The CW’s Jane The Virgin premiered to good ratings last week and judging by both my Twitter feed and last week’s recap comments, the novela adaptation definitely earned new fans across nearly every age group and ethnic group. (True story: I think my Anglo pals appreciated the tongue-in-cheek skewing of stereotypes just as much as I did.) So is Jane officially the new Ugly Betty? Ratings aside, I’d venture to say no—I mean, did you see what happened at the end of this week’s episode? Betty may have had to deal with braces, crazy hair, and a bad boss, but she never encountered a bloody body. That’s right: When we thought we’d seen every trope out of the telenovela playbook in last week’s episode (an accidental pregnancy, the appearance of a long-lost father, a marriage proposal, a musical number, and divorce drama), Jane found herself next to a dead body on ice (literally speaking). So who pushed Petra’s lover, Roman Zazo, over the edge? It’s plenty of fodder to jump right into, but let’s take a step back, shall we?
The episode kicked off with one of the most comedic scenes of the year. Thanks to a flashback (the likes of which are quickly becoming one of the best parts of the show), we see Jane enjoying her quinceañera—the Latin version of a coming-of-age party, held on a girl’s 15th birthday—when her mom Xiomara decides to provide the entertainment with a rendition of Kelis’ single “Milkshake.” Did anyone else simultaneously cringe and laugh out loud during that scene? (Or have childhood memories of their own mom singing that song? No? Just me? Okay then.) Her impromptu performance could have ruined the evening, but teenaged Jane decided to keep her cool.
That precious bit of comedy could feel extraneous, but it provides context for the theme of this episode, which is that Jane feels she can control her emotions and continue with her plans (college, her relationship with Michael) despite the disruption of a baby. At the open, Jane decides in no way will she allow herself to be attached to the baby growing within her. That’s her announcement during a family meeting—over grilled cheese, natch—and she’s sticking to it. After all, she has a history of calm under semi-traumatic circumstances. So here on out, Jane says, life will continue as planned and she will casually refer to the baby as “milkshake.” As in, “I can’t wait to give this milkshake to its rightful owners.”
Her decision is important because it implies choice: up to this point, Jane has been the recipient of both advice and opinion on what to do with her child. Though she’s now made her choice—she’ll carry the pregnancy and coolly give the baby to the biological father and his wife—the consequences of that decision aren’t clear-cut or final. It’s interesting territory for a comedic soap, as it consciously explores the narrative around a young Latina’s choice to pursue career and a personal life rather than so-called obligation to family and culture.
But can Jane really give her baby away? Emotions not withstanding, what if Petra—whom Jane hasn’t met yet—turns out to be Catalina Creel, as abuelita suggests? This reference is pure genius from Jane’s writers. After all, Catalina is a baddie of near mythic-proportions in telenovela history (Think of her as a particularly villainous combination of creepy Bond bad guy Ernst Blofeld, Dynasty’s Alexis Carrington, and Ugly Betty diva Wilhelmina Slater.) So Jane decides to meet Petra, which happens when everyone congregates for a sonogram that changes Jane’s mind as to how much she’s willing to connect with her child. Though did you really think that Jane would give up the baby without her emotions protesting? Again, this was a neat nod to the struggle between head and heart, culture vs. career.
NEXT PAGE: It’s sexy time.