I need to say one thing about “Chapter Thirty-Five” right off the bat: If we’re supposed to be surprised that Rogelio’s new assistant, Paola, is actually Lola, his evil stalker, you have got to disguise it better, Jane the Virgin. Maybe cool it with the crazy eyes? Try a more flattering pantsuit?
I am on board for this plotline, though. It’s about time Rogelio dealt with some of the uglier consequences of fame, and Paola is both creepy and madcap in a way that fits nicely with Jane the Virgin’s range. But the writers might as well have had Paola walk into that first scene with a giant “Ask Me About Being a Stalker!” button pinned on her lapel.
In any event, it’s a rough week for Rogelio. After breaking up, he and Xiomara realize they don’t actually want to be apart, and for a while, things go on as they always did. Rogelio shows up for dinner, Ro and Xo practice Tiago lines together, they fall into bed, and things look promising. They’re friendly! They’re Gwynnie and Chris! But Xiomara sits him down and insists that she’ll never change her mind about having children, and she tells him to go to the Tiago premiere without her. And at that point, things certainly take a turn.
Jane gets caught up trying to comfort Xiomara, who’s finally coming around to the idea that she and Rogelio have broken up. Because she’s helping Xiomara mourn the loss of her Downton Abbey viewing partner, Jane doesn’t make it on time to walk the lavender carpet with Rogelio. He’s hurt, and he’s not wrong for feeling that way — Jane is prioritizing Xo’s pain over his big night. Plus, by this point, Lola/Paola has been poisoning Rogelio’s mind and trying to create a wedge between him and the Villanuevas. After all that, to come home disappointed and find Paola/Lola has walled him into an impenetrable fortress of crazy … it’s a real bummer.
There is at least one major bright spot for Rogelio: If Paola ever lets him out of that lavender prison, he might get to reignite the Bromance. Because Michael and Jane are about 95 percent back together, Rogelio has every reason to be hopeful that his relationship with Michael will also recommence. And the chair dance Rogelio uses to celebrate this news (only in his head, of course) is the stuff of GIF legend.
Speaking of Michael and Jane, I am deeply appreciative of the way “Chapter Thirty-Five” handles their slow and not-entirely-complete reunion. The episode does an incredibly effective job of shifting back and forth between their giddy, thoughtful, sweetly romantic reconciliation and grappling with the several all-too-real obstacles that still hold them apart. The opening montage, in particular, is exactly the sort of thing that’s not necessary, but is nevertheless valuable for these characters. Do we need little snippets of Michael and Jane catching up on every major and minor thing that has happened in their lives for the past few months? Probably not. Do we appreciate them more because of it? Of course.
To no one’s surprise (much like Paola), the obstacles come primarily in the form of Rafael — and although I can’t say this episode is an unexpected turn for Poor Rafael, Handsome Rich #Mansplainer, it is pretty disappointing. He throws a snit when Michael tries to apologize, and he continues to cling onto Jane in spite of her every effort to break things off gently. Even worse, when he finally does get the message that things are over, Rafael then turns to beleaguered, undersupported Petra and tries clutching at her vulnerability to make him feel better.
But Petra! Petra’s seen some things. Petra’s been through some real crap in her life. Petra Does Not Have Time to Truck With Your Nonsense, Rafael. She’s too busy trying to hold your family business together, and hire some damn night nurses, and be the person who keeps this whole ship afloat. Frankly, Rafael: You do not deserve Petra, especially once you flip back into player mode down in the bar.
There’s a clear parallel between Rafael’s behavior and Luisa’s, which also deteriorates quite dramatically this week. After Rose’s death, Luisa breaks her nearly yearlong sobriety — which almost gets Lina fired for supposedly stealing alcohol from the Marbella’s bar — and she begins to spiral downward. She’ll hopefully be saved from any real danger by Michael’s partner, Susannah, who seems to really be fond of Luisa and tells her to go back to rehab.
But it’s an interesting and somewhat frustrating pattern to see both Luisa and her brother handle emotional strain so poorly. On the one hand, this is a potentially rich character note for these siblings — they have lacked a lot of good family support in their lives, what with the perpetual abandonment and crime lords and whatnot, so when stuff gets hard, they do not deal with it well. On the other hand, it feels as though Michael is rising at the expense of Rafael, which is a bit of a gut punch. And way too much of Luisa’s drunken meltdown is scored with “Luisa’s a wacky lady!” humorous music. We have enough tragedy for both of these characters that I wish their slide into dissolution had been treated just a touch more seriously. Especially Luisa. Poor, poor Luisa.
If the price of Michael’s glorious return is Rafael’s sad fall, though, it might just be worth it. Because wow, is Michael ever great this week. He apologizes to Rafael, he dotes on Mateo, he makes amazing goofy faces, and most dramatically, he offers to quit his job to guarantee Jane and Mateo’s safety. I’m glad this premise didn’t go too much further; I can too easily see how things might play out if Michael actually did quit and then resented it. But he’s so great that he gets a full on, classic Hollywood-style synchronized-swimming sequence at the end, and everything is lovely. (Except that I’m not entirely sure all of the visual effects on that swimming-pool number really worked, but other than that, yes — just exquisite.)
So other than the fact that Rogelio’s locked in his apartment with a crazy stalker, and Rafael is turning Full Jerkface, and Luisa’s off the wagon, and Petra continues to have the worst luck with her friends and family, everything is great! To Be Continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- As Abuela starts to push Jane into disclosing her reunion with Michael: “Y tu, Abuela?!”
- As Rogelio and Xiomara rehearse Tiago lines and things start to go south, if you know what I mean: “HEY, you guys are OFF SCRIPT!”
- Oh, Rogelio — there you are, locked up with scary Paola. Narrator: “And that’s when he heard the scariest words of all: ‘I’ve never met JLo.’”
- There was only a tiny bit of my beloved Tiago this week, but we did get that fabulous Braveheart bit, which showrunner Jennie Urman pointed out features a map of Mexico painted onto Rogelio’s face. And we may not have had much Tiago this week, but soon — Tiago in the French Revolution!
- I knew it already, but this week really solidifies Rogelio’s abiding love of the color lavender: He walks down a lavender carpet at the Tiago premiere, and Paola steals a pair of his lucky lavender underwear.
- #Rolonelio is surely the saddest Rogelio hashtag.
- Jane the Virgin has gotten a little spicy with the telenovela commentary lately, and this week we get Rogelio’s awesome smackdown of Downton Abbey’s unoriginality. They did the “Egyptian deflowering the virgin and dying in her bed” thing on one of Rogelio’s novelas already.