Jane the Virgin: S04E13, “Chapter 77”

Episode Grade: A

What do you do when you have a great story but you’ve already told it? Change the point of view and give it a fresh look. Not only does that lesson Jane got from her writing class help get her out of her writer’s block, it’s a device that works well to invigorate a show that has been more or less spinning its wheels. But it wasn’t just getting Luisa’s point of view that made this episode one of the strongest of the season, all the varying storylines were firing on all cylinders.

It’s hard to say that Rogelio’s story was the weakest of the night, especially when it touched on how women are represented in media, but for the most part it felt like it was on the periphery of the episode. Since his wife does not want him worrying until there is something to worry about, Ro stays laser focused on trying to get River Fields on board so his dream of a crossover telenovela hit will come to life. Brooke, er I mean River, seems much more amenable to the idea than one would expect out of a woman who lost a toe that last time they were in the same place. Turns out she was playing him in order to leverage a deal for the new controversial show Confederate. Rogelio is able to convince her to come on board after listening to her extremely reasonable notes to improve her character and making her a co-lead by amending the show
to The Passions of Steve AND Brenda. Good call River since it looks like even if she wanted the role of Racist Lady #6, that Star Wars announcement last month was probably (and hopefully) the nail in the coffin for that potential series.

She’s not the only one benefiting from a smart decision, cause Jane’s writing group gives her both some inspiration and a much needed distraction. With her mother’s diagnosis on hold for test results, Jane dove into her assignment to tell her story from another perspective. I was a bit giddy thinking we were going to get extra Petra this week, but after Jane found Luisa’s deposition from her malpractice suit we finally got to see what led up to her blunder that kicked off this gem of a show. It’s one of the few episodes, if not the only one, that Luisa felt like an actual character instead of a caricature of a hot mess. It also served great purpose in making me care that when Raf found his long lost sister, she was sober and appeared to be at a much healthier and happier place in her life.

Speaking of happy ladies, Petra kicks off the episode in quite the good mood thanks to the uptick in her romantic life courtesy of JR (aka Jane the Lawyer). I knew better this time than to think we’d more than just one episode of a blissful Petra, but I wasn’t expecting them to take it away before the end of the first act. I guess I should be grateful that JR didn’t betray her, she just kind of brushed off their encounter as a single night of passion. The two manage to suss out that Petra’s blackmailer is none other than her assistant Krishna (GOOD CALL, ASCOL!) after they ruled out Milos and The Prince of Wales (dang, I was hoping it’d be Harry). Now that their case is solved, JR takes her leave but with that longing look Petra gives after chickening out of her big romantic gesture, at least we know it’s not the end of this particular story.

Now even though the show decided to give the POV story to Luisa, they still gave Petra a decent chunk of time tonight. When she wasn’t solving the case of who framed her, she was dealing with some conflict with Jane. Her mothering policy of radical honesty is perfect for her character, and who knows, maybe a great way to raise your kids…..as long as those kids don’t go spoiling fantasies for all the children who’ve bought into their parents’ lies. Jane flies off the handle after the twins ruin Santa for her son, but it’s clear (at least to the audience in the know) that Jane is just taking out her emotions on the first person she can. Once Petra got the info about Xo’s situation from Alba, she does maybe the cutest thing she has ever or will ever do and dresses up as a magical Tooth Fairy to reconvince Mateo she exists. It was an incredibly sweet gesture that would have worked all on its own, but the follow up heart to heart between the moms made me all misty eyed. Her relating to Jane through her own experiences was not only touching, but it continues to deliver on the promise that these two women are in this together and there for each other. Please please please have more scenes like this in the future.

And it looks like there will be plenty of opportunities for bonding with what the Villanueva family is going through. Xiomara doesn’t have writing pursuits or tv projects to get her mind off the wait so she busies herself with household chores. It’s not any more effective for her than it was her daughter to stave off worrying and Andrea Navedo does an exquisite job waffling between Xo’s desire to be strong and her inherent vulnerability. I was admittedly relieved when she announced that her tumor was benign but ultimately grateful of her confession that she was lying to temporarily spare her husband. When 1 out of 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, it’s surprising it’s a story you don’t see more often on the small screen. Well surprising until you think of the dearth of tv shows with multiple dynamic female characters. So yeah, it’s going to be a painful story to deal with but it’s one I commend the show for going with and have faith they will do a beautiful job. I say that with confidence because of how the episode ended. In another (if not more) rare for tv situation, after the family discovers Xiomara is going to be battling for her life, they slowly drop to their knees in prayer. The earnest moment that seemed like the most natural reaction this family would have to the harrowing news brought me to tears for the 2nd time in the hour.

Jane the Virgin is one of those shows that at its lowest, my worst reaction is apathy. But it’s episodes like this that remind me of how much I do really care about these wacky fictional characters and why it ranks so high on the list of shows I adore. When so many plot lines seem fantastical, it’s the honest interactions with each other that ground it and endear me to it further. If I was trying to sell this show to someone who is skeptical that a telenovela can be relatable and affective, Chapter 77 would make a great pitch.

Side note: I had such a hard time this week narrowing down what frame from the show to use for the featured image. Petra as the Tooth Fairy was just too good to pass up but I thought I’d share my runners up.
Man I get so jealous every time they show those awesome star lights behind Mateo’s bed, but that “I’m watching you” gesture was too damn cute.