I have to say, this may be close to my platonic ideal of a Jane the Virgin episode. There’s a solid romance plot, including some very coy dirty talk and some very sincere reckoning about how to be in a relationship. There’s a surfeit of Jane/Petra scenes, a gift we get all too rarely. There’s a gloriously bonkers Rogelio story, which somehow ends with not-quite Brooke Shields having a toe bitten off by a wolf?! All that, and Alba gets a vibrator! What did we ever do to deserve this show?
Let me get the big #Jafael stuff out of the way up top: After much foreplay, several fizzled false starts, and a nice conversation about accepting each other for who they are, Jane and Rafael have sex. Given that this is deep into season four and Jane and Rafael have been one of the long-term defining relationships of this series, you’d really have assumed that they’d already had sex with each other at some point, but — no! Jane went straight from “insists on being a virgin until marriage” to marriage to Michael, to grief, to rebounds, and has finally landed here, in a very steamy shower with Rafael. It is may be the longest withheld consummation of any relationship where the couple in question already has a 5-year-old son.
Pause for a brief aside: Rafael ditched the original hookup location because he felt he wouldn’t be at his best in a car, and that was necessary so he and Jane could have lots of very nice texting foreplay and a good chat about their expectations. But then they ended up in a shower together? And they seem very happy! But really? Shower sex is better than car sex? This must be more of a fantasy world than I’d previously understood.
It’s lovely that Jane and Rafael have such an incandescent first time together, and I’ll go with the #Jafael flow for now. It’s especially easy to do when you get such an embarrassment of riches among all the other characters. The Jane/Petra ghostwriting story is exactly what I’d hoped it would be — Jane finds Petra to be obnoxious and domineering and absolutely impossible to work with, and eventually has to grudgingly accept that actually, Petra’s amazing. Fine, Jane doesn’t quite get all the way to that point, but she’s much more understanding of Petra’s methods, her work ethic, and her working demeanor. Petra has good reason for her controlling persona. She’s in charge of a lot, and terrible things keep happening to her! Of course she’s brusque! And while she may have absolutely no understanding of how to put together a salable book, she’s able to respect Jane’s experience so they can figure out a working relationship with each other. I continue to have high hopes for their friendship.
My hopes are even higher for what comes next with Rogelio, because I could not get anywhere near enough of Brooke Shields in a daytime talk-show war with him, playing a telenovela version of herself. It begins simply enough: After Xo encourages him to take Baby to a parents group, Rogelio comes home having diagnosed himself with male postpartum depression. He’s elated to have a name for his feelings, and even more elated to have a cause he can raise awareness about on his social-media feeds. Brooke Shields — or rather her telenovela alter ego River Shields — gets in a Twitter spat with him, insisting that male postpartum depression is not a real thing, and that Rogelio should stop co-opting female experience for his own purposes. As any good celebrity fight does, they end up having it out on The Talk, where Rogelio initially dodges a bullet by breaking down in tears. Except then things get tense during the exotic-animal segment and a wolf gets a revved up, and … look, these things happen, right?
The story is so silly, and Brooke Shields’s River is so great. You can almost understand how it might then make sense for some studio executives watching a live animal attack on a daytime talk show to then pick up the phone and say, “Please green-light an American adaptation of a telenovela starring those two people, and do it ASAP!” Obviously … no, sorry, that still makes no sense whatsoever. I don’t care. Please give me the Americanized Passions of Santos starring River Shields and Rogelio de la Vega as quickly as possible.
For the record: There is some disagreement on the existence of male postpartum depression. But River should at least do some reading before she dismisses Rogelio entirely.
This brings us to Alba, who’s trying to get back into the dating world after turning down Jorge’s marriage proposal, and who’s feeling pretty down about the prospect of love as an older woman. There’s a really beautiful scene between her and Jane where she describes how diminished her sense of her own sexuality has become, and the next thing you know, Jane and Alba are in a sex shop looking for something that could put the skip back in Alba’s step. Jane takes this opportunity to pull some Petra moves on a sulky store clerk, and discovers that just demanding you get what you want often works pretty well. But the bigger takeaways of the sex-shop story are: Lube can be more important as you get older, the Narrator likes edible underwear, and Alba needs to learn how to think of sex as something that can bring pleasure. Which is why Jane buys her a vibrator and slips it into her purse when Alba’s not looking.
Of course there’s an inevitable moment of embarrassment when Alba finds the vibrator in an unfortunately public way. But more importantly, once she gets back home to the privacy of her own bedroom, she learns how to use it. There is a perfect shot of her in bed, completely tucked into the covers, with her face slowly changing. I love it. It’ll be interesting to watch whether this shifts her bigger ideas about sex and relationships, which have quietly been a vital piece of the foundation of this show from the beginning. Many congratulations, Alba, on your journey to self-discovery!
As is usually the case, there’s also some crime stuff going on — in this case, JR helping Petra get out from her position as a person of interest in Anezka’s murder, while also attempting to shake herself loose from whatever her arrangement is with the Unseen Forces Who Have It In for Petra. JR announces that she’s done with them, and smashes her glorious stiletto heel through her burner phone. Except then she’s somehow still in the clutches of the Unseen Forces, who are also planting suggestive evidence from the crime scene in Petra’s office.
The gloved hand putting the mueller screws (which are a real thing!) in Petra’s drawer are the big telenovela cliff-hanger this episode (#muellerinvestigation), so usually that’s where I’d throw in the final “to be continued!” But you know what? This week I’m giving that position of honor to something else. This week, I turn to the moment when Petra falls asleep and daydreams about her new friend JR, who arrives at her door to announce that she “got Petra off,” and what’s more, now she’s going to really get Petra off. And then the door closes as she undoes Petra’s bathrobe. The signs have been pointing this way for a while — their chemistry is bonkers, and c’mon, they call each other by male nicknames? Petra’s new haircut!? Anyhow, oooh, PETRA LIKES JR! To be continued!
• “Hello #Jafael shippers!”
• The best Narrator moment in a while comes during the very effective Jane/Rafael texting foreplay scene, as Rafael keeps sending Jane messages about exactly what he wants to do to her. Because this is not HBO, as the Narrator later reminds us, Jane’s body is positioned to cover up a particularly detailed portion of one of Raf’s texts, but our Narrator is ticked that he’s missing the good stuff. “MOVE YOUR HEAD!!” he shouts at Jane.
• “I’ll never be a Chris,” Rafael says, sadly. “Uncomplicated, light.” “I mean, way to generalize about Chris,” the Narrator retorts.
• Our Narrator’s thoughts on edible underwear: “Am I the only one getting hungry?!”
• Rogelio is on Twitter to change hearts and minds about male postpartum depression, and sure, not all his replies are kind, but “most are unverified, so who cares!”
• River Shields tries to make the exotic-animal presentation about her feud with Rogelio. “This is not your segment, RIVER,” Rogelio spits at her.
• “I AM CALLING ON MY 14 MILLION TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS. GO ONLINE AND ATTACK HER.”
• River does lose a toe in the wolf attack. “One toe! One! She has nine more!”