It’s become repetitive to say now that we’re twenty episodes into the season, but Jane the Virgin really does do everything all at once better than anyone. So much happens in “Chapter Twenty” that the episode should feel scattered, but Corinne Brinkerhoff and Paul Sciarrotta’s excellent script somehow keeps everything moving at a brisk pace while giving it all enough room to breathe. Even as a dozen complications come crashing together, the show still manages to feel balanced. Every truly silly moment in this episode—and there are several—nevertheless has an emotionally grounded counterpoint. There has hardly been a better showcase for what makes Jane the Virgin so special than “Chapter Twenty.”
The episode notably brings back two characters who have been gone for quite a while now, and while I’m happier to see one (Luisa) than the other (Magda), the episode is written in such a way that it feels like they both came back at the perfect time. Petra, at her wit’s end after getting kidnapped by her ex-lover who was posing as his twin and then impaling said ex-lover (this show), turns to her mother for support. Yes, this is a phenomenally stupid idea given that her mother is Magda, but Petra’s not exactly overflowing with support systems at the moment, so it’s understandable that she would turn to a familiar face in her desperation. Still, it doesn’t take long before Magda’s presence sets off a series of unfortunate events—namely several rounds of questionings on Alba’s fall down the stairs.
To be upfront: there’s been so much freewheeling melodrama on Jane The Virgin since Alba’s fall that I honest to God almost forgot it happened. I would have been completely fine if that plotline, along with Ivan the “ex-hostage,” were left behind for good. But dammit, “Chapter Twenty” does such a tremendous job weaving these stories back into the main fabric of the series that I’m actually thrilled to have them back. While Alba at first begs Jane not to tell anyone about her recovered memory, she finally relents when she hears that Magda is working at the Marbella alongside her Jane.
This, again, brings back a thread that’s almost been lost in the show’s ever-changing shuffle: Michael keeping Alba from getting deported while she was in the hospital. Once Xiomara tells Jane he did that—and that he didn’t want her to know lest she think it was a ploy to win her back—she’s floored, and grateful beyond words. I don’t know that I’m either #TeamMichael or #TeamRafael at this point, but I have to give the show credit for doing a masterful job with this love triangle. There has been a consistent push and pull between the two, with each giving legitimate reasons why Jane should or shouldn’t be more invested. Where so many other love triangles have defaulted to tired clichés or tilted too hard in one direction, the outcome of
Michael versus Rafael Detective Danger versus The Hot-elier has never seemed inevitable. (As a caveat: I will neither be shocked nor disappointed if said outcome is simply #TeamJane.)
Unfortunately, Petra and Magda are way too good at lying and threatening their way out of corners for Michael or Jane to catch them. After Magda (kinda sorta) admits that she pushed Alba to keep Petra out of jail for that aforementioned ex-hostage situation (this. show.), the mother and daughter tighten their stories so much that Michael pretty much just has Jane and Alba’s words to go on. Then, when Jane finds a picture with Ivan lurking in Petra’s hotel room window, Petra gets her ex-hostage to pretend he was just fixing a plumbing problem. So in the end, Jane trusting her grandmother and Magda openly threatening to expose Alba’s undocumented status isn’t enough to prove Magda’s guilt. Jane’s intuition isn’t wrong here, but it’s just not hard evidence, and so Magda and Petra survive yet another threat to their secret lives.
The other familiar face we get to see around the Marbella in “Chapter Twenty” is Rafael’s sister Luisa. I didn’t fully realize how much I missed her until she turned around, beaming and game for anything. In a smart move, the script immediately addresses and disposes of the biggest mystery surrounding Luisa, at least as far as we know; she was not with Sin Rose-tro. Luisa sputters at the very thought: “Of course not! She’s a murderer who killed our father.” Well, sure. When you put it that way, it sounds ridiculous.
Yara Martinez is also just such a joy to watch, especially when she gets to let as loose as Luisa does with her hot new girlfriend, professional wrestler Juicy Jordan (Vanessa Vander Pluym). Their insatiable lust for each other is just fun, and Martinez especially commits with some startling, hungry growls. But “Chapter Twenty” doesn’t stop there. No—Luisa parlays her tie-breaking vote as shareholder to get Rafael and Petra to let Juicy Jordan wrestle her nemesis Candy Crunch at the Marbella. This kicks off an ongoing series of wrestling matchup title cards, which is easily one of Jane The Virgin’s best fantastical devices yet. As pairs of characters circle each other and hone in on conflicts, their wrestling alter egos pop up on a Technicolor split screen.
When Rafael sees the aftermath of Jane thanking Michael for saving her grandma, there’s the aforementioned Detective Danger versus the Hot-elier:
When Rogelio feels cornered by a constantly apologizing Xiomara, there’s “Mommy Long Legs” versus “De La Vengeance”:
And last but certainly not least, Jane confronting Petra about her lying mother brings out “The Cold Warrior” versus “The Pregnant Punisher”:
“It’s the smackdown we’ve all been waiting for!” the announcer booms, and he’s not wrong. Now that Jane doesn’t have to consider Rafael’s feelings and business ties quite as much as she did while dating him, she feels free to go after Petra with all the righteous fury she’s got—and Jane Villanueva has a lot of righteous fury. Not only that, but Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez and Yael Grobglas go all out when their wrestling alter egos get to battle it out in the fantasy ring. While it’s incredible to watch a very pregnant Gina Rodriguez throw herself across a wrestling ring in a leather catsuit (THIS SHOW), Grobglas is particularly hilarious in this scene. At this year’s PaleyFest, showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman admitted that they have been trying to write more comedy in for Petra since Grobglas is so good at throwing herself into a joke, and her snarly performance in this wrestling match shows exactly that. “Chapter Twenty” in general lets many of the characters (and actors) have a blast, whether it’s careening around a wrestling ring or trying to maintain dignity in a green bodysuit for a space soap opera. Even the onscreen lettering gets a new trick, measuring everyone’s anger or interest level or “determination to co-parent” in percentiles, just like Jane’s checkups.
Still, the best episodes of Jane The Virgin are the ones that are joyful and heartwrenching all at once, and man, does “Chapter Twenty” deliver. While the splashy entertainment is in top form, the aftermath of Jane and Rafael’s breakup reverberates throughout the episode and wreaks havoc. Rafael, desperately trying not to fall into that abyss he told their therapist about, throws himself into his work, reasoning that he can get something approaching happiness if he can just get the hotel back on its feet. He tells himself that he was right to break it off with Jane, since he is in an emotionally volatile place, but a talk with Luisa makes him question that decision all over again. As much as I love watching Luisa parade a new girlfriend around, the reason why I’m so thrilled to have her back is because this is exactly the right time to have her back. Rafael has been through the emotional ringer between his dad’s death, the failing hotel, and his mother’s betrayal—and Luisa is just about the only person who can understand the precise pain of these moments. With all the chaos that happened after Luisa accidentally artificially inseminated Jane (the original “this show”), it was sometimes easy to forget that Rafael and Luisa are family. They need each other now more than ever.
Meanwhile, Jane spends half the episode trying not to fall into despair about her breakup with mixed success. She’s determined to keep calm even as she tries to breech the baby, and while that works for a time, it all falls apart in a spectacularly heartbreaking scene. Alba (literally) has to put out a fire after Jane falls asleep trying to breech the baby by burning moxa (Narrator: “Google it, it’s a real thing”). She yells at Jane in a panic about how she could have gotten hurt, why didn’t she ask for help, didn’t she realize how dangerous that was, and Jane just breaks down. She just wanted to know she could do this thing—anything—on her own. “I know you’re here,” she cries, voice catching in her throat, “but there are some things I’ll have to do on my own, as a single mother. Because that’s what I am, and I didn’t see it coming.” For all her planning, feeling this alone has truly blindsided our Jane—and I have to say, it blindsided me, too.
This scene is also critical because it informs an emotion we’re not exactly used to seeing from Jane: anger. Dare I say it—she even dabbles in rage. After breaking it off with Michael, fighting for her relationship with Rafael, preparing for a pregnancy she never saw coming, and oh yeah, investigating the attempted murder of her grandmother, Jane is confused, Jane is exhausted, and Jane is mad. She dives headfirst into trying to nail Magda down, and doesn’t back down even when her clever discovery of Ivan lurking in Petra’s room backfires. On the contrary, she demands that Rafael not only get rid of Magda, but Petra, too. Rodriguez digs deep into Jane’s fury, eyes flashing in a way that we’ve never seen from her before. Rafael is startled, but firm. He can’t—he won’t—get rid of Petra. She’s a shareholder. Jane has to understand. But as we see throughout the episode, Jane doesn’t understand why Rafael indulges Petra, nor does she care to. The episode ends with Jane saying in a calm but deadly serious voice that she doesn’t trust anything about the Marbella anymore—maybe because it’s “the one with all the murders”—and that she doesn’t want her child interacting with it. Jane has decided to sue Rafael for full custody, and I think it’s safe to say that none of them or us are ready for whatever’s coming next.
- Meanwhile, the elder Villanueva women (don’t tell Xo I called her “elder”) battle their own romantic entanglements. Xo tries again and again to get Rogelio to forgive her, and when she finally accepts that it’s over, there has never been a more wistful “or maybe not” look on this earth than Jaime Cavil’s. Then, Alba confesses to her priest (Cheech Marin) that she asked out a priest (Cheech Marin), and said priest (Cheech Marin) acknowledges that he can’t just be friends with her. Scandal!
- Also: Judy Reyes returns as the Passions of Santos showrunner to woo Rogelio (and his ratings) back with a tray of cupcakes decorated with his face, because she knows what she’s doing.
- “We have a pitch.” “Ugh, not that old evil twin cliche.” [cut to: impaled Roman/Aaron]
- Loved the “two weeks later” flash forward with Jane’s belly expanding.
- “I’m still in love with Rafael, and now there’s an opening!” Petra, I love you, but….yeah. Good luck with that.
- “Where have you been?! The police have been looking for you!” “I know, I left them a voicemail the second I got stateside.”
- The cheesy wrestling commentary is on point: “The Cold Warrior denies with her with the classic Eastern block!” “The Cold Warrior’s not giving her a maternity leave.”
- Thanks to Oliver for letting me sub in this week! And now, I bid you farewell with my new desktop: