What Jane the Virgin has been missing for awhile now, even without necessarily realizing it, is a good, old-fashioned fight. Thankfully, “Chapter 20” was chock-full of them and brought many a long-standing conflict to a head.
As previously established, Jane Villanueva is never so accessible and admirable as when she’s indulging in deeply human, occasionally unhealthy behaviors. In the wake of her breakup with Rafael, Jane is more determined than ever to make it on her own as a single parent, regardless of Rafael’s potential involvement. For Jane, this means taking it upon herself to try to get the baby to flip out of the breech position using a variety of do-it-yourself remedies, and as a result, nearly burning the house down. In the aftermath of her flaming mishap, Jane is shown in a more vulnerable and broken state than we’ve ever seen her before, shouting at Alba about how she needed to do it for herself to prove that she can, to know that she has the ability to raise her baby as a single parent. The moment is aching, and Jane cries to her abuela that she didn’t see the breakup coming, perhaps the worst possible fate for a woman like Jane, whose greatest comfort is knowing that there’s a plan.
When Rafael broke Jane’s heart last episode, she was bereft. She is bereft. But what Jane can’t see and potentially will never see is the fact that breaking up with Rafael allows her the freedom to feel emotions that she’s kept herself from throughout her pregnancy. Jane is finally able to say how she really feels about Petra and her mother, both of whom are conniving liars who actively try to harm Jane’s family and their future. Jane’s able to articulate her anger and frustration because she no longer has to walk on eggshells to try to preserve her tenuous relationship with Rafael.
It’s because of this newfound freedom that Jane makes the decision, come the end of the episode, to file for sole custody of her child after quitting her job at the Marbella, spurred by the fact that Rafael doesn’t believe Alba’s claims against Magda and that he’s unable to cut Petra out of his life. As unreasonable as some of Jane’s requests may be, given that Petra does own one third of the hotel, what isn’t unreasonable is her decision to file for sole custody. As unpopular as this opinion might be, her judgment has really never been more sound. The Marbella is a roiling den of criminal activity, the site of several murders, harboring a woman she knows tried to murder her abuela and her ex’s ex who tried to cover it up, which is to say nothing of the fact that it was previously used as home base for a murderous international drug kingpin (queenpin?), all of which have direct or indirect ties to her baby’s daddy. Say what you will about the power of true love — knowing Jane as we do, it would be absolutely ridiculous if she didn’t take these measures to protect her child.
There’s nothing to say that Jane needs to cut Rafael out of their child’s life wholesale, merely that she would be the primary caregiver. And honestly, isn’t that what Rafael wants, ultimately? Despite having a long and drawn-out conversation with his newly returned sister Luisa, the hotel is truly his baby, and giving custody to Jane doesn’t mean that he can’t be involved, but rather that he would be able to divide his time more to his liking without feeling constrained by the burden of fatherhood. And as much as we want to believe in true love conquering all and assuming that Rafael will pull a big, old, “Just kidding. I still love you. I just … lied about it?” it’s kind of unthinkable that Jane would immediately take him back, child or no child.
Look at it this way: Jane believes, above all else, in family and in love. But as tempting as creating a family unit with Rafael for their child is, for her to overlook a fundamental deception about love — that seems nigh on unforgivable. To convince someone that you don’t love them anymore is cruel, and worse, “doing it for her own good” is condescending. Jane the Virgin is perpetually trying to walk the line between telenovela and deeply human drama, a near-impossible task that it achieves with stunning frequency, but toying with the emotions of the protagonist with soapy twists isn’t going to fly if it hopes to retain the humanity and pathos of all involved.
Conflict is an invaluable tool, particularly when you commit to it and its inevitable consequences. What made this episode of Jane the Virgin particularly brilliant is how it allowed for so much conflict and so much catharsis while still leaving absolutely everything up in the air. Things have never been so unclear for the future of the Villanueva women and their sundry compatriots, and with two episodes left in the season, the only thing certain is that everything is going to end with a bang.
Things are still not right between Xiomara and Rogelio in the aftermath of her ex-kissing admission. Thanks to his philandering first wife, Ro has significant baggage and fears the humiliation that accompanies unfaithfulness, and Xo is devastated that she’s ruined a good thing by being careless. She tries to make amends only to realize that in the long term, she’s only jeopardizing Jane and Rogelio’s relationship. She then informs Rogelio that she accepts that he cannot forgive her and that he should continue to be a father to Jane, that she won’t make it awkward. Rogelio looks stunned and a little heartbroken, not suspecting that Xo would give up on him.
Alba, after realizing it was Petra’s mother Magda who pushed her down the stairs and nearly killed her, wants Jane to forget about it, as she’s concerned about her undocumented-immigrant status. Xiomara finally admits to both Jane and Alba that when Alba was hospitalized, Michael was able to help keep her from immigration, and suggests that he may be able to do so again. Jane, touched by Michael’s actions, thanks him and explains their current predicament. Though he tries his hardest, Petra and Magda are able to come up with rock-solid (fake) alibis as well as false medical records claiming that Magda was still confined to a wheelchair at the time of the accident. Though things aren’t all bad for Alba. She has lunch with her would-be boyfriend, the priest, so that’s progress.
Jane, on the other hand, is enraged that Rafael would take Petra and Magda’s word over hers, and quits her job at the Marbella. Jane’s struggles were not without victories, however, as she was eventually able to get the baby to move out of the breech position. Also, she and the baby now appear to share the glowy heart bond, which is splendid.
Luisa is back from her time away spent in an ashram, as opposed to with Sin Rostro. She returns with a new girlfriend, a wrestler, and suggests that before she choose between Petra and Rafael’s strategies on how to save the hotel, they feature a wrestling match over the weekend to drive business. Petra and Rafael both grudgingly agree, thinking that their acquiescence will make Luisa more likely to choose their method of funding future endeavors. The wrestling serves as a silly side story but does allow for the greatest graphics in television history, so it is clearly worthwhile.
Petra spends most of the episode trying to keep her mother’s attack on Alba under wraps, and Magda, with a new job in the hotel kitchen, spends most of her time haranguing Jane about her grandmother. Rafael and Luisa have a long-overdue heart-to-heart where he admits the real reason he broke up with Jane, and she attempts to set him straight. Petra also finds out that Jane and Rafael broke up and remains determined to win him back because, apparently, she still loves him.
Michael spends the episode trying to prove that Magda attacked Alba, but to no avail. He does, however, get a hug from Jane, and seeing as he’s still obviously in love with her, that’s probably enough for him.
Dina comes groveling back to Rogelio, begging him to return to The Passions of Santos, as ratings are in the toilet since he was killed off. She pitches him a stirring revival scene involving a Kevlar vest, burial at sea, amnesia, and a super-sexy scene where El Presidente emerges from the water in a soaking-wet shirt. Rogelio plays hard to get at first, but given that his current telenovela role is a sentient floating head in outer space, he eventually jumps at the chance to return to Passions.
Jane not only quits the Marbella, but decides to pursue sole custody of the baby!
Burning Questions (and Some Answers)
• Who will declare his undying love to Jane first: Michael or Rafael?
• What are the odds of Jane ending the season single? (Hopefully high.)
I• s anyone surprised that the Rogelio (correctly) loves The Parent Trap? (No.)
• Is there really no way that Alba can date the Cheech Marin priest?
• If there are only two episodes left, then how much plot is going to have to be burned through to wrap up all of the myriad dangling threads of this season? (Like, a lot.)