A lot is happening on Jane The Virgin. Staying true to its telenovela roots, the show is burning through story faster than seems possible, but so far the writers still have a considerable amount control over all the spinning stories. The beginning-of-episode recap has ballooned so significantly that even the Latin Lover Narrator says we should just get things started because “at this rate, we’ll have to recap the recap.” Jane the character might go out of her way to avoid confrontation, but Jane the show certainly doesn’t back down from conflict, and the writers just keep raising the stakes.
This week builds on the reemergence of the Jane-Michael-Rafael love triangle, which was pushed to the backburner for a few weeks but inched its way back into the central narrative when Jane and Michael ended up trapped in an elevator last week. Even though romance and relationship drama are key elements of telenovelas, the love triangle in Jane The Virgin works best when it’s not taking up too much space. I had my reservations over Xiomara and Michael’s phone call last week, because the forward momentum of Jane and Rafael’s budding relationship has been so great, and love triangles can get too messy too quickly.
“Chapter Eleven” puts me a little at ease, though, because the drama at the heart of the triangle doesn’t feel like drama for the sake of drama. It’s imbued with real, believable emotions that fit what we know about these characters. Even though Michael is becoming less likable with every episode, the writers are making strong arguments for both camps of the shipping war, and I’m not necessarily talking about the shipping preferences of us viewers but of the actual characters in this world. Xiomara makes it very clear this week that she’s Team Michael. She’s only 40-percent on board with Rafael going into the peacemaking dinner proposed by Jane—and to be honest, Rafael loses some points with me for those anti-Jennifer-Lopez-as-Selena comments. Xiomara just doesn’t think Jane and Rafael are right for each other, and even though her stubbornness frustrates Jane, her hesitation about Rafael comes from a logical place. Her one-on-one meeting with Rafael underscores her main issue with the relationship: Rafael and Jane come from two completely different worlds, and in Xiomara’s mind, that means they don’t belong together.
Michael also doesn’t think Jane and Rafael are right for each other, and he tells Jane this when he’s hospitalized because of an injury on the “job” (more on that later) and she’s called in as his emergency contact. Of course Michael hasn’t updated his emergency contact information. Sure, it’s a convenient plot device that gets Jane in the same room as him, but it’s also totally believeable. Because Michael is in complete denial about this breakup. When Jane asks him if he’s holding out for them, he says yes.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Xiomara and Michael want. Jane is in control of her own story. And she tells them both that point blank. They might not be able to see her with Rafael, but that’s who she sees herself with. The problem I usually have with love triangles when they involve two men and one woman—and that’s what the breakdown almost always is on TV—is that the woman’s agency often gets pushed to the side in favor of relationship drama.
That’s not the case on Jane The Virgin. Jane isn’t some prize that Rafael and Michael are fighting over. Her choices and emotions are privileged by the writing as much as anyone else’s, and that helps the love triangle stay grounded. She has made her choice, and Michael might not totally respect that, but the writing backs her up completely by letting Jane stick to her convictions. Michael is going to continue to be a part of her life, because clean breaks don’t always happen when a relationship ends—and there’s also the sticky business of his theory that Rafael is or is tied to Sin Rostro—but the show isn’t getting bogged down by an exhausting game of Rafael Or Michael?
So Jane has made a clear decision—for now—about her relationship, but this week, she’s also faced with the conflict of choosing a career path. In one hand, there’s the school, where she has been offered a permanent teaching position. And then in Rogelio’s undoubtedly well moisturized hand, there’s a writing internship on his telenovela (Jaime Camil’s delivery of “The Passions Of Santos” is flawless, every time). Overwhelmed by the decision, Jane decides to not decide at all and tries to balance teaching, a writing internship, and her waitress job which, in addition to not making any kind of logical sense as something that’s even possible (when does this school operate, exactly?), also completely wears her out.
When Jane falls asleep at the wheel as a result of her exhaustion, she finally realizes she has to make a real decision. As with the Michael and Rafael conflict, the characters all have their own opinions about what Jane should do. Abuela encourages her to teach: It’s the sensible, forward-thinking option. Xiomara and Rafael agree, for once, reminding Jane that it’s her dream of becoming a writer, and even if telenovelas aren’t what she had in mind, it’s a start. But once again, it’s about what Jane wants. And she wants to be a writer.
All these characters care a lot about signs. Jane prepping Rafael to know that Xiomara is a Taurus suggests she’s into astrology. Michael says he feels like it’s a sign when Jane and him find themselves in the hospital at the same time. To Petra, tulips mean imminent doom. Jane feels butterflies when she’s writing and thinks that means she should take the telenovela job.
The importance of signs and all the fantasy sequences—which are always so fun—give a fantastical feel to Jane The Virgin. In most of these cases though, the signs aren’t always exactly what they seem. Jane’s butterflies are actually the baby’s first kicks. The tulips mean danger, but not necessarily from the person Petra thinks she’s threatened by. Xiomara’s vow of chastity, as it turns out, was based on a lie, not on divine intervention. There’s something powerful about these characters’ beliefs in everyday mysticism, and the show itself provides a kind of escapism that the characters also seek. But at the end of the day, Jane The Virgin is grounded in very real emotions and conflict. It’s all just heightened by that telenovela shimmer.
- Thank you to Oliver Sava for letting me step in this week while he’s away on vacation in Jane’s home state. This is a super fun show to watch and review.
- Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez’s delivery of “ok okay, I mean, do you know a lot of pirates or?” reminds us all just how deserving she is of that Golden Globe win for Best Actress in a Comedy. So funny.
- It’s really hard for me to not refer to Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez as Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez whenever I’m writing about or talking about Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez.
- But I’m also definitely cool with referring to her as Gina #icanandidid Rodriguez.
- All of Jane’s maternity dresses are so, so cute. Also: She’s showing! And glowing!
- I care very little about the dalliance of Michael and Nadine, but mostly because the writers have yet to make Nadine much more than a plot device.
- “As you all know, like Kanye West, I have recently acquired a daughter.” Of course Rogelio would compare himself to Kanye.
- “I don’t usually read unsolicited manuscripts, but since you’re my daughter, I’ll make an exception.” I love that Rogelio can simultaneously be so sweet and so arrogant.
- I’m starting to get a little worried about where Petra’s arc is heading. I like her better as the villain who is a little too far in over her head versus as a damsel in need of rescuing, which is how she kind of comes across this week.
- I hope that Xiomara isn’t going to continue her vow of chastity now that she knows Abuela was lying to her.
- Judy Reyes of Scrubs makes her first appearance as Dina Milagro, the head writer on The Passions Of Santos, who is in a secret relationship with Rogelio’s assistant Nicholas. The two are conspiring maliciously because this show is leaning into its telenovela roots by adding more villains to the pile, and honestly I’m here for it, because it’s hard to care about the faceless Sin Rostro.
- I do want to be on record in stating that my number one suspect for Sin Rostro right now is Rose.
- On that note, we don’t see Luisa at all this week. She’s presumably enjoying herself in the mental ward, another plotline I’m growing increasingly weary of.