From left: Gina Rodriguez as Jane, Justin Baldoni as Rafael, and Brett Dier as Michael.
Photo: Greg Gayne/The CW
I promised myself last week that it would be fine to write a rave of the premiere episode as long as I immediately turned around and gave whatever came next a more reasonable, measured response. I’d talk about how troubling it is when shows forget about traumatic events too quickly; I’d maybe say the multiple plots were fun but didn’t fit together well; I’d talk about how the love triangle is getting tired.
Because, yes, the love triangle here is getting to be a bit much. All credit to Jane the Virgin for making #TeamMichael versus #TeamRafael an interesting premise for as long as it has been, because it’s so easy for these setups to be dull or obvious, or to overstay their welcome. And if this goes on for too much longer, I will absolutely be saying those things. But I cannot and will not say those things today because this week, Jane the Virgin came for me where I live: Ironic Bachelor Nation.
Before we get to that, though, I want to do a quick rundown of all the side plots going on this week. Petra, Rafael, Mostly Useless Luisa, and Scott Who Loves Vests are entangled with a new obstacle at the hotel: A neighboring property is for sale, and any potential purchaser could build on the land and obstruct the Marbella’s ocean views. Perpetually Betraying Lachlan returns and promises to help them out with a geological report, but lives up to his recapper-given name and screws Rafael and Petra out of the deal. (I could’ve told them this would happen as soon as anyone mentioned geological surveys; I’ve been burnt on the validity of land surveys before.)
While this is happening, Rogelio and Xiomara are literally out at sea. They accidentally end up on a cruise ship to Cuba while trying to get out of being sued for breach of contract, and they’re forced to sing “Islands in the Stream” while wearing sequined sailor costumes in front of a cruise-ship dinner buffet. Rogelio finds this hysterically mortifying, and I find it hysterically delightful. The romance of the moment — and perhaps the chocolate fountain — allows them to get swept up, and they end up in bed together, wondering if they should get that annulment after all. (Ha! I do not have to buy you all churros.) Xiomara’s worried that Rogelio’s still hung up on his ex-wife, Luciana, and they decide to slow things down and just go out for a date.
There’s also a minor plot involving Jane’s loud neighbors, one of whom is KESHA(!). The neighbors play music too loudly at all hours of the night, and Jane can’t get them to stop, and vengefully purloins a big red amp they leave sitting out on their porch. The whole thing is a pretty obvious ploy to shoehorn Kesha into this episode, and while I am not entirely sure why that is necessary, Jane the Virgin figures out how to make this tiny plot surprisingly useful. When the cops come to investigate the stolen amp and find it in Jane’s house, Alba is sufficiently rattled by the experience that she decides to apply for a green card. It’s just so impressive to me that this plot was as meaningful as it was because stunt casting is usually a recipe for disaster. Instead, the show manages to shape it into moving, well-earned revelation, and it feels like pulling a rabbit out of a … well, out of Kesha.
It’s a chockablock episode, so also, you know — Michael realizes that Rose has been to Switzerland! Petra is pregnant, and Rafael finds out! Mostly Useless Luisa gets kidnapped! But let’s get back to the important stuff:
The Bachelorette. In a move so brilliant and so unexpectedly effective that I am still marveling at it, Jane the Virgin figured out that the best way to deal with its ongoing #TeamRafael versus #TeamMichael love triangle was to go all in and let Jane be guided by a hallucinatory Bachelorette version of herself. Xiomara prods Jane out of her early motherhood funk by getting her to go out for lunch with her two boyfriends, and in the restaurant bathroom, Bachelorette Jane first appears, clad appropriately in head-to-toe rhinestones and clutching a rose and a glass of Champagne. (Unlike The Bachelorette, though, this Bachelorette Jane’s rose is white, which is a nice callback to the first season’s recurring white-rose metaphor).
Bachelorette Jane’s job, of course, is to help Real Jane choose who will get the Final Rose (again, great transformation of the rose-as-virginity thing from season one), and her analysis of Michael is that he’s all history and memories but may not actually be onboard for Jane’s future. On Bachelorette Jane’s advice, Jane has a heart to heart with Michael about whether he’s really ready to take on fatherhood, and Michael makes his argument quite well. He wasn’t sure about some theoretical baby, but there is now a very real Mateo sleeping happily on Michael’s chest, and he promises Jane that this is what he wants. He’s also able to accurately anticipate Jane’s continuing anxiety about the kidnapping and installs a home-security system for them. In the process, “snow” falls from the ceiling, and they are brought back together to that lovely past moment between them. “Give him the rose!” yells Bachelorette Jane. “HE IS HERE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS!”
In spite of this persuasive argument, there is a surprisingly solid case to be made for #TeamRafael. When Jane suggests an overnight in his apartment, Bachelorette Jane gets all excited about the prospect of a tricked-out Fantasy Suite, and then Jane and Bachelorette Jane open the doors to find something even better — an apartment replete with fully stocked, brand-new, thoughtfully laid-out baby gear (nestled among generous mounds of Target bags). Reader, I swooned. Bachelorette Jane is pretty psyched, too, but she reminds Jane to focus on the important things: What does he really want? On a late-night fast-food run, Jane asks Rafael if he misses his partying lifestyle, and he tells her no, that what he wants is what they have right now, “a regular Thursday.” When he goes for a kiss and Jane says she’s not ready, Bachelorette Jane weighs in from the back of the car. “Just GIVE HIM THE ROSE! And MARRY HIM! And have SEX with him, FOREVER AND EVER!”
The premise of The Bachelorette is so patently absurd, and the idea that any of the people on that show are even fond of each other (much less deeply in love) is so implausible, that putting Jane’s situation in that framework has an odd boomerang effect. Jane’s left standing in front of the two of them, forced to make a decision, and she can’t. She legitimately feels that she loves both of them. And in case we, the audience, find this incredibly frustrating (which of course we do), we can see that the show recognizes our frustration because it is voiced in the person of Bachelorette Jane, who stands right there, yelling about what a bad idea this is. And even better, we get Bachelorette-style confessional scenes from Rafael and Michael, which are so great that I gleefully cackled aloud.
The Bachelorette Jane hallucination is like a narrative utility knife. She is a winking self-commentary who lets us watch Jane the Virgin be playful about its own super-heightened melodramatics, but her clichéd responses and cookie-cutter ideas about what love should be ultimately fail to help Jane make a decision. Her suggestions are absurd — who would you want to be with on a deserted island with a blanket and a packed lunch? Who would you take to the ice hotel on a fjord? Who would you do trust falls with? (Michael.) Bali? (Rafael.) Rappel down a building? (No one! This is always a TERRIBLE date!) But the hyperdramatic unreality of Bachelorette Jane helps us see Jane’s thorny love triangle as all the more serious and worthwhile. Jane would love to give someone the rose, but she can’t. Sometimes it’s just not that easy. To Be Continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love
- On Jane’s lunch date: “Meanwhile, on the most dramatic two-on-one date ever!”
- On Mostly Useless Luisa’s ridiculous attempts to learn the family business: “UGH is all I have to say to that.”
- On Bachelorette Jane: “Never was there sounder advice from a tipsy hallucination.”
- “What am I, Charo? Who is a dear friend, by the way, I will lay down my life for her. But I don’t want her career.” And later: “My over-the-hill friend Charo, for whom I would walk over dead coals.”
- “It feels so good to be back here. And by ‘here,’ I don’t mean this closet of the engine room. I mean ‘here,’ naked in bed with you.”
- “Trust me, you’re going to want to take my name. You won’t believe how much better you will be treated due to my fame.”
- “Perhaps I can buy you a cone? Or use my fame to get you one for free?”