Jane by Design 1.16 “The Backup Dress” Review

jane by designIf there’s one lesson you can take from Jane Quimby and Jane by Design, it’s that pursuing your dreams doesn’t have an age limit. Jane became the woman that she always wanted to be, a stylish fashionista with a job at a leading fashion house, before she even had her high school diploma and still keeps pushing for more. It may be difficult to balance both very different halves of herself, one a normal high school student and the other one degree removed from fashion royalty, but Jane’s passion for the art form and enthusiasm for the job itself have managed to keep her invested long after others would have dropped out. Or dropped dead from exhaustion.

On the latest episode of Jane by Design, titled “The Backup Dress”, other members of the cast got to fulfill their dreams and, like with Jane, it made for some touching moments. For instance, Kate finally decided that the time for world traveling and dabbling in every hobby imaginable was over, accepting Dakota’s proposal and heading off to Colorado to grow up once and for all. The final scene between Jane and her mother was the type of genuine, warm material that Jane by Design excels in executing; you had to feel for Jane losing Kate once again, but the two are on such better terms than they were before that their goodbye didn’t feel like an ending. It was the final words of one chapter in their complicated history together, the end of Jane having to always be the bigger person and the beginning of an era of equality, respect, and a stronger bond between mother and daughter. In the back-half of the season, the show has made a real effort for the characters to all grow in their own ways and Kate’s journey has been open and honest without veering toward maudlin or preachy, so it was a little sad to see her go.

But, yeah, Ben’s gone, too. I know. I know. I doubt he’ll be gone for long, particularly once he finds out that Kate left, too, but Jane’s big brother got a minor league tryout thanks to the pitch he made during Nick’s session and made it to a minor league roster. This made for a sad ending like Kate’s departure, but sad in a different way, as both Jane and Rita hid important things the had to tell him (Kate left, Rita wants to be with him) in order to let him go live his dream. Ben gave up a lot of years to stay in town and help raise Jane, so when he gets a second chance to have his moment in the sun, nobody’s going to want to be the one to take that away from him; you feel how much people close to Ben think of him during moments like this, because even though his absence from the world of Jane by Design will be painful, Jane and Rita are willing to withstand the separation so he can be happy and fulfilled.

Now that Jane’s officially by herself, amping up the inspiration from Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead that had been present since the pilot, what’ll she do? Dating Eli seems to be on the table, as the two had a for-real date in “The Backup Dress” that highlighted their charming chemistry and how much Jane’s grown this jane by designseason. And it capped off in the type of surprise, perfectly timed kiss that only takes place on TV/in the movies but never fails to make you (i.e. me) swoon as a result. Jane by Design may not have given Eli a whole lot of spotlight, but I love the fact that the romance has been taken slowly and it’s much more of a realistic love interest for Jane vs. Nick or Jeremy. But my problem with the date stemmed from the cliche, predictably flat writing of the scene once Nina came into the restaurant wearing the original dress that Jane took a backup of. You could see what was coming at the dinner several scenes beforehand and although the execution wasn’t that bad, it still felt like they could have gotten to the point they did (Eli and Jane kissing) without having to go the direction they did. I’m all for old school comedy references and being a little silly, especially in an episode with heavier character moments, but it was less lighthearted teen drama and more hacky 70s sitcom.

I mean, Jane Quimby walked around in public in a table cloth and a suit jacket. And nobody said a thing.

I think part of my annoyance came from the fact that multiple scenes had this happen, in that I didn’t (terribly) mind the results but the process felt flawed. Billy walking in on Nick and Zoe running through their new lines for the play that he conveniently didn’t know anything about after getting himself worked up over their chemistry was a little much; I get that it showed just how insecure he is/was around girls, but the entire plotline is very Saved by the Bell without the ironic nostalgia factor. It was contrived, too obvious to be that effective (re: my emotional response), and lacking in the execution to make me curious/excited for what’s next. It could be that I’m not that invested in the relationship, but I found myself not really that torn up at the thought of an impending break-up. I mean, I like Billy and I want him to be happy, but he can’t be happy with Zoe – she’s not Jane. Until he gets the awkwardness with Jane sorted out and a common ground established about their feelings for once another, I don’t think Billy could be happy with anyone, so the fact that the relationship was more or less doomed to begin with softens the blow of any fracture.

Even though “The Backup Dress” had a couple of duds in it, it was a relatively solid episode that had a lot of forward momentum and enough resonant moments to set up the potentially great final two episodes. You never know when you’ll get another chance to do right by yourself and to give yourself a chance to live the way you want, which Ben and Kate exemplify. They took their opportunities for fear of always wondering what would have happened if they made the leap, so even if they fail, they can always say they made it to the league or opened their heart enough to finally settle down. Ben raised Jane for years and Kate followed her heart abroad when parenting proved to be too much, but their real bravery comes in facing a major change in their lives and never backing down.

Thoughts, Quotes, and Observations:
-“Look, I am flattered that you would create this fire hazard for me.”
-“And a week after that, they’ll be playing on the moon…”
-“I’m never gonna be able to wear this table cloth again.”
-No India and No Jeremy tonight. And I didn’t miss either that terribly, sad to say.
-The tension between Jane and Billy continues, with a very sad conversation trying on clothes and a barely veiled talk about male/female friendship during the play practice.
-I complained about the humor in the episode, but the violinist gag made me laugh.
-I hated the misunderstanding between Ben and Rita over the baseball tryout (“what if I can’t perform…”) and Jane’s dress getting taken, though.
-Favorite clothing of the night: Jane’s yellow dress/green necklace combination. Very pretty.
Next week on Jane by Design: Gray sends Jane to London to find Jeremy and Billy’s relationship with Zoe may be beyond repair.

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