Every Sunday, we pick a new episode of the week. It could be good. It could be bad. It will always be interesting. You can read the archives here. The episode of the week for October 31 through November 5 is “Chapter Forty-Seven,” the third episode of the third season of The CW’s Jane the Virgin.
Jane the Virgin had a problem.
It began as the story of a woman (the incomparable Gina Rodriguez) who’s accidentally artificially inseminated (and yes, the show always knew exactly how ridiculous the phrase is). It followed her journey to motherhood even while she was — thanks to a promise she made to her grandmother as a kid — determined to remain a virgin until marriage.
As Jane’s life became a melodramatic tangle of complications to rival her favorite telenovelas, her virginity remained one of the only real consistencies in her life. It was always, for better and for worse, a huge part of her identity — and the same held true for the show.
I mean, the series is called Jane the Virgin. If you somehow forgot even for a second that Jane was a virgin, the title card’s always there to remind you within five minutes of starting an episode.
Until “Chapter Forty-Seven.”
This episode — directed by Eva Longoria! — had a hell of a job. This was the episode in which Jane was set to lose her virginity, rendering both her past identity and the show’s title moot.
The buildup — again, for both Jane and the series — was so intense up to this point that there were very few good options. Did the show make a huge deal out of it, seeing as it was such a huge milestone in Jane’s life? Or did it attempt to downplay the event in hopes that being more casual about it could temper the incredibly high expectations?
In the end, “Chapter Forty-Seven” is a wonderful reminder that Jane the Virgin is a smarter show than most. It manages to both honor the enormity of what Jane was finally getting to do without suggesting that losing her virginity is her be-all, end-all — and all while maintaining the show’s signature self-aware streak.
Jane’s first time is a big event, but it isn’t the episode’s only event
The first remarkable — and frankly, unexpected — aspect of Jane losing her virginity is that it didn’t happen as part of a Very Special Episode devoted to that single subject. It’s not that I expected Jane the Virgin to lecture viewers about sex — it’s a more morally complex show than that — but given how much has hinged on Jane being a virgin, I assumed the show would put it front and center.
Instead, “Chapter Forty-Seven” made sure to touch on a variety of storylines, weaving Jane and her husband Michael’s first time together into the fabric of the episode alongside the rest of the characters’ respective highs and lows. Jane has to hand in her thesis chapters; the ongoing mob boss mystery of Sin Rosetro continues; Jane’s mother considers giving up her singing dreams even when faced with Gloria Estefan herself; her father tries to sell a show to a little-known network called “The CW.”
Life goes on, as it always does.
The show also made sure to treat the aftermath of Jane’s first time with sincere empathy. Jane and Michael (Brett Dier) weren’t total strangers to each other’s bodies, but they’d never had this kind of sex before, and so it was bound to include some mixed signals. Jane, worried about how to handle herself in this new situation, fakes her orgasm rather than be honest with Michael about being unsure.
The situation unspools from there, with some wacky TV show flare-ups, like Jane accidentally sending her adviser a sex tape. (Jane clearly hasn’t watched enough Black Mirror and/or Mr. Robot to be duly terrified of webcams.) But for the most part, Michael and Jane’s friends give her the space and compassion she needs to feel comfortable enough to actually enjoy herself.
Another key point of this episode: There’s a difference between having sex and enjoying it
Too often when talking about someone losing their virginity, we resort to the basic extremes of whether or not they’ve done it yet. There’s hardly any discussion of how to make someone actually enjoy their first time — though the first time is almost guaranteed to be an awkward mess just in terms of figuring out what to actually do.
But what about what happens once that virginity is “lost”? How do you get from the knock-kneed initial thrill of having sex to a steadier pleasure?
Jane the Virgin doesn’t shy away from this thorny subject, letting Jane worry to her best friend about faking her orgasm, and even to her mother that she and Michael might not be compatible after all.
Driving the point home, in Jane’s typically openhearted and joyful way, are two animated sequences that bookend Jane and Michael’s first two attempts at having sex. The first shows a giddy Jane and Michael taking off in a rainbow rocket. (This show is many things, but “subtle” is rarely one of them.) The short sequence is exciting, but abbreviated.
The second comes after Jane confesses to Michael that their first time together wasn’t exactly the simultaneous orgasm fairy tale that made him so proud. He’s disappointed, but the reason why Jane wanted to have her first time with him — not to mention spend her life with him — becomes apparent once Michael doubles down on trying to make her feel comfortable enough so that she doesn’t have to lie to him about her enjoyment.
So they try again — and this time, the animation goes on for twice as long, with both of Jane and Michael’s avatars whooping with joy.
The gulf between the mere act of having sex and feeling relaxed enough to have some fun with it can be huge — and it certainly doesn’t fit neatly within a single episode of television. That’s probably why few shows venture there when talking about a character having sex for the first time, and yet Jane the Virgin manages to explore it with both depth and honesty — and with a goofy-looking animated sequence, no less.
Jane the Virgin understands that losing your virginity can be just as confusing as it is exciting
As Jane got more pregnant and began to get more involved with both Michael and longtime crush Rafael (Justin Baldoni) — not at the same time or anything, she’s still a devout Catholic do-gooder — her virginity became a blaring neon sign over her head.
Jane herself got more and more sexually frustrated, coming close to throwing away her promise in the name of sleeping with the hot men dying to do it with her (which, understandable). When Jane finally decided to marry Michael, she figured she might as well wait it out. After all, she’d waited this long.
Of course, this being the telenovela-adjacent Jane the Virgin, their wedding-night sex was interrupted by a mobster in disguise shooting Michael in the chest. Not only was it super upsetting, but it delayed their matrimonial consummation another six weeks while he recovered.
Suffice it to say, there was a ton of buildup leading to the moment when Jane and Michael finally get to have sex. You could even argue that Jane spent a good 20 years — since the moment she told her grandmother she’d wait — clinging to this part of herself. Shedding it, no matter how much she grew to want to, really was a big deal.
So throughout “Chapter Forty-Seven,” Jane takes some moments to really process what this means to her. When she goes to get a drink of water after their first time, she stands in the kitchen, exhales at her reflection in the window with equal parts relief and surprise, and tells herself, “I’m a person who’s had sex” like she’s trying to believe it.
And in the episode’s most affecting moment, Jane — and the stellar Rodriguez — lets her happiness crumble just enough to tell her mother (Andrea Navedo) that she doesn’t quite know how to think of herself now that she’s had sex, even as she insists she’s so relieved to get rid of “this weight” through tears.
“I just feel like I lost something,” she admits. “Like a part of my identity.”
Her mother expresses sympathy, but smiles warmly as she insists that Jane didn’t lose anything. “You just gained something,” she says. “A whole new dimension of your life, your relationship.”
Jane nods in understanding, even if it’s clear that this is something that will take a little time for her to accept. Not many television shows afford their characters that time, but then again, Jane the Virgin isn’t most shows.
Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9 pm on The CW. The first two seasons are currently available on Netflix. Season three is streaming on the CW’s website.