As Jughead continues, disorientingly, to narrate from beyond the supposed grave (#JugheadLives #DeepState), we return to the vision we saw in last season’s finale: Archie, Veronica, and Betty, dressed in no more than their blood-soaked underwear, toss their friend’s beanie onto a fire.
The kids do an extremely poor job of getting their stories straight when their respective parents find them mostly naked and sneaking into their houses at 3 a.m., tossing out strip poker (Veronica), skinny dipping (Archie, raising Riverdale’s eternal meteorological question), and surprise toga party-spilled red wine-soaking in sink (come on, Betty) as explanations.
After what I hope was an emotionally productive night of pacing, sobbing, and puking, Betty tells her version of events, as best she can, to Veronica and Archie. She had only just found Jughead when her friends arrived. And she had only just picked up the rock—like a DNA idiot, if not the murderer the Preppies are trying to frame her as. Archie is more inclined to unquestioningly believe her than Veronica is, if only because V has previously borne witness to Dark Betty nearly disposing of someone with a hot tub.
Betty calls FP, reciting a prewritten script about how strange it is that she hasn’t heard from Jughead. Charles, director of her one-woman show, hands her a listening device to plant at Stonewall. Look, if you’re going to maybe, possibly kill your boyfriend, it is extremely helpful to have your mutual half-brother who also happens to be an FBI agent on hand. Helpful for now, at least.
In Bret’s dorm room, he and especially Donna smirkingly insist that Betty and Jughead strolled off into the woods together, and that Betty was drunk, doesn’t she remember, is it possible she could have—I don’t know—blacked out? Nevertheless, Betty manages to stick the bug under a desk before getting hip-checked in the hallway by Joan, who looks petite but wields the bodily momentum of a hockey enforcer. Betty moseys on over to Shankshaw (an excursion she decides not to mention to Charles) to see Evelyn, who you will not be shocked to learn hasn’t been made any less creepy by prison, and who dangles the possibility she may have fed Donna a new post-hypnotic trigger word and asks how Jughead is doing.
Charles isn’t picking up anything interesting via the bug, so Betty deploys Archie to beat up Bret while shouting, “You killed Jughead!” (Is it not the slightest bit suspicious to act like you already know Jughead is dead, though?) We benefit once again from Stonewall Prep’s security budget of approximately negative three dollars as Archie smashes Bret into various pieces of furniture and does some enthusiastic punching. And yet no injury he visits upon his enemy could be as devastating as Bret calling him “Elmo.” Anyway, this was all a tremendous waste of time, as once Archie leaves, Bret and Donna squat down and shout into the bug that they know the bug is there. Back home, Archie very nearly spills the murder-beans to his concerned mother. But then Betty, monitoring him spookily from her bedroom window next door, calls and orders him to shut the conversation down.
Jellybean suggested FP track Jughead’s unanswered phone, which led him right to it: planted inside Betty’s jacket. (Didn’t know you had it in you, Joan.) Betty spins an extremely bullshit story about how Jughead had left it at her house to charge, forgotten it there, and then she somehow picked it up for no reason, all while neglecting to realize that it would probably behoove her to mention to literally anyone that she knew the whereabouts of her missing boyfriend’s phone. Yes, people behave unpredictably in the aftermath of trauma, but I can’t help but think Betty would either be vastly more distraught about her boyfriend’s death or that our junior apprentice FBI agent would be significantly less incompetent when it came to the coverup.
FP has a lead: A hiker found a bloodied rock in the woods near the party. But Betty disposed of the real rock elsewhere—this must be the work of the Preppies, very possibly doctored with Jughead’s blood and Betty’s fingerprints to be as incriminating as the genuine article.
Charles offers to take the rock off FP’s hands and send it straight to Quantico for faster results, giving him and Betty the opportunity to swap the evidence bag out for a decoy rock, one Betty found in her garden and painted with leftover fake blood from Halloween. This is somehow only the second least plausible plot point in the episode.
A quick intermission to catch up on our other pals: Mary’s college friend Brooke Rivers offers to recommend Archie for a place at the Naval Academy, which he isn’t entirely thrilled about, and then Mary’s college friend turns out to be her present-day girlfriend, a development that Archie accepts a lot more gladly. We love to see it. Hiram is updating his will, but Veronica tears up her copy without reading it, furious that her dad continues to refuse to acknowledge that he’s sick. He apologizes, she tells him she loves him, and I continue to never have any idea what is going on with the relationship between these two people.
Betty finally admits to her friends that she, too, is terrified she could have killed Jughead in a blackout, so she, Veronica, and Archie enlist Charles’ help to hypnotize her into recovering a memory from that night: Donna blowing some kind of mysterious white powder on her face.
Based on pretty much the exact same vague description I just gave you, Charles confidently identifies it as “Devil’s breath,” a drug that would have scrambled her short-term memory and left her disoriented, making it unlikely she could have killed anybody. What if they just plopped the rock into her hands?
Betty reunites with Donna in the woods to confront her. Donna correctly surmises that Betty, Archie, and Veronica must have already hidden the body, because if it were found, all evidence would point to Betty. But Betty decides to take a sharp left turn that I will not pretend for one moment I understand the strategy behind, because I respect you too much, in an attempt to thwart whatever kind of dastardly plan the Preppies have in progress, organizing a search party specifically to get his body found. While the volunteers are combing the woods with flashlights and dogs and screaming Jughead’s name, Archie conveniently peels off to just the right place and calls FP over.
The body under the sheet that FP and Betty identify—and which Bret and Donna see too, when they open the door to the morgue and peer in, like that is a remotely normal or acceptable thing to do (this is our #1 Implausible Moment, congratulations, I’ve had a trophy made for you)—sure looks an awful lot like Jughead.
Mary comes to Archie’s bedside to, in theory, comfort him about Jughead’s death, and, in practice, to cry at him. He draws the curtains and tells her he needs to “confess.”
For her father’s sake, Veronica agrees to play nice with Hermosa, and the two are named co-executors of his estate. But Hermosa smells blood in the water when Veronica makes a passing reference to considering deferring Barnard (where her admission has been jeopardized by the Preppies calling in with a tip about the illegal Maple Club), and if you think these are two are going to coexist peacefully for long, then I have a chunk of gravel dunked in red food coloring and corn syrup for your crime lab to analyze.
Betty, now wearing Jughead’s denim jacket, meets with Donna once again, and vows to take the Preppies down with her. “I am the ultimate wild card,” she says. “I am the daughter of the Black Hood, the nightmare next door. I’m training with the FBI and I’m coming for you, you psycho bitch.” Not the worst Tinder bio I’ve read in my life.