Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Just when we starting to miss his narration, Jughead Jones pops back into our lives to tell us all about the paranoia of Betty Cooper. Still reeling over her secret (and the increasingly unsettling creepiness of her brother Chic invading her personal space), Betty is checking the papers daily, sure that every day will be her last of freedom. Meanwhile, at Thistlehouse, Cheryl Blossom scoffs at her mother still prostituting herself out. Penelope snaps back that she has no right to judge her after she ruined her only chance at love with Hal Cooper, and calls her daughter a spiteful being that has never known love before sending her off to school — clearly hitting an emotional nerve. Elsewhere, Hiram Lodge catches his daughter and her boyfriend before they leave The Pembrooke and offers them a weekend in the lakehouse, as he and Hermione had some unexpected business in town come up. The two graciously accept, agreeing to invite along Bughead, but Veronica has one condition — no chaperones; Andre can’t come. Hiram agrees, before pulling Archie Andrews aside privately. He warns him that the cabin at Shadow Lake is a safehouse, and he’s really sending Veronica there to keep her safe while Lodge Industries meets with some dangerous families, concerned with Papa Poutine’s death. He notes that Andre will be there, watching from the shadows, and he trusts Archie to keep that a secret. In Sunnyside Trailer Park, FP Jones informs his son about some of the places that he’s been looking at, but Jughead is frustrated that they even have to move and believes he needs to tackle the Hiram Lodge problem from another angle.
Later, at school, Kevin Keller approaches ex-lover Moose Mason at school and invites him to go see Love, Simon, a coming-out teen drama playing at the Bijou. (It is also a shameless cross-promotion plug for his own movie from producer Greg Berlanti. IF IT WEREN’T A SUPPOSEDLY GOOD FILM, I’D CRY ‘OBNOXIOUS’.) Moose tells him that he is already taking his girlfriend, Midge Klump, but Kevin is welcome to join — he’s already told Midge all about their history, and she’s cool with it. Skeptical, Kevin passes. In the common room, Arch and Ronnie invite Betty and Jug to the cabin, and they agree to come — Jughead doing so somewhat cautiously. Overhearing their plans, Cheryl injects herself into the conversation and asks what to pack, but they note that it’s a romantic couple-only get-away, and she’s unfortunately not invited. As she stalks off, Betty pulls Jug aside and asks him why he’s acting so suspiciously interested in having plans. He slyly admits that he’s planning on using the getaway to gather more intel on Hiram from Veronica, but Betty makes him promise to behave himself and use the weekend as an escape.
Later, as Jug (avec suitcases) waits in Betty’s landing for her to get packed to go the cabin, he’s approached by Chic in a Bijou uniform— who, instead of introducing himself, warns him to not tell anyone about the murder or ‘it’ll be bad for Betty and Alice.’ Bets comes downstairs and leads Jughead outside, away from her creepy brother. Later, the gang arrives at the extravagant lakehouse, chauffeured by Andre. As Veronica shows Betty and Jughead inside, Archie helps Andre with the bags — and he reminds Arch that he’ll be stationed nearby if they have any trouble. As Archie carries the bags inside, he worriedly notices a gun in a holster hidden inside Andre’s suit. As Betty marvels at what Veronica calls the Lodge lodge (and their ‘carpet from The Shining’ throwpillows!), Jug gets a call — from Cheryl Blossom. Salty with a side of FOMO, she tells him about Archie and Betty’s kiss outside her house to stir the pot before hanging up. As the gang goes out to check on him, he angrily confronts Arch and Betty over this.
Zip back to Cheryl hanging up on Jughead, only to have Toni Topaz enter the girl’s washroom and overhear it all. Cheryl Bombshell defends her cruelty, but Toni sees right through this and asks her what’s wrong, because she’s clearly hurting — and Cheryl storms out when Toni (and her ‘sapphic Serpent hands’) tries to gently touch her arm reassuringly. Meanwhile, Varchie is worrying about the fate of on-and-off Bughead, when Veronica thanks Archie for being so open with her, and the two make out. Jughead, however, is treating Betty coldly in their room — and she pleads with him to talk to her. He spits that he’s not mad about the kiss, but rather that she didn’t tell him. She apologizes and admits that she was already worried he was jealous of her and Arch’s friendship. He forgives her, and they two make up — only to hear Archie and Veronica’s bed squeaking away, and laughing it off together. Much later, they come downstairs and reassure the now-clothed Veronica and Archie that they worked through everything and are fine, and Veronica treats them to some jalapeño margaritas. As the four chat and drink, Jughead gets a little too hard-hitting with his investigative small-talk, and is repeatedly quietly reprimanded by Betty. Archie and Veronica take notice, and seeking to break the residual tension, Ronnie suggests they go all hot-tubbing together.
As the four relax in the outdoor jacuzzi and have a few more drinks in them, Veronica admits aloud that she too still struggles sometimes with the knowledge of the fateful Barchie kiss, and proposes that, to level the playing field, Jughead and her should kiss. Justifying this to himself by saying it would help avoiding bringing it up in future arguments, Vughead kisses in front of an uncomfortable Archie and Betty. Later, Betty and Jughead discuss this while Betty gets changed in the other room, and she comes out in her kinky wig and lingerie, threatening to ‘punish’ him. Meanwhile, Archie is super cold and turns down Veronica’s advances — when they hear, paralleling the earlier scene, Bughead’s bed creaking in the other room, and laugh it off. The next morning, Veronica lounges on the deck and watches Archie chop wood in the light rain from a distance (still trying to prove his manliness) when he gets a text and disappears into the forest. Suspicious, she follows him — and finds him chatting with Andre, who is suggesting they don’t head into town. Archie tries to explain, but she furiously sends Andre away and stalks off from Archie for keeping it from her, saying how she and Betty are heading into town to get some space.
Elsewhere, Josie McCoy walks into her hotel room at the Four Seasons and finds her mother, Mayor Sierra McCoy, talking and laughing with Sheriff Tom Keller. As the sheriff leaves, Josie cattily makes barbs about keeping this from her dad, and Sierra admits she did tell Myles, and hints that they are getting a divorce. Josie becomes extremely distraught at this, and asks if the Kellers are getting a divorce too, but Sierra admits that Tom’s family doesn’t know yet — and they have to respect that. Meanwhile, Archie and Jughead sit in the woods drinking, shooting the shit and tongue-in-cheek making fun of some of the first season’s more questionable writing choices (which I super applaud) when Archie apologizes for kissing Betty. Jughead forgives him, and admits he’s terrified by the volatility that comes with the extreme closeness of their friend-square. As this is happening, Josie is back at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe taking her mom’s warnings to heart by sitting with Kevin Keller for breakfast to fell him a little story. Furious, he runs back to the sheriff’s office to confront his dad, and storms out when Sheriff Keller confirms the rumour by admission. Elsewhere, Veronica and Betty are shopping for minor knick-knacks at the rustic general store while having girl-talk about their love lives, when Veronica flirts with the handsome young cashier, Cassidy. He recognizes her as a summer regular and questions what brings her here so early, and she admits that her parents are back at Riverdale before Betty breaks it up and they leave.
Back at the lodge, the girls come home to the boys playing cards. Still mad at Archie, Veronica makes him promise to date her — not her dad. He laughs and agrees, and they make up. Meanwhile, Jughead gets a call from his dad and excuses himself. Over the din of a celebratory party, FP excitedly tells him that the trailer park eviction notices and back-rent are cleared up — Hiram Lodge did a 180 and bought the park. Outraged, Jughead confronts Veronica over her dad ‘gobbling up the south side piece by piece’, but she doesn’t understand his rage, nor do Archie or Betty. Back at the hotel, Sierra scolds Josie for her cruelty, and points out that she has destroyed he Kellers lives by taking away Tom’s right to choose — just like hers was taken away by the Lodges. Josie, feeling terrible, laments that she wasn’t trying to hurt anybody, and, finally understanding each other, Sierra points out that she wasn’t trying to either. Later, as Kevin eats his feelings at Pop’s, he’s approached by Moose and Midge, who join him in a booth. After revealing that he’s going to see the gay rom-com alone, Midge tries to set Kevin up with Fangs Fogarty, who she hears is gay, before things turn awkward with Moose complimenting his looks. Realizing he lied about telling Midge about their tryst, Kevin lets Moose uncomfortably take the lead on the (falsified and straight-washed) story of how they became friends, feeling even worse than he did when he got to the diner. At Thistlehouse, Cheryl watches her mother greet another gentleman caller at the door, and decides she needs to get out of the house.
Later, at the Bijou, the crowd is bustling to see Love, Simon and Kevin runs into (his future step-sister?) Josie. She admits she came alone to get away from her home situation, and sincerely apologizes for telling Kevin. He forgives her, and the two agree to see the movie together. AWHHHH. Meanwhile, Toni Topaz catches Cheryl at the theatre concession stand drinking a cherry cola alone. Toni tells how she was coming to the movie with Fangs, who bailed, and Cheryl admits that she came alone to escape her brothel of a house. Admitting that she’s really not doing okay (since Toni can see right through her veneer anyway), Cheryl also agrees to grab a seat with her new pal. DOUBLE AWWHHHHH. The two unlikely duos watch the movie (SHAMELESS PLUG GRAAAHHH) and have a great time, marvelling at how good it is. Back at the lakehouse, the gang is playing Monopoly because FUCK LASTING FRIENDSHIPS AMIRITE when Betty gets a call from her mom. Worried it’s about Chic, she leaves to answer it — and returns, fuming, because Hiram Lodge just bought out the Riverdale Register. The four argue as the powder keg lights — with Archie on Ronnie’s side and Jughead on Betty’s; Team Bughead arguing that buying up the media so they can’t report on his shady business dealings is a gambit, and Team Varchie frustrated with the vendetta and blown-out-of-proportion prejudice against Hiram’s business dealings. Things start to get petty as they start nitpicking each other’s relationships and insulting their love lives, when the fight is interrupted by a shatter of glass — and a group of ski-masked plaid-clad hillbilly muggers break in with axes and bats.
Being cooperative, Ronnie allows one of the thieves to accompany her to her room upstairs to grab her purse — despite Archie’s protests. Calmly and cautiously, she makes her way to her purse in the nightstand and distracts him by pointing out that he’s not sneaky; she recognizes him as Cassidy from the shop. While he’s distracted, she secretly pushes a hidden button on the back of the nightstand before producing her wallet for him and being forcibly led back downstairs. Lining the gang up, the other burglars try and leave, but Cassidy admits that that isn’t the only reason he came — and drops them all on their knees, execution-style. As he raises the bat to beat them to death (with Archie having vivid anger-flashbacks to the Black Hood holding a gun to his noggin), the phone rings — and Veronica notes that it’s probably the armed security, checking in after her triggering of the silent alarm. Panicked, the thugs flee… but not before Cassidy snatched Ronnie’s necklace off her neck out of spite. Despite the urging of the group, Archie books it after him into the night. Tackling him, Arch is about to spring a blow when Andre emerges from the trees — eerily calmly refusing to discuss the other thugs and saying that he’ll handle it from here. Archie reluctantly gives up his prey and runs back to the cabin… hesitating in terror as he hears a gunshot from behind him.
Elsewhere, Josie and Kevin sit down in a booth at the Chock’lit Shoppe with their respective mom and dad and plan to start the long and difficult conversation of talking through their feelings as a family. Proud of her daughter’s change in approach, Sierra grasps her hands and gives her a smile. Meanwhile, at the soda bar, Toni calls Queen C out for discreetly crying at the movie. Cheryl admits she never cries at movies, but the coming-out scene — where the character Simon discusses how he used to be a happy kid, but at some point no longer was due to the need to keep his sexuality a secret — resonated with her emotional. Starting to choke up, she laments that everyone sees her as a loveless monster, but that that isn’t true; she did love someone once, before her mother put an end to it. Crying, Cheryl tells Toni the story of her first childhood love — a girl named Heather — and how her mother eventually caught them and made them stop seeing each other forever, calling her deviant. Toni reassures her with one of the most season-redeeming lines yet: “Cheryl, I am so sorry… but you have to know, your mother’s wrong. You’re not loveless. You’re not deviant, okay? You’re sensational.” As Toni grasps Cheryl’s hand reassuringly — without being pushed away this time — sparks fly, my heart melts, and Riverdale has just delivered one of the best, most well-written coming-out scenes I’ve ever seen on television. I AM SO HERE FOR CHERYL BEING INTO WOMEN. HASHTAG CHONI FOREVER.
Meanwhile meanwhile, the gang shares a booth back in town, shook up over their night and relieved that it’s over — with Arch clearly having told them that he never caught up with the miscreant and he got away. Archie later meets up with Hiram in his study, who applauds his choice to avoid conflict, and asks if he is bothered by what Andre had done. Arch admits that his own regret is hesitating when he could have shot the Black Hood — and, handing back Veronica’s locket necklace Cassidy had stolen, Hiram gives him a bit of advice: when it comes to the protection of your loved ones, never hesitate. Later, as Jughead walks into Betty’s, he contrasts their violent and sudden home invasion with her more gradual and quiet one — warning her about what Chic had told him earlier, and warning her to be careful before kissing her goodnight. Closing off the episode with his narration, Jug points out that we end the episode where we began — with a paranoid girl that’s no longer so sweet, in a house that’s no longer so safe.
Gratuitous cross-promotion aside, what a great return from the break! Not only is the show becoming more self-aware of and poking fun at its tendency to be ridiculous, we got an unexpected-yet-welcome dip into Cheryl’s sexuality and the Vughead kiss we all secretly wanted. Check out Riverdale on The CW every Wednesday, or on The CW app or international Netflix! Don’t forget to head back to The Game of Nerds to continue your deep-dive into all things ‘fandom’!