Jane the Virgin Recap: Season 5, Episode 15, “Chapter Ninety-Six”

Five seasons ago she was Jane the Virgin; now, Jane Villanueva not only has a child of her own, but is also preparing for yet another new role: Jane the Stepmom.

It’s to the writers room’s credit to seamlessly develop a blended family between Jane, Rafael, and Petra to the point where I sometimes forget that Petra’s twins are Rafael’s twins, too. Jane wants the girls to feel like equal members of their new family, so she goes about making sweeping changes. She places photos of Anna and Elsa on Rafael’s bookshelf. She requires that Rafael buys two extra dining room tables so that the girls don’t have to eat on folding chairs when they visit their father’s home. Jane wants to spend one-on-one time with each of them, individually, so that they can begin building their own independent relationship. When Petra asks for a little extra help watching the twins after school, Jane jumps at the chance.

We haven’t spent a lot of time with Jane and the twins separate from their mother; it’s exciting to see Jane the Virgin still finding new relationship dynamics to spark and play with in its final episodes. Petra’s big book of guidelines for babysitting the twins puts even Jane “Queen of the Lists” Villanueva to shame; their therapist says that strict boundaries help them feel loved and cared for. Without them, Elsa and Anna are prone to lying and manipulation, which any fan of JR Ramos (Rosario Dawson, I still miss you!) can attest to. Their first playdate goes well enough, minus a small iPad violation. When Jane tells Petra about the girls slight crossing of the line, she asks her best friend for privacy. She’s trying to build a trusting relationship with the twins, and that won’t work if they believe she runs to tell their mom every tiny thing.

Of course, Petra tells the girls anyway because she has to discipline them. That leads to the girls completely shutting down during their next playdate – “Snitches get stitches, Auntie Jane!” – and running away. A customer at the Marbella witnesses their rude behavior and asks Jane if she’s their nanny, and if so, can she please punish them.

Photo by Kevin Estrada. Courtesy of The CW.

[Insert record scratch] Excuse me? I’m sorry, just because Jane’s a brown-skinned Latina that doesn’t mean that she’s the nanny of the two little white girls that she’s with. Gina Rodriguez’s double take is priceless; the privilege of white assumptions reigns again, but it’s surprisingly when Anna and Elsa jumps in that simultaneously gives the scene weight and humor. “How dare this stranger assume that Jane’s their nanny just because she’s Latina?” they thought, with their tiny faces steeled into perfect Petra-like disdain. It’s obvious that she’s their “evil stepmother” instead!

Later, when an elaborate last-ditch effort to get Jane’s (finally!) finished novel into the hands of Isabel Allende’s literary agent almost leaves Jane caught by the building’s security guard, the twins come to her defense. Once again hilariously mimicking their best bratty, satirized versions of themselves, they pretend to be the daughters of an executive on the top floor. When the guard asks Jane what her relationship is to the pint-size terrors, she pauses to consider her options before laying it on thick: “I’m their nanny!”

The bit works precisely because of the ground already covered by the racist Marbella guest earlier in the episode. After the guard walks away, Jane explains to the girls, “It’s OK that I told him that I’m your nanny because I used his bias against him; it’s subversive. Do you know what that means?” And of course they do, because they aren’t idiots Auntie Jane! Still, pointing out the elegantly laced power play for the audience certainly doesn’t hurt.

Jane The Virgin “Chapter Ninety-Six” photo by Kevin Estrada. Courtesy of The CW.

Unfortunately, Isabel Allende’s agent passes on Jane’s novel. She tells Rafael that this is the sign she’s been waiting for, that it’s time for her to let writing become her hobby and find another way to provide for their family. She’s distraught over the decision, crying even though she promises Raf that it’s OK. Then Mateo – extra cute now that he’s lost his two front teeth – calls out to his mom to comfort her. He tells her he loves her book, and to punctuate his point he then reads out loud from the first page: “Our Story Begins.”

In this season’s eighth episode, “Chapter Eighty-Nine,” I mentioned how much I admired the storytelling decision to have Mateo struggle with his reading. Love for the written word has always been a major part of Jane the Virgin, so having Mateo be disinterested in books was a bold move. That narrative choice pays off majorly as a smile of accomplishment widens across Mateo’s face. Jane leaps over the back of the couch – at long last her son is reading, and it’s her own book! This moment was worth all the rejection she received from agents and editors. As is often the case in Jane the Virgin, ultimately its family that matters.

Rogelio learns a similar lesson about the importance of family when Baby walks for the very first time. Still, it’s the episode closing scene that rings most true: Jane, Rafael, and Petra sitting together in a hospital waiting room while they wait for Petra’s mother to pass away now that she’s been taken off of life support. Petra cries, not for her mother – who has always been abusive towards her – but for the future she wants for her daughters. She, Jane, and Raf – they’ve built a little weird family all on their own. That’s something worth believing in.

(PS: Luisa is up to something that involves a boat load of money and an army of baddies who all have Sin Rostro’s face! I have no idea what’s going on there. But hey – I wanted to keep you informed!)