It’s a busy, busy week on Jane the Virgin, but after all of the hashtags and the terrible sweater kisses and the product placement for cars, we’re left with two main points.
First, the show has been on a stellar run of episodes since winter break — it’s been fun and stayed true to itself, while also letting its characters move forward. Stepping out of the shadow of such a lauded and distinctive first season can be tricky; it’s hard to give the audience what it wants and do interesting, new work. Jane the Virgin has navigated both with aplomb, and these recent episodes have been great.
My second takeaway from “Chapter Thirty-Three” is that it’s highly unusual for the non-Jane plot to be my favorite part of an episode — especially when the Jane plot is as compelling and funny as it is here. But this episode is a glorious, shining showcase for Rogelio de la Vega and I am HERE FOR IT.
Before we get there, though, it’s worth going through the other excellent story lines. Let’s start with the (relatively) weakest one — Mutter/Sin Rostro/Michael is stuck in a basement somewhere with a computer chip. I said last week that I do not care who Mutter is, and that needle has not budged, even in spite of this week’s revelations. (Elena/Mutter is actually Rose/Sin Rostro’s stepmother.) Luisa and Susannah’s potential relationship is far more meaningful than Rose and Elena hanging out in some fur-bedecked Alpine chalet. It’s a tough call: This element of the series is a part of its DNA, and it’s impossible to jettison without ruining some of that telenovela flair. But I’m having an increasingly hard time seeing how it connects with the rest of the show.
The Mutter plot is a tiny, tiny part of “Chapter Thirty-Three,” though, and we have more important things to discuss. For instance, I’ve shortchanged Poor Pregnant Petra in these recaps, and that’s unfair of me — Jane the Virgin has done a stellar job of slowly and surely rehabilitating her. This episode gives us the hard sell, complete with Petra’s humorous self-effacement and some fuzzily lit beach flashbacks that are so endearing, they look like they belong on the poster for a teen-cancer movie.
Petra, you see, is doing her very best to keep the Marbella’s finances afloat by preventing the cancellation of a big wedding. But sadly, when she and Rafael try to woo the bride into staying at the Marbella, it turns out that Petra was the one who alienated her. An angry Petra once got the former-barista bride fired for spilling coffee on her, which later spurred her into creating a pretty mediocre, but undeniably entertaining, piece of statuary called “The Trophy Wife.”
Newly humble, Petra convinces the bride to keep the wedding at the Marbella, and also installs “The Trophy Wife” in the hotel lobby. This, coupled with the interwoven flashbacks of Rafael and Petra’s early meet-cute days, makes it completely unsurprising when Rafael and Petra finally rekindle things with a very sweet kiss. And it’s all the more heartbreaking when Petra stops things because she fears Rafael is hung up on Jane.
Rafael may indeed still harbor feelings for Jane, but it’s clear Jane is moving on. We pick up with Jane still feeling the effects of that sexy dream about her advisor, Professor Chavez, and her crush soon leads her down an all-too plausibly mortifying path. Jane’s story is, in many ways, a variation of that terrible fever dream we all imagine the moment we become interested in someone — you say his name instead of your character’s name when reading aloud from your romance novel! You finally arrange something like a date with him, and it’s just adorable fan service for his mother! And THEN — oh, and then. Jane, assiduously reading the signs Xiomara helpfully provides, thinks Professor Chavez is going in for a kiss, and she ends up making out with his sweater.
This sequence is impressive because it manages to be painfully awkward. Jane’s such an appealing character, and watching her do something so cringe-worthy is truly hard to witness. (The moment that hit too close to home for me, though, is the aftermath: Chavez coaches Jane how to back her car out of a tight parking space. This … this is too real.)
The end result of the whole problem is not hard to see coming. Jane, who can no longer focus on writing her thesis, tells Chavez that she’d like to switch advisors. He says he understands, then immediately tells her that because she’s no longer one of his advisees, he’d like to ask her out for dinner. And based on the promo for the next episode, it looks like dinner will go quite well.
Before we leave Jane, it’s worth noting that the most interesting aspect of this entire Chavez plot is the conversation it spurs between Jane and Xiomara. The premise of the series — its title! — rests on the fact of Jane’s virginity, something she’s finally beginning to admit might not be a good idea. When she was with Michael, and then with Rafael, Jane could “see the finish line,” but without a relationship quickly headed for marriage, she thinks it “might be time to reevaluate.” It is a testament to this show that a small referendum on its silly opening premise feels so poignant.
So, this is a great and very full episode! But the heart and soul of “Chapter Thirty-Three” belongs to Rogelio, who somehow gets to be both peak #Rogelio and also a well-rounded, vulnerable human being. He’s all excited to throw a 40th birthday party for Xiomara, not least because he plans to propose to her. It’s also an opportunity to bathe Xo in Rogelio’s particular language of love — a posse of people come make her up and take her picture, there are many fluffy ball gowns, and he finds 40 doves for her to release. He’s also thrilled about the chance to babysit for Mateo, and is doing a fine job of it until he decides to show him the diamond he got for Xiomara’s wedding ring. The result is entirely foreseeable: Rogelio shouts “WHERE IS THE DIAMOND, MATELIO!” at a baby who has clearly just eaten a diamond.
Rogelio is really chastened when Jane arrives at the hospital to pick up Mateo, who’s now packing bling somewhere in his GI tract. Part of this is because Rogelio loves Mateo, of course, but it’s also because he wants to have his own children with Xiomara, and is worried that he’s not great with kids. Thanks to the inevitable course of time, the diamond makes its reappearance, and so too does Rogelio’s deeply held desire to be a parent.
The “Fabulous and 40” birthday party is abruptly cancelled, however, after Xiomara books a singing gig — which offers a great set piece for Andrea Navedo’s rendition of “Volare.” In the back room, Rogelio gets down on one knee and gives Xo a truly knockout proposal. After a name check for his buddy Ryan Gosling, Rogelio tells Xiomara, “You are what I’ve been looking for … I think that my whole journey up until now has been about finding my way back to you.” She is all ready to say yes, until he says, “I want to spend my life with you. And raise kids with you.”
Xiomara can’t take the diamond. She is, understandably, not interested in giving over the next 20 years of her life to more children. She’s also incredibly upset that she can’t accept his proposal. Rogelio is utterly dejected. It’s the most sympathetic, heartfelt moment we’ve seen between these two characters. Rogelio, especially, is so crestfallen and sad that the scene turns all of Jane’s awkwardness and the crime-lord silliness into a secondary concern. Please buck up, Rogelio. To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- The best Narrator moment this week actually did not belong to him — it was the moment when, suddenly uncomfortable with narrating Jane’s painstaking seduction of Chavez, he declares it “too pervy” to continue and passes the baton to Jane, in a kind of voice-over version of free indirect discourse. “Take it away, Jane!”
- The second-best moment was a little throwaway line about Petra, as she gazes at “The Trophy Wife” and insists, “It isn’t me!” “And it wasn’t,” says Our Narrator. “Not anymore.”
- #AwkwardSweaterKiss #WaitingforGodot-Nuts
- Rogelio doesn’t know the real names of his glam squad. Apologies to Alejandra/Julie, Shanisha/Alisha, and Marina/Monica.
- Jane, trying to hide the not-actually-an-engagement ring in her fist, gets Rogelio to fist bump her instead of a high five. But he figures it out anyhow: “You didn’t blow it up! You always blow it up!”
- The entire sequence with Chavez’s mother, #1 Rogelifan, is amazing. This show writes fandom and celebrity worship into the fiction in such fascinating ways. If Rogelio made that face at me, would I also be struck dumb? It’s possible.
- If you’re going to do obvious product placement, there are worse choices than asking a car’s text-to-voice system to read aloud from Rogelio’s prearranged publicity tweets. “Ten minutes looking for the perfect shoes to complement my eyes. Shoe emoji. Puffy happy face emoji. Rainbow. On the phone fielding multiple offers from my agent. #WhatWillRoDoNext. See-no-evil monkey emoji. Exfoliating. #Loofah.”