Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
(Warning! While not explicit, this episode may be triggering for survivors of sexual assault. Read at your own discretion!)
Dangerous street races. Brutal civil wars. Deadly biker gang infighting. What’s the one show that comes to mind to tie all these concepts together? That’s right: Riverdale. Wait… what? Read on. This episode starts with a beat-up Jughead Jones and his standard narration, explaining how everyone wears masks in a fashion — hiding who they really are. This notion is interrupted by newest rebound fling Toni Topaz… the morning after, wearing just her t-shirt as she exits the bedroom. FEELS. The other half of #RIPBughead also picks up right where we left off last episode, as Betty Cooper jogs to the Four Seasons hotel to check on date rapist Nick St. Clair, whose name she just offered to the Black Hood as a sacrifice. Horrified, she finds the door ajar… but Nick is inside, though badly battered and grouchy. As she warns him and his parents of their lack of safety, this rendez-vous is interrupted by the sheriff and an officer, taking Nick down to the station for questioning in regards to a complaint made against him. Somewhat suspiciously, Sheriff ‘Current Prime Suspect as the Black Hood’ Keller doesn’t seem too concerned or confused as to why Betty is there, and buys her questionable phony excuse readily.
As she walks home, Betty gets another call from the Black Hood (only now her ringtone is regular ringing and not ‘Lollipop’ — WHY THE RANDOM LITTLE EPISODE-TO-EPISODE INCONSISTENCIES, WRITERS?) and she questions why he didn’t kill Nick. Dodging the question, he states that Betty already gave him the greatest gift — by showing her true colours and taste for vengeance when she named Nick… before hanging up. I hate flaky boys. Speaking of fuckboys, Archie texts her ‘hey u up?’. Elsewhere, the Lodges are meeting in their lounge with Penelope Blossom — gradually less burned every time we see her except for her now-mummified hand — and apologizing for the snafu with their daughter and Nick. Penelope victim-shames her daughter and blames her for the attempted rape, and the three agree to handle this discreetly and not press charges — ‘after all, nothing really happened.’ Meanwhile, Veronica Lodge and Cheryl Blossom listen in from the next room, and Cheryl, clearly upset at what her mother is saying, immediately puts up a shield and rationalizes everything and pretends to be okay. She scolds herself for calling the police at all, and angrily tells Veronica to challenge him in court for his attempted assault on her own self if it matters so damn much.
Later, at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, Toni thanks Jug for letting her sleep over, but admits that their make-out gropefest was just a fun little fling — she’s not into being his rebound, and she’s more into girls, anyway. Meanwhile, Betty and neighbour Archie Andrews walk and talk and she confides that she’s got Polly somewhere safe and she’s over the Black Hood’s sick psychological torture on her and won’t pick up anymore. However, as they approach up on Pop’s and see Jug and Toni chatting in the window — ouch — they both get calls from their respective parents, telling them to meet up. ON TO THE BIGGEST SHOT- AND SCHEDULE-PLANNING THIS SHOW HAS HAD, with Betty, Veronica, Archie, Kevin Keller, Josie McCoy, Reggie Mantle and all their parents meeting up in the Cooper’s basement to discuss their recent poor choices. PARENTERVENTION. As the catty parents throw shade on each other and each other’s kids, Reggie admits to supplying the drug jingle-jangle, which he received from his southside dealer — who he believes was probably a Southside Serpent gang member from Southside High. Ronnie tries to flip the script and push blame onto Nick, but Sheriff Keller points out that all the witnesses were high, so the accusation wouldn’t hold up. Frustrated with her daughter’s poor choices, Mayor McCoy resolves to crack down on the troublesome south side of town, starting with all gang members at Southside High.
Speak of the south, Mr. Phillips is reading Jughead’s first paper submission about the southside community for the Red & Black school paper and is impressed — mainly by how he was able to find time to write while joining a gang, which is breaking one of the two rules he had set: no gangs and no drugs. Jughead protests that the Serpents are a community and not just petty dealers like the rival Ghoulies, but this meeting is cut shut by an urgent text from Archie telling him to meet him in the hall NOW. Jug rushes out, and Archie races down the hall warning him to leave now, as police kick in the doors behind him with drug dogs. Archie drags his friend out the doors as gang members are being pushed against lockers and arrested left and right — including Sweetpea and Toni, whom he urges to leave behind to avoid his own arrest. In the north end, Veronica tells Kevin about her own attempted rape, and refuses to tell her parents (or his dad), despite his protests. Betty approaches them in the hall to apologize for being shitty lately, but neither of them want to her and blow her off — and she gets a call from the Black Hood. Sneaking into a side classroom and breaking her own self-promise, she answers and asks him to leave her alone, but he says that since he spared Nick’s life she owes him one final task: bring him the identity of the drug manufacturer nicknamed the Sugarman and he will stop his crusade — suggesting she start with talking to Cheryl Blossom, as her late father Clifford was one of his associates.
Elsewhere, at Pop’s, Arch is trying to calm Jughead down, but Jug is furious at the arrest of his friends and crew — reiterating that the Serpents aren’t dealers, just the Ghoulies, and lashing out at Archie and Betty for how they treated the breakup before leaving to parley with Tall Boy. Meanwhile, Betty approaches Cheryl suntanning outside her manor Thistlehome, and asks her about the Sugarman for an article she’s writing. Cheryl is a bit surprised about her writing about a bogeyman, and notes that he was just a story her mother told her and Jason before bed to scare them into behaving for their father, and refuses the notion he could have been a real person before dismissing her. At the Andrews residence, Archie is complaining to his dad about being given community service by the mayor, but Fred is all for the idea; if you put trash in your body, you should have to spend the day at Pickens Park (named after fictional Archie Comics war hero General Pickens) cleaning it up. Since Jug is at ground zero, he makes sure his son is checking in on his friend, and can relate to the Jones stubbornness since Juggie’s father FP was the same way. Like father like son, as Jughead enters a creepy gothic mancave called the House of the Dead — the basement of insane Ghoulies leader Malachai — where Tall Boy wanted to meet. Shocked by the presence of Ghoulies, Tall Boy, declaring himself de facto leader of the Serpents, asserts that the north side has declared war with their raid today, and that they need to all band together and fight back — asking Jughead to endorse the rival gangs’s partnership as former leader FP’s son.
Back at Thistlehome, Cheryl is going through some old childhood trinkets and memories by the fire, when she comes across, horrified, a terrifying children’s drawing of the Sugarman harassing the young twins (– which was clearly drawn by one of the staff comic artists, pretending to be a child. No kid draws a mansion that creatively). Meanwhile, Betty confronts the sheriff off-the-clock at Pop’s to ask him some jingle-jangle questions for her Blue & Gold article, while Veronica suspiciously watches on from a booth. Tom tells her that Clifford Blossom WAS the Sugarman, and that since JJ hit the streets after his death, no one knows who the supplier is. As Ronnie sasses her from across the diner, Betty sits with her and apologizes, explaining her reasoning behind everything. Veronica forgives her once she knows the truth, but urges Betty to stop this toxic relationship with the Hood — but Betty reveals her plan to turn the tables on him. However, she has a dilemma: she doesn’t want the Sugarman to roam free, but she doesn’t want his blood on her hands either — and she asks for V’s help. At Jug’s pad, he rants to Archie about the attempted merger and how his dad would never stand for this — and Archie suggests that that’s exactly who they should talk to. Talking through phones in the holding cell, Jughead breezes past joining the gang but tells his dad everything, and FP says to outthink them as opposed to shed blood — suggesting to take the Ghoulies in a one-on-one street race since they love their souped-up cars, winner gets control over the Serpents and Southside High. (What can I say? It’s an over-serious 2017 teen drama in an over-cheesy 40’s comic book world.)
Elsewhere, Cheryl presents her mother — cracking a poached egg with her Satan hand — the drawing of the Sugarman and asks who he really was, but Penelope feigns ignorance of any such thing. Elsewhere-elsewhere, the jingle-jangle gang (gingle-gangle?) is doing their cleanup crew duty at Pickens Park as Reggie and Josie sassy-flirt (I’M HERE FOR THIS), and Veronica pulls Reg aside to get the name of his JJ contact. Meanwhile, Archie confronts Betty about talking to Jughead, which she again says she will do in due time. As Ronnie marches down to the south side to meet up with Verne the dealer, she fakes a drug deal and gives her compliments to the Sugarman. This namedrop freaks the fuck out of Verne, and he comically bolts — right as planned, as he passes right by Betty’s behind-a-dumpster stakeout spot. As Archie and Jughead hang out in Malachai’s creepy-ass lair and challenge him to a race, offering the Whyte Wyrm and Sunnyside Trailer Park as additional prizes when he refuses. However, this meeting is cut short when B & V are dragged in by Verne and his goons, complaining about them following him. Meanwhile, Cheryl is grabbing a bite at Pop’s when Nick approaches the counter and places an order. Noticing her (and calling her by the wrong name), he triggers and victim-blames and gaslights her about what happened, acting like a total abuser DOUCHEBAG, she angrily decides aloud that she will be pressing charges after all — but he informs her a sneaky hush money deal his parents made with her mother before stealing a french fry and heading out, cockily paying for her meal as he goes and leaving her shaky and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
As mechanic Betty (FINALLY, THIS COMIC-ACCURATE PART OF HER PERSONALITY) tunes up Reggie’s loaned-out hot rod in the RIverdale Auto Shop, Jughead sulks off to the side, as Jugheads do. They eventually strike up a venomous post-breakup conversation about his gang membership and her dumping him, but she promises to more fully explain things when this race isn’t their main focus. Back at Thistlehome, Cheryl accosts her mother (lotioning her zombie flesh) with the hush money cheque she found in her bedroom, and sheds some tears for her apparently lack of concern and care for her — saying she won’t return the cheque until she knows the truth about the Sugarman. (By the way, what happened to the S1E1 dynamic where Cheryl was totally in control over her mother? YOU DID IT AGAIN, WRITERS.) Penelope refuses to say a peep, and Cheryl, full on breaking down (great acting from Madelaine btw) begs her mother to care about her more before storming off. Elsewhere, Veronica is in bed postcoital snuggling with Archie, and he reassures her he has a plan regarding the race — before she receives a call from Cheryl, updating her on what her mother had told her about the Lodges and their SoDale investment project. Ronnie storms home immediately and interrupts her parents’ chess game to ask them if they’re still doing business with the St. Clairs despite everything, and backs up Cheryl’s allegations by admitting he tried the same with her. Hiram nearly flies into an immediate rage, but Hermione immediately diffuses the situation, promising to cut all business ties with the family.
Later, as the gang (dressed in retro 50’s outfits which I am SO HERE FOR) waits for the drag race to start, Archie promises Ronnie he’ll make it back in one piece and Betty gives Jughead some clutch advice before admitting that she’ll never stop loving him. Tall Boy lays out the route to Dead Man’s Curve as the drivers shake paws before entering their vehicle, and Cheryl, sassing Toni out of the way, dramatically waves the flag to signal the race start. JUGHEAD/ARCHIE VS. MALACHAI/VERNE. Jug is clearly having the time of his life as the cars are neck and neck, but Malachai smugly rams the side of Reggie’s car and pulls in the lead. As they approach Herk Harvey Bridge (may he rest in peace), Archie expresses concerns over the width of the bride, and suggests they pull back to avoid bottlenecking, but Jughead is singularly focused. Taking matters into his own hands (literally), Archie reaches over and pulls the emergency brake, stopping the car dead in the road. As Jughead exits the car and is ready to sock Arch one for losing the race and the Serpents, sirens are heard ahead — as Sheriff Keller and a blockade of blues, who have set up camp just around the curve, stop Malachai dead in his tracks and arrest him. As Archie and Jughead race back and scatter the crowd in the wake of impending cops, Tall Boy gets right in Jughead’s face about setting up a deal with the police — but Archie admits that he called Sheriff Keller, much to Jughead’s frustration. Tearing down his pleasedness with his successful plan to cut the head off the Ghoulies, Jug points out that this arrest is a very temporary measure that has now put them all on the Ghoulie hitlist.
Back in Thornhill, Cheryl arrives home to her mother waiting by the fire (SHE’S USED TO THAT OHOHOHOHO), clearly troubled by their talk earlier. On the verge of tears, Penelope admits that she has always protected Cheryl — including when she concocted the boggart of the Sugarman to mask the explanation and fear of all-too-real monster. She tells her that there has been many Sugarmen over the years, and tearfully admits that her son Jason meeting the current Sugarman — and her disagreement with Clifford over whether he should — was the first event in the snowballing chain of events that lead to his death. As she breaks down sobbing, Cheryl shoves the cheque back under her nose and she takes it… before crumpling it and tossing it into the fire, with a shocked Cheryl quietly and meekly thanking her. She asks Penelope one final question: who IS the current Sugarman? Elsewhere, Betty’s phone gives a ringle-rangle as she and V grab shakes at Pop’s, and she picks up to Cheryl telling her the real Sugarman’s name. Hanging up, a slightly shellshocked Betty begs Veronica for advice on how to proceed.
Later, Betty picks up the phone again in her bedroom, this time to the Black Hood announcing her time is up. She admits she did find out the Sugarman’s name — but he’ll just have to find out the same time as everyone else, when she publishes her takedown piece tomorrow morning in the Blue & Gold — noting that the sheriff has already been notified. Proving that she IS different from him by providing justice over execution, Betty takes control and tells the Black Hood that this risky game she’s playing is now HER game; her detective skills found out Jason’s killer, found out the Sugarman, and now they’re going to found out the Black Hood. Presumably shitting himself, he hangs up on her. Meanwhile, at Southside High, Toni fills Jughead on the divided reaction amongst the Serpents regarding the Ghoulie arrest, when the police show up at the school and round the corner. Jug fears another raid, but Toni fills him in that that’s not the case: the pigs finally caught the Sugarman… as they lead out none other than Mr. Robert ‘drugs are bad, mmkay’ Phillips, mentor extraordinaire. (!!!!!!) Okay, I’ve guessed a lot of major twists, but this one caught me by surprise. GOOD ONE, RIVWRITERS. As Archie notices his dad taking extra painkillers and lying that he’s feeling better every day, Hermione Lodge receives the tragic news mid-chess game that the St. Clairs have been in a terrible motor vehicle accident — run off the road by another driver — and Nick may not recover for several months. Veronica — presumably knowing that her parents are responsible for this — truly becomes a Lodge when she coldly remarks that ‘oh well… karma’s a bitch.’ As Jug gives his closing narrative remarks on the masks we all — including Betty, who came clean about her danse macabre and presumably has been forgiven — wear, the Black Hood enters the Sugarman’s holding cell with a pistol and blows his brains out anyway. Checkmate.
What a thrilling last five minutes! It’s been so long, and we’re so close to finding out the man behind the hood! Catch up on Riverdale every Wednesday at 8/9 ET on The CW, or the next day on international Netflix or for free on The CW app! Keep glued to The Game of Nerds for all your Riverdale and geek fandom fun stuff!