In the seventeenth episode of the first season of Jane the Virgin, everyone copes with what it means to love. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief/death, anxiety
Oh, y’all, this episode was just stunning. I loved the way that the writers were able to unite FOUR plots all around a single theme while still pushing the narrative forward. LET’S TALK.
Is Love Enough?
For those of us who experience this type of romantic love, “Chapter Seventeen” elaborates on a very real conflict. In a general sense: what does love allow? What are we willing to tolerate because we are in love with someone? Specifically, though, this story is about Jane’s struggle with motherhood and how her love for Rafael doesn’t solve the problems she is going through. When you contrast this with the Xiomara/Rogelio storyline, it’s even more glaring: Rafael seems to be using the fact that being in love with Jane will ultimately solve everything.
As I mentioned on video, I think I’ve reached that age where a huge swath of my friends have all decided to have children. Like… I’m sitting here and counting, and I’ve gotten to NINETEEN pregnancies in my extended friend group. I have also witnessed and assisted many of them through THIS EXACT crisis that we see Jane go through. Do they want a doula? A hospital birth? Breastfeeding? Bottle feeding? All these questions complicate matters, and I actually recall a friend of mine—who struggles with depression and anxiety—telling me that she wishes there weren’t ANY resources online. She felt overwhelmed by all the “answers.” I put that in quotes because she showed me exactly what she meant: A parent-to-be could ask a question about their child, and there would be two completely conflicting answers that were “backed up” with science and studies. It’s not possible for both answers to be right, and yet, there was almost no way to determine which one was correct!
The show has already established Jane’s anxiety, so this episode takes particular care to show how she deals with all these complicated questions. She panics. At the same time, Jane the Virgin does not let Jane suffer alone. One of the most beautiful things about the show is how well it depicts family as community and support. Like, I know I’m jumping ahead in the story, but that image of three generations of Latinx mothers sitting on the stoop… it’s fucking powerful. So while Jane is trying her hardest, I’ve loved that she has historically turned to her abuela and her mother for support. Jane often needs an outside voice to rein her in, to temper some of her worst tendencies and remind her that while it’s not bad to care and be thoughtful, she can sometimes veer into harmful territory.
This is, for me, precisely why Rafael’s behavior in this episode is so grating and bad. This is not something that you can just apologize for and then move on. At almost every key point, Rafael prioritizes the hotel. Yes, it’s an important responsibility, but what he’s doing is so deeply, deeply unfair to Jane. Again, he tells her a lot that he loves her when she brings up his inability to commit time and help to her. He says that they will figure this all out, but look how he figures this shit out here! He puts all the responsibility on Jane. ALL OF IT. He expects her to solve things and he’ll just approve it from a distance or grant her a little bit of his time. And even that time isn’t sacred!!!
I brought up the differences between Rafael and Jane before, and “Chapter Seventeen” demonstrates an unfortunate reality: Rafael still believes that there are plenty of circumstances in which his business is more important than this child. He put his business first over and over again, then overextended, then made a bad, bad call, and I’m worried. I AM SO WORRIED. How can he be a present and supportive father if he keeps thinking that if he covers the financial part, all will be fine? I mean… he comes from money. He believes that if he throws money at a problem, he can solve it.
So, the question is there: Is saying you love someone enough?
No. You have to demonstrate that love, too. And that goes for all types of love, not just romantic.
The First Time
This episode got me thinking about my first times. I’ve told friends I love them quick, and I have a pretty low threshold for that. But I’m like Rogelio, in the sense that telling a romantic partner that I love them is a BIG deal for me. It still is. I have only said that to four men in my whole life, and the first one… in hindsight, that wasn’t love at all. It was infatuation.
It also means that like Xiomara, I have a lot of anxiety around when to say it. Generally speaking, I tend to take a long time to fall in love with a person; I go years in between relationships; I am a very picky person and I have high standards for myself about who I am vulnerable with. (Except on the Internet, I tell y’all EVERYTHING lmao.) There are exceptions; I fell for Baize three months after the end of my previous relationship, and I told him I loved him in a grocery store two days before I left for that big-ass tour I did in Europe for a month. I had a different anxiety about that one, though: I was afraid that if I told him too soon, he would be scared away.
I’m very thankful that wasn’t the case.
It’s a complicated dance, and those of us who have dealt with this know how fraught it is. While Xiomara is not exactly averse to conflict, I find it very fulfilling that she’s written as someone who is loud, sure of herself, and confrontational… sometimes. She has areas that frighten her, that make her so uncomfortable that she can’t speak them aloud. So she goes the passive route with Rogelio, trying to get him to say what she wants without being direct. Rogelio is… not the most observant person on the planet??? That feels like an understatement, ha! But he does not pick up what other people put down unless they spell it out, which is why Xiomara’s game fails so spectacularly.
At least Rogelio was honest about his feelings, though. As much as it hurt for Xiomara to not hear “I love you” back—and I had that happen to me once, IT’S REALLY HARD—at least there’s a path forward. And y’all… I just HAVE to see Rogelio’s mom. What is she like? Is this gonna be one of those situations where as soon as I meet her, Rogelio will make complete sense? I’M SO EXCITED.
The other half of this episode contains subplots on the notion of love, but the two are post-relationships. What do you with love that lingers beyond the end of a relationship? HI, HELLO, I FEEL ATTACKED BY ALL OF THIS. Like… welcome to my last two relationships! In Michael’s case, his love for Jane has been established firmly since the break-up. His fling with Nadine isn’t based on a romantic desire, and the truth is what he expresses to Rogelio directly: He doesn’t think Rafael and Jane will last, so he’s just waiting it out.
As someone who spent most of 2019 waiting… hi. No. Nope. Do not recommend. Zero stars on Yelp. It’s painful, it’s harmful, and maybe it was wrong that Rogelio didn’t tell Michael his true feelings about Rafael. At the same time, Michael did need to hear that waiting for someone to fall back in love with them was a bad, bad idea.
Of course, this is all complicated by the presence of Andie. Initially, I just thought that this was an unfortunate coincidence, one that would be very uncomfortable once Jane and Andie put two and two together. Except… Andie knows exactly who Jane is??? WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
I admit that I am really starting to warm up to Petra as a character. Separated from the drama of her mother, without the specter of Milos hanging over every scene (where the fuck is he???), Petra is trying her best to forge a new life. Yes, it’s a new life in a place overflowing with memories of her past relationship, and that shit is TOUGH. I’m finally in a place of my own, and I still feel taunted by the past. I can’t imagine the challenge of having to work so closely with your ex like this, to have reminders everywhere. But Petra is trying!
One thing I appreciate about this episode is that it gives Petra the space to come to a sad but necessary conclusion: She is still not over Rafael, and that means she can’t try to be with another person romantically. Hi, again, I feel deeply called out. I’ll be honest with y’all: This is me. I’m still in love with my ex, and he’s not even alive anymore. I tried dating last year, and I couldn’t do it. My heart wasn’t in it.
And in Petra’s case, it’s not like she’s in a new town or job, and she can start to create new memories and associations and attachments. This is all mixed up in the past, and I’m glad she was honest with herself about that. It’s hard to turn down affection or sex when you’re lonely and single and that’s something you want. But Petra is putting her mental and emotional health first, and I really liked the depiction of that.
It’s also why the big twist at the end is so clever. Petra is in a place where the past is too close to home, and so, the writers give her a temptation that is LITERALLY the past. BECAUSE THAT’S NOT AARON. IT’S ROMAN. I genuinely do not understand what’s going on here??? Did that mean that Aaron was murdered at the party???? HOW. WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?
The video for “Chapter Seventeen” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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