In the sixteenth episode of the fifth season of Jane the Virgin, Jane panics about fact and fiction; Alba and Petra stand up for themselves; Rogelio helps River reconnect with her daughter. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma, mentions of abuse and manipulation.
Swapped at Birth
What is the line between fact and fiction when you’re a writer?
I love the odd coincidences that have happened in my life that have made watching this show so damn interesting to me. I’ve spoken a lot about my own experiences with publishing as an author (again, can’t speak to the experience of working IN publishing, but I suspect it’s not that great?), and here I sit, fully knowing that I had to re-write projects because my agents suggested they would land better. (He was right both times, for the record, since I had been rejected on said projects in their original forms, revised them, and both of them sold within weeks. MAGIC.) On top of this, I had a wonderful school visit a few days prior to me writing this review where one of the students asked how I dealt with fictionalizing real things in my work. How do you separate the two? How do you cope with people saying a story felt unrealistic when it actually happened?
So this very notion—which “Chapter Ninety-Seven” deals with—has been on my mind for a bit, and I love that I get to think about it in the context of Jane the Virgin.
Jane has to deal with this on two fronts, though. First, her new agent—Lily Lofton—runs through potential revisions before she sends the manuscript on submission. And it’s interesting, too, because I get where Lily was coming from and why she chose to highlight where the manuscript wasn’t working for her. While Lily appreciated the “realness” of the book, she still approaches it as a work of fiction. Thus, her suggestion to make it so that the villain swapped out the kid at birth has no personal ramifications for her, yet it sends Jane and Rafael into a very understandable spiral. What was fiction for one person was not for another. This whole plot was so damn stressful because, like Jane, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Look, to add to it, as an audience member, I knew shit Jane didn’t! There was this whole plot Rose was cooking up in the background, so maybe it WAS possible that swapping Mateo with another newborn was part of it. She’s that evil, you know? Plus, she plans for the longterm! Maybe she wanted leverage! I don’t know, MY MIND RAN WILD WITH THIS, OKAY.
Which is the whole point. Jane is already a deeply anxious character, but that anxiety was compounded by Rose hanging her dark cloud over everything. There’s a motif throughout this episode that centers on rewriting: Things don’t have to stay the same. I’ll talk more about the literal application of this in a bit, but in terms of Jane’s life with Rose, that’s why she was pushed to finally confront her. Jane’s fear of Rose had slipped into the background, yes, but it was always there, wasn’t it? Rose wasn’t out of their lives, especially since it appeared that Luisa was deliberately keeping her around in some form. So Jane re-wrote the script. She rewrote her own fear. Rather, she tried to, because… well, I’ll get to that in a bit.
But let’s visit that re-writing notion again, as well as talk about fiction versus fact. Jane’s first novel was based on her experience with Michael in large parts, though it was a fictionalization. It’s hard not to acknowledge, though, that Jane dealt with the difficulties of people reaction to her real-life experiences in dehumanizing ways. I’m thinking of that marketing meeting she had, as well as the trade review she got for her book. That shit is REAL. It’s the risk you take when you fictionalize actual life events, and I can’t say I know any solutions for most of the problems. I will say that I think that those who are aware of the autobiographical elements should approach them with care and respect, as that does wonders not to cause harm.
However, what happens if the subject of that fiction feels you’ve done a disservice to them? I really appreciated the complicated plot involving Alba and Jane; the script made it clear just how devastating and uncomfortable this was to both parties. Alba felt like her privacy was being violated. Even though the character in the book that represented her was fictional, I thought it was fair that Alba believed that people would still equate her with a character, especially since the character’s story was so close to her own. It was also devastating to Jane because it meant a full rewrite on a book that was so close to being ready for submission. Shit, not just that, but rewriting the character had the potential to undo the whole novel and its themes. Yet I believe that it was the right choice of Jane to respect her abuela. The script makes that clear, too, that while this was uncomfortable, Alba shouldn’t be demonized for what she chose.
At the same time, THE JORGE TWIST. Oh, shit, of COURSE. Because that is genuinely a thing that lots of undocumented people in the US go through: the fear of being known by the state. That fear affects so much of what they do, and I’ve seen it in action! So of course Alba would feel protective of who she is, and I appreciate that Jorge respectfully engaged the conversation with Alba about how their lives have changed. They don’t always have to be afraid like they used to be! UGH, THAT WHOLE SCENE BROKE ME, I LOVED IT SO MUCH.
River and Pond
Well, I’m glad that the writers had Pond openly talk about how utterly absurd this all was, because that what a long way into making this feel a lot more charming than it could have been. Because holy shit, this was WEIRD. It wasn’t what I expected, which isn’t a bad thing. I assumed this plot would feature multiple attempts by Rogelio to get Pond to warm up to her mother. However, in hindsight? I actually get why this unfolded as it did. That video of River’s acceptance speech… yeah. It changed everything. And instead of being overly persistent and insensitive about it, Rogelio saw what River did, and he stopped trying to convince Pond to change her mind. Because that shit was BAD. Seriously, she thanked and professed her love to her agent and publicist, but not her daughter? No wonder Pond felt invisible! No wonder she was embarrassed! WHO WOULDN’T BE IN THIS CONTEXT. That’s a soul-crushing thing to experience. So I’m glad that the show didn’t make excuses here: River fucked up. River absolutely made her daughter feel like she didn’t matter. And until Rogelio came up with the re-write idea—inspired by Jane’s re-write—I actually wondered if Rogelio would be unable to help repair this relationship.
Again, I have to state that his solution is well-meaning but INCREDIBLY weird, especially inviting back Pond’s middle-school friends without asking her? Like, here were three people she hadn’t spoken to in FIFTEEN YEARS suddenly back in her life? That’s… so weird, y’all. I don’t know how else to put it. And can you imagine how deeply uncomfortable it must have been for them to watch this all unfold???
Still, I understood what it meant for Pond: Her mother went out of her way to not only apologize for what she’d done, but to attempt to make it right, and I think that counts a lot towards the emotional arc we see here. It was the only way for the audience to truly believe that Pond was willing to start talking to her mom again. Of course, there had to be a twist, and lord, what a painful one it was. New York? The show is moving to New York??? No!!! Xiomara JUST started school, she’s going to need support, THIS IS A DISASTER. I mean, the flight between Miami and NYC isn’t that bad (I’ve done it a few times), but still. That would take so much time away from the two of them. Whose dream takes precedence? How do you make a compromise like this? WHY MUST THIS SHOW BE SO CRUEL.
GOD I HATE MAGDA. AND I WILL CONSTANTLY SAY IT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Could she just… not??? Please, please, PLEASE let this be the last we see of her! Because I hate that every time that something good happens in Petra’s life, BAM. THERE SHE IS. Ready to ruin it all so she can get money for… literally nothing. Like, I truly believe our capitalist hellscape of an existence has ruined all of us and I hate that we are all expected to work ourselves to death, but also PLEASE GET A JOB MAGDA. Stop trying to manipulate your daughter as a means of survival!!! what the FUCK!!!!
However, the reason I enjoyed this plot was because the writers chose to give closure to someone else: ALBA. In a BRILLIANT move, they finally decided to close the loop on a plot left open for YEARS at this point: Magda’s attempted murder of Alba. After all of Magda’s schemes, after all her abuse and manipulation and toxicity, if THIS is how she finally disappears? I will be so happy. Because Magda saw Alba as necessary collateral damage, and she tried to kill her, and, frankly, she got off easy after what happened. So there’s a poetic brilliance in the fact that in the very same fucking stairwell, Alba goads Magda into confessing, films it, and finally has the means to get some sort of justice out of the entire affair. It’s been so nightmarish seeing Magda walking around the Marbella AFTER SHE NEARLY KILLED SOMEONE. And now, she is afraid: Afraid that she may have gone too far, afraid that someone could take her freedom from her, afraid that all the chickens will come home to roost.
I hope she’s gone, and good fucking riddance.
WELL, GUESS I HAVE TO EAT MY WORDS. You know, since I talked about how I felt like Luisa was falling into the same story patterns again? I mean, she was! Except that was intentional because HOLY SHIT, THE ENTIRE THING WAS A MEANS OF WORKING WITH THE AUTHORITIES TO TAKE DOWN ROSE. So many things that felt inconsistent or strange before make sense: Luisa helped the cops get to Rose’s money source; they nearly stopped her escape; they capture all her associates, though Bobby is now dead. However… fuck. What does this mean for everyone else? Clearly, Rafael and Luisa need to have a conversation, since she risked her relationship with Raf in order to take down Rose, and I expect some apologies are needed, as well as a lot of honesty. But Jane’s worries about Rose just got worse. Rose is free! Who knows what she’s willing to do to protect herself? GREAT, MORE THINGS TO BE ANXIOUS ABOUT.
The video for “Chapter Ninety-Seven” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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