For the last two episodes, Jane The Virgin’s three-year time jump was used to maintain the show’s fun, sunny spirit in the wake of a tragic loss, but “Chapter Fifty-Seven” spotlights the dangers of jumping past the big stuff to stay on a track that viewers will be comfortable with. There are big events in this episode surrounding the romances that began with the time jump, but the lack of development for those relationships diminishes the impact of their dissolutions.
This is especially harmful for Rafael and Abbey, a couple that has been intentionally pushed into the background. The Narrator loves to joke about Abbey being sidelined, and while this represents Rafael’s lukewarm feelings for her, it’s prevented her from becoming a fully realized character. Minka Kelly is a very talented actress (see: Friday Night Lights), but she hasn’t had much to do on this show until this episode, when Abbey suggests that she should move in with Rafael. We have such little context for this relationship that it feels like an unmerited escalation, and even though we’ve seen glimpses of Abbey and Rafael happy together, that’s not enough to make moving in together a logical next step for them. The relationship is extremely flimsy, so when they break up at the end of this episode because Rafael doesn’t have the same level of affection as Abbey, it feels like getting rid of something that was barely there to begin with.
Petra and Chuck have received much more attention than Rafael and Abbey, so their breakup isn’t quite as empty, but it does still feel rushed. Petra is agonizing over pushing Scott’s skeleton onto The Fairwick’s grounds, and she can’t hide her guilt when Chuck is being so kind to her. Chuck genuinely wants a relationship with Petra, one where they don’t have to have lunch in another town to be together in public. Chuck’s crude demeanor embarrasses Petra, but she also wants something deeper, though her own anxieties prevent her from achieving that. Those anxieties are exacerbated by Rafael’s plotting with his prison buddy Elvis, and when Petra finds Elvis snooping around in her apartment, she becomes paranoid and uncharacteristically careless.
The end of the episode reveals that the book Petra finds in her vent is Scott’s “burn book,” and she simply puts it in a drawer rather than going to greater lengths to hide it, making it easy for Abbey to grab it in an act of resentment after her breakup with Rafael. It will be interesting to see Chuck’s retaliation after Petra’s confession that she pushed Scott’s skeleton over the property line onto The Fenwicks’ side of the beach, and it’s unlikely that he’s going to let this slide. I have a strong feeling that both Abbey and Chuck will continue to play significant roles in upcoming episodes, but I wish the show didn’t hurry to break up their respective relationships at the same time in this chapter.
Rogelio’s storyline is floundering right now, and the writers keep offering variations on the basic plot of Xiomara being angry at Rogelio for her portrayal in The De La Vega Factor Factor. Rogelio reaches out to Donnie “The Jaguar” Shapiro, lawyer to the stars, to handle his breach of contract case, and tensions between Xo and Rogelio flare up again after Xo comes in for her deposition. Bruce takes it upon himself to help the two former lovers reconcile, and his ability to bring them together convinces Rogelio that he wants Bruce to be his new attorney in the lawsuit. He makes this proposition to Bruce just as Bruce is about to offer his hand in marriage to Xiomara, and while it’s a very Rogelio thing to do, the coincidence is a little too neat. Seeing Bruce and Xo happy together clearly hurts Rogelio, but I’m hoping that doesn’t mean he’ll start pining for Xo again because that’s well-trodden narrative territory at this point.
The Jane material is what works best in this episode, but even then there are some hiccups in the storytelling. A recurring theme involves Jane’s gender bias and her tendency to only trust female authority figures, which plays out in her dynamics with her new book editor, Jeremy, and Mateo’s aide, Carly. Jeremy’s hyper-bro attitude initially puts Jane off, and it’s easy to understand why because he’s presented as a total caricature. I expect that kind of cartoonish character in a Rogelio plot (like his lawyer this week), but Jeremy feels out of place in Jane’s story, which tends to be more grounded and nuanced. He does eventually gain some extra dimension as he gives Jane some more reasonable advice on how to improve her novel, and I don’t mind his character as an exaggerated example of how Jane views male authority figures.
While Jane favors women, she still has a lot of difficulty handling their judgment and gossip, something that the show has explored through Jane’s encounters with mean girls, both young and old. One of those mean girls in tonight’s episode is Stacy, a mom at Mateo’s school played by Yvonne Orji, who does phenomenal work on HBO’s Insecure (one of my favorite shows of last year). It’s been fascinating seeing Jane consistently cast as the underdog in her interactions with the other adults at Mateo’s school, and she’s back in that role when she accidentally yells at the school’s director. She tries to make up for this mistake by becoming more active in the fundraiser being held at The Marbella, and while Jane isn’t especially skilled with party planning or selling raffle tickets, she redeems herself in the director’s eyes by literally getting her hands dirty when the waiters run out of clean glasses.
Carly and Stacy’s stories end up intersecting when Carly shares gossip about Stacy’s older son, who isn’t attending an exclusive boarding school like Stacy says, but is at a behavioral center for juvenile delinquents. Jane fires Carly when she realizes that she’s a gossip talking about both the kids and the parents at Mateo’s school, and ends up creating a personal connection with Stacy after being accused of spreading the gossip Carly is most likely responsible for. Jane’s understanding of the struggles of parenting a child with behavior issues completely changes her opinion of Stacy, and it’s clear that Stacy appreciates meeting a person who doesn’t judge her. Jane could use a new best friend with the disappearance of Lina in the time jump (Diane Guerrero landed herself a CBS comedy pilot), and I would love for Orji to become a recurring player on this series. Her work on Insecure showed that she can handle drama and comedy equally well, and those skills would come in handy on Jane The Virgin.
This episode reveals that Jane’s book about her relationship with Michael is set in 1902 Miami at the start of the city’s hotel boom, allowing for fantasy scenes that put the cast in turn-of-the-century clothing and have them acting in a heightened, antiquated style. While these fantasy scenes are fun, the twist regarding the book’s time period comes across as a gimmick to make these fantasies possible, and they make Jane’s novel come across as much more basic than what was suggested by her public reading. There is a great emotional payoff to this story, though, and it happens on the swing outside of the Villanueva house as Alba helps Jane realize the value of her love for Rafael, which her editor wants her to put more emphasis on.
Jane feels that exploring that love in the book is a betrayal of Michael, but Alba helps her see that her love for Rafael deepened her love for Michael, because when Jane had to choose one, she chose the latter. This is a great scene, but the moments that follow have me very nervous that the show is speeding toward Jane and Rafael getting back together by the end of the season. The flashbacks to major moments in their past remind the viewer as well as Jane of the love they used to share, and Rafael admits that a big reason he broke up with Abbey is because his feelings for her didn’t match his love for Jane. He specifies that he wants that love with someone other than Jane, but it’s easy to interpret that as writer Madeline Hendricks laying the groundwork for their romantic reunion.
- The opening flashback says Rafael and Abbey started dating two years ago, but in the present the characters keep saying they’ve been dating for over a year. Two years is indeed more than a year, but it feels weird that they wouldn’t say two years or almost two years.
- I find it hard to believe that Petra wouldn’t recognize Elvis in his repairman outfit given how attentively she was watching him last week. He has a different demeanor, but it’s still the same person.
- Female authority figures Jane trusts: Dr. Garcia, Dr. Alonso, Alba, Xiomara, Mrs. Taub, Chloe, Professor Donaldson
- I love the detail put into Jane’s apology card for the director of Mateo’s school, but I find it very strange that Jane writes all of her Rs uppercase regardless of context.
- Abbey’s Marbella pop-up card is really impressive. That woman has some serious greeting card mojo.
- Stacy’s wardrobe is gorgeous in this episode. Yvonne Orji knows how to rock an ensemble.
- “Aw, I was hoping she would go with lozenges. A medicine and a candy!”
- “I know you moved the bones, ma’am.”
- “I’d kill for my clients, and I devour my prey.”
- “Cards don’t mean anything! Only actions do.” Abbey’s reaction after Petra says this really reinforces her dislike of Rafael’s ex, but she’s still very demure about it.
- “As Jane’s editor would say, ‘That’s hella shady. Bam!’”
- “Jeremy loved it, Raf loved it, all the men in your life loved it. Not that you care what we think, but still.”