No matter how much you plan and prepare, life finds a way to throw curveballs that you can never anticipate. Jane Gloriana Villanueva is an obsessive planner, but a routine sonogram introduces a potential pregnancy complication that throws her current plan off-course and sends her into an emotional tailspin. This development inconveniently coincides with Jane’s college graduation, forcing her to make a huge decision at the very start of her post-academic adulthood. Does she undergo a medical procedure that has a small risk of miscarriage, but a risk nonetheless, or does she leave it up to fate and deal with the result when she has the baby?
“How did this even happen?” Jane asks Rafael after they learn about the echogenic foci on their baby’s heart and bowels. “I mean, we came to find out it was a girl and get some cute pictures.” That was the plan, but it was really more a fantasy. The excitement of having a child and entering this whirlwind romance with that stud from five years ago has compromised Jane’s pragmatism, and she’s been riding a high that has allowed her to be more optimistic and idealistic than usual. That comes to an abrupt end once she sees the look on the sonographer’s face and is pulled back to the harsh reality of having a child and the fear that comes with bringing a new life into this world.
Initially, Jane decides not to undergo the amniocentesis to learn if the child has any birth defects, much to Abuela Alba’s delight. But Jane said it herself: she’s an obsessive planner. And preparation requires knowledge. She’s not going to be able to focus on anything else unless she has some sort of confirmation about the health of her baby, and the relentlessness of her anxiety is depicted in a devastating sequence that makes excellent use of the glowing white dot that haunts Jane from the moment she sees it on the sonogram. A melancholy piano tune begins when Jane decides to Google information about echogenic foci, and the song (Rebecca Roubion’s “Break”) does a lot to intensify Jane’s situation as she lies in bed thinking about what she’ll do if she has a child with special needs.
This show is constantly experimenting with ways to incorporate more figurative visual storytelling, and the white dot is how writer Josh Reims and director Howard Deutch do that this week. The dot appears whenever Jane or Rafael are thinking about the baby, and at varying degrees of intensity. When Jane looks at the picture of a baby hanging on the doctor’s wall, she sees the dot. When Rafael looks at a packet detailing a potential buyer for part of the hotel, he sees the ultrasound image of the baby with the dot in the middle of its chest. After hitting up Google, Jane lies awake in her bed staring at a ceiling that is covered with white dots glowing like stars, an image that is at once beautiful yet heartbreaking.
Jane will see that little white dot everywhere unless she undergoes the procedure, so she does it, missing her graduation because she needs 48 hours of bed rest. Jane spends the early hours of that period waiting to feel the baby kick and wondering if she made the wrong decision, but she has her family there to give her comfort. On the day of her graduation, Rafael organizes a little ceremony with speeches from Xiomara, Alba, and Rogelio, and it’s a touching scene that is able to overcome a cheesiness hurdle thanks to damn good acting. Xo and Alba even tell Rafael that Jane is going to think its cheesy, and she does, but she also appreciates it.
The more serious subject matter of “Chapter Thirteen” gives Gina Rodriguez the opportunity to really show the depth of her acting ability, tapping into a well of desperate dread that reveals just how much this development impacts her. Jane is usually sunny and hopeful, but there’s a dark cloud over her head up until she finally feels the baby kick again, sending a rush of happiness through her that immediately changes her disposition. And with that happiness comes a valuable lesson that sometimes it’s best to just let things go instead of allowing them to weigh you down. You can’t plan for everything, so there’s no way to have complete control over any situation.
Andrea Navedo and Ivonne Coll both give heartwarming speeches at Jane’s makeshift graduation, but their strongest moment this week deals with Alba’s refusal to pursue any romantic relationships following the death of her husband. After Xo notices the flirtation between Alba and Edward (Cheech Marin), a man at her physical therapy, she asks her mother why she never dated after becoming a widow, and Alba responds with an inspiring declaration of love and gratitude for a man that risked everything he had to make her happy. The affection the two women have for each other and the man they’ve lost radiates from their performances, and like Rodriguez, Navedo and Coll bring some A-grade crying skills to the table this week. Xo tells her mother that dad would have wanted her to be happy more than anything else, so it’s very possible we’ll be seeing more of Cheech Marin in the future.
While the baby drama is on point this week, the hotel intrigue is less consistent, with the Sin Rostro story proving far more entertaining that Petra’s love triangle with Lachlan and Milos. Considering this show’s pacing, I should have expected that Michael would figure out Rose is Sin Rostro shortly after we learned the truth about her secret identity, because that’s exactly what happens this week. As Michael and Nadine zero in on the mistress that can prove Emilio Solano isn’t Sin Rostro, Rose makes her getaway, beginning by pulling off her red wig to go on the run as a blonde. Now the hunt is on, but there still are more twists coming, like the appearance of Aaron Zazo in this episode’s final moments. (I’m assuming that’s Aaron and not a revived Roman, but I may be wrong. We’ll find out next week.)
The big telenovela twists are what give this show its strong narrative momentum, but the relationships are what really pull the viewer into the story, and Petra’s relationships need strengthening. It could just be because I can’t get over Max Bird-Ridnell’s horrible accent, but Milos and Petra don’t have the spark I was hoping to see from the two former lovers. Hopefully that will change, because they’re going to be spending a lot more time together now that Milos has bought 33 per cent of the Maribela and plans to operate it with Petra.
Lachlan and Petra have stronger chemistry, but the string of deceptions they’ve committed against each other has prevented them from forming a firm romantic unit. Lachlan betrays Petra one more time at the end of this episode, but he’s going to regret that now that Milos has put Petra in a position of power. That position will ideally put her back in Rafael and Jane’s orbit, where she’s been most effectively utilized. Petra is too captivating a character to be relegated to subplots, but maybe the arrival of her dead lover’s brother will push her back into the spotlight in the coming weeks.
- Two weeks after he
was firedstopped playing Santos, Rogelio is lounging around the Villanueva household purchasing leopard statues on eBay and avoiding his agent, who isn’t landing him the roles he wants. At the end of the episode, we learn that he’s landed the lead role in a telenovela, but he would need to move to Mexico for a year and half if he took the job, introducing some tension to this week’s lightest storyline. As usual, Jaime Camil is hilarious, particularly because his theatricality is so out of place in the grounded domestic world of the Villanueva house.
- Petra practices her Spanish by watching Almodóvar movies. This detail makes me smile.
- Another way the white dot influences this episode’s visuals: many of the transitions consist of a fade to white.
- It’s interesting to watch Ivonne Coll on this series after seeing her on last week’s Glee, where she played an abuela that is religious like Alba, but much colder and apathetic.
- “Heh. Classic Sin Rostro. She always did love a good play on words.”
- “I’ve been getting tweets filled with sad-faced emojis.”
- Milos: “She lied about us cheating to break us up.” Petra: “Well you didn’t have to throw acid at her.”
- “Breed in, breed out.” Max Bird-Ridnell’s accent is the worst, and it’s not like this show is known for it’s amazing accents.
- Xo: “He was at Target for two hours.” Alba: “Probably because he’s never been there before.” That’s a sick burn, abuela.