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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A Jane The Virgin tearjerker spotlights the power of tradition

Illustration for article titled A Jane The Virgin tearjerker spotlights the power of tradition

Jane The Virgin is a show rooted in tradition. There’s the Catholic tradition at the foundation of the title character’s celibacy, but there’s also the telenovela tradition at the foundation of the title character’s accidental artificial insemination. “Chapter Twenty-Five” pays tribute to both in a heartwarming episode centered on Mateo Gloriano Rogelio Solano Villanueva’s baptism, an event that is interrupted by two very pressing matters: Petra getting pregnant from Rafael’s stolen sperm sample, and Jane being accepted into a graduate school program. The first is the source of major telenovela-inspired drama that further complicates Jane’s already messy situation with Rafael while the latter introduces a much more grounded conflict between Jane’s priorities as a mother and an aspiring writer, and the combination of baptism, Petra’s pregnancy, and grad school hits all the show’s strong suits.

In a surprising move, this week’s opening flashback begins with 25-year-old Alba and her husband Mateo in the home that their family would live in for generations, concerned about what they’re going to do for baby Xiomara’s forthcoming baptism. Alba is distressed that all of the family heirlooms she wanted for the ceremony were left in Venezuela, but Mateo tells her to start creating new traditions, which she does by writing a speech that she passes along to Xo for baby Jane’s baptism. The flashback shows 16-year-old Xo’s emotional reaction to her mother’s writing, but writer Corinne Brinkerhoff doesn’t reveal what is on the paper until Jane reads it at Mateo’s baptism in a scene celebrating the intergenerational relationship that gives this show so much heart.

As Jane reads Alba’s speech, the scene jumps back in time to show Alba and Xo reading those same words at the baptisms of their children, reinforcing the bond between these women as they read from a piece of paper that has gained an almost supernatural power by being passed through generations. Gina Rodriguez’s performance fully realizes the importance of these words as Jane tearfully delivers Alba’s speech, and showing her grandmother and mother reciting the lines in the past makes the viewer feel the emotional punch that Jane is experiencing in that moment as she realizes her place in this touching tradition.

The baptism plot is also a great example of how this show uses religion for valuable character development. Xo’s baptism is what motivates Alba and Mateo to start creating new traditions for their new life in the United States, and those traditions become a major part of their family identity. Removed from the world she knows, religion is something familiar that helps Alba stay connected to what she’s left behind, so it makes sense that she would make it a top priority in her life. Xo forcefully distances herself from her mother’s beliefs so Alba is aggressive in passing her ideals down to Jane, and because Jane wants to distance herself from her mother’s behavior, she willingly accepts Alba’s perspective.

It’s fitting that an episode dealing with Jane’s return to her writing career would highlight the strength of the written word, and in addition to the baptism speech, the Rogelio and Michael subplot looks at the pros and cons of writing down feelings instead of expressing them verbally. Rogelio tells Michael that Jane is turned on by his macho behavior and convinces him to write down all his “wussy” feelings in a notebook (an act that Rogelio engaged in to vent his frustrations over his first wife, Luciana, who he is still hung up on), but the strategy goes against all of Michael’s natural impulses to offer comfort and support when Jane needs it. And she really needs it this week. Jane goes to Michael for advice with her myriad problems, but instead of helping, he offers brief sentiments that he’s confident she can handle everything herself and then writes his real advice in his diaries.

The major con of Rogelio and Michael’s writing is that it prevents them from expressing their wishes and concerns to the people that need to hear them, and in the case of Rogelio, burying those feelings deep down has significant consequences down the line. The major pro is that these diaries contain their deepest thoughts in a physical form, so when Rogelio needs to remember the way Luciana made him feel, he can pick up a diary and recall the specific emotion he felt in that moment. (He can also burn those diaries, which is a therapeutic way of disconnecting himself from the painful past.) Michael quickly realizes that “Plan Macho Macho Man” isn’t going to work for him, but in the end he’s left with a diary full of words that could potentially help Jane, so he gifts it to her. The diary is now an artifact of their relationship, a physical object that Jane can turn to whenever she’s unsure of herself and needs that extra boost of confidence. It’s a notebook, but it’s also a declaration of affection, one that isn’t forced like the kiss Jane and Rafael share at the end of the episode.


Rafael moves fast because telenovelas move fast, and he comes from that heightened world where sisters cause accidental pregnancies, stepmothers are evil crime bosses, and in-laws pretend to be disabled. In Jane’s world this week, the big concerns are balancing grad school with parenting and getting Mateo to blink, but Rafael’s world has Petra impregnating herself with Rafael’s stolen sperm and Luisa being held hostage by mysterious German captors. Learning about Petra’s insane action adds a huge new stress to Jane’s life, and Brinkerhoff’s script does great work exploring the repercussions of Petra’s pregnancy with a sense of humor that doesn’t diminish the stakes of what this means for Jane, Rafael, and Mateo’s future.

The situation is ridiculous, but it happened and now everyone has to figure out how to move forward with this increasingly twisted family dynamic and make it work. As much as they don’t want to keep Petra in their lives, Rafael and Jane have to stay true to who they are; Rafael is going to want to be a part of his new child’s life, and Jane is going to want Mateo to know his half-sibling, so they have to resign themselves to the fact that Petra’s plan worked and she’s going to be sticking around for a while. But just because Petra is carrying his child doesn’t mean Rafael is interested in reigniting their romance. If anything, her behavior has made her even less desirable in his eyes, but as long as he’s single, Petra is going to hold on to hope of reconciliation. Maybe that’s why Rafael kisses Jane in viewing distance of Petra. He needs to make a loud statement that Jane has his heart, so he forces a moment that Jane isn’t ready for yet.


Jane has more than enough on her plate dealing with the pressures of grad school while being a new mother, and bringing the focus back to her parenting problems after last week’s love triangle-centric episode is a big reason why “Chapter Twenty-Five” works so well. Her dilemma regarding whether or not she should spend time away from Mateo to pursue her career goals is one that many new mothers have to face, and she quickly learns that there’s no compromising in this situation. She can’t take Mateo to class, but she also can’t take her prerequisite World Lit course at home, so she needs to make a decision about what she’s going to do. Luckily she has Alba and Xo there to help her. Xo reminds Jane that she explicitly said she didn’t want her baby to hijack her goals, and the two women help Jane realize that missing moments in her son’s development doesn’t make her less of a mother. Jane has an incredible support system around her, and this episode reaches greatness by accentuating the positive influence these women have on each other.

Stray observations

  • Rogelio’s advice is lousy this week, but Jaime Camil delivers a fantastic performance. He gets the best lines of the episodes, and it’s very exciting to see him opposite telenovela actress Kate Del Castillo as Luciana. The two have a strong understanding of the exaggerated performances that characterize telenovelas, and their commitment to that style of acting heightens the comedy of their scenes together. Also: the cliffhanger gag at the end of the episode is wonderful.
  • It’s a lot of fun to jump into Jane The Virgin after Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and I’m beginning to notice some pretty strong similarities between Luisa Solano and Rebecca Bunch, two women whose obsessive affection severely impairs their judgment.
  • I would love to see even more flashbacks to Alba and Xo in the past. Alba in particularly could use the extra dimension because she doesn’t get as much screen time as the rest of the cast.
  • Man, they sure did get a super adorable baby to play Mateo.
  • Everyone’s reactions when Petra pulls out the turkey baster during the Thanksgiving fantasy sequence are excellent.
  • “This isn’t going to be one of those vanity credits. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves so people can enjoy my strong forearms and really produce.”
  • “It’s like being chief of police, but with higher stakes.”
  • “Wow, she’s pretty good at narration.”
  • “How do you find the words to say your psychotic ex-wife inseminated herself with your stolen sperm?”
  • “Selena, Demi, Emma Stone. I heard she can play any race.”
  • “I’ll have sex with your wife!”
  • “I’d be more shocked, but we did that story on Santos. Classic stuff!”
  • “I would have chemistry with a cardboard box.”