Jane the Virgin 4x14 “Chapter Seventy-Eight”
Jane the Daughter
Sam: After last week’s episode ended with Xiomara finding out she has breast cancer and a truly moving scene between the Villanueva family where they pray for her, this episode begins the process of establishing life after the fact.
Cancer is not a subject to ever be treated lightly or superficially so it’s safe to assume that this episode and the ones that follow will be especially emotionally heavy, and boy, did this one deliver on that front. Instead of the usual three or four storylines that this show usually juggles at once, nearly every character is drawn into the big Xiomara plotline, with a small side plot continuation of the Petra/JR drama. This episode marked Justin Baldoni’s (Rafael) debut as a director, and I think it’s safe to say he knocked it out of the park!
Michaela: I loved the switch-up of the Narrator’s oft-used line “straight out of a telenovela, right?” to “straight out of a telenovela remade for American audiences, right?” both referencing Rogelio’s show’s remake and the fact that this show, Jane the Virgin, is also telenovela remade for American audiences.
We open with 4-year-old Xiomara (who is utterly adorable, by the way) in bed, telling Alba that she doesn’t feel good. Alba whips out a blue jar with a green lid, telling Xo that it’s a magic healing potion that’s been passed down from one generation of Villanueva women to another. It worked on any ailment Xo ever had — until she got pregnant, that is. And now, with Xo staring down the reality of her breast cancer diagnosis, Vicks VapoRub doesn’t look like it will do much good anymore.
Sam: I feel like Vicks VapoRub being a cure to all ailments is a universal experience!
Michaela: In the present, Xo, Rogelio, and Jane sit in the doctor’s office, discussing treatment options. Well, Jane is discussing the treatment options, notebook and pen in hand. Every time Rogelio starts to speak, Jane heads him off with another question, while Xo sits in silence. She tells the doctor she’ll think about which treatment option to choose, and the three head home. I love the camera angle they use through the car window as they drive home, with the reflection of the trees and sky overlaying Xo’s face, and Jane’s directly beside and behind hers, showing very clearly how Jane always has her mother’s back. As they drive, Rogelio’s agent calls, but Ro declines, telling Xo that he’s going to push production on his pilot. Xo refuses to let him do that, saying that life has to go on.
Sam: After discovering that Krishna was Petra’s blackmailer last episode and JR and Petra have no reason to work together anymore, Petra was pulled back into the main plotline in a way that, impossibly, lightened the overall tone. There were points at which I laughed out loud moments after having my heart in my throat for what Xo was going through, and then feeling bad for laughing because of what Xo was going through. I really appreciate Jane the Virgin for still going there, though, because this show isn’t This Is Us; it’s a dramedy, not a drama that focuses on ripping your heart out week after week.
Aside from that though, I think the emphasis on Petra’s ridiculous situation(s) with Jane(s) emphasized that even when one is going through a tough time, there are still other things going on, and that in the midst of those situations, it’s still okay to laugh. Like Rafael told Jane, “Hey, you gotta give her credit. She took your mind off your mom for a minute.”
Right, so what is going on with Petra? She has truly become smitten with JR in a thoroughly un-Petralike way, and after the official end to the case, is trying to think of a reason to get back in contact with JR.
Michaela: Rafael stops by Petra’s suite to let her know the news about Xo, but overhears her rehearsing in a mirror a declaration of love to Jane. Not knowing she’s talking about her lawyer, Rafael freaks out a little — why is his ex-wife trying to steal his girlfriend?! Petra settles on sending a “just checking in” text to JR, and Rafael goes out to the living room and pretends he just got there and didn't hear anything. When Petra hears the news, she looks absolutely crushed, and asks Rafael what she can do for Jane. At his weird look, she protests that while she might not show it much, she does care deeply about Jane.
Sam: Rafael takes it upon himself to remind Petra that he and Jane are in a romantic relationship, and later watches with all sorts of discomfort after Petra shows up at the Villanueva household with a pot of borscht and tells Jane that she’s “been thinking about you nonstop since I heard the news.” While Petra struggles to compose a chill text to JR, Rafael tells Jane what he overheard and Jane asks Petra flat out: “Do you have romantic feelings for me?”
Petra’s disgust at this idea is over the top and hilarious, and she comes clean (in a rather surprisingly forward way) and tells Jane and Rafael that her crush is on Jane Ramos and “that’s exactly why I call her JR!”
Meanwhile, although Xo herself hasn’t come to a decision yet, everyone else in her family has: they all think she should get a double mastectomy. As Jane says, it would drastically reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Xo agrees and schedules the surgery, but at the consultation the next day she becomes overwhelmed by all the ins and outs, especially the particulars of reconstruction. Rogelio suggests that they have a spa day to help her relax, but to his chagrin Xo asks Jane to go with her to the spa instead of him.
Michaela: At the spa, Jane and Xo are laying neck-deep in tubs of mud as a therapist walks through the rows leading some sort of meditation. She tells the women to appreciate and honor their bodies, as they’re the only ones they’ll ever get. As the therapist goes on about how our bodies never give up on us, Xo gets more and more uncomfortable. Jane notices Xo’s discomfort, and Xo tells her that she just wants to have a lumpectomy rather than a bilateral mastectomy — she loves her boobs, her body has never given up on her, and she doesn’t want to give up on it. Her body makes her who she is.
When the woman was talking about thanking your body for all it’s done for you, and how it never gives up, like Xo, it kind of hit me in the gut. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it never really gets easier to hear. Healthy people worship their bodies in a weird way. They talk about thanking their bodies for keeping them strong, saying we should appreciate all the hard work our bodies do. But honestly? My body is a pile of rusty nuts and bolts, held together by old fraying rubber bands! I mean, I do appreciate my body and the things it can do, but the whole body-worship thing is so weird to me. Especially considering that literally anyone on this earth can lose their health suddenly.
Even in the body positivity movement, so much of it is focused around what our bodies can do — phrases like “it doesn’t matter what you weigh, so long as you’re healthy!” and “your body may not be perfect, but it lets you dance and run and be free!” are thrown around like confetti. And the reality of the situation is that I will never be healthy, no matter what I weigh or look like, and neither will many others. The relationship sick people have with their bodies is so different from the relationship healthy people have, and I really appreciate the show’s tackling of this subject. Since Andrea Navedo has Hashimoto’s disease, a chronic autoimmune disease, I’m sure she’s drawing on her experiences with her own body image to flesh out Xo’s body image struggles. Xo has always liked her body and felt good about it, but now it’s betrayed her, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Xo clambers out of the mud (which looks suspiciously like chocolate pudding) with Jane hot on her heels. Back in the locker room, Xo tells Jane that she’s always had a different relationship with her body than Jane has — she likes her boobs, she likes her body, and she likes showing it off. She doesn’t want to have elective surgery just for Jane’s peace of mind. Jane realizes that she’s right; it’s Xo’s decision, even though Jane and everyone else in the family are scared.
Sam: While Jane and her mother are at the spa, Rogelio and Alba go to the medical supply store to get the supplies needed for after the surgery. I love when these two have scenes together — they both love Xo so much but in vastly different ways, and in this episode they clash a bit over the best way to take care of Xo (especially Alba who, as a mother, thinks that Rogelio isn’t doing enough).
Rogelio sees that Alba is struggling (as the narrator says, there is nothing worse than having a sick child) and suggests that she talk to a therapist, but Alba is fiercely against this idea. So instead, Rogelio has a therapist join him and Alba for lunch. Alba is none to happy about this and, after making the therapist leave, she confronts Rogelio about the real reason she’s upset with him: she doesn’t think he’s taking Xo’s situation seriously enough. He’s still focused on his career despite everything, and look how his promise to stay home and take care of Baby turned out. Alba is not going to sit idly by and let Rogelio bail on Xo too.
Alba is in for a surprise though, when River Fields’ assistant shows up with a gift basket for Xo. Alba finds out that Rogelio had told everyone about Xo last week, and had postponed production on the remake indefinitely.
Michaela: “And that’s when Alba realized that River Fields wasn’t the only one who’d suffered an unfair browbeating,” says the Narrator. She asks Rogelio why he hadn’t told her, and he tells her that she’s not the best at keeping secrets — she tells Xo everything, and he didn’t want her to feel that pressure. Alba apologizes to him, and Rogelio tells her that he’s there for her whenever she needs an “extremely handsome and firm punching bag.”
Sam: Rogelio is generally such a self-absorbed character that I love moments like this for him; because while Rogelio is self-absorbed, he’s also extremely caring, so it makes perfect sense that he’d put his whole life on hold to be there for his wife, and it also makes sense that Alba would assume he’d be too wrapped up in work to give Xo the attention she deserves. One thing I thought this episode did really well was explore facets of character’s personalities and relationship dynamics we don’t usually get to see. Alba and Xo are often on contentious footing, but here we see just how deeply Alba cares about her daughter. Rogelio is very full of himself, but more than capable of putting that all aside for someone he loves. And later in the episode, we see different sides of Rafael’s relationship with his son and Xiomara, and even a different facet of Xiomara’s relationship with Jane.
Michaela: In a much lighter vein, Petra comes to Rafael for some advice on texting with JR, since their case is over and they have no reason to spend more time together. She babbles about her feelings for 45 minutes before Rafael can get a word in edgewise, but he encourages her to meet up with JR and talk about her feelings in person, not over text. Woo her, with flowers, candles, and a romantic dinner! So Petra sets up a dinner on a balcony with a bouquet of roses and lots of candles, and has JR come over. JR doesn’t know what to make of the setting, as she thought they were having a work meeting. Petra chickens out on sharing her feelings, and claims she was just trying to get JR back into bed with her. JR tells her that they’re not right for each other— they’re both way too manipulative, and besides, Petra isn’t JR’s type.
JR has to leave for a date, and next thing we know, Petra is following her in the car. She pulls up to a restaurant, wondering what kind of woman is JR’s type, and sees her with a tall blonde — just like Petra! She tries to drive away, but accidentally reverses into the car behind her, drawing everyone’s attention. Including JR’s. JR confronts her about following her, and Petra finally tells her that she’s never done this before — she doesn’t obsess about what she’s wearing, or over-analyze texts, or stalk anyone! Instead, she’s the one who gets stalked and has even been kidnapped twice. Petra says she has no idea what’s going on with her, except that she likes JR, clearly.
Petra, wallowing in sadness, is eating pickles in bed (wearing yoga pants and a t shirt!) when her doorbell rings. She opens it to find JR, who tells her that she was impressed by what Petra said and did at the restaurant. “Vulnerable Petra is way hotter than ice queen Petra.” Petra confesses that she really likes JR, and it looks like she’s finally getting her wish as the two kiss.
Sam: While I am a fan of Petra and JR and think they are right for each other (JR says manipulative, I say cunning, and at least with JR Petra is unlikely to have to worry about being judged, the way she is by Jane and Rafael), I’m not sure if I liked the way this played out. JR coming back to Petra after Petra had been stalking her rubbed me the wrong way a bit, and I’m also not a huge fan of the person Petra is around JR. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hilarious seeing Petra become this nervous, blabbery mess when it comes to all things JR, but it’s not Petra. Hopefully she finds that commanding part of herself again, and JR is still interested when she does.
Michaela: While visiting Rafael at his apartment, Mateo asks if they can go to church despite it not being Sunday, so he can pray so that Xo won’t die. Rafael, being agnostic, has no idea how to counter that idea, but Jane can’t talk, since she’s in the spa, but she’s sure he can explain to Mateo that that’s not how prayer works.
Mateo raised an interesting question: why do we pray? God isn’t a magical wish-granting genie, as Mateo first thinks. He’s sure that if he just prays enough, God will take his abuela’s cancer away, and that’s a lot of pressure for such a little boy. When I was younger, I had the same sort of questions — if God is omniscient, why do we need to pray? I mean, we’re basically telling him what we want to happen, and he already knows what we want. And he already knows what’s going to happen, so can our prayers really change anything? Rafael, having never been religious, has a hard time explaining it to him, but he does a great job in the end, concluding that prayer is something we can take comfort in, and it can make you feel “brave like a lion.” Prayer also helps us to connect with God and align with his will; as one of the most well-known theologians, CS Lewis, said, “[Prayer] doesn’t change God — it changes me.”
Sam: I really, really liked the way the show handled this aspect. As an atheist myself, I tensed up a bit when Mateo asked his father why we pray — because honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question. The way Rafael put aside his own beliefs to explain this concept to Mateo reminded me a bit of the Tooth Fairy plotline from last week (to quote Jane, “in a way that is kind of the same but really not similar at all”) in that the most important thing was to keep Mateo’s own beliefs intact, while impressing upon him that no matter what happened, he would not be at fault for what happened to Xiomara. It’s a tough line to walk, especially for someone who’s not religious.
Rafael telling Mateo that prayer can make you “feel brave like a lion” was adorable, and a great callback to 4x07, which gave us more insight into the relationship Rafael had built with his son. And I loved seeing Rafael teaching his son how to pray and even joining in him, despite not believing in the power of prayer himself.
Michaela: At home, Jane is upset because Xo doesn’t seem to understand Jane’s point of view — that having a more aggressive surgery now is a good thing in the long run — but Rafael stops her and reminds her that he’s been where Xo is, and that what she needs to do is understand Xo’s point of view. “Whatever you need to do to process this, do it. And leave your mom some space for her feelings.”
Sam: I know we didn’t have enough time last week to get out a review of the previous episode, but one of the notes I had for it was confusion that Rafael was being kept completely separate from Xo’s plot — to the point where I wasn’t even sure if Jane had told him what was going on — when, as a cancer survivor himself, he surely had a valid viewpoint on the matter.
This episode delivered me exactly what I asked for; first Rafael uses his own experience with cancer to tell Jane that “it’s not your job to make Xo understand your point of view. It’s your job to understand hers”; later, Rafael and Xo share a rare scene together while he reminds her that he has been through cancer too, and that she’s not alone.
Remembering that Rafael has been through the same experience allows Xo to open up about how it “feels like she’s in a movie or something” and that it’s so stressful to make life-changing decisions when she’s barely able to process her own diagnosis. The fact that everyone else has an opinion on what she should do doesn’t make it easier, and so Rafael tells Xo the same thing he told Jane: to clear out the noise and make space for her own feelings.
Michaela: Like Xiomara, I had somehow forgotten that Rafael was a cancer survivor, so I was really happy to see it brought up and have them bond over it. We don’t see those two together a whole lot, but I have a feeling he’s going to become one of her rocks as she goes through this journey.
Sam: As Jane and Xiomara both listen to Rafael’s advice separately, we’re treated to one of the most beautiful, heartrending scenes the show has ever done, a montage that overlays Jane writing about her mother and reflecting on all the times they’ve been there for each other, and Xiomara reflecting on her life as she looks at clothes she’s worn at significant or memorable times.
I was almost in tears watching Jane write about her mother — the relationship between these two (as well as Alba) has always been at the very core of the show; they’ve been through so much together, as was beautifully highlighted in the montage. My favourite thing about this scene, though, was how it perfectly flipped the perspective of Jane always being there for Xiomara (it was explained many times, especially in the show’s first season, how Jane was often more mature than her mother and would take on the motherly role in their relationship) to show that in most of those cases, Xo was actually being there for Jane, just in her own way.
I’m a sucker for familial relationships, especially those between mother and daughter, so seeing the history of Jane and Xiomara laid out against the backdrop against this current difficult situation was just...a lot.
Michaela: At the end, Xo knows who she needs to talk to about her decision: her husband. Rogelio is surprised, since she’s always relied so heavily on Jane. She tells him that for most of her life, she’s been a single mother who used her body to attract men — it’s where her confidence came from and how she defined herself. And it’s hard to think about letting those things go. But she’s realized that none of the things that defined her before define her now. She’s a wife now — his wife — and she wants to decide on a treatment plan with him, since it will affect him, too. Rogelio assures her that she’ll still be sexy if she gets the double mastectomy; after all, he believes “sexiness is a state of mind.” Together, they discuss how each treatment could affect their lives, and come to a decision: to get a single mastectomy.
She wants to have a “proper send off” for her breast, and Jane jumps in with ideas, but Xo heads her off, pointing out that it’s more of a husband-and-wife thing. Old habits die hard.
So Rogelio writes and reads aloud a farewell letter to Xo’s left breast, finishing by saying that as much as he loves it, he loves Xo more. I love how they have the perfect height difference for a sweet forehead kiss as the scene closes. Xo comes over to see Alba, and tells her that she’s confident she made the right decision, but is nervous for her surgery the next day. Jane joins them, and Alba breaks out the Vicks VapoRub — it can’t hurt, right? As the three take turns rubbing it into each other’s shoulders, we cut to a shot of boot-clad feet striding down a wet street, as the Narrator tells us that the magic of Vicks VapoRub can’t stop evil from coming…
Sam: There was a lot going on in this episode, and I think they handled it really well, striking the perfect balance between levity and weightiness. At first, the episode deals with everyone’s reactions to the news: Rogelio wants to put everything on hold, Jane commits to research so that she’ll have the most informed opinion, Alba wants to provide everything she possibly can to help heal her daughter and lashes out at Rogelio, who in her view isn’t doing enough — even Petra brings over that pot of borscht.
Ironically, Xiomara’s own voice is the one that is missing most in the beginning, but in the end everyone comes together to realize that Xiomara’s voice is the only one that matters. I'm nervously anticipating the results of Xiomara's surgery and subsequent treatment and, of course, finding out who belongs to those pair of boots.
Jane the Virgin returns Friday, April 6 at 9/8c on The CW.