This week on Jane The Virgin: Jane and Michael are back together! (Again.) Xiomara and Rogelio are broken up! (Again.) Luisa falls off the wagon! (Again.) “Chapter Thirty-Five” retreads familiar narrative territory, but the context for these stories has changed just enough that Chantelle M. Wells’ script doesn’t play as too stale or repetitive. The time Jane and Michael spent apart makes their reunion all the richer, and while the Michael and Rafael rivalry is another recycled plot point, it’s one that needs to be addressed if Jane is going to maintain the family unit she’s building with Rafael and Mateo. The resurgence of Rafael’s jealousy also sends aftershocks through his relationship with Petra, and the extensive history behind all of these character dynamics leads to some strong emotional moments despite the familiarity of the episode.
“Chapter Thirty-Five” isn’t a very good showing for Rafael, who really lets his aggressive asshole side run wild when Jane tells him that she’s getting back together with Michael. He responds with self-righteous anger and demands that Jane not see Michael, a reaction that Jane finds completely unacceptable considering the kinds of sacrifices Jane has made for Rafael’s ex. “Petra covered up for the fact that her mom pushed my grandmother down the stairs and I threw her a freaking baby shower,” Jane reminds Rafael, and she doesn’t even mention that the baby shower was for twins that Petra is having after inseminating herself with Rafael’s sperm without his permission.
Rafael tries to paint his dislike for Michael as concern for Mateo, and he tells Jane that Michael’s work puts Mateo at risk despite the fact that Rafael’s work is just as dangerous, if not more so. Part of Rafael’s plot this week involves him and Petra trying to rehabilitate The Marbella’s image because people keep getting killed inside its walls, but he still insists that Michael is the real risk. Rafael’s stepmother kidnapped Mateo and his birth mother is a Miami crime kingpin, but Michael represents the danger here. Rafael is oblivious to the reality of his situation, and his ignorance ends up jeopardizing his relationships.
Jane refuses to let Rafael dictate how she lives her life, and she won’t deny her feelings for Michael, which are stoked by Rafael’s dickish behavior. She firmly stands by her decision to be with Michael, and her ecstatic happiness with this development is represented by a fantasy sequence where Jane and Michael get steamy in the pool surrounded by synchronized swimmers. It’s a big romantic moment that is a sharp contrast to the scene that unfolds between Rafael and Petra, which has Rafael putting the moves on his ex-wife because he’s feeling neglected by Jane.
Petra sees right through Rafael’s desperation and shuts down his advances, moving their plot in an unexpected direction given how hard Petra has been fighting to rekindle that romance. It’s unexpected, but it still makes sense, and as Petra gets closer to blasting twins out of her uterus, she’s starting to spend more time thinking about what will be best for her family. Being a rebound for a man who is still pining for someone else is not a good choice, so she pushes Rafael away rather than taking advantage of his emotionally vulnerable state to rebuild their relationship on a shoddy foundation.
The Xo and Rogelio plot is where the retreading starts to get tedious, and their conflict this week is a lot like their conflict in the last episode. They technically broke up, but they want to try and be mature so they’re still spending a lot of time together as friends and grandparents, which puts a heavy strain on their conscious uncoupling. The split doesn’t feel real because it isn’t yet, and they sleep together less than three days after the break-up, which revives Rogelio’s hope that Xo will change her mind about having kids. We just saw these two break up because Xo wasn’t willing to budge on her choice not to have any more kids, and they break up again this week for the same reason, although now they’re really serious about it.
For Xo, serious means ordering Chinese take-out and watching the episodes of Downton Abbey she was saving up. For Rogelio, serious means letting his guard down so he can be manipulated by his new assistant, Paola, who convinces him to cut off ties with Xo and Jane just before she makes him her hostage. The reveal that Paola is actually Rogelio’s stalker/former prison pen pal Lola is one that can be seen coming from her very first scene, and although it’s an entertaining subplot, the rushing of this story makes it very thin compared to the deeper narratives on this show.
Luisa’s past relapse wasn’t depicted with much subtlety last season, but “Chapter Thirty-Five” delves deeper into the emotional turmoil that drives Luisa to drink again. Reeling from the death of her true love combined with the pain of being an orphan with a brother that hates her, Luisa turns to alcohol as an escape, which causes problems for The Marbella’s staff members that take the blame for missing bottles of liquor. Jane and Susannah offer Luisa some comfort during this difficult time, and Susannah convinces Luisa to go back to rehab so she can deal with all of her personal issues and hopefully emerge ready for a new relationship. The Luisa/Susannah dynamic could still use more definition, but Wells definitely moves in the right direction this week, bringing a greater sense of intimacy to their relationship.
With a closing synchronized swimming number, “Chapter Thirty-Five” offers some very fun visual opportunities for director Melanie Mayron, and she brings a lot of character and energy to the staging and filming. That romantic synchronized swimming fantasy for Jane and Michael is the highlight of the episode, but smaller visual touches help accentuate the humor and tension in Wells’ script. When Michael and Rafael have their disastrous lunch, Mayron positions the two men on opposite sides of the table while Jane sits in the middle, serving as a referee for the fight that’s about to break out. When Xo and Rogelio try to keep their post-break-up sex a secret from Jane, Mayron captures the scene from an angle that highlights the close proximity of Xo and Jane’s bedrooms, emphasizing how hard it is to keep a secret in the Villanueva house and giving the visual punchline of Rogelio sprinting out of the house extra impact.
The reveal that Paola is Rogelio stalker is accentuated by having Paola stand in front of Rogelio’s picture of El Presidente and his leopard, and positioning Paola directly in front of the leopard indicates her predatorial instinct. The synchronized swimmers are also used effectively outside of the pool, like when the camera moves across The Marbella bar and shows each swimmer taking a shot before ending the sequence with a drunk Luisa. It’s a clever way of visualizing the number of drinks Luisa has had already, but also romanticizes the act of drinking to show how Luisa views alcohol. These visual flourishes elevate the script, presenting the familiar narrative elements with a fresh, engaging point of view.
- Wells does something new with the scene transitions this week, relying less on connected pieces of dialogue and bridging scenes with shared visual elements (a pitcher of orange juice being poured at the Villanueva house, then The Marbella), sound cues (a woman screaming on a fake Marbella commercial blending into Lina screaming), and images that are associated with the preceding lines (synchronized swimmers appearing after Xo laments that she and Ro aren’t in sync).
- Tiago: A Través Del Tiempo is the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve gotten Rogelio as a Stonewall rioter, the first male feminist, and this week, a Scottish warrior that wears a kilt and lavender war paint. I also love Rogelio’s bewildered expression on the lavender-tinted promo poster for the show.
- Notable hashtags this week: #mansplaining, #Petrasplaining, #Rolonelio
- I like the recurring bubble imagery in this episode, particularly during the title card, which foreshadows the trouble to come with the visual chaos of a bubble popping.
- I want more of Michael’s goofy faces. All more Rogelio dancing in his subconscious.
- Michael: “He’s huge!” Narrator: “The professor?”
- “Someone’s Good Wife binge really paid off.”
- “Luckily I’m an actor blessed with the ability to keep in total control of my emotions.”
- “Ah yes. Consciously uncoupled coitus.”
- “I’ve never met J. Lo.” The horror!