What’s a town without a beloved and inconveniently genocidal founder? Riverdale honors the legacy of their very own General Pickens with an annual celebration, but this year, the Lodges want to really blow it out, what with their vested interest in the development of the South Side and all. They even offer to hire the Serpents as security, like this is Altamont 2018!
Jughead, already insulted by that non-invitation to Pickens Day, learns the truth when he interviews Toni’s grandfather for his oral-history report. He’s shocked to learn from the oldest living Serpent that the Uktena tribe — the first occupants of the land on which Riverdale was built, as well as the forebearers of their gang — were “slaughtered” by General Pickens. The town’s history has been conveniently whitewashed. Welcome to Woke-verdale, population Juggie.
Newly reinstated to the staff of the Register, Jughead publishes an exposé on Pickens, who killed 400 innocent people on the dime of Barnabas B. Blossom, who hired him to remove the tribe by force. But Toni is infuriated by her friend’s characterization of her grandfather as a pathetic victim, no more than a “prop.” This wasn’t Jughead’s story to tell. Duly chastened, he apologizes to the man in person. “Whatever your reasons were, you opened an old wound,” Grandpa Topaz says. “Now something has to be done to heal it.”
Meanwhile, Definitely Real FBI Agent Adams presents Archie with paperwork that will (supposedly) insure Fred’s immunity in criminal proceedings against Hiram Lodge. Now Agent Adams wants his junior deputy to convince Veronica’s father to trust him, which promises to be tricky, given that Hiram isn’t exactly splitting two halves of a Best Friends locket with the young man creeping into his daughter’s bedroom. But when Archie mentions wanting to get on Hiram’s good side, V suggests wrestling. Papa Lodge was once wrestling captain for Riverdale High, where a shirtless photo of him is still displayed in the trophy cabinet.
Let me take a moment to say this: Riverdale High’s wrestling tryouts are everything that you and I have dreamed of. My personal understanding of wrestling is limited to an episode of Raw that I watched while stoned one time (and loved, by the way), but who among us would not appreciate the sight of unreasonably beautiful young men with rippling, Spandex-clad butts and pecs flopping around the floor in the spirit of competition? (While we’re at it, allow me to recommend the truly bonkers “Anyone Here for Love” scene from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.) Hiram, a.k.a “The Ram,” also shows up to tryouts, because who wouldn’t want to witness this affable, ass-slapping mayhem in person? Plus, it’s not like he’s busy with a seedy underworld empire to run, is he? Archie may excel at football and basketball, but he’s out of his element here. In drills, he repeatedly gets his ass kicked (ass … flipped?) by Kevin, who later mercifully agrees to tutor him, or whatever the sports equivalent of tutoring is.
Back to Riverdale’s own Modern Family spinoff: Chic, having not yet murdered Betty nor either of his long-lost parents (nice work, Chic!), is coldly interrogated by Hal over breakfast. The lost Cooper boy explains that he was attacked by Marcel, the man who runs the hostel where he was staying, because he didn’t feel like working. He offers to go into more “specifics” about his mysterious clients, but no one takes him up on it. At least stealth weirdo Betty is excited to learn her brother has the same fingernail-digging scars on his palms that she does.
Soon enough, Kevin realizes why he recognized Chic: “He’s a video gigolo, a webcam boy, a cybertrick,” he tells Betty, in possibly my personal favorite sentence ever spoken on Riverdale. Betty is scandalized, but what did she think he did? I mean, the man said he worked in “fantasy fulfillment.” Did Betty think he was a regional donor coordinator for the Make-A-Wish foundation? I thought we were all on the same page, or at least somewhere in the same chapter.
Chic is furious to learn that Marcel threw out all his belongings, including his computer. Betty quietly drops off an old Riverdale Register laptop outside Chic’s door. What is her deal, he demands to know, and why did she come looking for him in the first place? Betty wants to better understand her inner darkness — a quality it sure seems like he shares.
Back at the Pembroke, Hiram finds Archie and Veronica rehearsing music and mocks his rival for Veronica’s affection’s wrestling abilities. Then Veronica and Archie spite-make-out in front of him, and no one is more uncomfortable than me. At the next day’s tryouts, Hiram selects Archie as his “volunteer” to wham into a humiliating headlock. He eventually explains that he hates Archie in part because of Fred: “Your father slept with another man’s wife and why shouldn’t I assume you have the same weak character?” How did I completely forget about Hermione and Fred’s affair? In my defense, a lot happens on this television program. Also, Archie is completely unworthy of Veronica in every way, yada yada, the usual. Hiram wakes Archie for an early-morning run and depressingly healthful egg-white omelette breakfast at Pop’s, at which point he explains he will do no more than “tolerate” Archie until Veronica inevitably gets over him. “Boyfriends, they come and they go. But fathers … fathers are forever,” Hiram says. Fathers Are Forever is the perfect title for the future Lifetime movie based on Veronica’s life story.
On the last day of tryouts, to which Hiram made a point of inviting Veronica, Archie is coincidentally paired up with wrestling stud and semi-reformed slut-shamer Chuck Clayton, despite the fact that Chuck actually knows how to wrestle and is also in a higher weight class. But Archie is undeterred, determined to prove his love for his girlfriend’s dad — uh, I mean, his girlfriend, I think — through both the force of his will and the force of his large, milk-colored muscles. He makes direct eye contact with Hiram in the stands as he ultimately manages to pin Chuck.
Hal Cooper arrives to the Pickens Day celebration in a less-than-festive mood. He’s peeked on Chic’s computer and is horrified that they’ve let such a person into their home. Alice, maternally, don’t give a shit. She threatens to throw her husband out again. Penelope Blossom watches this argument with interest, clutching a ruby-red candy apple like the Evil Queen. Later, she approaches Hal to offer him some company. In my opinion: good! I am open to any and all developments that expedite the endgame that is Alice/F.P.
Veronica and post-Pussycats Josie had been planning a duet for Pickens Day, but Josie’s increasing sense that Veronica was manipulating her just as much as Hermione is manipulating her mother put a stop to that. But the Lodges have other plans: Emcee Fred Andrews welcomes “Veronica and the Pussycats” to the stage. Ronnie sings lead on Duran Duran’s “Union of the Snake,” a cover that seems a little on the nose, as a Serpents-heavy group of protesters marches toward the stage carrying “honor this land” signs and wearing duct tape over their mouths. Cheryl, great-to-the-nth-degree-granddaughter of Barnabas B. Blossom, joins them. Over a megaphone, Toni proclaims that “Pickens Day is a lie.” Hiram grabs the mic and adeptly spins this collective action for his own purposes, casting the moment as a chance to celebrate how the Uktena contribute to the “rich tapestry that is Riverdale.” Jughead lunges toward the stage, but Toni’s grandfather holds him back.
Begrudgingly impressed by Archie’s performance on the mat, Hiram invites him over for a private chat in his study. He informs him he’ll demand “the best” from him so long as he’s dating his daughter. “How would you like to start your business tutelage under my shepherding?” Lodge asks Archie, who ignores a call from Definitely Real FBI Agent Adams while he’s there.
That’s not the only business tutelage going on tonight. Chic confesses to coming into Betty’s room that first night, and sits down with her to explain how he copes with his own darkness. He webcams not just to make cash, but to escape. “Can you show me how to do that?” his sister asks. He opens up his laptop. Dark Betty, come on out, girl! It’s been too long!
On a final note, Veronica and Josie’s friendship wasn’t the only casualty of Pickens Day. The next morning, the town’s statue of General Pickens is found decapitated and splattered in red paint. The Serpents will almost certainly be blamed for this act of vandalism — dramatic pause — but are they really responsible?