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We kick off this week’s Riverdale with the surprise phone call that ended the last episode. Yes, it’s the Black Hood, and he forbids Betty to tell the police or even Jughead that they’ve spoken. If she does, let’s just say he knows the exact location of the farm where perma-pregnant, very murderable Polly has been hiding out. Betty asks Archie — who’s welcome back at Riverdale High since posting an apology video, which we don’t get to watch, but which I believe in my heart was also filmed against a background of shirtless teens in fuchsia masks — to walk her to school. She quickly spills her guts to him about her unwanted new friend.
Meanwhile, after the rumble with the Bulldogs and an anti-southside op-ed by Alice “Make Riverdale Great Again” Cooper, the Serpents aren’t feeling exactly neighborly. Jughead realizes that F.P. was keeping the gang in line, so he’ll have to step up and take his dad’s place to prevent them from going to war. If he survives Serpent initiation, that is. The first stage is the “guardianship of the Beast,” who proves to be a sweet, shaggy dog. In the next, Jughead must memorize a series of Serpent laws and scream them into Tall Boy’s face. As someone who is capable of (a) taking care of a dog, and (b) reciting the Girl Scout Promise, I was briefly convinced that I should be anointed Grand Supreme Serpent Queen, but then Jughead had to grab a knife from a (venom-less, but still) rattlesnake coiling around the blade, and now I’m less interested.
Betty’s phone rings again. (That “Lollipop” ringtone is getting real old, real quick.) The Black Hood says he’ll email her something to publish in The Blue and Gold to prove her loyalty. If she does it, she can ask him any question she likes. An old, yellowed front page of the Riverdale Register appears in her inbox, with the headline “Southside Teen Arrested and Released on Bail.” The accompanying photo is none other than a very young, very Twin Peaks-y Alice Cooper. Betty is torn: Publishing the front page would destroy her mother’s credibility. On the other hand, Alice is being an enormous jerk. When Sheriff Keller reports that handwriting specialists determined that two different people wrote Alice and Betty’s Black Hood letters, Alice accuses her daughter of writing the message she received herself. Aaaand with that, Operation Publish Mom’s Old Incriminating Mugshot is a go.
At least she’s earned the right to ask a question. The Black Hood won’t let Betty ask his name, so she asks if she’d recognize his face. She would. Quid pro quo, Clarice. “I’m selfish, Betty. I don’t like sharing you with other people,” the Black Hood tells her. She can start by cutting Veronica out of her life. Wait, hold on: Given Sheriff Keller’s findings, is Betty not going to consider even for a moment that the person who’s been calling her might not be the actual Black Hood? Nev and Max wouldn’t let this slide on Catfish. Also, keep an eye on Betty’s ponytail throughout this episode. It’s like a dog’s tail: Her hair hangs lower and lower as her emotional well-being declines.
Potential investors for the Lodges’ SoDale project are on their way to attend a swanky open house, including the St. Clairs and their son Nick, Veronica’s old friend from New York. Veronica’s parents encourage their Junior Businesswoman of America to sell Nick on the deal, because he in turn will sell his father. If Nick St. Clair wasn’t cryogenically frozen in a storage locker leased by the CW since Gossip Girl went off the air, then he’s a host who wandered out of the Bret Easton Ellis–themed version of Westworld. He’s inappropriately flirty with Veronica and, in general, might as well have “CREEPY RICH WEIRDO” delicately embroidered on his creepy rich forehead.
Nick invites the whole gang minus Jughead — and including the Pussycats, Reggie, and Cheryl — to a party in his hotel room, where everyone sits in a circle while Nick regales them with a long, boring anecdote about Gal Gadot, possibly the most boring celebrity you could tell a long, boring anecdote about. (No offense, Gal Gadot.) Then Nick opens his jacket to reveal a stash of Jingle Jangle. Veronica — feeling pressured to please Nick, as the Lodge family’s appointed good-time Fredo — is reluctantly in, as is Archie, as is everyone but Betty.
What is Jingle Jangle, exactly? MDMA? The music gets louder and everyone, generally, gets dancier and make-outier. Cheryl is flipping her hair around like that Herbal Essences commercial that aired before she was born. Kevin is basically Ron Swanson on Snake Juice. Sober Betty looks on, soberly. She also takes this opportunity to torch her relationship with Veronica, announcing to everyone that she is a “privileged, shallow, airhead party girl,” a fake friend who only hangs out with them because of circumstance. Ouch.
It gets worse: Once everyone leaves, Nick comforts Veronica by trying to bang her. She rebuffs his uncomfortably handsy advances and he calls her a “tease.” When Nick threatens to sabotage the deal between their parents if she doesn’t comply, she slaps him.
If Betty thought pushing Veronica away was hard, she’s in for another level of hurt. The next friendship excommunication that the Black Hood orders is … Jughead. By this point, Betty isn’t even wearing a ponytail, but a low bun, which might be reason enough to rush her to the nearest emergency room. She begs Archie to do the dumping for her. He breaks the news to Jug at his trailer, just as the Serpents arrive for the final stage of his initiation: beating the hell out of him.
At the Lodges’ fancy-pants party for SoDale, which will wipe the southside off the map in favor of whatever the in-universe equivalent of Whole Foods is, Hal Cooper shows up to cover the event alone, telling Hiram that Alice decided to stay home and keep a low profile post-scandal. Sorry, not so fast — Alice Cooper was just waiting to make her glorious entrance in a deeply low-cut, fiery-red, floor-length snake-print dress-cape-shorts combo (with matching clutch!) that my mortal brain does not have the vocabulary to describe. The finishing touch: a gold serpent necklace. She marches in and tells her husband to “shove it.” I don’t entirely understand what is going on here, but I do know that I love it.
Nick apologizes to Veronica, explaining that he’s been in and out of rehab over the last few months. Could Nick be … not terrible? Just kidding. Nick is extremely terrible. He slips something into Cheryl’s drink, and as the Pussycats ft. Veronica perform “Out Tonight” from Rent for some reason, he leads the barely conscious Blossom heiress up to his room. Well, this is a horrifying development. The Pussycats, thank God, see this happening from the stage, giving chase and bursting into Nick’s suite as their song confusingly continues to play. The girls give Nick St. Clair the same treatment Jughead is getting from the Serpents, with the advantage of high heels to kick with. Cheryl is determined to press charges for attempted rape and make Nick suffer; Veronica can’t imagine how many times her ex-friend must have done this before.
Over on the southside, a bloodied but victorious and newly single Jughead is rocking a new Serpents tattoo on his shoulder. He and Toni make out to Harry Styles’s “Sign of the Times” in his trailer, as you do. I am genuinely worried for the welfare of the actress who plays Toni, should the #bughead faithful find out her home address.
Betty’s phone rings again. I’ll give you one guess as to who’s calling. She did her part with Jughead, and now she demands to know who the Black Hood really is. He directs her to an abandoned house at the edge of Fox Forest, where she goes, alone, because despite being extremely intelligent, Betty is also deeply stupid. There’s a black box tied up with a red bow waiting for her inside. It contains a black hood of her very own. Over the phone, he instructs her to put it on, then turn around. Behind her is … a mirror? Uh, why? “To show you that we’re the same,” he explains. Black Hood, this life lesson is lame as hell. When she hears a loud creak, Betty flees the house.
But she and the Black Hood still have “unfinished business.” He knows she’s been telling Archie everything. Now, he’ll kill Polly and her whole family unless she names another sinner who deserves death by his hand. “Nick St. Clair,” she answers. Honestly, Betty, excellent choice.