Watching his formerly estranged mom and dad flirt at the breakfast table, Jughead is living his Parent Trap family-reunion dreams, except that he doesn’t have a twin (I mean, not on the show, anyway … at least not yet) and his position on peanut-butter-dipped Oreos remains, suspiciously, unstated.
In fact, Gladys has even taken the major step of buying the family a house. She made an all-cash offer online on what — unbeknownst to Alice (and also to Gladys? Or is this a scheme? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to cast your vote) — proves to be the Cooper house, which still stands after last episode’s fire, even though the living room has been charmingly, rustically scorched. Should the sale go through, Jughead invites Betty to stay in her own room, effectively asking her to move in. She declines — it’s less complicated if she stays with Ronnie. (Who would have guessed that teenage lovers cohabitating could be a bad idea? Not anybody who reads to the end of this recap.)
Alice doesn’t mind giving up the house, as she will tell soon-to-be birthday boy FP, but she does mind giving him up to Gladys. But Sheriff Jones is not passing up a second chance to make his marriage to the mother of his children work, as obvious as it is that he and Alice are in love and should be together and should definitely kiss right now. Go on, kiss. Kiss.
They do not kiss. I will let you know when they do.
There are plenty more relationships on the brink this week. Cheryl and Toni’s already strained romance is tested further when Mademoiselle Blossom rolls up to La Bonne Nuit toting cherry scones for her beloved, only to find Toni dancing and singing to “Call Your Girlfriend” onstage with Veronica and the Poisons. It’s not exactly the single most scandalous thing we’ve ever seen on Riverdale, but Cheryl is nevertheless hurt — and perhaps even more so when she discovers Toni’s been quietly paying Nana Rose’s rent.
After giving up his sweet ride to Gladys and an untold number of boy hours to La Bonne Nuit, Reggie wants Veronica to make him her business partner, not just her “errand boy.” She declines, and he doesn’t take kindly to the envelope of cash she offers him instead.
Reggie maturely processes his feelings by trying and failing to steal back his car from Mrs. Jones. “I wanna matter, Ronnie,” he tells her, and it’s clear his heart is aching more than his wallet is.
Point: Veronica has recently experienced a truly traumatic breakup and is right to keep things casual with Reggie.
Counterpoint: He’s so cute, though. Have you seen him?
Veronica ultimately buys back Reggie’s car from Gladys, but this gesture feels more like an end than a beginning.
The Scooby Gang traces the existence of multiple Kill the Red Paladin quest cards back to Hiram Lodge, who admits to printing out a dozen of them (opulence). He gave three to Warden Norton and nine to Tallboy, to be spread around the “more fanatical players” congregating at local fizzle rocks hot spots (did you know you can filter specifically for those on Yelp?), meaning there are quite a few potential Archie slayers out there in the wind. A new friend is just a murderer who hasn’t murdered you yet.
“It’s a weird feeling, knowing there are all these people — strangers — out there who want to kill me,” says Archie, which I guess means he’s not on Twitter.
Jughead is struck with inspiration: What if the Gargoyle King adds to his own quest? The Red Paladin will defend his (figurative) mountaintop for 12 hours, dusk till dawn. It’s decided that Archie will take on one quest cardholder at a time in hand-to-hand combat.
Hiram, whose recovery has mercifully in no way impeded his hotness, volunteers the use of a shuttered old boxing gym he owns for Archie’s “Red Paladin Challenge,” which sounds like a viral web phenomenon that celebrities challenge each other to do for charity. Serpents in Gargoyle masks (one of whom is named, I swear on the Griffin Queen, Old Deuteronomy) deliver the new instructions to the G&G faithful. The rules are made up and the quests don’t matter, except when your life hangs in the balance.
The plan works! I can only assume the invitation stipulated a dress code of either Troma Entertainment villain casual or background character from The Wrestler chic, because that’s definitely the fashion mood here tonight. Each challenger submits his card (I say his because no female players seem to have gotten this quest, which would have been interesting) and is then allotted three minutes to bring Archie down. If time runs out, or if they fall themselves, game over. There is a great deal of punching, and one big toothy bite out of Archie’s back (rude), but the Red Paladin maintains control of the mountaintop. For now.
Toni catches Cheryl breaking into the safe at La Bonne Nuit, a transparent ploy for attention. Naturally, this leads to some soft-core Cinemax blindfolded, lip-chewing sex, intercut jarringly with the good old-fashioned wholesome violence unfolding in the boxing ring.
One quest card is still missing. Who should appear but sadistic Leopold & Loeb guard Captain Golightly, an adult-ass man apparently hell-bent on murdering a child? “Enter the Kraken,” Jughead yells, a line that I am still puzzling over the next morning. Golightly nearly fells a very bloody Archie, until the most powerful uppercut the Red Paladin will ever throw knocks him out. Challenge over! (By the way, God bless the Riverdale continuity person who has to keep track of what wounds and scars and bruises and scratches Archie has on his face at any given time.)
Hiram tells Archie to keep the gym, no strings attached (supposedly), as “compensation” for the whole Red Paladin ordeal. From Fugitive Archie to Small Business Owner Archie, just in the course of a few weeks!
Postcoital Toni and Cheryl don’t enjoy quite so tidy a resolution. The Pretty Poisons have created a wedge between them, and Toni worries that maybe she moved in with Cheryl too quickly. And so the young mistress of Thistlehouse asks her to pack her bags. Will Choni endure?
Veronica confides in Betty about Gladys’s drug queenpin aspirations, and she in turn suggests to her boyfriend that he investigate his mom (never not a difficult conversation). Jughead doesn’t like what he finds. When confronted, Gladys isn’t remorseful in the slightest. She did it for the good of the family — and Jughead doesn’t want to break his dad’s heart, does he?
FP’s 50th birthday party is of course held at La Bonne Nuit, dirtied up for the occasion with bunches of multicolored balloons (Miss Lodge would never) and some actually pretty delightful vintage snake-lady sideshow art. Fred Andrews makes a brief, bittersweet appearance, hugging his old friend and telling him, “You don’t get too many nights like this. You’ve got to soak it up.”
Jughead gives a sweet speech about his dad’s incredible journey from Serpent King to sheriff and the importance of family, before vowing to Betty that he’ll run his mother out of town.
Channeling her heartbreak over Toni into some Unadulterated Creative Genius, Cheryl demands that Kevin scrap the school’s Farm–co-sponsored production of Godspell and direct her as Heather Chandler in the Heathers musical. I cannot wait.