Hello and welcome back to Riverdale! Whole White House careers have begun and ended since the last time we ventured to the maple-lined streets of our favorite blood-spattered small town, but the second I heard someone say “Papa Poutine’s murder” with a straight face, I knew we were home.
This episode is classic Riverdale in that at certain moments it totally sells you on being one of the cleverest and most self-aware shows on TV, while at others it makes you gag harder than the radioactive margaritas Veronica poisons everyone with. OBVIOUSLY, our main focus this week must be Cheryl Blossom’s rather unceremonious tumble from the closet, but let us first dispense with a recap of the goings-on with the hetero children, shall we?
One of the major lessons you learn when you grow up in the country is that if a wild animal approaches you in a friendly manner, it’s not because you are a cross-species empath who can bend beasts to your will: it’s because it has fucking rabies and it wants to give them to you. Unfortunately, Archie Andrews never learned this lesson, and so he is painfully unsuspicious when Hiram Lodge suggests that he and Veronica go up to the Lodge’s cabin at Shadow Lake for a “romantic weekend.” Because if there’s one thing aggressive, controlling fathers love, it’s knowing their teenage daughters are drinking their booze and fucking in their hot tub. He even suggests they bring Jughead and Betty along, so it can be a proper orgy!
In private, Hiram divulges that he is having a bunch of Crime Meetings that weekend, and he’s concerned for Veronica’s safety, so he plans to have his bodyguard, ******, spying on the teens from a distance. And Archie knows this is either a test or a trap or both, but nothing in our culture has prepared him to say no to an adult man in a position of authority.
DON’T TELL VERONICA I’M SPYING ON HER. LET’S KEEP THIS MAN TO MAN.
YESSIR, JUST LIKE OUR SECRET WRESTLING LESSONS.
Betty, for her part, is thrilled to get away from Chic, who has been shockingly ungrateful, post drug dealer murder. All he does is skulk around the house, menacing everyone with his cheekbones.
I JUST WISH WE COULD HAVE A RELATIONSHIP MORE LIKE CHERYL AND HER BROTHER. YOU KNOW, WITH YOU DEAD IN A RIVER.
Jughead sees the weekend getaway as a chance to milk Veronica for information about her dad, who is still threatening all the trailer park residents with eviction. Even Cheryl tries to invite herself along.
DID SOMEONE SAY “OPPORTUNITY FOR ME TO TRY OUT BEING A FOREST QUEER?”
UM. NO, ACTUALLY.
WOW, OKAY. ENJOY YOUR BORING-ASS STRAIGHT DRAMA, LOSERS.
So there’s a lot of competing agendas in the air when the gang arrives at the “cabin.” I put “cabin” in quotation marks because I have noticed a tendency for rich people to refer to their vacation homes as “cabins” in an attempt to minimize the fact that their weekend retreats are larger than most people’s full-time residences. Like, it’s still a fucking mansion even if it’s made out of logs, people.
Anyway, no sooner have the teens arrived than Jughead gets a call from Cheryl, who decides to hurl a giant stink bomb into the weekend by telling Jug about Archie and Betty’s little kiss.
Everyone assumes this will lead to Bughead’s twelfth breakup of the season, but Jughead musters all his maturity and refuses to be threatened by this revelation. He and Betty talk it out like grownups, while Archie and Veronica do their version of talking it out like grownups.
OR AS THE KIDS THESE DAYS CALL IT: ASEXUAL ERASURE.
The “awkwardly overhearing your friends having sex” scenes provide some of the best moments of the episode, and also a glimpse of what this show would look like if it could relax into itself a bit more, instead of piling on murders and intrigue and desperate attempts to appeal to both middle-aged gay cinephiles and Gen Z Tumblr-addicts. It’s like a pizza: a couple toppings are great, but pile on too many and you’ve just got a soggy mess.
I’m sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, teen sex.
So there’s a really specific type of stupid that’s only possible when you combine teenagers, tequila, and a hot tub. As someone whose family had a hot tub, I can confirm that something about the steam and the bubbles (and tequila and the nudity) suspends what little judgement anyone has at that age, and leads to makeout sessions that one later looks back on with pure bewilderment. This is especially true for these kids, who are under the influence of margaritas of a sickly greenish hue I have only ever seen one other place.
WHAT DO YOU CALL THESE DRINKS AGAIN?
Once in the hot tub, Veronica decides that the best way to clear the air about the whole Archie-Betty kiss is to “even the playing field” by making out with Jughead. This, I believe should be recorded in ethics textbooks as the perfect illustration of the concept “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The kiss is more awkward than anything else, and one gets the sense that Veronica herself wonders why she did that, given that she has Abs McGee sitting right there. (The answer, of course, is so they could show it in the promo.)