Being a professional writer is a dream job for Jane Gloriana Villanueva, but it’s extremely difficult for her to make it a reality. “Chapter Ninety-Six” starts with Jane getting hit with a wave of creative inspiration, finishing her entire new novel over the course of three weeks, five pizzas, and one and a half showers. She’s proud of the work and sends it over to Marlene, who loves what she reads and sends it along to her girlfriend in publishing. Then comes the rejection. Marlene’s lover is into the book but doesn’t know how to market it so she passes on the project. It’s a bump but Jane is committed to getting over it, sending her novel to multiple agents to see if any of them will bite. She even plots an elaborate Mission: Impossible-style plan with Rogelio to get her book to the top of an agent’s pile, but it still doesn’t get her the representation she needs.
This is all a major blow to Jane’s confidence, and she’s left with a common dilemma for anyone trying to make a career out of their creative passion: do you keep trying to achieve success in an extremely competitive industry or do you move on to more immediately lucrative work and turn your passion into a hobby? Rafael thinks that she needs to stick with her dream, but it’s easy to understand Jane’s position. I’m not a novelist, but I spent about half of my twenties making a living as a freelance pop culture writer, a profession that doesn’t offer a lot of stability. I ultimately chose to get a day job outside of my chosen career path, and I’ve been able to elevate my standard of living while still doing freelance work like these recaps. I’m fortunate where I only have to take care of myself; Jane has a famiy to support, so she can’t afford to dedicate huge swaths of time to writing that doesn’t make her any money.
The rejection stings, but Jane quickly finds a silver lining: Mateo is interested in reading his mom’s book. Hearing him read the first line fills Jane and Rafael with pride and excitement, and no matter what happens with Jane’s career, they’ll be fine as long as they have each other. Eventually Jane does get a phone call from an agent that wants to represent her, but we don’t get any more details about who this person is. I predict that it’s going to be someone who also works in TV and will suggest that Jane consider adapting her book as a telenovela. There are only four episodes left for Jane The Virgin to take shape as a show within the show, so if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen very soon.
Petra is O.K. after her car accident at the end of the last episode, but the accident does bring up the question of what would happen to Ellie and Anna if Petra were to pass away. Petra isn’t too worried because she knows that Rafael and Jane will take care of her daughters, but Jane realizes that she needs to play a bigger role in the Twins’ lives if she’s going to be their stepmother. As expected, the Twins are little hellions, and when Jane tells Petra about the girls breaking iPad rules, they fully turn on their future stepmom. Mia and Ella Allan are great at playing precocious little brats, and the maturity of their performances makes the kids’ heightened intelligence ring true. Jane repairs her relationship with the Twins by bringing them into her scheme to sneak into an agent’s office and slip a book into her weekend reading pile, and by trusting the girls to be bad with her, Jane gets two new besties.
For a while it looks like we might finally be rid of Magda, and the episode mines a lot of humor from Petra’s eagerness to pull the plug on her mother. Petra wants her dead, and the medical staff is clearly disturbed by her heartlessness. When faced with the possibility of losing her mother, Petra says that she feels nothing, but what she means to say is she feels nothing positive. She still feels plenty of contempt, and once her mother is gone, she’ll be able to live easier. This Magda story ends up tying together nicely with Jane and the Twins, and Petra is so concerned about her daughters’ behavior because she doesn’t want them turning to the dark side like their grandmother, who regains consciousness before the doctors can disconnect her life support.
Parent/child relationships play a big part in this episode, and Rogelio and River get in on it too. We find out that the This Is Mars P.A. played by Eden Sher is actually River’s daughter, P.J. (Pond Juniper). I always forget that Rogelio has another daughter, and his absence in Baby’s life becomes a key plot point as he continues to ignore her for This Is Mars. This is a fantastic episode for Jaime Camil, who gets to show different sides of Rogelio’s character as professional frustrations interfere with his personal relationships. The network is happy with the pilot, but now comes audience testing. The younger actors in the show get a much better response than Rogelio and River, so they try everything they can to put together a new cut of the pilot that gives them more attention.
There are a lot of jokes about Rogelio and River’s fears of getting sidelined in their show, and this episode is packed with hilarious one-liners. A stand out comedic scene is when Rogelio tells the ridiculous story of how he came to be banned from the set of any Alejandro González Iñárritu movie, which functions as both a piece of comedy and a character-illuminating speech reinforcing his dedication to becoming a star by any means necessary. This makes Rogelio’s character arc all the more satisfying. He’s lived his life with stardom as his top priority, but when he sees Baby walk for the very first time, he has a moment of revelation. Being there for his daughter is the most important thing, and if having a smaller role on TV means that he gets to spend more time with Baby, he’ll have a happy life.
- Rose/Luisa update: Luisa and Bobby have uncovered a huge stash of money hidden by Luisa’s father! There are now six people with Rose’s face!
- There’s a shot in This Is Mars that has River Fields homaging this Aliens 3 scene and it makes me cackle so hard.
- Alba and Xo are almost entirely absent from this episode. We do get a quick nursing school update from Xo: she’s registering for classes!
- Bobby got a haircut and it is very cute.
- Jane: “I’m going to spend time with each of them separately to really get to know them individually.” Narrator: “And learn to tell them apart.” As you will see in the quote below, I also have no idea how to tell them apart!
- “We’re going to go back into editing and make sure we stand out more. Otherwise they’re going to turn us into side characters whose scenes get shorter and shorter until they’re cutting us off mid—” (Cut to new scene)
- Twin #1: “Snitches get stitches—” Twin #2: “—and end up in ditches.” Twin #1: “We don’t hang out with narcs.”
- Rogelio: “I found out that every year the network execs watch all their pilots at a remote wilderness lodge. No phones, no computers, no audience testing.” Narrator: “But how will they know straight men like boobs?!”
- Petra: “I told you before you can pull the plug.” Doctor: “Actually, you need to put that in writing.” Petra: “I did put it in writing!” Doctor: “A text with a plug emoji and thumbs up doesn’t count.” 🔌👍
- “I need to go to the hospital to unplug my mother. Let’s continue this in the car.”
- “I am O.K. with being sidelined just a little. Becoming the stand-out supporting character that people look forward to. The one who goes on to win Teen Choice Awards.” Congratulations to Jaime Camil on his 2018 Teen Choice Award win for Choice TV Actor—Comedy!
- Rogelio: “The connection between a mother and a daughter is so sacred.” (Cut to Magda’s hospital room.) Narrator: “Well...sometimes.”