Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
It’s a night to never forget; because Riverdale’s long-awaited Carrie: The Musical episode is here! As a long-time musical theatre fan, this one was a treat for me. We start off this week with a plot development that writes out Cole Sprouse’s inability to sing: Kevin Keller asking Jughead Jones to be a behind-the-scenes videographer for the production of the upcoming Carrie musical that he’s directing. Jughead agrees, and much of the episode is seen through his handheld camera’s lens. From here, we kick off with our first number: ‘In’. This episode cleverly works in the character’s singing of the musical’s songs publicly as means of ‘rehearsal’, but also tweaking or rearranging the lyrics somewhat so they actually work within the character’s emotions, lives, and subplots. With ‘In’, we see Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Cheryl Blossom, Toni Topaz, Ethel Muggs and Kevin all singing about their insecurities as they get ready for their day, before being joined by Moose Mason, Midge Klump, and Josie McCoy, racing to rehearsals in the theatre. As the song ends, Kevin welcomes the cast to their production of Carrie: The Musical.
With his assistant director, Fangs Fogarty, showing up after this, they go around the table and introduce their roles: Archie as Tommy Ross, the boy-next-door; Betty as Sue Snell, the good girl; Veronica as Chris Hargensen, the mean girl; and Cheryl Blossom, playing the titular role of Carrie White — eliciting an eyeroll and muttered comment from Ethel, and some scowls from ex-BFF Josie. As the cast questions who’s playing her abusive mother, Margaret White, Alice Cooper steps out from backstage and announces her unconventional casting, as a way to spend more time with her daughter — thoroughly horrifying Betty in the process. At this point, Chuck Clayton shows up late, apologizing. We cut to Jughead doing a ‘talking head’ segment with him alone, and Chuck confesses that he’s trying to reform his image, and hopes that, even though he’s playing the villainous Billy Nolan, people will recognize his work ethic and team-player attitude and start to give him a second chance.
Backstage, Jug films as Archie comments to Betty on how weird it is that they’re playing a couple — not because of their past, but because of the strained relationship with the core four since Veronica’s lies were exposed. Arch tries to make a pact to leave drama at the door and make the play as painless as possible for Kevin, but Betty can’t forgive her old friend and expresses her opinion that Veronica is just as spiteful and evil as the part she’s playing. As the cast later gets together for a table read, Cheryl interrupts, frustrated that there has been whispering among the ensemble cast about her inability to play or sing the part of Carrie. To prove her prowess, she breaks out into her (somewhat pitch-corrected, but what in this episode isn’t?) rendition of the song ‘Carrie’, as she imagines herself acting out the ‘Prom Queen’ sequence from the end of the story (sans the blood). As she finishes to applause — some begrudging, from Ethel — and a standing ovation from Toni (AWWHHH), she begins to walk back to her seat… when a sandbag drops from a winch right in front of her, narrowly missing her.
Later, Jughead does a ‘talking head’ segment with Kevin, who confesses that after the sandbag incident he received a magazine-letter-pasted note in his locker from someone claiming to be the Black Hood, warning him to recast the role of Carrie. The two dismiss it as a prank — why would the Black Hood (who is dead, by the way) care about the lead role in a school musical? — but Kevin still asks Jughead, as official documentarian, to swear to secrecy and not tell anyone about it, so as to not unnecessarily worry them. At rehearsals, Betty, Archie, Veronica, and Chuck rehearse the number ‘Do Me A Favour’ in full retro ‘70s garb, and afterwards Archie and Veronica make out passionately in the halls — almost as if to absolve themselves of playing rivals who are dating someone else. Breaking off from the kiss, Archie asks a favour of his own: he hasn’t yet told his dad about the new Firebird that Mr. Lodge gave him, so he was wondering if he could store it at The Pembrooke for a few days until he does. Veronica agrees, and the two get back to kissin’.
The next morning, at The Pembrooke, Hiram and Hermione Lodge are having breakfast and mulling over opposing candidate Fred Andrews’s shot at the mayor’s office. Hiram notes that Fred’s platform is based around family values, and, with Archie on their side and Mary back in San Francisco, his campaign is suffering by the fact that he has none by his side. Like the snakes they are, the two resolve to ensure that this wedge between Archie and his dad remains. Elsewhere, Jughead does exactly what is expected, and breaks his secrecy vow to show Betty the ‘Black Hood’ note. She also doubts its authenticity, and they suspect it’s a classic Phantom of the Opera tactic… and they question aloud who would most want the lead recast. Later, Betty meets up with Ethel in the student lounge and starts unsubtly prodding about disliking Cheryl for ‘stealing her role’ without her even being allowed to audition. As she starts to open up, Ethel spots Jughead covertly filming from behind a corner and ends the interview prematurely, realizing that they suspect her of the sandbag incident and angrily noting that she would never hurt someone for her own gain.
That evening, Alice enters Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe to talk to her lover FP Jones, who is bussing tables. She asks him to swing by and check out the musical once it opens, but he brushes her off. Angrily, she calls him out on acting the exact same flippant way they did when they dated as teens, and implies that they’re making the same mistakes they did back then before storming out. The next day, at rehearsal, Cheryl and Josie (begrudging playing the kind teacher Ms. Gardener) rehearse for their duet about friendship, ‘Unsuspecting Hearts’, when Cheryl cuts the song short. She complains that she can’t sing about friendship with Josie hating her, and sincerely apologizes for the ‘legit crazy’ things she did. She continues the song, this time aimed towards Josie, with the lyrics serving as an apology. Josie eventually joins in, and the two hug and make up once they finish. Meanwhile, Hiram questions Veronica on her way heading out to school about the Firebird parked in their garage, and she quickly tells him that Archie is storing it there until he tells Fred so as to not bruise his ego. After she leaves, Hiram smiles to Hermione — a wicked idea forming in his head.
At dress rehearsal, Veronica sings ‘The World According to Chris’, about her character’s mean-girl philosophy, with a sour Betty watching from the sidelines. As she finishes and Kevin compliments her performance, Betty makes a snarky remark that it probably comes easy as she basically is Chris Hargensen, confronting her and listing off all the ways. Later, Archie blasts Betty for her rudeness, pointing out that she’s no saint either but Veronica always forgave her quickly — remarking that maybe she should be playing Chris. At this inopportune moment, Kevin calls the two up for their love ballad, ‘You Shine’ — with the lyrics further driving the point hole to Betty. Afterwards, she approaches Ronnie in the dressing room to apologize, but Veronica apologizes first. Betty continues singing the love duet, this time directed at finally understanding and forgiving Veronica, and once they finish the song they also embrace and make up.
Later, Hiram, who is producing the play, approaches Archie and Fred working on building sets in the shop, and, smirking, works the Firebird into the conversation. Fred lies and pretends he already knew about it, but storms off when Hiram leaves. Archie, catching up with him, tries to downplay its significance, but a disappointed Fred tells him of his lifelong dream of fixing up an old junker jalopy with Archie as his first car, just like he had with his dad. Meanwhile, Betty is coming downstairs in the Cooper home when she overhears her mom, crying as she leaves a heartfelt voicemail for Chic, who won’t return her calls.
The next day, Kevin approaches Jughead with a problem: another Black Hood letter, claiming responsibility for the falling sandbag and giving one final warning to recast Carrie. Later, in the halls, Kevin tries to explain this Cheryl, but she refuses to leave the role… that is, until her mother, Penelope, exits from the principal’s office. Vindictive as always, she notes that she reminded Principal Weatherbee that Cheryl did not have her parental consent to participate in a play about a ‘matricidal revenge fantasy’, leaving her daughter in tears. Kevin later breaks the news to the cast (with some cute flirty moments from Fangs!), but notes, to Ethel’s frustration, that he already had asked an understudy after the sandbag incident: Midge Klump. Meanwhile, Toni meets Cheryl under the bleachers after Kevin tipped her off, and she cries about missing her chance to prove herself, and expresses disappointment that she can’t stand up to her mother anymore. Toni reassures her that she still has it in her — even if she had to channel Carrie for it.
Later, Alice and Midge rehearse ‘Stay Here Instead’ — a song about Carrie’s overprotective mother wanting her to stay home instead of go to the prom. Things go off the rails, however, when it becomes clear that she relates to the sing a little too much… even eventually changing the name ‘Carrie’ to ‘Betty’ in the lyrics. Alice breaks down on stage, and begs Betty not to leave her like everyone else has before rushing backstage. Betty chases after her, catching up with her in the halls where she is having a nervous breakdown. Alice, sobbing, opens up about how she feels like she’s driven everyone — Hal, Polly, Chic, FP — all away, and Betty, promising she’s not going anywhere, gives her mom a big hug. Later, she gives a ‘talking head’ segment to Jughead about needing to do something to help her mom.
The day before opening night, Kevin hands around the freshly-printed programs — with a big ad for Hermione Lodge’s mayoral campaign taking up the entire backside. Archie and Veronica share a somewhat uncomfortable over this, but Arch is distracted noticing his dad loading in sets — and is impressed that his dad continues to support him despite their disagreements. Later, in a ‘talking head’ segment, Archie admits that Kevin cast him as Tommy Ross because he saw similarities, but Archie now disagrees — and thinks that he has none of the positive traits of selflessness or heroism that Tommy has. Realizing how much he’s been hurting his dad with the dark path he’s been on, Arch heads to Hiram’s office and warns him that he knows what he’s been trying to do, and to never try and get between him and his dad. He thanks Mr. Lodge for the Firebird, but slaps the keys on the desk and says that he won’t be needing it anymore.
The next day, Betty and Alice are too nervous to eat as they run over lines, and as Alice goes to put away the dishes Betty covertly points her dad in her direction. Hal Cooper walks into the kitchen with flowers — a big bouquet for Alice and a smaller one for Betty — to wish them good luck on their opening night. Alice refuses to accept them, frustrated that Hal forgot she was allergic to peonies, but he perseveres and, apologizing, asks to come home. Sending Betty away, the two speak in private, and Alice reluctantly agrees to give it another shot if they promise to keep no more secrets between them… and she tells him (but not the viewers at home, boo!) the truth about Chic’s father. Hal is a little hurt but unsurprised by this revelation, and he forgives her. Elsewhere, Archie leads his dad into the garage for a surprise just before he goes: an old red jalopy that needs a lot of work. (OL’ BETSY!!!) He tells his dad about how he gave back the Firebird and bought this with his own money. Choking up, Fred, grateful, reminds Archie that he should get to the theatre, as he takes a moment alone with the car and blinking back tears.
In the dressing room, the cast and crew gets ready to go on while singing ‘A Night We’ll Never Forget’ — while Cheryl, also singing, marches up to Thistlehouse in a prom dress with a bucket. As the cast finishes their song backstage, Penelope Blossom hears the door to her house. Believing it to be Claudius, she goes to check… and instead finds Cheryl — clearly taking Toni’s advice to heart — covered in blood and holding a candle. Getting in her mother’s face, she wildly confronts her about her evil cahoots with Claudius, and threatens that if Penelope harms Nana Rose in any way she’ll be the next Blossom to die, because she burned down one house and she’ll do it again. Penelope, intimidated — especially by the fire — relents, and Cheryl gives her demands: she wants Thistlehouse all for herself and Nana, so Penelope and Claudius better get packing.
As folks begin to pile into the auditorium — including Hermione, shaking hands and schmoozing — FP actually shows… just in time to see Alice peek out from backstage and share some loving words with Hal. Discouraged, he turns and walks right out of the theatre, unnoticed by any. (MY POOR FALICE HEART.) Backstage, Jughead films as it’s ten minutes to places and Kevin can’t find Fangs — until he opens the door to Midge’s dressing room, and catches them suspiciously ‘running over some notes’. As Jug knocks on Ethel’s dressing room door for a last-minute ‘talking head’ interview, he pushes in to find she’s not there — but a whole bunch of cut-up magazines are waiting in the trash. Ethel barges in and quickly brushes them off as ‘part of a vision board’ before kicking Jughead out. HMMM… WHO ELSE USES CUT-UP MAGAZINE LETTERS? As Jug tries to get a last interview with Moose, he’s similarly pushed aside, as the brute storms past. Perhaps he saw something going on with Midge and Fangs?
In the green room, the main cast runs through silly drama exercises together, and Veronica, speaking on behalf of the gang, applauds Chuck for his gentlemanlike behaviour during rehearsals and forgives him for his past douchery — welcoming him as part of the group. It’s then when Chic enters, shocking Betty… that he actually made it. (Awhhh, she invited him too!) As everyone gets their last minute hair and makeup done before places, Betty ushers Chic back to his seat, slightly uncomfortable with him all the same. It’s showtime! On stage, Alice, looking freakishly accurate as Margaret White, sings ‘Evening Prayers’. As she gets to the part where Carrie is released from her closet, the door opens… and the audience gasps in horror, with Cheryl quickly asking Kevin if he re-blocked the scene in his absence. Suddenly, Alice turns around to see why Midge isn’t doing her part — and sees her dead body, crucified on the wall with various blades, and with a scrawled message written in blood around her: I AM BACK FROM THE DEAD. ALL THOSE WHO ESCAPED ME BEFORE WILL DIE. B.H.’ Alice screams, and the entire theatre — oddly, save for Chic, in the background — snaps out of their confused murmurs, and erupts in pandemonium. (NOT MY MIDGE, NOOOO!)
DOWN WITH THE HATERS, I LOVED THIS EPISODE. Sure, the music was overproduced and cheesy, but the cast did a great job and the writers found a way to tie up season-long plot points, introduce touching new ones, AND reintroduce an old foe, all in one shot! For more Riverdale, check out The CW every Wednesday! Don’t forget to peep The Game of Nerds for all your fandom fun stuff!