Jane The Virgin looks to the past this week before welcoming a slew of new faces to shake up the series’ future, exploring how past events have consequences that reverberate into the present and beyond. In Jane’s case, she’s haunted by her decision to break up with Michael when she developed feelings for Rafael, regretting how she derailed her life plan and fantasizing about how things would have been different if the break-up never happened. As Jane is wont to do with her romantic drama, she lets herself get caught up in her idealized imaginary future and decides that she needs to try and get back to where she and Michael were before their first break-up, an unreachable destination point because they’re not the same people they used to be.

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Petra is the person that helps Jane come to this realization, and the friendship between Rafael’s two baby mamas gets some major reinforcement when Petra worries that Rafael has fallen off the deep end and regressed back to his hard-drinking, womanizing self. Petra is right to assume this is the case and tells Rafael to man up and take responsibility in his life, which is what he does when he offers to help Michael with his investigation into Mutter’s activity, but Petra doesn’t know that. She panics when Rafael goes off the grid and she tricks Jane into joining her to confront him, bringing the two women together for a series of events that ends with Jane helping Petra deliver her two twin daughters.

Before the big birth, Petra decides to help Jane deal with Angelique Harper, the romance novelist who Jane gave a massage and manuscript to back in “Chapter Fifteen,” and who has ripped off Jane’s idea for her latest book. Jane’s book drama is a metaphor for her Sliding Doors situation with Michael, and the reason she fixates on Angelique stealing her idea is because, like her old relationship with Michael, Jane wants to eventually get back to that old idea and make it work again. By the end of the episode, Jane lets Angelique off the hook because the story isn’t that original to begin with, a decision she makes right around the time she chooses to stop trying to recreate what she used to have with Michael, a romance that failed because it was flawed.

Instead of confronting Rafael, Petra takes Jane to Angelique’s book signing to confront her instead, and she gives Jane lessons in being aggressive, confident, and a little bit mean in order to get what she wants. These lessons come in handy when Jane is serving as Petra’s main cheerleader as she delivers twins without an epidural, and the flowery stuff Xiomara and Alba told Jane during labor doesn’t have any effect on Petra. She reacts to force, and Jane is able to support Petra by channeling Petra in her behavior. Having Jane with Petra for the delivery of the twins is a very smart way for writers Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin to bring these two frenemies together on an intimate level, and it’s clear that the two women gain a lot of affection for each other during this experience. The sins of the past are washed away as Jane and Petra are swept up in the glory and wonder and stress of childbirth, and they now share a connection that unites them as mothers moving forward.

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Rogelio’s blast from the past comes in the form of Paola, his old prison pen pal who is so obsessed with him that the first thing she does after getting out of prison is track him down, become his personal assistant, and manipulate him into becoming her hostage. For the past two weeks, she’s been forcing Rogelio to act out a plot from his first telenovela, La Miseria, but instead of playing the role of jailer, Rogelio is now the imprisoned star who is expected to fall in love with his captor after his will is broken. While still very entertaining thanks to Jaime Camil and Ana De La Reguera’s exaggerated performance, the hostage plot is something we’ve seen before on this series, and it doesn’t feel as fresh as the other plots in this episode, which use past events to tell different stories with these characters.

It’s remarkable that this show can jump from the over-the-top Rogelio hostage situation to Xo and Alba’s grounded slut-shaming plot without missing a beat, and having those heightened telenovela moments gives the smaller stories even greater impact by showing how personal and emotional the writing can get. This show has given the audience a deeply developed idea of Xo and Alba’s relationship, making it easy to understand why the revelation about Alba’s past hits Xo so hard. She’s the person that suffered most for Alba’s hypocrisy, and Andrea Navedo’s performance reflects all the pain Xo felt because her mother didn’t approve of her sexually active lifestyle.

Alba realizes in that moment that in her efforts to prevent her daughter from experiencing the shame she felt after losing her virginity, she ended up being the primary source of shame in Xo’s life. The emotional punch of that discovery is intensified by the shot of Alba standing alone in the kitchen. Mateo sits in his high chair in the foreground, a reminder that all of Alba’s abstinence talk still didn’t keep Jane from getting pregnant without having sex. Alba has been trying to guide her daughter and granddaughter so that they don’t repeat the mistakes of her past, but Xo and Jane aren’t Alba, and Alba’s decisions may not be considered mistakes for them. Alba and Xo’s apology scene is a touching moment that has some real growth for both characters, and director Uta Briesewitz gets strong performances from Navedo and Ivonne Coll that elevate the script.

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By the end of “Chapter Thirty-Six,” the characters have learned that they can’t try to recreate the past or let their past mistakes dominate their behavior. They can only move forward into the future, hopefully gaining some new knowledge from what they experienced before. When the future throws as many curveballs as Jane The Virgin does, it’s best for the cast to keep its eyes forward. On the horizon: the arrival of bad luck charm Pablo Antonia Segura and major changes for Rafael as he juggles three kids and a crime kingpin plot that is complicated by the arrival of his half-brother Derek Ravelle at The Marbella. Things are only going to get crazier from here, and hopefully it will be easier for Jane and company to handle what’s coming now that they’ve sorted the emotional baggage of their past.

Stray observations

  • Michael and Jane are engaged again! And it’s a super cute scene!
  • I really enjoy the Scandal parody as a way of delivering exposition in a cheeky, stylized way, and while this show shouldn’t rely on those referential gags too often, the bit does fit with this episode’s general referencing of different types of modern romance stories, from telenovelas to romance novels, Scandal, and Frozen.
  • What are your thoughts on the twins being named Elsa and Anna? I think it’s hilarious, although I find it hard to believe both Petra and Rafael would have no knowledge of Frozen given how inescapable it was a few years ago.
  • I love that Michael dips Jane at the end of one of her Sliding Doors fantasies. She’s really letting her imagination get the best of her.
  • The Narrator points out that Jane got her book idea from Twelfth Night, but my first thought was Mulan.
  • Hashtags this week: #ThingsYouThoughtWereImpossible #MethodActing #RogelioDeLaDayLewis #RogelioDeLaBrando #RogelioDeLaDeNiro #PowderPantyPocket
  • “Geez, why are you all so obsessed with that anyway?”
  • “Rafael had decided instead of no sex and babies, he would try sex and no babies for a change.”
  • Jane: “You don’t just detach yourself from your family. There’s no excuse for that.” Narrator: “How about being held hostage by your old prison pen pal who disguised herself as your assistant?”
  • “She liked my massage. Trust me. Lots of moaning!”
  • Jane: “Five minutes of pain for a lifetime of happiness.” Petra: (In Czech) “You have the brain of a dog and the mouth of a cow! Go into the woods and soil yourself!”
  • “Let it go, Jane.”

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