Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Setting up the week, Jughead Jones’s signature narration tells us all about how his friends Archie Andrews and Veronica Lodge are coping with the looming Black Hood killing sinners: by sinning copiously, and hooking up whenever they’re within arm’s reach of one another. (He even uses ship name ‘Varchie’, proving once again that the Riverdale writers love their fan community!) After a particularly steamy lovemaking session on the hearth at the Pembrooke, Archie, relieved that her parents won’t be home for hours now, casually slips out the L-word: “I love you, Ronnie.” This outburst catches them both off-guard, and Archie hastily makes an excuse to get dressed and get out of there while Veronica awkwardly dances around saying it back. Meanwhile, Jughead meets up with HIS significant other Betty Cooper at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe to fill her in on what he discovered in City Hall’s archives regarding the Riverdale Reaper. It turns out creepy trucker guy wasn’t lying, and the Reaper killed a family of four in their home on the edge of Fox Forest — Jim, Mary Ellen and little Tommy and Sue Conway — before disappearing into the night, never to be found. This revelation horrifies Betty, as she realizes that the murder house is the same house the Black Hood had her visit during his sick game — solidifying the connection between the two killers. With both unwilling to talk to Sheriff Keller (Jughead’s a gang member, Betty accused him of being the killer) and with Betty unwilling to go back to the house, they resolve to figure something out… before Jughead gets a call from the jail.
Happily, the two later meet up with Archie and Veronica in the Riverdale High school paper editorial offices and break the good news: Jughead’s dad FP is getting out of jail due to ‘overcrowding’. Archie, though suspicious because of what he knows, offers to help in any way they can — and Bughead takes this opportunity to ask the two to ‘become them’ and follow up on their Riverdale Reaper lead while they take some time off to assist FP with his reintegration into society.. Elsewhere, Cheryl Blossom is still behaving strangely to best friend Josie McCoy, and offers — towel-clad and nude — to give Josie, also naked, a sensual lavender back massage after River Vixen cheer practice. (What ARE you playing at!?) This is interrupted by somewhat creepy janitor Mr. Svenson, who immediately shields his eyes and apologizes profusely for failing to knock, but is blasted anyway for walking in mid-back rub. As Cheryl angrily orders the ashamed ‘Peeping Tom’ and his male gaze out of the locker room, Josie is visibly growing increasingly uncomfortable with her overprotective friend’s treatment of any man who is nice to her, and brushes the rest of the massage off.
Later, as Ronnie returns home to the Pembrooke, she’s taken aback by the sheriff exiting, until her parents advise her that they too have started receiving threatening letters from the Black Hood — the same letter a dozen other homes received that day. As a precaution, the Lodges inform their daughter they’ve hired car services (and trained martial artist butler Andre as a chauffeur) for her to get around, inspected the state of the art security system, and request that she bring brawny Archie around a little more often as an added layer of protection. Elsewhere, in the Cooper house, Betty asks her mom Alice’s permission to borrow the station wagon to pick FP up from jail, and also informs her that Jughead is a Southside Serpent now, but asks that she, as a former Serpent, give him the benefit of the doubt. Elsewhere elsewhere, Jughead announces to the packed Whyte Wyrm gang hangout that his dad is getting out of the clink, and once he’s back they’ll get him up to speed on their upcoming chat with the mayor to compromise and ‘fix’ the fallen south side of town. Tall Boy objects to Jug’s way of running things, but the Serpents put it to a vote and he loses spectacularly, storming out of the pool hall in the process.
Back at the Pembrooke, Archie — accepting Veronica’s invite over — heads to her room the chat, where they make out (duh) and mutually agree to investigate the Conway murder house for Bughead. Arch tries to talk about what he said, but Veronica, clearly stalling, urges him to put it on the backburner until after their investigation. The next morning, Archie brings this up to his dad Fred — while Veronica does the same with her parents — with very different responses; Fred thinks Arch is overreacting about her lack of response, Hermione thinks Veronica needs to figure out what she’s ready for, and Hiram is dad-ly pretending that nothing happened at all. Elsewhere, Betty and Jughead greet FP as he walks through the iron Shankshaw gates for the last(?) time, with Alice Cooper, their driver, making embarrassing sexual frustration jokes at her old gang buddy. (What is this FP/Alice sexual tension and why have I never known I needed it?!) Treating the ex-con to Pop’s, Alice fills FP (in typical snarky accusatory fashion) on the latest Black Hood happenings, but he affirms that he’s actually quit drinking, is in Alcoholics Anonymous, and is planning on retiring from the Serpents and taking Pop Tate up on a ‘help wanted’ ad in the window instead.
Meanwhile, Archie and Ronnie approach Sheriff Tom Keller about the four-decade-old Riv Reaper cold case for more info, but he notes that most of the files on it are missing — presumably taken home by the former sheriff, Sheriff Howard, to work on back in the day. While he’s passed away, Tom gives them the contact information to his daughter, Margaret Howard. Varchie attempts to give her a call, but Maggie grows impatient with them dredging up the case that drove her dad mad and hangs up, noting that he spent several nights in that damn house, which she dubs the Devil’s House™. Reluctantly, the two decide that they have no other choice but to pay the devil a visit themselves. In the south side, the Jones family is having some father-son bonding by ripping on their motorbikes down the highway. Pulling over on an embankment by Sweetwater River, Jughead points out that he’s been trying to emulate his dad to fill his Serpent-y shoes, but FP doesn’t want his son to follow the same path he did. Jughead, admitting he did a ‘one-time job’ for Penny Peabody to get his dad out, admits that he wants to stay in the Southside Serpents, but he needs his dad’s blessing. FP isn’t happy about it, but allows it on the condition that Jug continues to write every day.
Later, at Pop’s, FP is in his spiffy new uniform collecting plates from Betty and Jughead while Cheryl and Josie chat a few booths down — with Cheryl scolding Jo for accepting a gig at Reggie’s dad’s car dealership grand opening, despite the $5k performer’s cheque. Noticeable jealous (or whatever it is she’s been feeling) at Reggie Mantle’s name, Cheryl lashes out by deliberately spilling her milkshake and ordering FP to mop it up — just like he did to her brother’s blood. Holding Jug back, he offers her a free replacement shake. Frustrated at his dad’s treatment and newfound lack of status, Jughead rants to Betty, and she offers to plan him a retirement party to honour him the way he should be. In the south, she meets with Toni Topaz — bartending the Wyrm — to plan karaoke for the party, but also to ask for advice on how she can get closer to the Serpent’s world to keep an eye on Juggie and make sure he doesn’t do anything else stupid or dangerous. An older Serpent, Byrdie, who was eavesdropping, notes that she’ll have to do the Serpent Dance — a pole-dancing striptease — if she wants to be part of this world, but Toni objects and tries to talk her out of it due to its sexist outdated nature. Naturally, Betty, she of sound reason, makes up her mind that this is something she’s going to do.
Back at the trailer park, Jughead convinces a reluctant FP over takeout to attend his own retirement party and say one last goodbye to his lifestyle. Stepping out to answer a call from Archie (strike) Penny, she threatens Jug with his dad’s re-imprisonment if he doesn’t meet her at Pop’s to discuss another job. He does so, but protests that he refuses to do any more jobs for her and threatens her with the mayor and the wrath of the other Serpents. She doesn’t budge, however, and counter-threatens Betty in return. SIGH, GANGSTERS. At the Wyrm he vents to Toni, but she’s not so convinced he’s out of the woods yet. Meanwhile, Varchie is scoping out the Devil’s House and mentally recreating the grisly Reaper murders from old newspaper clippings to try and find whatever kept bringing Sheriff Howard back here. As they investigate the blood-stained rooms, Ronnie comes across three sets of ‘I was this tall at this age’ notches in the wall — and Archie comes across Sheriff Howard’s files, stowed away. Combining Veronica’s findings with a family photo stashed amongst the sheriff’s notes, the two come to the same conclusion: the Conways were a family of five; one kid survived the attack.
Elsewhere, Betty finishes placing her food order with Pop Tate when Alice walks in, curious about the call. Bets tells her mom about the retirement party, and Alice storms right over to Pop’s to threaten FP if her daughter even thinks about putting on a Serpent jacket. FP suggests she chaperone and visit some old Serpent pals, and if Hal won’t come she can leave him… at home. SEXUAL TENSION. Back at Riverdale High, Archie and Veronica present their findings to Bughead: Joseph Conway escaped the attack, changed his name and was adopted by another family in Riverdale and attended a local school. They suggest to track him down to see if they can get any potential Black Hood details, but Jughead has a different theory: what if he is the Hood, blaming the town for the massacre of his family that he likely witnessed? Varchie lays down their plan to go through every yearbook from around that time to match his face up with the family picture they have and discover his new identity, but Betty and Jug bail to host the retirement party — before realizing they forgot to tell their friends about it and painfully awkwardly trying to last-second invite-but-not-really-invite them. Going through the yearbooks anyway, Archie tries to take a break to talk about the L word when Veronica finds something: a kid in a school play that looks a heck of a lot like young Joseph Conway. Trailing her finger down to the name — GASP — we find his new identity: Joseph Svenson. PLOT TWIST.
Confronting the poor janitor with his birth name as he mops the floors, Varchie takes chase as Svenson bolts — catching him and forcibly taking him to an abandoned side classroom for a chat. He admits that he ran out of panic over his old life, but that he isn’t seeking justice as the Black Hood like they accuse — he’d already found justice when he identified the Riverdale Reaper to a lynch mob, who killed him. It went unreported and the men went unprosecuted; the town demanded blood for blood as justice. Based on that rhetoric, Veronica accuses Svenson of being the Black Hood and begins to interrogate him, but Arch — who has looked into the Hood’s eyes — assures her that it’s not him. Later, as Betty lets her hair down and prepares for her show that night, Hermione informs Ronnie that Andre’s car is waiting outside for her, and checks in on how things have been with her and Archie. Veronica admits to her mother — and herself — that she only threw herself into this side project as a way to keep them both distracted so they didn’t have to confront the conversation… before realizing that she’s never heard her mom say it to her dad once, and there’s a reason for that. Echoing the earlier conversation, Fred reassures Archie that things will be fine with Ronnie, and Archie tells his dad of his strong feelings for her before heading out to the party.
Speaking of, a nervous Jughead flits around the Wyrm before spotting Betty and her mom — decked out in full-on Serpent biker gear — make their grand entrance. Alice is right at home here (the bartender Hog Eye even remembers her drink) but Betty is a bit more cautious, though promising she had a surprise for Jug later. (Dun dun dun!) Meanwhile, Archie approaches Ronnie, and, despite her protests that she doesn’t want to talk it at a party, quickly lets her know that there’s no pressure for her to say it back. However, he quickly ruins this moment by growing cold and condescending towards her for not saying it right then and there, leading to an awkward moment when the two are signed up for Gary Jules’s Mad World a as a karaoke duet. After some slammin’ singing, Veronica, supremely uncomfortable, rushes off stage mid-song, and is chased down by Archie. As the Serpent crowd boos and jeers, Betty thinks fast and hops on stage to take over the song (with her first singing performance of the show!), slowly stripping down to black lingerie as she does — in front of a horrified Alice Cooper and a deeply disappointed Jughead Jones.
As she finishes the song, FP charismatically takes the stage (clothing Betty in his leather jacket) and starts her a round of applause as he launches into his thank-you speech. Flipping the script, FP announces that he changed his mind and refuses to leave the Serpents after all. (NO!) Alice tries to drag Betty out of there, but, with her daughter refusing to leave, Alice decides she can’t stomach any more of this and leaves on her own. After FP finishes his speech to the audience’s applause, he hops off the stage and hugs his horrified son, whispering in his ear the reason he decided to stay: he found out about Penny Peabody, so he’s sticking with the Serpents to take Jughead’s place and repay the debt. Kissing Jughead’s forehead Godfather-style, he tells him he broke his heart — exactly as Penny predicted — before numbly taking a shot, washing away any and all progress he had made for his son’s protection.
Meanwhile, Archie is walking Veronica to her chauffeur and reassuring her that it’s really okay — but she disagrees. Apologizing, she admits that she can’t bring herself to feel that way about Archie… and dumps him; Varchie, no more. Mirroring that encounter, a now-clothed Betty waits for Jughead by his bike and asks what’s wrong. Jughead, still shaken from her dance and her trying to be a part of this world, tells her that he’s dragging everyone down with him and he can’t do that to her anymore. Not willing to see Betty get hurt too, he dumps her as well — KILLING TWO HUGE SHIPS AND 1000 HEARTS IN ONE EPISODE. As Jughead narrates and we get a montage of the broken quartet (with a sobbing Veronica especially heartbreaking), he notes how this was all inevitable, but shook loose long suppressed feelings — as a newly-single redheaded boy looks across his window at his newly-single blonde ponytailed neighbour, as if for the first time.
NO, NO, NO. If you have any heart left and want it to be broken by continuing on, check out Riverdale every Wednesday at 9/8c on The CW, or for free on The CW app! Or, if you’re international, check it on Netflix! Don’t forget to follow The Game of Nerds for all your Riverdale and fandom reviews and fun stuff!