Jane Gloriana Villanueva is an overachiever, so she’s not very familiar with failure. She can only achieve so much on her own in the unpredictable world of publishing, and when her book fails to take off, she’s begins to doubt whether or not she’s chosen the right career path. She’s at a typical hurdle for a new writer, but because she’s used to success, she’s completely shaken when she’s dropped by her publisher. Jane is trying to move past failure in both her professional and personal lives, and while she’s trying to come up with a new book idea to pitch a prospective agent, she’s also returning to her romance with Rafael, which is a lot more complicated now that Mateo has seen them kissing and thinks his parents are getting back together.

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There’s a lot of pressure on Jane and Rafael, and they need to quickly decide how they’re going to proceed with their rekindled romance because the longer they wait, the more stress they put on Mateo. They try to explain to their son that kissing doesn’t mean they’re going to be back together, but he doesn’t understand that relationship middle ground. Mommy and daddy are either together or separate, and he feels like he has a family when mommy and daddy are together. Mateo lashes out at Jane because she won’t move into Rafael’s new apartment, and Jane and Rafael realize that if they don’t give Mateo a clear definition of their relationship, he’ll only continue to expect a total reunion.

Elias Janssen has really settled into the role of Mateo and is able to convey his big emotions without coming across as too artificial, a problem for many child actors. He’s become especially good at showing Mateo’s preference for his father over his mother, and while he cares a lot for Jane, he idolizes Rafael and learns the most from him. He’s gotten used to his dad living with him, and he thinks that his mom is pushing his dad away because he doesn’t understand how this new living arrangement ties into his education. All he sees is his dad leaving right when it seems like they might be a family again, and because Mateo is an intuitive child, he can tell how much Rafael wants this relationship to happen and how uneasy it makes Jane.

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Toward the end of “Chapter Seventy-Three,” it looks like Jane and Rafael are going to make a very mature decision to wait until they are both in a more stable place before throwing a tricky relationship into their lives. Jane just got out of a relationship with Adam, Rafael just got out of an extremely unhealthy relationship with Katherine, and they’re both unsure of their future professional prospects. Rafael confesses that he’s afraid that he’ll get stuck in his rundown studio and won’t achieve success, and I was very happy when he decided to pull back from Jane so he could reevaluate his life course. That all turned out to be a fake-out, though, and Jane and Rafael decide off-screen that the best thing to do is lie to their family and say that they’re going to just be friends while they have a secret romance. We all know how bad Jane is about lying, though, so I give this new status two episodes max before it falls apart.

Xiomara is in a similarly uncertain place regarding her future, and she decides to sell her dance studio this week because she finds no more joy in it. The dance studio has been around for three years, but it’s always been a plot point in the distant background. I often forgot that she owned a business, and the writers have realized that the studio was a weight holding Xo’s character back. With Rogelio becoming a stay-at-home dad, Xo is inspired to pursue what makes her happy, taking on some classes at a friend’s studio while she decides on her long-term goals.

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The timing works out well because Rogelio does not like being a stay-at-home dad, and when he’s denied the satisfaction of posting selfies with Baby on social media, he has to find new ways to pass the time. That’s pretty hard when you have an infant that doesn’t do much of anything, and Rogelio is completely bored. He’s about to give up when Xo tells him how he’s an inspiration to her, and I’m curious to see if Rogelio will eventually come around on his new occupation or if he’ll change his mind (like he always does) and go back to what he’s knows will fulfill him: cavorting on the telenovela set.

Petra was isolated from the rest of the cast last week, but she forces her way back into the story when Rafael and Jane cut her off. She’s fine with losing Rafael because this is has become routine for them, but she’s hit much harder by Jane cutting ties, especially when she decides to end their brunch tradition. Jane only gets angrier when Petra derails her lunch with a potential new agent, who ends up being far more interested in Petra penning a memoir/lifestyle book than reading one of Jane’s three totally uninspired pitches riffing on Outlander, The Notebook, and 50 Shades Of Grey. But Petra is not a writer, and she doesn’t become one by closing the curtain, lighting a bunch of candles, and opening a bottle of alcohol.

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Drunk and frustrated, Petra is in a vulnerable place when J.R. shows up to thank her for setting up a doctor’s appointment for her mother, and their conversation reveals just how important Jane is in Petra’s life. (Jane Ramos doesn’t like being called J.R., but I’m going to be referring to her by that name in these reviews to avoid confusion with our titular heroine.) There’s some strong sexual tension between Petra and J.R. in this scene that I hope is explored further, but its really about Petra’s bond with Jane and how she filled Petra’s need for emotional support that was never satisfied by her mother or sister. Petra refuses to let brunch die and goes to the Villanueva house with Anna and Elsa to cook the meal herself, and that’s when Petra realizes that she can rebuild a bridge with Jane while solving her most immediate problem (not including that pesky murder trial). Petra asks Jane to be the ghostwriter of her book, and while Jane is reluctant, she comes around after a rapid negotiation of her compensation.

The script by Valentina Garza and Chantelle M. Wells lacks the finesse of last week’s episode, and you can feel the writers working to make sure the audience catches the connections between everyone’s storylines. This is usually done by having the Narrator makes things very explicit, like when he reinforces that this is an episode about character overcoming blocks in love and writing. Garza and Wells forget the rule of three with their use of the Law & Order sound effect, and the Narrator commenting on the overuse of the sound doesn’t excuse it. This isn’t the smoothest episode, but it does have some wonderful laugh out loud moments. I cackled at Rogelio’s “bye, Felicia” moment, his overseas commercial for a product promising gastrointestinal relief, and the three words Petra manages to write over the course of hours: “I am Petra”.

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Then there’s that whole dominatrix fantasy sequence, putting Rafael in a leather tank top and dog collar as Jane slaps him with a switch. My jaw dropped when I saw the promotional photos of this scene, and the racy scene actually turns into something very sweet as Jane realizes that Rafael is the romantic lead in her imagination. The romance parodies already give the episode a specific schtick, and having a recurring Law & Order gag on top of that makes the script overly referential. There’s enough strong material in the character dynamics that the writers don’t have to try so hard with the extra flourishes, and the best episodes of Jane The Virgin maintain an element of restraint because the plot is already so heightened.

Stray observations

  • Rosario Dawson has a talent for playing intensely driven characters who still have a soft side, and J.R. never veers into full-on villain territory, even though we knows she’s manipulating Petra (and potentially manipulating her secret employer). The final J.R. scene reveals that she really does have a mother with Alzheimer’s disease, and it provides some important context for her motivations.
  • Not only is the vindictive Jorge giving Alba the late shift at work, he’s also back with his ex Sofia, making Alba feel like a meaningless rebound. She should take comfort that she discovered this before entering a legally binding marriage, because Sofia eventually would have found a way back into Jorge’s life.
  • This show continues to make masterful use of text messaging, and in the case of Jane and Rafael, it’s a way of maintaining close emotional proximity while keeping the characters physically separated.
  • I fully expect a #WhoShotJR moment at some point in the back half of the season.
  • I’m liking Krishna’s new sass. She’s tired of Petra’s shit.
  • The onslaught of Baby selfies with different hashtags would make me unfollow Rogelio on social media. Or at least mute him for a while.
  • “If you call me J.R., I’ll call you Peter.”
  • J.R.: “Never trust television writers. My ex-girlfriend was one and they just build things up for the sake of drama.” Narrator: “Which reminds me: Who is Jane Ramos working for?” (Law And Order clink-clink.)
  • Xo: “He can’t do that! Who the hell does he think he is?” Narrator: “Apparently every man in a position of power in the entire world.” #BurnItDownSis
  • Rafael: “Well I said to set expectations low.” Mateo: “I didn’t know what that meant.”
  • “Good luck on your Czechoslovakian bootstrap beach lifestyle book!” I love Gina Rodriguez’s delivery of this line.
  • “If you take a selfie and no one sees it, do you even exist?”
  • “I can win him back in my sleep. I’ve done way worse to him.”

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