The men of Jane The Virgin are all in the middle of some major life changes, and “Chapter Fifty-Two” is largely committed to exploring the confusion that Michael, Rafael, and Rogelio are experiencing in their individual situations. Unhappy with being relegated to desk duty at the police department, Michael quits his job and starts exploring new career paths, taking a brief foray into the world of stand-up comedy. It’s a fun little diversion for him, but he understands that he can’t support his family by doing impressions of celebrities doing impressions of fictional characters, even if it does get laughs from an audience.

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Michael’s plot is goofy and gives Brett Dier the opportunity to show off his broader comedic skills, but it is rooted in a serious issue: What do you do when you’re not able to do the thing that you’ve dedicated your life to? Michael’s always wanted to be a cop and an aptitude test confirms that it’s the best career path for him, but he failed his physical and hates deskwork, so where does he go from here? He initially considers becoming a car salesman but he doesn’t actually know all that much about cars. He makes people laugh, so he considers stand-up, but that’s nowhere near stable employment and is exceptionally risky for a long-term career path. Michael ultimately decides to look into a career in law, which is something he found interesting when he was a detective. It’s a wise decision that opens up some intriguing storytelling opportunities for the future, although I am concerned about Jane and Michael’s finances as two parents who are both in school. Especially because the financial safety net of Rafael’s fortune may not be as sturdy as they think it is.

Rafael’s circumstances are considerably more fraught, and he’s thrust in the middle of both an identity and financial crisis after learning that he’s not the biological child of Emilio Solano and Elena Di Nola. He can’t stop thinking about how his father treated him differently from his sister, which makes him extremely broody, and an addendum to his father’s will means that Rafael’s fortune could be in jeopardy if anyone else learns about his true origin. Rafael’s life sucks right now, and it doesn’t help that he’s involved with two women with their own secrets that put his wellbeing at risk.

Catalina has a secret French husband that she says she’s divorcing, but there’s something very shady going on there and it’s clear that Catalina is keeping quite a few secrets from both her new boyfriend and her cousin. Catalina is obviously bad news, but Rafael doesn’t seem to mind and continues to see her despite the evidence that she’s manipulating him. Rafael is stuck in a downward spiral, and maintaining a relationship with Catalina is self-destructive. Justin Baldoni does strong work realizing the pain Rafael is experiencing, and it’s only a matter of time before that pain starts to impact his parenting.

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When it does, he better be prepared for the wrath of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, because she has no patience for anyone that doesn’t give her son the love and attention he deserves. And then there’s the wrath of Petra, who has pieced together Rafael and Scott’s plans to trick her into giving up her shares of The Marbella. Petra is back in full-on telenovela villain mode with this episode, and her intense, justified paranoia drives her to plant cameras all around Rafael’s hotel room. Petra can’t trust anyone after Anezka’s paralysis plot and Scott and Rafael’s scheming, and her paranoia ends up giving her some major dirt to use against Rafael when she discovers that he’s not the heir to the Solano fortune. I can’t imagine Petra is interested in rekindling her romance with Rafael, so the big question is what is Petra planning on doing with this new information that would leave Rafael penniless if it became public?

Rogelio’s storyline is the most far-fetched plot of the night, but as Alba points out, children have entered their family in much stranger ways than the arrangement Rogelio has set up with Darci Factor. I was excited about Justina Machado joining Jane The Virgin when she appeared last episode, but after watching her excellent new Netflix sitcom One Day At A Time (also featuring Rita Moreno, who plays Rogelio’s mother), I’m even more thrilled to have her in a recurring role. Machado has fantastic comic instincts, and her chemistry with Jaime Camil is electric. It’s no surprise that Rogelio ends up falling for Darci because the two of them are perfectly matched, and after only two episodes, I find myself rooting for them to become a full-fledged couple.

The strength of Rogelio and Darci’s connection makes Xiomara’s revived relationship with Bruce look very tepid by comparison. It doesn’t have that same spark, and I get the impression that Xo and Bruce’s reconnection is temporary while Rogelio and Darci could feasibly sustain a romance for the rest of this series’ run. While Rogelio is initially able to maintain an emotional distance from his potential baby mama, he can’t help himself from developing feelings for her, which manifest as a raging hard-on during his big nude scene in the indie film he’s been preparing for. He’s now caught in a situation where he needs to get rid of his affection in order to have a child, and knowing Rogelio, it’s going to be very hard for him to cut this emotional connection.

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Jane’s big storyline this week involves her trying to keep herself out of other people’s problems, which is all but impossible for someone like her. Jane’s natural instinct is to meddle in the lives of the people around her, which makes sense given how active she had to be as the tension-reliever in the Villanueva house when she was growing up. When Alba and Xo would fight, Jane would be the one to smooth things over. When Xo had relationship problems, Jane was there to comfort her. Jane is a meddler, and the people around her have come to rely on her meddling because it’s usually for their betterment. At the same time, Jane is always trying to better herself, and she’s open to change if it might mean personal progress. That change takes the form of Mr. Let It Bee, a sock puppet that follows her around and tells her not to get involved with conflicts that don’t directly involve her.

Jane tries to keep herself from meddling, but it ultimately does more harm than good. People need Jane to get involved because she constantly finds herself in the middle of the action (it is her show after all), and if she has information that can help people, she should take action and share it. It’s not until Jane meets a new puppet, Bette Meddler (a hilarious shout-out to Xo and Jane watching Beaches after every Bruce break-up in the past), that she realizes she needs to be a smarter meddler. She helps smooth over Xo and Bruce’s troubles by appealing directly to Bruce’s daughter, Tess, who is responsible for most of the conflict. Jane goes out of her way to convince Tess that Xo has changed and that she’s not the same woman as the home wrecker that destroyed Tess’ parents’ marriage, and once again Jane is doing the work to fix a relationship that Xo should be repairing herself. There’s a pattern where Jane’s meddling keeps Xo from doing the hard work that needs to be done to strengthen her relationships, and as long as Jane picks up the slack for her mother, Xo will always be struggling to make lasting personal connections with the people around her.

Stray observations

  • The recap within the recap at the start of the episode is too much and I love it. God this show has weaved a tangled web.
  • I wouldn’t mind learning a bit more about Anezka and her encounters with the local pimps and hustlers that surround her in the downtrodden setting she’s currently living in. I don’t want her to go back to the Czech Republic, and I don’t think she has any intention of actually following her sister’s orders, especially given her relationship with Scott.
  • Rogelio and Darci’s media rights plan for their future child: Vanity Fair at 3 months, People En Español at 6 months, US Weekly at one year. They’ve got the important stuff figured out.
  • Michael’s stand-up comedy repertoire: Bobcat Goldthwait as Cookie Monster, Jerry Seinfeld as E.T., the pirate in Captain Phillips as Spongebob Squarepants, Dame Judi Dench as Scarface. It’s not the best stand-up set, but Michael does a serviceable job.
  • “Also a bummer? Rafael’s life.”
  • “To know her is to love her in a totally non-emotional, non-sexual way.”
  • Mr. Bee: “I’m with her.” Narrator: “I was too, along with the rest of the popular vote.” I fully expect Jane The Virgin to have a politically charged storyline by the end of the season.
  • “Oh wow, what is this, The Americans?”
  • “This is either a classic case of stage fright, or an ill-timed series of tiny consecutive strokes.”
  • “Go fold those graphic sleep tees.”

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