The Twilight Drive-In, Jughead’s place of employment, is closing down. It’s been purchased from the town of Riverdale by an anonymous buyer — a tragedy our aspiring writer equates to the gruesome murder of Jason Blossom, a human teenager. That seems about right.
Betty tells her diary that she suspects that something (namely, statutory rape) is going on between Archie and Miss Grundy. After Archie and his dad take in a cello performance by his music teacher slash paramour, Fred obliviously invites her to dine with them. When two generations of horny Andrews men and the predatory object of their affection arrive at Pop’s, Betty pulls Archie outside to chat. (If you’re keeping track of Betty’s mental state as represented by milkshake orders, note that this week saw her upgrade from old-fashioned vanilla to strawberry. How many episodes until she’s pouring in a double shot of vodka?)
Betty is direct: “Are you and Miss Grundy, like, together, like, romantically?” Archie admits the truth, and Veronica overhears. To Veronica, having a “booty tutor” sounds “scandalous.” To Betty, it sounds like “jail time.”
Meanwhile, Cheryl is displeased that fellow cheerleader Veronica is sending an unappealingly tolerant message about the River Vixens … because her mom is a waitress. (Cheryl is by no small margin my favorite character — watching her is like freebasing Regina George.) When the only surviving Blossom twin spies Hermione Lodge having a tense conversation with a sketchy character behind a dumpster at the diner, she snaps a photo to torment Veronica. This guy turns out to be a Southside Serpent, a member of a notorious local gang of bikers. (Ah yes, the kind all idyllic riverside towns have.) When Veronica asks her about this meeting, Hermione says that she went to high school with some of the Serpents, but the assurances she offers aren’t very convincing.
Betty, a member of the dishonest mainstream media hashtag fake news, abuses her school newspaper power by “interviewing” Grundy for the Blue & Gold. Not only is Miss Grundy’s employment history spotty at best, but she lets slip that she’d worked with Jason Blossom in an independent study the previous year. Hmm, so she has a penchant for underage redheads — one of whom, to review, was killed — and a life-ruining secret to protect by any means necessary. Interesting! Betty’s internet research digs up even more troubling details about Grundy. Or rather, a total lack thereof: There’s no online record of her life prior to her arrival in Riverdale one year ago, and the only other Geraldine Grundy was an elderly woman who died seven years earlier. (Her obituary photo looks a lot like the original Archie Comics version of Miss Grundy, low white bun and all.) Archie is nevertheless frustrated by Betty’s investigation, insisting she let it go.
Unsurprisingly, she does not. Betty and Veronica — well, Betty, with Veronica following reluctantly in her wake — break into Miss Grundy’s tiny Volkswagen Beetle. (Surely if you plan on having a bunch of sex in your car, you should invest in a more spacious vehicle.) Inside, Betty jimmies open a lockbox with a bobby pin and finds a driver’s license with Miss Grundy’s picture, but in the name Jennifer Gibson … along with a revolver. Confronted by Archie, Grundy explains she was in a violent, abusive marriage. When she got a divorce, she changed her name. He buys it.
After dragging her husband to the Andrews’ front door to demand that Archie and Betty stop spending time together — cool, normal neighbor behavior — Mrs. Cooper takes a break from inexplicably terrorizing the town to put away laundry in her daughter’s room. There she discovers Grundy’s gun in a dresser drawer, and in a panic, she grabs for Betty’s diary. Two discussion questions for the class:
1) With a crazy-ass mom such as this one, why wouldn’t you make more of an effort to hide your diary?
2) What was Betty planning on doing with the gun?
Most of Riverdale has gathered for the drive-in’s last-ever feature, a screening of Rebel Without Cause. Looking like rockabilly-influenced Jets from a community-theater production of West Side Story, the Southside Serpents get rowdy in the back. Veronica stands up and takes it upon herself to silence them: “You know what happens to a snake when a Louboutin heel steps on it? Shut the hell up or you’ll find out.” A perfect “Don’t Tread on Me” flag for the 21st century. “I’ve dealt with worse in the East Village,” Veronica quips, and I can only imagine she is referring to drunk brunchgoers.
But Veronica loses her nerve when she spots her mother paying off a Serpent. Hermione finally reveals she was handling “unfinished business” for Veronica’s father, who’d hired the gang to decrease the property value of the theater so he could snatch it up at a discount. That’s why she was paying them, and that’s who the anonymous buyer is. “He snuck every last penny that we had into this deal,” Hermione explains, which is weird, because I thought the Lodges were richer than that? This family lived in Upper West Side luxury, but can’t comfortably afford a run-down plot of land in a town with exactly one diner to its name?
At least one good thing happens at the drive-in: Kevin makes out with a hot young Serpent, Joaquin. Kevin’s father (who is very supportive of his son’s sexuality, but not so much of criminals) probably wouldn’t be thrilled, but I am. Unfortunately, the Kellers soon have more pressing concerns: Their place has been trashed.
At school, Archie brings Miss Grundy a “thank-you gift,” a new bow for her cello, that doubles as a “good-bye” gift. They agree to end their lessons, musical and otherwise. But just then, Mrs. Cooper, Mr. Andrews, and Betty burst in. I feel like the show wants me to feel bad that they got caught, but, um, good. When Alice Cooper rails that Grundy is a “child predator” who should go to jail, she is the only person in the room reacting appropriately. (Then again, the fact that she’s more interested in turning her daughter against Archie than actually seeking justice is not super great in and of itself.) Y’all need to recalibrate, Riverdale.
Faced with what should be a very easy decision, Betty instead exercises the nuclear option in her friend’s defense: If her mom brings this to the authorities, she’ll tell everyone that she broke into Miss Grundy’s car, robbed her, and lied about everything. People will assume she had a breakdown just like her sister. The tactic works, and they come to an agreement: The cops won’t be called, but Grundy will leave Riverdale at once.
Later that night, Betty spots Archie through her bedroom window and texts him that she’s sorry. He understands. But the damage is done, in more ways than one. The next morning, Miss Grundy makes eyes at passing young hotties as she prepares to drive away in her packed-up car. (Are you a sexual predator who’ll need to skip town at a moment’s notice and fit all of your earthly belongings in your backseat? That’s another point against a VW bug.)
Jughead bids farewell to the drive-in for the last time, leaving behind a slept-in cot in the projection booth. The Southside Serpent who Hermione paid off approaches him outside. “So where you gonna live now?” he asks. “I’ll figure it out, Dad,” Jughead responds. “I always do.” It’s hard to stay mad at Riverdale when every episode really sticks the landing.