Jane the Virgin Recap: Season 5, Episode 7, “Chapter Eighty-Eight”

Sometimes, you have to go far from home to realize a truth that’s been hiding in plain sight all along. Michael invited Jane to a weekend getaway in Montana because he believed that they couldn’t figure out their future while still being haunted by the ghosts of their past selves in Miami. She agreed. And so, in the blink of an eye and a shake of some cowboy boots, we were off on a Big Western Adventure!

Miami is a central character to Jane the Virgin’s storytelling. It is more than a mere backdrop. Its bright colors, Spanglish, and sweltering heat are closely stitched into the show’s entire fabric. The Villanuevas are Miami. The Marbella is Miami. They are white pants and cafecitos and viejitos playing dominoes and the arepas de huevo you buy from the corner on your way to work. Even Rogelio’s career is steeped in the city’s stronghold as a Spanish-language television capital. Over the last five seasons, you would be hard pressed to find another episode of Jane the Virgin that takes place entirely outside of the city’s borders. Removing Jane from Miami is meant to jar the audience. It’s new, and like an itchy new sweater or boots that have yet to be broken in, it is uncomfortable.

From discomfort can come beauty. Jane hates every second of her travel — A plane! A bus! A truck! — to Michael’s ranch, where there is no cellphone service and you are awakened in the morning by critters jetting across your bedroom floor. But then she opens the front door of her cabin and is greeted by a mountain view so glorious it could’ve been hand painted. Gone is the claustrophobia of the city. Later, when she’s camping with Michael, she stares above at Montana’s famous open skies. It occurs to her that after living here for so long, Miami must feel small to Michael. It must feel tight, too close to the skin. There’s no room to breathe in deep in Miami. The city’s noise leaves no room for your own thoughts. The change in perspective allows Jane, and the audience, to see one of the show’s most beloved characters in a new light.

Which isn’t too say that Jane the Virgin’s attempt at a Western caper goes off without a hitch. The narrator takes great pains to connect our new setting to the long history of rancho-themed telenovelas, but nothing we encounter feels seamless or organic. It’s as if Jane the Virgin is trying a little too hard, with its whiplash sound effects and turn of the century, sepia-toned cue cards. We have precious few episodes left together, so losing any time with the rest of the Villanuevas and Petra feels a bit like a squandered opportunity. Still, I understand that we needed to see Michael at peace in his new home. Jane needed to see that he would be OK, even without her. The only way to do that was to have her leave Miami first.

It was there, underneath that humongous blanket of a Montana sky, that Jane finally saw her emotions in crystal clear reality. Throughout the episode Jane kept fantasizing “future life” scenarios — what would happen if she and Michael moved to Montana full time, what would happen if they tried long distance dating, what would happen if Michael gave up that cowboy life and joined her back in the MIA. Every time, her thoughts drifted back to Rafael, to how he would react and how her life choices would impact him.

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At first, she thought this was guilt making its way into her subconscious. Now, she knows the truth: It was love all along. Rafael is her future. Michael is only her past.

Somehow Jane finds the strength to say goodbye to her first love yet again. Gina Rodriguez is obviously one of the best criers on television, but it’s when Brett Dier lets that single tear drop from Michael’s eye that I completely lost it. This feels final, but more than that, it finally feels right. We can be settled knowing that Michael isn’t dead or in pain. He has a life in Montana that’s full of dogs, horses, bulls, a cranky boss, a neighboring rival, and a loyal best friend. He belongs there, happy. Jane belongs home in Miami. She belongs with Rafael.

That’s only if he’ll take her. Jane rushes — A truck! A bus! A plane! — to Rafael’s doorstep. She tells him that he’s the one only one she loves and she’s sorry for messing up the magic they had. Her face cracks in torment when he tells her that it’s too late, closing the door in her face. He doesn’t trust her. He doesn’t know if he ever will again.

Jane learned a few things in Montana. You can’t rope a bull on the first try. Rafael is her destiny, and she won’t stop fighting to earn back his love.