After two tearjerker episodes focusing on Xo’s cancer diagnosis, it’s refreshing to have an episode of Jane The Virgin that traffics in joy and relief rather than fear and sorrow. There’s definitely potential for tears in “Chapter Seventy-Nine,” but they’re happy tears as Alba finally gains her U.S. citizenship after decades of undocumented status. And she wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of her daughter and granddaughter. This episode opens with the Narrator breaking down the roles of each of the Villanueva women with a flashback to when they needed to buy a new TV: Jane is the researcher who finds the best TV for the cheapest price, Alba is the caretaker who keeps Jane with a steady supply of grilled cheese during the process, and Xo is the whoop-ass that chews out the store owner when he tries to lock them out two minutes before closing.
These roles play a part throughout the episode, and when Alba learns that her citizenship test is two months earlier than she initially thought, everyone steps into their established role to make sure she passes the test. Xo had her mastectomy between episodes, and Alba’s role as caretaker is actually a hindrance because she’s so preoccupied with Xo’s recovery that she’s not studying. She doesn’t want Xo to know about the test because she doesn’t want her to worry, but that just creates more stress. Of the main adult characters in the cast, Alba generally gets the least amount of screen time, so it’s always nice when she gets the chance to step into the spotlight because Ivonne Coll brings so much complexity to her character. She’s tender, caring, fierce, and fragile, and this episode takes advantage of all those different dimensions to showcase the scope of Coll’s talent.
Alba is panicking for much of this episode, but she’s trying to hide it. When Jane finds out about the test, she tries to convince her abuela that she needs to back off of Xo and dedicate her time to studying, and Alba barks at her that she’s a trained nurse that can handle both. It’s scary when Alba gets mad, and Jane knows better than to argue with her when she’s in this troubled headspace. Alba’s not just panicking about the test. She’s also afraid that her daughter isn’t recovering as quickly as she should be, and she views Xo’s reluctance to walk around outside as physical inability when it’s actually a mental issue.
Xo is able to go outside, but she doesn’t want to because people around her look at her like a sick person and that makes her feel damaged. There are so many complicated emotions in this episode, and writer Paul Sciarrotta brings significant weight to each character’s struggle and shows how they find rely on each other to push through these obstacles. Once Xo opens up about her situation, everyone gains some piece of mind and all three women are able to work together to make things better. Jane the researcher helps Alba study while Alba cares for Xo, and when Alba is almost denied the opportunity to take her test because they are two minutes late, Xo goes into whoop-ass mode, throws down the cancer card, and gets her mom in the room to gain her citizenship.
As if Alba doesn’t have enough to worry about, she also finds out that Jorge has broken up with Sofia, and she understandably misinterprets his words of encouragement as flirting when he tries to boost her spirits before her test. Alba’s heart glows when Jorge fastens an American flag pin on her blouse, and once again this visual shorthand quickly intensifies the scene’s emotional stakes. Alba is still in love with him, and she decides to tell him instead of keeping her feelings bottled up. Unfortunately, Jorge doesn’t feel the same way, and after being rejected by her twice, that door has closed.
Alba is distraught, and when she tells Jane and Xo that she doesn’t know how she’ll be able to focus on the test after having her heartbroken, Jane gives her the “don’t throw away your future over some boy” speech that Alba gave both of them over and over again in the past. Alba ends up getting a perfect score on her citizenship test, and we get some wonderful special effects when she celebrates with Jane and Xo. The stars flying off the flag to surround Alba is a beautiful image that visually represents Alba being fully welcomed into the country that is now her legal home, and in an especially cutting moment, a portrait of President Trump transforms into Obama to give Alba a congratulatory wink. This has been a storyline unfolding for years, and it takes the entire family working together to get Alba to this life-changing point.
JR is becoming a major presence in Petra’s life, and it’s time for her to get to know the rest of Petra’s family. JR meets Elsa, Anna, and Rafael earlier than expected when Rafael drops the twins off at Petra’s place, and Jane decides that the two couples should have a double date now that all the introductions are over. Petra has strict rules about what topics can be discussed, and in addition to sex, religion, politics, and the New York Mets, there also some Petra-specific subjects that are off-limits: insemination (Rafael’s sperm + turkey baster), infidelity (sleeping with Rafael’s best friend), and any other indiscretions (moving Scott’s skeleton over property lines). Petra is worried about how her current girlfriend and ex-husband will get along, but they end up getting along great once they start bonding over different kinds of scotch. The problem lies in Jane, and JR doesn’t like her at all.
Jane is one of the most endearing characters on television, largely thanks to Gina Rodriguez’s phenomenal performance, but I can see how people would find her annoying. She’s a meddler who doesn’t mind her own business, an obsessive planner who freaks out when those plans unexpectedly change, and she desperately wants to be liked. But all of these flaws stem from her desire to help people and show them love. She meddles because she sees problems that she believes she can fix. She plans because she knows that organization and structure get things done. And she wants to be liked because she takes steps to be empathetic and compassionate with pretty much everyone she meets.
Jane knows that JR doesn’t like her, and she’s going to fight to get in her good graces because Petra really cares about JR, and Jane loves Petra and wants to be close to anyone who gets that kind of affection from her. Declarations of love play a big part in this episode, and after Jane tells Rafael she loves him at the top of the episode, she publicly announces her love for Petra at the Marbella, which makes Petra extremely uncomfortable. Jane demands that Petra repeat it back to her because she knows she feels the same, and it’s a hilarious scene that showcases the comedic chemistry between Rodriguez and Yael Grobglas. JR slowly comes around to Jane after an elevator ambush, and once again the topic of Petra not making her feelings clear comes into play. JR doesn’t like that Jane knows how much Petra cares about her when she doesn’t know herself, but Petra makes it explicit that she wants JR in her life and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her there.
Doubt is a hurdle that Rafael is also faced with this week, and the ghost of Michael always seems to pop up when he least expects it. When Jane feels inspired to write after a sexy night with Rafael, Michael comes back into the picture because Jane remembers that it’s the anniversary of his death. Rafael reads the story Jane wrote about her late husband and becomes self-conscious about being Jane’s second choice, and I really appreciate how the series continues to engage with both of their feelings about Michael and shows them navigating those feelings with maturity and understanding. That story makes Rafael knows that this is an irrational feeling, but it still overwhelms him. It’s a tricky situation to be in, but the best thing Jane can do is reassure him that she wants to be with him, and she does that by taking a big step in their relationship and suggesting that they find a place for them to live together.
In the episode’s lightest storyline, Darci returns to give Rogelio grief about being a shitty father. With The Passions Of Steve And Brenda getting off the ground, it’s time for Rogelio to tell Darci that he can’t be Baby’s nanny anymore, but he’s so scared of her rage that he can’t bring himself to tell her the real reason why he’s giving up the stay-at-home daddy life. Instead he uses Xo’s cancer as an excuse, and I actually said “oh shiiiiiiiit” out loud when the words came out of his mouth. The opening flashback reinforced that Xo is well versed in kicking ass, and in that moment I feared for Rogelio’s future safety. Xo eventually finds out about this, but she’s not angry so much as disappointed, which is worse because it feels like a more profound pain.
Esteban ends up being the person that forces Darci and Rogelio to make nice, and he’s the person who is really thinking about how Baby is affected by the ongoing conflict between her parents. I haven’t given Keller Wortham enough praise for his performance as Esteban on this series, but he’s done a great job making Esteban a likable character who I’m always excited to see. His relationship with Darci and Baby has made him even more appealing, and he genuinely cares about the two of them and wants what is best. He calls Rogelio out on using Xo’s cancer as an excuse, but also calls Darci out on creating a crisis because she knew about Rogelio’s show the entire time, and the former lovers decide to stop weaponizing the other’s weaknesses and admit that they do actually care for each other, even though they act like enemies. The connection between Jaime Camil and Justina Machado has been incredibly strong for their entire time together on this series, and this scene highlights the mutual appreciation their characters have had since the beginning. They may be at each other’s throats most of the time, but it’s the kind of cattiness that often pops up between family members who are bound by deep love but know exactly what buttons to push to piss each other off.
- Magda shows up at the end of the episode, and she’s ready to ruin Petra’s life again by lying to the police and saying she saw Petra push Anezka off the balcony. She’s the worst.
- Mario Lopez guest stars as himself, and he’s the father of the two kids being cared for by super-nanny Felicia. I love how Rogelio subplots consistently incorporate random celebrities, usually Latino, and this episode gives us just the right amount of Mario Lopez.
- After a brief foray into long pants, Petra is back in her teeny-tiny shorts and looking fly as hell. Not many people can rock floral short-shorts like Yael Grobglas.
- Elsa and Anna are awful little monsters and honestly I expect nothing less from Petra’s daughters.
- #PapaDontPeach is one of my favorite Rogelio hashtags. I can so easily see him using that on social media.
- I knew that “Bye, Felicia!” line was coming, but that didn’t make it any less cringeworthy.
- There’s some excellent use of switching between English and Spanish for the punchlines during Alba’s studying montage, and after she answers Jane’s questions in English, she criticizes policies in Spanish. The English is performative, while the Spanish is her real feeling.
- Jane: “She makes Petra giggle!” Narrator: “She makes her do more than that.”
- “I heard about the fours.”
- “Wow, I’ve never seen anyone not like Jane before. It’s honestly a turn-on!”
- “Petra is so over balls.”
- Jane: “How many congressmen are there in the house of representatives, abuela?” Alba: “425?” Jane: “Close. 435.” Alba: “So why can’t they get anything done, already?”
- Jane: “Is Puerto Rico an American state?” Alba: “No, it is a commonwealth and unincorporated territory. So why do they still get taxed?” #taxationwithoutrepresentation
- “It is important to note that while Rogelio thinks he’s being recognized for his celebrity, the truth is: No one likes a grown man alone at a playground.”