Maple syrup is big business in Riverdale: The Blossom Maple Farms label can be spotted in just about every fridge in town, which presumably means that there is a municipal diabetes crisis going on. But with would-be heir Jason gone, the Blossoms’ board of trustees are uneasy about the future of the family business. A fleet of ominous black Town Cars pulls up to the Blossom farm, out of which emerge some equally ominous red-haired strangers.
Cheryl invites Archie as her date to the Blossoms’ annual tree-tapping ceremony, an event of borderline religious importance to the family. But he declines to tap her maple — he has a girlfriend, the lovely Val. Penelope Blossom finds Archie at school and casually informs him that Cheryl’s great-uncle serves on the board of the Brandenburg Music Academy, known for its prestigious summer program. (Archie loves music. Did you know?) Penelope could put in a good word — if young Archibald decides to escort Cheryl to the ceremony, that is. He accepts.
Polly, who’s officially expecting twins, has been ignoring her sister’s attempts to contact her, to Betty’s dismay. She begs Archie to talk to Polly while he’s fraternizing with the enemy.
Ethel Muggs is back from the Upside-Down, sharing a poem with her class that I am pretty sure she plagiarized directly from my Xanga in 2004. I quote, in part:
They put me in a wooden box
As I desperately opposed
But all my screaming was for naught
My mouth had been sewn closed
You’ll be hearing from my attorney, ma’am. And also, I hope, from a guidance counselor?
Veronica checks in with Ethel to see if everything’s okay. She’s having trouble at home — her parents are fighting. Veronica knows the feeling well. She invites Ethel over for “lunch and pampering.” Ethel explains that her family will have to sell their house. “We lost our place at the Dakota,” confides Veronica, relatably. As soon as Hermione hears the name “Muggs,” she knows what happened. Ethel’s dad invested with her husband, Hiram Lodge. Not only did he ruin their family, but they’re planning to testify against him.
That’s not the only truth bomb that Mrs. Lodge has to drop. She finally tells Fred Andrews that the mystery buyer he’s working for is Lodge Industries; worse still, the thugs who attacked the construction site were almost certainly hired by her jealous husband. Unsurprisingly, Hermione’s bearded boy toy is furious. She implores him to stick with the SoDale project anyway.
At the tapping, the extended Blossom family is decked out in their reddest finery, looking more than a little like the cast of Get Out. It falls to Cheryl — wearing an extremely covetable spider brooch — to tap the first tree. With smiling encouragement from designated bucket-holder Archie, she pulls it off flawlessly. Archie also finds a moment to confront Polly about her radio silence, but all she’ll say is that Betty shouldn’t worry. (We know Polly’s been touched by evil now that she’s rocking a smoky eye.)
After the ceremony, Archie has a little chat with Clifford Blossom, who has the most unsettling hair I have ever seen on a man who is not the 45th president of the United States. They’re hosting a banquet for the board later that week. Archie is invited to escort Cheryl to that, too — Mr. Blossom’s tailor will even fit him for a suit. “You have to come. I’m wearing viridian!” chirps Cheryl.
Over at the office of The Riverdale Register, which appears only slightly more modern than that of the Stars Hollow Gazette, Alice presents an exposé on the Blossom family to her estranged husband, but he refuses to publish this “personal vendetta.” She tries to log in to their computer — the kind of mid-’90s model you had to wait your turn for at the library, but which inevitably crashed in the middle of your Oregon Trail journey — but she’s locked out. Alice, you see, has been fired.
Outside, she shouts, “I want my daughter back, you bastard,” and throws a brick through the office window. It’s unclear how this, exactly, will help get her daughter back, but you have to admire her enthusiasm.
When she learns that Ethel’s dad has attempted suicide, Veronica is distraught. She rips off her trademark necklace and pearls scatter all over the locker-room floor. Tapping trees, throwing bricks, tearing pearls: This episode has it all!
V and B visit the Muggs family at the hospital, bearing flowers. Veronica feels compelled to reveal her parentage (this might not be the best time, Ronnie), and Mrs. Muggs is disgusted. “Her father is a criminal,” she tells Ethel. “He’s the reason Dad did this to himself.” But back at school, Ethel accepts Veronica’s apology. After all, she was there for her when she desperately needed a friend.
At the banquet, Clifford shares his motives for bringing Jason 2.0 — I mean, Archie — into the fold. The board is skeptical of Cheryl’s leadership potential, but with someone as upstanding and stable (and lame, and boring) as Archie by her side, they might reconsider. It also seems like the Blossoms have a vested interest in establishing some kind of redheaded master race.
Polly swoops in to ask Archie to dance. She quietly explains that she’s really staying at Thornhill to uncover the connection between the Blossoms and their son’s death. The last thing she needs is the Betty Brigade swinging in to her “rescue.”
Outside the party, Cheryl (who looks amaze in viridian) tells Archie that she knows her family thinks she’s a train wreck. He reassures her that he thinks she’s awesome. She kisses Archie, noting, “My lipstick’s maple red, by the way, in case you’re wondering why it tastes so sweet.” (Not to deflate the romantic mood, but here’s a video of me five minutes after having purchased maple lipstick.) Archie flees, and as he does, he overhears the Blossom parents conspiring to reclaim the drive-in property. “Hermione Lodge will crumble,” says Clifford. “Maybe you should have sent her to jail instead of Hiram,” says Penelope.
Cheryl catches up with Archie and makes the stakes more explicit: “If you leave, the radiant sun that is the Blossom family stops shining on you.” No more suits. No more summer program. No more Pretty Woman treatment. He’ll pass, but thanks! Cheryl copes with rejection in a way that is not, well, un-murderer-ish. On a photo from the tree-tapping ceremony, she scrawls over Archie’s face — and then Polly’s — with an on-brand red marker. (Sorry, but Cheryl and Archie are now my OTP, if only because Cheryl is perfect and deserves everything she wants.)
After sharing the good news that Polly is a double agent, Jughead and Betty invite Alice, an adult woman, to write for the school newspaper. Somehow, this is the single most implausible thing to happen on Riverdale, which is really an achievement.
Archie may be done with the Blossoms, but Val is done with him. She’s skeeved out by the way he’s let the Blossoms buy him, and more importantly, he’s been essentially ignoring her. (Excellent judgment, Val.) Archie isn’t the only newly single Andrews man. Fred will stick with SoDale, he tells Hermione — in exchange for a 20 percent stake. He won’t be a pawn any longer, and nor, for that matter, will he continue to be her sort-of boyfriend.
Archie relays the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Blossom to Jughead and Betty. If the Blossoms had plotted to destroy the Lodge family, could Hiram have returned the favor? Voilà, a new suspect’s name finds its way onto the Jason Blossom murder board.