Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
(Warning! This episode features a trigger warning for sexual assault. Read at your own discretion!)
Hopping right into where last week left off, Betty Cooper reels in shock at the pitch-modified voice on the other end of the line claiming to be the Black Hood. After proving it by providing more info than he should have known, he admits he was at the Town Hall but didn’t hurt anyone; this was a test for Betty. He also warns her that he knows all about her big sister’s Polly’s location and the ‘sin she carries in her womb’, and threatens her life if Betty gets in his way or tells anyone about this. This call is interrupted by Mama Alice, busting in to fold laundry and complain about Betty’s south side boyfriend Jughead Jones, who she assumes was just on the other line. She demands Betty come straight home after school since that stunt with the fire alarm, but notes that the letter she had received from the Black Hood seems off and that Sheriff Keller is having it analyzed against the letter she had gotten. Meanwhile, Archie Andrews is telling his dad Fred how he finally wrote the apology letter Principal Weatherbee asked, and he made a video apology as well; the Red Circle is done. Fred is glad to hear it, but this talk is interrupted by a text from next-door neighbour Betty, asking Arch to walk her to school. As they walk, Betty coaches Archie to look normal and not suspicious, and makes him promise not to tell a single soul as she lays down what had happened. Archie vows to her that he won’t let her go through this alone.
Elsewhere, Hermione Lodge is reading aloud a venomous Riverdale Register article by none other than Alice Cooper, which states that ex-con Hiram Lodge and the south side thugs are the town’s real problem — not the Black Hood — and bashes his SoDale project meant to revitalize the troubled neighbourhood. That’s not the only problem circling the project though: they’re running out of capital, fast. However, Hiram, ever the businessman, has a solution, as he has invited wealthy investors from New York — including the Midas-rich St. Clair family. This excites daughter Veronica, as she hasn’t seen old flirt Nick St. Clair in ages, and Hermione tasks her with her first assignment as an active Lodge stakeholder: do whatever Nick wants to get him to influence his father into investing. In the south side, things are somehow more shady, as Sweetpea, Fogarty and all the other jerkbag Southside Serpents are plotting to get revenge on Archie and the northsiders for their rumble last episode. As they explain to Jughead, who walked in on this, they’re gonna put a homemade pipebomb in the Register to blow the operation for good. As Jughead protests and offers to talk it out with Archie, Sweetpea gives him an ultimatum: pick a side, because you can’t be half a Serpent. As the gang bounces, Jughead expresses his frustrations with his only Southside High confidante Toni Topaz, but she agrees with her gang — the northsiders have dumped on them for too long, and with Jug’s dad FP unable to keep the peace from his holding cell, things are bound to get worse and worse.
Later, at Riverdale High up north, Ronnie is gushing on to Betty and Kevin Keller about old pal and almost-flame Nick, when her boyfriend Archie walks in at probably the worst time. Somewhat unconvincingly, she reassures him that he has nothing to worry about. (If he read the Archie Comics, he already knows Nick is an ex of hers and trouble.) Elsewhere, Jughead ponders a moment before donning his Serpent leather jacket and heading to the Whyte Wyrm gang hangout (gangout?) to be mocked by Sweetpea. He affirms that is the real deal, however — he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps; he wants to join the Serpents for good. Tall Boy — who gave him the jacket — says he can be in… if he survives the initiation. Meanwhile, Archie and Betty are randomly sitting quietly in Bettys room when her retro ‘Lollipop by The Chordettes’ ringtone goes off and makes them both jump; it’s the Black Hood again. After lying and telling him she’s alone, he tells Betty that her mother is a problem — and to help get rid of her, she has to prove her loyalty by publishing an article he emailed her by tomorrow night. In return, she can ask him one non-identifying question that he must answer honestly. Opening her email, Betty finds the article in question: an old mugshot of her teenage mother with the looming headline:
That night, Jughead awakens to the Serpents — wearing stupid culty snake masks — in his bedroom to start his initiation. His first task? Assume ownership of THE BEAST… AKA his comic best chum, the loveable white sheepdog Hot Dog. As he complains about ‘the Beast’ to Toni next day at school, Toni explains that this is tradition — and this is their third Hot Dog, which keeps in tradition with the comics where his real name is J. Farnsworth Wigglebottom III (and also a clever way to explain away the fact that this is a totally different dog from last season finale). He makes fun of the name, and Toni teases him for his name (Forsyth Pendleton III) and shit just gets a little too flirty for my tastes, fam. In the north side, Betty and Arch chat in the halls about their options, and despite Archie playing devil’s advocate, Bets refuses to expose her mom. Meanwhile, Veronica welcomes the St. Clairs to their hotel — and Nick, handsome as ever — notes how Veronica is the only charm to this small town. A LITTLE TOO FLIRTY FOR MY TASTES, FAM. Back at the Cooper house (Riverdale time, I tell ya), Sheriff Keller tells the Coopers that the handwriting on the notes wasn’t a match, and this is likely the work of a copycat. Alice rejects this theory, and accuses Betty of making it all up for attention, like the loving and supportive mom she is. Furious, Betty runs back and texts Archie — who is working out in his room — that she’s changed her mind; let’s wreck the bitch.
Back at Jughead’s pad, he’s running over the Laws of Serpentdom with Toni, but she warns him to take this seriously when he can’t remember them all and questions why he had a change of heart anyway. Jughead admits that someone needs to step up to keep idiots like Sweetpea in line, or an all-out civil war is gonna happen. Jump-cut to the Wyrm, where Tall Boy (who is like, an inch shorter than Jughead by the way) is screaming asking what the Laws are amidst the din, while Jughead shouts them back in his face like some sort of military bootcamp. Once he proves he knows his shit, it’s on to the next trial, as Serpents move away to reveal it: he must remove the knife from the stone, which is in a rattlesnake’s cage. Later, as he bandages his hand and complains about the bite he sustained, Toni reassures him that the venom glands were removed and applauds him for so far doing so well in the trials… calling him Juggie — Betty’s nickname for him — in the process. In the north end, Alice Cooper enters Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe for an order of her usual, when Pop politely notes that he doesn’t judge her for her past. When Alice notices the patrons all staring and whispering, she questions what he means by this and he produces a copy of the Blue & Gold — her old Serpent mugshot front and centre. As she and Hal later scold their daughter for publishing this attack on her, Betty argues that it’s justice against her holier-than-thou attitude against the south side of town.
Elsewhere, Veronica is introducing Archie to Nick after a family dinner, but Nick is only interested in doing what appears to be cocaine, surprised at former ‘sexy’ bad-girl Ronnie turning down a bump (and making Arch supremely uncomfortable and ready to pop him one in the process). At home, Betty is finishing brushing her teeth when she gets a Lollipop ringaling from the Black Hood again. Holding him to his end of the deal, she asks him if she would recognize his face — and he admits that she would. For his next request, however, he tells her that she has to start cutting people out of her life, or he will cut them down… starting with Veronica Lodge. Later, Betty meets Jughead at Pop’s — her loosened ponytail deteriorating as much as her mental state — and the two happily embrace. As Betty lies about her reasoning behind publishing her mom’s past, Juggie lies about his wounded hand. BUT IT’S STILL CUTE, OKAY? THEY’RE STILL CUTE TOGETHER. The two sit in a sad silence for a while, before Jug breaks it by wishing they could run away together. Failing at blinking back tears, Betty sadly shares the sentiment.
Later, at Riverdale High, Nicky applauds Josie and the Pussycats’ private performance for him and invites them all to a party he’s hosting at his hotel room that night. Overhearing the word ‘party’, Cheryl Blossom apparates into the room and invites herself, playfully introducing herself to Nick in the process. However, Arch is distracted as he sees Betty saunter past and he rushes off to catch up with her. Noting that she left without him today for school, he makes sure everything’s fine — but before Betty can tell him what’s up, Veronica approaches to introduce her to Nick so she quickly lies and says she hasn’t received any more Black Hood calls. Nick won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, so Betty finds herself at his party that evening, listening to his story of bumping into Gal Gadot at the Gilded Lily. Bored with basic alcohol, he whips out the jingle-jangle — which resident dealer Reggie Mantle proudly admits to providing. Archie tries to refuse, but is mocked by Nick — and Veronica, remembering she’s supposed to be showing him a good time for the sake of the SoDale project, accepts a stick. As Cheryl, Reggie, Kevin and all of the Pussycats all give into the peer pressure, Betty rudely refuses and Nick suggests they jingle their jangles elsewhere without them — prompting Arch to change his mind and join in as well.
As the party gets weird and wild, Betty wallflowers uncomfortably in the corner, bracing herself about what she has to do. As Ronnie approaches her and urges her to have some fun, Betty cuts loose: she tells her BFF that she’s making a fool of herself, and starts slamming her airhead party-girl past while she’s at it. She accused Veronica of using them all as a distraction until someone from her trashy past shows up — and compares her to her ‘hitman’ father, advising her that she’ll always be a bad person before faux-storming out. Elsewhere, Toni heads to Jughead’s trailer to warn him about the final trial — and urge him to consider backing out, because the second he joins, he’s going to lose all his friends and people he cares about. Back at the now fizzled-out party, Veronica apologizes for Betty’s behaviour, but Nick instead showers her with compliments to counteract Betty’s statements… and makes a move. Ronnie tells him no, but he’s pushy and she ends up having to physically shove him off of her. Rudely, he reminds her that he has the power to make her father’s SoDale project implode, so she should be thinking of ways to impress him, but she responds with a good ol’ slap to the face before storming out.
At the bus stop, Betty sits dejectedly with running mascara, waiting for a ride home from the party when her phone starts lollipoppin’ again, causing her to break into a sob. Tearfully, she answers and admits that she did it, and asks her question: what will make him stop? The Black Hood tells her that he won’t kill as long as she keeps doing what he asks, and gives a bawling Betty her next target to cut out of her life: Jughead Jones. The next day, Archie storms into her school editorial office to ask about what the hell happened last night, and a defeated Betty admits she lied to him and tells him what the Black Hood had asked. Archie, stubborn as ever, tries to call the police — but Betty stops him and reminds him that no one has been hurt since she’s started complying with his demands. She pleads with Archie, asking if he could let Jughead down easy for her and tell him that they just need to take a break for a while, vowing to walk it back later and making him promise to not be cruel about it. Later, at the SoDale project, the Lodges thank rich socialite guests for coming and privately hope this turnout convinces the St. Clairs to invest. As Veronica discreetly avoids Nick at the event, Hermione sidles up to business partner Fred Andrews to SUBTLY FLIRT CAUSE NO ONE IS SACRED and to try and convince him to socialize, since this is his project too.
Hiram, however, is accosted by Hal Cooper, who tells him that Alice decided to lay low and stay home due to the negative press from the mugshot. These conversations are interrupted — in fact, the whole event is interrupted — as heads turn in awe to the confident new flame marching in. As the camera pans up, we see lacy calf-high high heels, a red flowing cape, a tight cleavagey red romper with a gilded belt… and Alice Cooper’s ‘don’t fuck with me’ face, complete with a golden serpent choker. As she takes her husband’s drink, she tells him to shove it — proving once and again that Alice is the most hardcore badass in the town. As Ronnie makes small-talk with the caterer to avoid a certain someone, Nick approaches her anyway, but apologizes before she can throw a drink in his face. He admits he’s been in and out of rehab and had been relapsing hard, and admits he crossed a line. Veronica, noticing her parents chatting it up with the St. Clairs, accepts his apology — and the two make up over two glasses of ginger ale, before a smirking Cheryl catches his eye with a wave.
Heading to Jug’s trailer, Archie bumps into him on his way out — and he quickly asks Arch to leave, as it’s not a good time. Before he can explain, however, Sweetpea and the Serpents show up, and Archie immediately goes red with rage as he realizes that Jughead is friends with the same thugs he got in a street-brawl with, and pieces together that he’s joining their gang. Forgetting the whole ‘let him off easy, don’t be cruel’ part, Archie angrily tells Jughead that he stopped by to tell him that Betty doesn’t want to see him anymore, and hamming it up by saying she’s been wanting to leave him for weeks because she saw what kind of path he was going down. ARCHIE, STOP THIS RIGHT NOW. Jughead is in disbelief until Archie points out ‘he should’ve known this would happen’ — and, remembering Toni’s warning earlier, he angrily tells a departing Arch to tell Betty he got the message, before turning back to the Serpents for his final trial: the Gauntlet. Back at the open house, Nick catches up with Cheryl and apologizes they haven’t spoken more — making it up to her by getting her a champagne… which he secretly laced with a roofie.
As Hiram, Hermione and Fred get on stage to give a speech about the new future of the south side, they finally explain what the SoDale project is going to be (or at least lead to): luxury apartments, shopping centres, swimming pools, golf courses and the like. As the raise their glasses for a toast, Josie and the Pussycats (feat. Veronica) kick off the party with a little music — ‘Out Tonight’ from the musical Rent. As the group sings, we montage back and forth between the other characters: namely Betty bawling in her room, Archie reeling with guilt at Pop’s for going too far, and Jughead, getting ready to face down two parallel lines of Southside Serpents and we finally found out with the Gauntlet is. As Jughead walks between the rows, he is passed from gang member to gang member, each one delivering a crushing hook or two to his face or stomach. Meanwhile, Ronnie and the Cats end their song as it wraps up, as they sees Nick dragging a stumbling Cheryl off the dancefloor back to his hotel room. Bursting in after him, they race up the stairs as he undresses himself.
As a bloodied and bruised Jughead weakly asks if that’s all they’ve got, Sweetpea brandishes his knuckledusters for the final blow. Simultaneously, Veronica and the Pussycats bust open the door and deliver some hooks of their own to the would-be rapist as Josie McCoy makes sure Cheryl is okay. As they kick the ever-living shit out of him, Jughead (having just suffered the same) peels himself off his lawn and shakes Sweetpea’s hand as he’s re-presented with his official Southside Serpent jacket for keepsies. Meanwhile, to break up all this joy and frivolity, Betty — with her ponytail, metaphorical of her, completely being down and given up on — is interrupted mid-meltdown by another call with a familiar ringtone. She brokenly admits that the deed is done, and boldly asks the only thing left that she wants to know: who is he? The Black Hood tells her that there is an abandoned house at the edge of Fox Forest, and it is there she will find the answers.
As Betty briskly jogs to the creepy dilapidated house mentioned, she gets another call as she enters — and the Hood directs her to a gift-wrapped box on the hardwood floor, which he claims contains the answer to her question. As she cautiously opens it up, she pulls out a familiar black hood with the eyes cut out. Confused, the man directs her to put it on and turn around and she will see who he is. Compliant as always, Betty does so… and comes face to face with a mirror, as the Black Hood frustratingly and cryptically tells her that they’re the same now. However, a floorboard nearby creaks and Betty bolts before she can find out any more. On the way out, she gets a call from Archie, but the signal is poor; all she can make out is that she needs to come to the Pembrooke, because something bad happened to Cheryl.
At Veronica’s apartment, Cheryl is meekly thanking Veronica and the girls for saving her, but Archie just wants to find this creep and give him a piece too. As Veronica apologizes for Nick being a monster, blaming herself for never noticing this pattern of behaviour before, Betty tells her it’s not her fault — causing a confused and hurt exchange of looks. Cheryl, however, is bawling as she decides aloud to press charges against Nick because she wants him to suffer and burn in hell. Meanwhile, Jughead is icing his battle scars at home when Toni officially welcomes him to the gang, pointing out that he’s gonna have a hard time hiding his new Serpent tattoo from Betty. Jughead admits that that won’t be a problem anymore… and she kisses him. NO. But also, maybe? Bughead is goals, but Tughead isn’t so bad. FIGHT ME. Anyway, Betty is curating her list of known facts about the Hood when she gets another call — and he notes that she broke his rules by telling Archie, and now Polly has to pay. Begging him to leave her alone, he promises that he will… if Betty provides the name of someone else who is guilty. Without batting an eye, Betty offers up Nick St. Clair (YAS QWEEN), and the Black Hood points out that they really are the same.
That was the craziest episode of Riverdale yet, with some insane acting from Lili Reinhart! SO MANY FEELS. Will Bughead work out? Catch up every Wednesday on The CW at 8/9c, or on The CW app or Netflix internationally! Check out The Game of Nerds for all your Riverdale reviews, recaps, news and fun stuff!