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An outstanding Jane The Virgin tackles guilt, education, and living with a Martian tail

All photos: The CW
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“Chapter Ninety-Four” is an episode full of major developments that drive character arcs forward, but before we get to any of them, I have to shout out the star of this episode: Rogelio’s Martian tail, which he is forced to wear in public for a week so it looks more natural on camera. In what I assume to be a collaboration between costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin and property master Greg Wolf, the tail is an inspired comedic tool that adds an absurd visual element to every scene, and Jaime Camil wears it with a bravado that makes it even more hilarious. But the tail also plays a pivotal role in the dramatic storytelling. The tail’s unpredictable movements lead to a major revelation about Xo and Alba’s past, and it becomes a symbol of Rogelio’s dedication to his dream of achieving success as an actor.

The tail is a prime example of how this show uses the ridiculousness of the telenovela genre to balance the tone of the script, making emotional moments resonate even more because they are punctuated by pleasant splashes of humor. These emotional moments primarily involve Xo, who is considering going to nursing school as part of her mission to figure out what to do with her life. The game of Lotería is the driving force behind Xo’s drama this week, and when Jorge finds the dusty old game box, he summons up an old grudge that speaks directly to Xo’s current situation. At first I was wary about Xo’s subplot concerning her resentment about her mother cheating at a game of chance nearly 30 years ago, but the script by Valentina L. Garza and Deirdre Shaw ultimately gives that game a lot of personal significance, using it to give more dimension to the dynamic between headstrong adolescent Xo and her parents.

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When Xo starts to research nursing school, she’s immediately turned off by all of the scientific language that she doesn’t understand and decides that it’s not a viable option. But her family won’t accept her giving up before she’s truly started. She needs an extra push, and Lotería is the way to make that happen. Lotería was the deciding factor when Xo wanted to leave school to dance on a Disney cruise as a teenager, and Alba goes back to the game to force her daughter to give nursing school a real shot. Even if that means cheating. Alba wins after a tense showdown, but Rogelio’s tail goes wild, clearing the table and lifting up Alba’s sleeve to reveal the last card Xo needed to win. This leads to the even bigger revelation that Xo’s father was the one who kept her from going on the Disney cruise, refusing to let his daughter squander the educational opportunity that they came to the U.S. for her to have.

This Xo storyline explores major themes for multiple characters: Xo’s demonization of her mother and deification of her father; Alba’s struggle to raise a daughter who doesn’t fully understand the sacrifices made by her immigrant parents; and Rogelio’s undying dedication to his acting career. That last one is the most surprising, and given the silliness of his tail storyline, it’s surprising to see him shift into a serious mode when he gives Xo some real talk about committing to what you want. He’s fought every day to reach this point of success—to the point where he’ll strap on a tail in public—and he expects to see that same kind of drive from his wife if she’s truly passionate about this career path. Xo’s family expects more from her, and it’s the kind of support she needs if she’s going to make a lasting change that brings her satisfaction. And as Alba and Xo embrace on the Villanueva porch swing, Rogelio’s tail swings into frame to affectionately land on Xo’s shoulder, putting a perfect button on the scene.

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Lotería ends up being a big part of Jane’s story, too, and after multiple teases, Rafael drops on one knee during the family game to propose. It’s a moment of celebration, but there’s one family member who isn’t enthused: Mateo. Eventually Jane and Rafael were going to have to talk about Michael, and Mateo is the person who makes them have the conversation. In a nice fake out, Mateo’s ambivalence toward his parents’ reunion isn’t because of his new ADHD medication. It’s because he doesn’t believe that they’ll actually stay together, and he’s still concerned that Michael is going to come back and take his mom away. Mateo’s words strike fear into Rafael’s heart, and he realizes that there are still parts of the Michael saga that he needs to know.

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This episode spotlights the wonderful chemistry between Justin Baldoni and Gina Rodriguez, who get to show all the different facets of Rafael and Jane’s relationship, starting with their intense horniness for each other. We see their highs and their lows, and Jane has to pull Rafael out of a dark place when he asks her about what happened in Montana. She tells him that she and Michael shared an intimate night and kissed, but that kiss is what made her realize that she wanted to be with Rafael. Jane rightfully points out that she was in an impossible situation and needed to resolve certain issues with Michael, and if she didn’t, that lingering “what if?” would have poisoned her and Rafael’s relationship.

Baldoni has mastered the art of the vulnerable hunk, and underneath that chiseled exterior is a tender heart that can’t take any more betrayal. He’s hurt by the kiss, but he needs to get over that and empathize with just how difficult the situation was for Jane. Yes, there’s a pattern of her leaving him for Michael, but you have to make an exception for a husband coming back from the dead after years. It’s a dream come true, and Jane had to follow her instincts and explore this totally unexpected opportunity. She made the right decision, but she still carries guilt that she can only release by having a conversation she’s trying to avoid. That guilt keeps her from protesting anything about their wedding, which is put on an accelerated timeline because of Mateo’s doubts. Jane decides to go with anything Rafael wants because she’s put him through so much, but the universe keeps giving her signs to delay.

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Rodriguez gets some fantastic physical comedy in this episode, the highlight being the painful scene where her hair gets stuck in a sewing machine. The quick cut to commercial adds an exclamation point to the moment, and the scene that follows uses Jane’s tangled situation for some very fun blocking as the argument between Xo and Jane continues. That leads to even more physical comedy as she’s forced to keep her neck tight in the aftermath of the sewing incident, and Jane’s body is trying to get her to stop, slow down, and reassess. Eventually Rafael realizes that Jane doesn’t really want any of this, and they both lay down their respective concerns and talk them out.

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It’s a conversation they’ve had before and hopefully this will be the last time. Jane tells Rafael she’s chosen him and she’ll choose him over and over again, and the conviction behind Rodriguez’s performance makes it the truth. Rafael is finally convinced, but there’s one more person they still need to satisfy. The episode ends on a very sweet moment as Mateo officiates an informal wedding ceremony for an audience of stuffed animals, bringing everything back to the family dynamic that has survived an unbelievable start and a never-ending roller coaster of complications. And with a wedding and a finale on the horizon, the Villanueva-Solano family will have plenty of obstacle to overcome in the coming weeks.

Stray observations

  • I was hoping the Krishna/Milos plot would be resolved quickly and that’s exactly what happens! Turns out Krishna is actually a triple agent, pretending to betray Milos but actually working with Petra to get his hotel shares. Let’s never bring up hotel shares ever again.
  • The maid of honor misdirect Petra pulls on Jane is so cruel and it’s wild that Rafael’s best man is going to be the ex-wife who secretly inseminated herself with his last sperm sample and a turkey baster. I love this show.
  • I appreciate how gleefully this show depicts sex now that all of those Catholic hang ups are out of the way. Jane and Rafael are back together, and they waste no time getting right to business over and over and over.
  • We haven’t had any Luisa and Rose for two weeks and I am totally cool with that.
  • There are six episodes left. What are the chances the show will break from format and do an entire episode of This Is Mars? I need more of that sweet tail in action!
  • “Jane, get out here!” Petra goes into Angry Mom Voice for this line and it is great.
  • 🎶 “It’s another wonderful to be a student nurse, my wife’s going to be a student nurse.” 🎶
  • “We last left Jane (snickers) with her head stuck in a sewing machine. I’m sorry, she’s obviously in pain, that was totally inappropriate (snort laugh).”
  • “I’ve scared children, knocked over tables, and made many gentlemen uncomfortable at the urinal.”
  • “Spoiler alert: he really did nail that tail.”
  • “Look, I’m a more selfish person than you and sometimes I forget to think about other people but I’m working on it, O.K.? But it is who I am so don’t expect a huge change.”
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