After playing Jane Gloriana Villanueva for four years, Gina Rodriguez is taking even more control of her character’s life by directing her first episode of Jane The Virgin. It’s a challenge that she accomplishes with her typical grace and precision, and she shows that her understanding of this series goes far beyond her character. It helps that she has a rich, multilayered script by Micah Schraft and Paul Sciarrotta, who center their story on the very different sexual journeys of three women. First there’s Jane, whose sexual journey is at the core of this series and has included many stages, as detailed by the opening flashback. She’s not a virgin anymore, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still milestones, and now that she’s secretly back together with Rafael, she wants to finally have sex with him.
At the top of the episode, Jane wants to have sex in Rafael’s car, but he refuses after Jane’s judgment reaction to their kitchen kiss. Jane’s judgmental attitude becomes a bigger issue over the course of the episode, exacerbated by Rafael’s instinct to go to a dark place when he’s vulnerable. Like last episode’s fantasy sequences, this chapter has moments of flirtation derailed by pressing personal issues, and no matter how hard Jane and Rafael try to act like strangers on a sexy adventure, they can’t stop their history from seeping back in. They know too much about each other, which means Rafael knows that Jane is judgmental and Jane knows that Rafael is prone to the darkness. Flashbacks to season 1 scenes accentuate these fundamental behaviors, and they realize that they have to accept these truths about each other as continue to push forward acknowledging that this is who they are and they won’t change.
What Jane wants is just out of reach, but for her abuela, intimacy feels unattainable. After turning down Jorge’s proposal, Alba tries out online dating to find herself a new partner, but her rigid demands make that a lousy strategy to find love. She ends up going on a date with her church crush, and even though it goes well, it stirs up emotions that send her spiraling into self-pity and doubt. After 30 years without sexual intimacy, Alba is afraid she’ll never have that with another person again, but Jane helps her realize that her sexual journey isn’t over. She does this by taking her to a sex shop to discover some pleasure-providing alternatives to a man, which is both intriguing and mortifying for the uptight, religious Alba.
Petra is also exploring some sexual alternatives, but at the moment that’s happening subconsciously. Her friendship with JR is getting deeper the longer they work together, and at the end of the episode, Petra has a sex dream about her attorney. She’s not turned off by this mental suggestion, and I’m eager to see this show explore a Petra bisexuality storyline. The Marbella material was very stale at the start of the season, but the death of Anezka and the arrival of JR have made the telenovela elements of the story more compelling, largely thanks to the chemistry between Yael Grobglas and Rosario Dawson.
Petra has often felt like a tangential character this season because so much of the action happens away from The Marbella, but this book-writing storyline is making her an active player again and strengthening her relationship with Jane. It’s a frustrating creative partnership because Petra is totally indecisive about what kind of book she wants to write, but Petra does have some valuable knowledge to impart on Jane when it comes to being aggressive and getting what you want. Jane goes into Petra mode when a sex shop employee refuses to honor a sale price for a vibrator, and she successfully gets half off the toy and free lube because she has to deal with Bart’s shit.
Rodriguez’s direction keeps Petra in a position of dominance during her scenes with Jane. She’s standing up while Jane is sitting down during their initial talk about the book. She’s presented from a low angle that makes her tower in the frame when Jane is shadowing her, a shot composition that heightens the humor when Jane pops up from behind Petra. The position of the camera angle goes high for their final scene showing them stepping side-by-side on Stairmasters, but Petra is still more prominent in the shot. Her body language is stronger, and while Jane is keeping up with the brisk pace, she’s wiped out while Petra is unfazed. By the end of the scene, Jane is on the ground while Petra is above her on the machine, talking about how she’s submissive during sex. It’s why she worked so well in bed with the dominant Rafael, and all this talk of sex with Rafael sends Jane running out of Petra’s penthouse and over to Rafael’s studio, where she announces that she’s ready to have sex. The moment is ruined by the presence of Rafael’s cable guy, but it’s not long before Rafael meets Jane in the shower for their literally steamy first time.
Rodriguez has done a lot of promotion for this episode, and pieces in Variety and The L.A. Times reveal her fierce dedication and meticulous preparation. She rewatched the entire series to analyze directorial choices and learned the full script before filming to expedite the process of going back and forth from actor to director. She knows this world and these characters on a deeper emotional level than other directors because she’s been internalizing Jane’s life for four seasons. A big part of a director’s job is helping actors realize the full emotional content of the script, and while I don’t know how Rodriguez specifically interacted with her actors, whatever she did worked because there are some outstanding performances in this episode. Ivonne Coll steals the show with the scene revealing Alba’s insecurity and longing for intimacy, and Coll delivers a heartbreaking mix of wistful nostalgia and fear for the future.
The Rogelio plot this week puts everyone in an awful light as it explores the topic of Male Postpartum Depression (MPPD) and women angry at men co-opting the female experience. Bored out of his mind, Rogelio goes to a parent support group on Xiomara’s recommendation, where he becomes convinced that his current emotional state is the result of MPPD, even though postpartum depression is caused by a change in hormones in a woman’s body after she gives birth. He gets some serious flak on social media when he tweets about MPPD, and when actor/activist/America’s Sweetheart River Fields (Brooke Shields) gets involved, Rogelio earns himself a new entertainment industry rival.
Rogelio and River’s online feud catches the attention of The Talk, and they’re invited to debate MPPD on the CBS talk show. It gives a bunch of women the opportunity to yell at a man about how his situation isn’t the same as postpartum depression, but they’re also pretty insensitive to his struggles as a stay-at-home dad that isn’t connecting with his child. Rogelio is dealing with some real issues, but his big problem is how he diagnoses himself. Postpartum depression has specific biological factors that aren’t at play in his circumstance, but Rogelio doesn’t back down when he’s confronted, which costs River a toe when Rogelio’s outburst causes a wolf to attack her. Luckily for him, the on-air fiasco spotlights Rogelio and River’s chemistry, convincing a studio to greenlight the American version of The Passions Of Santos if River agrees to appear as Rogelio’s co-star. The chemistry between Jaime Camil and Brooke Shields has me very excited about this pairing, and with both Shields and Dawson, we’re seeing how charming guest stars can revitalize the subplots for supporting characters.
- This episode should end on the Narrator’s “We’re not on HBO” line instead of throwing in a requisite cliffhanger with Petra being framed with Mueller screws (#MuellerInvestigation). Jane and Rafael’s shower sex is an organic moment to cut to black, and it would have been a more satisfying final moment than yet another twist in The Marbella drama.
- Rafael’s birth parents becoming a plot point makes me wonder if they might already be connected to the story in some way, perhaps as JR’s mysterious employers? I don’t have any evidence to support this, but I assume that Rafael’s birth parents will have at least one foot in the telenovela world, so I expect some kind of over-the-top twist.
- Alba’s demands for potential lover: Catholic, goes to church three times a week, must speak Spanish, no divorces or toupees, and doesn’t litter.
- I tried a Stairmaster for the first time earlier this week, and it’s like a scary treadmill. I don’t think I liked it.
- Jane’s head covering up a dirty text is a very fun way to censor sensitive content.
- I love Awkward Cable Guy when Jane shows up and tells Rafael she wants to have sex right now. He didn’t sign up for this.
- “Hey! Back off Chrissy Teigen, she’s a literal Legend.”
- “Of course it has pictures! With my new haircut.”
- “Jane! First two letters in shadow are SHHH!”
- “I am going on the show, but I will not be talking. I will be...YELLING!”
- Jane: “You were right!” Petra: “I know. In regard to what?”
- “And you are going to comp me my grandma’s lube!”
- “Is that a vibrating hot dog?”