Tonight’s Jane The Virgin begins with a warning. Words are quickly typed across a white background, and as I read them, I begin to worry. As I take in the first two lines—“The following contains frank and honest language”—I think that this episode is going to have some sort of trigger warning about sensitive material. Just how intense is this Xiomara breast cancer storyline going to be? Is this show about to engage with something so serious that it needs a warning? But then comes the punchline: “concerning the tooth fairy.” I’m fascinated by how this warning functions in “Chapter Seventy-Seven.” It kicks off the episode with humor as it presents a very serious warning about a silly thing parents lie to their kids about, but as the story unfolds, this warning gains deeper meaning.

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Jane is trying not to worry about the lump in her mother’s breast until they get biopsy results, but when Elsa and Anna tell Mateo that the tooth fairy isn’t real, Jane goes into an emotional tailspin as she thinks about how her mother shaped her life. The tooth fairy is a stand-in for Xo, and when one of the twins says that it’s impossible for the tooth fairy to live forever because everyone dies, a hush falls over the entire room as the same thought crosses across the minds of all the adults. This was the first point when I cried in this episode, it would not be the last. This connection between the tooth fairy and Xo informs a lot about Xo’s history with Jane, who associates the idea of a magical childhood with her mother.

The tooth fairy and Santa Claus play a valuable role in mental development by teaching kids the power of belief, which triggers their imagination to create an idea of these characters in their minds. Believing in these simple characters helps children comprehend more abstract concepts as they get older, and although faith in God and faith in the tooth fairy are very different, they both boil down to believing there’s something outside of you that cannot be seen but wants to help you. There might come a time when you need to put faith in a higher power to get you through a trying time, like the final moment of this episode when the Villanuevas join hands, kneel down, and recite “The Lord’s Prayer” around the coffee table.

Xo’s detailed description of the tooth fairy’s appearance gave young Jane an even more specific image to create in her mind, and the magical elements of Jane’s childhood planted a seed that grew into her current career as a novelist. And it’s a career. She published a novel. It didn’t sell very well and got mediocre reviews, but it’s still a novel, and the first thing Jane gets in writing class is recognition for how much she’s accomplished already. This episode does outstanding work tying Jane’s professional life to her personal life, and when she’s tasked with writing a story telling a major event in her past through the lens of a side character, she learns about what Luisa was going through when she accidentally artificially inseminated Jane.

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The main romantic storylines in this episode involve relationships between women, and they are both complex and emotional in very different ways. For the first time, I have a clear understanding of why Luisa hasn’t been able to give up Rose over all these years. I’ve seen the Jane The Virgin pilot about 15 times, so it’s very exciting to get this new perspective of the events, and it brings a new depth to Luisa’s character that makes everything she’s done throughout the entire series click into place. She was going to kill herself after what she did to Jane, but Rose is the person that pulled her from the ledge and gave her the love she needed.

Luisa has always been a complicated character, and the writers really dig into these layers and make her feel more real than she ever has been. And when Rafael finds her in the present, she looks good. She looks healthy and happy and relaxed. She wants to keep living this life, and doesn’t want to reconnect with Rose. Unfortunately, Rose has information about Rafael’s mother, and she won’t give it to him without Luisa’s location. I hope that this Rafael storyline builds to him refusing to hand over this information and living with the family he has instead of endlessly searching for a biological family he may never find. This path just leads to pain, and if he stops walking down it, maybe everyone will be happier.

Everything in this episode is tied up in mothers, and it’s a showcase for all the moms in the cast. Jane is furious at Petra because she told the twins that the tooth fairy isn’t real, and Petra doesn’t understand why Jane is so mad over a fairly trivial imaginary creature. In a surprising move, she goes to Alba to find out what’s going on with Jane, and that’s when she finds out about Xo. To make things up to Jane, Petra dresses up exactly the way Xo describes the tooth fairy and climbs through Mateo’s window in the middle of the night. Jane doesn’t know this is happening and tackles Petra, but this just sells the idea that this is real and not a plot to convince Mateo to believe. There’s a beautiful shot of Petra’s tooth fairy surrounded in sparkles, and that same shot is repeated later with Xo, once again tying Jane’s mom to all the magic in her life.

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The stakes are incredibly high over at the Villanueva household, so it’s delightful to have Petra’s blackmail drama ends with a total whimper when it’s revealed that Krishna was behind it all. She just hates her boss and wants to make her suffer, and when she’s found out, she flees the scene but still leaves a note letting Petra know when to expect her dry-cleaning. Krishna may have have killed Petra’s sister and framed her for the murder, but she’s a dutiful assistant to the very end. The blackmailer’s identity never really mattered, it was just a way to get Petra and JR together for their brief but passionate romance.

Petra wants to continue their relationship but JR insists it was a one-off deal that isn’t going to become some epic romance, and Petra tries to respect those boundaries even though she’s really, really attracted to her. Their story ends with Petra unable to express just how much she wants JR, which might be the exact reason JR doesn’t want to be in an actual relationship with her. If Petra can’t verbalize her feelings of affection, how can JR know that she isn’t a #clitourist? That final look of longing from Yael Grobglas tells the viewer exactly how she feels about JR, but she needs to turn that emotion into action if she’s going to keep JR in her life. It could end up being a one-off deal and JR is gone for good, but we still haven’t gotten our “Who Shot JR?” moment, so I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Rosario Dawson.

Xo’s storyline brings out the best in all of these actors, with Andrea Navedo anchoring the ensemble. Xo is shaken but still resilient, and she knows how close she is to falling apart so she needs the rest of her family to act like things are normal until that’s no longer an option. What this episode really highlights is how strong Navedo has been throughout the series, and short flashbacks to past scenes of Xo and Jane in hospitals highlight Xo’s fiery protective side as well as her warm, nurturing side. Gina Rodriguez’s performance is all about the conflicting joy and sadness of memory, and when Xo starts describing the tooth fairy to Mateo, Jane remembers how her mother used to say the exact same thing to her. Rodriguez projects all of this in just one look, and she’s internalized Jane’s relationship with her mom so thoroughly that she doesn’t need dialogue to summon emotion.

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I was harsh on the Michael-related elements in last week’s episode, but bringing him back into the picture is important for Xo’s storyline. The ghost of Michael lingers in this episode, and Jane and Rogelio’s reactions to Xo’s situation are intensified by their previous loss. Jane can’t keep herself from searching the Internet for breast cancer information, and after losing her husband to unforeseen complications after a life-saving medical procedure, she wants to know everything she can and be prepared for any possible situation. Jane is worried, but Rogelio is scared, and it makes it impossible for him to act how Xo wants everyone to act. Jane tells him he needs to obsess about something else to get his mind off of the potential cancer, like his upcoming meeting with River Fields to talk about the American adaptation of The Passions Of Santos.

This episode has Jaime Camil shifting from heartbroken husband to zany goofball, and he gets to show off his range by taking Rogelio to these different extremes. I am all about the Rogelio/River pairing because Brooke Shields is delivering an equally large but still grounded performance, and the producers are right: these two have great chemistry. River’s storyline features some direct commentary about how women are depicted in telenovelas and television in general, and River refuses to play the character of Brenda until she’s significantly fleshed our. She has to be defined by more than her appearance and her love for the lead hero, and Rogelio recognizes that her input is what the show needs to be fresh and elevate the telenovela form. He also respects how she plays the celebrity game, and when he finds out she’s using his show to influence her negotiations for HBO’s Confederate, he applauds her strategy.

Rogelio ultimately wins River over because she’ll play a lead character that meets her specific demands, and Xo makes the right choice in withholding the news that she has breast cancer until after this meeting. Xo’s phone call with her doctor is a huge acting challenge, and while she’s hearing the news that the tumor is malignant and she has breast cancer, she’s trying to put up a happy face for Rogelio. Any tears that break through can be read as tears of happiness, but there’s a deeper tension in Navedo’s performance that tells the audience there’s something else going on here. Xo doesn’t want to ruin Rogelio’s meeting with River so she lies to him and says the tumor is benign, and then Jane walks in the door and is so happy to hear the news that she doesn’t notice her mom’s discomfort.

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At first I was worried that Xo wasn’t going to reveal her diagnosis, but the episode ends with Xo gathering the family together to tell them she has breast cancer. It’s a tough scene, but it ends with unity and hope as the family prays together. Alba’s starts praying instinctively, and even though I’m not a religious person, I understand the importance of faith in this moment for these characters. As they pray, they connect with each other on a spiritual level in a shared plea for guidance and support, and believing in this higher power helps them stay strong for each other.

Stray observations

  • With all this talk of inclusion riders, its making me very cognizant of shows that populate their worlds with non-white, non-male speaking characters. Jane The Virgin has always been great about this, and her writing class is a great example, and almost all the speaking characters are women of color. The show doesn’t draw attention to this, it just does it.
  • I love that Jane is set up a suspect in Zaz’s murder when she’s a side character.
  • I got a good laugh at those digs at HBO’s Confederate.
  • Some choice descriptions of Brenda: “beautiful but doesn’t know it,” “effortlessly thin.”
  • Was the poster for 2025’s Feud: Rogelio Vs. River a joke or an indicator of what their relationship is going to be like on set. I hope it’s the latter.
  • Petra: “You should always have three nannies on call at all times.” Petra: “Hilarious! The comedy world really needs more women, I don’t know if you’ve considered it for a career.” We’ve seen Jane try comedy, and it is bad.
  • “She’s gunning for the lead role of Main Plantation Owner as if she could pull off anything bigger than Racist Lady #6.”
  • “Is it just me, or does it look like Petra wants to be wrongfully accused of murder again?”

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