Jane The Virgin’s writing staff has taken a cleverly self-aware approach to the show’s telenovela elements, but “Chapter Fourteen” takes a risk by getting very explicit about the ties between Jane’s current life situation and the over-the-top TV shows she loves. While watching her ex-fiancé tell her current boyfriend/baby daddy that his stepmother is a former drug lord that ran a plastic-surgery ring for criminals out of her husband’s hotel, Jane realizes that her reality has come to resemble the fantasies she watches with her mother and abuela, and her perception suddenly changes to reflect this discovery: The hotel room background is replaced by a romantic sunset, clothing becomes more lavender, and Michael and Rafael’s dialogue and mannerisms are heightened, making them more prone to angry slaps.
Jane switches into “telenovela vision” a few times in this episode, and while it’s certainly entertaining, it should be used in moderation. The show toes a very fine line between reality and fantasy, and the emotional truth can get lost when everything is exaggerated. We don’t get the best gauge of Rafael’s reaction to the news that Rose is Sin Rostro because the scene switches to “telenovela vision,” but it’s not a huge problem because that first perception shift is such a fun surprise. And Rafael’s emotional reaction isn’t the priority here anyway. The priority is getting Rafael in a position where he can have Luisa released from the mental institution, freeing her to become the emotional anchor of the Rose storyline.
Yara Martinez has only appeared in a handful of episodes, but in that limited amount of time she’s brought a lot of complexity to an immensely challenging character. In the pilot, she needed to sell that Luisa was emotionally frazzled enough that she would accidentally artificially inseminate someone, and she succeeded. Like the rest of the cast, she’s found the reality of a character trapped in a ridiculous situation, painting a multi-faceted portrait of a recovering addict trying to keep her life together as everyone turns against her.
Martinez gets a lot of great material in “Chapter Fourteen,” which flashes back to Luisa’s passionate first meeting with Rose while exploring her complicated romantic feelings for her evil stepmother in the present. Martinez gets to play Luisa in a variety of modes in this episode: she’s mentally unhinged when she plots her escape from the institution using Rose’s pin, romantically forlorn when she recounts that first night with Rose to Michael, angry and vengeful when Rafael asks her for a favor after allowing her to be locked up.
After learning that their father is dead, Rafael apologizes to his sister in hopes that she’ll give him Emilio’s shares of the hotel instead of letting Petra make a play for them, but Luisa isn’t going to just forget that Rafael turned his back on her when she was one of the only people that was there for him when he had cancer. She’s rightfully bitter about all of this, and while she tells Rafael that he can have her shares because she’s relinquishing all ties to money, she’s in a vulnerable position to be taken advantage of by Petra, who is listening nearby and preparing her own act to fool Luisa.
Last week’s episode suggested a bigger role for Petra in running the hotel, and she immediately takes charge upon her return to The Marbella, strutting in like she owns the place because now she does. Jane’s encounter with the new and improved Petra is one of the episode’s best uses of “telenovela vision,” casting Petra as the fiery femme fatale who is the polar opposite of the saintly Jane, and by the end of the episode, Petra has more power than ever before.
Putting on her best mask of compassion, Petra goes to Luisa immediately after her tense conversation with Rafael and starts spinning a web of lies that ensnares her prey, ultimately earning her Luisa’s shares of the hotel. So two weeks ago Petra was getting kicked out of The Marbella, and now she’s the majority shareholder. That’s the exact kind of sweeping plot development that characterizes telenovelas, and it’s very beneficial to Petra’s character, inserting her back into the main action after she drifted into the background in recent episodes.
This episode has a lot of those sweeping plot developments, including the introduction of Roman Zazo’s twin brother Aaron and Rogelio getting a new job as the second lead on his rival Esteban’s sci-fi telenovela Pasion Intergalactica, but as usual, the fanciful material is balanced with grounded personal drama. The major theme of the episode is being open to your romantic partner about your true feelings, and the couples are dealing with this in different ways. Rafael is worried that Jane doesn’t trust him, and Jane fears that this will prevent him from turning to her for comfort in this time of need following his father’s death. Jane needs to show Rafael that she’s there for him, and that happens by saying “I love you,” a sentiment that Rafael reciprocates. It’s a big step that immediately leads to another big step in Rafael’s mind, and the episode ends with him asking Jane if she wants to move in with him.
Xiomara and Rogelio are also dealing with communication problems, refusing to reveal the extent of their feelings for each other. Rogelio has two job offers—one that would require him to move the Mexico while the other keeps him in Miami—but he’s waiting to hear Xo tell him that she wants him to stay. And Xo is waiting for Rogelio to tell her that he wants to stay here with her. It’s a classic case of two people wanting to hear the same thing from each other but waiting until the other person says it first, and Jane doesn’t have the patience for this. She forces her parents to sit down and talk about their feelings, and it quickly becomes clear to Rogelio that he needs to stay in Miami. And he’s rewarded for his decision by Xiomara, who does away with her vow of chastity because a major commitment to stay in town is kind of like marriage.
“Chapter Fourteen” marks the return of director Brad Silberling to the series, and there’s immediately more character in the visuals. The “telenovela vision” certainly helps, but Silberling’s episodes stand out because of the depth of his framing and the movement of the camera. The flashback sequence to Luisa and Rose’s first date is a prime example of this; the bar feels like a real place because Silberling films it with a clear foreground, middleground, and background, and the smooth motion of the camera accentuates Rose’s slinky, sultry allure. These are details that make a big difference, lending the series a fuller, more cinematic look. This episode’s appearance is as rich as the story, and the extra attention given to the visuals deepens the impact of the script.
- I wasn’t sure about this episode starting with a Woody Allen quote until Latin Lover Narrator mentioned his complicated feelings toward Allen post-Soon Yi, and acknowledging the controversy suddenly made everything work.
- Poor Lina. Always trying to find a way into the plot and never quite making it.
- The preview for the next episode (sadly not until March 9) is full of spoilers, and that is not cool, CW. The entire promo is actually built around revealing twists, which is a shitty marketing strategy.
- Somehow I forgot to mention that Rita friggin’ Moreno is guest starring later this season as Rogelio’s mother, the kind of impeccable casting decision that shows this series’ creative team is really committed to excellence. I cannot wait!
- Aaron Zazo was working in a Mexican orphanage when he was kidnapped by a drug cartel, and he’s also a Jain that actively practices the pacifist religion. This show is amazing.
- Rafael: “They all have bars.” Jane: “Well I want the Orange Is The New Black version. A friendly prison. Where one has a chance to explore their identity.”
- Xo: “You’d hide me if I were a criminal.” Jane: “No I wouldn’t.” Xo: “I’d hide you if you were a criminal!” Jane: “That’s because I wouldn’t do anything that bad!”
- Jane: “I thought you left.” Petra: “Oh I did. But I’m back. (Door slam.)”
- “I’m sitting on dad.”
- “You know that feeling when you’ve been up all night waiting to find out if your boyfriend’s father was dug out of a reflecting pool? Well, that’s how Jane’s feeling.”
- Rose: “And then she kissed me. And then there were fireworks.” Narrator: “It was also the Fourth of July.”
- “Her name is Alison. And she loves to have sex in bathrooms.”
- “Why are we only seeing her back? Ooh. Maybe she’s changed her face.”
- “In such sad days, it helps people to see a celebrity.”
- “Petra had just made the world her bitch.”