Jane the Virgin
The first two episodes of this season moved at a breakneck pace. The show needed to recover from Mateo’s kidnapping, reestablish the love triangle, weave Petra back into the plot, and figure out where to put Xiomara and Rogelio, all while dealing with Jane’s new motherhood and also sticking Kesha in there. It’s been a lot, and although Jane the Virgin is nothing if not stunningly good at spinning way too many plates in the air at once, things had to slow down eventually.
As a result, “Chapter Twenty-Five” is more about building and reacting to previous revelations than it is about creating new ones. And while that feels like an underwhelming introduction to the episode, it’s absolutely for the best that we take a little breather.
Of course, a “breather” is still about seven more plots than most shows have, but although there are two Sin Rostro–adjacent stories here, they’re pretty tiny. Michael spends the episode trying to tie Rose’s handwriting to a guestbook in Switzerland? And is successful, but his investigation ends in a dead end with the name Heidi von Ocher and a big mystified look on his face. Okay!(?) In other Sin Rostro news, Mostly Useless Luisa spends the entire episode in a cell somewhere. It’s ridiculous, except that she manages to learn that someone other than Rose kidnapped her, and it allows Rafael to say this to her voicemail when she misses Mateo’s baptism: “Bummed you missed the baptism. Hope you’re … still on the wagon?”
On the #Rogelio front, we learn that it’s “Make Love Week” (Shark Week for telenovelas), and as a new EP on Passions of Santos, Rafael needs to help cast a dramatic love interest for his character. (Rogelio’s EP notes: “Call Charo back!! Buy new pants.”) The obvious suggestion is his ex-wife Dina, a decision that Xiomara supports in spite of the diary Rogelio kept during their breakup. Sample line: “When you left me I felt like a tiny kitten without his fur.” Predictably, this goes south when Rogelio and Luciana’s screen-test kiss starts slipping horizontally, if you get what I’m saying, and Xiomara is ticked off. Xo considers just breaking off the whole thing, Alba gives her a kick in the pants and tells her to quit running away from things.
Aside from Make Love Week, an event that no doubt rocks the telenovela universe to its very core, the biggest event this week is Mateo’s baptism. The ceremony itself is played straight, with remarkably few shenanigans or startling twists, but the whole thing becomes a nice little showpiece for the Villanueva family’s dedication to lineage and tradition (as well as Abuela’s impressive church-event planning skills), while also pulling together a few different character threads.
First, on the #TeamMichael vs. #TeamRafael front, awkward post-kidnapping circumstances have led to Michael as the nominee for Mateo’s godfather, and this plus Sin Rostro give him reasons to be around Jane quite a bit. Michael confides in Rogelio that it’s hard not to just pour his heart out to Jane at every opportunity, and Rogelio tells Michael to use the same diary system he came up with during his Luciana breakup period. Michael puts up a fair attempt at being “macho” in person while writing down his real thoughts in a diary, and inevitably breaks down, presenting Jane with the diary for her to read. The notes are sweet and thoughtful and inspiring without being condescending — which is a really hard note to hit — and do plenty to keep #TeamMichael alive.
The baptism structures two other stories in this episode: Jane’s conflicted feelings about whether to attend grad school, and Jane and Rafael’s discussion about what to do about Petra’s baby. Jane learns early on in the episode that the grad-school interview she insisted on sitting through while in labor with Mateo has turned into an offer to join a graduate writing program (JANE PLEASE DO NOT TAKE OUT LOANS FOR THIS). She is thrilled, and does a great little happy dance, but soon gets a call that in order to start the grad program, she needs to take a pre-req class that starts tomorrow.
This triggers a familiar but nonetheless heart-wrenching debate for Jane: Whether to leave Mateo much earlier than she had planned or to put off grad school, possibly forever. She tries a compromise by bringing Mateo to class, which goes about as terribly as everyone could have imagined and ends with her stroller careening down a set of lecture-hall steps into the podium of a nonplussed world-lit professor. (But wow, the class had to be pretty thrilled that the stroller interrupted the most boring lecture ever on Euripides’ Andromache.)
While Jane is desperately trying to figure out how to Have It All, and also how the brake on her stroller works, Rafael brings her into the whole Petra’s-pregnant-with-my-surprise-sperm-sample situation. She is not particularly ecstatic about it, and when Petra sits down with Rafael and Jane to present three options (abortion, co-parenting, or Petra running off to convince a Russian oligarch that the baby is his), Jane initially tries to surrender any responsibility for the decision.
At Mateo’s baptism, though, the decisions about both of these questions quickly become clear and are framed through a letter Jane reads to Mateo — the same letter Alba read for Xiomara’s baptism, and Xiomara read for Jane’s. It’s a lovely prayer for boldness and kindness and joy, but the emphasis is really on finding the strength to fulfill your dreams. (Okay, it’s a pretty tritely sentimental letter. But Gina Rodriguez’s reading of it pulls the letter back from sappiness into sincerity.) Even in the context of the letter, Jane still tells Alba and Xo that she’s decided against going to grad school, but they chide her gently into changing her mind. (Repeat of adorable happy dance.) Later, Jane tells Rafael that Petra should stay and raise her baby nearby, so that Mateo can know his sibling, and I really hope that baby will actually be named Yvgeny.
The reality is that aside from the information that Luisa was kidnapped by someone other than Rose, nothing at all about this episode was surprising. Of course Jane was going to choose to go back to grad school. For one, staying home with an infant is tough and emotionally fraught and exhausting, but it is also pretty boring from a narrative-momentum standpoint. But aside from the sheer fictional considerations, it’s the right and obvious choice for the character. It’s to the show’s considerable credit that the debate is given as much time as it is, and that it goes some way toward showing how difficult the decision can be. Even the lip-service-y Mom’s Group meeting, which powerfully resembles a baby-formula advertisement, feels important to represent as part of Jane’s decision. But this was still a gently inevitable plot; if much of Jane the Virgin feels like pulling back a rubber band and watching it hurtle into the stratosphere, this plot is like watching that same tensed rubber band snap placidly back into place.
It’s not just Jane this week, either — of course Rafael and Jane are going to tell Petra to stay and raise little Yvgeny nearby. Obviously Rogelio is going to end up filming alongside his ex-wife. And no one believed for a second that Michael was going to suddenly alienate himself from Jane by signing up for the world’s most misguided Cyrano de Bergerac situation. All of which is fine and welcome. This episode was about turning back from the delightful roller coaster of telenovela plotting and refocusing on who its characters are.
But clearly after all of that humdrum character development, it had to do SOMETHING, so — Rogelio literally hanging from a (completely fake TV prop) cliff, while Luciana threatens him with some mysterious video footage! Jane kisses Rafael, and Petra takes a picture! To Be Continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- On Jane narrating her life to Mateo in order to help his language development: “Wow, she’s pretty good at narration.” It’s a line that could have been a throwaway, but the reading was so hysterically funny I accidentally smacked myself in the face while laughing. And later: “Don’t step on my toes, Jane. I’ve got a job to do.”
- “How do you find the words to say that your psychotic ex-wife inseminated herself with your stolen sperm?”
- On Mostly Useless Luisa: “I’d tell you what’s going on, but I’m a little confused myself.”
- “Fans will want to see someone spectacular in bed with me.”
- On being an EP: “It’s like being chief of police? But with higher stakes.”
- On casting his love interest: “Emma Stone? I’ve heard she can play any race!”
- More from the diary: “You crushed my heart like a walnut in a walnut-crushing machine.”
- On Petra’s pregnancy: “I’d be more shocked, but we did that story on Santos.”
- “Let’s be real. I would have chemistry with a cardboard box.”
- “We will hire someone subpar, and I will shine brightly enough for us both.”