Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
“Fear. It’s the most basic, most human emotion.” It’s also the theme of the (surprisingly Cheryl Blossom-less) episode this week, alongside its sister-extreme: love. Jughead Jones’s narration kicks us off, yet again, telling us about how fear never really goes away – it just grows up with us. (Are you sick of Cole Sprouse’s voice yet? Me neither.) To drive his point home, his monologue is juxtaposed and spliced between with two instances of past versus modern fears: firstly, a flashback to a young Betty Cooper begging her big sis Polly to sleep in her bed with her because she’s afraid of the dark (though she’s forbidden to do so by their ever-controlling mother, Alice); then, a teenaged Betty, feigning confidence, lets that same mother know she invited Jughead over for breakfast. The breakfast – sadly for Jughead, I’m sure, hamburger-free – goes about as bitterly and awkwardly as any human interaction with Alice Cooper is bound to go, as she makes the abrasive pointed remark that ‘she supposes they have Jug to thank for her daughter’s obsession with all this Jason Blossom ghoulishness.’ Betty protests that she asked Jughead to write for the Blue & Gold school paper, not the other way around, but Alice sweetly snaps back that she was only making conversation. Uncomfortable – and not without ulterior motives – Jug excuses himself to ‘the bathroom’ for some clue-hunting. Since Alice insists on showing him the way herself, Betty takes her absence as an opportunity to quickly rifle through her mother’s purse and snap a picture of a mysterious cheque she had written out. Tellingly, I also noticed that all the family photos in the house only seem to feature Alice and Hal Cooper – no daughters in sight. Jeez. Meanwhile, Archie Andrews is hunting through an old chest when he comes across an old fear – a werewolf mask, decidedly probably not a reference to the newly-announced ‘Jughead is a werewolf’ comic mini-series – before shuddering, putting it back, and coming across a representation his new fear – his guitar strap.
And suddenly Arch is on stage, not-so-ready to audition for Riverdale High’s 75th Annual Variety Show, hosted and judged by our favourite local gay sheriff’s son, Kevin Keller. (Fun fact: Archie and the gang were created 75 years ago! I see you, Easter egg.) Archie nervously introduces his original song he plans to audition with, but upon hearing Reggie Mantle and the football goonies shouting jeers at him from the scant audience, he can’t help but imagine them all with werewolf masks and, shaking, he chokes and quickly bolts off-stage – much to the chagrin of good friend Veronica Lodge and the schadenfreudian delight of stiff competition Josie McCoy, who are also watching the auditions. In the hall, Archie confides to Valerie Brown (his music tutor du jour) that he doesn’t understand why he has this stagefright when he’s never nervous playing football, but she reassures him that music is more personal and this is normal. Archie disagrees. He thinks he needs a team to back him up and asks Val to perform with him, but she turns him down as she’s a devout member of The Pussycats and doesn’t want to give Josie the impression she’s moving on. Elsewhere, in the Blue and Gold offices, Jug and Betty review the picture of Alice’s chequebook and determine that it’s written to a shady organization called ‘The Sisters of Quiet Mercy’. After some Sleuthster-ing, the pair learn that it’s a home for troubled youths, intent on teaching discipline, respect and servitude. Betty puts it best:
Discussing a stealth break-in at lunch with Archie and Val present, Jughead and Betty refuse their help –’going in with the whole Scooby Gang might compromise the operation’, and remind them they still need to practice for the talent show. Archie sadly begins to explain why he doesn’t, but a certain Veronica ex machina shows up bearing good news: she pulled some strings with a sour Kevin, who, since he’s heard him sing before, has reluctantly agreed to give Archie a slot in the lineup. Archie thanks Veronica for her support, but doesn’t think he can overcome his stagefright of performing the show alone. A solution gal as always, Ronnie offers her services as a backup singer, and asks Archie to be the Jay to her Bey. Meanwhile, Josie and the Pussycats are practicing for the Variety Show when Josie stops the rehearsal to blast Val for singing over the bridge, and when drummer Melody Valentine tries to break it up, she gets put on trial too. On edge, Josie pushes Valerie to ‘say something back’, and Val simply remarks that she doesn’t have to deal with any of this diva business when doing music with Archie. This obviously strikes a nerve, and Josie gives her an ultimatum: sing with Archie, or sing with the ‘Cats. Backed into a corner, Val chooses Archie and storms out of the practice and resigns from the band, as a mortified Josie, caught in her bluff, looks on.
At the Andrews Construction satellite office, Hermione Lodge is working the books before she’s joined by Fred Andrews, asking how her first day is going. Hermione is concerned about the numbers: at this rate, Fred only has enough in the bank for three more weeks of payroll, but he’s not comfortable letting anyone go. (Last time he fired someone – Jughead’s dad Forsythe Jones II for theft – it didn’t go well.) Mr. Andrews tell Mrs. Lodge about a huge new bid he’s waiting to hear on that will put him back in the black – the development where the old Twilight Drive-In used to be. He says that if he just knew who the anonymous buyer was (coughherhusbandcough) he would plead his case, but instead he plans to meet with Mayor Sierra McCoy for dinner to pitch his contract, and invites Hermione to be his wing-lady. She does him one better and offers to host, before playfully hitting his chest… and leaving her hand lingering there a bit too long. Veronica comes to visit her mom at her new job, bringing a potted plant for her desk… before, in horror, she sees the two parents making out through the tinted trailer window. KISS #1. Parents hooking up. Do I ship it? I can’t tell if I ship it.
After the title card, our favourite ripped redhead is distractedly noodling around on the guitar when his pop Fred comes in and tells him that he bought tickets for all the guys at the construction site to come see him in the show, and that he’s going with Hermione. Awkwardly, he tries to tell Archie that they’re seeing each other and he really likes her (moving a little too quickly there, Freddy?), but Archie reassures him that it’s okay, and that he’s happy for him. Meanwhile, in the town hall, Josie visits Mayor Mom in her office to complain about Valerie’s departure, but she reassures her daughter that Val’s replaceable – Josie isn’t. She passive-aggressively reminds her that her pop-music-hating father is flying in to see this performance, so she better not disappoint. Showing us all where Josie gets her excessive determination from, she orders her to find another ‘Cat, a woman of colour (‘don’t forget our branding’) and skinny and pretty, but not too skinny and pretty. Elsewhere, Veronica, taking this a lot differently than Arch had, anxiously waits in her estate for her mom to get home, and the second she walks in the door blurts out the question ‘are you going to leave dad when he gets out of jail?’ She explains to Hermione what she walked in on, and Hermione apologizes profusely that she had to see that, but admits that she doesn’t know what exactly the future holds. Asking her daughter what she can do to help, Ronnie bitterly admits that she doesn’t think anything could.
The next day at school, Arch and Val are jamming out with an acoustic guitar in the student’s lounge like the good ol’ days when Veronica, having the worst week, walks in on her second pair in two days. She publicly confronts Archie over seemingly replacing her, and, aloof and oblivious as ever, he happily tells her that he doesn’t need her help anymore, since she was just doing this as a favour to him and all. Hurt, Ronnie blasts Archie over both this and their parent’s tryst, making Valerie severely uncomfortable and ready to leave. Archie defends his father, arguing that they both seem into each other, but Veronica pulls the ‘logic over love’ card and points out that they’re both still married. Making matters somehow even worse, Archie notes that his parents are separated and Veronica’s dad is… well… y’know. A jailbird. As Veronica makes to storm out, a stunned and unsurprisingly confused Archie offers her the chance to talk it out and/or her part back, but New York’s Bitchronica is back to play and she’s having none of it. Way to go, Arch. Storming right into the Pussycats jam room, Veronica tells (rather than asks – a very Lodge move) Josie and Melody, who are putting up classic comic-inspired audition posters, that their search is over because they’ve found their new ‘Cat. (Plus she is Latina, so she checks the PoC box too.) Moments later, the three proudly catwalk (get it?) down the halls in their leopard-print cat ears, with a catty (GET IT!?) Veronica smugly smirking at Archie and a sour Val as she passes. Me-ouch.
Possibly skipping class (scoundrels!), Betty and Jughead hop off the bus in front of the spooky gothic troubled youth home, because apparently no high school sophomores drive these days. Betty signs into the guest book to meet with Polly, but Jug is told to wait back – probably ‘cause penises are Satanic or something. The ancient nun-nurse leads Betty past her sister’s overtly-religious solitary confinement cell to lead her to ‘The Garden of Deliverance’ (my personal favourite death-metal album), where Polly likes to meditate. Family finally reunited, Betty gives her big sister Polly (played by Tiera Skovbye) a huge hug before realizing she’s very, very pregnant with a little Blossom sprout. Betty apologizes for not visiting the two sooner, and Polly debunks all her crazy parents’ excuses of alcoholism, drug problems and suicidal tendencies, admitting that they had also told her that Betty hadn’t visited because she didn’t want to. Polly tells the real story: she was sent here because their parents could no longer control her. She explains that Jason had only dumped her because his parents had forced him to, but once he found out about the baby they planned to run away and start a life together. However, Polly got caught on the day of their escape – the fateful 4th of July – and was locked up to prevent any further uncontrollable action. Romeo Blossague and Juliet Coopulet, folks. Heartbreakingly, she then asks her little sister if she’s received any word from Jason and if she could relay a message. For fu–… of all the things the Coopers lied about, I had hoped they were at least honest about Polly knowing. Getting more and more frantically excited about it before Betty has a chance to tell her what happened, one has to wonder how sane she really is, but she mentions a car they stashed away as a getaway underneath the old ‘maple syrup’ sign. Stop. Making. This. A. Thing. Betty has no choice but to interrupt Polly and tell her – but before she has a chance to properly grieve, the elderly nurse shows up to angrily pull Betty away.
Meanwhile, at her first Pussycats practice, Veronica misses all her cues because she can’t get off her phone. MILLENNIALS. Josie, making this about herself, says that Veronica has no reason to be stress-texting while her dad is flying home from Jazz Fest to hear their cover of a disco song, but Ronnie blows up over her own daddy issues before composing herself and cutting herself off, realizing that Josie doesn’t care anyway. However, uncharacteristically, Jos apologizes and sympathizes. Speaking of band practices, Archie and Valerie are jamming in his newly-soundproofed garage and entirely defeating the purpose by leaving the garage door open anyway. Archie spices things up with a little riff, which inexplicably pisses Val off, stopping the song to ask if they’re on the same page. Level-headed as ever, Archie asks her why she’s been in such a mood, and she admits that she’s worried about taking such a creative risk quitting the Pussycats and joining him, and tells him the backstory of how Josie and the Pussycats came to be. The trio had met while working at Power Records, and they used to secretly practice in the stockroom. She reminisces about the time Josie brought in a bag of cat ears from the Halloween store, and muses that she had found her voice with her. Back at the Sisters of Quiet Murder, Betty is locked away in a solitary confinement office with no service to call Jughead. The door opens – and who better to visit Hell than Satan, as Betty’s mother Alice Cooper enters. Pulling Betty out into the hall, she coldly remarks that of course she’s notified any time Polly gets a visitor, just before running into the aforementioned herself. Understandably upset, Polly lashes out for keeping Jason’s death a secret and for locking her away before getting dragged away screaming by nurses, while more nurses hold Jughead and Betty back from intervening. Watching Alice’s face here, she looks legitimately crushed, guys. I believe that, despite going about it in every wrong way possible, she legitimately does want the best for her daughters.
Elsewhere, Hermione is hosting a swanky dinner party with her daughter, Fred and his son, and Josie, Sierra and the snobbish Myles McCoy all present. Now that’s what I call a family affair! (See, it’s funny ‘cause they’re having an aff– y’know what? Forget it.) The adults make pointed passive-aggressive small-talk – mostly between professional jazz-man Myles and mayor Sierra – about the merits and balance of following your dreams versus ‘selling out’ to survive. Hoping to break the unnecessary tension, Hermione makes it much worse by changing the topic to the new lineup change of the Pussycats – something neither of Josie’s über-involved parents were yet aware of. Josie reassures her folks that Veronica really is good, and tosses some shade ginger-side by claiming Val ‘Yoko Ono’d them’. Fred tries to be the ‘as long as they’re having fun’ dad, but Myles, pointing out his daughter was named after jazz and cabaret legend Josephine Baker, says that it’s about much more than having fun for their family, and pretentiously scolds the table for ‘probably not even knowing who Baker is.’ Turning things back before they can escalate further, Hermione politely suggests that Fred gets started on his construction bid presentation. Meanwhile, in the Cooper convergence point that is Betty’s bedroom, Bets puts her parents on trial for lying to her and for lying to Polly. Unable to deny to deflect it any further, her dad Hal asks if she’s satisfied now that she knows the truth – but she demurs, because she doesn’t believe that she does, and asks her father, point-blank, if he stole the case files from Sheriff Keller’s office… and if he killed Jason Blossom. Maniacally, Alice bursts out into a creepy laughter at this and says that Betty is starting to sound crazy, just like her sister – whom we know is not crazy. Suspicious. Planting more seeds of doubt, Halice tells their baby girl that Polly is mentally unwell, and that the story she had told Betty was a false delusion. They storm out with a final “you don’t have to believe us. We’re your parents,” leaving Betty alone to wipe her tears.
Back in a more honest (but equally uncomfortable) environment, Fred is finishing his pitch to the mayor in front of the rest of the dinner guests. Before she has a chance to respond, Myles McCunt snarkily pipes up, calling Fred a hypocrite for just being out to chase dollar signs despite what he had said earlier at dinner, but Sierra defends him and calls the bid refreshing, stating that she’d like to award the contract to Andrews Construction. She’d like to, that is, but can’t – as the ‘anonymous buyer’ (Hiram Lodge) has already decided to go with another firm, and two shareholder signatures are required to stop the contract. Since she knew this all along, I can only surmise that this was all a ploy to get a free dinner. Devious. Later, out for a post-supper snack, Josie and Ronnie head out to the town’s favourite chill spot, Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, while Josie complains about never living up to her jerk dad’s impossible ‘jazz rules, pop drools’ standards. Veronica tells her own sob story of catching Mr. Andrews and her mother in an intimate moment, and how she can’t tell her dad when he’s free because the only thing keeping her going is the fantasy of going back to the way things were. Josie rebuts that telling him may not ruin that dream. She says she may not know Veronica’s dad, but she does know dysfunctional families; there might more to this story than Ronnie knows, and Josie suggests she talk to her mom about her side of it. Elsewhere, Archie and his dad have a DAD TALK in his room, where he asks if Fred would be upset if he tanks. Fred reassures that no matter if he kills it or flops like Bob Dylan’s electric set in ‘65 (except with old-timier wording), he would still be proud and supportive. AWWHHH.
At home later, Veronica makes to apologize to her mother and hear her out – but Hermione goes first. Holding the construction contract, she tells her daughter that before her dad was locked up he made her the third shareholder (alongside her parents) in Lodge Industries. Admitting that she knows she’s not the biggest fan of the Andrewses right now, she asks if Veronica would do her a favour and help her sign the bid over. Annoyed at herself for being prepared to apologize, Ronnie gives one condition: she will only sign if Hermione and Fred stop seeing each other. When Mrs. Lodge refuses the bargain so does Veronica, and she storms out. Still a Lodge at heart, Hermione promptly forges her daughter’s signature onto the document. Like husband, like wife! The next day – the day of the Variety Show – Archie catches Val practicing their song in the school band room, and assures her that he’s so excited to perform with her… just not tonight. Her impassioned retellings of feline memories, Myles’s disappointed dinner remarks about her departure hurting the band, and possibly learning that his stagefright may have stemmed from wanting his dad’s approval and validation, all helped him understand that Valerie’s real place is with the Pussycats. Not aware that Josie’s dad was in town, Val realizes that her Catzilla saltiness must be due to that, and she appreciates Archie’s trademark selflessness.
Meanwhile, Betty is confined to her room, when Jughead pulls a straight-up teen romance trope and climbs a ladder to knock on her window and be let in. Betty, with cabin fever setting in, frantically remarks that her parents are crazy, and that she is starting to second-guess Polly’s – and her own – sanity as well. Grabbing her to calm her, Jughead reminds her that people aren’t their parents and aren’t their families… before passionately kissing her. KISS #2. WHAAAAAT!? I’ve never shipped anything more in my pathetic short life, but let me explain why some Archie Comics fans might be upset at this new development. See, Jughead is canonically considered asexual ; in the comics he has two loves: cheeseburgers and hating women. However, despite this, the canon is spotty – Jughead has in fact had several girlfriends over the years. I don’t claim to be an expert on asexuality, but as far as champions go, I’m not sure Jug was the best choice for the community, as that would involve ignoring large chunks of his continuity. Just sayin’. Now, while Jughead and Betty never had an official fling in the comics, early issues often did have her flirting with him – only not acted upon by the writers so as to not end the central AVB love triangle – and Juggie has remarked that if he had any interest in girls he’d date Betty, so I see this is a welcome update to their friendship. Remember last week when I said I friend-shipped it? I’ve graduated to Bethead. Anyway, Betty breaks away from the steamy kiss – much to Jughead’s amusement that that’s what she was thinking about – to blurt out her memory of the car her sister had mentioned stashing away, and the two plan to try and find it to corroborate Polly’s story and potentially prove her sanity.
At the talent show, dapper host Kevin hypes up the full house as Val confronts Josie about her dad backstage in the dressing room, and asks for her spot with the Cats back. Josie, applying her mascara (Covergirl Lashy brand, as the obnoxious product placement tells us), calmly reminds Valerie that she’s been replaced, but Val confidently talks up what she brought to the band that she knows Veronica can’t offer. Josie warmly admits that she suppppooossses there’s room in her litterbox for one more kitty, but first Valerie renegotiates new terms first to make things more fair. The two compromise and hug to reconcile, before giddily skipping off to get changed. On stage, the Pussycats, decked out in their iconic leopard-print leotards (and with sultry alto Veronica, who is so used to being a second fiddle by now that she seems entirely unfazed by Valerie’s return) perform a smooth pop-jazz cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. This is intercut with Betty and Jughead, missing both their friends’ big stage debuts, stumble across a tarp- and brush-covered sedan, just under the Blossom Maple Farms sign (‘Have Some Syrup with that, Ma’am!”) – right where Polly said it would be. Popping it open, they find, among Jason’s letterman jacket and the same coconut caramel cookies my mom buys, a whole ton drugs – confirming everyone’s suspicions about Jason. Taking pictures, they declare it a crime scene and resolve to tell Sheriff Keller and then Polly… as an unknown figure watches them from the woods.
Trying to finish their song without crying, a pleading Josie watches as her unimpressed father walks out on the performance. Feigning a smile at their standing ovation, she exits the stage in a hurry. As Val walks off, Archie hugs and congratulates her on rocking it, and she reassures him that he will too. Nervously awaiting his name being called, Veronica decides to make things right with Archie too by apologizing for taking out her mom-frustrations on him, and he apologizes in return for benching her as soon as something Valerie-r came along. After he admits that he’s terrified, Ronnie offers to go out on stage with him to calm his nerves, but Archie refuses, stating that this is something he has to do alone. As his name is called, she offers him a bit of stage advice: if he starts to choke, he should just focus on someone that makes him feel safe. As he anxiously takes his stool and mentally prepares himself in front of the cheering crowd, Reggie and the footballers pick the perfect moment to jeer at Arch to ‘stick to football!’ Looking out in the audience, Archie sees a sea of werewolf masks – before shutting his eyes and looking to Ronnie stage-left for guidance. She nods reassuringly, and he focuses on something that makes him feel safe: his dad, grinning excitedly, waiting for his son to play. AWWWWHHHH. Finding the courage to begin, Archie starts plucking and singing, and, much to the shock of Josie and many audience members, he’s really good.
As he sings, Betty and Jug race to the school and meet Sheriff Keller – who stepped out of the Variety Show when he got their urgent text – in the Riverdale High halls with a picture of Jason’s jacket. With no time to explain fully, they beg him to come with them to the car – but not before Betty stops and forlornly listens to Archie playing in the school intercom, looking guilty and sorry. He finishes his song and the audience erupts into applause – but no one more enthusiastically than the man sitting next to Hermione Lodge, a near-tears Fred Andrews, proudly giving his bowing son his first standing ovation. In the halls after, even the football players are clapping Arch on the back and congratulating him. Beaming, Archie confidently walks straight up to Val and gives her a huge, passionate KISS #3 – thankfully without Veronica watching this time. Girl’s been through enough this week. What she does walk in on, though, isn’t much better – her mom and Mr. Andrews happily discussing the SoDale contract, freshly awarded to Andrews Construction. Pretending to be happy for Fred, Veronica coldly gives Hermione the eye – knowing exactly what she had done – and remarks (secretly to the both of them) the double-edged congratulations: “Looks like you won.” As Jughead’s closing narration about fear wraps us up, we briefly see a few scenes in an incredibly hopeless and harrowingly negative montage: Mayor McCoy consoling a sobbing Josie in the bathroom; Sheriff Keller and his deputy coming across the Blossom car only to find it mysteriously set ablaze; Jug and Betty racing to Polly’s room in her troubled youth home, only to find her window shattered and bloody – with preggo Polly (Pregopoly: a new twist on a classic game, only by Parker Brothers!) nowhere to be seen.
That ain’t good. Are you hyped for next episode? ARE YOU HYPED FOR MORE BETHEAD? Catch Riverdale at 9:00 PM (EST) on The CW (after Supernatural!) or on Canadian Netflix!