Jane The Virgin has a reputation for barreling through plot, but “Chapter Twenty-Seven” is an even more eventful episode than usual for the series: Jane cuts romantic ties with Michael, Petra marries Milos, Michael loses his job, Alba gets closer to receiving her green card, and Rogelio reconciles with Britney Spears, an old friend who he turned on after the 2009 Latin Pop Music Awards. The hefty amount of material to cover gives Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin’s script an overly rushed pace, but the writers still find space to include strong character moments in their hasty narrative, keeping the episode from flying off the rails.

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The CW has been heavily promoting Britney Spears’ guest appearance on tonight’s episode, and it delivers on the hype. Rogelio’s rivalry with Spears is the most frivolous of this week’s storylines, but it’s also the most entertaining. The episode’s writers and director Jann Turner make excellent use of Spears’ star power and limited acting ability, depicting her through an exaggerated lens that allows her to have fun on screen without worrying about more substantial emotional storytelling. Spears’ big dramatic moment of the story happens on a laptop screen, because she’s not there to bring gravitas to the series. She’s there to dance to “Toxic” with Jane during a fantasy sequence, strut and pose with her entourage, and make Rogelio act outrageous, which draws a hilarious performance out of Jaime Camil.

The Jane The Virgin writers understand the value of contrast and including humor to balance and intensify dramatic elements, and Rogelio is consistently the major vehicle for comedy on this series. He has the best lines of this week’s episode (many of which can be found below in a jam-packed “Stray observations”), and the force of his performance feeds his co-stars, which proves immensely helpful in his scenes with Spears. More than anyone else in the cast, Camil captures the overstated passion of telenovela acting in his performance, but it plays as genuine expression because there’s honest emotional commitment behind the excessive characterization.

Magda and Milos are two other cartoonish characters that belong in the heightened world of telenovelas, but Priscilla Barnes and Max Bird-Ridnell aren’t as comfortable in that mode as Camil. Their Czech accents are very rough, which immediately adds a layer of artifice on top of everything they do, and Petra’s storyline this week suffers because of their shallow performances. The flashbacks to Petra’s experience with her mother and ex-boyfriend in the Czech Republic do little to strengthen their relationships, and the tepid chemistry between Yael Grobglas and Max Bird-Ridnell makes Petra and Milos a bland pairing.

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Petra’s most valuable partner in “Chapter Twenty-Seven” is actually Jane, who decides to help Petra figure out her complicated personal issues with Milos, mostly because she wants to keep Milos out of Mateo’s life, but also because she cares for Petra in a “I don’t want you to marry a psycho” way. They share some very sweet scenes together, and although Petra doesn’t deserve Jane’s respect, she gets it anyway because Jane takes pity on the woman that is birthing her son’s half-sibling.

As usual, this is a great episode for Gina Rodriguez, who goes on a wild emotional journey over the course of the hour. She’s had some big moments of gleeful excitement on this series, but I don’t think any of them are quite as intensely joyful as when she dances side-by-side with Britney Spear to “Toxic.” Rodriguez is clearly thrilled to have this opportunity, and she channels all that enthusiasm into her performance. That dance is one of multiple fantasy sequences throughout the episode, the others relating to Jane’s current love triangle situation with Michael and Rafael. Jane fantasizes about openly showing her rediscovered affections for Michael when she sees him at The Marbella and Michael fantasizes about Jane calling him to reaffirm her love when she actually needs help with her grandma’s green card, but relegating these relationship-strengthening events to the realm of fantasy foreshadows that things are going to take a turn for the worse when reality hits Jane and Michael.

Rafael and Michael both suffer from extreme jealousy and paranoia when it comes to Jane’s relationship with the other, and these feelings come to a violent head when Rafael and Michael have a fistfight in front of Jane and Mateo. Jane is terrified by the brutality of Michael’s attack—incited by his incorrect assumption that Rafael informed Michael’s superiors he let Nadine go when he saved Mateo—and when her newborn son is cut by a piece of glass during the incident, she makes herself reexamine her relationship with Michael. Jane is trying her hardest to keep Mateo in a safe environment, and Michael randomly attacking Mateo’s father without any provocation is the exact kind of drama she wants to avoid.

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Jane realizes that she needs to do what’s best for her child, so she stops rebuilding her romance with Michael, delivering a gut punch that is immediately followed by Michael being suspended from the police force because he snooped on his boss’ computer. After so many chapters building up Michael, it’s a surprise to see this episode tear him down so aggressively, but considering how often this series disrupts the romantic relationships, it was only a matter of time before Jane and Michael’s courtship would encounter new obstacles. It might happen too quickly this week, but it opens up new storytelling avenues to keep the series fresh as it moves forward.

Jane is inspired to readjust her priorities by witnessing Alba and Xo’s relationship, which gets a lot of attention this week as Alba meets with a lawyer to take steps towards her green card. Alba could potentially run into problems with her application because her sponsor, Xo, has a felony charge for robbery on her record, which she picked up as an 18-year-old that took the rap for her scumbag boyfriend, Zed, so the Villanueva spend the episode tracking down the man and convincing him to confess to the crime. The Zed thread isn’t especially engaging, although it does give us Alba and Xo accidentally getting stoned on marijuana chocolate, but the payoff for the story is great, drawing a connection between Xo’s teenage mistake and Alba’s grief over the loss of her husband, Mateo.

Ivonne Coll does heartbreaking work in the flashback showing Alba weeping over a photograph from her wedding day, and while present-day Alba laments that she wasn’t able to be there for her daughter, it’s clear that past Alba is in no state to support anyone else. Alba and Xo’s tearful conversation at the end of the episode is another poignant scene on the Villanueva’s porch swing, and in the midst of all these huge events for the rest of the cast, it’s refreshing to have this small but powerful moment between mother and daughter. The dramatic telenovela twists are useful for accelerating the show’s momentum, but it’s the strength of those intimate moments that makes Jane The Virgin irresistible.

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Stray observations

  • Major Britney Spears events inspired by Rogelio De La Vega: the red latex bodysuit in the “Oops!…I Did It Again” video, her kiss with Madonna at the MTV Music Video Awards (which Rogelio was supposed to do with Enrique Iglesias).
  • Michael doing a backflip off a wall while cheerfully walking down the street comes out of nowhere, but it’s a wise use of Brett Dier’s athletic ability to reflect his character’s ecstatic emotional state.
  • So many delicious references to Britney Spears songs in this episode, but my favorite is Rogelio’s “You want a piece of me?!” Vine.
  • Preview for next week’s episode suggests that Mateo might be getting more than one new half-sibling. Twins is likely, but I’m actually going to guess triplets.
  • How long until Petra’s pregnancy forces her to stop wearing short shorts? Maybe it will never happen.
  • “Talk about feeling all the feels.”
  • “Jane…there’s something about you. I can tell you have rhythm. Would you like to dance?”
  • “I’m done protecting Britney Spears!”
  • “I don’t drop her name. I mention people like Gloria Estefan, Alejandro Fernandez, and Oprah because they happen to be dear friends of mine.”
  • “#VOTE #VOTE #VOTE” I’m really hoping this show addresses the importance of voting at some point in the future, perhaps via Alba getting her green card and being able to vote in the U.S. for the first time.
  • “Had to put up the block!” Luisa is competent this week! Yay!
  • “No one has the passion of a Rogelifan!”
  • “Aw. Perhaps it’s stolen sperm under the bridge for these two at last.”
  • “The situation had become toxic. This circus couldn’t go on. It was time to get to work, bitch.”
  • “Do you know how many poop emojis I had to deal with today?”
  • Rogelio: “Well, from the bottom of my broken heart, I’m sorry. And I hope that our friendship can be as strong as it once was.” Britney Spears: You know, I think it can be even stronger. Stronger than yesterday.”

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