Hello, Bulldogs and River Vixens! I’ve been on vacation (Greendale is lovely this time of year), so here’s what we’ve missed on our favorite hyper-realistic docu-series about the life and times of the American teenager:
After being sued and raided by Hiram, Ms. Luna is now serving her special Blossom maple-blended rum out of The Maple Club, managed by a masked, still-evil Penelope Blossom. Okay.
Riverdale lost to Stonewall Prep at football. Riverdale beat Stonewall Prep on a quiz show, but when the torn-up answers were discovered in team captain Betty’s dressing room trash (Alice wanted her to cheat to impress a Yale recruiter; she declined), it wasn’t a great look.
Jughead got into Yale. Brett got into Yale. In yet another flash-forward that sure makes it look like Jughead dies, Betty also seems to have gotten into Yale?
In the ostensibly Jughead-free future, Betty and Archie sadly hold hands and have a Moment.
For now, Jughead lives. Perhaps in an attempt to distract from the facts that a) he was hiding his secret society membership from his girlfriend and b) he borrowed said girlfriend’s serial-killer dad’s life story for the new draft of his book, he has challenged Brett to a duel, for her honor? Not a kill-each other duel so much as a school-mandated, three-round nerd contest, to be clear.
First up is fencing, which Jughead loses, predictably, given that I cannot imagine a single circumstance in which Jughead would have ever encountered an epée outside of it being a four-letter answer to the crossword clue “Olympic blade.” Then comes round two, a bare-knuckle brawl. Jughead knocks out Brett, a man who is, conservatively, three times his body mass, with one punch. He is rewarded for his victory with body checks from classmates in the hallway (hmm, rude) and somebody pinning a dead snake to his dorm-room wall (ruder, definitely). According to Donna, this is “pack behavior” from Stonewall Prep students who can’t stand to see the defeat of one of their own.
Another ginger-ish muscly beard daddy shows up at Andrews Construction and excuse me, how am I possibly supposed to keep track? This one isn’t related to Archie, though—Ted is an old military buddy of Uncle Frank’s, here to inform him of their mutual friend’s passing. Young Archibald invites the man for dinner and to stay the night, and Ted reciprocates his host’s good manners by waiting until he has left for school in the morning to attempt to stab Frank, as formal etiquette dictates. Ted nearly strangles Frank before Archie, who left his phone behind, reappears just in time to clonk him in the head with a frying pan. Ted still manages to flee the scene.
Frank, you see, conveniently left off his LinkedIn profile that he was previously employed by a shadowy private paramilitary contractor—which Ted still works for, and for whom he’s presumably now trying to tie up “loose ends.” Now Mr. Murder Man is just one of the, on average, seven point five murder men cavorting through the streets of Riverdale on any given weekday, but Archie has a plan. Ted agrees to meet Frank in the El Royale’s boxing ring and—thanks to a surprise appearance by FP—shortly thereafter finds himself locked in jail.
After her quiz bowl non-cheating scandal, Betty is suspended, removed as editor in chief of the paper, and barred from the senior prom. But Alice knows how to cheer up her favorite child: by investigating a murder. The widow Chipping, who has apparently entered Kübler-Ross’ classic meeting with amateur sleuths who respectively used to be married to and share 50 percent of their DNA with the most notorious of all of Riverdale’s Murder Men stage of grief, categorically denies that her late husband was having an affair, let alone with a student.
Mrs. Chipping does, however, report that her late husband had been drinking more than usual, and had come to bitterly regret his decision to sign his Baxter Brothers contract. Among the deceased’s personal effects are, oddly, Army pamphlets—and Moose reports that it was Mr. Chipping, who recruited him to Stonewall for football in the first place, who strongly encouraged him to enlist.
Betty is less than pleased to hear from Moose that Brett bragged of a “collection” of tapes of classmates having sex, including at least one of Moose, filmed in their shared dorm room. (Sound familiar?) She and Alice search through Brett’s things until they’re interrupted by Stonewall’s own Dennis Reynolds himself. He insists he has no such tapes—but if he did, yada yada, threat threat threat, you’ve seen a movie before.
Veronica travels to New York City to interview at Barnard and reconnect with her gal pal and future CW title character Katy Keene, played by Lucy Hale’s eyebrows. We love a pretty little liar! We also love a jaunty shopping montage, although one wonders exactly how many houndstooth sheaths with a crisp white collar Veronica’s closet has the capacity for.
Then they’re off to a bar called Molly’s Crisis—which I’m disappointed to report, unlike its real-world namesake, hosts exactly zero tipsy patrons singing along to showtunes—where Katy reveals that her beloved mother is very sick. Back in Riverdale, Veronica learns that her own father is sick, too. According to Hermione, he’s been diagnosed with a serious illness that sounds like ALS, although at least it’s in an early stage. This health scare is enough for Veronica Lodge—who’s decided on Barnard, by the way—to tearfully reclaim the last name she was born with. Good thing it’s not like either of her parents to lie.
Though Archie, no stranger to the fugitive life himself, wants his uncle to come forward to the authorities, Frank—wary of being made a scapegoat for his own mercenary past—decides he’s better off skipping town. Ted escapes his cell by feigning unconsciousness and immediately proceeds to track down Archie and attack him brutally in a bathroom at school. Kevin walks in and provides just enough of a distraction for Archie to escape. “This school is insane,” Kevin mutters, speaking aloud what I assume was Riverdale’s original working title. But Ted quickly catches up and wraps his fingers around Archie’s neck. Cue Uncle Frank with some well-timed blunt-force trauma via a football trophy—he had a “gut feeling” he was still needed in Riverdale.
Ted winds up in federal custody. Frank briefly acquiesces to Archie’s umpteenth plea to turn himself in, but quietly peaces out by night, leaving only a military medal behind for his nephew. Uncle Frank is an interesting vision of what Archie could become (or what he could have become, fingers crossed, now that he’s seemingly determined to walk Fred’s nice-boy path): A fundamentally good human corrupted by circumstance, who excels at punching people and bears alike.
Nick St. Clair—Chuck Bass if you Google-Translated him into German, then Korean, then back to English, then changed the font to Comic Sans—strolls right into the Maple Club to inquire about hosting a congrats-to-me-for-getting-into-Harvard party. Of all the teen-operated rum joints slash former brothels in all the towns in all the world, he has to walk into this one. The next night, after Cheryl fills her girlfriend in on their traumatic history, Toni serves Nick a drink and invites him to a private room. He wakes up disoriented the next morning, on a bed covered with down feathers and flanked by Kevin and Fangs. Toni hits play on a video of Nick giggling wildly as the other boys tickle him—oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that Kevin is a professional erotic tickler now, keep up. She won’t release the video, so long as he never lays a finger on another girl ever again.
The final round of Jughead and Brett’s duel is a chess match. Betty and Alice seize this opportunity to sneak into the Quill & Skull clubhouse slash wholesale candle emporium in the school’s basement while the boys dramatically clack bishops and pawns around above their heads. Betty finds a secret compartment in the wall full of stacks and stacks of VHS tapes labelled with students’ names, but the women are discovered when Brett’s smartwatch alerts him to a break-in. These aren’t sex tapes at all, it turns out: They’re the consensually recorded confessions each member of Quill & Skull is required to make as part of their initiation.
Back upstairs, Jughead intentionally loses the chess game—which Betty and Alice are mysteriously allowed to stick around for, despite the fact that they were trespassing on private property not two minutes ago—on the grounds that Brett is “more of a Stonewall man” than he ever has any interest in becoming.
Aha, but Betty managed to pilfer a single Quill & Skull tape: It’s Donna’s confession. She describes an affair with a teacher, using the very same words she did when she told Betty about her relationship with Mr. Chipping—only she’s not talking about Mr. Chipping, but a Mr. Cotter (welcome back), who seemingly doesn’t exist at all. Looks like Brett could have competition for the Most Alarming Sociopath yearbook superlative after all.