ex-fiancé investigating her baby daddy for potentially being involved with/being an international drug kingpin, her current baby daddy’s ex still living in his hotel trying to duck the goons sent by her crazy ex, and also her grandmother nearly being deported, like, a week ago.
It feels like a lot for any character to process, yet Jane seems to handle things with aplomb, despite this latest development suggesting she goes to great lengths to avoid complications in her life at any level. To a certain extent, I’m skeptical that an attribute so significant to a person’s personality would go unaddressed for as long as this has, but it also feels like a great opportunity to examine Jane’s behavior up to this point in a new light.
As wonderful as she is, Jane doesn’t like to dwell in a place of indecision, choosing instead to commit to something and close the door behind her. Michael is gone from her life after two years, because, on some level, it is easier to be with the father of her child, and she won't allow any room where doubt might fester. That can be an asset, yes, but it can also cause a person to miss out on a lot of opportunities. At the end of the episode, Jane decides to pursue her writing career, and she almost certainly won’t look back at teaching for a long while, because that’s her choice and her head has no bandwidth for uncertainty or regret.
But the most interesting aspect of this personality trait isn't even how it influences her decision-making process — it's how it affects her writing. After reading the scene he asked her to write for him, Rogelio plainly tells Jane that he didn’t care for it. The reason? It contains no conflict. Nothing happens in it. While the head writer later assures Jane that Rogelio didn’t like it only because it wasn’t showy enough, there’s a huge element of truth to his words. You can be a good writer — hell, you can be a great writer — but if your work is dramatically inert because you cannot stand to see your characters in conflict, you will never create anything great.
We know that Jane loves to write. We know that Jane wants to write. We know that she has been submitting her writing to online outlets for years, and it was only recently she got anything accepted at all. What if Jane doesn’t have the capacity to be a great writer yet because she cannot embrace conflict for what it is: a catalyst to greater things?
Thankfully, there’s still plenty of time for her (and everyone else on the show) to learn to love the conflict that's swallowing their lives whole.
Xo makes a concerted effort to keep an open mind when it comes to Jane and Rafael, even going so far as having him over for dinner. Jane preps Rafael to ensure the evening proceeds seamlessly, but Rafael blows it by suggesting that Jane should pursue her dreams and let him pay the bills. Chaos ensues. Xo is also frantically trying to keep Rogelio at bay, desperately clinging to her promise to God about not sleeping with anyone in exchange for him sparing her mother’s life. She finally admits her vow to Rogelio and he assures her that she is worth waiting for. Shortly thereafter, Alba accidentally lets it slip that she actually regained consciousness in time to hear Xo’s vow but decided not to tell her because she thought a little abstinence was in Xo’s best interest. Meanwhile, Jane struggles to choose between teaching and writing (all while still waitressing) and attempts to use her gut as a career Magic 8 ball, only to find out in the end that it was just the baby kicking. Her revelation comes after a minor car accident caused by her exhaustion and subsequent hospitalization.
Rafael makes some progress in trying to determine who put the secret tunnels beneath the hotel, finding the individual who did the work, but is unable to glean any information from said individual. Petra is convinced that her ex is closing in and confides in her (other) ex-boyfriend Lachlan, who swears he’ll protect her but is almost certainly going to exploit her instead.
Michael and his partner Nadine are still quite cuddly, though Nadine is certain that he still has feelings for Jane (which he does). They’re still anxious to find Sin Rostro, and Michael decides to keep tailing Rafael, despite his superior explicitly telling him to desist. He photographs Rafael meeting with the contractor before approaching the contractor himself and promptly getting the crap kicked out of him, landing him in the hospital. He and Jane, coincidentally hospitalized at the same time, get a chance to talk, and he declares his feelings for her. She assures him that they’re never, ever, ever getting back together. Nadine is hurt and rats out Michael and his illicit investigation to their boss.
House Telenovela (New!)
As we discussed earlier, Rogelio gets Jane a job as a writer’s intern on The Passions of Santos, forcing her to choose between a full-time teacher’s gig or pursuing her dreams. The head writer, Dina (Judy Reyes), seems open to Jane’s ideas and tells her that her written scene has promise, despite Rogelio’s gentle criticism, which prompts Jane to definitively leave teaching behind and commit to her new gig. Dina is later revealed to be scheming with Rogelio’s assistant Nicholas in an attempt to bring Rogelio down, which makes her praise of Jane deeply suspect.
- Will Judy Reyes’s years on Scrubs render her qualified enough to deliver Jane’s baby?
- What exactly are Dina and Nicholas hoping to do to Rogelio?
- We're meant to believe that at no time did Alba and Xo become suspicious of each other’s wholly typewritten apologies?
- When could Jane possibly find time to continue waitressing?
- Jane’s pregnancy is really clicking along. Is there any doubt we’re headed toward a finale delivery?