‘Chapter Twenty-Three: The Blackboard Jungle’ Review

Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Also, check out our Riverdale-themed treats we whipped up last week with TGON Bakes! 

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OH, SNAP. (KJ Apa as Archie Andrews — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Aaaaaaand we’re back! After a break for the holidays, Riverdale comes back for its mid-season premiere with some familiarity: Jughead Jones’ narration recapping what we already know happened last episode, as the Lodge family secretly meets with the mayor behind closed doors. Speaking of, or episode officially begins with Penelope Blossom emerging from her bedroom at Thornhill with a wad of cash, boasting to her daughter that she now has enough cash to afford Christmas. Cheryl, however, is more disturbed by her mother’s prostitution (so THAT’S what was going on last episode) than concerned about the holiday expenses, and even more so that Penelope appears to be proud of this new lifestyle. Meanwhile, Hiram and Hermione Lodge check in with their daughter to make sure she’ll still on board with the plan, as she’ll be ground zero at Riverdale High when the mysterious ‘news’ breaks. Veronica reassures her parents that she’ll prevent any revolt and make sure he transition goes smoothly as possible, making sure her friends are none the wiser. Elsewhere, Fred Andrews confronts his son Archie about his medical bill — as its all been paid — and Archie admits that he told Veronica about it, but she wouldn’t’ve paid it. Also, as Arch rushes off to school with his guitar he makes a throwaway joke about starting a band, JUST LIKE HE HAS IN THE COMICS. As he walks, a shutter snaps several pictures from the bushes; our secret photographer is back!

At school, Archie confronts Ronnie about his dad’s medical bill and she confesses that her parents paid it off — prompting a spontaneous mobile makeout session which backs its way into the student lounge… right in front of Betty Cooper, who was listening to Kevin Keller tell a joke or something. As the trio make awkward eye contact, Principal Waldo Weatherbee comes on the intercom system to make an announcement: effective immediately, thug haven Southside High is shut down and many of the students will be transferred to Riverdale High. As the student lounge is abuzz with people freakin’ out, Veronica tries to calm the din — while meanwhile, Reggie Mantle, playing basketball, and Cheryl, in the cheer locker room, separately throw fits. Immediately after the news breaks, Kevin asks Betty if she’s fine with Jughead coming back to school (she lies and says of course she is), and Veronica suggests they welcome the newbies with open arms. In the south side, Toni Topaz compliments a short story Jughead apparently has written, but mocks him for writing it on the typewriter Betty got him, when Fangs Fogarty and Sweet Pea bust out of the school whooping and hollering. They break the news — that Southside High is shut down — and that they have all been transferred to Riverdale High.

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Buzzin’ with The Bee. (Peter James Bryant as Mr. Waldo Weatherbee — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Elsewhere, Mayor Sierra McCoy hangs up the phone with Mr. Weatherbee to finish her meeting with the Lodges. They reassure her that the outrage regarding the school closure will blow over soon enough, and once it does they will finalize their deal for buying the land under the now-closed school. As her phone starts ringing, they vow to keep their end of the bribery bargain — a sizeable donation to her re-election campaign (apparently all she ever wants.) Meanwhile, Betty Cooper arrives home to what should be an empty house — except there’s rustling upstairs. Sneaking around the corner with pepper spray, she finds her very unpregnant sister Polly packing up some things, who confirms she already had the twins — Juniper and Dagwood, gag — and didn’t call to tell them. Betty, worried for her mother’s feelings, makes to phone and update her, but Polly ‘out of the frying pan into the exact same frying pan’ Cooper snaps not to, warning that the leaders of the cult-esque ‘Farm’ want her to sever all ties. As Polly leaves, Betty tells her off for her behaviour and snatches back a childhood nightlight that belonged to her.

Later, Archie is walking home when a well-dressed man outside a black car beckons him over by name, introducing himself as FBI Special Agent Adams. Taking him on a walk, Adams explains that he’s been assigned to investigate the Lodge family — who they believe are involved in some criminal activity — and think Archie may be the perfect inside man to crack this. He explains further about how Nick St. Clair was admitted to the hospital shortly after his family refused to invest in Hiram’s SoDale project, and they want to find out what happened. Archie refuses, but Adams suggests that Fred may be suspected as well, and gives Archie his card in case he changes his mind. At home, Fred announces that he found out that Hiram and Hermione paid his medical bill, and Archie, mulling over what Adams said, urges him not to take the money, but Fred has already sold 20% of Andrews Construction to them to cover the $86,000. Meanwhile, Betty tries — but fails — to bring up the Polly situation to her mother Alice, who is busy ranting about the fishiness of the Southside High closure. Elsewhere, at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, Jughead agrees with this sentiment, but his dad FP thinks the real fishiness lies with Jughead’s real reasoning for not wanting to go back — a certain Betty Cooper, who just happens to be walking through the door. Sitting with Jug, she asks him to help her get in contact with his social worker Ms. Weiss to help find her long-lost brother given up for adoption, as she feels that maybe having him back in their lives might ease the blow of her mother missing out on her grandbabies.

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Ladies and gentlemen: the real D.B. Cooper. (John Behlmann as Special Agent Adams — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

That evening Archie sits with the Lodges for dinner and thanks them for helping with his dad’s expenses, and in return Veronica asks him to join her ‘Southside High welcoming committee’ for tomorrow, which he agrees to. Probing deeper, Archie (posing as clueless) deftly maneuvers the conversation to the St. Clairs, and inadvertently confirms what the secret agent told him — that they are no longer investing, that the Lodges have severed ties with them, and that Nick was in a terrible accident. As Arch later lies in bed unable to sleep over this, he reaches over and grabs the business card to make a call. The next day, as Veronica’s welcome committee greets the Southside High students, this is interrupted by Cheryl and Reggie, rudely telling the new students to leave. As Toni steps up to the counter-attack, Archie breaks things up and tries to broker peace, but Reggie advises him that he doesn’t speak for the Bulldogs — reminding him that Sweet Pea tries to kick his ass not too long ago. As Principal Weatherbee arrives to ensure no further fighting take place, Reggie warns Veronica she’s on the losing side and Cheryl pulls Archie aside for a little threat — sharing that she had seen Archie and Betty kiss outside her mansion and blackmailing him to her side.

Later, Archie meets up with Cheryl privately — but he doesn’t want to discuss these terms, he wants to discuss Nick. As Cheryl mentions regrets over tearing up his hush money cheque in passing, he tells her about the car accident, and Cheryl points out that he must’ve been just as thrilled as she is… considering what he did to Veronica at the party. Noting the horror on Archie’s face, Cheryl sincerely apologizes as she thought he had already known, and she didn’t mean to take away Veronica’s choice to tell him or not. Archie is more concerned, however, as to why she chose not to tell him, as he thinks he might know the dark reason why. Meanwhile, Betty meets up with Ms. Weiss to discuss her brother, as his files were made public when he turned 18. His name is Charles, he stayed in the foster system without being adopted until he was old enough to live on his own, and he currently lives in Centreville — two towns over. The next day, Ronnie leads the charge in making peace with the former Southside students, introducing herself to them, with Josie McCoy and Kevin following suit.(Note: I AM LOVING THE SEXUAL TENSION BETWEEN KEVIN AND FANGS. Kevin has a thing for Serpents and I’M HERE FOR IT.) This amicable meet-and-greet is promptly broken up by Weatherbee, however, who angrily leads them to the Riverdale High logo on the floor — spray painted over with a serpent insignia — and mysteriously discovered by Reggie. (ALSO NOTE: Reggie’s comedic little ‘thinking + nod’ when Veronica asks if he could be any more transparent was delivered so perfectly that Reggie may just be my new favourite.) Effectively immediately, The Bee bans all gang paraphernalia and activity on the school campus — a fairly standard rule, really — as a result of this graffiti.

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THE GANG’S ALL HERE. (L-R: Vanessa Morgan as Toni Topaz, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Drew Ray Tanner as Fangs Fogarty, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, Jordan Connor as Sweet Pea, Casey Cott as Kevin Keller & Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Later, Betty sits down with her parents and breaks the bad news that they’re grandparents. Alice is understandably crushed at the realization that Polly doesn’t want them to be a part of their lives. Blinking back tears, Alice asks about the health of the babies, and Betty reassures her they’re okay, but there’s something else — she found their long lost son. Hal is immediately upset by this and forbids meeting him, and to Betty’s surprise Alice agrees. Elsewhere, at the Whyte Wyrm, Jughead complains to the other Serpents about them being ‘profiled’, but Toni and Sweet Pea advjse him that Riverdale High is the best upgrade they could’ve hoped for, and they’re all down for complying if it means they get to stay. Elsewhere elsewhere, Archie meets with Special Agent Adams (who I’m not buying is a real agent, by the way) in his soundproofed garage to go over what he learned. Asking for reassurance that his dad will receive immunity, Archie, reluctant to drag Veronica into this, agrees to see Nick to get the truth — and Adams, worried Nick might tell Ronnie, advises Arch to concoct a cover story for visiting him. That night, Archie does just that — as he visits Thornhill and asks Cheryl for one of Jason Blossom’s blazers as a disguise to get into Greenwich Prep, offering to go ‘persuade’ him to hand over another cheque. As this is happening, a sleeping Betty is woken by her disheveled and eyes-sore-from-crying mom, pleading to keep it a secret from her husband but asking her daughter to take her to see her son.

The next day, Jughead cockily (see: stupidly) strolls into school with his Southside Serpents leather jacket on, greeting people like it’s nothing. (Pro tip: if even your fellow gang members are giving you ‘you’re so stupid’ looks, you’re probably being stupid.) Reggie, immediately annoyed, orders Jughead to take off the jacket, and when he refuses, mocking him in return, a Serpents vs. Bulldogs skirmish breaks out in the student lounge. Witnessing this all go down, Veronica immediately runs to grab the principal — who gives them all detention for fighting — and asks Jughead once again to remove the jacket or risk suspension. Jug, cocky as he is, happily accepts the suspension, despite Ronnie’s urging to comply. Later, Veronica meets with her parents to discuss the rocky state of ahool affairs, and suggest they make a charitable donation to the administration to provide ‘guidance’ for the ‘fashionably misguided’ Serpents and help smooth the transition. Elsewhere, Betty and Alice head to a motel in the seedy part of Centreville to find Charles, who is staying in room 237. (This is already giving off bad vibes — that’s the infamous room from Stephen King’s The Shining!) Bracing herself before knocking, Alice and Betty enter to find Charles — who goes by Chic (like in the comics!) — sitting alone in the dimly-lit room. As they struggle to introduce themselves, he admits he already knows who they are — he was given their information when he turned 18, and he even drove past their house a few times out of curiosity. He admits he never wanted to meet them, and expresses resentment and jealousy over being given up before revealing himself to (apparently?) be a male prostitute (or some sort of unclear shady job description) and kicking them out. As they get in the car, Alice has a full-on meltdown — proving once again that Mädchen Amick is the best actress on the show — as Betty tries to comfort her.

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Why must he always be lit in the creepiest lighting? (Hart Denton as Charles ‘Chic’ Smith/Cooper — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Elsewhere, FP gets off work early to confront Jughead at the Whyte Wyrm, after bartender Hog Eye tipped him off he wasn’t at school. Jug whines about Weatherbee’s ‘disrespect’, but even FP thinks he’s been a little bitch about it and asks what’s really going on. Opening up, Jughead admits that Southside High, crappy though it was, was his place and he finally felt some stability and sense of family for once. FP can relate, but gives him some advice: all snakes hibernate, but they’re still serpents. Meanwhile, in New York, Archie shows up in Nick’s dorm room looking dapper in Jason’s suit. Menacingly, he pushes down hard on Nick’s double leg cast and demands he write another cheque to Cheryl for double. Nick scoffs this off — money’s not an issue — but when Archie starts questioning a little too hard on the strange coincidence of the timing of his accident, he realizes that he’s not really there for Cheryl. He calls Archie out on being a ‘small-town hick finally realizing how deep he is in shark-infested waters’, and warns him Veronica will turn on him next; but Archie doesn’t want to hear it and beats the shit out of him. The next day, Jug meekly saunters to school sans Serpent jacket, only to find his fellow gang buddies in preppy Riverdale High spirit-wear polos, turtlenecks and khakis. UNNERVING. Furthermore, Fangs wouldn’t wear the Weatherbee-provided clothes, and was suspended for it.

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Kill. It. With. Fire. (L-R: Vanessa Morgan as Toni Topaz & Jordan Connor as Sweet Pea — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Later, Archie is practicing guitar in the student lounge when Veronica confronts him with a text from Nick claiming he broke his nose. Arch admits that he wanted to hurt him after what he did to her after the party, and as Veronica is aghast at how Archie could possibly know, Cheryl enters the room and confesses that she told him, and also covers for him and lies that she was the one who convinced him to go pay Nick a visit for her cheque — and sincerely apologizes for betraying Ronnie’s confidence. As she leaves, Archie apologizes for going behind her back as well. Elsewhere, Betty again comes across the little creepy childhood highlight of hers and grows inspired to pay Chic another visit, stealing her mom’s keys to do so. However, as she heads to his room she finds the motel manager grappling with him in the halls, cutting Chic’s arm with a pocket blade in the struggle. Jumping into the fray, Betty pepper-sprays and blinds the assailant and drags her heavily-wounded brother down the hall to the car. In a slightly less dangerous situation, Arch and Ronnie sit down at Pop’s for a date. Veronica, however, knows Archie is hiding something and calls him out, and Archie sliiightly alters the truth, telling her that he did want to beat the hell out of Nick, but he also went as ‘Cheryl was blackmailing to do so’. Reluctantly, he tells her about Betty and his ‘single life’ kiss the night the Black Hood fell, but promises that it’ll never become a big deal and it was just a ‘life or death’ moment. Veronica is clearly struggling to process this, but, satisfied that Archie was honest with her (or so she believes), she forgives him and they kiss and make up.

At the Cooper house, Betty frantically drags her wounded brother through the door calling for help (and strongly paralleling the start of this season with Archie and a bleeding Fred) and the Coopers frantically and unquestioningly scramble to patch him up. The next day, at school, preppy-dressed Jughead welcomes the Serpents to the inaugural meeting did the very first Swords & Serpents (see: Riverdale D&D) meeting. Yes, just when you thought this show couldn’t get any more ridiculous, the local gang starts their own S&S club to role-play and be themselves. Jughead explains that this club is a way to hang out and be a  Serpent ‘family’ right under the school’s noses, while laying low. Meanwhile, Cheryl Blossom presents the fresh cheque to her mother to end her days of being a courtesan. Penelope gladly accepts the cheque, but asks why she would stop when she’s having such a good time? (WHO SAYS THAT TO THEIR TEENAGE DAUGHTER? GAG.) That night, as Alice and Hal tuck Chic in, Archie and Veronica lay in bed and talk about the Nick assault — and Veronica lies and says she only told Kevin and Cheryl, conveniently leaving out her parents. Believing her, Archie meets with Agent Adams the next day and also asks for immunity for Ronnie — and he wants it in writing. Oh, and one last thing… in Adams’ professional opinion, does he think they got the right Black Hood? THANK GOD, BECAUSE THAT REVEAL SUCKED — but Archie admits that he’s not so sure that they did. As Jughead narrates about the path of darkness, we see the newest monster enter into the world of Riverdale — as Chic menacingly watches his sister sleep, slowly looming closer.

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Hoein’ ain’t easy. (Nathalie Boltt as Penelope Blossom — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Hmm. Well… jeez. What other show can you find D&D gangsters, prostitute moms, secret agents and psychopath long-lost brothers, amirite? Don’t forget to tune into Riverdale on The CW every Wednesday, or check it out on the app or international Netflix! While you’re at it, scroll through The Game of Nerds for all your fandom fun stuff!

 

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Author: Jordan

@jordanrolufs on Twitter!

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