Jane the Virgin Recap: Season 5, Episode 16, “Chapter Ninety-Seven”
As we all know, Jane Villanueva grew up on telenovelas. The romance, the drama, the adventure — they were the building blocks of the writer that she grew into today. The one thing she could never quite get a handle on? The scary stuff. She always covered her eyes with her hands when a villain completed their dastardly crime, only feeling safe to look again after Xiomara or Alba told her it was OK. Jane’s fancy new agent, Lily Lofton, points out that this same hesitancy has followed her into her books. In Jane’s novel, the crime story ends midway when the villain is sent to prison. Afterward, the rest of the characters appear to be treading water waiting for the villain to return, which of course she never does.
I love when Jane the Virgin addresses its own gap in its storytelling head-on. Obviously the editor is talking about Jane’s book, but we’re also talking about Jane the Virgin itself. There hasn’t been a major villain haunting the show’s shadows and creating dramatic tension since Sin Rostro was sent to prison in season three. While Rose has had a more looming presence this year, after all she was the one who brought Michael back from the dead, her “evil plan” has yet to come into sharp focus. Her plot has felt disjointed from the rest of the show. Jane’s agent is right — it’s to the detriment of the overall story.
Jane is sent back to do a new round of edits. In the process, she needlessly worries that maybe Rose switched babies at birth back when she first kidnapped Mateo from the maternity ward. (Don’t worry, Mateo is exactly who he’s supposed to be. It’s a wasteful subplot.) She also learns that Alba is not necessarily comfortable with how she’s portrayed in Jane’s new book. Specifically, she doesn’t want Jane to tell the truth about Pablo and Venezuela; she doesn’t want the world to know that she wasn’t a virgin when she got married.
Much like the television show we’re watching, Jane’s virginity is a central theme in her book. There’s no way to talk about it honestly without also talking about the strict morality that her abuela placed on her as a young girl, and there’s no way to talk about that without talking about Abuela losing her virginity to Pablo. Taking out that one core truth unravels every other central theme. It’s impossible.
Abuela knows what she’s asking of Jane. She knows that it means figuring out how to rewrite the very soul of the book. She hates that she’s asking, but with her voice hoarse and her eyes brimming with tears she says that she can’t do this. This is her life. And she quite simply can’t.
Jane’s own voice quiets to meet Alba’s somberness. This is Alba’s story. She has the right to decide when and how to tell it. Against the odds, Jane will figure out how to rewrite her novel.
Fortunately, it turns out to be unnecessary. Out of everyone in the family, it’s Jorge who ends up changing Alba’s mind about Jane’s book. In the end, despite Alba’s worries, it was never really about what the chismosas at church would say when they read it. Alba has spent most of her life in the United States as undocumented. She learned not to trouble any waters, to keep secrets to herself, and to put up walls. Living like that — always in fear — changes how you relate to the world. Jorge can relate to that in a way no else in the Villanueva family ever could. He wants Alba to know that they don’t have to live in fear anymore; they are citizens now. Jane and Jorge have never really gotten along, but for this she’s grateful: “I’m glad my Abuela has you in her life. And I’m glad I do too.”
Alba’s newfound bravery also leads her to confront Petra’s mother, who inexplicably lived after being taken off life support last week. Magda has some new plan to take the Marbella from Petra, but Alba records her making a threat on her life. That threat could come with a five-year prison sentence, and Alba blackmails Magda to leave the country or she will tell the truth. Magda throwing Alba down the stairs in season one first brought Alba’s immigration status into Jane the Virgin’s central fold; watching Alba confront her own demons and tell Magda “I’m not scared of you anymore, because I’m an American now! Bitch!” is its own sweetest reward.
Speaking of confrontations, Jane realizes that what her book (and our story) needs is not another nefarious turn from its villain. It’s missing a third act confrontation between the villain and the heroine. She decides it’s time to finally face Sin Rostro.
Except, Sin Rostro broke out of jail! As Jane and Rafael approach the prison for Jane’s big showdown, they are almost in a car crash with an unmarked white van. Well, it turns out that unmarked white van is being driven by Luisa and one of Rose’s henchmen. They are speeding toward an ambulance that has Rose inside. (She injured herself on purpose to get out of prison.) The van T-bones the ambulance, and in the ensuing chaos Rose gets free! Remember the army of Roses from last week? Well they are all released at the same time, causing confusion on “which Rose is the right Rose to capture” for the police.
But check this out — the police knew the right Rose all along, because it turns out that Luisa wasn’t double crossing her brother! She was working with the cops this whole time! Once safe in her abandoned warehouse, Rose reaches out to Luisa so that they can run away together in this big, criminal, and romantic gesture. And that’s when Luisa takes off her own face mask to reveal that she’s not Luisa at all! She’s one of the Miami PD, using Rose’s own facial recognition tricks against her. (I think this is where our narrator would say, “It’s like something out of a telenovela, right?”) Rose escapes out of a side-hatch in the warehouse.
Which means that our heroine Jane is going to finally get the confrontation that she’s looking for, and with only a few episodes left!