Jane the Virgin
Welcome back to Jane the Virgin, a show where it matters whether the female protagonist actually enjoys kissing her super-attractive roommate/ex-boyfriend/son’s father! As I’ve written in previous recaps, it doesn’t feel quite right to say that Jane is political in response to the Trump era, because the show has always woven political narratives into its stories. In the same vein, it doesn’t feel right to point to “Chapter Seventy-Two” as a response to current discussions about consent and sexual pleasure. Jane the Virgin has always been focused on mutual pleasure in sexual relationships, and it’s always been great at negotiating discussions of consent, happiness, and how to have meaningful conversations with your partner. So, “Chapter Seventy-Two” is not a departure for Jane, and I doubt it’s an explicit response to the #MeToo moment.
Instead, it’s a continuation of the things Jane has been saying all along. In the last moments of the previous episode, Jane and Rafael shared a kiss. From the outside, it looked like a massive, magical, earth-shattering kiss, and for Rafael, that’s what it felt like. But for Jane, it was … fine. It was not overwhelming. It was okay.
It’s a minor enough difference in the scope of things. Even inside this episode, it’s not necessarily the biggest plot. Jane and Rafael have asked Mateo to lie about where he lives so he can go to a better school district, and “Chapter Seventy-Two” spends more time dealing with that than it does with Jane’s kiss feelings. Meanwhile, Rafael has some Darci tension. (I’d like to just remind us all that his baby is named Baby. Baby. WHY?) Rafael also has a whole experience in therapy where he learns some things about himself, which sets off similar revelations about childhood for Xiomara. There’s a whole situation with Petra and Anezka’s death and Luisa and etc., etc., which I’ll get to in a moment. Jane and Raf’s kiss is big, but it’s not overwhelming.
Which is precisely why that entire story is still uncannily appropriate for the current moment. Jane doesn’t hate the kiss, she doesn’t hate Rafael, and she’s not completely opposed to the idea of being with him. She just didn’t feel especially into it. For Jane the Virgin, that is enough of a difference to be a significant barrier for them moving forward. Her less-than-full enthusiasm is enough to put the brakes on Raf’s excitement. And after it’s clear she’s not onboard, he tells her that he’s going to move out. He says it’ll take some time for him to move on, but he doesn’t pressure her. And it’s not until she actually says, “You know what? Try kissing me again,” that their physical intimacy is back on the table. So he does! Except this time, he talks to her a little first. He leads with what are presumably some naughty-ish suggestions about what he intends, and then Jane leaps onboard with all the gusto and enthusiasm of Molly Bloom at the end of Ulysses. Yes, Jane says, yes, she will. Yes.
Not only is it a scene that makes consent and pleasure from both parties obviously explicit, it’s a sexy scene where both parties consent, and it’s much more appealing and persuasive as a Jane-Rafael love-match argument than the surprise kiss. It really works.
Does it work well enough that I’m totally sold on Rafael? Am I convinced that he and Jane are the endgame for this series? Am I absolutely convinced that Rafael is the right person for Jane? I … don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m not there yet. Rafael has been pulled through so many ups and downs that it’s really hard to put trust in him as a love match. It’s not just that he’s been bad in the past and I now have a hard time seeing him as good; it’s that he’s been both good and bad so many times. The pattern Jane has established for Rafael is not that he’s a bad match for Jane, it’s that he’s guaranteed to change whatever you thought he was doing. I don’t know what even-keeled Rafael looks like, and I don’t know how to root for them without that.
Meanwhile, over at the Marbella, Petra has to hire a lawyer because she accidentally-ish killed her twin sister. She’s first presented with no-nonsense lawyer Jane Ramos (played by Rosario Dawson, so you know she’s going to have a significant role), but dismisses her because Ramos tells Petra she’s in pretty big trouble. Then, when it turns out the police are looking into her seriously, Petra calls Ramos back and begs her to take the case. My question is this: How in a million trillion years did Petra not realize she needed a lawyer? Our Narrator does a little montage of all the times Petra has already been a person of interest on different murder cases, so how on earth did Petra not see this coming? In fact, how is it possible Petra didn’t already have a lawyer on retainer after, say, the second time she found herself in close proximity to a murder charge? She must employ a whole bevy of lawyers, with some dedicated to staving off criminal cases and others who deal with perpetually filing new Marbella ownership paperwork. Frankly, this may be the least realistic thing that’s ever happened on the show. (Okay, yes, Jane’s whole publishing arc also has some major holes in it.)
Rogelio’s therapy plotline is significantly more grounded, and the little note at the end about Xiomara’s relationship with her father is so nice. It also dovetails well with the story of Jane and Rafael’s kiss: Alba realizes that two people can have entirely different experiences of the same relationship, and both of those experiences can be true. When Xiomara says her memories of her father are colored by his absence, that pain is valid even if it doesn’t correlate with Alba’s memory. Rafael can kiss Jane and love it; Jane can experience the same kiss and feel underwhelmed. They’re both true!
Most important for the immediate next step in Rogelio’s life, Xiomara’s breakthrough realization about her father’s absence spurs Rogelio to turn down the sequel series to his telenovela and become a stay-at-home dad to Baby. I am quite interested to see how that will work for him. I really, really want him to be an amazing, happy, fulfilled dad, and I’m also very excited to watch Rogelio sleep train an infant.
It’s nice that Jane is incorporating stories about school districts, education, and the very real social and financial friction between Jane and Rafael. The school plot of “Chapter Seventy-Two” is done well (the playdate scenes are fun), and it’s useful grist for the bigger question of Jane and Rafael’s relationship. It’s a bit of a gimme, though. Was Jane really going to make Mateo lie for an entire school year? The show walks the line of trying to mitigate that decision with Rafael selling his car to get a studio apartment, releasing everyone from the lie without finding a magical money fairy to swoop down and save them from the very real, very stressful parenting reality many people have to face. But in this case, it still feels a bit too pat. I may need to watch Rafael ride the bus (a lot) before it feels earned.
Anyhow, Jane and Rafael are kissing and this time everyone likes it! Rogelio is (maybe) going to be a stay-at-home dad! Luisa signed herself out of her “wellness center,” thinks Rafael was trying to screw her over, and is now in the wind! And Petra finally hired a serious attorney, except Jane Ramos apparently has ulterior motives. To be continued!
From Our Narrator, With Love
• Our Narrator attempting to parse Jane’s expression after the initial kiss with Raf: “I’m sorry, friends! I actually don’t know what the hell she’s thinking!” (Okay, what are the rules of Our Narrator’s omniscience? When does he not get to know things? What access does he have to their thoughts? I understand this was a throwaway line, but I have questions.)
• Jane can’t believe Mateo is starting kindergarten. Narrator: “I know! I remember when he was just a syringe on a tray waiting to be inserted into the wrong woman.”
• The Rogelio therapy story works well, and it feels plausible that Rogelio would have experienced actual trauma from needing to support his family at a young age. The scene between Ro and Xo as they drink and talk and “make another triptych” is perfect.
• Of course Rogelio wasn’t in therapy before — he was a Scientologist! “Leah Remini and I totally changed our minds about that!”
• The naked triptych of Xo and Ro in their bathroom! They are the best, and I’m so glad they found each other again.
• “I’m expected to constantly tweet. I’m a tastemaker!”