Jane the Virgin
OH MAN. OH MAN. OKAY.
Before we get to the truly, fabulously over-the-top romantic moment of the episode, let me zip through some secondary plots. Michael continues to search for Sin Rostro, which somehow leads to Mostly Useless Luisa sleeping with a yodeler (?!) named Heidi Von Ocher; and his new partner, Susannah, spies on him for his boss. Rafael gets concerned about custody over Mateo, and he and Jane decide to see a lawyer. Rogelio was a Scientologist (!?!). Luciana is a devoted cuniculturist, which Xiomara and Rogelio exploit to stop her from blackmailing Rogelio about secrets he revealed during Scientology auditing. Petra’s ex-lover Milos comes back. Jane kisses Michael and decides he’s the right choice. And now, for the deliciously tender moment …
I am obviously making a silly bait-and-switch joke where I make you anticipate discussing Jane and Michael’s kiss as the peak romantic scene this week, but then it turns out to be something else entirely. And, yes, that’s a dumb rhetorical device. But it doesn’t mean it’s not true. There’s a ton of plot in this small hour of television, as usual, and it all competes for your attention pretty effectively. But the moment in this episode that really took my breath away was Lina and Jane sitting on a bathroom floor taking a selfie.
To back up. While Rafael throws a bomb into Jane’s new-motherhood fog by deciding to open custody discussions, and Mostly Useless Luisa gives a surprisingly tender description of her bondage play with Rose (“She would just take me right to the edge”), and Xiomara drives off in an RV full of rabbits, Jane is dealing with trying to plan her best friend Lina’s 25th-birthday party.
It’s not going well. Jane realizes she’s forgotten about the party entirely while she and Lina are out for a Carriage Cruisers class (lest you think this is parody, it is not), and does her best to scrape together a last-minute, Gatsby-themed celebration at the Marbella. Jane makes a cute 1920s-themed e-card, tries to pull together a guest list, and enlists Xiomara’s help, but with so little notice and so little of Jane’s attention, understandably, the party falls through. Lina is angry. Jane is disappointed in herself, and asks Rafael to take care of Mateo so she can go to the club for Lina’s makeshift celebration.
When she gets there, Jane makes a beeline for Lina and immediately apologizes, telling her how much she regrets not making time for her and how truly impossible it’s been with so many changes in her life. Lina, generously, accepts her apology and tells Jane that it’s okay to go home now. She made an appearance, she apologized, and Lina astutely guesses that Jane could probably use the sleep.
And this is where I was expecting things to go another way. I truly feared that this was going to turn into a tale about how tough it is to maintain friendships after becoming a parent, and Lina was going to have to graciously step aside and accept Jane’s divided attention. Instead, Jane not only elects to stay at the party, she immediately decides to become an entirely appropriate degree of intoxicated, and she and Lina bust out the sweet dance routine to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” they last debuted at an elementary-school talent show. (Sidebar: It really is a great dance routine. It’s organized enough to be clear that it’s carefully choreographed, but not so overdone that it seems implausible as a dance you and your friend put together. It’s fun and sexy without being gross. It’s perfect.)
So Lina and Jane hit the dance floor and then find themselves on the floor of the bathroom, hanging out and taking selfies while Jane pumps. And this scene is just a marvel. First, it is so, so unusual to actually see relaxed fictional images of someone using a breast pump without appearing goofy, or like a crazed harridan, or having the scene then cut to a dude making a joke about the shape of the flange. So Jane’s pumping, and she and Lina sit together and talk about how much they love each other. Jane drunk-texts Rafael (“It’s all food here!”), and after Lina leaves to go back to dancing, Jane happily, drunkenly writes her entire Great Gatsby paper on her phone. The narrator says she wakes up the next morning and decides it’s all “drunken gibberish,” but she includes the word Dicapriesque, so I’m not sure he’s giving her enough credit.
In any event, this entire sequence, and Jane’s earlier not-quite-an-argument with Rafael about what new motherhood feels like (like your brain has been completely taken over, like you are constantly exhausted and weepy, like you desperately crave pieces of your old, familiar self), are stunningly effective and also absolutely fundamental to the big kiss scene that follows. Jane may have the biggest breakthrough with Michael, but she’s completely candid with Rafael about what she needs in order to have that realization. She’s so tired and emotional that she “doesn’t even recognize [herself] anymore,” and of course it is impossible to know what she really wants when her whole self has been thoroughly torn apart and rebuilt.
So it’s only once she’s truly had a chance to briefly step away from her role as a mother and reinforce an earlier, important friendship (and also once she’s had a bit to drink) that Jane is able to see Michael as the person she really wants, and fall into that glorious, slow-motion, walking-on-air kiss. Kiss attributes, in case you were so overcome that you were not in a state to notice details: They kiss in front of the papier-mâché mountains that were one of the requirements for Heidi Von Ocher’s yodeling performance, thus the convenient presence of a giant button that makes it start snowing. The background music also wanted to make sure you were onboard with #TeamMichael by prominently featuring the lines “whenever you’re ready.” Narrator comment on the kiss: “… Whoa.”
There’s so much else happening here, not the least of which is Jane telling Xiomara that the moment with Michael was “the best kiss of my life,” which is inevitably overheard by Rafael in the most overaugured baby-monitor mishap in the history of fiction. But in so many ways, Jane the Virgin can feel like a show performing a high-wire act, and watching it, I often wonder if I’m just waiting for the show to fail. It’s hard to keep everything together, meticulously balanced, without appearing laborious or obvious or sloppy. But the sweetness and groundedness of that scene with Lina and Jane on the bathroom floor is why the show still works, even in concert with Petra’s returning ex-lover and Mostly Useless Luisa and Luciana the rabbit-lover (and next week, Britney Spears!). The kiss with Michael was a fantasy, but it was earned, and felt valid, because of those earlier scenes with Rafael and Lina. To Be Continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- On Jane’s sudden realization that she needs a theme for Lina’s party: “A theme, we need a theme! What about the ‘60s?! Or a Greek theme!” This might be a good place to note that the Jane the Virgin narrator is clearly engaging in some free indirect discourse, which brings up a few interesting questions about narratorial reliability and the relationship between tone and focalization. Or, hey, maybe come find me outside this recap if that incredibly boring sentence actually interests you.
- On Michael’s astonishment that Rafael hadn’t seen The Sound of Music: “Okay, weird thing to feel superior about?”
- On Rafael’s decision to bring up custody discussions: “What’s the emoji for ‘gut-punch’?”
- It is entirely indicative of how jam-packed this episode was that I have completely ignored the fact that Rogelio was a SCIENTOLOGIST?!! and Luciana was blackmailing him with footage from his auditing sessions. I forgive the writers because there was a lot of stuff to get done here, but for future reference, I need more. How did he get involved? How did he escape?! Does he know Tom Cruise? Are there photos of him in sailor-themed Sea Org uniforms? I MUST KNOW.
- Rogelio and Luciana’s fragile working relationship ultimately breaks down because they insist on being filmed on their best sides, and both of their best sides are their right sides, making it impossible for them to kiss. Amazing.