I would like to start by saying that Alice Cooper has earned my respect and affection by being the only person on Riverdale to inflect the extremely implausible nickname “Jughead” with the derision it deserves. Juggy is over at the Cooper house for breakfast, which proves to be a ploy to distract Mrs. Cooper while Betty rifles through her mother’s purse. She finds a check made out to an organization called the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, “a home for troubled youths.” (Is it possible to read the word “youths” and not hear it in the voice of Vinny Gambini?) Ah, so this must be where Betty’s sister Polly has been sent.
Meanwhile, Archie is trying out for Riverdale High’s annual variety show with an original song. The auditions are run by Kevin — who, I am sorry to tell you, gets criminally little screen time in this episode — and when Archie steps up, the football team heckles him from the back row. For a moment, Archie sees the jeering jocks as if they have terrifying wolf faces, in case you needed a dash of Wicker Man (or Teen Wolf, or Creep) in your day. Nope, no way that’s a good omen. He flees the stage.
Val — who seems way too chill and lovely to bother with Archie, but I suppose teenagers need to learn these life lessons for themselves — comforts him, saying it’s just stage fright. He asks her to sing with him, in addition to headlining the variety show with the Pussycats, but she declines. Veronica, having talked Kevin into finding a slot for Archie in the show anyway, volunteers in Val’s stead. He’ll be “the Jay to [her] Bey.”
At Pussycats rehearsal, a grouchy Josie and her bandmates fight like cats and, well, cats. (I’m sorry.) When the claws come out (I’m so, so sorry), Val quits the group, choosing Archie over Josie’s “diva crap.” She hands over her kitty ears in the same way a disgraced cop would turn in her badge and gun.
Elsewhere in town, Hermione Lodge, who is both Fred Andrews’ new bookkeeper and his forever fantasy girlfriend, lets him know that they’re running dangerously low on funds. Archie’s dad reveals that he plans to pitch his construction company to the mysterious developer who bought the old drive-in, having no idea that the party in question is Hermione herself, a seemingly pertinent piece of information that she does not bother to reveal. Theeeeen they start making out, a display that Veronica catches sight of through the trailer window.
Josie frets to her mother, Mayor McCoy, about losing Val and her songwriting skills. The mayor insists she can be replaced — so long as she’s replaced by a woman of color who’s “skinny and beautiful,” but not quite as skinny or as beautiful as Josie herself. But they’ve got family matters to attend to first: Josie’s pretentious musician dad, Miles, is in town to see her in the variety show, and his impossible expectations are the reason why she’s been so catty. (Again, I’m sorry.)
Miles, a cool jazz guy with a cool jazz hat, laments Val’s departure from the Pussycats, saying that she gave the band “some much-needed integrity.” Another proud alumnus of the Alice Cooper School of Garbage Parenting!
Veronica confronts her mom about her extramarital activities with Fred. What’ll happen when her father gets out of prison? Veronica’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day gets even worse when she finds Val and Archie practicing in a coffee shop, making moony eyes at each other. Veronica is offended to have been tossed aside from their double act, calling Archie a “ginger Judas.” Full of rage and of harmonies, she offers her services to the Pussycats, who welcome her with open paws. (Okay, this one didn’t even make sense. I realize that now.)
Betty and Jughead take a bus out to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where the Cooper sisters tearfully reunite. “You found us,” Polly says. That plural pronoun isn’t a slip of the tongue: She’s pregnant, with a little baby Blossom.
Contrary to what the Coopers told Betty, Polly insists she is neither sick nor suicidal. Jason’s parents forced the breakup, she says, but he was thrilled about the baby. In fact, they were going to run away together to start a family. On July 4, she and Jason had planned to meet on the other side of the Sweetwater River, but Mr. and Mrs. Cooper found out. Cue the stern nun, accompanied by two orderlies, who threw Polly in a van and took her away that morning.
“Have you talked to him? Does he know that I’m there?” Polly asks Betty. Oof. Hoo boy. Betty is faced with the unenviable task of telling her sister that her baby daddy is dead — although Polly ultimately figures it out on her own simply by interpreting Betty’s expressive eyebrow furrows.
But their time together is short, because Alice Cooper has descended on the premises. For the first time, we see Mrs. Cooper display another emotional state besides her default, which is of course casual murderousness. She seems genuinely heartbroken when confronted by a distraught Polly about locking her up and hiding Jason’s death from her. Back at the Blossom house, the parental gaslighting continues. Hal and Betty maintain that Polly is delusional. So who are we going to believe?
Surprise, Veronica! Hermione made you a legal officer of Lodge Industries when your dad went to prison, and now she needs you to provide the second signature necessary to award the development contract to her boy toy, Fred Andrews. Veronica is disgusted. Unless her mom agrees to stop seeing him, she wants no part of this. Undeterred, Hermione — who is lowkey the darkest character on Riverdale — deftly forges her daughter’s signature like it’s not the first time.
Jughead climbs up to Betty’s window on a mysteriously sourced ladder, Clarissa Explains It All–style. As Betty frets over whether her sister might actually be mentally ill, Jughead takes this opportunity to kiss her, which, meh. (Riverdale Jughead, unlike Archie Comics Jughead, isn’t asexual.) In what is no doubt a very anticlimactic followup to that kiss for Jughead, Betty suddenly remembers that Polly mentioned that Jason had stashed a getaway car on Route 40. If Betty can find it, that means Polly’s story must be true. Jughead and Betty find the car hidden under a tarp, and inside it, packed luggage, Jason’s varsity jacket, and … “drugs.” Unbeknownst to them, someone’s watching from the shadows.
As excited as Archie is to perform with Val, he encourages her to follow her heart back to the Pussycats. Now featuring both Val and Veronica, the band covers Donna Summer’s “Heaven Knows” in catsuits, tails and all, before a giant cat-silhouette backdrop. They are nothing if not on brand. But this isn’t enough for Cool Jazz Dad, who exits mid-performance to his daughter’s visible disappointment.
After making amends with Veronica, Archie sings his little Archie song. His performance is good and fine, and of course elicits a disproportionately huge round of applause. More importantly, he and Val finally kiss after the show.
Fred happily tells Veronica that the mystery buyer — whoever she may be, I really have no idea, I swear I don’t know — awarded him the contract. Now more than ever, trouble is brewing between mother and daughter. Also, not for nothing, but I think Fred might be kind of dumb.
Sheriff Keller, tipped off by Betty and Jughead, finds the car, but it’s been torched. Jughead and Betty — having somehow evaded stern nun security — burst into Polly’s room at Sisters of Quiet Mercy. But they’re too late. She’s smashed her window and escaped into the stormy night.