Jane the Virgin: S04E14, “Chapter 78”

Episode Grade: A-

There are so many things about Jane the Virgin to appreciate, but one reason that comes at the top of my list is that it’s populated by a diverse group of strong women. Jane, Petra, Xiomara, and Alba are all very different people who have some common bonds, but the biggest similarity in them is that they are all confident and assertive. But no one can be strong all the time, and this week’s installment excelled with showing all of them in a position of vulnerability, especially because they showed strength through that as well.

I’m going to start off discussing the fun story of the night. Frankly, I need a few minutes to stop being weepy and see the bright side of things: aka a smitten Petra. Despite Jane the Lawyer trying to brush her off, Petra is working up the resolve to call her one-time lover to admit her stronger feelings. Raf overhears her pep talk to herself, and immediately assumes the Jane she is speaking of is his Jane and he’s a little freaked out. I’d like to think it’s genuine concern that he’s going to lose his current girlfriend to his previous wife. And who wouldn’t, Petra is everyone’s type. It’s a misunderstanding that I anticipated being carried throughout the whole episode to get some sporadic giggles, but I am quickly proved wrong when Petra stops by to give Jane some borscht and Raf is acting all weird. For the record, I think “I would rather go to Chucky Cheese during flu season” would be way more hurtful than just “Ew” in regards to Petra’s response. She quickly clears the air and admits to the two that she has feelings for her former lawyer and it seems very honest to Petra’s character that it’s just mentioned so matter of factly. It’s quite endearing to see her all nervous and unsure of how to pursue a relationship, because she’s not used to having to put herself out there. As she says, she’s used to being the one pursued or in her case taken via kidnapping….twice. JR tries blowing her off at the romantic meal Petra planned, but apparently she’s into criminal behavior too, because once Petra wrecks her car stalking her, she’s into it. Well, she claims it’s because seeing Petra allowing herself to be vulnerable is a turn on. I’m not going to split hairs, cause frankly I’m too happy about this pair to care the reasons why.

Alright, that’s all the time we have for fun because this week’s episode picked up pretty much right where we left off: dealing with the gut punch that is Xo’s cancer diagnosis. It’s Stage 3, it’s invasive and it’s hard to detect. It’s not the most grim diagnosis but it’s not good news either. Xo does still have choices left in how she wants to treat it, but there’s a clock on how long she has to make those decisions. Her family sits down to dinner trying to dance their way around the elephant in the room before Xo opens up the topic for discussion. You can read it all over her face that she doesn’t like how they have all chosen the most aggressive treatment: a double mastectomy. I don’t want to say it’s easy for anyone in this situation, but it’s a lot easier to make those kinds of calls when it’s not your body that is going to have to be put through surgery and deal with the long term effects of it. Xiomara seems to concede to their wishes…right up to the point the plastic surgeon brings up nipple reconstruction.

Sensing Xo needed time and space to think more about her options, Rogelio sends her off to a trip to the spa with Jane. He doesn’t seem all too thrilled about staying behind to help out Alba, but he’s conditioned to playing 2nd fiddle to Jane when it comes to working out Xo’s problems. While trapped in a mud bath with guided meditation (I guess that’s a thing, although not my kind of thing), Xo hastily makes the decision to just get a lumpectomy since her body and her sexuality have been the keys to her confidence and she’s not willing to just let that go. Jane does not accept this and tries listing off the reasons her mom is wrong but Xo says exactly what she is thinking and it stops her daughter from continuing to make the situation more difficult “I’m not sure if I want to have elective surgery for your peace of mind”.

While the ladies are out having their spa day, Rogelio and Alba are out making preparations for Xo’s post-surgery recovery. When Ro steps away to take a call, the employee at the medical supply store makes the mistake of telling Alba “the patient” will be in a good deal of pain, she takes out her anger on him. Ro calls 6 therapists til he finds one shady enough to do a sabotage session, but this only pisses her off more. As it turns out, her anger isn’t just because of the futility she feels or worry for her daughter. She’s pissed at Rogelio because it appears he is still putting himself first, even when Xiomara needs him the most. However, that’s not the case as she discovers when a gift basket from River Fields shows up. He’s been working to delay the production of the series against the wishes of his manager. He just didn’t tell Alba that because the woman doesn’t know how to keep a secret. It’s a rare bonding moment for these two, and I hope it’s not the last heart to heart between the inlaws on the show. So often they exist on the periphery, so combining them and tying it to the central plot only enhances the strength of this episode.

With most of the adults dealing with Xo’s crisis, Raf’s time is spent looking after his son. Jane is upfront with him about what his abuela is going through and is scared as one would expect. Cancer is hard for anyone to process, but I’m glad the show is including the similarities and differences a child deals with the news. Like his elders, his first response is to pray, and like Jane, I had tears in my eyes as he pleaded to God. Raf, the atheist,is understandably worried about the stress his child is feeling thinking he can pray her back to good health and what will happen if it doesn’t work. He doesn’t want to crush his child’s beliefs so he helps Mateo understand that prayer is to give you strength to handle the challenges life gives you, not a workaround through God. Once again I have to hand it to the writers for knowing how to deal with secular and religious characters that doesn’t try to elevate one over the other. That you can have a family blended with different ideologies and still work through to achieve the same goals and remain bonded.

Speaking of bonds, the one between Ro and Xo becomes stronger than ever when she finally turns to him to determine what her next action will be. Jane might have always been her rock in the past, but Ro is now her husband and their futures are shared. It makes sense that the person with the 2nd most time with her chest should weigh in on how she moves forward. He doesn’t want the responsibility of choosing for her but he does want to be supportive. As fond as he is of “Lefty”, its nothing compared to the love he has for it’s owner and he just wants her around. I’m a little shocked the show didn’t do that little glowing hearts thing here, because mine was all a flutter watching their love, understanding and compassion for each other grow. Xo and Ro have a farewell party to her breast as she’s decided to opt for a single mastectomy and now we all play the waiting game to see what happens next.

I’m not sure what to make of that final ominous scene added at the end teasing about an evil man coming to town. It didn’t feel necessary at all to cap off the episode because I don’t know anyone who at this point in viewership needs a cliffhanger to motivate them to keep watching. Xo’s cancer story has served the writers in showing off their strengths as well as their character’s strength and I’m back to eagerly awaiting the next episode. It looks like we’ll have to two more weeks for the next installment. I guess I’ll go find some vapor rub and see if that helps me manage the pain of waiting.