Jane The Virgin’s brisk pace is one of its defining characteristics, but doing too much too fast is an easy way to lose focus. There’s a thin line between full and overstuffed, and “Chapter Twenty-Four” crosses it as writer David S. Rosenthal gives every single main character a plot, cramming so much story into 42 minutes that many of the significant moments come out half-baked.
The main narrative about Jane’s love triangle with Rafael and Michael gets the most attention and is easily the episode’s strongest element, but the other threads aren’t so lucky. Xiomara and Rogelio reach a decision about their marital future when they’re stranded on a cruise ship, and while the scenes between the spouses are strong, the scenario unfortunately takes Xo away from home during a key event in her mother’s life. Alba makes a huge decision about her future, but getting to that point requires watching Jane interact with guest star Kesha as a noisy aspiring rocker neighbor. Over at The Marbella, Petra finds out whether or not she’s having Rafael’s baby, Scott gets a promotion thanks to blackmail, Rafael tries to figure out a real estate deal that brings Lachlan back into his orbit, and Luisa is trying to learn the family business and get her life together. Top it all off with some Sin Rostro tidbits and you get a heaping pile of story, which Rosenthal struggles to sort out thoroughly by the end of the episode.
This series has handled the central love triangle exceptionally well, and it continues the trend this week by keeping Rafael and Michael equally attractive to Jane, but in different ways. When Xo mentions that it’s like an episode of The Bachelor in their living room, Jane begins to hallucinate herself as a glammed out, boozed up reality show contestant, an alternate personality that pressures her to make knee-jerk decisions about which man she’ll choose. Bachelorette Jane gives Gina Rodriguez the opportunity to play bigger, and it’s a lot of fun to see her do a campier interpretation of Jane, one that defines herself as a romance writer and is solely focused on the two men fighting for her affection. Real Jane defines herself as a mother, and resolving her romantic issues is secondary to her responsibility to her son, who needs her for protection in a scary world of crime kingpins that can change faces. Bachelorette Jane isn’t weighed down by any of these familial priorities, and the contrast in Rodriguez’s performances highlights the gravity she brings to Real Jane by fully internalizing her circumstances, as far-fetched as they may be.
Jane and Michael’s relationship hinges on their history, and the chemistry between Rodriguez and Brett Dier evokes all that time they’ve spent together. “Chapter Twenty-Four” opens with a flashback to the early days of their romance and the ways Jane tried to strengthen her bond with Michael by embracing his interests, and these small moments add up to create a much more defined relationship for the characters. There’s a scene this week where Rafael gets some fast food French fries with Jane and laments that this isn’t a normal Thursday for them, but that’s what Thursdays were like for Jane and Michael. Their relationship developed naturally over time, and it has a stronger foundation than the one built by Jane and Rafael, who had to rush through a romance because of an accidental artificial insemination.
Jane and Michael can rebuild more easily because of that foundation, and even the reparation of their relationship has been slower and smoother than Jane and Rafael’s post-break-up reconciliation, which was accelerated by the arrival of Mateo. Michael is very patient, but he also doesn’t have a baby complicating things. He can wait for Jane to remember the man she fell in love with, but Rafael needs to get back together with Jane as soon as possible to guarantee that he’ll be in his son’s life. Rafael is Mateo’s father, and he represents the idea of the perfect family that Jane was waiting to build until she was married to the man she loved. The path to that family is different, but she still has the potential to have it.
Initially, Rafael’s strategy to win Jane’s affection is to reinforce their parental bond by turning his apartment into a display floor for Target baby products, but it’s more important that he create those small intimate memories with Jane that she has plenty of with Michael. Jane and Rafael’s relationship has developed far outside of a traditional timeline, and they’re back at the “getting to know you” phase after having a child together. Michael already knows Jane, and he knows what she wants from him. She wants safety, which Michael provides by installing a security system in the Villanueva house, and she wants compassion, which Michael shows when he cradles Mateo and assures Jane that he would treat the child like his own if they were a family.
Jane is in a tough spot, but she’s not going to let some deluded fantasy hallucination force her into making a hasty romantic decision. Why does she have to choose right away? Why does she have to make a choice at all? Ultimately, Jane decides to tell Rafael and Michael that she loves them both, being honest about her emotions because honesty is what Jane is all about. As usual, that decision makes the story all the more interesting. It keeps conflict alive while strengthening Jane’s love for herself and her child, and while there’s definitely something selfish about keeping both men on the hook at the same time, Jane has the right to be a little selfish right now (she did just have her newborn baby kidnapped). Her decision forces her male suitors to accommodate her complicated affections, and how they handle this news is going to have a significant effect on their relationships with Jane moving forward.
That bombshell from Jane is the least of Rafael’s worries, though, because he finds out at the end of this episode that Petra stole his secret sperm sample. And Petra finds out she’s definitely pregnant. This is where the intrigue comes from in The Marbella, and Scott’s blackmail and Lachlan’s shady real estate dealings are dead weight that don’t add much drama to the plot. The graphic showing the numerous alliances and double-crosses between Rafael, Petra, and Lachlan heavily telegraphs Lachlan’s inevitable betrayal, and the stories about The Marbella’s business are far less captivating than the ones about the romances developing within its walls.
Xo and Rogelio’s cruise ship adventure introduces more friction to their relationship by forcing Rogelio to demean himself to do something that Xo sees as a great opportunity, and those different perspectives are part of the reason why Xo isn’t entirely comfortable with keeping their drunken Vegas marriage in tact. This personal revelation is preceded by a very silly performance of “Island In The Stream” for an audience of buffet customers that are incredibly excited to see a chocolate fountain, but Andrea Navedo brings the plot back down to the Earth as Xo gently tells Rogelio that she still wants an annulment. Navedo’s tender performance shows that Xo is especially mindful of Rogelio’s fragile ego, and she handles his emotions with kid gloves while staying firm in her position that the annulment is the best course of action.
In an ideal situation, the writers would have found a way to hit those same Xo and Rogelio plot points while keeping them in Miami because taking Xo out of the house lessens the impact during the big moment between the three Villanueva women this week. When Jane steals an amp from her inconsiderate neighbors, cops go to the Villanueva home and send Alba into a panic because she’s an undocumented immigrant, leading to two heartfelt scenes that spotlight the rich emotion Ivonne Coll brings to her character. The first is Alba’s tearful breakdown when she’s alone with Jane, detailing the intense distress that later motivates Alba to finally take steps to getting her green card. She doesn’t want to feel that weakness anymore, and she finds a new strength in herself because that’s what she needs to do to take this pressure off the rest of her steadily expanding family. Xo learns about all this through a video chat, and Alba’s green card reveal would be even more effective if it was bolstered by the chemistry of the three Villanueva women together in the same space.
There’s plenty to like in this week’s Jane The Virgin, but it also functions as a warning for this show’s writers that more isn’t always better. Bringing too many narratives together without a solid through-line to bind them makes “Chapter Twenty-Four” an especially scattered episode, and when so many plots are being juggled at once, specificity needs to be a top priority. Slowing the pace down would interrupt the show’s refreshing momentum, so the writers need to be aware of how much material they’re covering in an episode and make sure that there’s enough time to adequately explore each plot thread while sticking to the series’ established tempo.
- Kesha is a bust, but I have much higher hopes for Britney Spears’ upcoming guest appearance, in which she will be playing herself. I’m assuming Xo and Ro’s Vegas shenanigans will continue and that’s how Spears will find her way into the story.
- I like that the show retroactively strengthens Luisa’s gynecological mix-up by making her increasingly incompetent. How did this woman become a doctor?
- Luisa gets kidnapped at the end of this episode, which I’m hoping means more wacky hostage high jinks!
- “You got the stank.”
- “Jane The Disgusting Virgin”
- “Cruise ships is where old people perform. Who am I? Charo? (Who is a dear friend by the way, I would lay down my life for her.) But I don’t want her career.”
- “Entitled breeders.”
- “Never was there sounder advice from a tipsy hallucination.”
- “Nobody eats when Rogelio De La Vega sings! They open their mouths in awe.”