Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Kicking off this week, Jughead Jones welcomes us via narration to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy adoption agency/asylum/general shady place and current home of Cheryl Blossom, who is being forced to attend conversion therapy at her mother’s behest. Attending one of the regular movie nights, she cries as she watches an old-timey anti-gay video featuring (though implied to be in her imagination) Kevin Keller and Moose Mason. Meanwhile, her friends are squaring off against each other in the race for student body president and co-president: Veronica Lodge with Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones with Betty Cooper, and Reggie Mantle with Josie McCoy, all at a PTA-sponsored debate hosted by Alice Cooper. (Also, I love how the three couples fully embrace their fan-given ship names via enamel pins, t-shirts, posters, etc. Teams Varchie, Bughead and Rosie ftw!)
After some grilling from fellow students like Sweet Pea and Midge Klump, Jughead and Betty wander the halls away from the meeting to avoid worse grilling from Betty’s mom about their Southside-inclusionist stance, as well as (more importantly) Betty’s running away from home and living with Jughead. They successfully escape, and FP Jones takes the heat, though he admits that he’s not a fan of the living arrangements either. He gives her some parent-to-parent advice borne from his ‘homeless Jughead’ days: make amends before it’s too late. Elsewhere, Hermione and Hiram Lodge confront Fred and Mary Andrews in the halls about Fred newly-announced decision to oppose them as mayoral candidates. The four bicker about unsigned NDAs and legal forms regarding Andrews Construction’s contentious separation from Lodge Industries, before Archie and Veronica break it up and ask both sides to fight fair regarding the split.
Later, as he arrives home at The Pembrooke, Hiram gets some unexpected visitors — his shady Simpsons-named business partners Lenny Kowalski and Carl Martin. Reluctantly he agrees to meet with them, asking Archie to take his wife and daughter safely upstairs, despite his concerns. The next morning, Mary asks him of a favour as well: Fred’s campaign is officially kicking off on Friday, and, as his entirely platform is based around a wholesome, family-oriented view for Riverdale, she’d like Archie to put their disagreements aside and join him on the podium — and he agrees to do so. Elsewhere, Alice comes home to find her son Chic, horrified and kneeing (Why? Fuckin’ Chic) in front of the TV; on the news, the sunken car of the dealer was found by Junkyard Steve, dragging the swamp for castoffs. In a panic, Alice calls FP. Later, at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, Jughead and Betty beat themselves up for not hiding the evidence better, but their parents reassure them it wasn’t their fault. As they run through the details to make sure it can’t be linked to them, Sheriff Keller enters. Making a quick plan, the four agree to continue to act normal — though Betty reminds her mother that she still won’t return home until Chic leaves.
Meanwhile, Hiram is in his study, briefing Archie on his meeting with Lenny and Carl. The two are nervous about his wife’s mayoral campaign potentially putting their dealings in the spotlight, but he’s meeting with them for dinner to quell their concerns, and he enlists Archie to join his capos Adams and Andre (The Triple-A Crew!) in accompanying him, as he can’t seem to reach any of his other associates. Later, in Jughead’s Swords & Serpents club meeting (if not one d20 is rolled before the end of this season I’m so DONE), Sweet Pea and Fangs Fogarty blast Jug for ‘sucking up to the Northside’ and for Betty’s increasing Yoko Ono-ing in his life. Betty — who is present — defends herself, but Sweet Pea won’t forgive her for her mom’s betrayal and announces that they are not getting the Southside Serpents’ votes. As this is happening, Reggie approaches Archie in the locker room after football(?) practice with a proposition: since they don’t want to put the Riverdale Bulldogs in a position where they have to choose between them and split their votes, they’ll arm-wrestle to see who the ‘alpha’ who deserves the Bulldog votes is. The competition seems evenly-matched… until Reggie insults Archie’s dad during banter, and Archie rage-wins, warning Reg to never talk about his dad like that again.
Also at their pre-school extracurricular activities, Toni Topaz rallies the inner circle River Vixens of Josie and Veronica (and not Betty, for plot purposes that I’ll later point out) and tell the cheerleaders that Cheryl is missing, and she believes her mom is responsible. The three agree to do whatever it takes to save Cheryl — even if they have to storm Thistlehouse. Meanwhile, Cheryl is being condescendingly treated by Sister Livingston, inventing ‘reasons’ for her sexuality and ordering her to the undercroft for ‘physical therapy’ until she’s ready to comply. Later, at the Lodge business dinner, Lenny and Carl request 25% of profits of the SoDale prison as compensation for their risk, noting that the reason he can’t reach his other previous associates is that they now work for them. Since he’d be operating at a loss, Hiram declines this offer, but Archie (idiot extraordinaire) doesn’t like their tone, and rushes in blasting insults and threats, much to Hiram’s chagrin. After a beat, the two burst out laughing at what they perceive as a joke and remind Hiram to consider their offer, as they’ll be sticking around town for a bit. Later, Hiram scolds Archie for stupidly shooting off threats, but laughs and thanks him for sticking up for him.
Elsewhere, Betty is venting to Jug about Sweet Pea the Serpents refusing to accept her when the two Cole to a realization: ‘acting normal’ for Bughead means ‘investigating’ the very crime they’re supposed to be distancing themselves from. They later meet with Kevin Keller at Pop’s to get more info on the car from his dad’s sheriff files, under the pretext of writing an article about Swedlow Swamp being used as a dumping ground. To their surprise, Kevin tells them that it was claimed by its Centerville owner — and now they’re investigating who had stolen it from them in the first place. As they relay this information to Alice, who scolds them for ruffling feathers, Chic points out that the drug dealer (‘Dwayne’) was probably using his girlfriend Darla’s car. Alice demands that Betty stop making stupid decisions and move home, and Chic, reeling from Betty’s steady stream of insults, graciously offers to move out so she can. (Though Chic is shady and the worst, he does seem to be being genuine here — kudos to him for that.) After Alice enlists FP to help her out the pressure on, Betty agrees to this.
At the Sisters’, an exhausted Cheryl is finishing stacking heavy bags of grain(?) in the undercroft exactly where she was told to when Sister Livingston enters and scolds her for stacking them in the wrong spot, ordering her to move them again — clearly an obedience tactic. As this is happening, Toni and the girls are meeting with Penelope Blossom and Nana Rose. After grilling her (and threatening her with police involvement when she initially refused to cooperate) she admits that she didn’t send Cheryl to a Swiss boarding school, but rather had her committed for her insanity — driving her point home by producing a picture that Cheryl had drawn of her and Josie when she was ‘posing’ as a stalker to try and drive away Chuck Clayton’s advances on her. Josie, freaked out by Cheryl’s antics (which, if you recall, included planting a pig’s heart next to threatening notes) storms off and formally quits the investigation, but Toni is not swayed in the slightest and doubles down on her efforts to rescue her lady. (AWWWHHHH. CHONI.) Meanwhile, Betty, finally back home, tries to use her return as leverage for her mother to sign something for her: a consent form for her to get a Serpent tattoo. As the two argue over this, an extremely nervous Chic comes home with a woman, guiltily whining that he was just trying to help. (Again, genuinely trying. Again, doesn’t make it any better.) The woman, who clearly has been told about the Coopers already, introduces herself as Darla.
As they sit for an awkward tea, Darla (played by the fantastic fandom legend Azura Skye!) blackmails the Coopers — hinting that she knows what happens to Dwayne, but will keep quiet for ten-grand. Betty feigns innocence, but Alice doesn’t play games and agrees to make a withdrawal when the bank opens in the morning… but Darla is perfectly content in waiting. Elsewhere, Archie comes downstairs from his room to find Jughead helping Fred write his campaign’s announcement address as ‘the best writer he knows’. Archie is uncomfortable by this — does anyone in this show ever communicate with each other, or do they just hang out with each other’s parents? — and Mr. Andrews thanks Archie for agreeing to attend the event. As he later meets with Ronnie to complain about the constant tension between him and his dad, they walk into The Pembrooke to find a masked man beating the hell out of Andre with a hammer. As Veronica attends to him, Archie has Black Hood flashbacks and chases after the assailant. Tackling him in the street, he unmasks the man as Adams — apparently a double-agent — who spits that Hiram should take the deal before running off into the night. Later, Hiram and Hermione lament the loss of one of their only remaining men to the other side (Adams defecting to Kowalski/Martin, that is — Andre didn’t die), and as a short-term solution they enlist Archie, as their only remaining able-bodied capo, to keep watch as they lay low and batten down the hatches on their operations.
The next morning, as Betty is sent to the bank, Darla gets right in her face and menacingly reminds her to go straight there and come straight back. Meanwhile, Penelope Blossom turns on Nana Rose’s programs (BOB ROSS YAS) and essentially tells her to be a lump in her chair until she gets home. Once Rose is certain she’s alone she tosses herself from her wheelchair and dramatically army-crawls for the telephone. (By the way, the Blossoms are rich af. Why are all their appliances like 3” tube TVs and Graham Bell-era phones? #RETROCHIC.) She reaches it — and in Mrs. Haggly’s history class in Riverdale High, Antoinette ‘Toni’ Topaz gets a page to the office on the PA system. Nana Rose, #1 Choni shipper, gives the a cryptic message that Cheryl is with The Sisters before the phone line is cut by Claudius Blossom, menacingly looming over her. Meanwhile, Betty is waiting at the bank when she gets a call from her mom, hiding and warning her not to come home, as another of Chic’s unsavoury ‘friends’ — Marcel, the man who stabbed him at the hostel — has now shown up as well. FUCKING CHIC.
At cheer practice, Toni pulls Ronnie aside to tell her what she’s learned, and the two wonder what ‘The Sisters’ means. (This is the plot reason that Betty is not part of this caper: she knows exactly who the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and what sort of amoral things they do!) Veronica suggests it’s them, but notes that she doesn’t think the orphanage would do illegal gay conversion therapy. The two ask Kevin, expert on all things gay, and he confirms it; and notes that there’s a Prohibition-era secret tunnel that many have used to sneak out to hook up with perfectly nice young men in the forest such as himself. He agrees to lead them to it on the condition that they go at night. Elsewhere, Betty comes home with the money, despite her mom’s wishes, but the kidnappers still refuse to leave and decide that they’re gonna squat there. Just as shit is looking to get violent, the door is kicked off the jamb as a badass Jughead and his Serpents storm the house with switchblades. Darla threatens to go to the police, but Betty and Jug call her bluff and send her packing. Later, as Alice cleans up their mess and Jughead apologizes about the door, she thanks him and the Serpents — before turning to Chic and tearfully asking him to leave, because effective immediately he is not welcome in their home. (Mädchen Amick is such a phenomenal actress that you can practically see a mother’s heart breaking on her face. Wow.)
Meanwhile, Archie escorts Ronnie back to The Pembrooke, but before they can hook up he’s pulled aside to the study by his real girlfriend: Hiram. Hiram warns him that, as he has no leg to stand on, he’s taking the deal tonight — but Archie, ignoring his calls, tells him he has a plan. Meanwhile meanwhile, Fred and Mary Andrews stand outside for his campaign kickoff, desperately trying to get ahold of their shit son who had promised to be there. Disappointed, Fred resolved to start the event without him, as Arch sits in Pop’s and tries to convince Reggie, who shares many of his ideals regarding the prison, to get the Bulldogs to help him with something outside of the scope of the school election, offering him the team’s votes as leverage. (Ooh, Veronica’s gonna be pissed if she finds out!) Speak of the devil, Toni and Ronnie meet up in black catsuits to break a bitch out. As they rush across the fields with Kevin toward the tunnel, Cheryl gets ordered to clean herself up for movie night. The two break in — with Kevin keeping watch — as Cheryl breaks down in her padded cell before being moved to the recreational area.
The two split up and check every door while Cheryl sobs openly while watching a black-and-white pray-the-gay-away flick, thinking she’s imagining Toni’s voice calling out her name. Toni busts into the room and blocks the projector screen, telling Cheryl that they came to rescue her — and Cheryl, shocked and grateful, rushes to join her. Without hesitation, the two embrace and kiss for the first time in frONT OF THE ENTIRE CONVERSION THERAPY CLASS AND I’M SCREAMING THIS IS THE BEST THING. CHONI FEELS FOREVER. Though the kiss goes on a reasonably long time (I’m not complaining), Veronica bursts in and cuts the moment short with the announcement that a troop of nuns are heading this way. The three rush out, blocked by sisters on all sides, before heading out a service corridor and finding their way back to the tunnel, rushing past Kevin and locking the nuns inside.
Elsewhere, Lenny and Carl wait at the dinner for a late Lodge, when the restaurant receives a call and the waiter gives them Hiram’s apology that he won’t be coming — and passes along the message to check on their car. They rush outside just in time to see their car explode, and Archie and the rest of the Bulldogs — working as a repurposed Red Circle — round the corner in black masks with gasoline tanks, passing along a message from the Dark Circle: don’t mess with Hiram Lodge or Riverdale. The next morning, before Mary leaves back home to San Francisco, she confronts Archie about his behaviour as of late, pointing out that he’s mostly alienated his family and friends and no longer has any hobbies like music. Archie doesn’t have an answer for her. Meanwhile, Alice comes in front of the Swords & Serpents to officially offer her thanks, and it apologize for villainizing the South Side in her publication in the past; vowing to never again strike out against her past. Later, perhaps taking this South Side pride a little far, she meets at FP’s trailer in a skimpy Serpent-esque outfit and they close the door.
Later, Archie meets with the Lodges outside of Pop’s, waiting with a brand-new car. As a show of thanks, Hiram hands him the keys for protecting their assets, and they designate him Ronnie’s new personal driver. (If he doesn’t name this car Ol’ Betsy after his jalopy the comics…) Archie is thunderstruck, but as Ronnie hops in and starts it up (thankfully, without exploding) Hiram pulls him aside and warns him that what he did was still just a short-term solution, and that their enemies will be back. He agrees, but notes that they’ll always be ready. Elsewhere, Toni and Cheryl are all handholdy and PDA-y in the student lounge (YAS), and Cheryl vows to get revenge on her family for what they did to her. First, however, she stops Kevin, who is directing the school’s upcoming play Carrie: The Musical (which does exist, by the way), and tells him to cancel auditions for the lead role, because she is Riverdale High’s Carrie White — and this school is going to burn.
Aside from the fact that Cheryl is more likely to be one of Carrie’s bullies in the story than the girl herself, what a great Choni-ful episode! Catch Riverdale every Wednesday on The CW or international Netflix, and don’t forget to check out the next Carrie-themed ep tonight! Peep The Game of Nerds for all your Riverdale fun stuff!