If there’s one thing we know about Jane Villanueva, it’s that she’s always been a good girl. Even if we hadn’t picked up on the numerous contextual clues implying as such (like, you know, the fact that she’s a pregnant virgin), this week’s episode opts to explicitly state this fact by opening with a flashback to Jane’s youth and a pair of lost earrings. Jane takes a pair of earrings from her abuela that she’s been instructed not to touch and, of course, loses them. But it’s the lesson here that’s more important: There is no sin so great that it cannot be forgiven by blood. The lesson the audience learns is that Jane has always been as good as she is now.
There’s nothing wrong with a television character being good. Good characters like Jane or Leslie Knope or Mary Richards are all textured and complicated characters, and there's no nuance lost in centering a show on a hero rather than an antihero. But be it hero or antihero, something is lost when the protagonist stops grappling with their moral compass, content to be whatever they appear to be, be it good or bad.
One of the best things about Jane the Virgin when it premiered this fall was how much Jane struggled with staying true to the person she was inside. She wanted to have sex, but she didn’t. She got completely drunk on her 21st birthday and (accidentally) assaulted a police officer. She fell victim to confusing feelings about inappropriate lust. But then she battled through all of those things and made decisions that were true to her character in spite of them. It was the battle that made Jane relatable, and it’s the battle that I miss now.
This episode features a Jane that is above reproach on every level. She forces Rafael to support his sister, mindful of the forgiveness she was taught early and often as a child. She lends a friendly ear to Petra, who is in the midst of crisis, despite Petra’s repeated attempts to derail Jane’s life and happiness. She’s also able to draw from her childhood memory to write a fantastic episode of television in what would appear to be her second week on the job.
If it sounds like I’m being too hard on the show, well, I am. “Episode 12” is a very well-constructed episode of television that provides just enough answers about the show’s ongoing mysteries to plunge the show headfirst into February sweeps. Jane the Virgin is a vibrant show, even when its protagonist feels a little static. However, as well-realized as early-season Jane was, Jane will not thrive if painted as a patron saint, no matter what the nuns might like. We need a return of the Jane who struggles to stay true to herself, and soon.
Outside of our flashback, things at Casa de Villanueva are pretty low-key. Xo and Rogelio are still struggling through her voluntary abstinence, which would probably be easier if they didn’t hang out on her bed, something basically every 15-year-old girl could tell them.
There are any number of nefarious dealings afoot in what is decidedly the busiest house of the episode. At Jane's urging, Rafael agrees to meet with his sister and tries to work through their fractured relationship, but he's got little tolerance for Luisa's “excuses.” She takes responsibility for her actions, reiterating that alcoholism is a disease and attempting to say anything to prove that she’s ready to leave the institution. (On a side note: For a show so sensitive to pressing cultural issues on immigration and other matters, it would be nice to see the writers handling addiction and mental illness a bit more sensitively. References to an institution as a “nut house” isn’t kind, accurate, or acceptable.)
We also learn that Luisa and Rafael’s mother had a mental breakdown and ultimately killed herself, making Luisa particularly sensitive to wrongful institutionalization. In their visit, Rafael mentions the bellboy who was murdered with a corkscrew, which spurs Luisa to write a letter to Rose and then beg Jane to deliver it. Rafael intercepts both Jane and letter, initially refusing to read or deliver it and claiming that Jane is too trusting. Eventually she persuades him, and he reads the letter to find that Luisa is concerned that Rose may be in danger at the hands of Emilio, her husband and Luisa’s father. Rafael is heartbroken, convinced that this is proof positive that his father is connected to Sin Rostro.
On the bright side, he’s wrong.
On the downside, his father is now dead at the hands of the actual Sin Rostro, Rose.
Rose, in retrospect, probably should have been more of a prime suspect for Sin Rostro, and not just because of the name similarity. Since day one, she's been far more involved in the background of every situation — pulling strings and manipulating situations as she sees fit — than made sense for any typical bisexual stepmother. The best part of the reveal is almost certainly the fact that Rose will have something akin to a purpose for the rest of the season, which can only be seen as a positive development.
Meanwhile, on Petra’s telenovela, she’s forced to resume taking event-planning meetings for the hotel; her first such meeting is with Milos, the unstable ex she’s been ducking for ages. Milos assures her that he never wanted to hurt her and that he always intended to burn her mother. She’s nonplussed, as this is still not a great thing to do, but he swears he’s telling the truth, so much so that, before episode’s end, he purports to slit Petra’s throat in a distraught rage, but it's revealed later as a ruse to prove that Petra’s mother has been lying to her the entire time. Petra is shocked and orders her mother to leave, which she does, moping out of the hotel room like George Michael Bluth.
The jig is up, and Michael knows it was Nadine that ratted him out to his superior officer, resulting in his suspension from the force. The police are continuing their investigation of the plastic surgeon they suspect works for Sin Rostro, but of course not fast enough for Michael, who has nothing but time on his hands now. He decides to ambush the doctor alone, posing as a plastic surgery patient and digging into the doctor’s files while his brother Billy distracts the doctor on the phone. After a fierce battle with the world’s slowest non-dot matrix printer, his efforts prove that it wasn’t Rafael responsible for the Sin Rostro link; the surgeon was instead being paid off via an account in the name of Emilio Solano. So much for his Rafael vengeance fantasies.
Fresh off of a lunch run that includes a trip to Target (my kind of lunch), Jane is informed that head writer Dina wants her to write the next episode of The Passions of Santos. This is a development that slightly begs belief but is immediately waved away by Dina’s (accurate!) explanation that the Writer’s Guild forces the show to have episodes written by non-staff members every season. Of course, we find out that there’s more to it than that: Jane is told that Rogelio’s character, Santos, must be killed at the end of the episode. It turns out that Rogelio has been quite the diva on the show, or so believe the powers that be. In fact, his assistant Nicholas has been manufacturing the supposedly divalike behavior in an attempt to sabotage Rogelio’s tenure on the show. His plan is successful, and his bedding of Dina ensures that he would be just the man to replace Rogelio — by playing his murderous son, no less.
Rogelio is distraught by this development but insists that Jane write the episode, tasking her with writing him the greatest death scene ever. She struggles with it but eventually hearkens back to what her abuela told her in the wake of losing her earrings, and Jane uses the beautiful sentiment to create a truly meaningful demise for Santos. Rogelio comes to a kind of peace with his telenovela fate, in part because Xo encourages him to think of it as the beginning of something new and wonderful, and in part because through it, he’s able to truly connect to Jane for perhaps the first time.
That said, he's supposed to get stabbed in the heart, and unless telenovelas have an adapted anatomy they’re working from, he was most certainly stabbed much nearer to the spleen than anywhere else. Perhaps we have not seen the last of El Presidente.
- Rose, that dirty witch. Is she able to evade notice because she’s just that good, or does she use assumptions of male villainy to aid her?
- Seriously, though, there has to be something more going on with Petra’s mother.
- How does Jane have that much free time, given her two jobs?
- Additionally, where exactly did Jane pull her cell phone from while she was wearing that halter top?
- Jane’s writing career is really clicking along. Will she end the season giving birth while simultaneously taking Dina’s job?
- “You can’t have The Passions of Santos without Santos. Then it’s just Passions. And that show FAILED.” Best line ever, or best line ever?