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Jane The Virgin needs a waterfall to quench her thirst for a telenovela hunk

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You have no idea how angry I am at myself for using the “Everyone on Jane The Virgin is very horny” headline for last episode when it would have been perfect for tonight’s “Chapter Sixty.” The show’s modified title for the week is Jane The Horndog, and sexual desire is a major theme of this episode, particularly how it relates to Jane and Alba. Jane wants to have hot, meaningless sex with her father’s new co-star, Fabian, but there are emotional barriers that prevent her from letting her lustful side take over. Meanwhile, Alba is nervous about telling Jorge that she doesn’t believe in sex before marriage, and when she does, she quickly assumes the relationship is over.

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The opening flashback shows a tween Jane experiencing lust for the very first time while watching a telenovela with Xo and Alba, and Jane has had a weakness for telenovela hunks ever since. She scours telenovela fan magazines and the Internet for images of Fabian and information that she can use to get closer to him, and is making up excuses to see Rogelio so she can get on set and creep on Fabian. Her crush is complicated by Rogelio’s antagonistic feelings toward his on-screen rival, who reminds Rogelio of a younger, more muscular version of himself. Rogelio thinks Fabian wants to steal the spotlight on Los Viajes De Guillermo, and he gets in the way of Jane and Fabian’s early flirting because he’s offended by the pairing.

Jane sternly lays down the ground rules for her father’s behavior after he embarrasses her in front of her crush, and much of this episode involves Jane taking charge of her life when her relatives are trying to control her decisions. Rogelio wants Jane to keep her distance from Fabian because he doesn’t trust him, but she makes it very clear that Rogelio has no business interfering with her love life. The same goes with Alba, although Jane is gentler with her. Alba wants to make Jane feel guilty about having sex before marriage, but Jane is a grown woman that can have sex whenever she wants with whomever she chooses. And she wants to have sex with Fabian.

There’s one more person in Jane’s way this week: Michael. When Jane’s publisher wants to use her personal story to sell her completed novel, she’s reluctant because she doesn’t want her life to overshadow her work, but she’s also holding back because she doesn’t want Michael to become an anecdote—something that just happened in her past. In one of two outstanding scenes exploring how grief lingers long after losing a loved one, Alba comforts Jane after she gives her publisher approval to market the novel however they like, and Alba reassures her granddaughter that Michael will never disappear from her life.

Alba does this by telling Jane a story about shopping in the grocery store a year ago and suddenly being hit by a wave of emotion when she saw her late husband’s favorite brand of ice cream. Ivonne Coll’s performance captures all the loss Alba feels without her husband, but also her gratitude for the time they had together when he was alive. “You’re in a long-term relationship with grief,” Alba tells Jane. “But it has to evolve. And it’s O.K. to keep letting go. You have to.” Jane and Alba relationship has deepened considerably since Michael’s death, and their shared experience of losing a husband has brought them closer together and led to some really great scenes between Coll and Gina Rodriguez.

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Rogelio also has a heartbreaking Michael moment this week when Fabian ends up in his good graces after helping Jane and invites him to get mani-pedis. When Xo asks him what’s really bothering him underneath the petty jealousy, Rogelio opens up about his own grief and his fear of getting close to another one of Jane’s love interests. Michael was Rogelio’s best friend, and he thinks about him every day. He’s not ready to be hurt again by losing a new friendship, but Xo tells him that Fabian is definitely not replacing Michael. Jaime Camil gets to show off his range with this episode, beginning with Rogelio in a cartoonish diva mode but gradually bringing him down to Earth for a powerful moment with Xo. Andrea Navedo is support in this scene, but she’s giving Camil a lot to play off of. We haven’t seen much of Xo grieving the loss of her son-in-law, but Navedo’s performance gives us a good impression of the pain Xo has gone through.

Considering how strong Rogelio and Fabian’s characters are connected, it’s impossible not to compare the two characters. Francisco San Martin has a gorgeous body, but his acting skills don’t match the rest of the cast. His accent sounds like a telenovela bro, and while I see the appeal in that choice, the acting has an artificial quality that prevents Fabian from feeling like a real character. It’s possible that the shallow performance is intentional to highlight that Fabian is more of a sex object to Jane than a person worthy of a romantic relationship, but I think that’s also an excuse to cover up the limitations of the actor. It doesn’t help that Fabian is often paired with Rogelio, which draws attention to how bland San Martin’s line delivery is compared to Jaime Camil, and exists in the shadow of Michael, who was played with endearing charisma by Brett Dier. Fabian lacks the fullness of character that defines the main cast of this series, but hopefully the performance will develop more dimension in the next few episodes as his romance with Jane takes off.

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This episode leans very aggressively into the series’ telenovela influence, and beyond the romantic high jinks on the Guillermo set, there’s a lot happening at The Marbella. Luisa and Eileen/Rose return for the first time since the time jump, Petra ends up in deeper trouble with the law, and we learn that Rafael’s shady behavior has been to ensure the safety of his family. While the criminal aspect of this show is typically the least interesting, there are some interesting developments with Luisa that make good use of the time jump. Luisa isn’t allowed around Rafael’s kids, and Yara Martinez does strong work showing the pain that causes Luisa. She understands why Rafael keeps her at a distance, but she wants to close that gap, and she care enough about this that she’s willing to defy Rose’s orders when she sees an opportunity to reconnect with her family.

The Narrator does a lot of heavy lifting to keep viewers up to speed on the increasingly complicated relationships of this series, but there’s one moment that makes me nervous about relying too heavily on the Narrator’s exposition delivery. When we check in Rafael’s shady dealings with Elvis, the Narrator lets us know that he’s a private investigator hired Rafael. He makes a joke about being the person that tosses that information to the viewer, but relying on the Narrator to fill in plot holes is lazy storytelling. The reveal ends up losing a lot of impact; if the information isn’t important enough for the writers to present it with more than a throwaway line, then it’s not important enough for the viewer to really care.

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The heightened nature of this episode makes a lot of sense given that Jane’s storyline has her spending more time in the telenovela environment. It’s been quite some time since Jane had a story that put her deep in Rogelio’s world, and because that’s a more exaggerated plane of reality on this show, the storytelling throughout the episode becomes bigger. Depicting Jane’s life as a telenovela plays into the plot point about how Jane’s publisher wants to market her book, and Jane’s fear that her life story will prevent the work from standing on its own is totally reasonable because we know exactly how wild that story is.

We’ve also seen how the telenovela elements can get in the way of the more grounded material that gives Jane The Virgin substance, and while those big shocking moments are good for grabbing attention, there needs to be a strong emotional foundation to keep people coming back for more. If Jane’s first fan is any indication, her book has that foundation. The fan tells Jane that she was completely engrossed by the advance copy she read and didn’t get out of her pajamas until she finished, and Jane is overjoyed to get such a positive response from the first stranger that has read it. The contrast of these smaller moments with the fantasy of the telenovela aspects makes the emotions feel much more honest, and the script by Caroline Rivera and Micah Schraft (who also directs the episode) understands how to use this show’s unique narrative dynamics to enrich the characters’ feelings.

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Stray observations

  • Screenwriter and novelist Maria Semple interviews Jane at the Miami Book Fair, and landing a cameo on a network TV show is some damn good publicity. Kudos to Semple’s agent!
  • Fabian’s last name is Regalo Del Cielo, which translates to “heaven’s gift.”
  • Some really funny book titles in this episode: Marlene Donaldson’s Re-Vulva: Locked And Loaded and Fabian’s Still Snapping.
  • Anezka is back, in prison, and close to giving the cops everything she knows about her sister. I wonder if Petra is going to have Anezka killed in prison to keep quiet? Could she be that cold?
  • This episode makes sexy posing under a waterfall look extremely fun.
  • Tracking Jane’s Internet searches for Fabian is a very clever way of using technology to reveal a character’s train of thought.
  • The best hashtags this week: #TelemundoandChill, #TuesdaysWithMarlene
  • Rogelio: “I would do anything to be big again, to be with my love, the lady scientist.” Narrator: “Also known as a scientist.” Fabian: “But I am also in love with the lady scientist.” Narrator: “Again: scientist.”
  • Xo: “One character tried to sabotage another character?” Rogelio: “What? No. I did it in real life. Have you Eduardo Espinosa?” Xo: “No.” Rogelio: “Exactly.”
  • “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy afternoon.”
  • “See, dad?! Look around! Actual walls, for privacy!”
  • “On the other hand, meaningless sex with me would be so hot, Jane.”
  • “Hmmm…Rogelio’s never turned down a good clear polish before.”
  • “You may have to be married to have sex, abuela, but I do not and trust: I am gonna hit this.”
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