Dodger in a coma, I know, I know, it’s serious. The child-labor kingpin’s crime family — who also happen to be his actual family, isn’t that the sweetest little Thanksgiving miracle? — is out for revenge. And the Dickinsons (Dodger, Artful Dodger, Dickens, Dickinson: I love it when Riverdale plays nonsense pop-culture word-association games, which is … constantly) are pretty damn sure that whoever runs the community center is to blame.
Archie, meanwhile, is at his very wholesomest, busy prepping Thanksgiving dinner for local kids at the El Royale with Monroe. Arch is even cooking the turkey in a deep fryer, the way Fred always used to. Though it visibly pains him to do so, FP informs Archie that Hiram Lodge — who, oh yeah, by the way, is the mayor now — has ordered him to put the kibosh on the festivities, because the community center is technically an active crime scene. And then there’s the fact that a massive ice storm is headed for Riverdale. (As you read this recap, please imagine a different character mentioning the ice storm every five minutes or so. Ice storm! There’s an ice storm. It’s coming: the ice storm.) But with FP’s more-than-tacit encouragement, Archie decides to go ahead with dinner anyway.
Jughead doesn’t buy Mr. Dupont’s explanation that Mr. Chipping lost his fatal fight with a window, like that one guy in The Bourne Identity, because he was struggling with alcoholism — nor does Jug buy his insistence that the late teacher never came to him about FP’s possible authorship of the original Baxter Brothers novel. Jughead has also found old yearbook photos that show Mr. Dupont and Mr. Chipping both wearing the same distinctive skull tie pin. This, apparently, is the mark of Quill & Skull, a Stonewall secret society — of course Stonewall has secret societies — and Jughead smells blackmail. I’d like to think blackmail smells like bond paper and fine leather goods.
When Betty comes to visit Jughead for the holiday weekend, they’re the only two people on the deserted campus. Or so they think. Jughead is loading up on a Thanksgiving dinner’s worth of junk food at the nearest vending machine — here, Riverdale’s ambiguously old-timey aesthetic works against it, because the packaging of those chocolate-chip cookies sure makes them look like they expired during the Nixon administration — when he’s approached by a man dressed in black, axe in hand, and a horrifying bunny mask on his face. We love to make new friends.
Betty, the only person who can be relied upon to get anything done right in the entire Riverdale metropolitan area, knocks our little Donnie Darko enthusiast out with a golf club. Lo and behold, it was Brett — accompanied by Donna, who arrives momentarily in an identical costume — trying to prank them. You weirdos chose this over Thanksgiving dinner with your families? As Bethenny told Jill Zarin, get a hobby.
Stranger still (okay, upon further consideration, maybe not stranger than the bunny mask), Brett drops a piece of paper that sure reads like it could have been Chipping’s suicide note. It was a fiction-writing exercise, he insists, and in every way an extremely normal thing to do.
After Veronica does her part to fight the establishment by ripping the tablecloth out from under the Lodges’ fancy Thanksgiving dinner like a magician, with the biggest difference being that she intends for the food to crash to the floor, Hiram and Hermione run into FP and Alice enjoying whatever kind of turkey-based dinner it is that you can order at Pop’s. (If I know diners, and I absolutely do know diners, it’s buried on the 17th page of the menu, between the London broil and the cottage cheese-based “California” “salad.”) After a spontaneous, surprisingly harmonious double date, the four grown-ups retire downstairs to the Le La Bon Bonne Nuit.
There, they sip Lodge Label Rum for a peaceful 90 seconds before FP screams at Hiram about putting a hit out on Jughead, Hiram screams at FP for trying to kill him on Hermione’s behalf, and FP breaks a bottle and holds the shards to his boss’s neck. Then everybody goes home to take a tryptophan nap, but not before FP decides he wants to remain leader of the Serpents just as much as he wants to be Sheriff. Men can have it all!
Over at the El Royale’s Thanksgiving, Archie offers the Dickinsons a warm welcome, at least until Dodger’s mother — who I think we’re supposed to interpret as having a, for lack of a better word, meth-y energy, but whose hoops and pink teddy-bear jacket and leopard-print sweater are totally cute, whatever, fight me — pulls out a revolver. An awkward standoff ensues, until Archie agrees, at gunpoint, to confess to Dodger’s beating, so long as they let everyone else go.
But then the deep fryer explodes, creating a distraction that allows Archie to disarm Dodger’s Mom-ger. (Excuse me, what is this woman’s skin-care routine? She looks, like, three years older than her alleged son.) Veronica is able to stab one of the bad guys in the hand with a carving fork, and Mary to pick up and aim the gun at the intruders until they peace out. You guys. Fred’s sweet little overcooked turkey ghost protected them! Everyone is no doubt starving after their near-death experience, so Archie says grace over the surprisingly intact turkey, just the way his dad used to — and, a few days later, dedicates the community center in Fred’s memory.
This surely isn’t the last we’ll hear from the Charles Dickinsons, though — especially considering Dodger has mysteriously disappeared from his hospital bed.
In case you were wondering, as I was: Uncle Bedford did not make it out of the chapel alive. Cheryl is cheerily making plans to dump his body in Sweetwater River before it freezes over — Toni, for her part, seems considerably more traumatized by recent events — but they’re stymied when they discover Aunt Cricket is parked down the road, staking them out. And so Cheryl deviously invites her and Cousin Fester (!) over for a family Thanksgiving dinner at Thornhill that will double as a dark “performance-art piece.” Then again, whose family Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t? Am I right, folks? Thank you.
Over homemade meat pies, Nana Rose recounts the first Blossom Thanksgiving, during which the intrepid settlers — snowed in and desperately hungry during an ice storm (ice storm! Ice storm!) — went full Donner Party.
That’s when Fester bites into Uncle Bedford’s ring.
“Any evidence he was ever here is in the process of being digested,” Cheryl tells them. Then, to really set the mood, Toni wheels out their My Decomposing Dress-Up Twin™ doll. (I would really love to know all about this actor’s experience of playing Jason’s corpse for an entire season. On the bright side, he doesn’t have to memorize lines and he gets to do a lot of sitting.)
Cheryl blackmails (mmm, that leathery aroma!) Cricket into silence, and backing down from a possible sale of the family business, on the grounds that her aunt has now done an illegal cannibalism — as if the most egregious wrongdoer (worstdoer?) in this situation is not in fact the woman who murdered a person, then knowingly fed him to his oblivious relatives? Future Supreme Court Justice Blossom is truly one of her generation’s finest legal minds. (By the way, the pies were in reality filled with lamb, which I have to say is a solid choice for fake human meat. Nice and gamey!)
At Stonewall, Jughead suggests a flask-passing game of Never Have I Ever, but shockingly, his saying “Never have I ever … been in a secret society” fails to catch either Brett or Donna out. But it does allow Betty the opportunity to go fetch more booze — and, really, to sneak into Donna’s room, where she finds a skull tie pin engraved “RC,” as in Rupert Chipping.
Donna, distraught, has an explanation for the suspicious pin: She tells Betty that she and Mr. Chipping had been having an affair (ew). Shades of Grundy — which is also probably the title of She Who Must Not Be Named’s unreleased smooth jazz EP. After he got “aggressive” (ew) when she tried to end it, she threatened to report him, a development he didn’t take so well. Hence, the window. And again, ew.
Betty suspects Donna could be playing them, but nevertheless, Jughead’s classmate brings her story to the headmaster — all but guaranteeing that Chipping’s already underinvestigated death will be officially ruled a suicide, by a desperate man with a guilty conscience.
Also: Betty and Jughead have sex in front of a camera that they do not realize is filming them. Nope. I do not like this. I do not like Stonewall. I do not like the horrible children who attend it. I do not like any of it. Ice storm.