A lot has happened since the last new episode of Jane The Virgin. The show landed on numerous “best of” year-end lists, was picked up for another season, and scored The CW its first Golden Globe win thanks to Gina Rodriguez’s exceptional central performance. Hopefully the hype of the last month will translate to more viewers for the show’s return, because it continues to maintain its high quality with “Chapter Ten,” an episode that leans heavily into the telenovela elements while taking a firm stance on immigration reform and offering more of the strong relationship work that has made the story so engaging.
Following the Paloma Awards and Abuela Alba’s tumble down the stairs, the characters find themselves in the middle of a hurricane that works as a vivid metaphor for the chaos that has overtaken their lives. Jane and Xiomara are counting on the power of prayer to help Alba wake up from her coma, but they need more than just divine intervention when Alba’s status as an illegal immigrant comes to light at the hospital. The immigration narrative is the most intense of all of this week’s storylines, which is quite a feat considering the other plot threads involve a criminal cover-up, an escaped hostage, and a secret sexual rendezvous inside a mental hospital. Those soapy developments stem from the heightened telenovela side of this show, but, like most of the material involving the Villanueva ladies, the immigration story is rooted in reality and that makes the drama all the heavier.
Alba isn’t a legal citizen so she doesn’t have insurance, and the hospital isn’t willing to absorb the cost of her care, so she’s going to be deported back to Venezuela when the storm passes. It may sound far-fetched, but the on-screen text makes it very clear that this is something that illegal immigrants face in reality. “Yes, this really happens,” the text reads. “Look it up.” The text even includes a hashtag (#ImmigrationReform) for viewers that want to keep this conversation going on social media, and this show’s political agenda reveals why it’s such an important TV series in the current cultural climate.
Immigration reform is an extremely important issue for this country, but it’s not the kind of showy topic that finds its way into popular entertainment very often. Jane The Virgin has made illegal immigration a major source of drama in recent episodes, and “Chapter Ten” is the first one that looks at how Alba’s lack of citizenship has unforeseen consequences when tragedy strikes. I’m not particularly knowledgeable regarding current immigration laws so I’m not sure how much the writers are exaggerating reality in this storyline, but the threat of deporting Alba in her time of need dramatically raises the stakes while starting a valuable discussion about why these policies should be reevaluated.
The person that ultimately comes to Alba’s rescue is Michael, who tells the hospital that Alba is a primary witness in an ongoing case and that she needs to stay in the country. After spending most of the episode continuing his crusade against Rafael, Michael redeems himself with his call to the hospital, proving that he still deeply cares for Jane and is willing to do anything to win her back. He makes this obvious whenever he gets the chance, but usually by being antagonistic toward Rafael, which is unattractive and petty. Doing good things for Jane like keeping her grandmother in the country is a surefire way for Michael to get his ex-fiancée’s attention back, and “Chapter Ten” does more for Jane and Michael’s relationship than any episode since their break-up.
By turning to the telenovela convention of trapping people in an elevator, the script gives the former couple time to reconnect, and they share an intimate moment when Jane reveals Alba’s current hospitalized condition. Naturally, Rafael is the person that saves them from their predicament by interrupting this tender moment, which turns up the tension for the show’s love triangle. Rafael is getting shiftier while Michael is redeeming himself, but the episode’s final moments suggest that no matter what Michael does, he’s probably going to lose out in the end.
When Xo calls Michael to thank him for helping Alba, he tells her that he loves Jane and that he’ll never stop fighting to win her love. “And for as long as Michael lived, until he drew his very last breath, he never did,” the Latin Lover Narrator says at the end of the episode, a cryptic line that could potentially imply that Michael’s days are numbered. The narration in earlier episodes stated that Michael would have an illustrious detective career, but it’s possible that his reputation will be earned posthumously, perhaps when he dies in the line of fire stopping Sin Rostro. Or maybe he’ll just live a long life, constantly pining after Jane but never successfully winning her back.
Jane’s work relationships are her least well defined, which keeps the employee firing subplot from being as captivating as it could be. Jane’s coworkers want her to find out from Rafael who is getting fired in an upcoming wave of layoffs, but she has far more important problems to deal with right now. This thread ends up getting buried under all the other content in the episode, which is one of the main problems with having a story stuffed with this much material. It wouldn’t hurt for the show to cut down on the number of plots in each episode so that it can spend more time making each one stand out, likely resulting in tighter chapters of the narrative.
The hurricane brings trouble, but by the end of tonight’s episode, the characters are still standing and, despite the debris littering the hotel, the future is bright. The true disaster is averted thanks to Michael, and Alba is able to stay in the United States with the rest of her family. It’s unclear if Magda’s attack has left Alba with any lasting damage to her body, but she’s alive and still with the people closest to her, so it’s a good day for the Villanueva women.
- #icanandidid The CW is so proud of Gina’s Golden Globe win that they gave her her own hashtag. Such an honor!
- This show’s on-screen text works so well at providing exposition for viewers that may have missed an episode. My favorite example this week is the list of crazy things Petra has done to Rafael in the past six months, giving the audience a handy recap of all the things Petra is guilty of that weren’t covered in the already lengthy “Previously on” sequence.
- I’ve said this many times already, but good god Bridget Regan’s hair is stunning. And she wears it three different ways in this episode! (My favorite look is Rose’s wild morning after curls.)
- I appreciate that this episode doesn’t take the easy way out of the firing subplot and get rid of the random new character Regina to save Frankie. Jane makes the smart decision in trusting Rafael’s decision and not letting her friendship get in the way of her judgment.
- Ivan finally escapes from Petra and Magda’s hotel room this week, and it’s only a matter of time until Milos arrives to really screw things up for the mother-daughter pair.
- Xo promises to be more godlike and not have sex until marriage when she’s praying for her mother’s health, and when Alba immediately awakens, Xo feels beholden to her oath. I wonder how long that’s going to last. Knowing how quickly Xo’s storylines move, I’m going to guess two weeks.
- Luisa’s back this week! And she’s breaking out of her mental hospital with the help of Rose’s dragonfly pin.
- “We last left Michael and Nadine in a most exciting position. Not that one, you perv.”
- “O.K., you do know we’re not actually on a boat, right?”
- “Please, Jane, I need this job. I drink for free and it’s so close to my gym.”
- “If my fame and money cannot help keep your mother in this country, then what is it all for?”
- “I left word with a U.N. ambassador and Gloria Estefan. One of them will stop the deportation. Most probably Gloria Estefan.”
- Narrator: “Ahhh. This is the information Rose came for.” Chyron: “Pun. Intended.”