ADHD might be sending young Mateo’s brain in a million different directions, but it does wonders for his parents’ relationship in “Chapter Ninety-Three,” which follows Mateo as he struggles through his first school musical. His ADHD isn’t getting any better, and Jane is still nervous about committing to medication. She believes that if she puts in extra work she’ll be able to help Mateo overcome his natural obstacles, but while she can put in time at home to teach him, she can’t be there at all times to help him focus when external stimuli become too much to take. This Mateo storyline works very well as something that forces Jane and Rafael together, and as the situation intensifies, the two of them realize just how much they depend on each other.
Rafael’s eagerness to help Jane find a new apartment reinforces the co-parents’ connection, giving Rafael an active role in planning her future and creating opportunities for them to be together without Mateo. Looking for a home is an emotional process, and there’s no way for the two of them not to think about the home they were going to create before Michael returned and threw them off course. Sure, Rafael has a girlfriend right now, but a beautiful stranger doesn’t stand a chance against Rafael and Jane’s history.
Sophia Bush drops by this week as Rafael’s latest short-lived paramour, Julie, a placeholder to make him realize how much he actually wants Jane. This show always engages with technology in very true-to-life ways, and this week, Instagram is the social media platform causing trouble as Jane finds Julie’s Instagram story calling her a “stage 5 clinger.” Julie isn’t wrong, though, and she can tell that Jane isn’t over her ex. She flat-out asks Jane if there’s still something going on with Rafael, and while Jane tries to be the bigger person by openly denying her feelings, she causes more trouble for the new relationship. Because Rafael isn’t all that into Julie. He’s not going to be into anyone if she isn’t Jane, and this is the week he finally sees that.
It all comes down to Mateo. It’s always come down to Mateo. Jane and Rafael would have probably lived separate lives if not for this unplanned child, and he’ll always be the tie that binds them no matter what happens in their romantic relationship. They need support from each other in order to support Mateo when he’s in distress, and by forcing himself to resent Jane, Rafael weakens both of them as parents. He’s proud and petty, but at a certain point, the power of love overcomes Rafael’s ill will. Looking over the list of his must-have characteristics for a prospective partner, Rafael realizes that Jane is who he truly wants.
We’ve seen Jane and Rafael get back together so many times on this show, but this episode makes the reunion extra special with a musical number, bringing the entire cast in to celebrate by singing and dancing. The song is totally basic, but it gets the message across: it’s all about love. Everyone is clearly having a really good time, and director Melanie Mayron brings a swift energy to the sequence as the group grows and grows with more people joining the festivities. The sequence accomplishes exactly what it’s supposed to do, offering a joyous release that isn’t undercut by any sort of dramatic cliffhanger. Instead, we end on a shot of Rafael and Jane kissing in a shower of flower petals, a familiar image that carries the weight of years of struggle and triumph.
Multiple romantic plots are resolved this week as Rogelio puts an end to River’s sudden infatuation with him. He’s convinced that she’s trying to kill him after he rejected her, but these on-set incidents are actually total coincidences that River plays no part in. She knows that acting like a professional and not retaliating is the best way to fight back, trusting Rogelio’s mind to do all the damage as his paranoia takes over. Tightly wound Rogelio is my favorite Rogelio, and Jaime Camil does hilarious work realizing the character’s exaggerated anxiety as every little unexpected occurrence throws him off guard. Rogelio gets himself a huge hunky bodyguard for protection, but it’s actually part of his own plot to end this River mess. He reaches out to Darci to have her find the perfect match for River, and this gigantic man makes River feel dainty and precious.
Love is the solution to most everyone’s problems this week (with the exception of Petra’s hotel drama), but for Xo, the challenge is finding what she loves to do. Mateo’s upcoming performance gives Xo something to pass the time as she takes over teaching duties from Jane, and her years working with kids as a dance teacher give her an understanding of how to communicate with children in a way that makes them want to learn. But this isn’t Xo’s great passion. After her cancer, Xo is getting back to her normal life, but she doesn’t feel fulfilled. Cancer gave her life direction as she powered through treatment, but now she’s back to her old aimless self and wants a change.
I love this Xo plotline because of how it turns a potential weakness of the show into a strength. As the cancer story died down, it felt like Xo was drifting, and the River romantic rivalry came across as a strained attempt to give Xo a meatier narrative. Writers Carolina Rivera & Madeline Hendricks make that drift the conflict, exploring what a mid-life crisis looks like for a woman who has just survived a medical crisis and is entering early menopause. It’s not the kind of subject matter you see explored in primetime broadcast television, and this show does it with sensitivity thanks to its nuanced writing and Andrea Navedo’s warm performance that makes it so easy to relate to Xo’s existential longing.
- There’s some really great comedic acting from Yael Grobglas in this episode, particularly the scene where Petra attempts to creep on JR’s now-private Instagram. The camera zooms in on her face as she tries to see the woman in JR’s tiny profile pic, and you get a lot of delightful Petra faces as she goes through a number of emotions in close-up.
- Milos and Krishna are working together to take down Petra and I am ready for this story to be over when it’s just begun. Hopefully this is one of those plots that gets dealt with quickly instead of lagging on, although I’m nervous they’re going to team up with Rose.
- Happy that Jane and Rafael are back together. Less happy that we won’t get more of Jane And Petra’s Dating Misadventures.
- Rogelio: “Rudy was sick for a week!” Xo: “Doesn’t he have a gluten allergy?” Rogelio: “So he says.” Narrator: “He does.”
- “We last left Jane upset that her real estate agent is seeing someone.”
- Jane: “Guys or girls?” Petra: “I don’t know. Guess the world’s my oyster.” Narrator: “Or sausage.”