For the last two weeks, Jughead has been self-quarantined in a bunker, avoiding contact with his loved ones and devoting most of his sunlight-free waking hours to considering his mortality.
Too real, Riverdale.
But now, Jughead barges into Dupont’s seminar with a big smile and strong this GIF energy. (I do feel like he should be wearing a helmet around these people, just in case.) Betty manages to lock the door and collect everyone’s cell phones, with basically zero protest, which is awfully romantic. I can’t tell you the last time my husband trapped a group of people in a room so I could shout my theories about how they murdered me at them.
Moose, Jughead explains, was supposed to be a sacrificial lamb. Well, sacrificial moose. But maybe, Chipping — who, per his wife, expressed before his suicide that he wished he’d never gotten the Baxter Brothers contract — pushed him into leaving school for the Army because he couldn’t go through with it. At least not this time. Betty and Jughead have discovered that a Stonewall student has disappeared (and we know that Stonewall students, historically, love to disappear; it’s like their No. 2 extracurricular activity, between mock trial and varsity douchebaggery) every time a new Baxter Brothers has taken over the series. Nothing proves you can write a perfect murder like committing one, which is an interesting idea in theory, although I’m not sure America’s most horrifying serial killers are uniformly churning out thrilling volumes of cerebral crime fiction from behind bars. That Jughead was awarded the contract at first only served to put a target on his back.
There is no I in “murder,” but there is a team in “head trauma.” Bret led Jughead into woods, Joan hit him with the rock (he remembers smelling her perfume), Donna distracted Betty then Devil’s Breath-ed her into looking like the likeliest suspect. It turns out it was Jonathan (who is MIA due to, allegedly, food poisoning) who was supposed to check Jughead’s pulse and confirm he was really dead. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
We finally see how the scene in which Archie and Veronica stumble upon Betty holding a rock over Jughead’s body plays out. Betty commands Archie to pound on his chest and Veronica to stanch his bleeding with the beanie while she gives him mouth-to-mouth. Jughead opens his eyes and mumbles not to take him to the hospital (to protect Betty, apparently, but for the record, girls and boys, this is an unequivocal should-have-taken-him-to-the-hospital situation), but he won’t fully regain consciousness for another 36 hours. Betty dials 1-800-FBI-PALS and Charles appears at the edge of the woods with an FBI medical van (staffed with other agents, how deep does this thing go?) to take Jughead away. Seen in its full context, Betty’s fireside speech about “the only way we won’t get caught” has a big if Jughead doesn’t make it disclaimer tacked onto it.
When Betty and FP shared this theory about vanished Stonewall students with the other Baxter Brothers ghostwriters, they all asked for their lawyers. Well, no, no, no, how dare you, responds Dupont, though for what it’s worth, he “never explicitly directed” anyone to do anything “criminal,” okay?
But this goes all the way back to the very first members of the Quill & Skull society: Dupont’s classmates knew he’d purchased Forsythe’s story for only $5,000, an exploitatively low sum, given the publishing cash cow that the Baxter Brothers series has proved to be. That’d sure be terrible PR for the brand if it got out, huh? Funny, then, how all Dupont’s classmates — who knew this secret, too — have died in mysterious, inexplicable accidents over the years, isn’t it?
That is, almost all of them. Enter Charles, FP II, and … FP I. “Theodore Weisel” (ha, ha) came to see him shortly before he died under sketchy circumstances, Jug’s grandfather explains, and told him that Dupont had killed their other classmates. That’s why FP went out for that fateful pack of cigarettes and never came back: He knew he was next. (Not sure that explains the rest of his abusive parenting, but I digress.) And this is why Jughead was recruited — as bait to lure his grandpa into Dupont’s clutches.
Charles, by the way, has already searched Dupont’s house and found trophies from his victims hidden inside, delightfully, a hollowed-out Oxford English Dictionary. “I am a man of honor to the end,” Dupont ruh-rohs, before plunging out the window (to think, they just had that gorgeous stained glass repaired!) and onto the concrete below. Not a single “O Captain! My Captain!” marks his death.
Charles interrogates the Stonewall kids, but it doesn’t go super great. Joan has diplomatic immunity, via her fancy-job dad. Donna cries and lies her way out of any real culpability. Bret doesn’t feel much like disclosing the location of his trove of sex tapes, at least not until Charles invites FP and Jughead (and their brass knuckles) into the interview room. Just a few weeks ago we saw one of our main characters laid out supposedly dead on a morgue table, and I feel like this beatdown is supposed to be cathartic, given that Bret is a full diaper with a jawline, but it’s actually a strong contender for darkest scene in the entire season. Lo and behold, Bret’s face is reduced to a bloody pulp, and the tapes are excavated from a hidden compartment behind the school crest.
Quill & Skull has been disbanded, but the mastermind, it seems, has gotten away scot-free. Donna is transferring to a new school, and worse, she gets to take over the writing contract, though the Baxter Brothers are relaunching as Tracy True books.
Not if Betty can help it, though. She reveals the dirt Hermosa dug up: Donna’s grandmother is one of the classmates Dupont killed — and from whom he stole the character of Tracy True — and she’s been seeking not just to exact revenge against him, but to reclaim her family legacy. (I mean, fair.) If Donna doesn’t walk away from the contract, Betty will send the “medical file” that for some reason reveals her grandmother’s identity, like all medical files are known to do, to newspapers nationwide.
Cheryl is skeptical that Betty and Archie were entirely faking their romance, but otherwise … Things are back to normal? Real-life normal, which I suppose is actually far from the Riverdale status quo. Principal Honey is legally obligated to readmit Jughead to Riverdale High, even if it’s increasingly doubtful he and Archie will graduate along with the rest of their class. (Betty and Veronica seem as perturbed about that fact — which is, like, fine, take a summer course — as they were when their respective boyfriends have been in moral peril.)
The elder two FPs are hanging out and talking, which is nice. Jughead, Betty, Archie, and Veronica toast over milkshakes at Pop’s, which is also nice. And Kevin demands they all sign up to perform at his upcoming variety show, which is the nicest of all.