In the fifth episode of the fourth season of Jane the Virgin, Jane must accept a new reality about Adam; Rogelio resists; Rafael has regrets; and Luisa has enough. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of biphobia and general homophobia; for extended discussion of potential ableism, relating to hallucinations, psychosis, and general mental illness.
Oh, this episode. HOLY SHIT. There were a couple stressful plot twists at the end, but otherwise, this made me feel so GOOD? Which is a relief after how stressful the last episode was. Anyway, let me dive in!
Adam the Bicon
OUR RESIDENT BICON. OUR BI KING. And canonically so because IT WAS ACTUALLY STATED OUT LOUD. That’s a whole thing: How frequently media avoids saying the b-word. Not Jane the Virgin, though. Adam is bisexual. For a moment, I thought they were going to fall into this trope when Adam made that comment about labels, but the script does this interesting thing were Adam is allowed to express some hesitancy around labels while the dialogue still outright says bisexual. Because this is also a show centered around Jane, we do tend to see most of this filtered through her lens, but even then, I didn’t feel like this was to the detriment of the story. Instead,”Chapter Sixty-Nine” (nice) accomplishes two things. First, it does give Adam a voice to dispel some of the more common and insidious stereotypes about being bisexual, which also helps Jane understand his commitment to her. At the same time, this is a story about someone feeling uncomfortable out of ignorance.
I say that because at no point would I ever consider that Jane is a homophobic Catholic. If anything, her type of belief is honestly very in-line with the teachings of Jesus. She genuinely tries on a day-to-day basis to be a good person, to try to help those who need it, and to meet others with love and acceptance in her heart. She doesn’t always succeed, but she’s a flawed human. Even more specifically, she has generally felt like a supportive straight person; she’s never been like… actively bigoted?
But biphobia is a very specific thing, and while it certainly overlaps with homophobia in specific instances, I did appreciate that the show never conflated Jane’s struggle with Adam’s bisexuality with a more general sense of homophobia. Because that isn’t what happened here! It’s a part of it, sure, and speaking as a queer person myself, there was still elements of this that I deeply related to.
Let’s start from that place before I get into the stuff that deviates from my experience. I love that there’s a larger conversation happening right now about the notion of coming out. I’m going to call attention to a brilliant thing a fellow author said recently. George M. Johnson (author of the spectacular YA memior All Boys Aren’t Blue, GO GET IT) recently said on a panel I watched that (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) coming out is looking at this issue backwards. Queer folks are actually letting people IN. And I love how this shifts agency: queer people are making the decision to let people know who they are. It takes the focus off this homophobic society and puts it back on the person, the one who should be celebrated for stepping into their truth. And that’s what I was thinking about as Jane said she was bothered that Adam hadn’t told her before. Well, Jane, my initial question would have been: Did you do anything to make Adam feel safe to tell you the truth? Coming out in any form is a deeply personal thing, and queer folks have to balance so many different factors before they decide they’re safe enough to do it.
Actually, let’s take it beyond sexuality, too! I started coming out as nonbinary to friends years ago; I was privately exploring gender and pronouns well before I decided to say it aloud. That also meant that I would often have conversations with folks who would say shit about nonbinary, trans, or gender noncomforming people, and I instantly knew I couldn’t tell that person the truth. So, did Jane ever say something biphobic? Maybe not. But this decision is so deeply personal that it wasn’t fair for Jane to hold Adam to that specific standard. Coming out (or letting in, to borrow Johnson’s term) is ALWAYS supposed to be about the safety of the individual, not those that they tell.
Those of us who aren’t bi or pansexual (some people prefer that term) don’t always make it easy for people of that identity to feel safe. There’s so much invalidation that happens from straight people, like Jane’s question about whether bisexuality is just a stepping stone to being gay. There’s also an immense amount of gatekeeping within the queer community, too! Adam being reluctant to tell someone about his bisexuality is rooted in that reality.
Yet even when the truth is out there, Adam’s fears are basically proven true. Jane starts looking at him differently; she starts to wonder things that honestly ARE offensive. A bisexual person can make choices; they aren’t “confused” by which gender they want. A bisexual person can be polyam, or they can prefer monogamous relationships. And you know what? A bisexual person can identify with that term earlier in their life and then come to a different understanding of themselves later, and that does not invalidate their bisexuality or make it merely a “phase.” So I’m glad that when Adam expressed discomfort with how Jane treated him, the show didn’t portray him as an antagonist. It was very clear that Jane was the one who fucked up and needed to repair things with Adam.
That’s where I loop back to the ignorance thing: Jane behaved as she did because there was so much she didn’t know about being a bisexual man! Well, she also doesn’t know what it’s like being a bisexual woman, though… oh, holy subtext, this show sometimes toys with that? Both with her and Petra, and I’m like… one of you HAS to be queer, right? Also, SHE ALMOST MADE OUT WITH LINA. That whole scene was so queer and… okay, that’s a whole separate essay. Anyway: in a safe space, in a context that felt right to Adam, she asks him questions. She learns more about him, and she readjusts. That’s part of growing as a person, right? Realizing that what you thought you knew about the world isn’t quite true, and then accepting a new reality. And to me, that’s also a healthy basis for their relationship. She listened to him, and she seems very much willing to TRULY accept Adam for who he is. That acceptance goes beyond just saying it; she has to act like she believes it, and this felt like a good step in that direction.
It truly is an abomination that in this world, we expect women to bear the brunt of birth control, especially since there are so many easier and less complicated forms of it that focus on men. But… hi. Patriarchy! That, plus sex-shaming, plus puritanical politics, plus… well, it’s a lot. And Jane the Virgin can’t handle all of that in just forty-two minutes, but it does tackle the inherent unfairness that Xo deals with. She is expected to take birth control every day AND modify her sexual habits to accommodate their situation. What is Rogelio asked to do? Well.. pull-out. (Which gave rise to SO MANY good jokes in this episode, y’all. SO MANY!!!) So, not at all as complicated as what Xo has to do, nor does it affect him as being on the pill does for her either. Thus, she asks for HIM to finally do something: To get a vasectomy.
What’s interesting here is that I initially assumed that Rogelio’s problem with this would eventually be revealed as a desire to have more kids. Therefore, why get a vasectomy? I imagined this whole conflict unfolding over the season, and it got me STRESSED, but, as it turns out, I was anxious about something that was never going to happen in the first place. (My therapist is yelling in my head right now, y’all. I can hear her.)
No, this was more about Rogelio’s fear of aging. Given the industry that he is in, this fear is even more pronounced than it might be for someone his age. Booking parts requires him to keep up a certain standard, and as the years go by, keeping up that standard is becoming harder and harder.
Xiomara’s request started an unraveling within him. Obviously, this wasn’t the plot I was anticipating, but lord, it hit so hard? I am not that far from my 40s, and recent (and very understandable) events have kept the notion of my own mortality at the forefront of my mind. So I get this, Rogelio. I do! I am just glad that Rogelio and Xiomara were able to communicate about what was really bothering him and come to a decision they both feel good about.
I Told You So
There’s another scene in which familial communication proves pivotal. Hell, I’d actually say that most of “Chapter Sixty-Nine” (nice) deals with the positive effects of good conversations. Adam, Rogelio, Rafael, David, Luisa… important conversations are centerpieces of all these plots! For Rafael, who is both emotionally and literally wounded after KATHERINE’S ATTEMPTED MURDER ON HIM (seriously, why is no one freaked out about this part???), life is raw. And strange! And complicated! Despite that he wanted to believe that securing his shares through Katherine was a good idea, it’s hard to cling to that belief when you’re horribly banged up and back to living with your ex’s family after dramatically storming out the day before. Rafael is in a bad state, and you know what? It’s also clear that Luisa’s words hit him deeper than anything else. This was a wake-up call for him! Was he truly acting like his father? Was he so concerned about money, wealth, and power that he nearly threw away everything else in his life?
There’s a wonderful moment in all of this. It’s hard to know what to say to a person who is deeply upset, who is being vulnerable and pouring their heart out to you. But I love Jane’s reaction to Rafael’s sadness. She tells him it’s okay to feel unlucky, and it may seem like a small thing, but I adore that she doesn’t try to diminish how he’s feeling. That’s how she shows up for family: She gave Rafael the space to feel bad, rather than asking him to bottle it up OR to take it upon herself to lecture him. No, that’s not what he needed. I think this is also why Rafael is in a much better headspace regarding Luisa. Jane showed up for him, so he shows up for his sister, despite their history.
I just really like it when this show is about people who are trying their very hardest.
I am very upset by the reveal at the end of this episode because… jesus, what a fucked up thing to do to someone. They literally gaslit her! In the most spectacularly by-the-book way I’ve ever seen! I admit that I don’t know how Magda even knew what Luisa’s mental health issues were. Like… how was she able to manipulate her in such a targeted way? IT’S SO SPECIFIC.
It’s also cruel. I don’t think it takes away from some of the touching Rafael/Luisa moments in this episode, and I’m glad that Luisa is seeking help. But holy shit, all of this was a plan to isolate Luisa, gaslight her, and then steal the Marbella out from under her? Surely there is a provision in that contract that doesn’t allow someone who drugged her sister for months to be the owner of the hotel. OH GOD, THIS IS VERY BAD. A worse twist than I could have ever guessed! Can Magda go away forever?
I also worry about the unintended ways in which this might be harmful to people who have experienced hallucinations or a psychotic break. I mean… yes, it’s clear what Magda and Anezka have done is bad, and I don’t think the show is intending to say that Luisa’s mental health is a joke. Again, I just wanted her treated with the same sincerity as the other characters, and I hope she is with this plot, too.
David and Lina
Oh, I loved this whole plot. It was a delight seeing Lina again, first of all, and I miss her being a regular on the show. She’s so entertaining!!! But she doesn’t exist here just as comedic relief. (Though she still remains one of the most consistently funny characters on the show; bravo to Diane Guerrero!!!) There was a part of this plot that resonated with me because I tend to end up with partners who seem like opposites to me. I really do believe that at least in my case, I just fall for who I fall for. (Fun thing I’ve done: Retrace my past relationships with my therapist and what was going on in my life at the time I entered them. And by “fun,” I mean “excruciating.”) I have had close friends meet a partner for the first time and feel very confused because I so rarely date someone who seems to have a lot in common with me. But y’all: half an hour isn’t quite enough to be able to determine whether a person was good enough to marry. To her credit, I think Jane knew that the whole time. But she was torn! Did she help her very best friend with her doubts over David, or did she mind her business and just let them get married?
What unfolds is so much more chaotic than that, which I should have expected because this is Jane the Virgin, right? I have never attended a murder mystery dinner, and I thought it seemed wildly out of Lina’s interest, so I also didn’t get why David was so certain this was the best bachelor/bachlorette party to throw. For LINA??? Lina, who has partied harder than perhaps anyone else on the show?
Oh, I had this wrong. I really did. And when david revealed why the party was happening, both Jane and I realized at the same time that this had gone SO wrong, and it only got worse from there! Guess what could have solved it, though? A NICE CONVERSATION. I loved the callback to Jane’s night before her wedding to Michael because it was a reminder to Jane that she actually knew how to deal with this. She’d been through it before! This whole plot normalized doubt, and that’s what Lina needed. She needed to know that most couples experience doubt about their relationships. Lina simply had not had an outlet for hers until she was very, very late in the process. Thankfully, this was disastrous in many ways, but not an actual disaster in the end. I’m thrilled that Lina realized why she had come to love David so much.
And also… that scene… in the bathroom. WHEW. Queer. SO QUEER.
The video for “Chapter Sixty-Nine” (nice) can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– My second novel, EACH OF US A DESERT, is now out in the world!
– If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.