Oh thank God, Jane the Virgin is back. It feels like the entire world is on fire, but at least Jane is still here, being goofy with a dumb hand puppet and giving us an episode where the most threatening plot is Rafael being potentially divested of his late father’s money. Was it a knockdown, drag-out stunner of an episode? Not really. Was it exactly what I needed anyhow? Absolutely. Dumb bee puppet, Michael’s career search, a Rogelio dick joke, and a shout-out to the popular-vote count? I am here for it.
The theme of “Chapter Fifty-Two” is meddling, focusing on whether or not Jane should butt into other people’s business. It involves Mr. Let It Bee, the hand puppet who continually chides Jane for her impulse to intervene when it’s not her business, and as Jane themes go, it’s a touch lackluster. For one, has Mr. Bee ever seen this show? Everyone is constantly butting in on each other’s lives — especially Jane! It also feels a little disconnected from the episode’s takeaway, which goes a little something like: In the end, meddling in real life is just one of those context-specific things that is right sometimes and wrong other times, and the whole deal with being a grown-up is that you have to figure out which is which. It’s true, and it’s a very Jane the Virgin message to convey, but doesn’t feel all that well served by Mr. Let It Bee and his friend Bette Meddler.
I should backtrack on one thing about the episode, though. I said that the most threatening plot development is the idea that Rafael may lose all of his inheritance, thanks to the inevitable discovery of an addendum to his father’s will that only includes biological children. Jane the Virgin is between major villains right now, what with the Petra/Anezka stuff in a cooling-off period and Catalina’s villainess potential not yet fully activated. In the meantime, the biggest telenovela developments are smaller, more subtle things.
Rafael discovers the secret addendum to the will, and Petra now knows about it too, thanks to the cameras she hid in his room. Petra also figured out the plot between Rafael and Scott. (Of course she did — she’s Petra.) Meanwhile, she feels like she can’t move on from the Marbella and wants to ship Anezka back to the Czech Republic. (Poor Anezka! She’s trying to make it selling fortunes, and she had to fight the man who sells dream catchers for the booth space!) Really, though, none of this is on the level of a drug-lord mother, an evil twin scheming for control, or a kidnapping plot.
So I guess the most threatening plot is the bit where we confront the possibility of Michael doing stand-up comedy? Oooooof, Michael. Buddy. I am with you, generally. I am rooting for you. You’re a dork, and you’re very sweet, and Jane loves you, and the sex thing seems to be going well even though you seduced your wife with a goofy bee-puppet voice. (Please don’t do that again.) You’re loyal and thoughtful and you have just the perfect amount of backbone so that you’re admirable while also being easygoing. But everybody has at least one fatal flaw, and it seems that your hamartia is not knowing yourself well enough to know that you should never, ever be a stand-up comic.
Jane the Virgin gets to this place by first following Michael as he realizes how deeply unhappy he is at work, which leads to him quitting his job. Which is fine? It feels a bit sudden, given the intensity of Michael’s devotion to his job back when Jane begged him to quit during his recovery. I certainly am not an expert, but it would also seem like being stuck on desk duty is a temporary situation that would’ve been resolved once he passed a physical. In any case, he quits the police, considers a career in stand-up comedy … and then actually performs a set?! Michael. Know thyself.
This is where Mr. Bee comes in, as he suggests that Jane shouldn’t interfere with her husband’s sudden desire to stand in front of a group of people doing an impression of Scarface as Dame Judi Dench. The bee was wrong on that one, as becomes painfully clear when Michael nearly bombs his set, and ends up surviving only with intervention and a generous edit. Still, Mr. Bee’s probably right in his suggestion that Jane steer clear of messing around with other people’s relationships, namely Rafael and Catalina, Rogelio and Darci, and Xo and Bruce.
It’s hard to judge the Raf/Catalina question at this point, with Catalina’s story so clearly still under wraps. But aside from Michael’s career crisis, the big emotional cores of this episode are the twin suns of Xiomara and Rogelio. If the Mr. Bee thing is silly, and Michael’s stand-up swerve is half-baked, then you only need to look to these two threads to see Jane the Virgin still operating at full speed. For Xo and Bruce, the story becomes a quite thoughtful inversion of Jane’s concerns about their history: After she learns that Xo knowingly had an affair with him, Jane becomes empathetic toward Bruce’s understandably upset teenage daughter. The scene in the boutique is excellent, full of humor and real feeling, as Jane tries to make the case for her mother while remaining sensitive to Bruce’s daughter’s completely reasonable fury. (The scene is excellent, even though the name of the boutique is hilariously unimaginative: Popular Apparel). I’m not yet to the point where I feel any stake in Xo’s relationship with Bruce, but Jane’s tricky balancing act between caution and openness goes a long way toward making me care.
Then there’s Rogelio and Darci Factor, who have decided to enter into a contract to make a baby together. The twist — that Rogelio ends up having feelings for Darci — is both utterly predictable and sensible for the character. He fell for his writing partner, Dina, he fell for Xo, and he loved Jane from the minute he knew she existed. Rogelio is a lavender-tinted ball of feelings who runs on praise and celebrity affirmations. The predictability of his Darci crush is not a downside, though. It makes sense for his character, and it will ultimately cut to the heart of his split from Xo: Is his desire to have a baby what matters most, or is it his desire to have a spouse and a family? As his nude scene in the indie demonstrates, Rogelio’s crush on Darci has more, ahem, upsides than downsides, if you catch my drift. You do, right? You’ve got it. You’re good. Okay.
All in all, it’s a fairly standard episode of Jane, with no standout moments but plenty of highlights to carry us through. There is lots to look forward to in the episodes ahead, too. Michael’s thinking about law school! How will Rogelio negotiate his feelings for Darci? Rafael’s not related to his father by blood, and there’s a will that would disinherit him, and Petra knows! To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- Michael has recovered from the gunshot, and he’s not going to be a cop any more? Yet, as he considers law school, Our Narrator does not want to let Michael’s fate go without comment: “Ahhh, to see that dream come true … ” he says. “But alas … “
- Our Narrator goes without a name, but he can’t help teasing us about it. In reference to the coffee shop messing up Jane and Xo’s names, he jokes, “You should see how they butcher my name!”
- Poor Michael can’t even practice his comedy routine without some narratorial shade. “Me thinks thou dost crack up too much,” he says about Jane.
- As Petra pulls one over on Scott by pretending to be Anezka, then gets in the car and removes the disguise, Our Narrator marvels, “Oh wow, what is this? The Americans?!”
- Okay okay, I’ll end with the line you really want. Xo points out that if Michael wants to try stand-up comedy, Jane shouldn’t interfere. He’s a grown-up. “I’m with her!” chimes in Mr. Bee. “I was too!” says Our Narrator, “Along with the rest of the popular vote!”
- It is pretty hard to take the baby idea seriously from a man who has previously suggested a year-long, round-the-world family trip, threw himself into kabbalah, and is still toying with the possibility of growing a man bun. No, Rogelio. No.
- Rogelio will have to figure out his feelings with Darci, but their childcare priorities are uncannily in sync, down to the list of publications and timing for the baby’s publicity photos. “Vanity Fair at three months, People en Español at six months, and an Us Weekly cover shoot at a year.”