There’s an exchange early on in John Crowley’s modern fantasy novel Little, Big in which two characters are having an impassioned conversation. One, a lovestruck young woman, declares, “I won’t wait forever. I love him. Life is short.” Her trusted companion, decidedly farther along life’s path than she, responded, voice thick with tears, “Life is long. Too long.” These diametrically opposed statements are both completely accurate. Life is short. Life is long. It all depends on where you’re standing and how you look at the world spread before you.
This same sentiment is echoed by Jane when she attempts to explain to Rafael why she can’t accept his proposal of marriage. He sees life as short, perhaps unsurprising for a man who has lost, for most intents and purposes, his entire family, and has but one good thing left in his life. To Rafael, life is short because you never know when everything you think you possess will be stripped away from you, with hardly a moment’s notice. To Jane, life is long. Also unsurprising, given the solid and stable foundation her life has been built on since she was small. What Jane knows of the world revolves around a strong family unit, able to tackle any obstacle and weather any storm. Because she has always existed in an environment where there’s time enough to think things through and work hard and plan for any inevitability, she sees the future as an unending path of opportunity, one she wants to walk confidently down, not sprint through as though her hair were on fire.
The beauty of Jane the Virgin’s return to the television schedule is that it understands how difficult it is when two people who love each other just can’t manage to get on the same page. We see it with Jane and Rafael trying to figure out what the next step as a couple is (and if they’re ready to take it), and we see it again with Rogelio and Xo, who are struggling to keep honesty and trust at the forefront of their relationship. When the show is at its best, it finds the humanity in every challenge the characters face, and there are few things more challenging than telling the truth to someone you love when you know the truth will only hurt them.
Xo doesn’t want to tell Rogelio she might be pregnant. Rogelio doesn’t want to tell Xo that his new job makes him miserable. Jane tells Rafael she’ll think about his proposal, merely because she’s too afraid to tell him her actual answer: no. The characters, in trying to navigate these muddy waters, often only make the situations worse, as Jane and Xo both found out when trying to “test” the men in their lives. Tests are seductive. We tell ourselves they are lie detectors, aids to help us sniff out the truth in a situation, when in reality, they are trust-breakers, telling the people we love that we don’t trust them not to lie to us. Both Jane and Xo realize this the hard way but are fortunate (and truthful) enough to come clean and talk.
Life is short. Short enough that Xo and Rogelio decide it’s time to try living together. Life is long. Long enough that Jane and Rafael need more time to percolate as a couple before making commitments that bind for the rest of their lives. Life is both. It’s just a matter of what’s right for you.
The episode begins with young Jane seeking truth in all forms, wanting answers for all her questions and not being satisfied until she fully comprehends the matter at hand. This isn’t particularly surprising, given Jane’s constant latent need to have a plan and be completely informed, but it does fill in the blanks a bit. Lucky for her, she and Rafael get a very important answer right off the bat, when they are informed their baby is healthy. (A relief, even though serious natal issues never seemed like a particularly serious threat.) After this news, Rafael is hopeful that Jane will be ready to answer his question about the two moving in together, and Jane gently turns him down, telling him that even though they’re having a baby together, she still yearns to follow a modified plan of how relationships are “supposed” to proceed. Rafael misinterprets Jane’s words as her pressuring him to propose to her and does so at a private reading by Jane’s favorite romance author, Angelique Harper. It does not go the way he hopes, and Jane asks for more time.
Meanwhile, Xo and Ro are back to doing it on the reg, so on the reg that Xo may be pregnant, thanks to imprecise birth-control ingestion, though Rogelio is clueless on this front. Rogelio assures Xo that everything is going well at his new job despite everything going terribly at his new job. Eventually the truth comes out about the potential pregnancy (she’s not) and job satisfaction (he’s not), and the two decide to recommit themselves to being honest with each other while also deciding it’s time to move in together.
Alba attempts to get Jane to decide whether or not to marry Rafael based on an old magazine quiz, and Xo reminds Jane of how certain she was that she wanted to marry Michael when she knew he was going to propose. In the end, Jane speaks honestly to Rafael about how she wants them to stay the course for now because that’s what her gut says to do. He’s upset but understands.
In the midst of all this, Jane works up the nerve to approach her hero while she’s staying in the hotel in the attempt to slip her a copy of the first chapter of her book. Things go awry, and in a classic mistaken-identity bit, Jane is forced to give the author a surprise 90-minute massage that she is woefully unprepared for. Afterwards, she recounts the ridiculous affair to Michael while Rafael watches them from afar, chatting like old friends.
Back at the hotel, Lachlan is back on-site, as Petra wishes to fire him to his face. Rafael assures her that this is a terrible idea, as Lachlan’s contract states he’ll collect $1 million if he’s dismissed. Lachlan then comes to Rafael to try to set up a scheme to force Petra out, revolving around his and Petra’s sex tape. Rafael is disinterested, but the sex tape leaks anyway. Surprisingly, however, it was Petra who leaked the tape, in order to wrest back control of the situation. She explains herself to Rafael and suggests they team up to try to force Lachlan out. This business proposal Rafael accepts.
Aaron, Roman’s twin, is anxious to speak with Petra about his brother’s final days, which Petra reluctantly agrees to. Eventually, though, it’s revealed that Aaron is primarily interested in a necklace of his mother’s that has gone missing. Petra assures Aaron he can have the necklace back and delivers it to him posthaste.
Michael flits about the fringes of the episode, both in flashback to his and Jane’s relationship and in the present. He’s well acquainted with Jane’s adoration of Angelique Harper, and is the one who informs Jane that Harper is staying in the hotel. He and Jane additionally run into each other at their favorite food truck, and again later, after Jane has given her a mistaken massage. He and Jane seem to be working through some of their awkwardness and attempting the difficult transition back to friendship.
Rogelio is back to work after starting at his new gig, playing second fiddle to his nemesis. Things are terrible all around, as it becomes clear that Rogelio is merely there to be Esteban’s whipping boy. Xo witnesses how miserable the situation is, but Rogelio assures her it’s worth it to be able to pursue a relationship with her. Also, Rogelio is made to wear peach, even though everyone knows that he doesn’t pop in peach.
Aaron doesn’t want his mother’s necklace for sentimental reasons at all! He immediately cracks it open to find the true object of his desire inside. (A flash drive? A dongle? Whatever it is, it plugs into a USB port.) Maybe Aaron isn’t so unlike his brother after all.
Burning Questions (and Some Answers)
Is there a better physical comedian than Gina Rodriguez currently on TV? (No.)
Are there copies of Jane’s book hidden in nooks all over the hotel?
How did Petra not realize that necklace held something secret, as it looked like a device mariners used to navigate the ancient seas?
Will there be more gratuitous Rafael shirtlessness in the future? (God, I hope so.)
Is the electoral college archaic and ridiculous? (Yes.)
Was anyone expecting Jane the Virgin to obliquely reference Showtime’s The Affair? (Definitely not.)
How great is it to have this show back? (So, so great.)