Jane the Virgin
My heart is squeezed into little pieces! SQUEEZED INTO PIECES!
Michael’s memory returning is one of those completely inevitable things, the amnesiac version of Chekhov’s gun. If you introduce a beloved long-lost character and then say he has amnesia, at some point his memories are going to come back. Think how weird and baseless and stunt-like the “Michael returns” twist would’ve felt if this hadn’t happened — it would’ve turned that moment into something empty and cruel, a silly gotcha surprise that scares you half to death and then laughs at you for believing it. Jane the Virgin was never going to be that way. Of course Michael’s memories came back.
So now the real crux of this story has finally arrived. Jane doesn’t have to choose between Rafael and the ghost of her former husband; she has to choose been Rafael and Michael. It is excruciating, and Jane and Rafael are just ripped to shreds in the process. Michael wants Jane to be happy, but he’s just been flooded with all the memories of their life together — it’s hard to blame him for still loving her and for wanting that life back. Rafael, meanwhile, asks Jane to leave because he can’t stand to be in the same house with her while she’s unsure if she wants to divorce Michael. And poor Jane is just caught there, in love with Rafael, desperately wishing she could just move ahead with her life and trying to skip past the part where she has to process any of this by asking Petra for help, by getting drunk and just stuffing the divorce papers into a mailbox.
But that won’t work. Jane can’t just high-five Michael, wish him well, and then get on with her life with Raf. She would never forgive herself for abandoning Michael. But waving a cheerful good-bye to Rafael and then leaping into Michael’s arms won’t work either. They’ve been apart for four years; they’ve led completely different lives. It’s fascinating to watch Brett Dier’s performance as Michael here, because it is very clearly not the original Michael we said good-bye to. As he tells Jane, he feels as if he’s two people now, and you can absolutely tell. Something about his eyes twinkles again, and he smiles, and he is relaxed in a way Jason never was. But his Jason mannerisms are still there. His body curls inward a little, and he moves defensively. Over the course of his park-bench conversation with Jane, we watch him unwind a little. His posture relaxes, and he laughs. But the rhythm of his speech still has all of these Jason patterns. It’s not quite snappy enough. Words still seem like they taste funny in his mouth.
Rafael’s move at the end of the episode feels so crushing from Jane’s perspective. It’s not Michael’s fault that this happened, and it’s not Jane’s, either. Steve the mail guy gets the drunken 11-minute rundown of everything that’s happened to Jane in the past few years, and Steve is right that she’s going to need some time to process all of this. Neither Rafael nor Michael should expect her to be instantaneously sure of how she feels. But my God, Rafael has been through it. When he tells Jane he can’t bear to wait while she picks Michael again, it’s not hard to see his side of things. He’s tried to rise above his own insecurities, and he’s the one who brought Jason back! He’s doing as much as he can to be patient and give Jane what she wants. He’s working in real estate so she can write, he’s celebrating her career, he’s trying to make himself into the person he wants to be for her sake — and still she’s not sure. Still, she’s wavering between him and this guy from four years ago who was supposed to be dead, who they all mourned! Still, Jane is reluctant to pick Rafael. No wonder he’s heartbroken.
You know who’s not heartbroken, though? Petra. Petra, who gets totally hammered with Jane in the middle of the day, delivers no-nonsense advice, is handcuffed by her still-bonkers mother and extorted for thousands of dollars, and then drags her handcuffed mother to her former lover’s doorstep and says, “Look, I’ve got baggage.” “I used to think my worst nightmare was turning into my mother,” Petra tells JR. “But now I know — it’s living without you.” Magda slings everything she has at JR to try to poison Petra. She cheated on Rafael while he had cancer. She pretended to have a disability. She’s really a brunette! (JR’s “I know,” made me howl with salacious glee.) And then they kiss! And JR accepts her, and no one has ever looked better sexily wielding an ax than Rosario Dawson does after cutting her girlfriend’s handcuffs apart from her bedazzled-eyepatch-wearing psychopath mother.
This episode and last week’s have been just fantastic for Petra, and I could not be more thrilled. In an hour that also includes Jane’s reunion with Actual Michael, Alba’s wistful hope that Jorge has romantic feelings for her, and Xo’s heartbreaking explanation that she doesn’t want Mateo to remember her as weak and sick, somehow Petra’s “What are you lookin’ at, parrot!? I don’t pay you to loiter! Go squawk at the children!” still takes the honor of being my favorite line reading this week.
The other major story of “Chapter Eighty-Five” is the end of Xo’s chemotherapy, something she tries to rush past when she should be patient and let herself heal instead. Her collapse at Grandparents’ Day is the opposite of surprising; it’s a plot that feels even more foreordained than the return of Michael’s memory. And unlike so much of this episode, in which our characters are caught in emotional morasses that have no good resolution, Xo’s situation is comparatively straightforward (a relief, in a way). She wants this illness to be behind her, but she cannot ever forget that there’s a chance the chemo won’t work and she will only get more sick. She’s trying to take advantage of the time while she knows she has it. It is clarifying for Xo and for Jane, and it’s additionally clarifying for Rafael, who shows up and supports them even when he is also bowled over with fear that Jane is about to leave him.
In the end, Rafael asks Jane to leave so she can figure out what she wants, but I have to wonder if he’s also trying to reject her before she can reject him one last time. It sure seems like Jane looks back at Raf hugging Mateo and is better able to know what she wants, but … Michael’s still out there. To be continued.
From Our Narrator, With Love
• The bit with our narrator anxiously and then furiously waiting for Jane to realize that Michael’s memory has returned is such a funny-smart way for Jane to negotiate between building up anticipation for that moment and acknowledging the audience’s frustration that it’s not being resolved right away. His anger is our anger! He thinks the door opening will be Michael, but it’s Rafael’s “Happy Book-iversary” bouquet. “ARE YOU KIDDING?!” Our Narrator splutters. “THAT’S NOT EVEN A THING!”
• The “worst nightmare” theme is so effective in this episode, and as per usual with a really great Jane theme, it lets the narrator weave together some very silly bits with really necessary perspective swapping. It lets Our Narrator show us Jane’s worst nightmare — being asked to choose between Michael and Rafael at a wedding ceremony — and all of Rafael’s buried trauma over being rejected.
• The “worst nightmare” theme also affords Our Narrator the most absurd little throwaway moment, an utterly unnecessary thing that made me shriek with delight. What, pray tell, is the worst nightmare of Pammy, the poor woman hired to be the parrot mascot for the Marbella’s kids club? Cut to: Pammy lifting off her parrot head only to find an actual parrot underneath.
What is Rogelio’s worst nightmare? Of course, it’s actually that the chemo won’t work against Xo’s cancer and he’ll lose her. But after that, it’s that he has to do reshoots of a single scene of Passions of Steve and Brenda, one that requires him to be extremely sexy, and he has a zit. The horror! The horror!