In many Latin households, Spanish telenovelas are common on our television screens. I don’t fully understand Spanish, but whenever I’m at my grandmother’s house I get sucked into the crazy lives of the characters. Telenovelas are so bad at times that you can’t help but watch. Jane the Virgin is a refreshing take and based on the Venezuelan telenovela (Juana la Virgen) of the same concept. The show stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, whom some of you might remember as the lead in Filly Brown. Jane the Virgin is a narrated story about, you guessed it, a virgin whose life changes after becoming pregnant in an nontraditional way. Think of it as Mary, Jesus, and Joseph in modern times. So much drama.
The episode begins with a prologue taking us back thirteen and a half years ago, where we meet a ten year old Jane. It is here that we learn about her love for God, her family, and grilled cheese sandwiches. The scene opens with Jane holding a pretty white flower in hand and her grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll) standing over her, explaining how pure and perfect the flower is. Alba then tells Jane to crumple the flower. Confused, Jane does as her grandmother tells her. When she opens her hand, the flower is bruised and crushed. Alba tells Jane to try to make it look new again. Jane desperately tries and realizes it’s impossible. Alba then tells Jane, in Spanish, “You can never go back. And that’s what happens when you lose your VIRGINITY.” Jane’s young mother, Xiomara Villanueva (Andrea Navedo), watches from the bed where she if filing her nails and scoffing at what her mother is telling Jane.
You might be thinking it’s a hilarious and messed up way to teach a child about sex. But, as a Latina I can tell you that sex is never really discussed in a Latin household. You’re basically told that if you have sex you’ll get pregnant. And if you get pregnant at a young age, or before marriage, it’s the worst thing you can do to the family.
Flash forward thirteen and a half years later, where we briefly meet Jane’s boyfriend, Michael (Brett Dier). She and Michael are in a heavy make-out session on her bed. The crushed flower from years before is conveniently framed above the bed. She catches a glimpse of the flower and puts a stop to the heavy petting session. Since there is nothing else for them to do, Michael heads back to work. Jane hands him his detective badge and kisses him goodbye. She then joins her grandmother and mother on the couch to watch their favorite telenovela, The Passions of Santos. Alba has a grilled cheese sandwich already prepared for Jane, as all Latin grandmothers have a desire to constantly feed their loved ones. It’s a blessing and a curse.
In true telenovela fashion, there is a rich handsome man who owns some sort of land and/or corporation, and a money hungry wife who pretends to love her husband but is really cheating on him with someone he knows. Cue hotel owner, Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni), and his money hungry wife Petra Solano (Yael Grobglas). Petra plays the card of loving and caring wife, but in those eyes are dollar signs.
During the pool party at the hotel, which Jane is working as a server, we are introduced to Rafael’s sister Dr. Luisa Alver (Yara Martinez). Rafael is confiding in Luisa that he wants to divorce Petra but is unsure of it. Luisa reassures him that if he does get a divorce, it won’t make him like their father. Meanwhile, Petra is secretly seated behind them where she has heard everything. Afterwards, Rafael decides he needs a drink. Someone points him out to Jane, who is dressed like a mermaid in the pool and serving champagne for everyone. Jane sees him coming her way. She remembers Rafael from an encounter a few years ago and swims away a true mermaid would.
Meanwhile, Luisa gets home to find her wife, Allison, doing the nasty with someone else. Why can’t we have a lesbian married couple where cheating isn’t involved? Anyway, the next day Luisa is at work trying to put herself together. She at least stops the crying and tries to carry on. Another doctor is out for the day and Luisa is covering those patients; an insemination in one room and Pap smear in the other. Just before she is about to go into one of the rooms, she gets a phone call from Allison who crying and begging Luisa for forgiveness. Luisa hangs up and goes into the room where Jane is asleep, exhausted from only sleeping for three after working the party, and all prepped for her pap smear. Luisa asks Jane if she’s ready for her insemination and shuts the door, which wakes Jane. Jane hears nothing about insemination and assumes it’s a routine Pap smear she is being given. Luisa inseminates Jane, tells her she’ll get her results in a couple weeks and walks over to the next room where she finds Petra. Surprised to see her there, Petra tells Luisa she had the last vile of Rafael’s sperm unfrozen so she can surprise him with a pregnancy. Luisa looks at Petra with a blank stare and realizes that she has royally screwed up this time. And just as the narrator states, “Jane’s life was now the stuff of telenovelas.”