The bench swing on the Villanueva’s porch is the most common setting for big emotional moments on Jane The Virgin because it’s where Jane, Xiomara, and Alba go during times of need. The relationships between these three women are the emotional foundation of this series, and even though the Villanuevas often disagree, their opinions are the ones they respect the most. The bench swing is where they come together to take strength in each other and overcome their personal hardships, and that it plays such a central part of their family dynamic that even 6-year-old Mateo goes there when he needs to open up. “Chapter Seventy-One” builds an entire episode around that bench swing energy, turning Jane’s book tour into a family road trip when the author jumps in a convertible with her mother and grandmother.

Boy problems, Jane’s got ‘em. Xo and Alba do too. On the surface, this book tour offers a chance to escape, but it’s a temporary solution to issues that don’t disappear when the women run away. Adam may not appear in this episode, but he haunts Jane for the first part of her tour. Her hotel room is decked out for a couple, and she breaks down while talking to Iyanla Vanzant about Snow Falling’s cover art at her first stop. All of Jane’s main boyfriends (Fabian does not count) are attached to this book in some way: Adam has the most superficial connection as the cover artist, but it’s the first thing people see when they look at the book so his influence will always be there (unless it gets a later printing with a new cover). The story is based on her love triangle with Michael and Rafael, and the book helped her process her grief after Michael’s death. It never would have happened if Rafael hadn’t pushed Jane to be a writer, and secretly sending Michael’s mother a rough manuscript of Snow Falling leads to Jane getting the approval from Michael’s mother that she needs in order to continue.

My own review of Snow Falling has the same lukewarm temperature as the one Jane gets in this episode, but for different reasons. I got the chance to read Snow Falling over the break, and was disappointed to see just how closely it sticks to the story and structure of Jane The Virgin. There are some changes—the Jane character (Josephine) has sex with the Rafael character (Rake) instead of the whole accidental artificial insemination thing—but in general it feels like an alternate universe retelling of the first two seasons of the show, complete with an extra narrator commenting on the action. Josephine and Martin get the happy ending Jane and Michael were denied in real life, but the steps to that ending are very familiar. I’d be very interested in hearing from any romance readers who try out the book without having seen Jane The Virgin and how that changes their experience with the story.

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Michael is everywhere in this episode, and writers Valentina Garza and Deirdre Shaw explore how the suddenness of his death impacted the people around him. His mother blamed Jane for not taking Michael to the hospital when he said he wasn’t feeling well, and Jane freaks out every time Mateo is sick because she doesn’t want to experience another tragedy that could have been prevented. This is why she gets so mad when her family members keep Mateo’s current virus a secret from her, but she’s not considering how her reactions to Mateo’s health affect her son. Rafael tells Jane that he kept this a secret because Mateo is also scared about unexpectedly dying like Michael, and Rafael doesn’t want him to have such grave concerns every time he’s unwell.

Michael always had a much stronger relationship with Jane’s family than Rafael, but that’s changed this year with Rafael moving into the Villanueva house. Connecting with Rogelio is still a challenge, though, and I wonder if Rafael is intimidated by the friendship Rogelio used to have with Michael. Rafael probably doesn’t think he could have that, but he’ll never find out unless he actually tries to create a bond with Rogelio. That starts to happen in “Chapter Seventy-One” as Rafael and Rogelio team up to take care of Mateo while Jane is away, which becomes Rafael taking care of Rogelio after he catches Mateo’s sickness.

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Xo is running away because Rogelio revealed that he had a slight inkling that Xo may have had their child, and Rogelio tries to get back in her good graces with flowers and apologies. But Rafael tells him that Xo is in the wrong. She fled when things got rough instead of staying and talking things through, and Alba doesn’t disagree. Rogelio didn’t call to find out and Xo didn’t reach out to tell him about his daughter, so it’s unfair to place all the blame on Rogelio. Instead of avoiding this subject, Xo decides that it’s time for her and Rogelio to get some help in figuring out how to move forward with couples counseling.

The Villanueva women end up at a bar after Jane’s rough talkback, and after a lot of shots of tequila, they start sorting through their emotional baggage and dance their worries away. This is an excellent episode for Ivonne Coll, and it makes up for Alba being in the background for so much of this season. Alba is running away from Jorge’s marriage proposal, and it’s put her in a place where she’s confronting her age and thinking about what her priorities and needs are at this point in her life. Jane doesn’t want her abuela to think of herself as an old woman nearing her end, so she convinces her to dance and get in touch with the youthful energy she still has.

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This Alba thread ties into Jane and Adam’s relationship in a very powerful way, and my eyes welled up when Alba tells Jane why she thinks Adam wasn’t an awful fit for her. Adam reminded Jane that she was young and fun, and they wouldn’t have danced last night if Adam hadn’t pulled Jane out of her grieving widow mindset. I didn’t realize how invested I was in Jane getting her groove back until this conversation, and I appreciate the Adam storyline even more because of how it completes an arc for Jane that sets her up for new love. Or more likely an old love made new again.

The crazy circumstances of Jane and Rafael’s relationship are an inside joke in this episode—“How did I get so lucky to have you as my accidental artificial inseminator?”—and now that they’re past most of the drama (they’ll never be past all the drama), they’re starting to reconsider their future together. This show fully understands the romantic value of pretty things gracefully floating in the air—just look at the title of Jane’s book—and whenever Jane makes a major romantic connection, there are fake snowflakes or flowers or wind-blown paper cranes surrounding her and her beau. When Rafael has his brave moment and kisses Jane, flower petals drift into the house through the kitchen windows. I love the filming of this moment, and the windows have extra symbolism in an episode that is explicitly about failed romance opening a window to a new one. Having this moment in the Villanueva kitchen also gives it a new emotional context compared to previous kisses. This is romantic, but it’s not a fairy tale. It’s not happening under a blossoming tree, but inside the house where Jane and Rafael have been raising their son.

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Jane and Rafael’s romance isn’t the only thing revived in this episode, and I let out a heavy groan when Anezka showed up at her own funeral and revealed that she had faked her suicide to find out whether Petra or Magda loved her more. I’m tired of the fakeouts and want to see some permanent changes for this trio, but I can’t get mad when this episode gives us the amazing moment of Anezka growling at her sister when she’s startled. Anezka has never been a calm, collected character, and this moment shows just how nervous she’s become as she tries to claim a position of power in her relationships with her mother and sister. She wants to believe that she’s in control, but that growl shows that she’s never been closer to the edge. And she gets pushed off it at the end of the episode.

Anezka praises Game Of Thrones’ Sansa Stark when she tells Petra that Luisa thinks Rafael and his ex-wife set up the Carl ruse, but if she’d been paying attention to Sansa’s story, she would know the dangers of elevation. Anezka doesn’t fall through a Moon Door like Lysa Arryn, but she does get thrown off a balcony, landing on top of the white coffin that has been following Petra for the entire episode. The Narrator tells us that Anezka really is dead this time, but I’ll believe it when I see her in that coffin and six feet under.

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Stray observations

  • Threes are a recurring theme in this episode: there are the Jane/Xo/Alba and Mateo/Rafael/Rogelio trios, there are three instances when Rafael pushed Jane to keep pursuing her writing, and Jane gave Adam three opportunities to back out of their relationship before he broke up with her. That last one is a big reason why she’s so angry for most of this episode.
  • Look at Alba, showing some skin for her night out! I like how her shiny red top is clearly an older woman’s idea of sexy nightclub wear.
  • I didn’t know Jaime Camil was in Coco, so I was delighted to hear him as the voice of the lead character’s father. The trailers before the movie also revealed that Gina Rodriguez is a voice in every single upcoming animated feature.
  • Alba realizes that she wants to say yes to Jorge, but when he proposes again, she declines. We don’t know why the sudden change in heart, but given the importance of dead husbands in this episode, I expect that the memory of Mateo is holding Alba back. She’s accepted that she doesn’t dishonor her ex-husband by pursuing new relationships, but now I wonder if she’s starting to realize that she doesn’t want to put herself through the pain of potentially losing another husband.
  • “I won’t leave you hanging any longer.”
  • “Look, Anna died!”
  • Anezka: “He was evil Disney villain in big parade. He was...I’m trying to remember who he plays. Not Gaston.” Petra: “Anezka! I don’t care what villain he plays!” For the record: Carl was Captain Hook.
  • Rogelio: “I should have respected you as Matelio’s father.” Rafael: “You don’t look so good.” Rogelio: “Is that necessary? I apologized.”
  • “I just finished watching Game Of Thrones and spoiler alert, Sansa becomes very powerful.”

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