Riverdale’s interim mayor is about to step down, and the Lodges think they know just the man for the job: Fred Andrews, upstanding small-business owner and the town’s favorite son. If you wouldn’t vote for a guy who took a bullet from the Black Hood, look in the mirror. Are you sure you’re not the Black Hood, you monster? Unlike his beautiful idiot son, Fred has the quorum of brain cells required to see through the Lodges’ manipulation. He’s well aware that Hiram wants to install a puppet in city hall, but he’s strongly considering running anyway, on his own terms.
Veronica, eager to nudge her parents’ plan along to fruition, fashions herself as Fred’s overachieving unofficial intern. She offers to help him collect the signatures he needs and produces a binder full of mock-ups for potential campaign logos, much to Archie’s consternation. Having already flown too close to the mafioso sun himself, he’s determined to protect his dad from doing the same. He turns to Jughead, still busy at work on his anti-Lodge exposé — maybe some good old-fashioned investigative journalism is what’ll change Fred’s mind. And so, Archie lets Jughead in on the secret that the Lodges didn’t just donate to Pop’s, they bought the diner themselves.
If anyone was ever going to leave a secret will behind — and specify that it was only to be revealed after the investigation into his drug ties was completed, because of course there would be an investigation into his drug ties — it would be our pal Clifford Blossom, who does not disappoint, even from beyond the grave. Meanwhile, Hal asks Alice for a divorce, offering her half the purchase price of the Riverdale Register if she immediately agrees, conveeeeeeniently neglecting to mention anything about the will that he and their distantly Blossom-related children could very well be named in. Speaking of distantly Blossom-related children: Polly, Riverdale’s answer to Chuck Cunningham, arrives unannounced with her twins. Alice is exactly as thrilled to see her grandbabies as Chic is disturbingly irritated by their presence.
The attendees at the Blossom family’s will reading look like they came straight from the Get Out auction, with the notable exception of Toni, Cheryl’s date. (Give me Blopaz or give me death.) Clifford Blossom’s remaining assets are to be divided in two: The first half will be shared among anyone in Riverdale who can medically verify that they have “even one drop of Blossom blood,” and the other half of the Blossom fortune is reserved for Jason and Cheryl. So … Cheryl! She takes the floor: “The Blossoms have been bathing in blood since Great-Grandpappy Blossom killed his brother … I stand before you to say, no more. No more blood. No more madness. No more horror.” Apparently, that’s the cue for her dead father, looking very alive (and, even more shockingly, not wearing his trademark wig!), to march into the room. Cheryl faints. Roused by smelling salts, which of course Penelope carries on her person in a miniature antique vial, Cheryl learns that this man is her uncle Claudius, her father’s long-lost twin.
Nana Blossom corroborates his story: On the boys’ 14th birthday, Clifford pointed a rifle at his brother, citing the Blossom family curse, but ultimately spared him. Claudius ran away and joined the Merchant Marines. Now, he’ll be staying with the family indefinitely in a spare room. This is a next-level soap-opera plot twist, even by Riverdale standards! If the Blossoms are the Addams Family, which they most definitely are, then we’ve just met our Uncle Fester. (Also, for the record, Toni is Joel Glicker.)
Despite the promise of Blossom riches, Chic refuses to submit to a blood test. A suspicious Betty has already been catfishing her secretive brother in an attempt to learn more about him, as you do, with Kevin serving as her reluctant cam bait. Although their conversations amount to a pretty informative PSA about STD testing (and perhaps the first use of the phrase “party and play” on a teen-oriented TV show), Kevin soon feels too guilty to continue probing. That’s just as well, because Chic has other plans. After he takes the twins for a walk along the Sweetwater River, at night, and alone — which both babies improbably survive — Polly gets the message. She’ll leave the next morning. She’s not heading back to the farm (does this mean we’re officially not getting the cult story line I’d been dreaming of?!), but out west, to San Francisco. (In the comics, Polly worked as a TV reporter there.) Time for some more ominous crafting: Chic cuts Polly out of the family photo next.
Even after McCoy tries to talk Fred out of it at Archie and Josie’s behest, citing the low pay and the many potholes to be thanklessly filled (if not the widespread corruption), he decides to run for mayor. And Archie’s leaked intel doesn’t pan out, in more ways than one. While Pop does confirm to Jughead he sold the diner, he asks him to keep this information a secret, because it would kill his mother to know the business was out of the family. But soon enough, Jughead gets a mysterious call from a man asking him to meet at Riverdale Bus Terminal — which, with its coffee and cigarette machines, has apparently been preserved in amber for the better part of a century — for information about Hiram Lodge. Who should be awaiting him but the family’s loyal (to Veronica, anyway) ex-butler Smithers, now a bus driver? His tip: Lodge paid mysterious visits to Shankshaw Prison, which is not where he was jailed, and received mail from its warden.
Hiram has heard from Pop about Jughead’s line of questioning, which makes him awfully suspicious: Only the three Lodges and Archie know about the diner’s change of ownership, so who spilled? To protect Archie, Veronica falsely owns up to telling Jughead, to get him off the track of worse scents. Everyone on this show is a quadruple agent, minimum. This leads to what feels like the tenth time we’ve watched Veronica and Archie fight about her involvement in the family business, and why he’s so intent on preventing his dad from associating with Hiram and Hermione. (In Archie’s defense, though, the Lodge family business is big, scary crimes.)
FP, a bona fide Good Dad who’s already volunteered to go on the record for Jughead about how Hiram paid the Serpents to trash the drive-in, takes his son to Shankshaw to interview an in-the-know inmate named War Baby, who, based on his name alone, is the only character I care about from now on, sight unseen. Disappointingly, he proves to be a normal adult man — not a pint-sized, shiny and chrome War Boy from Mad Max: Fury Road — though he is willing to talk. Unfortunately for Jughead, Principal Weatherbee refuses to print his piece in the Blue and Gold because it’s a “malicious takedown” of a student’s parents.
Meanwhile, Archie has written something of his own: a journal, in which he’s been taking detailed notes ever since Hermione sent a Supposed FBI Agent to test him, and which he’s now waving aggressively at Hiram. Lodge asks Archie to trust him a little longer, promising that in 18 months, Lodge Industries will be clean and Riverdale safe. Also, excuse me, but when did we all forget that Hermione is supposedly in charge of the whole operation?
Aware that Jughead may be about to break the story, the Lodges sit down the Andrews boys so they can hear the truth from them first: Southside High will become a private, for-profit prison, and SoDale the housing for its workers. That’s not great! But the way the Lodges have so sinisterly described their master plan, I was prepared to believe they were finalizing the blueprints for a Soylent Green processing plant, not an actual institution that could and does exist in America today.
Fred wants no part of this (no puppet, no puppet), although a few days later, he nevertheless receives a package full of the campaign buttons that Veronica designed. But Archie, improbably, is Team Prison. How did he go from one extreme to the other so quickly? To seal their bond as BFFs/sort of business partners/a young woman’s high-school sweetheart and her dad, in the traditional fashion, Lodge produces a scary dagger. They each slice across their palms and allow their blood to drip on the pages of Archie’s journal, which is then tossed into a roaring fire. And who should announce her candidacy for Riverdale mayor but Hermione Lodge?
At Thistlehouse, Cheryl overhears a concerning conversation between Penelope and Uncle Fester. “Nana, then Cheryl,” she tells her brother-in-law. “Our house must be put in order,” he responds. And for every surprise, shadowy brother Riverdale adds to its universe, another must be subtracted. Betty snoops through Chic’s bathroom trash and finds a used strand of dental floss, which she passes along to a lab for testing. Lo and behold, the results prove he isn’t who he says he is. So who is Chic? And why didn’t somebody loop in 23andMe for a Love, Simon–style egregious advertising opportunity?