Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Warning: If suicide and self-harm is something you have trouble coping with, there is a huge trigger warning for the last bit of this episode. Read at your own discretion.
What a ride of an episode. Jughead Jones is off missing, and so is his telltale narration that typically kicks off our episodes. Instead, we start with a slight retcon kicking right where we left off last week — Archie Andrews is still at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe with Veronica Lodge, trying to convince Betty Cooper that their friend Jughead’s gang leader dad has been framed for murder, but this time he does it worded slightly differently. In case you forgot. Veronica backs him up — they had searched Mr. FP Jones trailer just before the sheriff had and found nothing in the exact same closet the murder weapon was found. The trio agrees that Jug needs to know — but no one can find him and he hasn’t been answering his phone. However, Archie suggests that before they go hunting for him, they have to fess up to their parents; his dad might know what to do. As you can imagine, the parents are less than thrilled with this, as a council of Alice Cooper, Hermione Lodge and Fred and Mary Andrews scold the kids for their increasing involvement in this investigation, and closed-mindedly come to the consensus that ‘he had the alleged murder weapon, he’s guilty’, dismissing the notion that he’s been framed despite the evidence. (What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’? Sure Riverdale doesn’t see a lot of legal action, but aren’t you a lawyer, Mary?) After Alice is outted by her daughter as putting Arch and Ronnie to it, Veronica admits that she wanted to do this, because she had to prove (or disprove) her jailbird dad Hiram’s innocence or involvement. The kids threaten to go to the sheriff without them, but this is shut down by the adults, who presumably drag them off to their respective rooms. In said bedrooms, Betty and Archie exchange texts and sneak off to find Jug.
Meanwhile, the missing party isn’t too far off, as Jughead Jones uses a payphone outside the Riverdale bus depot to call his mom and let her know he’s got a ticket to Toledo and he’s coming to see her and kid sister Jellybean. After offering to stay on the couch and choking back sobs, a dejected Jughead hangs up knowing when he’s clearly not wanted; his family visit was refused. Riverdale drinking game: take a shot every time you feel horrible for Jughead. (You’ll need it.) Heading back into the station to cancel his Ohio ticket, Jug grabs the next ticket out of town — Citrusville, Florida… only to find that it leaves in the morning and the lobby is closed in fifteen. Elsewhere, at The Pembrooke luxury apartments, Veronica’s mom is frantically looking for her and Ronnie’s passports, worried about what FP might say now that he’s caught, and afraid that her husband may be involved after all. Veronica reminds Hermione that they’re innocent, but Hermione argues that she isn’t — she bribed the mayor, she forged Ronnie’s signature, and she paid off the Southside Serpents for Hiram — so it just might be best to be ready to flee on a dime, just in case. Hunting for clues, Betty and Archie arrive at the bus depot on the accurate suspicion that Jughead might be trying to skip town to be with his mom, but find it closed. As the two speculate on where he might be and lamenting how he must feel since all his friends betrayed him, Archie gets a call… but not from Jughead, from Veronica — who just ‘wants to talk.’ Upon learning that there’s a manhunt without her, FOMOronica offers to meet them — and, using her Lodge logic (Lodge-ic?) skills, rhetorically questions aloud “where’s the one place in town that’s open 24 hours? Hint: we were just there.”
Veronica’s one smart cookie, and the trio comes across Jug sitting alone in a booth at Pop’s, numb to the world. Ignoring their apologies, he finally sits up when they let them know what they’ve found. Elsewhere, Sheriff Keller is sitting down in an interrogation room with Suspect Number One, as he questions FP about the gun found in the trailer, and why it matches up with the murder bullet. Mr. Jones elaborates as we’re taken into a flashback: he first met Jason Blossom that summer, when he had come to him at the Whyte Wyrm bar slash Serpent gang hangout, asking for help with a getaway car and some cash so he could get out of town with his pregnant fiancée, Polly. In exchange, he had agreed to deliver some drugs for the Serpents. However, not long after this, FP pieced together who this teenager was — the son of wealthy maple syrup mogul Clifford Blossom — and, after learning of Jason’s 4th of July plan to fake his drowning death and run away, he devised a plan of his own. Shortly after Jason made it across the river he grabbed him, tied him up in the basement of the Wyrm, and worked on getting word to the Blossoms that their son was alive and up for ransom. Before he could do this, Jason got free… he had no choice but to shoot him in the head and toss him in the freezer. (WHAT!? Not only does that line up with facts he wouldn’t have known otherwise, it explains the ligature marks and cryo-necrotic activity found during the autopsy!) Once the police were done dragging Sweetwater River, he dumped the body there, in the one place they had already looked. After he finishes his story, the sheriff questions him further — and he admits to breaking into his house and stealing the case files, and to torching the getaway car full of evidence. Hold up. This story may have checked out up to this point, but we already know that Hal Cooper has the sheriff’s files. Something ain’t adding up here. Sheriff Keller asks one finally time: “Did you kill Jason Blossom?” The gang quickly rushes to the station to warn the sheriff of what they’ve learned about Mr. Jones’ purported innocence, but he’s quick to dismiss it; FP had already confessed. As Jughead reels in shock, his handcuffed father guiltily glares his way as he’s escorted to a holding cell.
After the title card, widowancée Polly Cooper joins the Blossoms at the Thornhill Manor breakfast table for some wonderful news, as mama Penelope Blossom shows her the newspaper headline announcing Jason’s killer behind bars. Polly expresses barely-concealed surprise (that it wasn’t one of them), but Cliff reassures her that he went to the station and looked FP in the eyes and he knows it was him, announcing a new era of peace, relief and stability now that the family can put this tragedy behind them and move on knowing that justice was served. Jason’s twin Cheryl looks as uncomfortable with this prospect as Polly, but the two say nothing. Later, as everyone is consoling Cheryl at lunchtime at school, the gang of Archie, Betty and Veronica can’t help but express their frustration that the cops nabbed the wrong guy, with Ronnie still convinced that her dad hired someone to plant the gun from jail (and with Archie secretly reassuringly holding her hand under the table). They are soon joined by Sheriff’s son Kevin Keller, who defends his dad’s decision to keep Jughead at the station for questioning today, stating it’s just his job — FP did confess and all. B and V interject that the confession could’ve been coerced or he could be covering for someone, noting that Joaquin was looking mighty shady while talking to him the other day. Before Kevin has a chance to defend his boyfriend, the whole lunchroom goes silent… as Jughead Jones slowly shuffles up to Cheryl and meekly mumbles an apology. Cheryl, standing up, slaps Jug and starts hitting him with a barrage of blows that he doesn’t even try to deflect. As the gang and Principal Weatherbee breaks up the fight, Jughead is sent to the office (unfairly, as Arch points out) as Cheryl storms off. In the bathroom, Betty quietly approaches her as she cries, and calmly reminds her that this isn’t Game of Thrones — just because Jughead’s dad may have killed Jason, doesn’t mean Jughead did. Sadly, Cheryl opens up and notes how everyone keeps hugging and consoling her and telling her she must be so glad this nightmare is over… but it doesn’t feel over. She’s not ready to move on.
Later, Bets is waiting after school and meets her boyfriend as he exits Weatherbee’s office, coldly noting that this was his second interrogation of the day. Betty assures Juggie not to listen to the haters because his dad is innocent, but he’s not so sure of that. Bitterly, he questions who else the evidence points to, remarking that he’s been waiting his whole life for that man to do the right thing and he’s done — before storming off. At home, Fred Andrews gets off the horn with The Bee, and tells his son that the school has decided to allow (see: force) Jug to take the rest of the semester from home to avoid any possible repercussions like he had today. Archie argues again at how unfair this is, but Fred points out that they can’t be fighting Jug’s battles — they aren’t his legal guardians. Ignoring his son’s suggestions of getting Mary to pull lawyer strings and arrange something, Fred tells Archie that his main priority is keeping him safe, and right now the Joneses have a lot of trouble following them around. In frustration, he blurts out that he’s got half a mind to let Archie move to Chicago with his mother — a conversation he wasn’t meant to overhear, and a statement that greatly offends Archie, who wasn’t even considering it… until now. Unwilling to overhear any more, an overwhelmed Jughead stomps off the steps where he was eavesdropping and announces he’s sleeping in the garage tonight, as an exasperated Archie glares back at his dad, who clearly feels terrible. Meanwhile, at the Cooper house, Betty is laying awake in bed when she hears a loud thud coming from downstairs. Sneaking down cautiously with her mom, who is brandishing a revolver because of course she is, they catch a shadowy figure redhanded in the act of going through their things — until he slowly turns around, hands in the air, and reveals himself to be Hal Cooper, Betty’s half-estranged dad.
Sitting down with his family, Hal admits that he had taken the police files the night of the drive-in, and that he’s unsure why FP would confess to it; he was returning home to destroy the evidence so nothing could ever be linked back to them — and their connection with the Blossoms. Betty questions what Great-Grandpappy Blossom murdering Great-Grandpappy Cooper nine-thousand years ago has to do with anything, and Hal further admits a bombshell: he wasn’t just killed by a Blossom… he was a Blossom, and the family then severed ties and changed their name to Cooper. That’s why he didn’t ship Jasonopoly (ship name trademarked to The Game of Nerds, thank you) and that’s why he wanted Polly to terminate the pregnancy. Disgusted at the prospect of being distant cousins to Cheryl, Betty questions, given her dad’s crimes, how far the Blossoms might go to preserve the secret — and the three quickly resolve that they need to get Polly out of Thornhill, pronto. Barging down the door in the middle of the night, the Coopers storm the mansion and order Polly to come with them, much to the astonishment of the house’s occupants, who are in their nightgowns (and Clifford in his nightwig). After Penelope mocks the sanity of their family, Alice tells her she knows all about their family — and all the incest. (Anyone else notice Cheryl immediately go uncomfortable? Called it.) Alice announces to the room the true nature of the Cooper family — and of Polly’s babies — which doesn’t faze Cliff or Penelope; they already knew. Betty takes it one step further, and alleges that FP was potentially covering for them and protecting them from the incest story of getting out, which offends Penelope greatly. To Polly’s disgust, the Blossoms think everyone’s overreacting — they were third cousins, not brother and sister. (LikeCherylandJasoncough.) Grabbing their eldest daughter, the Coopers march out — but not before Penelope pulls at Betty and menacingly warns her of the mistake she’s making. Betty rebuts with a promise: that she’s not going to give up until she can prove it.
Elsewhere, Archie shakes Jughead awake in the garage and whispers that he’s got to come to Pop Tate’s. Meeting them there is Mrs. Andrews — who, at Archie’s request and without Fred’s knowledge, posed as FP’s attorney to try and get some more information. However, between his list of priors, the anonymous tip, possession of the murder weapon — and, as Jughead sardonically smirks, that pesky confession — things aren’t looking good. Mary spent the night with FP and he never budged from his story, though Jughead inappropriately jokes that ‘at least he’s an honest murderer.’ (Stop joking through the pain, Jug. You’re killing me.) She does note that fellow Serpent Joaquin De Santos was FP’s one phone call, however, which confuses both teens, and she warns Jughead to go and talk to his dad now, because things will start moving fairly quickly once he’s arraigned and he may not get another chance. Jug takes her up on that advice, as he gives a tear-jerking monologue through the bars of the holding cell to his scowling dad, crying about how he really had thought he had cleaned up his act this time. Shifting to anger, he angrily accuses his dad of only pretending to pay attention to his Jason Blossom manuscript to see if he was onto him, and that he didn’t want to go to Toledo to reunite the family — he wanted to flee the scene of the crime. Pointedly, he asks his father point-blank if he’s even sorry, and FP coldly remarks that he’s sorry he got caught. As Jughead turns to leave, his dad yells after him to never come back… which a bitter Jughead is more than happy to oblige to.
Meanwhile, Archie is at The Pembrooke and telling Veronica about the Joaquin phone call. The lovebirds agree that it’s weird that he didn’t call Jughead or a lawyer, and they decide to get to the bottom of it. Cornering him in Archie’s garage with the help of Kevin, the three question the purpose of the call. Joaquin says it was just a reminder to lay low, but Veronica calls his bluff and notes that no one uses their one call for a simple warning. Kevin, talking to him as the sheriff’s son and not as his boyfriend, directly questions if he knows anything, and if FP killed Jason. Joaquin admits that he did… but he didn’t see it happen directly. On July 11th he was called by FP to assist with a cleanup job at the Whyte Wyrm in the middle of the night, but upon arriving at the off-limits basement, found Jason’s dead body in a pool of blood. Without asking questions, he helped FP move the body, clean up the mess, and get rid of any evidence. Shocked, Kevin remarks in disgust that Joaquin is a criminal (apparently he previously assumed he was one of those stand-up gang members), but Veronica is more concerned about what else Joaquin may know and asks if there was any indication that her father Hiram was involved. Joaquin is unsure if this is useful, but he does remember a time he overheard a conversation between FP and Mustang — the gangster Archie picked a fight with in the Wyrm a few weeks back, and the only other Southside member to know of the body — where they were discussing some rich dude, but he doesn’t know who. That’s enough for Ronnie, and, with Kevin threatening to tell his dad about the clean-up job, they demand he take them to talk to Mustang. As this is going down, Betty and Polly are lying side-by-side in bed, relieved that Pol is finally home despite the mess of everything. This sisterly moment is interrupted by a call from Jughead, who is still at the jail. Showing that he’s a kickass actor, he drops the ‘hurt by my dad’ façade and tells Betty that he saw his dad and her suspicions were right — he’s hiding something.
Elsewhere, the gang is led by Joaquin to the crappiest, most rundown apartments ever, and he knocks on 226 — Mustang’s place. When there’s no answer, they let themselves in to check out the place and, in horror, they find him; he’s dead, fully clothed, in the bathtub, heroin still in his arm. Panicking, Joaquin remarks that he can’t be seen here, and he and Kevin instruct Archie and Ronnie to call the cops as they rush out. After the scene is all barricaded off and Hermione and Fred are present, Sheriff Keller questions the teens what they were doing here in the first place. Archie notes that they knew that Mustang was a Serpent and might have had answers, and Hermione urges her daughter to stop with this dangerous sleuthing. The sheriff notes that the timing is suspicious, and theorizes that this is a suicide by overdose because he was feeling the heat, before questioning the youngsters how they even found his address. Joaquin is safe another day, however, because before they get a chance to answer, a lady cop interrupts with a bag of thousands of dollars and bearing the letters ‘H.L.’. Keller changes his line of questioning as to why Hermione’s initials are on the bag, but Veronica interjects that they aren’t her initials — they stand for Hiram Lodge, who was doing business with the Southside Serpents. Hermione, appalled at her daughter cavalierly tossing out dangerous family secrets, cuts her off and notes that that’s all they’ll say without an attorney present. As Fred takes Archie back to the car, he scolds him for following down this path, and warns him that if he continues sneaking around the underbelly of Riverdale he will end up dead, just like Jason Blossom. Archie, fighting tears and traumatized by the day’s events, tells his dad he understands as the two drive home. As the Lodges get home, Hermione breaks down crying the second the door closes behind them, as Veronica, shocked, holds and comforts her.
Elsewhere, outside the bus station, Joaquin is getting ready to skip town (to San Junipero! Yay, Black Mirror reference!), when he warns his boyfriend to get his friends to give up on this investigation. Kevin notes that if he thinks they’ll stop, he never really knew them — just like he had never really known the real Joaquin. As Joaquin boards the bus, Kevin turns back and plants one last kiss on his first real boyfriend — who doesn’t want to stay silent anymore, and cautiously admits before he leaves that there’s one more thing that he knows. Meanwhile, meeting at the editorial office of the Blue & Gold school paper, Jughead tells Betty how his dad’s been lying to him his entire life, but he’s never been any good at it — and he could tell he was lying in that cell. As the two question aloud who he could be protecting, Cheryl Blossom approaches her blank-eyed mother in her den at Thornhill, and asks her, again, why Jay-Jay (ugh) and her dad were arguing the day before the row across Sweetwater River. Penelope, frustrated at having to repeat herself on the topic, reminds Cheryl that Clifford was grooming Jason for the family business, but he couldn’t stomach it like she can. Pushing further, Cheryl presses what Jason couldn’t handle, and Penelope coldly notes that she’s sure asking a lot of questions. Hopping back to the B&G, Juggie and Betty are eliminating potential suspects from their own personal murder board, noting that they already know Hal’s motives for being shady and that Hermione is guilty of many things, but not murder. Since everyone else has been disqualified one way or another, this leaves two — Hiram Lodge… and the Blossoms. Speaking of, we now skip back to Thornhill, where Cheryl is pleading for more information from her mother, because things aren’t adding up. If Jason wasn’t running away because of Polly, what did he see about the business that he didn’t like? What was he running from? Clifford? Her? Not appreciating the accusation, Penelope violently grabs Cheryl’s wrist and marches her outside to the barn where they house their casks of syrup, and, by her statements, the family secret. Shoving her inside, she remarks that there’s the sticky, dark, dirty truth about the family business — but we’re left to assume what she means, ‘cuz all I see is syrup, yo.
Alice Cooper, finding the high school sweethearts poring over their murder board, makes a grand entrance and announces to Betty and Jug that the police have found another body — dead by intentional overdose — with a bag of money on-site linking him back to Hiram Lodge. It’s all tied up in a nice tidy bow… too tidy, if you ask me, and Alice isn’t buying it. Before they can respond, however, Betty gets a call from Kevin, and agrees to meet him there. Suddenly it’s nighttime in Riverdale, as the trio brandish their flashlights and go searching by the old Blossom Maple Farms sign for whatever Joaquin had told Kevin about, with Kevin noting that he wasn’t sure if it would hurt or help the investigation, but it’s what FP had called him from jail about; telling him to ‘forget about the contingency plan’ because ‘it’s too dangerous’. Finding a duffel bag hidden in the brush, Jughead opens it up in shock to find Jason’s varsity jacket, which has been missing since his death. Convening in Archie’s garage, the group joins up with him to discuss what this means, and agree that it definitely adds credence to FP’s confession and makes him look extra-guilty. Veronica crashes this shindig to agree with this, regretfully noting that finding her father’s money at Mustang’s apartment definitely points to Mr. Jones pulling the trigger. Betty, however, persistent as ever, refuses to accept this answer and wants to find out why FP had called this jacket dangerous. Asking Archie to put it on, she starts to feel around in the pockets, noticing that there’s a hole in the left one. Even Kevin hangs the lampshade and points out that this is a bit of a stretch, but Betty remarks that every time there’s a hole in her sweater pocket she loses her Chapstick in the lining — and, in a Nancy Drew a-ha! moment, produces a small USB flash drive from the hem.
Popping it into Jughead’s laptop, the gang watches in silent horror as they look at whatever the memory stick contains — before all flinching, mortified. Betty, now crying at what she had just seen, quickly slams the laptop shut and rushes off to make a phone call. Breathlessly, she tells the party on the other end to get out of their house as fast as they can — as we see Cheryl Blossom sitting on her body, calmly responding that she understands. As she hangs up, with silent tears rolling down her cheeks, Cheryl slowly makes her way downstairs to the dining room, where her parents are having a late supper. Turning to face her father, Cheryl remarks one of the coolest (and somewhat childish, as is Cheryl’s way of speaking) lines in the series:
Meeting the sheriff at Mayor McCoy’s office, Alice rushes in and hands them the flash drive, telling them they need to watch it. As Jughead picks up narrating again, he tells us what the gang saw in that security cam video: Jason, tied to a chair in the basement of the Wyrm; Jason, being taunted by Mustang… Cliff, taking the engagement ring out of his son’s breast pocket before shooting him point-blank in the head. Can I just note for a second that my fiancée and I had made a bet ages ago on who was the killer and I totally nailed it? Can I gloat a little? No? Okay. Later, as Jug tells us, they would learn why FP confessed — Clifford had been to his cell, as he had said, but it was to threaten Jughead with the same fate if FP didn’t take the blame for him. As Jughead argues with the sheriff over his father’s release, Keller observes that FP may not be guilty of murder, but he is guilty of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, mishandling a body, perjury and many other felonies that will ensure he’s incarcerated for quite some time. Meanwhile, Veronica gets home, numb from crying, and apologizes to her mom for ever suspecting her dad. Hermione forgives her mija, and she has some good(?) news for her: Hiram has been released from jail, and is coming home. At the Andrews home, we’re saying farewells instead of welcome backs — as Archie tearfully says goodbye to his mom, who is heading back to Chicago. Promising to stay safe, he agrees to come stay for the summer sometime. Finally, as the police round up on Thornhill, Cheryl and Penelope stand on the front step, unfeelingly pointing the way to the guilty party, who is hiding out in the barn. As Sheriff Keller draws his weapon, his boys throw open the barn door — only to find Cliff Blossom, guilty of filicide and now suicide, hanging by the neck above an overturned barrel… with its contents — bags upon bags of what is presumably heroin — spilled across the floor.
Last week he vowed to ensure the death of his son’s killer, so say what you will about Clifford — at least he’s a man of his word. What a crazy, shocking episode! One more week of season one — how’s this all going to wrap up? Find out this Thursday at 9/8c on The CW or Netflix!