As an act of defiance against the Black Hood (… sure), Archie and Veronica are doing a bunch of sex all over the place, including in front of a roaring fire in her family’s apartment. It’s at that exact postcoital moment that Archie decides to tell Veronica that he loves her. When she doesn’t reciprocate the l-word, he freaks out, at which point she too freaks out, at which point he leaves. Young love! I mean, young [redacted]!
Meanwhile, Jughead verifies Not Candyman’s story in newspaper records at City Hall: A family of four, the Conways, were indeed murdered by the so-called Riverdale Reaper. He was never caught, Jughead learns, but he’d be in his 60s by now. Excuse me, 60 is the new 40! It’s 2017 and 60-somethings can enjoy fulfilled lives murdering as many sinners as they like. Betty recognizes the Conway house from the news photo as the one the Black Hood commanded her to visit. But before they can dive into the case, Jughead learns his dad is getting out of jail. (Guess Penny Peabody kept at least part of her promise.) Betty, Alice, and Alice’s station wagon join Jughead in picking F.P. up. “Is it true what they say about men who’ve just been released from prison, F.P.?” Alice asks. “That they are incredibly sexually frustrated?” Alice, what! I didn’t know you had it in you! Dump Hal immediately and make this happen, woman.
Jughead may have donned the leather jacket of doom, but F.P. has decided he isn’t going back to the Serpents. Instead, he’ll work at Pop’s. And did he mention he’s in AA now? Jughead lies to his dad, telling him that he and Penny are square — even though they very much are not, as she’s recently expanded her threats to include Betty. F.P. reluctantly accepts his son has chosen life in the gang, so long as Jughead promises he’ll keep writing. I’m glad no one has the heart to tell F.P. that Jug is a bad writer.
Even textbook good-girl Betty is swayed by the call of the snake. To stay close to Jughead, she wants to be “Serpent adjacent,” she tells Toni in the Whyte Wyrm. As some lady sleepily pole dances nearby, a crusty old Serpent gal laughs at Betty: “If you want to join the club, you’ve got to do the dance. The Serpent Dance.” Spoiler: This will be even dumber than you’re imagining.
Given that Jughead is busy welcoming his father home and Betty isn’t on the best terms with Sheriff Keller, having accused him of being a serial killer about five minutes ago, Riverdale’s No. 1 couple asks Riverdale’s No. 2 couple (just kidding, Archie and Veronica are Riverdale’s No. 7 couple, at best) to investigate their new Black Hood lead. Veronica in particular is relieved to have an excuse to put off a much-needed Serious Talk with Archie. When the Riverdale Reaper files prove to be missing from the station, Keller suggests the late former sheriff assigned to the case could have taken them home. Veronica and Archie manage to track down the man’s daughter, who reports that her dad was obsessed with the “devil’s house,” spending countless hours there as he tried to crack the case.
And so the kids poke around the ruins of the murder house, where they stumble on a lockbox containing the Sheriff’s long-lost files. A family photo reveals an unaccounted-for third Conway child, Joseph, who changed his name and was adopted by a local family. Varchie finds the missing boy in an old Riverdale High yearbook: He’s known to them as Joseph Svenson, the school’s creepy janitor. The couple confronts him at school. (Specifically, Archie slams him into a locker, which seems, um, unjustified.) That horrible night, he says he escaped through his bedroom window when he heard shots, but recognized the killer as a conman-slash-preacher passing through town. Svenson-slash-Conway identified the murderer to a group of townspeople the next day, and he believes they killed the man. Could Svenson himself be terrorizing present-day Riverdale? Archie, having looked into the eyes of the Black Hood, doesn’t believe he’s their guy.
At F.P.’s retirement party, Alice Cooper arrives in full sexpot mode, making another glorious return to her Serpent roots in leather and dark lipstick. Tequila-swigging Serpent Alice is my everything. Alas, Archie and Veronica can avoid their Serious Talk no longer: He tells she should feel no pressure to say the l-word back to him, but it’s clear he’s nevertheless hurt by her reluctance to do so. They’re summoned to the stage for a moody karaoke duet of “Mad World” from Donnie Darko (ah, yes, a classic crowd-pleaser), but Veronica flees mid-song. Betty takes their place, undressing to reveal lacy black lingerie beneath her clothes. Betty, is your boyfriend’s dad’s retirement party at which your mother is also in attendance really the time and place for a Donnie Darko striptease? Is there any time, any place for a Donnie Darko striptease? I’m sorry to report that Betty’s weak-ass non-choreography — she more or less walks in a circle, slowly — is an insult to talented and frighteningly fit pole dancers everywhere. At least Jughead got to take care of a dog for his initiation.
Jughead is not delighted to witness Betty’s Serpent-adjacent transformation, but he hardly has time to be upset before something even worse happens. F.P. announces to the gathered Serpents that this is a retirement party no longer. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before a snake lets a pig tell him what to do,” he says. Wait, what happened? F.P. found out about the Snake Charmer. He whispers in Jughead’s ear, “I’m in, you’re out. Penny’s my problem now … You broke my heart, Jughead.” Then he kisses his forehead in a very half-hearted Godfather II homage. No. Archie is the Fredo of Riverdale. Betty is half-Kay, half-Sonny in a sexy fugue state. And you could make a compelling argument for either Jughead or Veronica as Michael.
Outside the party, Veronica apologizes to Archie. She’s realized she’s got some deep-seated issues around love — a word she’s never heard her parents say to one another — and that she can’t give him what he needs. Are they … breaking up? Meanwhile, distraught over his dad, Jughead tells Betty he can no longer protect her and that she should go home. Are they … also breaking up? Did everybody just break up?
Back home, newly single Archie stares at Betty through his bedroom window. Newly single Betty stares back. Noooo, I am sorry, but I am so uninterested in Archie and Betty. (Barchie, I guess.) I would genuinely be more excited to watch sparks fly between Smithers (miss you, Smithers) and Nana Blossom. If she didn’t perish in Cheryl’s fire, that is.