Mat Vairo as Derek and Justin Baldoni as Rafael.
Ladies and gentlemen, our long nightmare is over: Rogelio de la Vega has been released from his terrifying lavender prison. And it’s a good thing, because if that plot had gone on any longer, it would’ve been truly difficult to redeem in a way that made any sense for this show.
Luckily, this is Jane the Virgin, a series that has a well-established history of taking insane, implausible, outlandish experiences (accidental insemination, being pushed down the stairs, kidnapping, more sneaky insemination, more kidnapping) and seriously grappling with the human fallout of those events. The risks of the Rogelio/Lola plot felt very similar to Mateo’s kidnapping, which kicked off this stellar second season. They’re both intensely traumatic events, and if Jane or Rogelio had quickly shaken off the aftermath and cheerfully moved along, it would’ve hollowed out and dehumanized both characters.
Although the Lola plot didn’t dominate this episode, we do get an amazing scene in which Rogelio breaks down and tells Jane about his fears, and how emotional he feels. It’s incredibly effective. Rogelio is still himself — he’s thrilled about his new publicity, which gives him an opportunity to talk to the one and only José Díaz-Balart, a.k.a. JDB — but Jaime Camil does a lovely job of selling his character’s legitimate pain. “I don’t want people to see me as a victim,” he says. It’s remarkable, fascinating, and useful to hear words that are too often the exclusive property of female victims on police procedurals come out of the mouth of a man like Rogelio de la Vega.
I could happily write all night about how great it is to watch the potent mix of Rogelio’s deep trauma coupled with his genuine delight at the subsequent publicity, but again, this is Jane the Virgin. There’s a lot of other ground to cover.
So let’s get to the Bechdel Test, which features heavily as a through line for the plot with Jane’s new school adviser Professor Marlene Donaldson (played by Melanie Mayron, who also directed the episode), Jane and Michael’s engagement, and our other big story this week, the Curse of Pablo Alonso Segura. Professor Donaldson initially responds to Jane’s admission that she writes romance novels with the word “barf,” and then raises the idea of the Bechdel Test: a story should include two female characters, with names, who discuss something other than a man. It’s something Jane hadn’t heard of before, and she quickly makes sure that her current draft passes.
More interestingly, Our Beloved Narrator has some fun running the Bechdel Test on several other scenes in the episode, noting wryly when Jane and Alba’s discussion quickly turns to a love interest: “Okay, Bechdel Test, take two. Jeez this thing is tough.” As with Jane characters discussing telenovela tropes in past episodes, or the more direct commentary we get from Our Narrator, the Bechdel Test trope feels like a clear response to specific criticisms of the show. If you watch and feel like too much of Jane’s time and energy is spent ping-ponging back and forth between Rafael and Michael, or wish that she had more to do than worry about her virginity, then this is for you. Jane the Virgin is making an explicit joke about it — and you’re right! There are a lot of times this show doesn’t pass!
But of course, as we also hear from Professor Donaldson, the Bechdel Test is hardly the be-all and end-all of what makes something feminist. It is, as she says, “a baseline.” And so, a show like Jane the Virgin can (occasionally) fail while also telling a profound story about motherhood, female relationships, economic stress, and immigration politics, among other things.
Other things like, for instance, a doomed loved story between a grandmother and her stunningly mustachioed first lover. Yes, the Curse of Pablo Alonso Segura is a tale as old as last week, and we now have ample evidence to support Alba’s superstitions. His arrival causes minor slip-and-fall accidents, small fires, and electrical problems. It might also be the cause of Jane’s stress with Michael’s parents and a household flooding. That’s such a real shame, because he and Alba look so great together dancing that tango as the Villanueva’s home floods and waiters collapse.
While Rogelio prepares for his big interview with JDB, and Alba tries to prove to everyone that the Curse is real, and poor Petra has a really hard time bonding with her Frozen twins, and also something-something-something Derek and Rafael, Jane struggles with the surprise revelation that Michael’s parents really, really disapprove of their engagement.
Stuck among the amazing scenes with Rogelio, Pablo Alonso Segura’s truly glorious mustache, and some multi-layered commentary on feminism and the Bechdel Test, the plot with Michael’s parents becomes a little underwhelming. While it is, I suppose, reasonable to have doubts about Jane and Michael’s reunion, his mother’s concern doesn’t feel particularly believable. Jane’s mother-in-law-to-be grilling her on the exact timing of her relationships with her son and another man feels ungrounded and strange.
But while the plot may have been a bit underdeveloped, it does bring some nice benefits. First, Michael’s father’s name is also Michael, which just makes a lot of sense for that character. Second, when Jane stands everyone up at the engagement party to go comfort Rogelio, it’s clear that Michael, his father, and his mother are all wearing nearly identical blue button-down shirts, which is hysterical. Third (and most significantly), it makes Jane deal with her pathological need to please people, which has been a long-time problem.
Also, because what really is the point of recapping a show if you can’t sort all of the characters into their appropriate Hogwarts houses, this episode makes it clear that Jane is the Hufflepuffiest Hufflepuff who ever lived.
In addition to the big moments, there’s a minor story about Petra’s difficulty bonding with her babies, and Rafael’s attempts to get them to connect. There’s also a bit with Rafael and his half-brother Derek, who gives Rafael a nice drink on his boat, which subsequently leads Rafael to believe that Derek’s a cool dude. I feel your skepticism, Narrator. While I have faith Jane the Virgin will give Petra and her daughters the narrative time they deserve in the future, these two plots do concern me a little bit. How will Rafael relate to the show now that Jane’s romantic future is tied up elsewhere? I hope for some big, juicy plots for you in the future, Rafael. But not with Jane, who should stay with Michael. To Be Continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love:
- On Michael having to hang up on Rafael to take a call with Jane: “Yeah, never not awkward. Maybe once Mateo’s in college.”
- “Since when does Rogelio not rush out to open his monthly Cosmetic Crate delivery?!”
- Rogelio CAN’T EVEN with the prospect of a JDB interview. Our Narrator: “I SERIOUSLY CAN’T EVEN.”
- “It’s safe to say this conversation fails the Bechdel Test miserably.”
- “And with Michael’s words ringing in his ears, Rafael refused to get on the boat! … Well, it was worth a try.”
- It does not translate well in text, but suffice it to say that every time Our Narrator pronounces Pablo Alonso Segura, an angel gets its wings.
- On his own imminent murder: “Lola, could we do this outside? The dramatic skyline, the sound of the ocean behind us — it’ll add more production value. Please, please don’t let me die against a flat background, lit by unflattering light.”
- “Is there a specific concealer you recommend for an injury of this kind? Surely I am not the first to ask this.”
- “I feel that I’m accessing this whole new set of emotions, and their corresponding facial expressions. I’m more wounded now. But sexy, wounded.”