Well this outing was a real headache! Let's recap this show's first-ever true dud quick.
THIS WEEK'S MVP(arent)
Santa Xiomara Villanueva De La Vega, she of the infinite patience, she who was forced to parent both Darcy and Darcy's unborn future child and did it all with a smile, a full pantry, and a seemingly endless supply of billowy, zen blouses.
(N.B. NO runner-up from this recapper for any of the parents involved with making any of the school entrollment decisions, either now or in Jane's past. It's too tricky for me, a non-parent, to invoke in the Awards section, but I do have THOUGHTS that I suspect will be UNPOPULAR. We'll get there!)
BEST TELENOVELA TWIST
HOW did Magda get out of prison?? WHERE has she been since she did???? HOW has Petra not once thought to check in on her status after all these years/Magda's masterminding of Anezka's identity-swapping scheme????
HER EYEPATCH MATCHES HER CAFTAAAAAAAAANNNNN
WHO KNOWS. I'm just glad to see such an honestly villainous villain back in play.
BEST PRODUCT PLACEMENT
I guess the year fitbits *finally* seem to be off-trend would be the year Alba hops on the bandwagon. You do you, Alba! Now that you've found love again, we all (but most especially your ride or die, Rafael) want your heart healthy enough to squeeze every bit of time and joy of of that experience.
PREVIOUSLY ON JANE THE VIRGIN
Jane and Raf spent the three years following Michael's sudden death developing a deep, complex friendship and mature co-parenting dynamic predicated on their mutual respect for each other, their understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses, and the fact that with three seasons of Jane the Virgin character growth behind them, they had been able to get over their different-sides-of-the-track emotional baggage/judginess. It was great! Then Raf started dating Petra again, for real, based on THEIR developing of a deep friendship and mature co-parenting/co-executing bond predicated on THEIR mutual respect for each other, their understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses, and the fact that with three seasons of Jane the Virgin character growth behind them, they had been able to get over their distrust of each other from, like, a villainy level, but also from a "Raf is always half in love with Jane and Jane is always half in love with Raf and Petra is always half jealous/half resentful of both" level, which happened because Jane and Petra ALSO developed a…deepish…friendship and mature co-co-step-parenting dynamic predicated on, well, everything. Which is why it made sense that Petra would feel safe confiding in Jane about her concerns about resuming a relationship with Rafael, and why Jane would feel safe reacting with a realization that maybe she DOES still have feelings for him, and leaving a message telling Petra that, and then telling Raf that, and everyone came back regressed to their Season 2 worst selves, and now Jane and Raf are fighting about his rich kid entitlement and Petra and Raf are struggling to maintain their mature new relationship and Jane and Petra…well, actually? they seem good. But everything else is bad!
Meanwhile, Jane has reconnected with her first love/first fiancé, graphic artist Adam, while Rogelio's pregnant reality-show ex, Darcy, has barely been talked down from litigating all custody away from Rogelio and also has maybe gone into labor, while XO has had to put up with all of it, all the while NOT GETTING TO GO ON EVEN A SLIVER OF A HONEYMOON.
Missing: Lady Voice of God (and Reason)
Okay, very first of all: the biggest misstep this show has yet made is giving us a brand new Lady Voice of God Narrator to get us on board with Adam's importance, and then immediately taking her away. I *knew* it was going to happen, because I read an interview with the voice actor and she said she had only been hired for the one episode, but, like, I didn't want to *believe* it, you know? Because what a great device! And what a great way to mix up the show's whole deal here in the middle of the series' run, without going too wild. What an aboslutely missed opportunity to layer in more of Adam's backstory between scenes, and/or to further develop our sense of the OG VoG as his own character, and/or to make the stakes of Adam's decisions re: Jane have any real meaning to us whatsoever.
So, already I've started this episode off on the wrong foot. Meanwhile, both Jane and Rafael have had their personalities temporarily replaced by earlier, less emotionally advanced versions—Jane as "Fun Jane," playing beer pong with Adam and his artist loft roommates, Raf as "Douche Raf," wheeling and dealing to try to get a second "Take Back the Marbella" scheme going after Anezka totally blew up his and Petra's last one, resulting in Luisa freezing Mateo's trust fund and, with it, Rafael's chance to make the tuition payment for Mateo's next year of rich-kid school, resulting in Jane's anxiety over making a good impression at public school enrollment day, resulting in Raf's reassurances that he'll get his hotel (and money) back soon enough that public school won't even be a thing, resulting in Jane making very unatteractive faces while he isn't looking.
Truly, only Alba (and probably Mateo?) are happy with Rafael's continued bunking at the Villanueva residence.
The School Thing
Okay, so let's get this school thing, which is genuinely a school thing but also a symbolic "who are we as people" thing, over with.
The problem? Mateo currently has no school to go to, with Raf's tuition check bouncing. But that's not really a problem, because in the United States we have free public schools for all students, by law, so all they have to do is roll up to their neighborhood public elementary school and get the kiddo enrolled!
The problem? Jane's neighborhood school is capital-B Bad. The building is bad, the academic reputation is bad, the enrollement experience is bad. And while Jane has the social justice presence of fury to note how intrinsically unfair it is that poorer neighborhoods end up with poorer schools that end up scaring so many families with any economic means/privilege at all away that they become even less well-attended and thus less well-funded, Jane still won't have Mateo go there, not when Catholic school is an option! And while Rafael has morally objected to Catholic school in the past, getting caught between this particular rock and public school nightmare hard place might be enough to get him to overlook those objections, at least for now—plus Rogelio can totally swing the $8k tuition at the one school with a single opening left (which begs the quesiton, how expensive was Mateo's last school???), so we're good to go!
The problem? In her post-hospital sleep of the medicated on Adam's couch, Jane oversleeps her alarm and misses the interview appointment, and now the school has given that slot away, so it's back to public school nightmare square one. But that's okay! Raf says, because they can just wait out this first year at the local bad school, then next year enroll Mateo in the highly rated, better funded public school in Ro+Xo's new neighborhood, fudging Mateo's address as theirs.
The problem? As far as Jane is concerned, that is just some entitled rich kid bullshit, thinking that cheating the system for personal gain is okay, and she is not here for it, or Rafael.
So yeah! It turns out that Jane, who started this whole boondoggle talking about her positive memories of the few years she was in public school before they could afford the move to Catholic school, the public school she ended up at after the neighborhood school Jane is now refusing to enroll Mateo in was "overenrolled," turns out Jane got into that better public school using the exact same address-fudging trick Raf suggested for Mateo! Alba and Xo used the address of someone at church, and Jane got a better early education, and now here she is, able to think critically for herself maybe even because of that slight edge in her early education. And also Raf gets all the moral high cards for revealing Jane's hypocritic judginess to her, and Jane is put in the position of eating crow and telling Raf he was right all along and she was letting her judginess take control, and they decide to go with Raf's/Alba's fudged address plan ("At least until I get my hotel back!" ::collective eyeroll from Jane and all of us::), because Jane was just absolutely wrong about what the right thing to do here is.
We would all like that, tyvm.
So here is the deal: I am not a parent, and just like The Good Place's Chidi couldn't truly understand the impossiblity of the Trolley Problem until he was physically made, over and over, to live out the bloody reality of the Trolley Problem, I can't truly understand the impossibility of an actual parent having to make this kind of actual difficult justice-oriented decision for their actual kid.
Jane was absolutely correct in her first reaction to the nightmare of their neighborhood school—the way the system is set up for public schools to get funded is, in its bones, unfair, and predicated on racist redlining neighborhood schemes from generations ago which we as individuals have no control over now, but whose negative effects have compounded over time, and turned out a public school landscape that does not provide equal education access to all children. And the worse a neighborhood school gets, the more likely it is to scare away the very families whose enrollment could get it the money it would need to improve, and thus the more likely it is for that school to close down, and for that safe space in that community to disappear, and for the only options for those neighborhood kids to become private schools they can't afford, or public schools a longer bus ride away that cuts into their ability to have enough time to do their homework or extracurricular activities or spend time with family or sleep or ultimately feel like they belong to their community at all.
I'm not at all saying that I think Jane was wrong to make the choice she did, or that Raf or Alba or anyone else was wrong to suggest the options they did—like I said, I'm not a parent and I understand that my academic approach to a moral dilemma has nothing on the approach of real parents making real decisions for their real kids' real futures.
What I am saying is, this is a legit social injustice happening in the world, and Jane the Virgin, as a show, has a strong history with treating this kinds of issues with real weight (goofy onscreen hashtags count as real weight in this world), wthout making the characters choose to handle them in any kind of idealized, perfect way. But what the show did here, not supporting Jane's first rant with any onscreen hashtag or offscreen commentary about what policy initiatives to look up to learn more, was different: it made Jane only be wrong, and flattened the moral dilemma to just her choice to give Mateo the best education possible, cheating the system (and the other kids in the neighborhood not clever or lucky enough to be able to pull off this particular flavor of cheating) be damned. I am absolutely for Jane making this decision in the end; it is in character for her, and for the Raf, and for them as a family unit, and her not making necessarily the perfect choice for all of society is in character with the show. But not giving the public school issue at hand any real sense of complexity or gravity isn't, and I really lament that.
Anyway, here are some things to read/listen to/watch if you want to know more about why I, a non-parent, would put myself so firmly on the side of "maybe striving for the absolute best for your own kid isn't always they ideal solution!!!":
Everything 2017 MacArthurt Genius/NYT Social Justice Investigative Reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones has done, but particularly her spot on Adam Ruins Everything describing redlining (and her extended ARE podcast discussing the same), this 2017 piece on losing sigh of the promise of public schools, and this cover story on choosing a lower-rated public school for her own daughter.
This Code Switch podcast episode on the final days of a Pittsburgh public school (October 11, if you're scrolling the episode list):
Consider all of that my #publicschoolfailures onscreen text submission, for this, an uncharacteristic oversight on JtV's usually woke part.
The Adam Thing
Okay, back to the fun parts of this show! Specifically, Fun!Jane, who is very different from Mom!Jane, which we know both from Adam's avatar sketches of both, and from Jane's low-key glee at being able to be "young" again with him and his friends, playing beer pong, playing roofball, playing hooky on her life in general.
Unfortunately, low-key turns high-key when Jane shows up for a normal date night to find Adam on the phone with a VFX company he applied to months ago, offering him the job after all those many months of silence. The catch? It's in LA! Which, duh. But also, yay Adam!
…is at least what Jane says, out loud, even thought it is incredibly obvious from her face how disappointed she is. But: "I know this is crazy, but if you say you want me to stay, I'll stay," Adam tells her, and just about now would the THE PERFECT TIME FOR HIS LVOG NARRATOR TO POP IN and exclaim over how rash he is being, only for Jane's OG VoG to chime in and suggest they see how it plays out, because Jane is worth the energy, only for LVoG to quip back that OG VoG thinks mean blondes walking down hallways carrying paperwork is worth the energy, only for Jane and Adam to start talking again and us to actually care about how this all plays out. But instead, there is no LVoG, and we all have seen the promo photos of Adam hanging out with Jane and Mateo, and so duh, he isn't going to take the job, so why even bother with this hiccup.
The ball is LVog and Jane is JtV and we are Adam in this scenario; am I being TOO obvious?
Anyway, Jane (naturally) gets really in her head about this sudden pressure, and so doesn't necessarily think the consequences through when Adam suggests they play roofball to get her centered and for him to apologize for making her take so much pressure on, and then they are very cute together, and then they are locked on the roof, and then Adam says he usually just jumps down (what roof in the world is jump-down-able???), and then Fun!Jane does, and then her leg is broken.
And now we are in the hospital, and Jane has a fractured maybe shin bone (techincal medical term), and she is hopped up on painkillers, and the doctor is assuming Adam is her committed life partner, and Jane is being very honest about her thoughts regarding all of it, except for what her responsibilities as a mom are from this hospital visit on. So before we get to the consequences of her master-level compartmentalizing, let's talk about where she went wrong!
And now to the consequences, which are that Jane is not only hurt and unable to drive for the next several weeks, but also that she didn't tell Adam about her mom-duties to get Mateo to the Catholic school interview in the morning, and thus ends up missing it. Which she takes as a sign that she and Adam aren't right for each other in their life positions after all, but which Adam rightly reads as "yo, just tell me about these things and I am all over helping and being present!" The upshot is: Jane is finally honest with Adam about not wanting him to leave, and Adam decides to stay, and they kiss and are cute. But without his LVoG, it's hard to FEEL it, y'know?
The Petrael Thing
With very little in the way of groundwork to prepare us/shot of a therapy session or book telling them to speak so carefully to each other, Rafael and Petra spend the entire episode having conversations as though they are new to being human and have only had GOOP to teach them how to communicate. (Yes, the VoG tries to prepare us by flashing a scene in the "Previously On…" about them deciding to approach this second relationship with more maturity, but this rhetorical style is not universally a direct result of that kind of declaration.)
It is as awkward for them as it is for us, and even less productive, as what they are trying to do is accomplish a certain kind of sneaky business coup, getting someone not tied to them to be the face of a new cash offer, with the promise of a 10% profit (or something, idk business talk). They each find someone they think will be right for the role (former paramour Chuck, from Petra, and a new-to-us Hilton-lite Cougar for Raf), and they each have the same objection to the other's pick (fear the pick would pressure the picker into sex/cheating to seal the deal). This leads to a real argument, in which Rafael tries to win Petra over to his side by noting that he is the least likely between them to fall into the trap of sleeping with his mark to get ahead, because unlike Petra, he's never done that before.
Uh, way harsh, Raf.
Naturally, this does not end well. Petra realizes that for all they each want to improve, they both are still the people they have always been, and Raf will always see her at least a little in that light, and so you know what? Maybe beyond being business partners and co-parents, they shouldn't do this relationship thing after all.
Raf does not take it well. In fact, he takes it so not well, he goes straight to the Hilton-lite Cougar and lets her talk him into sleeping with her. Meanwhile, Petra returns to her penthouse suite in a funk, only to find that Anezka has found Magda and given her control of Petra's two small children.
Cool. I hate everything about this.
The Rogelio & Darcy Thing
Completely separate (almost) from the rest of the Jane-Rafael-Petra drama, Xiomara and Rogelio are hosting a still-pregnant and very mean Darcy, whose labor pains last week were a false alarm brought on by stress. She spends the entire episode complaining about how alone she is going to be, and about how slow Xiomara's handmaiden service is, and having to be bullied into not doing work, until at last Xiomara snaps and forces Darcy to listen to her for once about everything that both she and Rogelio are doing for Darcy, and to just accept that they are all family now, which means Darcy won't ever be alone. And while Xo doesn't say it with quite so much menace, it does come through to Darcy as both the promise and threat that it is.
Rogelio, meanwhile, is working not only to build a nursery on set to prove to Darcy how committed he is to co-parenting, but also on keeping his job in the first place. Because surprise! He and Fabian are still feuding, and it has gotten so bad that the network execs' solution is to kill one of them off, which as a bonus will be a boost in their ratings! (Spoiler) So they have a focus group to decide who will get to keep their job, and lo and behold, Fabian has fudged the demographics of the situation by planting his grandma right in the center of the action.
Now, the reasonable person's response to this would be to bring the cheating to the attention of the focus group proctors—or at least ot have Jane do it, for Rogelio to save face by not being seen as a whiner. But lolol the day Rogelio de la Vega is categorized as a reasonable person will be the day this show hangs its (lavender) hat. What Rogelio DOES do is put on some of the more convincing drag I have seen in awhile, and infiltrate the group mid-focus to shift the conversation back in his favor. And while that can also rightly be seen as cheating, it is really just evening out the playing field, so when he is finally declared the winner, I judge the result as at least as fair as it could possibly have been.
Alas, poor Fabian. Fare thee well! We will always have your abs to remember you by, I guess!
lololololol for absolutely ever at Rafael's telenovela pose
One hundred precent I think it will be Magda, mostly because she is the most expendable save for Anezka, but Anezka is just too much fun to watch (and also Yael-as-Anezka took over the show's Insta last week, presumably indicating that she will be in whatever future episode they were in the middle of shooting, hi, I'm here to ruin all movie magic with BTS sleuthing). But go ahead and cast your vote!