Jane the Virgin
It’s been fascinating to watch how Jane the Virgin has developed since Michael’s death. In a number of beneficial ways, it almost feels like the series has returned to its early roots. “Chapter Sixty,” in particular, has a lot of familiar rhythms and stories. Jane is single again, so the show has returned to questions about her sex life, who she’s going to end up with, and how much influence her grandmother’s edict against extramarital sex impacts her life. We’re back in a place where the show tells stories about Rogelio’s career, including issues of fame and tensions on his telenovela. We’re back to stories about Sin Rostro and Luisa the nutty step-sister. “Chapter Sixty” is also much more focused on Jane’s career — and is the rare episode in the past few seasons with almost no presence from Mateo. Jane the Virgin seems to have come back around to where it began.
The structure of a Jane the Virgin has always been about cramming lots of different threads into a single episode, so this week’s installment doesn’t have quite the same structural déjà vu as its stories do — it’s not like the series ever really left this model. Even still, there’s something about how those stories are being told, and how they’re divided among the main cast of characters, that feels distinctly classic for the series. We follow Jane through stories about her career and what she wants. The high-melodrama stuff is linked exclusively to the Marbella, where Luisa has finally returned from wherever she’s been hiding out. Petra’s tied up in a mess, as is Rafael. All the while, Rogelio’s on set doing the stuff he does best: being a telenovela star and worrying about his image. See what I mean? We’re back where we started.
Except for the places where it’s very, very clear that we’re not: “Chapter Sixty” has some of the strongest material about coping with Michael’s death to date. It’s a significant part of Jane’s book plot, where the marketing department for her publishing house wants to use Jane’s story to help sell the book, although Jane is reluctant to make the novel more about her than it already is. As she explains to Alba, she doesn’t want Michael to become just some anecdote. The scene between Jane and Alba is beautiful, a mix of Alba encouraging Jane to continue trying to move past the freshness of Michael’s death, and demonstrating how well she understands that process. It gets easier, Alba knows, but that’s difficult in its own way. It feels like losing him even more. “You’re in a long-term relationship with grief,” Alba tells Jane, and the experience she’s talking about — grief as part of the mundane, as a part of the everyday — is not just a wise insight. It’s also a description of how the series works now.
The other Michael-related scene of note is one I’ve been waiting for since the moment Jane the Virgin leapt forward in time, and I’m still a bit frustrated that it’s taken this long. But at last, we have a conversation where Rogelio sits down and talks about how much he misses Michael, and how worried he is that his friendship with Fabian will feel like replacing Michael’s role in his life. There’s even some explanation for why such a scene might have been so delayed: Rogelio doesn’t want to burden Jane with his own grief. It’s incredibly empathetic of him, and an absolutely correct reading of the way the circle of grief should work: comfort in, dump out. Jane shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of Rogelio’s loss, and it makes sense that given his strained relationship with Xiomara in the intervening period, he’s had few outlets for his feelings. This scene he finally has with Xo has felt like a long time coming, though, and I’m so glad to have seen it. Jane’s scene with Alba is emotional, but Rogelio pouring his feelings out to Xo — “Michael was my best friend! I really loved him! … I still think about him every day!” — well, yeah. I got pretty misty there.
Again, it’s not just these scenes that make “Chapter Sixty” work so well. They’re great on their own, but it’s the way they’ve been woven into an episode that otherwise feels like such classic Jane that makes them so special. They are exactly what Alba describes — grief as a long-term relationship, shaped by the characters’ ongoing, evolving experience of that loss.
So let’s take a look at the episode’s other dominating theme: Jane and Alba are really horny! (What a great show this is.) Jane has the hots for Fabian and is trying to figure out how to get in his pants without hurting Rogelio, who’s worried that Fabian is trying to All About Eve him. Fabian, bless his heart, seems about as intellectual as a bag of his beloved goji berries, but there is no question about exactly why Jane wants him so badly. It’s his abs. It’s all of him, really, but mostly it’s his abs underneath the waterfall Jane keeps envisioning, thanks to an early influential telenovela scene the Villanueva women awkwardly watched together.
They dance around the question for a while. It’s long enough for Fabian to pull a paparazzi stunt to help Jane get more Twitter followers, and for Jane to realize that Fabian’s really there to get in with Rogelio, his idol. It’s also long enough for Fabian to be smitten by Jane at the Miami Book Fair. (Speaking of which, nice wingwoman work, Maria Semple!) There’s no question about whether Fabian will be Jane’s one true love at the end — his glorious book of stills from his snap selfies ensures that. I certainly do hope that Jane succeeds in hitting that, though.
Things are looking equally steamy for Alba, who envisions Jorge in an identical telenovela waterfall of lust. She has to shut him down in order to remain true to her feelings about premarital sex, but happily Jorge seems to know a good thing when he sees it. Like Jane, I hope Alba is able to hit this, or rather, to find happiness and satisfaction in her relationship in whatever form brings her the most joy.
While all this is happening, Luisa and Rose–dressed–as–Law & Order–ADA–Serena Southerlyn have come to stay at the Marbella, and Rafael and his private detective Elvis are on their trail. (Yes, I know it’d be more efficient to call her “Eileen,” but the heart wants what the heart wants.) They manage to dodge detection in spite of several close calls and an overly hot room. It feels like standard Luisa fare, but where it ends up — with Luisa questioning whether she really values Rose more highly than her relationship with her family — could be an interesting turn for the series. I was happy to have to get to that tense place at the end, but this was also one of the rare occasions where some telenovela shenanigans felt noticeably implausible. Surely there’s some way to bug their room when they’re still in it? Drop a mic through the ceiling? In a vent? Was this just me?
Regardless, the episode’s classic feel follows through until the very end, when we finally return to the issue of Petra trying to cope with the ongoing police investigation around Scott’s death and Anezka’s disappearance. Whoops — Anezka comes back to the country and gets arrested and threatens to spill all of Petra’s secrets! Eep! To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love
• Sometimes our Narrator gets a little saucy, and there are a few moments like that in this episode. One is his note that Jane’s book is really quite racy, but the other is much more explicit: In the intro, Rafael carries Petra into the bedroom for their one-off sexual reunion, and our Narrator explains that Rafael was “downright into her lately.” Narrator! Don’t make me blush!
• The back-and-forth between Rogelio, Fabian, and our Narrator is one of my favorite Jane-as-feminist-text exchanges in a while. “I have to get back to my beloved, the lady scientist!” Rogelio and Fabian keep saying. “ALSO KNOWN AS A SCIENTIST,” our Narrator corrects.
• Poor Rogelio, worried about Fabian trying to All About Eve him out of a job. “He didn’t even use a filter!” Rogelio exclaims, aghast about the selfie Fabian posted of the two of them.
• In an episode where Rogelio finally gets a chance to express some emotions about Michael, Fabian takes over much of Rogelio’s typical silliness. His chia seeds! His book! His Ro-obsession! But it is very sweet when Rogelio gets a chance to hand over the baton, his prized Sharpie, for Jane’s first autograph.