This episode of Jane the Virgin is all about moving pieces into place. A lot of transition work is needed to get the wedding underway, put some legs in the whole Derek plot, balance the new roles for Petra and Rafael, give Alba something to do, and keep the Xiomara/Rogelio relationship on a low burn. Plus, obviously, Jane and Mateo.
It’s inevitable that you hit spots in a season like this, when an episode is more about floating between big moments and stacking things up for the future. Luckily, “Chapter Thirty-Eight” is saved from being totally scattershot by a few really wonderful sequences. Nearly all of the individual bits are, at the very least, quite fun, and several of them are great. But it’s hard to get an episode that’s both low-key (on the Jane the Virgin scale, anyhow) and spread across so many stories. Even the patented “pick a theme and let the Narrator just weave that sucker through a ton of otherwise unrelated stories” strategy feels a bit strained.
Of course, it’s pretty weird to describe an episode where Charo shows up as “low-key,” but this is the bar Jane the Virgin sets.
So let’s start with some highlights. For instance — Charo shows up! Jane and Michael’s wedding is around the corner, and Rogelio is straining mightily against Jane’s desire for a small wedding. Only 15 guests set aside for Rogelio is, of course, an outrage for someone like him, and he’s just flabbergasted that Jane truly wants him to stick to that number. Partially to help convince her otherwise, and also because Rogelio is still coping with his breakup with Xiomara, Charo shows up to support him. And yeah, she really can play that guitar.
One of the big themes of “Chapter Thirty-Eight” is compromise, which is in itself a tip-off that Jane isn’t quite fully on its game — compromise is a hard sell as a foundation for any rousing storytelling. In the case of Rogelio’s wedding sads, Xiomara points out to Jane that a wedding is for her, but it’s also for her family, and Rogelio missed the chance to celebrate any of the other big milestone parties in her life. The compromise is that Jane will have a small ceremony, but Rogelio will get to throw the wedding reception of his dreams. Rogelio, in turn, thoughtfully ditches his plan to rent out the Miami Zoo and instead builds a model of the Villanueva house on the Tiago soundstage so that Jane can have a wedding as close to being at home as possible.
Speaking of the Villanueva house, the Curse of Pablo Alonso Segura, which struck so dramatically at the end of “Chapter Thirty-Seven,” has flooded Alba’s house and forced the Villanueva women to decamp to the Marbella while it undergoes repairs. It’s so bad that there’s no way Jane can use it for her wedding (thus Rogelio’s soundstage model), and yet somehow it’s not bad enough to shake Alba out of her Pablo Alonso Segura love haze.
Though it didn’t get much time, this is one of the two best plots of the week. Although Pablo Alonso Segura is such horrible bad luck that doorknobs actually fall off in his hands, Alba’s blinded enough to agree to marry him. It’s not until Jane and Xiomara spot him giving a blue napkin rose to a different woman in a Marbella hallway that the scales fall from Alba’s eyes, and the gloriously rampaging tell-off she delivers is quite satisfying. It also helps Xiomara and Jane convince Alba that she really should be dating. Which is great, but Alba — you have got to get rid of this premarital-sex hang up!
The episode’s other standout story that seems a little short-changed is the dawning realization of Petra’s postpartum depression. I’m thrilled that Jane the Virgin is telling this story; I’m not surprised it’s doing so in the best possible way. This is exactly the sort of narrative that tends to be either a laugh line or a Very Special Episode anywhere else on TV, but Jane can do it really well. Petra’s having trouble adjusting to motherhood, and with the help of a new mom group, Jane gradually figures out that Petra is showing clear signs of PPD.
Heartbreakingly, when Petra turns to her mother to get a better family history of depression — “I had a baby girl in Czechoslovakia in 1985. Of course I was depressed. You were depressed. The neighbor who delivered you was depressed.” — Marta continues her bid for Best Inhuman Criminal Mother by suggesting that she just give her daughters away. And the last scene we see of Petra is of her portentously packing a suitcase. This plot feels bigger than it has room for here. While I dearly hope we’ll get more from Petra when the show returns in two weeks, I wish she’d gotten some of that space in this episode.
Meanwhile, in what feels like an entirely different series, Rafael and Michael are trying to figure out what the deal is with Derek, Rafael’s half-brother, who may or may not know anything about their mother, the crime lord Mutter. (How’s that for a sentence?) I’m not sure what he knows, and I’m not really sure how this plot relates to anything. But I do know that Derek should cool it with the indoor man-scarves.
Caught in the middle of all these stories, Jane and Michael are looking for a house to move into together. They look at an affordable one they like, which is a 40-minute commute out of Miami, and Rafael objects because it will make it much harder for him to see Mateo. He offers money to help Jane and Michael find someplace closer, which they end up accepting as reasonable. As it turns out, they manage to secure a nice place nearby without Rafael’s help at all …
… and it turns out Petra owns the house, and set it up so that Jane and Michael could rent it without feeling obligated to Rafael. Petra! This was so lovely! This is why I wish we’d spent more time with you this week, instead of spending any time at all with Derek and his dumb scarves. You’re in Miami, buddy. Take off the scarves!
To Be Continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- “Things are getting seriously biblical up in here!”
- Unless clearly marked as belonging to someone else, Our Narrator gets credit for the onscreen hashtags, and so gets to claim the hashtag response to Alba’s frank declaration of how horny she is. “#OHGODOHGODOHGOD”
- “And so just as Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, Petra Solano went to the mat for Jane Villanueva.”
- On Jane’s discovery that Pablo Alonso Segura is cheating on Alba, and her subsequent desire to turn him into a pillar of salt: “Or maybe she’d smite him instead. YES, SMITE HIM! Let’s go with that!”
- “And suddenly Rogelio realized there was one person who could help him. And it wasn’t Lauren Conrad.”
- “Every time God closes a door, he opens up the opportunity for a much bigger wedding venue.”
- Rogelio’s devotion to LC is adorable. “I’ve been texting Lauren Conrad, and she says we are way behind in our planning calendar.” “Lauren says a spirited disagreement is part of the fun of planning a wedding.” “LC did rustic chic. Which could be fun!”
- “I keep No. Secrets. From Charo.”
- We got just a little tiny bit of Rogelio in the Court of Louis XVI, but every second is golden. “I like your speech, Queen Antoinette. Just don’t say the line about the cake. I don’t think the peasants will see it the same way you do.”