As an avid television viewer and frequent latchkey child of the late ’80s and early ’90s, no controversy confused me more than the firestorm surrounding Murphy Brown’s single motherhood, fueled largely by then-vice-president Dan Quayle’s comments that the show’s choice suggested that fathers were disposable. The fact that it was an issue at all was shocking to me, an 11-year-old burgeoning liberal if only because it seemed so obvious to me that it didn’t matter if Murphy was married because everyone on the show would help raise the baby!
To remember this age, where the cultural climate was such that single parenthood was somehow shameful and not ready for prime-time portrayal, is almost laughable, but “Chapter Seventeen” of Jane the Virgin brings me back to that place of childhood disbelief in the sweetest possible way.
In a way, the episode is a difficult one to watch, as Jane goes through the gauntlet of parenting prep courses, trying to quell her anxieties about the process in patented Jane fashion: overpreparation. The most frustrating thing about watching Jane indulge in her worst habits over the pregnancy is knowing that at that moment, there was no one to keep her from her worst impulses, save a manifestation of her future daughter. She alienates Xiomara by not taking her advice and Rafael is wholly consumed by the hotel, so Jane has no one to keep her centered on the fact that there’s no right way to raise a baby.
More concerning even than Jane’s study spiral is the way that Rafael focuses all of his attention on the hotel. He says it’s because he wants to provide for the baby, but it’s clear that his focus is on proving that he isn’t a screw-up and that he can turn the hotel into a place worth knowing. But the problem is, ultimately, Rafael is kind of a screw-up. Rather, he’s a person who doesn’t think things through. Just another way he’s the opposite of Jane, he always assumes that life will work out for him because he’s rarely known any other way. Jane believe that things will work out, not because life has shown her that, but because she’s a positive person who’s willing to do the hard work of doing things the right way. The way that Rafael throws himself into his work is nice, sure, as it shows he’s able to commit to something, but the way he so easily slots Jane into second billing is disturbing, particularly when the two are still supposed to be in the honeymoon stage of their relationship. Even when confronted with the fact that Jane is petrified that once the baby comes, the burden will fall solely on her to care for their child, Rafael chooses to reassure her the best way he knows how: by telling her they’ll get a nanny.
No matter how new the relationship, Rafael should know Jane better than to expect that she’d be happy with someone else raising her child. As underwhelmed as Michael was at the beginning of the season at the prospect of raising someone else’s child, at least he was upfront about it. Rafael can’t even begin to see what’s wrong with business being his top priority, much less what it says about him that he’s not willing to make sacrifices for his soon-to-be-born child.
It would be a disheartening place to see Jane exist in, this tenuous situation where her love may not be a strong-enough foundation on which to build a safe and secure home for her child, if not for the fact that Jane already has a safe and secure home for her child. By episode’s end, the Villanueva women have mended their fences and sit together on the porch, strong and stable as they’ve ever been, and it’s clear that to raise a child, it doesn’t necessarily take a Rafael — it takes the Villanuevas.
Though most of the plot points for the Villanueva clan were covered above, there is the matter of the existing tension between Alba and Xo after Xo moved in with Rogelio. The two are finally able to move past the issue when Alba witnesses the difficulty Xo has watching Jane make different parenting choices than she did, a feeling that Alba herself felt when Xo had Jane. The two come together, as they always do, to provide a consistent and loving support system for Jane in her time of crisis.
Meanwhile, Xo also tries to get Rogelio to tell her he loves her, and she fails miserably. Eventually, she gives in and tells him first, only to have him reply, “I’m getting there with you as well.” Not exactly the response she was looking for. But Rogelio can’t commit himself to Xo unless she can make peace with his mother, someone she’s had her historical differences with. Conveniently, she’ll be visiting next week, so the two can mend fences and Rogelio can move forward, confident that two of the most important women in his life are on good terms.
Rafael is throwing his all into turning the hotel’s momentum into something more, by throwing a big party. He’s going all out, and when the permit falls through, he makes the decision to go ahead with the gathering anyway, despite Petra’s concerns. In the meantime, Rafael is completely AWOL when it comes to being there to support Jane and their unborn baby emotionally, something that causes strain between the two, though he’s quick to try to blame Michael for trying to drive a wedge between the two by his continued presence on the fringes of their life. The police end up busting underage drinkers outside the hotel party and come in to find out that the affair is permitless. Rafael makes a bad situation worse by implying he would bribe the officer, and the hotel ends up facing a hefty fine and the loss of its liquor license.
Petra also has her hands full, as she and Aaron seem to be closer by the day. However, Aaron rightly points out to her that she still has feelings for Rafael, and she admits as much, acknowledging the fact that her lingering emotions result in her allowing Rafael to make dangerous decisions regarding the hotel’s future. She nearly ends up taking comfort in Aaron’s arms, but pulls away at the last moment.
Michael doesn’t do much police work this episode, but he does spend lots of time with his newfound bromance with Rogelio. He’s able to discern that what Xo wants from Rogelio is an admission of love, and Rogelio, feeling for his new friend, advises Michael to move on with his life, as he thinks Jane and Rafael are the real deal. Michael appears to take Rogelio at his word, calling his ex-girlfriend Andie and rekindling their connection. Andie knows that Jane is Michael’s ex-girlfriend, though clearly, Jane knows nothing of their shared romantic history.
Petra, after some light physical contact with Aaron, bursts into Rafael’s office declaring that, though she doesn’t know how, Aaron is definitely his dead brother Roman in disguise.
Burning Questions (and Some Answers)
Why hasn’t Jane gotten a part-time job at Target? (One would think that an employee discount would pay for itself.)
Where does Andie go to get those diapers? (It can be really difficult to find a Target in Los Angeles.)(Yes, the show is set in Miami, but come on.)
Is there a better list of things that Rogelio loves than “hot chocolate, mini-marshmallows, human fans, air-blowing fans, and mirrors?” (No.)
But wasn’t it better when he told Xo that “I needed to make love to you somewhere that didn’t feel like a convent.”? (Yes.)
Shortly after getting engaged a woman told me to be careful around babies because my diamond could cut a baby’s face; if that’s true, how did the Target woman’s baby even have a face? (Her diamond ring was ostentatiously large.)