Team Michael or Team Rafael?

Which side are you on, Jane?

Which side are you on, Jane The Virgin fans?

The battle lines are being drawn. I see it happening in the comments section. Some people are rooting for Jane’s cop fiancé that she’s been dating for two years, and others are shipping Jane and the rich pretty boy she kissed five years ago (and whose baby she’s carrying).

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When it comes to creating a successful love triangle in an ongoing serialized series, the formation of those opposing fan camps is a great sign. It means that both love interests are resonating with viewers in different ways, and that fans are becoming passionate enough that they’re starting to take sides in Jane’s conflict. This invites discussion. You’re Team Michael? Why? Then you explain why, helping the writers with relationship-building work by interpreting the story through your own experience, showing me another view of Michael and Jane’s relationship that I may not have seen on my own. And maybe that changes my opinion of Michael.

I’m seeing fans divide themselves into these camps after just five episodes, but what I’m loving about this series is that it’s balancing this love triangle in a way that prevents me from choosing any sides just yet. I lean towards Michael because he’s created this deep relationship with Jane over time, but the chemistry between Jane and Rafael lures me in that direction because it has more passion underneath it. And the importance of passion cannot be understated when it comes to writing about a show that features a “Latin Lover Narrator” and backs most of its scenes with a sultry flamenco guitar score.

Michael is the practical choice, the safe choice. Jane knows him, which is why it hurts so much when she finds out he was lying to her. After two years, she thought she really understood this man, but now everything she thought she knew has been corrupted by the memory of all his recent lies. What was the memory of Michael that Jane had before his deception? Most likely the scene that begins “Chapter Six”: the night of Jane’s 21st birthday, which Michael crashes after a noise complaint from neighbors.

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This show is very open about its telenovela roots, but this week’s episode leans especially heavily on the telenovela elements to highlight why Jane is so conflicted with her romantic predicament. After seeing Michael for the first time (what novelas call an “encuentro significativo” as our helpful narrator explains), a hammered Jane assumes he is a male stripper for her party, then proceeds to grab his gun and fire it in the air, confirming that he is indeed a cop and putting an end to the festivities. Michael ends up sticking around and watching a telenovela with the drunk birthday girl, and the two of them have a conversation about the heightened romance that draws Jane in to these televised stories.

When Jane begins to explain why she loves these shows, the narrator talks over her to give a quick summary: “And so Jane explained to Michael why a man professing his love to a woman on a yacht in the snow in front of a semi-realistic background was the epitome of romance.” The opening flashback firmly establishes this ideal vision of romance for Jane, and her relationship with Michael isn’t that. Their first kiss is slow and hesitant, but with the fake snow coming out of the bullet hole in the ceiling, it’s still magical in its own way. But it’s not magical like in the telenovelas.

With Rafael and Michael, it all comes down to fantasy versus reality. The circumstances of Jane’s relationship with Rafael are ripped from a telenovela, and the coincidence of these two people, who had an isolated romantic incident five years ago, being pushed together by this crazy situation has her and Rafael both wondering if their relationship is meant to be. The chances are so slim of these events happening, so maybe this really is Jane’s chance to live the fairy tale she always dreamed of.

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Jane starts flirting with Rafael very soon after breaking things off with Michael, and it definitely feels like she’s moving too fast, but not in a way that goes against what the writers have done with the character. As we’ve learned, Jane is a virgin, but she’s not a saint. She’s vulnerable to her emotions and allows them to cloud her judgment, and that’s what is happening with her and Rafael. She’s utterly enchanted when he looks in her eyes and tells her that he would have definitely noticed the quiet, shy Jane in high school, and it makes her desire for him stronger than ever before. She’s fully consumed by affection for Rafael, so now she definitely can’t marry Michael, who is trying his hardest to make things right.

Michael goes to Xiomara for advice and tries to recreate the yacht scene from his first meeting with Jane this week, but she’s made up her mind and she won’t move backward. Jane could patch things up with Michael, but she has an opening to pursue a true fairy tale romance, and she’s going to do that while she has the chance. She’s thinking about herself in this moment, and she’s well within her rights to do so. So much crazy, painful shit has happened to her and now she has the opportunity to have something positive and magical with the very attractive father of her unborn child, so she’s going to be selfish and pursue that.

If you’re Team Rafael, the final scene of “Chapter Six” should fill you with joy. When Jane tells Rafael that she broke off her engagement, Rafael seizes this opening and runs in for a kiss, and Jane kisses back. Passionately. With Jane hoisted up in Rafael’s arms, one leg popped in the air, a gust of wind blows through and knocks white flower petals off the tree above them, providing that all-important illusion of snow to make this the perfect moment Jane has dreamed of.

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It’s an incredibly romantic event with spot-on direction by Jann Turner, who shows a keen talent for kissing scenes with Jane’s two big moments in this episode. Her birthday kiss with Michael is a prolonged close-up shot that highlights the awkward tension in the moment before their lips touch, but the actual kiss itself is tender and intimate and real. The camera is further away for Rafael and Jane’s closing kiss, a wise decision that emphasizes the burning desire these two have for each other, a desire that fills the entire frame as it moves further away to provide a striking tableau of telenovela romance. And the camera stays on that kiss for a while, allowing the passion to grow and grow until the episode fades to black.

The first five episodes revealed most of the major secrets among the cast, and now that the dust has settled, we get a glimpse of what this show will look like as it settles into a new status quo. When the series started just five episodes ago, Jane was dating Michael, didn’t know her father, and wasn’t pregnant. Now she’s dealing with a break-up, a new relationship with the father that suddenly appeared in her life, and is fighting feelings for the man whose child is growing inside her. This show moves fast, and even though this episode doesn’t have any major revelations, it still manages to maintain this brisk forward momentum.

Paul Sciarotta’s script for “Chapter Six” juggles a lot. Jane’s relationships with all three of the men in her life are explored, both of Jane’s parents get major character development, and Jane has a new job that brings a fresh set of challenges when she finds herself back in high school. Much of that stress comes from new cast additions Valeria and Victoria, the two daughters of Rogelio’s ex-wife, Melissa. Evil stepsisters are a fairy tale standard, so it makes sense that Jane would have two of her own to make her life hell, and they’re presented with a cartoonish exaggeration that makes them immensely irritating from the very start.

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It’s impressive how Sciarotta ties all the supporting character plots together this week. Valeria and Victoria are a pain for Jane in school, but their behavior stems from their jealousy of Jane’s relationship with her mother and father. The twins’ mother shows very little care for their comfort, forcing the girls to relocate to Miami where they can watch their stepfather bond with his biological daughter and be reminded of how their own father isn’t in their lives. The girls’ presence impacts Rogelio and Jane’s relationship as well. Jane wants her father to tone down the big, meaningless gestures that he’s prone to, like randomly giving her a car, but having more daughters around just motivates Rogelio to lean even further into this generous father persona.

Rogelio’s conversation with Jane at the end of the episode does great work fleshing out his character by exploring the motivations behind his grand gestures. Jane says they are meaningless, but getting a car for his daughter is not meaningless at all to Rogelio. He couldn’t afford a car until he was 35 (32 if anyone asks), and because he hasn’t been around for all the big moments in Jane’s life, he wanted to do something big and thoughtful. And it is thoughtful. He realized that Jane spends a lot of time waiting for and sitting on the bus, and having a car would make Jane’s life easier as her pregnancy brings new complications.

Xiomara interrupts that heartfelt father-daughter moment with drama regarding Rogelio’s ex-wife Melissa, who has tried to sabotage Xo’s hotel lounge performance by telling the singer’s band not to show up. Now that Rogelio is firmly a part of Jane’s life, Xo needs to start acting with more maturity and concern, and when she sees Jane having a meaningful interaction with Rogelio, she realizes what she is putting at stake by engaging in a romantic relationship with Jane’s father. In the past, Xo slept with the father of one of Jane’s schoolmates and ruined Jane’s high school experience, and she can’t risk that happening if things go south with her and Rogelio, so she ends things before they get to the point where things are irreparably broken. It’s a touching moment of sacrifice for Jane’s mother, and it brings the high school plotline full circle in a smart way that changes the dynamic for two of this show’s main characters.

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This episode is all about telenovelas, so this is as good a time as any to explore one of the big differences between this series and its inspiration. I sought out the first episode of original Venezuelan Juana la virgen after seeing Jane The Virgin’s pilot, and while the shows are different in many ways, the main thing that stuck out to me was a speech from Jane when she’s talking to her friend at soccer practice. She explains that the reason she is a virgin isn’t because she’s saving herself for marriage or even that she’s waiting for someone special. She’s a virgin because she is the person that is special, and at 17 years old (I told you it’s different), she has no interest in giving up a part of herself to anyone.

It was a sentiment that surprised me, and while it may have just been the writers setting up Juana’s reluctance to enter a romantic relationship (I only saw the first episode, so I don’t know how committed Juana is to this perspective), I love what it reveals about the character in that moment. Compare that to how Jane The Virgin depicts the virginity of its main character. Jane’s virginity is absolutely influenced by her religious values, as well as the fairy tale ideas ingrained in her mind by telenovelas. Reinforcing those ideas may not make the American Jane as progressive as the Venezuelan Juana, but it provides a lot more conflict for her when she finds out she’s pregnant, forcing her to reevaluate her priorities. She has all this baggage that she has to sort out when this completely unexpected twist appears in her life plan, and her kiss with Rafael is only going to make things more difficult for her moving forward.

Stray observation:

  • Petra doesn’t have a lot of screen time this week, but the script makes the most of that brief time. She’s forced out of her suite after Rafael finds a witness that can refute her domestic violence allegations, and when her mysterious Czech blackmailer shows up at her new hotel room, she knocks him out with the vase holding Zaz’s ashes. Now Petra and Magda have a hostage. Wacky!
  • I wouldn’t mind one Xiomara music sequence ever week. The Spanish language “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” that she sings this week is beautiful, and ties into the episode’s themes of dreams and fantasies perfectly.
  • I love Valeria and Victoria’s reactions when Rafael invites them to swim with him. Also: the camera loves that man and his toned chest.
  • This episode introduces some nuns that are going to take advantage of Jane being a pregnant virgin to bring people to the church. It’s a plot that is exactly as silly as it sounds.
  • There is one very questionable plot development this week: Jane blackmailing her sisters with racy pictures she pulled of their phones. I like to believe that Jane is just talking the talk with no intentions of posting those pictures, because that would be a very bad idea.
  • “Oh my god, enough! I want to stop crying. That’s what I want!” Jane really does cry a lot.
  • “I should have planned better? Are you serious, Miranda?”
  • Valeria: “Hashtag: awkwardfamilydinner.” Rogelio: “That was funny, Valeria. I’m going to tweet that to my 6.3 million followers.”
  • “You will always be stepdaugthers in my heart.”
  • “I know how to take down 16-year-old bitches.”
  • “Alright, alright. Tell her you love her already.” I love the way the show-within-the-show ties in to Jane’s story.
  • “Now what?”

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