Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Maple. Goddamn. Syrup. Well, it’s official. Riverdale is sponsored by Aunt Jemima. Not really — but trust me, this show has more maple syrup than I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’m Canadian. We kick off this week with Jughead Jones narrating and reminding us all about Riverdale’s booming syrup industry and how the Blossom family is on top of that sticky-sweet totem, and I think at this point I’m just numb to it. I still can’t take it seriously. I still can’t appreciate it; but something’s got to give. I welcome my maple overlords. The only problem, as Jug tells us, with the Blossoms sticky amber-hued rein over the town is that the kingdom is now without an heir after Jason Blossom’s untimely death. As he narrates, we see a montage of the town’s love of the product: the Blossoms sipping syrup from champagne glasses because of course they are, Archie Andrews and Valerie Brown having maple pancakes on a date, Veronica Lodge having a nice breakfast with her family, and, tellingly, Alice Cooper tossing out an empty jug of Blossom maple syrup as a metaphor for her loathing of the family. With the question of the next leader of Blossom Maple Farms in the air, the wolves — that is, the Blossoms extended family and investors — come swarming to town, eager to prove themselves as capable and go scope out the company’s fate since next-in-line Cheryl is decidedly unfit to run anything but her mouth. (BURN.)
Meanwhile, in her room, Betty Cooper is telling her bb Jug all about her insecurities regarding her sister Polly choosing to live with the Blossoms instead of coming home, and blaming herself for her ostracization. Jughead reassures her that she did nothing wrong and they smooch. It never gets old. This is promptly interrupted by Mama Alice Cooper, who invites the two down for breakfast and details her plan to write a scathing no-holds-barred exposé of the Blossom’s takeover of the the town, and muses that she just needs an ‘in’ as a source. Betty protests that that won’t bring Polly home, but Alice doesn’t care — she just wants to make herself feel better by being spiteful and nasty. Elsewhere, at the swanky The Pembrooke apartment’s breakfast table, Veronica and her mother Hermione Lodge are having a post-pancake discussion about her father Hiram’s incarceration and looming embezzlement hearing, and how lawyers are coming by this week to take their statements. Hermione prepares Veronica for the possibility of needing to ‘shade the truth’ on his behalf — a prospect that Ronnie isn’t entirely comfortable with. Hermione, however, had stresses of her own, and opens up to her daughter about how she believes that Hiram somehow found out about her affair with Fred Andrews. On top of that, the Blossoms are still after the former drive-in land that Andrews Construction is building on, and Fred still doesn’t know that the shady ‘anonymous buyer’ hiring him is Lodge Industries. Despite the possibility of him walking off the project and dooming his failing company, Veronica urges her mother to tell Fred the truth about everything before the gossip mill does.
Later, in the Riverdale High music room, Cheryl interrupts Archie Andrews tuning his acoustic guitar to seductively quote Romeo and Juliet. Cutting right to it, she reminds Archie that this week is the start of maple season, and her family hosts an annual tree-tapping ceremony to kick it off. Talking up the traditional event’s exclusivity, she point-blank asks Archie if he’d be her date — admitting that it was always her and Jason’s thing, and she doesn’t want to do it alone. Arch politely declines, citing his girlfriend (the g-word!) Valerie as a reason why and suggests she ask Kevin Keller or (the absent from the show lately) Reggie Mantle instead, but Cheryl only wants Archie because he stuck up for her to Sheriff Keller when no one else had. In a huff, she dramatically makes to storm out, and Archie takes the bait and tries to stops her. Hook, line and sinker.
Meanwhile, Ethel Muggs (yes! Welcome back!) is reciting a dark poem about her daddy issues to the class, piquing the pitied interest of Veronica. After class, Ronnie stops her in the student lounge and compliments her poem, but, generous heart that she has, also asks if everything is okay. Ethel admits that things at home aren’t going great, and she feels helpless because her parents won’t even tell her why they’re fighting. V understands that feeling, and to cheer Ethel up invites her over for ‘lunch and pampering’, hastily adding that an unaware Kevin will be there as well, to make things potentially less awkward. Ethel accepts the invitation at Veronica’s insistence, and Kevin and Veronica head off to their next class. In the halls, Kevin asks for a little clarification on what’s going on, and Veronica admits that when she was a queen bitch in New York she, alongside her best friend Katy (likely a reference to Katy Keene, a classic Archie Comics socialite-type) had bullied a misfit girl like Ethel that was also crying for help — so hard that she did something drastic. No, not kill herself, as Kevin worries… she moved away and needed therapy. Feeling guilty over that, Veronica promised herself she would make amends and never turn away another person who needs a friend.
Elsewhere, Archie is chilling in the halls when another Blossom affronts him — this time Cheryl’s mother Penelope, looking very out of place in a high school. Poor Arch reiterates to her that he’s just not comfortable going to the ceremony with Cheryl, but Mrs. Blossom abruptly changes the subject to music, telling Archie that her uncle Harrison Blossom is on the board for the elite Brandenburg Music Academy and unsubtly bribing him by suggesting to put a word in on his behalf to attend the summer program. Archie starts to nobly protest, but she recalls him returning Jason’s football jersey on the day of his memorial and remarks that he’s likely one of the last good and decent citizens of this town left. (Well, she’s not wrong.) Hesitantly, Archie agrees to talk to Val about it, and Mrs. Blossom remarks how extraordinarily like Jason he is, once again. Guys, is this a kidnapping plot? Later, in the student lounge, Arch is telling the gang (Kevin, Jughead, Betty and Veronica) all about the music program since Val is cool with him tree-tapping other girls, but Veronica and Jughead are skeptical about the Blossoms’ true intentions. Betty backs him up, but not without ulterior motives — she asks if he can talk to Polly for her while he’s there, as she’s not returning any calls or messages. Archie agrees, and reassures them he can take care of himself. Famous last words, Archiekins.
After the title card, Archie and Cheryl walk through the sudden snow (what? Where did this come from? It was just sunny and dry outside!) to the ceremony, with Archie reassuring Cheryl that she’ll do great. She’s worried, however, about the huge entourage of trustees that have accumulated in town since Jason’s death, looking for any reason to take the business out from under her father’s nose on the pretense that she’d make a terrible heiress. Speaking of fathers, as they take their place in the crowd (which now includes Polly, conformed to wearing the customary Blossom fire-engine red instead of the standard Cooper pastel tones — symbolism, folks), Clifford Blossom begins his opening remarks about the reason behind the ritual, and, in lieu of a Jason, invites his daughter Cheryl to perform the traditional tapping. As Archie holds the bucket underneath the spigot, he reassures a nervous Cheryl one last time before she hammers it into the tree, and sugary sap begins to flow to the weird golf-cheers of the crowd. Sigh. This is what bleak acceptance looks like, Riverdale. You win. Maple syrup’s a thing.
Meanwhile, at The Pembrooke, Ethel is sitting with the Lodges (and Kevin and Betty, the honorary Lodges) for a nice quiche Lorraine when Ronnie notices she hasn’t touched her lunch at all. She declares that she’s not very hungry, and reveals that she thinks her parents are fighting due to money; it appears her dad dwindled away their savings on some bad business deals, and they may have to move. Betty and Veronica relate to the ‘parental grudge match’ and ‘Daddy’s in trouble’ narratives respectively, before offering their support and encouragement. However, Hermione visibly blanches upon learning Ethel’s surname is Muggs, much to her daughter’s suspicion. Back at the maple grove, after partaking in a big family picture of the ceremony attendees, Archie stops Polly for a word, questioning why she’s been so distant when her sister is so worried. Before she can answer she’s summoned away by Mrs. Blossom, but quickly whispers that Betty shouldn’t worry about her. As we return to Chez Lodge, Hermione pulls her daughter aside for a word in private. She quietly explains that Ethel’s family did business was Hiram Lodge, and it’s more than likely they lost everything due to his arrest. Furthermore, she’s worried about Veronica’s friendship with Ethel as the Muggs plan to testify against her father. Her dad’s trial aside, Veronica is disgusted by these destructive dealings and disregard for other people’s well-being, and wonders aloud how many other honest and good people lost everything due to her dad, questioning if the Andrews will lose everything due to risking working with him. As Hermione has no answer for her, Veronica storms off.
At the snowy Blossom Maple Farms, things aren’t faring much better. As Archie and Cheryl hike in procession back up the line, they overhear some trustees bitterly mocking the company’s prospective future and Cheryl most of all, implying that her tears at the funeral were fake. Archie pipes up and defends her, arguing that Cheryl truly loved Jason and listing off her virtues and accomplishments, before warning them to never underestimate her — as Cheryl watches on in adoration. Meanwhile, at Andrews Construction, Hermione confronts Fred Andrews, stating that they need to talk, before nervously confessing that Lodge Industries is the anonymous buyer. Fred is understandably upset, and argues that he never would have taken the job if he had known, which is exactly why Hermione hesitated telling him in the first place. Fred comes to the conclusion that this is the reason Cliff Blossom sent thugs after his crew — but Hermione is forced to fess up again and admit that she thinks Hiram sent them because he found out about their affair. Despite this, she begs him to stay on the project, both for his own bottom line and to help turn Lodge Industries legitimate. Frustrated, Fred storms out (a lot of that this episode) to take a walk.
Still walking for what seems like ages, Archie is now approached by Cliff Blossom (the ghost of Christmas future) and he expresses surprise at Arch being Cheryl’s choice of escort, given his current relations with Archie’s dad. Nevertheless he makes another offer — if Archie takes Cheryl to a swanky banquet they’re hosting next week, promising to be very generous if he accepts. Archie is hesitant, and Cheryl joins in, pleading for him to come be her dance partner and offering to get a suit fitted for him. As Archie mulls over this, the Coopers have him over for pie to discuss Polly’s state — and if Alice Cooper is being nice to you for once, you take what you can. Arch tells them that Polly seems to be doing fine and doesn’t want to come back, and while Alice is bitterly ready to accept this and forget she ever had a first-born, Betty can’t fathom it — it’s just not Polly, and she thinks something must be up. Archie the informant also tells them about the trustee board’s plans for a hostile takeover of Blossom Maple Farms (much to Alice’s glee) and they decide to adopt that — the crumbling of the Blossom empire — as their main story. The next day at school, junior reporters and faithful friends Betty and Jughead scatter a group of River Vixen cheerleaders to talk to the Queen C Cheryl about Polly. Cheryl reiterates that Polly isn’t a hostage, and breaks the news that Dr. Patel has just confirmed she is having twins, before coldly agrees to maybe pass along the message to call them… if she remembers.
Back at the Lodge lodge, Veronica instructs Ethel to open her eyes to a whole smorg of clothes and jewelry, explaining how she purged her closet and wants to gift Ethel everything that she thinks would like nice on her. Ethel doesn’t want to accept it, but Ronnie insists — telling her about how her dad would bring these clothes home every time he did something wrong as a way to compensate, and how she still always wears her pearl necklace he gave her. Ethel remarks that she doesn’t need gifts — she’s content just being friends. Elsewhere, at the Andrews house, Cheryl unexpectedly shows up, and, after commenting on Fred’s ‘DILF-y’ haircut, totes in a pristine ‘84 Les Paul electric guitar as a thank-you gift for Archie — unsurprisingly in the Blossom’s signature cherry red — before kissing him on the cheek and promptly making her exit. After she leaves, Fred and roommate Jughead begin trying to convince him to return it, with Jughead commenting that Archie’s been pimping himself out to Cheryl. Arch tries defending the Blossoms through his own clueless naïveté, but Fred reminds him that the Blossoms don’t care about people — they use them. Meanwhile, at the offices of local newspaper The Riverdale Register, Alice and Betty slap their story on the desk of estranged husband and father Hal, remarking that this is the biggest scoop they’ve ever broken. Hal refuses to publish her personal vendetta, and Alice tries to override this and log in to the ancient computers herself, to no avail. (Given the positioning of the four letters she pressed on the keyboard, I can only surmise her password is ‘fart’.) Alice confronts him on what’s going on, and Hal claims this as revenge for kicking him out… and fires her. As Alice storms out (something in the water supply?) with Betty in tow, she hesitates for a moment before turning back and tossing a loose brick through the window, screaming:
At the tailor, a boxers-clad Archie pauses the measurements to have a chat with Mr. Blossom. Instead of recommending him to the music school, he asks if the Blossoms would instead reconsider helping out Andrews Construction. Cliff is genuinely impressed by Archie’s selflessness, remarking that he doesn’t believe Jason would’ve done the same for him. Though they’ve already put in a word with Brandenburg, Clifford says that once this banquet is over they’ll sit down and work out what he can do to help Fred. Meanwhile, in the offices of the Blue & Gold school paper, Betty is complaining about her parents and even Jughead can’t cheer her up with sarcastic jokes about it. Starting to cry, Betty expresses her concern that pretty sure here won’t be ‘The Coopers’ anymore, and we all know that in Riverdale, as with Westeros, family name is everything. Jughead pleads with her to not give up, and reminds her that she is the glue holding her splintered family together right now as the two embrace. Elsewhere, in the student lounge, Cheryl sits next to Valerie — who, after their offscreen chat, immediately heads to the music room to confront Archie about Cheryl’s poisonous bragging of how close they’ve gotten. Val argues that the Blossoms are buying Archie and he should have to work for his place at that table, and Archie rebuts that the music industry is all about connections and he’s just trying to get some doors opened. Archie asks what Val would do in his place, and…
In the halls, Kevin catches up with Veronica and Betty in a panic. “Remember when you went in swooping to save Ethel because you thought she might be suicidal?” As a horrified Veronica’s jaw drops, he reassures her that Ethel didn’t try anything… but her dad did. She barely hears anything about his current condition as her world becomes a ringing noise and she staggers off to a find somewhere to process this information. Busting into the girl’s locker room, Veronica breaks down into heaving sobs while tearing her pearl necklace from her neck, causing the beads to scatter everywhere. As she curls up, Betty quickly rushes in and holds her as she cries. Meanwhile, at Thornhill mansion, Clifford Blossom is finishing his toast to making it through this year’s trials, and everyone applauds Cheryl’s tree-tapping. She turns to Archie and reminds him of their dis-ingenuousness, and how they wanted her to fail — but Archie’s going to help her with that perception. Archie promises to help however he can just as Cliff pulls him away for a private chat. Mr. Blossom tells Archie that he’s decided to help his dad, as Archie’s done so much for his family and his daughter and fits in so well. Archie is grateful, but tells him that they don’t need to keep doing things for him; he likes Cheryl as a friend, and is glad to be here. Clifford decides to come clean, and admits that it’s all about perception; the board members are sceptical of Cheryl’s leadership, but with Archie as a partner — acting as a foil to temper her erratic side — he’s sure they would be satisfied. Before Archie can respond, though, he’s saved by the Pol as the eldest Cooper daughter asks to share the first dance with him.
Polly, urging Archie to keep dancing and smiling, tells him under her breath that he needs to make Betty stop asking about her. Archie argues that Betty will never stop — and Polly tells him the real reason she’s here: she’s undercover. The Blossoms had something to do with Jason’s death and she’s going to prove it, but it has to be believable and she can’t have someone coming to rescue her. She goes to say more, but Archie notices Cheryl arguing with Clifford before storming out (ahem) and heads out after her. Elsewhere, Beronica and Vetty are heading into the hospital with a bouquet of lilies (LILI REINHARTS? OHOHOHO) and bring them to Ethel and her mom, offering condolences for this difficult time, even though they’re glad Mr. Muggs will be okay. They turn to leave, but V hesitates and turns back, admitting to them that her dad is Hiram Lodge. Ethel doesn’t understand, but Mrs. Muggs turns immediately cold and chides her for showing her face there. She explains to her daughter that Mr. Lodge is the reason her father did this to himself, a fact tearfully confirmed by Veronica. She begs for forgiveness, but Mrs. Muggs tells her that ‘sorry’ isn’t good enough, and that she should have her family tell the truth for once before the pair saunter off, Ethel, in pain, looking back at her former(?) friend, shocked.
Outside the Thornhill family pool, Archie joins Cheryl, who is staring over the waters alone. Reflecting, she asks him if her dad had pulled Archie aside to talk about how much of a trainwreck she is, and sighs sadly when he refuses to answer. She goes on to vulnerably explain how Jason was always the golden boy, but everyone’s always hated her. Archie reassures her that she’s awesome and has nothing to apologize for, and Cheryl, calling him the last decent person in Riverdale, pulls him forward for a kiss — bringing the total of girls in town he hasn’t kissed to one (1) Betty Cooper. Archie breaks away, and instead of listening to her brand of maple lipstick, he retreats away as fast as he can. As he escapes, he passes by a hedge, and can’t help but overhear the Blossom parents on the other side, discussing their plan to get back the drive-in land, and blatantly admitting that they had sent Hiram Lodge to jail, and now they plan to crumble Hermione. Speaking of the Lodge matriarch, Ronnie comes home in tears to her mom. When prompted, she tells her all about Ethel’s dad, and warns Hermione that she’s done lying for her father. Back outside Thornhill, Archie is still waltzing home when he’s followed by Cheryl, who still doesn’t get the hint. He point-blank tells her that he’s leaving because he doesn’t want this, and she threatens to remove him from the Blossom spotlight of generosity if he goes. Archie reminds her that he was only there as a favour, but she rebuts that he’s really there because of what her parents offer, rescinding her previous statement that he’s not like everyone else. He reiterates that he can’t do this and leaves, breaking her weird rich heart in the process.
At home, Betty rushes in with Jug to break the good news to her mom — Polly’s only there as their woman on the inside. Alice finally drops the façade and sheds a few tears, admitting that she was worried this would be the time Polly didn’t come home. Betty reaffirms that they’re going to write this Blossom story, and they invite her to come write the exposé for the Blue & Gold instead — it may be a school paper, but journalism is journalism. Meanwhile, Archie tries to mend bridges by catching up with Val outside. He admits she was right about him being bought, and he’s done with the Blossoms — but she’s done with him. Ever since they started dating, he’s been kind of a terrible boyf to her. He offers to make it up to her, but unlike him, she won’t be bought. Elsewhere, at Andrews Construction, Hermione announces to Fred that she’s decided to sell the land to Cliff Blossom to avoid conflict, but Fred changes her mind by also announcing that she’s not selling because he’s staying on board with the project. Diplomatic and professional, he lays out his conditions: (1) everything will be legal and aboveboard from now on, (2) he wants a 20% cut as he’s sick of being used as a pawn, and (3) whatever there was between them — it’s over. They’re just business partners now. BOOOOO. Elsewhere, before class, Veronica enters the classroom to find Ethel working alone, and assures her that she meant everything she said and she is sorry. Ethel forgives her, as she was there when no one else is, and because she’s not her father.
Meanwhile, Archie’s got more news for the junior reporters, and tells Betty and Jughead about what he overheard through the hedge at Thornhill. With Hiram’s family torn apart by his arrest, Jug and Bets are concerned by him wanting to repay the favour, and, considering that a motive, add his name to their murder board. As Jughead narrates, the Blossoms say farewell to their family vultures while remarking that they’re not out of the woods yet. Cheryl, however, in her bedroom, is the real problem — as she uses a red marker to scribble Archie’s face out of the tree-tapping photograph… before cheerfully bidding goodnight to Pollykins and scribbling her face out as well. Yikes. Bad things are a-brewing. Find out what happens next episode of Riverdale, Thursday nights at 9/8c on The CW or on Canadian Netflix!