Won’t somebody save Cheryl Blossom? Her gay-conversion imprisonment continues, upsettingly, over at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where the evil nun overlords have sentenced her to “physical therapy” that consists of stacking heavy burlap sacks in a basement. Her hair may be limp and her face may be filthy, but at least her manicure still, somehow, looks amazing. Her only reprieve, if you can call it that, is movie night, when she and her fellow patients (inmates?) are forced to watch vintage PSAs, including a black-and-white cautionary tale about a pair of old-timey high-school football players — who look an awful lot like Kevin and Moose — putting the “sin” in skinny dipping.
Back in Riverdale, an increasingly worried Toni deputizes Josie and Veronica to help search for Cheryl. She hasn’t posted on social media for days, so she may very well be dead.
Meanwhile, Alice mediates a Riverdale High town hall with the three tickets for student-body president — Jughead/Betty, Veronica/Archie, and Reggie/Josie — an event fraught with so many layers of conflict of interest that I’m pretty sure it ultimately evens out to a level playing field. Reggie, Riverdale’s own Bobby Newport, promises that he and Josie are “chill, unlike these guys.”
After the debate, Alice finds that yelling at FP for harboring her daughter in his home is a convenient excuse to almost rage-make-out with him. But the Cooper-Jones bunch suddenly has a bigger problem to contend with: The authorities have discovered Pseudo Cumberbatch’s car. Jughead and Betty, undeterred by FP’s instructions to lie low and act normal, approach Kevin for Sheriff’s Department intel about the vehicle, under the guise of researching an environmental story about the use of Swedlow Swamp as a dumping ground. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How many creepy bodies of water does this town have, anyway?) Apparently, the owner has already claimed it. Chic suggests the car could have belonged to Darla, Pseudo Cumberbatch’s girlfriend, who I am sure is a lovely and gracious human being.
Unfortunately for Candidate Jughead, the young Serpents won’t promise him their votes as long as Betty is on the ticket. Sweet Pea questions her loyalty: What’s to say she won’t bail like ex-South Sider Alice, “the enemy of the Serpent state?” But these aren’t the only political machinations underway at Riverdale High. Reggie is worried about splitting the Hunky Boy Bulldog vote with Archie, so they duke it out with a sweaty, veiny arm-wrestling match. Archie wins, but in a way, so do we all.
Hiram’s old pals from mafia camp, Lenny and Carl, have come to town. Over a candlelit dinner scored by what sounds like a track left off the original Godfather soundtrack for going just a little too hard on the mandolin, they state their business: If Hermione is going to run for office and risk exposing their business concerns, then they want 25 percent of the prison-profits pie for their troubles. It’s not long before Archie and Veronica walk in on family bodyguard Andre getting the shit beat out of him with a hammer by a man in a — remind me, what’s Riverdale’s favorite face-disguising piece of knit outerwear? — black hood. Archie chases the fleeing assailant down: It’s Adams, the Lodge associate who formerly moonlighted as a Supposed FBI Agent. Adams manages to run off, warning Archie, “Tell your girlfriend’s father to take the deal.” With Andre down for the count and Adams a double agent, the Lodges are vulnerable.
Toni, Veronica, and Josie demand an audience with the Blossoms (well, the Blossoms that aren’t dead or locked up) at Thistlehouse. Penelope tells them she sent Cheryl to a “private wellness institute” abroad, after discovering “dozens” of drawings her daughter had made of Josie — who, to be fair, Cheryl may or may not have been lightly stalking, but whatever. What’s a bloody pig’s heart between good friends? Later, Penelope leaves Nana Rose home alone, not counting the soothing presence of Bob Ross on the TV. Cheryl’s grandmother manages to throw herself out of her chair and army crawl across the rug to the candlestick telephone (sure, why not). In the middle of class, Toni is paged to the principal’s office. She has a call. “She’s not far away,” Nana Rose tells her. “Cheryl, she’s nearby. With the Sisters —” The line dies. Uncle Fester Father Oscar has cut it.
Local LGBT historian Kevin Keller reports that the Sisters of Quiet Mercy operate an off-the-books gay-conversion-therapy operation. That’s not all: During Prohibition, they ran a distillery with a tunnel that opens out near the river — and Kevin knows where. With the help of Toni’s trusty crowbar, she and Ronnie get inside the facility and search the hallways. Toni finds Cheryl, crying, in the movie room. They embrace in front of the projector and — at long last! — kiss. Shut up, I’m crying, this whole sequence is both nuts and very sweet. Reunited with Veronica (who, I was almost too distracted by the smooching to mention, is appropriately dressed for an emergency high-stakes rescue in a skin-tight Emma Peel jumpsuit), the girls flee, narrowly managing to escape the nuns marching around every corner like Pacman ghosts.
Betty, having been successfully guilted into moving back home, presents Alice with a consent form she needs signed: She wants a Serpent tattoo. They hardly have time to fight about that when an upset Chic arrives, trailed by Darla, who looks like Gwyneth Paltrow if Gwyneth Paltrow led an extremely different life. Chic called Darla, and she figured out why he must have been sniffing around. Darla doesn’t care what happened to Pseudo Cumberbatch — so long as she gets the $10,000 he owed her, or else she might have to sit down with the sheriff.
Betty is dispatched to the bank as soon as it opens, and there she receives a disturbing call from Alice. The guy from the motel who attacked Chic has shown up, too. “Whatever you do, do not come home,” Alice tells her daughter, but she does anyway. Now that they have the money, this unsavory pair doesn’t seem like they’re leaving any time soon. Just as our hotelier friend threatens to cut out Betty’s eyes, like any polite house guest would, an envoy of knife-wielding Serpents led by Juggie break down the front door. Sure, Darla could go to the sheriff, but then again, Betty is best pals with the sheriff’s son, so … fine, they’ll take the money and go. Oh, and by the way, Chic? You can go ahead and move out now. Finally, even Alice has had enough.
Hiram has decided to pay off his former allies, but Junior Capo Archie — missing his dad’s campaign-announcement speech, despite promising his mother he’d attend — has other ideas. Archie talks Reggie into helping with his as-yet unspecified master plan, on the condition that he’ll get him all the Bulldog votes in the school election. Maybe you guy should arm wrestle again, just to be sure. I’ll wait while you remove as many articles of clothing as you feel is necessary.
Hiram has seemingly stood up Lenny and Carl for dinner when their waiter relays a message: They should go outside and check on their car. It explodes as they approach (I know this is a family show, kind of, but I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to wait until the people are inside the car before that happens), just as a gang of black-clad boys with hoods over their faces appear. “This is a message from the Dark Circle,” says one member of the anonymous crowd (let’s just call him “Blarchie,” for convenience’s sake). “Hiram Lodge doesn’t stand alone and Riverdale is protected. You should leave before it’s too late.” The Red Circle, the previous incarnation of this teen vigilante after-school club, may have sounded like a period-tracker app, but the Dark Circle might very well be a low-budget knockoff of The Ring.
The next day, Molly Ringwald confronts Archie about missing Fred’s speech — she’s more than hurt enough on behalf of both of them. “I’m looking at you now, and I don’t know who you’ve become. Who are you, Archie?” Ouch. At least he has a ridiculous blue convertible to comfort him. Thanks, New Daddy!
Alice, harnessing her long-lost South Side pride in a tasteful snakeskin-pattern blouse, thanks the Serpents’ front of a Dungeons & Dragons club in person and promises to stop bad-mouthing them in the press. Then, wearing a bold lip — this shade is definitely called I’m Heading Over to My Old Boyfriend’s Trailer So We Can Totally Do It Red — Alice pays FP a visit.
Finally, I am happy to report that Cheryl seems fine, canoodling with Toni at school, even though I have a lot of questions. Where is she staying now? Does her mother know where she is? What if Penelope decides to send Cheryl back? Forget all of that, because Cheryl has a pressing issue of her own to raise with Kevin, who’s about to hold auditions for the musical Carrie. She demands the lead role, promising, “This school’s gonna burn.” Okay, so maybe she isn’t fine, but who doesn’t love a good musical?