Jane the Virgin
When Jane the Virgin is on a run, it’s really on a run. I thought it would be hard to match last week’s stellar episode, which featured compassionate political discussions viewed through the lens of parenting … and also Jane looking at Fabian and fantasizing about sexy tacos. But “Chapter Sixty-Two” absolutely meets that high bar, and maybe even exceeds it.
Even the traditionally rockiest bits of Jane the Virgin work surprisingly well in this episode. Chuck Chesser as love interest turned villain turned love interest again makes sense, and the scenes with Petra in the motel are among the series’ more effective moments of high drama. That’s thanks in no small part to the acting by Johnny Messner, who’s turned out to be surprisingly adept at swapping between “giant lunk of malevolence standing in a motel door frame” and “giant lunk of masculinity incapable of expressing his feelings.” The mechanics of the reversals are also classic melodrama, and the classics work for a reason. Petra hearing Rafael’s declaration, not picking up the phone, then realizing the mistake, then seeing the messages, and then Chuck standing in the door frame? Thumbs-up all around. Plus it moves quickly, which keeps each of those familiar twists from seeming overburdened or overworked.
Also, Chuck actually loves Petra. Of course he does. Who couldn’t? Petra will slyly win you over every time, and this week, she does so with her exceptionally dry response to Jane’s over-the-phone concern. “I’m sure Jane said nice things, but I’m still rattled, so I can’t pretend to be touched right now.” Petra forever.
While the telenovela pieces work quite well, “Chapter Sixty-Two” also has a few really excellent small threads. One follows Rogelio and Xiomara’s concerns about throwing a giant wedding and reminding Jane of her own big wedding to Michael. (Thank god they sorted that out, because I will not be denied Rogelio in wedding mode.) There’s another perfect little story about Mateo questioning where he came from, which somehow moves from hilarity to potent awkwardness to sweet sincere adorableness with just a touch of bittersweet, all in just three or four short scenes. I have so much respect for Jane the Virgin’s investment in showing Rafael and Jane as functional but non-romantic co-parents, and the scene where they sit together to tell Mateo where he came from accomplishes that so well.
This show is just so great at working on a detail level as well as mastering the big strokes. On the one hand, you have this really thoughtful and considered story about how a 4-year-old would have questions about his family structure, and two parents doing their best to explain something really, really complicated. At the same time, Mateo accepts their explanation and demands they stay there until he falls asleep, thus setting up one of the realest parenting moments I have ever seen on TV. They wish him good night, he closes his eyes, and then, in unison, Jane and Rafael carefully pull their phones out. Sometimes Jane the Virgin is an over-the-top, absolutely insane rendering of human existence. But sometimes, parents pull their phones out the second their child’s eyes close, and it is like looking in a mirror.
Meanwhile, the episode’s main story is just quintessential Jane the Virgin through and through. I loved every piece of it. I loved the thematic Sex and the City frame, with Jane trying to sort out her feelings for Fabian by working on her Cosmo column and taking on Carrie Bradshaw at the same time. I loved Jane attempting to be patient with Fabian, and the understandable miscommunications about what they each want. From the very depths of who I am, I love Jane pointing out that Fabian did not actually fall for her, and that she yells, “The problem is that the Madonna-whore paradigm is reductive.” In spite of all of that, and in spite of Jane’s frustration with Fabian’s sofa-jumping and his desire that she keep talking about the “gon-ra” of “number books,” I love that they manage to have a very satisfying fling.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a story about a romantic relationship told on TV like this. I’m sure Jane the Virgin is right, and that the closest TV has come to depicting this kind of social interaction is in a show like Sex and the City, where Carrie or one of the other women regularly moved from meet-cute to miscommunication to sexual satisfaction to farewell arc. The difference here is in how distinct Fabian and Jane’s relationship is from the way the series generally operates, and in how explicit Jane is about exactly what she wants. Even better, the remnant guilt from her longstanding anti-sex indoctrination is still a part of the picture; it’s something Jane has to grapple with in order to get what she wants. The show doesn’t indict Alba for burdening Jane with this understanding of sex, and Alba actually gets a sweet little moment of realization with her gift-shop beau. But neither does Jane the Virgin try to erase the mental weight of Jane’s crumpled-flower past too quickly.
The whole sequence is just so thoughtful and funny and sincere, while also paying loving homage to a show that really did pioneer so much of female sex-positivity on TV. The Jane-as-Carrie voice-overs are spot-on. (“I couldn’t help but wonder, could I find love again after loss? Or had this widow peaked?”) Also, and I just cannot think I can say this enough: Jane is Carrie, Xo is Samantha, Alba (and the Narrator) are Miranda, and Rogelio is Charlotte. Let me just say it once again for my own pleasure. Rogelio. Is. Charlotte.
So Xo and Ro are going to have a massive wedding bash, Mateo learns that ants do not have bones, Fabian has some very well-placed cacti in his apartment, and Jane gets her groove back. Plus, Rafael and Petra finally have to deal with Rafael’s feelings for her — something we are just on the verge of finally exploring further when the cops come knocking on the door. Because of course they do.
The cops are holding up the composite sketch of the woman whom Chuck says he saw lurking around the beach on the night of Scott’s murder. We don’t get to see, but my money’s on … CATALINA. To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love
• “I’m a Miranda. I know. Most people are surprised.”
• Regarding Rogelio’s weddings: “Yeah, Oprah’s pretty sick of buying him toasters.”
• The time jump has worked well for a lot of reasons, but one of the ones I least expected is how nice it’s been to see Mateo develop as a character with his own personality. It’s a real personality, too: He’s not just a perfect angel or a dumb kid. He’s imperfect and goofy and sweet. And he wants to have babies with all the girls at school. “Ah,” our Narrator says. “The special hug. Classic.”
• Love our Narrator’s agile list of Tom Cruise movie titles to accompany Fabian’s couch-jumping moment. “Oh, buddy, that’s Risky Business!”
• Someone is spying on Rogelio?? Also: “Sorry, that’s no good, but Sex and the City never had to deal with these drastic tone shifts.”
• “Elon Musk always returns my calls after a very tasteful interval, just as one would expect from a very busy man.”
• The key to intensity, Rogelio tells us, is never blinking. “It announces to everyone how intense and focused you are.”
• Rogelio. Is. Charlotte. “Shh, Salma Hayek can’t be hearing these things. She’s a lady!”