This season has had a really strong start. We met Adam. We’ve gotten some good interpersonal development between Jane and Rafael and Rogelio and Xo. The Marbella stuff is cooking along the way it always does. New Mateo is doing well. The show feels very much itself. But this episode, for me, is the first one where it runs on all cylinders, just sparkling and goofy and sweet and smart.
It helps that Adam has grown some more, and has become more distinct than “a nice-seeming guy who we know is supposed to be the main love interest.” (That’ll improve even more with the development from the end of this episode, I’d bet.) It also helps that we get back into Jane’s working life a little: Seeing her deal with book-publication headaches and seeing her in a Marbella manager’s uniform gives Jane’s life more shape.
But it also really helps that this is the first episode with a major Rogelio plot, one that lets him be both absurdly silly and absolutely sincere. We’ve gotten lots of smaller Rogelio bits in the last two episodes, of course: Drag Rogelio trying to sway the focus group, Rogelio trying to appease Darci, and some good conversations with Xo were all good moments for him. But “Chapter Sixty-Seven” gets us the full Rogelio kit and caboodle, from Esteban envy to home-birth freakout to sperm-suit machinations to cheerleader and father again. It’s remarkable how flexible the Rogelio character has become, and Jaime Camil makes it look so easy. He pivots from sputtering indignation to complete sweetness, and it all feels consistent within a single personality.
Jane the Virgin is also typically great on the topic of home births, something you’d expect it to nail and yet still thrills you when it does. So Darci wants a home birth! It is not a great idea, which the show makes quite clear when Rogelio does the required research. Things can go wrong! And when things go wrong with birth, they can go wrong very, very quickly. The episode communicates the risks, and it even manages to include the issue of increased risk with increased maternal age, using the repeating joke of Darci lying to Esteban about how old she is. (Esteban: “32?” Rogelio: “Sure, it just gets dicey over … 28.”) It’s clear that home birth can be a hazardous idea, and then the show also lets Darci have her home birth because that’s the choice she made for herself. Bodily autonomy! Discussions about safety and the ability to make decisions for oneself! Jaime Camil leaping naked into a pool to give a motivational speech! A newborn baby who is actually a little tiny baby! Jane the Virgin knows what I want in a TV show.
(Let’s be honest, though, leaping naked into a birthing pool would be very, very gross.)
Other things Jane the Virgin gave this week that I didn’t even know I wanted: Magda giving her granddaughters pretend hooks and eyepatches to freak out Petra. Esteban in a sperm costume. Overly on-the-nose metafictional commentary. (This is a lie; obviously I knew I wanted that.) An adorable choreographed dance to “Time Warp.” Luisa telling Magda and Anezka she’s unimpressed by them because she “was dating an international crime lord” who “started a war in Ukraine with Paul Manafort.” Punctuation pedantry (“technically, that’s an ellipses”). And if that weren’t enough, Adam convinces Mateo he has a superpower and then Mateo declares, “I’m just like Wonder Woman, Daddy!” (This one hit me so hard I had to pause and do a little chair dance.)
All that, and an episode-defining theme: the time warp. It’s fun, it’s Halloween-appropriate, it’s narratively useful, and it makes a bittersweet callback to season three, when the show jumped forward in time after Michael’s death. Beautiful.
The Rogelio stuff is absolutely on point in “Chapter Sixty-Seven,” but the real heart of the episode is in Jane’s fear about introducing Mateo to Adam. It’s a very simple idea — Jane wanting Mateo to like Adam and worrying about how to orchestrate their meeting — that ends up splitting out into several reverberating story echoes. When Mateo meets Adam under less than ideal circumstances (oh Jane, even after the disastrous first sex talk, you still weren’t prepped for his, huh?), the story immediately bumps into the Jane and Rafael relationship. Rafael feels indignant and snappish; Jane gets her own back when she realizes Rafael is dating the horrible Katherine. It becomes a story about Jane and Adam’s relationship, as Adam promises that he’s not panicking and then finally realizes how deep he’s in.
It also becomes a story about Michael, in a fantastic little scene where Mateo leads Adam outside to the all-important porch swing for a little chat. “Don’t hurt her feelings and don’t die, okay?” Mateo tells Adam, bluntly. The bigger, forward-looking result is that Adam finally starts to panic about how serious this relationship has become (a plot I am really looking forward to, actually). It’s also a testament to how effectively this show dealt with the Michael plot that Mateo can say his name and it still carries so much emotional weight.
I do need to take a short break from the otherwise excellence of this episode to have a brief word about Rafael. What is going on with this guy?! Where a character like Rogelio is capable of moving smoothly between several different comedic and dramatic registers, Rafael seems to shift abruptly from villain to love interest to best friend to monster, in a way that is always logically supported but doesn’t always feel emotionally consistent. There have been so many different versions of Raf over the past four seasons. This recent turn toward caddish asshole may make storytelling sense — he’s wounded! he’s desperate! — but it’s also hard to reconcile with how Zen he’d become by the end of season three. So I’m waiting for the “wait, Rafael is good again” turn that I know will be coming this season. I’m just hoping Jane can pull it off in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re doing the same “he’s bad, no wait, he’s good again!” dance it’s done many times in the past.
Over at the Marbella, Rafael is still sleeping with Katherine to set up some elaborate ownership deal that I am zero percent invested in. A man with an inhaler arrives in Luisa’s office, telling her that Rose says she needs to burn the hotel to the ground. We still do not know which of those six characters will die, and we also don’t know what Rogelio and Darci’s daughter’s name is! Adam designed a perfect cover for Jane’s book and now he’s panicking! To be continued!
• “Honestly, I thought it was funny. But man, Jane was pissed!” Our Narrator’s thoughts on the phrase “stupid fartface.”
• Mateo announces he’s bored at the baseball game, and Our Narrator concurs. “Me too! Nine innings?! It should be three, tops.”
• “And in that moment, Petra was caught between a Czech and a hard place.”
• “Your character cannot have sex with the Lady Scientist when I am still shrunken and living inside her!”
• “THIS IS NOT THE INTESTINE I APPROVED!”
• Of course Rogelio wants his daughter to be born at the “Ricky Martin Celebrity Birthing Suite.”
• “Everyone knows stagehands are losers!” [Is handed a glass of water by a stagehand.] “Oh thanks, Rudy!”
• And my very favorite … Rogelio: “You can’t just introduce a new love interest three-fifths of the way through a series and expect the audience to root for him!” Narrator: “Hey that reminds me — where’s Adam? What a great guy.”