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Jane Gloriana Villanueva does not like surprises, but unfortunately she’s living a telenovela story that is constantly throwing unexpected plot twists her way. She had her future planned in meticulous detail before getting pregnant from an accidental artificial insemination. Her abuela was thrown down the stairs by a woman pretending to be disabled. Her son was kidnapped hours after being born. Her husband was shot on their wedding night, and died suddenly in the midst of his recovery. The last six years have been defined by surprises for Jane and her family, so I got very worried when it became clear this episode would be throwing down plot twist after plot twist.

Rather than replacing the crossed-out “Virgin” in the title card, the screen cuts to a big “SURPRISE!”, establishing that this episode will be building to a momentous event. Planting that seed early makes the viewer start considering what could be so big that it would merit so much build-up, and my mind immediately goes to morbid possibilities. I live in constant fear that this show will kill off Xo or Alba, and while I don’t think that will happen because the three Villanueva women are the heart of the series, it doesn’t stop that thought from popping in my head. I also considered that we were going to find out that Rose swapped babies when she stole Mateo, turning the #NotMyMateo hashtag into an actual plot point. And then my mind went to Michael, and I started wondering if the show would introduce some sort of alternate timeline where Michael never died. Anything can happen on this show, and it makes the imagination go wild when the writers suggest something big is going to happen.

Within the first 10 minutes of this episode, Rafael shows Jane the new apartment he found for them to move into, and he asks for Alba, Xo, and Rogelio’s blessing before he proposes to Jane. It’s established early on that the surprises are going to come one after the other, and three of the central relationships undergo major changes by the end of the chapter. The only one that doesn’t is Rogelio and Xo, but they’ve gone through so much recently that it’s a refreshing change of pace to give them a simple story that reaffirms their love and support for each other.

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The Rafael proposal plan is cancelled after he has his off-screen meeting with Sin Rostro, and whatever information he hears sends him off the deep end. He starts drinking heavily, and when Jane tries to get answers from him, he deflects her questions with sex. Jane thinks that this is related to news about Rafael’s parents, but there’s no way she could predict the real bombshell. When she talks to Alba about Rafael’s behavior, Alba starts thinking about what the reveal would be if this were a telenovela, saying that Rafael would have found out that Rogelio is his father and he’s Jane’s brother. I’m glad the show dismissively brings this up because the thought definitely crossed my mind, and Rafael confirms that this is not why he’s so sour.

The ending of last week’s episode promised a reveal that will change everything, and the cliffhanger of “Chapter Eighty-One” lives up to the hype. Jane thinks she’s going to Rafael’s apartment for the proposal she’s expecting to hear, but when she gets there, Rafael isn’t alone. Jane walks into the room and finds someone she never expected to see again: Michael! MICHAEL IS ALIVE! It’s a classic telenovela twist, and it makes a lot of sense for the series to bring Michael back into the picture as it heads into its fifth, and most likely final, season. His resurrection introduces a slew of questions: Is this the real Michael? Could it be someone who was given Michael’s face by Sin Rostro? If it’s the real Michael, how is he not dead? After four incredible seasons, I have total faith that this series has a firm plan in place for the return of Michael, and I can’t wait to see Brett Dier back in this cast.

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Ivonne Coll for a Random Roles interview that will be going up on the site next week, and we spoke a lot about Alba’s love life and her journey to citizenship. Both of those subjects intersect in this episode, and Alba’s gaining her citizenship ends up reuniting her with Jorge in an unexpected way. I spent a lot of time watching Coll’s past appearances in films and TV shows, and none of her previous roles took advantage of her talent like Alba Villanueva. She’s a complete, complicated character, and we’ve had the opportunity to see many different sides to her over the course of the series. This is an outstanding episode for Coll, and it reinforces how important she is in the ensemble’s dynamic.

This episode begins with a rare flashback to 23-year-old Alba and her husband, Mateo, watching fireworks on July 4, and it’s the moment when they decide to stay in the country, let their visas expire, and become citizens. After decades, that day has finally come for Alba, and this chapter centers on the surprise party Alba’s family throws to celebrate. While planning the party, Xo mentions in passing how her citizenship eliminates a fear that she’s always had in the back of her head, and she doesn’t need to get specific for us to know that she’s talking about deportation. The current political climate has significantly raised the stakes for this plotline, and Alba gaining her citizenship is a huge triumph for the entire family. My eyes got watery during her citizenship ceremony, and cutting back to young Alba in the middle reinforces that sense of victory after a long, trying journey.

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Alba’s biggest moment in this episode is the speech she gives at her party, which she says in English as a way of reinforcing her new status. Her speech focuses on the U.S. motto, “E pluribus unum,” and how when each person loves the other as much as herself, it makes one out of many. She celebrates the family and friends who have helped her reach this point, and makes explicit that fear of separation Xo mentions earlier, and how relieved she is that she won’t ever have to worry again. This is a scene that highlights Alba’s intelligence and her understanding of the founding principles of this country, and it’s very interesting to see her give this speech in perfect English, showing us that even though she speaks predominantly Spanish, she still knows the primary language of the U.S.

Everyone is overjoyed after her speech except for Jorge, and Alba finds out afterward that his sadness stems from the recent news that his mother in Mexico is dying and he can’t go see her because he is undocumented. If he goes to Mexico he might never be able to come back to the U.S., but if he doesn’t go, he might never see his mother again. Alba’s solution to this problem is to propose marriage to Jorge as a business arrangement, and even though she still has romantic feelings for him, she will try to maintain a platonic relationship. Jane and Xo are worried about it, but they’re ultimately supportive, and we get a surprise wedding when Jane officiates her abuela’s wedding to the man of her dreams.

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Writers Jennie Snyder Urman and Paul Sciarrotta do phenomenal work tying in meta commentary about storytelling through Jane’s struggle with her new book. One of the episode’s funniest scenes comes right after JR gets the call that Krishna turned herself in to the police, and the news drops while Jane is trying to figure out a plot twist in the current story she’s writing. She laments that the twist wasn’t set up properly, so she tried to layer in exposition, and then she pauses to give Alba the rundown on Krishna and why it matters that she’s back in the picture. After delivering some valuable exposition, Jane jumps back to the previous topic: “The exposition helped, but it didn’t solve the problem.”

The meta comedy is hilarious, but tying Jane’s personal work to the plotting of the series becomes very important in this episode, which confirms one of my hunches about the series. I’ve long thought that this TV show will actually be written by Jane, and after listening to Alba’s speech about the many becoming one, Jane realizes that she needs to combine all of her different manuscripts into one story, a story that begins with the very first line of the Jane The Virgin pilot. Right now Jane plans on this being a book, but I predict that the next season will have Jane realizing that TV is the right medium for this project and getting the show into production. This show is about to get super meta, and I’m excited to see how the story evolves with this extra layer.

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Over at the Marbella, Petra and JR’s relationship continues to grow before taking a sudden turn. When Petra suggests JR move in with her because it would be practical, JR admits that she’s in love with Petra and doesn’t want to make any big decisions because of convenience. Petra doesn’t know how to respond, but after a conversation with Rafael, she knows that she feels the same way and needs to tell JR. Petra has been reluctant because she’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, and after coming clean about her feelings to JR, the shoe comes down in a very literal way.

JR babysits Elsa and Anna instead of going to Alba’s party (because she can’t stand Jane), and while the twins play dress-up in their mother’s clothes, one of Petra’s heels breaks. The heel on the shoe Petra wore on the night of her sister’s murder. The one that left a scuff on the floor. Everything comes crashing down for JR in that moment, and she begins to suspect that this was all an elaborate plot on Petra’s part so that JR would get the case dismissed, and sacrifice her career and reputation in the process. This actually isn’t one of Petra’s master manipulator moments, but Petra did kill Anezka. Petra pushed her off the balcony when she threatened Elsa and Anna, and even though it was a crime of passion triggered by her maternal instinct to protect her children, it’s still murder.

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Petra killed her sister, and kept it a secret while JR gave up everything to get her off (in more ways than one). JR storms off, but then we find out why Krishna returned to the series. She wasn’t the blackmailer; the real blackmailer threatened her family so she would take the blame, and now they want to kill Petra. The attacker is someone Petra recognizes, but JR rushes back in just in time to tackle the person, and she shoots the would-be killer while they’re on the ground. Rather than the #WhoShotJR moment I was predicting, we get #JRShotWho?!, and it’s a very clever twist that forces Petra and JR back together when they are on the verge of breaking up.

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A major function of season finales is to set up stories to come, and this episode lays down a lot of groundwork. We already have Xo’s cancer recovery and Rogelio and River’s telenovela, but now there’s also Alba’s new marriage, Petra and JR’s murder cover-up, Jane’s new book/potential TV show, and the return of the Jane/Michael/Rafael love triangle. There’s so much to be excited about next season, and I fully expect Jane The Virgin to maintain its four-season streak of excellence as it wraps up its story.

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Stray observations

  • The writers want to remind the viewer of the awful things Rose has done in the past, and they do that by taking Mateo away from Jane again. Not by abduction, but by Mateo’s own will, and when Jane and Alba are arguing about getting on the bus, Mateo gets on without them. The bus drives away and Jane and Alba freak out, and while Jane is able to stop the bus in time, this moment brings back a wave of bad memories as Jane remembers Rose kidnapping Mateo right after he was born.
  • The Rogelio/River subplot this week is excellent. River is forcing herself into Rogelio’s family under the pretense that she’s trying to get to know him better before filming their pilot, but she actually just wants to be in a close-knit family because her family was nothing like that. The shot revealing River sitting at the table with Jane, Xo, and Rogelio is a great visual punchline, and it accentuates her invasive presence and how much the others don’t want her there.
  • Alba’s passions at 23 years old: God, her husband, arepas, fireworks.
  • I love that Petra sees right through Alba’s act and knows immediately that the party wasn’t a surprise. Petra has a supernatural sense for detecting liars.
  • Who did JR shoot? I’m going to guess Chuck Chesser, Petra’s skeezy former lover.
  • “Way to rain on the parade, Abla.”
  • “Yes, friend. Love is in the air. Or is it the draft from the window?”
  • “I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel when I’m with you. And I think I just quoted Dirty Dancing, but that’s the kind of cheesy thing you make me do!”
  • “Looks like Petra’s got hungry eyes.”
  • “Thank you, now I got the tone.”
  • “By the limited power vested in me, by the Internet, not by God.”
  • Jane: “I love you unconditionally. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, no matter who your parents are. Unless you’re my brother.” Rafael: “What?”

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