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

How do you watch a show that portrays the anguish of having a human heart with devastating accuracy while also giving its characters telenovela obstacles to navigate? Personally, I just cry like six times an hour. This week’s Jane the Virgin managed to make the love triangle even more intense, as if Michael coming back from the dead, having amnesia, and then getting his memories back isn’t hard enough for in-love-and-living-with-Rafael Jane. Now even little Mateo is picking a side (he’s team daddy in case you’re wondering). It’s a lot to handle. For everyone.

I’m particularly sympathetic to Rafael. He’s deeply in love with Jane but has been through too much (artificial insemination, kidnapped kid, jail, the list goes on) to put on blinders and believe she’ll just pick him. He knows she has to explore things with Michael. And so he breaks up with Jane again — the man’s got to protect himself especially considering his habit of coping via self-destruction. Perhaps predictably, he ends the episode by chasing some pills with a glass of whiskey. He may not be ok at the end of this and that makes me so sad.

You see, Rafael isn’t all bad or all selfish as #TeamMichael-ers would have you believe. He stumbles a bit at co-parenting post-breakup but figures it out. When Mateo declares that he’ll stay mad at Jane as long as his dad does, Rafael is quick to discourage him. He says he will always love Jane explaining they’re just trying to figure out how they love each other (I’m not crying — you’re crying!). It takes a lot of emotional maturity to say that while your heart is breaking. And yet, Raf does, despite the emotional cost.

So shed your tears for Rafael because after “Chapter Eighty-Six,” it looks like Jane might end up with Michael. The two are just soul mates. Yes, Rafael sent her flowers on her “bookaversery” but Michael gives her an annotated copy, complete with flirty notes and keen compliments. It’s the perfect way to awaken her feelings and Michael does so genuinely with no appearance of manipulation. Jane responds in kind, letting out the warmest secret smile as she entertains the possibility of having Michael in her life again. That smile, alone on the porch, was a rare moment of happiness for Jane who spent most of the episode miserable, even running away from her 30th birthday party.

Photo by Richard Foreman, Jr. Courtesy of The CW

So if you’re looking for joy, don’t look to our leading lady. You could try Petra and JR but they aren’t exactly in happy, new-relationship land. Petra spends the episode going to great lengths (she gets her fitted white jumper dirty!) to prove to JR that she’s trustworthy. But no matter Petra’s best intentions, there’s clearly more trouble ahead for these two. JR is now bartending (having lost her legal license thanks to Petra) and Petra is her usual dictatorial self, demeaning her new assistant and cruelly firing Travis the busboy. JR asks what Petra said to him and Petra skips the question. The moment lasts just a beat but expect class differences to create additional problems.

Rogelio does bring a bit of lightness with a delightful subplot. After some poor co-parenting, he teams up with his archrival Esteban to reunite him with Darcy. The two men gazing with that telenovela intensity brought together by the love of a child is the type of masculinity we need. It’s hilarious and human and good. Imagine if more powerful men were like this — what a different world we’d be in. Rogelio even manages to learn from Esteban, figuring out how to better support Xo and himself as she continues to face cancer. In the end, even Rogelio’s story is bittersweet, his happiness marred by the real danger facing Xo. It’s dark times indeed.

I have to admit, I prefer my Villanuevas happy or at least happy-ish. Right now, there’s so much misery. It reminds me of the dark days after Michael died. The second half of season three was just merciless as the show dealt with grief (even with the jump four years ahead) with such insight, emotional intelligence, and clarity. It was hard to watch and particularly relatable for anyone who’s lost a loved one. Jane’s current situation is more far-fetched but at its core, it’s a story of love and heartbreak and we’ve all gone through that. This telenovela is brutal, and I, for one, am ready to stop crying.

Jane the Virgin airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on The CW.