Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Control — or rather the lack thereof — is the theme of the week, as our trusty narrator Jughead Jones bitterly reminds us that between a strict school schedule and being unable to prevent tragic occurrences like Jason Blossom’s death, the idea of having control is nothing but a myth. This is juxtaposed with the alternative to control, chaos, shown in foreshadowing flash-forwards to a wild steamy party… but we’ll get to that in a bit. Skipping back and forth between shots of our main characters trying to impose order (like Cheryl Blossom captaining the River Vixens cheerleaders, or Archie Andrews working out) and the party, Jughead, ominous as ever, tells us that disorder is looming in a way no one could have foreseen. Cue the very symbol of disorder, as Archie’s messy teenage boy bedroom is entered by pop Fred Andrews, where Arch is doing homework as Jug, his temporary roommate, plays video games. Fred wishes the boys farewell, as he’s heading out of town for a few days, and apologises to Jughead for missing his upcoming birthday. Jug doesn’t think he’ll be missing anything, as he’s one of those people that rarely acknowledges the one day meant to celebrate yourself (because of course he is). Mr. Andrews, unsure of how to respond, calls Archie downstairs for a minute to ‘help him with something’. As they sit on the porch, Fred explains how this trip to Chicago will be good for him, because he and Mary, Archie’s mom, are finally finalising the divorce since her leaving two years ago, and they can finally put it behind them. Arch thinks that his dad is only making things final because of his affair with Hermione Lodge, but Fred reassures him that he had ended that and he’s doing this because it feels like the right time. This doesn’t satisfy Archie, who wants them to try and reconcile things and offers to come with to help. Fred counters that this situation is between him and Mary before heading out and promising to check in.
Meanwhile, Veronica Lodge exits her room at The Pembrooke apartment to find her mother Hermione sitting with an attorney, Paul Sowerberry, who was hired by daddy Hiram to help prepare their statements for his embezzlement hearing. This irks Veronica, who had already declared that she would not be giving one, but Mr. Sowerberry interjects that she would need to purely act as a character witness, and would not be asked any questions about his business dealings. If she can humanize him to the jury, it could result in a lesser sentence; if she refuses to testify to his personality it could look very bad for him. Ronnie considers this briefly, before coldly remarking that he made his own bed. Later, in the Riverdale High student lounge, Betty Cooper and Archie just have to make Veronica’s morning more hard and confusing — Archie tells Veronica what he had overheard at the Blossoms manor last week, where Clifford Blossom admitted that he was responsible for Mr. Lodge’s arrest and jailing. Before we get to see her reaction, Betty and Archie have already left and are cruising down the halls to their next class. Archie, keeping things on the DL, quietly reminds Betty that it’s Jughead’s birthday tomorrow, who is astonished that he wouldn’t even tell his own girlfriend that. Arch warns her against making a big deal about it, and says how every year he and Jug just see a birthday double-feature at the Bijou as a tradition, but that he thinks it’s time he passed that torch on to her. She accepts, but as we see her gears turn, it becomes apparent that she has a very Cooper definition of what a ‘big deal’ is.
Immediately making bad choices, Betty rings up Jughead’s on-and-off estranged father FP to see if he wants to join the couple for dinner and a movie as a surprise. FP laughs reiterates what Archie had told her: if there’s one thing that Jughead hates more than surprises, it’s his birthday. He notes that Jug has never had nor wanted a party, and thanks Betty for the call but remarks that the best present he could give Jughead would be to leave him alone. Later, in the cafeteria–… hold up. Is this the first time our gang has eaten lunch inside? Do you think crusty ol’ Archie Comics lunchlady Ms. Beazely is still managing the assembly line? Do you think they’re eating inside because since it’s been snowy, Riverdale has become Shiverdale? There’s so many questions here. Anyway, Betty tells her group of Archie, Ronnie and gay BFF to the masses Kevin Keller that Jughead has never had a party, and giddily suggests they throw him one. Archie, whose attention had been focused on staring longingly at his Pussycat ex-girlfriend Valerie Brown, immediately comes back to Earth and admonishes the idea on behalf of his best friend, bet Kevin and Veronica think it’s a grand idea despite his protests. The gang figures Archie is just being dramatic and everyone says they don’t like their birthday, and begin to plan the event, agreeing to keep it ‘inner circle only’. This committee is interrupted by Kevin, who has just seen something on the other end of the lunchroom, and tells everyone not to turn around. (So, of course, they do.)
To everyone’s disdain — and none more than Betty, with daggers from her eyes — a freshly un-suspended Chuck Clayton saunters into the lunchroom and takes a seat next to his former slut-shaming and bullying victim Ethel Muggs. Since Chuck brings out the unhinge in Betty, she immediately storms over and jumps to Ethel’s defence, snapping for him to get away from her. Chuck cavalierly tells her not to go all Dark Betty him and admits he’s just here to apologise — but reminding Betty of her past meltdown only makes her angrier, and she digs her fingernails into her palms to suppress herself from shouting and making a scene. Ethel agrees that she’s fine, so Betty reluctantly retakes her seat, with Chuck maliciously winking at her from afar. Back at the lunch table, Veronica tries to engage in a conversation bashing Chuck, but Betty quickly changes the topic back to planning Jug’s party to keep herself sane. However, this doesn’t stop Ronnie from catching her sneaking a glance at her palms, bloody from her fingernail embossing. Archie, mind still in ‘how do I get over Valerie?’ mode, finally concedes and suggests they have it at his house while his dad’s away. Noooo, Arch. Bad friend! Bad!
After the title card, Mr. Jones walks into the mobile office of Andrews Construction only to be ambushed again by Betty. Unrelenting, she begs FP to attend their small inner circle birthday shindig for Jughead, ‘knowing’ it would mean a lot to him and not predicting how awkward that would probably be. Before we see him answer, we’re back at school — where Betty’s mother Alice happily (for once) barges into the offices of the Blue & Gold school paper with the good news that Principal Weatherbee has agreed to allow her to be the publication’s adult supervisor and adviser. Betty, excited to be working with her mom (teenagers, am I right?), lays out their first assignment: a supply list for Juggie’s party. Mrs. Cooper remarks at how hard Betty is falling for him, but Betty has other concerns, and asks her mother if she and daddy Hal had told each other everything when they started dating. Alice admits they had, but she wished she hadn’t; he later used those same fears and secrets of hers against her. Bets questions her mom on what secrets she might have, but Alice cryptically advises her that there are some things about herself that she struggles with and leaves it at that. She tells her daughter she’s right to trust Jughead… just not to trust him with everything.
At the Andrews pad, the man of the hour Jughead is pulling a pizza from the oven for him and Arch, while telling him all about the John Landis double-feature at the Bijou — American Werewolf in London and Animal House. Archie tells him it sounds awesome — except Betty’s taking him. Jug feigns shock and betrayal at Archie blabbing about his birthday, and Arch questions why he does hate his birthday so much. Thinking back, Jughead figures it’s PTSD from when he was a kid, where everything was always screwed-up at home but for one lonely day everyone pretended everything was normal. Meanwhile, at The Pembrooke, Hermione comes home to her daughter poring over her father’s files, which were in storage. Veronica (sultry reading glasses and all!) explains what Archie overheard about Mr. Blossom, and how this spreadsheet she came across makes things seem very curious — sizeable monthly payments from Blossom Maple Farms to Lodge Industries, spanning 75 years… all the way up until Hiram’s arrest, when they abruptly ceased. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s how old the comics are!) Veronica comes to the hypothesis that Cliff Blossom implicated her father to get out of his monthly payments, and suggests they go to daddy’s lawyers with the theory. Hermione agrees that it’s not above the Blossoms to stoop that low, but puts the kibosh on the lawyer idea — if the Blossoms are proven to be at fault, that makes Hiram a prime suspect for Jason Blossom’s murder as retaliation. Not entirely un-suspiciously, Hermione urges her daughter to let it go and quit asking questions no one else is asking — especially not about the Blossoms.
Speaking of, we cut to cheer practice where Cheryl Blossom is directing her gaggle of cheerleaders. She cuts the formation short when Veronica walks in, and cattily scolds her for being late. After she places Veronica in the back where she’ll have the least visibility, Veronica snaps on her for using her Blossom status to put herself front and centre — both in cheerleading and life. It’s clear there’s some ulterior animosity here, folks. Challenging her authority, Veronica suggests they use democratic vote to decide who’s the cherry on top, and, as I understand is typically the case between high school girls, the two get ready to square off in a dance-off. When the two finish showing off their steamiest moves (which inexplicably became synchronised partway through because cheerleaders), our girl Ronnie is voted winner unanimously. (Maybe this just isn’t my area of expertise, but I could not tell the difference between the two performances. What’s the judging criteria used here?) As Veronica leads the team back to practice, Cheryl intercepts her two lackeys Ginger Lopez and Tina Patel and admonishes them for holding their votes. Furious, she ‘fires’ them, both from the squad and as her personal handmaidens. Tch, darn. Later, Archie is hanging up birthday directions at his home when he gets a call from Fred, checking in. Mr. Andrews apologises for shutting the conversation down so quickly earlier, and admits that he hasn’t even spoken to Mary yet; they were going to go for dinner, but decided it would be better to meet in the morning as initially planned, when lawyers are present. This frustrates Archie, and he cuts the call short. Clearly not his week, he strides over to his dad’s ‘secret’ alcohol cabinet and pulls a bottle out, considering it.
Elsewhere, at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, Cheryl enters and looks for a place to sit. Taking a pass on sharing a spot with Dilton Doiley, who is the middle of his military strategies handbook, she spies a certain someone else, and decides to makes conversation. She tells the unknown party that they’re the worst, but also invites them to crash Archie’s party and help her wreak havoc on their archnemesi, Betty and Veronica. Chuck, the previously unseen party, smiles deviously in agreeance. DUN DUN DUN. But also, how does Cheryl get her intel? Little birds all over the school, I tells ya. If Kevin is a secret Blossom double-agent I’m outs-ville. Meanwhile, at the Sowerberry law offices, Veronica is having a little sit-down to defy her dear old mum. After telling Paul everything she knows, he formally states he cannot confirm or deny if he had previous knowledge of this, but does admit that his concern in going public is that it would make Hiram a murder suspect. Changing the subject to her statement, Mr. Sowerberry informs Veronica that he had spoken to Mr. Lodge about her reluctance, and produces an official letter from her father from under his desk. The letter, a far-from-veiled threat, reads that her quality of life — and her mother’s, who is implied to be less than innocent — may hinge on her decision to testify. In happier lands, on their date at the Bijou, Jughead makes pre-screener small-talk and asks Betty about her cafeteria showdown with Chuck, which he heard about from Kevin (that little gossip!). Betty (wearing a cute Jughead-inspired crown sweater!) brushes it off, and says if anything upset her it’s the fact that she had to head about his birthday from Archie. Jug jokes that he didn’t think she was an American Werewolf kind of girl, and she fittingly responds that he’s wrong…
Meanwhile, getting in position for the surprise party, the gang prematurely yell ‘surprise!’ as an annoyed Ronnie walks in. Kevin quickly introduces her to his boyfriend Joaquin, which frustrates Veronica further as she expected this circle to be a little more inner. Pulling Kev aside, she rants about her foul mood from her lawyer meeting and the Blossom murder implications, while Joaquin inconspicuously eavesdrops from afar. Ethel interrupts this grouchfest by warning everyone to hide because Jug is really coming this time — a request that Veronica promptly ignores as she heads to the liquor cabinet. As Jug and Betty walk in and the gang surprises him, a clearly intoxicated Archie stumbles over to give his best friend a big bro-hug, which only makes an uncomfortable situation worse. After he’s awkwardly approached one by one with birthday wishes, hugs and introductions, Betty, on cue, exits the kitchen holding her homemade birthday cake and singing a lovely (if not extremely eery) solo rendition of the birthday song, fit for a Kennedy from a Monroe. Jughead, commenting on how haunting that performance was, privately whispers to Betty that he wishes it were just the two of him here before blowing out the candles. Distraught at Betty’s show of affection in her own time of crisis, however, Veronica storms off to have a cry, and is found by Archie in the kitchen, wiping her tears. After she warns that she doesn’t want talk about her problems, Archie opens up about his own insecurities about his mom leaving and the finality of his parents’ separation, which prompts Veronica to change her mind. She sadly admits that her dad had threatened her and her mom, and now she’s also questioning Hermione’s innocence as well. Archie hugs to comfort her, just as Betty and Jug walk in and catch them in the act. (Scandalous.)
Veronica apologizes that she’s not in a very party mood today, which Jughead can relate to. Betty, concerned, asks him if he’s actually upset that she threw him a birthday bash, and he admits that while he appreciates the gesture, he really wishes that they were just hanging at Pop’s and that he truly didn’t want anything special. Betty finally bubbles over and asks him why everything has to be so negative with him all the time, and Jughead snaps back that he can’t be ‘normal’, because he’s just not wired that way. The couple’s first fight, and it’s about Jughead’s hipster integrity. SIGH. Fortunately, it doesn’t go too far before the doorbell rings — much to the surprise of the guests, who, as far as they know, are all present. As the gang congregates at the front door, Cheryl busts in, with the rest of the damn school in tow, scolding Archie for thinking he can have a party without inviting her or Chuck. Moose Mason, meathead jock extraordinaire, asks him where he wants the beer kegs, and Arch, clearly uninhibited by alcohol, ponders mortified for a moment before deciding to screw it: “One in the kitchen and one in the back yard!” Annoyed beyond belief, Jughead storms off. As the party picks up and becomes the wild mess we saw glimpses of earlier, (complete with a silly-string-coated Archie having way too much fun and Moose cheating on his maybe-girlfriend Midge with Cheryl), Kevin, looking on in horror, questions the teen villains’ motives for crashing the party. Veronica guesses that it has something to do with revenge.
Meanwhile, Jughead is hanging out alone in the garage/jam pad, contentedly slumped in an armchair and scratching Archie’s dog Vegas behind the ears. (He may not have his trusty mutt Hot Dog in the show, but at least his affinity for the canine species hasn’t gone away!) Archie busts in and belligerently asks if Val’s arrival at the party means she wants him back, but Jug ignores this and complains about Archie going against his wishes and making his birthday horrible. Archie pins the blame on Betty and essentially tells his bud to suck it up, because having a girlfriend means having parties thrown in your honour. Jughead scowls to himself, but before he can sink too far into his brooding there’s another knock on the door — and his dad enters, wrapped gift in hand. Flustered, Jughead asks if Betty was behind his arrival too, and FP admits that he was. Back at the party, Joaquin and Kevin are making out on the table and Kevin invites him down to Sweetwater River for some fooling around. This is interrupted somewhat unsexily by Mr. Jones, who asks Joaquin where the can is (though likely really on Southside Serpent gang business). As he edges past Veronica, she recognizes him from his shady drive-in chat with her mom a few weeks back, and immediately she questions Kevin as to what a gangster is doing at a high-school kegger. Kevin breaks the news — that FP is Jug’s dad — and Veronica says what’s on all of our minds:
Meanwhile, Betty is cleaning as the party goes, and she takes a quick break to confront Chuck, and, despite his chiding remarks, politely ask him to leave. Chuck, bitter that his sexual harassment had actual consequences, reminds Betty about the side of her that he saw that night — before joking that that’s the version of her he thinks of every night. Betty rightfully slaps him and storms off, while he grins evilly. Up in Archie’s room, FP and Joaquin convene for some Serpent intel (called it!) and Joaquin lets him know what he overheard about Hiram’s connections to Jason’s murder. This spooks FP, as he has ties to Hiram, and he reminds Joaquin to find out what Kevin’s dad — the sheriff — knows. However, from the next house over, Alice Cooper creepily watches the whole scene unfold from Betty’s bedroom with binoculars. Get a life. Back at the garage, a very annoyed Jughead reminds Betty that his dad has a drinking problem, and Bets defensively remarks that no one was supposed to be drinking tonight and she had no idea the Fiery Squad was going to crash — it was just supposed to be his friends. Jughead spits back that she and Arch are his only friends, and that two months ago he would’ve shunned the Kevins or Ronnies of the world. Betty questions him on this, and he once again pulls the trust ol’ ‘I’m a lone wolf weirdo’ card from his hipster deck, even meta-commenting on how strange it is he’s never been seen without his hat. Ugh. This subtext should never have been made text. -10 cool points, Jug. When asked why he’s getting so upset, Jughead angrily remarks that he’s frustrated that Betty did not think to care about what he wanted or how he would feel before planning this debacle, and starts to snarkily outline how different and incompatible they are. Betty begins to cry and reassures him that he’s not just not another project, but he says words he can’t take back: ‘– until Archie changes his mind and says he wants to be with you.’ Betty, immensely hurt, walks away.
Elsewhere, Arch stops Valerie for conversation a little too drunkggressively, and she splashes her drink in his face — much to the bemusement of Cheryl and horror of everyone else — and reminds him that she left him, and that’s not going to change. Head spinning, Archie stumbles up to his room and drunk-dials his dad. Downstairs, Jughead brushes past Ethel offering cake and makes for the exit, only to be stopped by tonight’s Satanic hosts Cheryl and Chuck, who tell him that he can’t leave until they’ve played their little party game. Locking the door, Cheryl announces to the party that they are knowing playing a Truth or Dare variant called Secrets and Sins, and begins by revealing Veronica’s secrets — both that she ‘defiled’ Archie in a closet (her own doing) and that her father had illegally purchased the drive-in land from his cell. Veronica rebuts with a secret of her own, accusing Cheryl (based on no evidence, mind you, but I buy it) of killing her brother for ending their incestuous relationship for a healthier one with baby-mama Polly Cooper. Dilton goes next, admitting he saw Ms. Grundy’s car at Sweetwater River the day Jason went missing, and after he told Bethead, she skipped town nearly immediately. Cheryl, putting together the pieces, asks Archie if he became a musician overnight due to an affair with the teacher, and while he refuses to answer, Chuck and Cheryl continue to lay into him over it. Betty tries to change the subject by saying that Dilton plays with guns, but everybody already knew that he was a psychopath Chuck’s up next, and boy, does he have a doozy; he tells the party about the events that led to his suspension, including Dark Betty — but hey… ‘you must’ve already known all about this, didn’t you, Jughead?’
Crack! Jughead punches Chuck out, and the muscly ex-football player only get one good hit in before FP breaks it up and throws Chuck outside, telling the party to go home. Jug tries to leave as well, but his dad stops him and tells him to man up and go inside and be with Betty. Jughead remarks that he doesn’t think it’s working out, and FP says that regardless of their little spat, she needs him right now. Begrudgingly, Jughead takes his solid advice and heads back inside, just before Alice confronts Mr. Jones and, as captain of the neighbourhood watch, is obligated to ask him why he’s here. As he gets in his truck, he tells her to stuff it; just because she doesn’t live in the south side anymore doesn’t make her any less of a Serpent, as he heavily implies she used to be. Later, Jughead gets his birthday wish as he shares a booth at Pop Tate’s with Betty, a huge shiner on his eye and noticeable not wearing his hat, which is laid in front of him. He apologizes for reacting so extremely to Betty’s act of kindness, and Betty apologises for not telling him about Chuck. She admits there’s a darkness inside of her that sometimes she can’t control, and shows him her clawed-up palms. Jughead sweetly kisses them better, and she kisses him, reconciled at last. Meanwhile, Archie is sobering up in the trashed but empty Andrews residence and venting about his extreme embarrassment regarding his drunken actions to Veronica — especially his intoxicated call to his dad, where he begged him not to sign the divorce papers. The two bond over how messed up their lives are (which Veronica would clearly win if it were a competition, if we’re being real) and, comforting each other, Archie goes in for the ol’ smoocheroo-round-two.
The next morning, Ronnie wakes up next to Archie… literally next to, as he was gentlemanly enough to take the floor as she slept in his bed. As she makes the walk of fame downstairs (why you think a girl’s gotta be ashamed, fool?), she catches a very surprised Jughead’s attention, who is drinking his morning coffee alone. Slyly, he smirks that mums the word, much to her bashful relief. At home, her letterhead still weighing on her mind, Veronica asks butler Smithers if he considers her father a good man — a question he refuses to answer. However, he does admit that her mother is an unequivocally great woman, and this seems to set her mind at ease; she promptly gets dressed and meets Hermione at the legal offices, ready to give her statement on how much her parents love her. Meanwhile, Archie is busy cleaning and ignoring calls from his dad, Jughead let’s him know that he knows about him and Veronica and reassures him that he never tells anyone anything, ever. Double meanwhile, Alice wakes Betty up with some tea and aspirin for her hangover headache, and immediately begins asking about the boy FP was talking to. Betty tells her mom that that’s Joaquin, Kevin’s boyf, and Alice is smart enough to pick up on what no one else has been — a criminal dating the sheriff’s son is no coincidence. Later, Veronica enters the Blue & Gold offices and brings Betty baked goods (who remarks that the last time she did so was when she kissed Archie… heh heh heh…) and offers her help with the investigation, as she’s starting to suspect her father in more than just embezzlement. As we get our closing monologue about chaos and order, we see a quick glimpse of two scenes that are both: Veronica receiving a menacing ‘thank you’ replacement pearl necklace from her father in the mail, and Archie’s dad returning home to a recently cleaned home… with Archie’s mom, portrayed by ‘80s icon Molly Ringwald (because of course it is — what other redhead would it be?)!
Things are heating up! With only three episodes to wrap up these loose threads, where are these next few weeks going to take us? Find out on Riverdale, every Thursday night at 9/8c on The CW and Canadian Netflix, and coming soon to American Netflix!