The return of Petra brings Jane The Virgin back to a familiar status quo, and while there are some new tensions between various parties (Petra/Rafael, Jane/Alba), things are settling down now that Michael has recovered from his shooting, Jane has lost her virginity, and Petra isn’t in a state of forced paralysis while her twin sister impersonates her. The situation is almost back to normal, which means it’s the perfect time to drop a bomb with the introduction of Catalina, Jane’s sexy, well-traveled, wildly adventurous cousin. She’s the first cousin Jane has ever had (although technically her third cousin if you want to get all genealogical), and Jane’s weakness for family and romantic living makes her very susceptible to Catalina’s charm, although she should know better than to open her home to a person who is basically a stranger.
There haven’t been any bad episodes of Jane The Virgin, but “Chapter Fifty” is good rather than great. When so much happens on a show, it’s inevitable that some story elements are going to be revisited from time to time, but nearly all the threads in this episode are rehashing old plot points with slightly different circumstances. Rafael and Petra are dealing with hotel drama that puts their shares at stake. Jane has to deal with lingering feelings for Rafael, which makes Michael jealous. Rogelio continues to fight his desire to be with Xo and raise a family with her. And then there’s the introduction of a new player, who appears to be friendly but is probably going to stab someone in the back (perhaps literally). Part of the challenge of episodic storytelling is finding fresh ways to approach stories that become increasingly formulaic the longer a show is on the air, and while this episode struggles in that regard, there’s still plenty of substantial material here to make it a satisfying chapter.
Sofia Pernas is a vivacious addition to the cast as Catalina, and it’s easy to see how Jane could get swept up in her energy. She’s full of stories about her own personal affairs around the world, but she also knows things about Jane’s family history that Alba never shared because they involved the sister she hated, so naturally Jane is mystified by her. The script also specifies that Catalina fills the role of the sister Jane always wanted, a quick way of explaining Jane’s foolish decision to let Catalina into her life and eventually Rafael’s. The spark Jane senses when Rafael and Catalina shake hands should be a big red flag, and Jane should be nervous that Catalina has entered Rafael’s orbit so quickly after entering the picture. Rafael attracts trouble, and Catalina’s rapid insertion into The Marbella has me wondering if the show is setting up Catalina and her abuela, Cecilia, as the villainous foils of Jane and Alba.
There’s all kinds of duplicity happening at the hotel this week, and while Petra thinks she has the upper hand now that she’s the majority shareholder, Rafael and Scott work together to quickly take that power away from her. It feels like a missed opportunity not to keep Petra in control of The Marbella for longer and force Rafael to find a new place. This alliance sets up Rafael owing Scott a favor, but it would have been interesting to see where Rafael’s character goes when he’s freed from his responsibility to the hotel. Instead he’s still in the hotel with a beautiful woman who is most likely after his money, just like the beautiful woman he’s been dealing with for years, both in and out of marriage.
Michael is quickly learning that married life with Jane Gloriana Villanueva isn’t going to be easy, and her innate sense of generosity and compassion can be difficult when it involves her inviting a strange relative to stay at their house when they’re in the middle of moving. Catalina may love moving, but her presence is still an inconvenience that Michael isn’t prepared for, and it becomes even more inconvenient when Catalina’s stories makes Jane worry that her life is boring. In order for this plot to work, the viewer has to forget that Jane was accidentally artificially inseminated, had her baby kidnapped after he was born, and her husband shot shortly after their wedding. Jane’s life is the opposite of boring, and she shouldn’t want her situation any crazier than it already is. Being a writer is the perfect career for Jane, allowing her to venture to new worlds without leaving the safety of her home, and hopefully she’ll gain the publisher’s assistant job she’s vying for in this chapter.
Rogelio’s subplot is both ridiculous and profound this week. The favor his producers cash in from last week forces Rogelio to incorporate Honey Bunches Of Oats (HBO) project placement into a climactic episode of Tiago A Través Del Tiempo, which is a self-aware way for Jane The Virgin to incorporate HBO product placement for its sponsor, Post. The behind-the-scenes shenanigans are ultimately in service of a much more personal story addressing why Rogelio is so hung up his Xo and having children with her, and in making sense of his TV script, Rogelio realizes what’s been weighing on his relationship with Xo.
Rogelio’s guilt over not raising Jane has made him desperate for another child with Xo, but with Xo unavailable, Rogelio is now on a mission to find new eggs for his future children. Jaime Camil brings great depth to Rogelio’s moments of honest introspection, and it’s always fascinating to get a peek at Rogelio when he’s not embodying the over-the-top persona that has become his brand. That vulnerability comes as quickly as it goes, though, and once Rogelio sets his mind on his search for a new baby mama, he’s right back to his cartoonishly confident self. I’m intrigued by the prospect of Rogelio actively taking steps to have another child, and Jane might very well get the sibling she’s always wanted if Rogelio is successful.
- We get another musical number when Jane and Michael sing Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” at the bar, but it’s not as smoothly deployed as last week’s “Beauty School Dropout” remix. The dance break sequences with Xo and Rogelio are similarly fun but clumsy, although I really like the idea of flashing back to them in high school.
- Catalina is so perfect that she stops the shower right when Jane says she’s going to be out of the shower soon. It’s like she’s magical.
- This episode also features another major new character: Faith M. Whiskers III, Jane and Michael’s new cat!
- The best thing about the exploding bomb graphic is when it turns into an exploding arepa, but having it destroy “The Virgin” in the title card is a close second.
- Rogelio’s “getting ready for full frontal” diet: saltines, celery, Skinny Bloody Marias (with extra celery), and Honey Bunches Of Oats.
- Xo’s ex-boyfriend Bruce, mentioned way back in the first episodes of the first season, makes his first appearance this week when he reconnects with Xo, whose new dance studio is in the same strip mall as his law office. Their reunion hits Rogelio hard, but I have doubts about its longevity.
- Jane and Michael’s first dinner in their new house looks delicious. Those chocolate covered strawberries keep me firmly on #TeamMichael. Alba’s arepas also look really good. Damn, this episode is making me hungry.
- “If I’m being honest, which I’m always being.” Are you, though? Your insistence makes me doubt you, Narrator.
- Michael: “Jane’s more the planning type.” Catalina: “Well that’s never been my strong suit.” Narrator: “Clearly.”
- Petra: “We are never, ever getting back together. Ever.” Scott: “You don’t have to throw our song in my face!” Why would a break-up song be Petranezka and Scott’s song? I guess they’re both weird like that.
- Jane: “Don’t you think that’s a little weird? Don’t you think that’s weird, Mateo?” Michael: “That you came home drunk at 7 P.M.? Yes.”
- “Rival arepas, and unsecured tatas! This is going to be a long—oh wow, look at that! I was totally wrong!”
- “Do you think Faith M. Whiskers III has ever seen two boring married people have sex?”
- “I love the cereal, but I need eggs.” Is Rafael going to get hit with a sexual harassment suit from the HBO rep?