Imagine being replaced by your twin sister and put in a forced state of paralysis for three months, forced to watch the rest of the world not notice that the person in your shoes isn’t you at all. It’s enough to break a person, but Petra Solano isn’t like most people. She’s infuriated at the world when she comes out of her paralysis in “Chapter Forty-Nine,” but in classic Petra fashion, she turns that fury into action, seizing the new opportunities made available to her by Anezka’s meddling.
Petra is the most challenging character on Jane The Virgin. She’s deeply entrenched in the over-the-top telenovela elements of this series, but she still has to belong in the same world as Jane, which requires Yael Grobglas to bring strong emotional motivation to every decision Petra makes. The first two seasons successfully brought Petra down to earth, especially with her post-partum depression storyline, and the new dimensions brought to her character inform her return to icy, leggy villainy when she finally emerges from her Petra-fication this week.
Petra is pissed off, and she’s going to make everyone pay for her suffering: Scott has his heart broken, Rafael loses his shares of The Marbella, and Anezka gets the words “not Petra” tattooed on her forehead as punishment for abusing their resemblance. I have questions about that last decision given Petra’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the identity theft, but it’s hard to argue with it as a fail-safe to prevent the same thing from happening again. Anezka’s relationship with Scott may have disgusted Petra in the past, but she begins to soften to him when he tells her how inspired he is by her story, coming up from nothing to become a badass who knows what she wants and takes it. It looks like the writers could be setting up Scetra as an actual thing, and now that Petra’s embracing the bitch within, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two developed a friendship rooted in their shared conniving, money-hungry natures.
There has been very little antagonism between Jane and Alba on this series, and the first episodes of this season have reinforced their supportive bond. Last week’s chapter had Alba letting go of the idealized view of young Jane that she held on to for comfort, and this week she realizes just how much Jane has changed from that little girl desperate for her abuela’s approval. Alba doesn’t want to show Jane the letters from Cecilia because she knows that they will fuel Jane’s curiosity about this new side of her family, and curiosity is a dangerous thing in a digital world where lines of communication between family members can be opened with a simple Google search. Alba is right to be worried, and Jane’s innocent donation to her cousin’s GoFundMe sets off a chain of events that ends with Jane’s cousin, Catalina, waiting for her at her front door.
The growth of Jane’s family tree opens up a lot of options for new characters, but it also adds significant tension to Jane and Alba’s relationship. Ivonne Coll does exceptional work capturing Alba’s anger this week, and her first burst of rage at Jane is shocking in its intensity, particularly given the history of these characters. You can feel Alba’s seething hatred of her sister, and it all makes sense when Alba reveals that Cecilia’s actions ruined her relationship with their mother, who died not speaking to Alba. That wound never healed, and Coll’s performance brings out just how raw the pain is when she thinks about how things ended with her mother. Family means so much to Alba, and losing both a mother and a sister has filled her with resentment that gets directed at Jane because she’s the one that conjures these feelings back up.
Opening a dance school is the logical career choice for Xiomara, and even though it’s one that will require a huge amount of work on her part to get started, it allows her to keep doing what she loves. This revelation comes to Xo during the final recital for her dance students, when she has a vision of Rogelio, Jane, and Alba singing a remixed version of “Beauty School Dropout” telling her to start a dance school. There’s a lot of cross-pollination between Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend right now—Yael Grobglas was a guest star on last week’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which had an abortion storyline very similar to Xo’s—and this musical number has Jane using music to delve into a character’s mind and heighten the emotion Xo is feeling in that moment.
The “Beauty School Dropout” homage gives the show the opportunity to show off Jaime Camil, Gina Rodriguez, and Ivonne Coll’s music chops, and you can sense their delight that this is what they get to do at work that day. That kind of enthusiasm is contagious, and one of the best things about Jane The Virgin is how passionate everyone is about the material and how committed they are to fully realizing these characters and their situations. When I compare the performances on this show to my other weekly CW assignment, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, it becomes very clear just how effortlessly deep the performances are on Jane The Virgin. Granted, these actors are working with stronger material that is rooted in more believable emotional conflicts, but it goes to show how much of a difference it makes when you have a cast that is fully connected to the story and relating to it on a personal level.
Maturity isn’t a word I associate very much with The CW given how heavily it targets teen viewers, but shows like Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are changing that by addressing mature subject matter with care while presenting it in a fun, refreshing manner. Mature subject matter in these cases means stories that deal with issues faced by real adults, like mental illness, family planning, balancing work and home, and managing complicated family relationships. Michael and Rafael’s rivalry has been a key part of this show for two years, and it comes back tonight to prevent them from having the friendship that Jane so desperately wants to see from her husband and Mateo’s father.
Feelings of jealousy and judgment take over when the two men try to hang out, but their storyline has a very mature resolution as they realize that they need to put bury the hatchet for the good of this family. Losing Mateo for 14 harrowing seconds is what triggers this change, and Michael and Rafael’s grudges lose their weight when they realize what is really important. They have a calm, honest moment when Michael expresses his bitterness about Rafael stealing his fiancée, and Rafael understands that he’s at fault here. Rafael fixes one of his bad relationships just in time for another one to turn sour with the return of the true Petra, and it’s going to take a lot more than a curbside heart-to-heart for Rafael to patch things up with an ex-wife on the warpath.
- Good god the Rafael fan service in this episode is so aggressive that I’m worried some viewers may pass out from the swooning. Why isn’t Rafael wearing muscle tank tops half the time he’s on screen (or just shirtless)?
- Rogelio got cast in a movie and he’s going full frontal, which his bosses at Telemasivo aren’t happy with because of the morality clause in his contract. He now owes them a favor, but it will be worth it if his member makes a big impression with U.S. audiences.
- “The Virgin” in the show’s title is crossed out and replaced with “The Happy Mom” this week. I wonder if every episode will have a different descriptor for Jane.
- The preview for Esteban’s episode of Hawaii Five-0 is hilarious. Keller Wortham has done a really great job matching Rogelio’s ridiculous with Esteban, and I just learned that he’s also a physician in Los Angeles specializing in obesity and obesity-related health issues. That’s quite the range of talents!
- Michael realizes that the clue left my Rafael’s mother is a bank account number after seeing a poster for a new movie called Revelations, which pits Michael and his army of angels against dragons in what sounds like a total CGI shitshow.
- I’m assuming the show will get back to Alba’s stolen gift shop money next week. Maybe Michael can help Jane track down The Marbella’s thief.
- Hashtags this week: #ManDateFail, #Scetra, #TheOnePercent
- I love when the Narrator gets exasperated during the “Previously On…” segment, like when he throws in the quick detail, “Jane and Michael were moving, so you might see boxes.”
- “I Jane’d the sitch and researched him online!” I approve of “Jane” as verb.
- “I really thought Scetra was forever.”
- Jane: “And you have a signature style.” Scott: “It’s a modified Alex P. Keaton.”
- Michael: “I’m sorry for getting insecure about your muscles.” Narrator: “Hey, we all did.”
- “Don’t worry, I won’t put you through the recital. I mean, it was cute…if your kid was in it.”