Chapter Twenty-Six: The Tell-Tale Heart
There’s nothing like an active crime scene to bring a family together. Alice forbids Betty from calling the police about the late Pseudo Cumberbatch currently bloodying their dining-room rug, out of fear that Chic would be arrested. Alice doesn’t want to involve her daughter in this both literal and figurative mess, but when Hal calls to say he’s coming over to pick up “toiletries” (Jesus, Hal, can’t you just stop by CVS like a normal person?), it’s all hands on deck to clean up the evidence. Except for Chic, who trembles helpfully in the corner.
Betty is physically and emotionally exhausted by the time Jughead calls, just to say good night and “I love you.” She abruptly hangs up on him as her mom rushes her out of the house to dispose of the body. They leave Pseudo Cumberbatch (RIP), wrapped inside the dining-room rug (also RIP), in an old sewer pipe in the woods. The next morning, Alice and Chic dine cheerily on chocolate-chip pancakes, but Betty is even more of a wreck in daylight. She drops her bowl of cereal at the sound of someone knocking on the front door. It’s Jughead, here to walk her to school. She reassures him that everything’s just fine between them; it’s just that she came home to “drama,” which is apparently a regional Riverdale euphemism for “a super-dead person.”
The Lodges have interpreted the arrival of General Pickens’s head on their doorstep as a “declaration of war.” Drawing from her Model U.N. expertise, Veronica advises they try deescalating with the Serpents first. Jughead agrees, on the condition that their negotiation be held at the trailer park, so that Hiram can see the faces of the people he’s threatening to drive from their homes. In the meantime, Jughead confronts Mayor McCoy about the fact that the drive-in, Southside High, and the trailer park are all on town land — and all being shut down for the ultimate benefit of the Lodges. He correctly guesses they’ve been sending some shady donations her way, encouraging her to come clean now.
At school, the news spreads that a body has been discovered, to Archie and Betty’s simultaneous quiet horror. But the vic in question isn’t Pseudo Cumberbatch — it’s Papa Poutine. Nevertheless, Betty runs to the bathroom and vomits. Cheryl finds her sitting on the stall floor and compassionately points out the stray puke on her collar. Veronica, too, is upset with her dad about both his possible ties to the gangland murder and for dragging Archie into this “Martin Scorsese nightmare.” (Discussion question for the class: Veronica pronounces the director’s last name as Scor-see-see. Many people pronounce it Scor-say-zee. Scorsese himself pronounces it Scor-seh-see. So, (1) Does Veronica genuinely not know how to pronounce his name? (2) Is this the show-business equivalent of Riverdale’s fondness for faux brand names like American Excess and Sharebnb? (3) Is my hearing just not great? Please write your answer in the form of a Black Hood–style cypher and nail it to the door of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe.)
Also, why isn’t anyone in this small, no-doubt gossipy town worried about the fact that Archie has started hanging out with a creepy trench-coat-and-fedora-wearing adult man? Supposed FBI Agent Adams has already interrogated him about the death of Papa Poutine, but our good, good informant boy continues to play dumb, insisting Hiram had nothing to do with the killing. Later, Adams tries a different tack, offering Archie cash in an envelope — his never-before discussed “salary?” — and encouraging him to get “aggressive” with Hiram about Papa Poutine, which does not seem like a great idea.
Archie does have a meeting with Lodge, but takes a uncharacteristically smart tack, encouraging Hiram to give his daughter peace of mind. And so he does: When Veronica asks him outright if he had something to do with the murder, Hiram denies it.
Smarts are apparently a zero-sum game in Riverdale: Betty makes an uncharacteristically stupid decision and visits the dumped corpse, fleeing with his ringing phone. Having scoured Pseudo Cumberbatch’s texts, Betty is furious to realize that he wasn’t a customer of Chic’s, like her brother said. He was a drug dealer. Chic cries. Alice, who’s more horrified that Betty went back to the pipe, defends him. Chic … smile-cries?
Hiram and his mija Friday Veronica arrive for a sit-down at the Lodge trailer, as promised. Hiram offers to settle any back rent due for all the residents, as a “gesture of goodwill.” F.P. is happy to accept that peace offering — until Hiram adds that he’d also like Jughead to keep the Lodge name out of the exposé they heard that he’s working on from Mayor McCoy. Deal off.
It’s not long before Veronica learns that her parents are at odds with McCoy over their desire to “accelerate” the announcement of their plans for Southside High to before the mayor’s reelection. She’s threatening to expose them, so they’ve decided to get her out of office with a convenient scandal: Team Lodge is well aware of her illicit motel rendezvous with Sheriff Keller. V sneaks off to see her good pal Josie’s mom herself, urging her to “take control of the narrative.” Next thing we know, the soon-to-be-former mayor is announcing on camera that she’s stepping down to spend more time with her family. “Hmm,” go Hermione and Hiram. They certainly have an inkling that Veronica may be behind this unexpected development, but when asked, she denies it. Sure seems like the Lodge family is genetically good at lying!
Archie tells Adams that he believes Lodge is in fact innocent, and mentions that there was bad blood — and $86,000 owed — between Poutine and Lenny Kowalski, a detail of Archie’s own invention. But soon, Archie finds his dad sitting down with the Supposed FBI Agent, who acts as if they’ve never met. Fred has been told the FBI is investigating undocumented laborers from Canada, and he’s left stressing over the years of potentially incriminating files they’re demanding of him. This is, of course, a threat on Adams’s part. He tells Archie that he knew he was lying about the Kowalski connection — and now that he’s been “compromised,” the only value he has left to offer the FBI is if he’ll plant a bug in Hiram’s office.
Meanwhile, Betty can’t handle this whole murder (okay, if not full-on “murder,” then we’re at least in “wrongful death” territory here) cover-up anymore, so she tells Jughead what happened. Just then, a meter maid stops by to ask about the extremely suspicious beat-up car parked near the house, which somehow no one has noticed. Quick-thinking Jughead says it’s his. “How fast can you hot-wire a car?” he asks Betty. Jughead, for the record, is a good boyfriend. Betty and Jughead dump the car and the phone in what appears to be Sweetwater River, but then again, I wouldn’t put it past Riverdale to have multiple creepy, murder-adjacent bodies of water.
Over at Thistlehouse, Cheryl is disgusted to spy Hal Cooper creeping around — and doubly so when Penelope explains he isn’t a client. What’s happening between them is apparently “real.” What if this was what Betty was (literally) sick about? After a fitful night of sleep, Cheryl decides to tell her classmate the truth about her dad’s extramarital activities. Betty comes home to Hal shouting at Chic about his missing watch and insisting something funny is going on. Why does the house stink of bleach? Why are the dining-room rug and lamp missing? But Betty’s loyalties do not lie with her father. If he doesn’t shut up and back off, she says, she’ll call Alice and tell her about Penelope. That seems to do the trick. Left to his own devices, Chic — who has, like, four lines this episode — flips through a family photo album and cuts Hal out of a picture.
Backed up against a wall, Archie tells Lodge the truth: The FBI approached him about becoming a mole, he didn’t tell them anything (well, sort of?), and he smashed the bug they gave him. Can Hiram help them out? Lodge says Archie did the right thing. He’ll get back to him in 24 hours.
Betty and Alice turn in desperation to F.P., and he agrees to help. (Alice and F.P. remain my OTP.) After digging Pseudo Cumberbatch a proper grave and dumping lye over his remains, F.P. meets up with Alice, Betty, and Jughead at Pop’s for what I’m choosing to interpret as a double date. “We take care of her own,” F.P. reminds Alice, taking her hand. I hope to God this means we’ll get to see more Serpent Alice fashions by season’s end.
The Lodges’ driver picks up Archie and proceeds to give off a set of signals that can only be read as ,“You are about to be unceremoniously executed.” As promised, “the boss” is waiting when Archie is dropped off at a remote, menacing cliff overlooking white water. (Again with the murder-adjacent bodies of water.) But the boss isn’t Hiram — it’s Hermione. I’d be a little more excited about this reveal if it felt consistent with Hermione’s behavior while her husband was in prison last season, which I don’t believe it does, but sure, congrats, hashtag Lean In!
Hermoine reveals that Supposed FBI Agent Adams was in fact Not At All An FBI Agent Adams. He’s merely an associate she enlisted to test Archie’s loyalty. And he passed the test. “Welcome to the family, Archie,” she says.