Riverdale Season 3, Episode 9: “No Exit”

So you know all those cliffhangers from last episode, and the part where Hiram’s evil plan had finally come to complete fruition? Forget about all of that. This episode, true to Riverdale’s ever-more-incoherent form, careens into entirely new plot arcs with barely a glance at the supposedly climactic disaster at the end of the last.

Previously on Riverdale: Some dude named Cassidy was killed at Shadow Lake; Archie found a bunch of dead kids at Shadow Mines and narcissistically blamed himself; the warden killed himself; Betty accused Sister Woodhouse of testing Hiram’s drugs on the patients; Hiram toasted with the Gargoyle King; Betty and Ethel staged an escape by dressing Betty up as the Griffin Queen and claiming the Gargoyle King was dead; Jughead’s mom encouraged Jughead to ditch Archie, and Archie insisted on going ahead alone; Riverdale was quite dramatically put under quarantine with Jughead and FP trapped outside.

We start as always with a Jughead voiceover, telling us that Archie’s “hero’s journey” includes a “self-imposed exile.” I mean… usually the hero has a REASON for his exile, like that he’s founding a new society or was obliged to fight a war for the sake of his honor, not just that he convinced himself he was responsible for several murders he did not commit, but OK. Sure. Archie’s a hero. (Said Archie is busy cooking breakfast in a Canadian cabin. You can tell it’s Canadian because it is decorated with Fairisle sweaters.)

Back at home, Jughead informs us that there have also been a series of “cat burglaries,” and we immediately are in the Blossom home with Cheryl and Tony who have been “stealing from the rich to give to, well, us.” This line is enough to turn both girls super horny, and they fall on a pile of money while kissing. You know, as cat burglars in love so often do.

Now we’re in the halls at school, where Jughead, hilariously (did I never notice this, or are these new?) has over-ear headphones decorated in a wood grain pattern. I love it! It’s so aggressively hipster. It’s like carrying a stack of 832 Moleskines.

The real point of this scene is not for me to make fun of Jughead but for us to learn that the super dramatic quarantine has already been lifted. Off screen. WHAT?! We went through ALL OF THAT DRAMA, with Veronica’s hilarious failed coup and multiple dramatic announcements that Hiram’s evil plan was coming to a head, and the quarantine is ALREADY OVER?! I can’t even.

Also, Kevin’s role in this episode is to try to enforce an anti-PDA rule that has remained in place despite the quarantine being lifted. Cheryl and Toni do not care about this at all, and Cheryl calls him a “crypto-fascist.”

But, Jughead informs us, at “La Bonne Nuit” (I’ll just … pretend he pronounced this in any way resembling the way it’s actually pronounced), life is beautiful. Veronica is enjoying her role as entrepreneur while Josie sings a cabaret song and Reggie stares with something approximating longing at Veronica.

Meanwhile, Betty and Jughead are full-out sharing a bed (no euphemism intended, they are both fast asleep) when they’re woken up by the night terror of one of the escaped patients staying in the Coopers’ living room. Betty rushes to her, and a fellow patient named Tyler (a boy, who presumably was freed from the conversion therapy wing) happily reminds the terrified girl that the Griffin Queen saved them all.

Side note–Betty and Jughead have been apart for several episodes and the show didn’t even bother showing their reunion? They just show them in the middle of a sleepover? I’m sorry to sound like a rabid fangirl instead of an impartial blogger, but come on. They really missed an opportunity here. And, I actually am a rabid fangirl who was kind of looking forward to a really sweet reunion scene. SO SUE ME. The kids get Betty to agree to a round of G&G, but then she finds a packet of Fizzle Rocks. Tyler turns out to be their owner.

Back in Betty’s room, Betty informs Jughead that a Serpent was the source for Tyler’s Fizzle Rocks. Jughead is upset that his gang is dealing Hiram’s drugs. Meanwhile, Betty is all optimistic that they’re going to get the nuns to testify against Hiram. She claims that “Attorney McCoy” (I hereby apologize for laughing so hard at this; apparently it is actually starting to be used as a title in the US, for actually very good reasons!) is working on it and then maybe Archie can come home.

Speaking of whom, he’s radioing … someone named KDK1, reporting on the weather in what is apparently some kind of rotational job. They ask if he wants another rotation and he asks to sleep on it. This is not explained and I doubt it matters. What does matter is that before signing off, the voice on the other side of the radio informs Archie that there have been bear sightings. Gee, I wonder if that will be significant! Seeming quite unconcerned, Archie sets off for a little stroll with his dog.

Reggie is driving a truck and blasting country music when he drives over some spikes. As soon as he stops to get out, he’s attacked by a bunch of thugs dressed as Gargoyles, who tell him Veronica hasn’t paid what she owes.

Back at La Bonne Nuit, Veronica sponges down a beaten-up Reggie and apologizes to him. Reggie, of course, will go through anything for Veronica. She says that her dad has been demanding payment of ten percent in return for protection, but that she plans to a) negotiate him down to five percent and b) cook the books to trick him into it. Reggie calls her a “badass.” It would be flirtatious if Reggie had any kind of facial expression to speak of.

Archie’s out in the woods with his dog when they spot some GIGANTIC footprints in the dirt. Seriously, these things are like the size of those footprints in Jurassic Park. The dog starts growling, and then suddenly something behind Archie roars loudly. Oh gee! It’s Chekhov’s bear!

After the credits, Archie stumbles into the cabin and radios for help, only to have the radio cut out, with Archie’s typical nigh-unbelievable bad luck. He rips off his shirt, revealing that the bear swiped giant claw marks into one of his pecs and one of his biceps. (I’m starting to wonder if this show develops plotlines entirely in terms of how often they can get KJ Apa panting, sweaty, and topless.) Then he opens a first-aid cabinet that appears to have been designed and stocked in the late nineties, pours some kind of fluid over his wounds, and then ties a laughably inadequate cloth bandage over about a third of his wound and stumbles into bed.

In the morning over breakfast, Alice declares her intent to send all of the escaped patients to The Farm. Betty begs her to reconsider and says, “They’ve imprinted on me. I’m their Griffin Queen.” Heh. For some reason this works on Alice, although she adds crankily that if Betty is their queen, they’re Betty’s responsibility. For what it’s worth, Alice has fully adopted the style befitting a woman in a cult, complete with a flowing caftan and a messy bun.

Betty meets with Attorney McCoy, who has some bad news: the sisters’ lawyer has demanded that she stop harassing them to testify against Hiram even though McCoy promised them immunity if they did. Also, they’ve taken a vow of silence. Betty wants to testify herself, but McCoy points out that Betty was on drugs the whole time she was at the Sisters’. Convenient for the nuns! Feed all your victims drugs so they won’t make good witnesses!

Over at La Bonne Nuit, Veronica, wearing a polo shirt with the biggest pearl buttons I’ve ever seen, speaks to Hiram, who’s wearing a coat with a giant fur collar that Cruella De Vil herself would envy. She says she does want his protection, but that business has been slow and five percent would be better. But Hiram knows business is booming. Veronica throws in a mini-threat about the nuns in jail. Hiram agrees to ten percent if he gets to look at Veronica’s books. Also, Josie is singing even though Hiram and his two henchmen are the only people visible in the bar. Do these kids, like, not go to school anymore? When does Josie do her homework and stuff? It’s such a mystery. Hiram also begins to stare at Josie contemplatively, although for a very different reason than I am.

Jughead has convened a junkyard meeting of his gang in order to yell at them for dealing drugs. Betty stands at his left hand, FP at his right, while he sits in a giant leather chair that resembles a very sad throne. He declares that anyone who commits a crime will be “exiled.” Cheryl isn’t so keen on this, and Fangs protests that they have no money. FP swoops in to Jughead’s rescue, telling them that they’ll figure something out later.

Josie gets home only to find a guy dressed as a Gargoyle waiting for her. But when he pops out he just stands there, giving her the chance to unlock her door and get inside. Then he wakes the fuck up and starts pounding on the door. Wouldn’t it have been easier if he had pounced on her right away instead of just standing there in the hallway? Soon enough Veronica and the still-bruised Reggie show up for Stop 2 in Veronica’s apology tour. Josie threatens to quit headlining if this continues.

Betty arrives home to find Polly and Evelyn handing out free T-shirts to all the escapees and waxing poetic about the wonderfulness of The Farm. Betty tells everyone not to take Evelyn’s bribes and that they’re safe at the Cooper home, but Polly reminds her that the Gargoyle King attacked her in this very house. Uh-oh. Then something kind of weird happens: Evelyn says the escapees aren’t safe if they have Fizzle Rocks in the house, Betty says she doesn’t know where they came from, and Polly says, “They’re too scared to tell you because you’e a Serpent.” But didn’t Betty already know they came from a serpent? Anyway, in a further tiny twist that will surprise no one, the specific Serpent they got the Fizzle Rocks from was Fangs.

Back at the Jones trailer, Jughead and FP lay into Fangs. Fangs protests that Jughead was away. “You could have come to me!” FP bellows. And I mean, he has a point. Jughead is a seventeen-year-old boy. What was he really going to do to help Fangs? Tearfully, Fangs whips out the big guns: his mom has cancer and he needed money for her treatment. Jughead sighs and says that he won’t “exile” Fangs under the circumstances but that this has to stay a secret. I don’t get why Jughead gets to be the boss of this gang when FP is around and, frankly, a lot more intimidating. Maybe it’s because I didn’t pay enough attention in season 2. Oh well.

It’s nighttime at the Pembrook, and Cheryl and Toni have made the somewhat inexplicable decision to rob Hiram of his precious “Glamerge egg” (I see what they did there) while wearing short-shorts and cat masks. Doesn’t this guy have any form of digital security? Sigh. On their way out, Cheryl stares at Hiram’s portrait and announces that she’s feeling brazen. Gee, I would never have known from the fact that your butt cheeks are hanging out of your pants.

Just then Archie wakes up in his cabin to find Cassidy (with a bullet hole in his head) and the other murder victims sitting at a fully-set-up G&G board, announcing that it’s “time to play.”

In case you haven’t noticed, G&G is a METAPHOR FOR LIFE, you guys.

After the commercials, Archie cleverly deduces that he must be dreaming or hallucinating. He offers as proof the fact that he went to juvie and was blamed for everyone’s death. Wouldn’t the giant bullet hole in Cassidy’s head be more direct evidence? Cassidy, who doesn’t seem to have fully understood Archie’s story, says that it sounds like their deaths are all Archie’s fault. Oh, not this again! Ughhh!

Over at the Coopers’, Betty meets with a social worker and learns that there’s a problem getting all the escapees re-homed because of the trauma they’ve suffered. For some reason this is also dependent on the Sisters testifying against Hiram, due to convoluted show logic I don’t care enough to follow. Betty informs the social worker of the Sisters’ vow of silence, but the social worker reveals she has insider info on the Sisters.

Veronica shows up and yells at Hiram for harassing Josie, and he lectures her that she shouldn’t have tried to “cook the books.” He wants his money–and the Glamerge egg back from Cheryl, who left her LIP PRINTS on Hiram’s portrait. What a dummy.

Veronica dons a black cape and visits Jughead to demand that he make Cheryl return the Glamerge egg. When Jughead hears the backstory about Veronica paying Hiram protection money and suggests that instead, Veronica pay all the Serpents to protect her. To recap, there are at least fifteen Serpents, Veronica is paying Hiram ten percent of the profits she makes from a bar that only sells mocktails (no I will never get over this, thank you for asking), and somehow, LESS than that is going to support fifteen Serpents and at least one cancer patient? Yeah. OK.

Over at the Canadian House of Acid Trips, Archie draws a card that reads, “Defeat the Hooded Spectre of Death.” Cassidy has some excellent advice for this task: “The challenge reveals the weakness. The weakness is what keeps you from winning.” Now, I’ve never played an RPG… but do you get the sense that the people writing this show never have, either? Anyway, the Hooded Spectre of Death seems to be the person who gunned down Fred in Pop’s, and Archie’s job is to take him down with a running tackle, because clearly it’s his fault that his father was murdered and not the fault of Betty’s dad (plus the NRA for deregulating gun ownership (I’m just saying)).

Archie comes back to the cabin to find that all his pals are gone and instead, the Warden is sitting on the carpet with a smug grin on his blue lips. He “explains” (if this tortured metaphor can be explained) that Archie must find the moment where it all went wrong for him and then he’ll be able to go back to “Eldervair.”

Attorney McCoy has decided to bring a very zealous Betty along with her to interrogate Sister Woodhouse at the jail. They reveal what they found out from the social worker: that the Sisters haven’t officially been nuns for sixty years. Attorney McCoy, with the joyful ignorance of actual Constitutional law that she shares with every other character on the show, announces that this means the nuns’ vow of silence “won’t hold up in court.” Sister Woodhouse, instead of being like, “Umm… that’s not how religious freedom OR the fifth amendment work,” is like, “FINE I’LL DO IT.” I guess she doesn’t have a very good lawyer either.

Jughead has gathered the Serpents, including Betty, around a fire in the trailer park and announces that he’s solved all their money problems by turning them into a security force for Veronica’s speakeasy. But he also calls Cheryl and Tony up to the hot seat (literally!). Cheryl’s defenses are as follows: “So what if I did?” and (paraphrasing) “Well, the sheriff is dead anyway.” Yeah, good one.

Jughead promptly kicks Cheryl out of the Serpents. Unfortunately, Fangs told Sweet Pea that Jughead let him off “Scott Free” for dealing drugs, Sweet Pea told Toni, and Toni told Cheryl, so Cheryl calls out Jughead for being inconsistent. (A little known feature of the patriarchy: girls get kicked out of weirdly law-abiding high school gangs soooo much easier than boys, amirite?) Instead of telling her that Fangs’s mom has cancer, Jughead just crumbles. And Fangs cries and hands in his jacket and then acts like Jughead’s all mean. I know Janes and I spent all of 2018 making fun of Joey Potter for the same behavior, but now would be the time to play the My-Mom-Has-Cancer card, Fangs.

There follows a drawn-out fight between Jughead and Cheryl for the egg in which Jughead gets way too intense and growls things like “You need to give me that damn egg.” Is it just me or is Cole Sprouse able to make even Scenery-Chewing Intense Anger kind of … sexy? Over at Pop’s, we see Jughead handing the egg over to Veronica, and Veronica telling him she has a job for the Serpents that relates to the Gargoyle Gang.

Chez Cooper, Betty is set upon by a bunch of very confused Escapees who have figured out that the Gargoyle King is still alive–because they’ve seen him. (At some point they were apparently wandering in the forest without Betty? I don’t know.) Betty tries to convince them they’re safe because Sister Woodhouse is going to testify agianst the Man In Black. This vague plan does not convince even such gullible kids as the G&G-loving Escapees.

Back at the cabin, the Warden is still playing with Archie, whose card says “Kill the Gargoyle King” but then also magically says “Kill the Man in Black.” The warden explains, “Slayyyyyyy the dragon.” Now that is even more scenery chewing than Jughead, King of the Serpents.

Archie finds himself in Hiram’s office, where the portrait of Hiram has turned into a glowing portrait of the Gargoyle King. Hiram’s drinking liquor out of a crystal glass, as one does. When Archie–who’s holding a little dagger that I think represents his little tiny ego–gets all self-righteous about Hiram getting him arrested, Hiram points out that Archie came in and told Hiram all of his plans. “What was I supposed to do, not have you arrested?” It’s true–all Hiram has to do to be the best evil mastermind in town is not storm into his own office, blabbing about all his plans. Veronica and Archie do that approximately every week. Obviously they’re losing this fight!

But Archie stabs Hiram with his dagger anyway, which we see only in silhouette from the shadow cast on the wall. GET IT? BECAUSE ARCHIE IS IN THE SHADOW OF MORALITY?!

Archie is magically transported back to his Canadian cabin, still holding a dagger that’s dripping blood and viscera and making extremely gross, squishy sound effects. There, he finds not only the warden but his three best friends: Veronica, Betty, and Jughead. Aww, finally the four are united! Even if they are united in an imaginary scene revolving around Archie’s psyche and Archie’s psyche is something I frankly have heard enough about, I can’t help but be happy. It’s always nice when the gang is together!

Betty randomly asks about Archie’s songs, which gives Archie the chance to say, “I’m not the same person anymore.” He tries to get out of playing but they tell him it’s the only way to get back to “Eldervair. Riverdale. Innocence.” This is nice. I don’t have to do the hard work of interpreting the themes in this recap! It’s “innocence”!

Back at Hiram’s office, he’s enjoying a nice drink out of a crystal glass, as he literally always is, when he finds his Glamerge egg smashed on the desk with a note from La Bonne Nuit announcing, “New deal… no deal!”

Betty has gone full steam ahead with her conviction that the kids from the Sisters are just about to be freed as soon as the sisters testify against Hiram, and is asking the Blossoms, Attorney McCoy, and Fred Andrews to take “a few” of them in. Fred agrees to take some boys, the Blossoms take some girls, and McCoy takes a few as well.

At the trailer, FP is annoyed that Jughead is working for “the Lodges.” He wants Jughead to be a better king than him. Uh, he’s seventeen, I think he’s doing pretty well?! Jughead says he’s trying to turn them into players and FP whines that he’s tired of being on the sidelines. Then take over, FP! No one is stopping you!

We get to see the protection deal in action when Reggie’s … covered wagon, I think is the best way to describe this vehicle, is attacked by a bunch of Gargoyles. To their surprise, a bunch of Serpents jump out and send them packing. To the last one, Jughead announces, “Riverdale has not fallen.” Then, with a grin that makes me feel like the actor is getting a kick out of all of this camp, he sends the last one back to the Gargoyle King with that message.

Betty gets home from her rehoming mission and finds her mother alone in the house. Alice happily says that Edgar came and took them all to the Farm. “You only missed him by like five minutes.” Betty just rolls her eyes. I guess it is kind of like, why would you leave a bunch of vulnerable children alone with a woman you know is in a cult.

Back at the imaginary G&G game, Archie pulls a card and asks if it’s the last level. “It sure feels like it, doesn’t it,” Jughead says portentously. So Archie gets up, pulls the door of the cabin open, and ends up… in his own room, staring at his own self asleep on the bed.  Then he fully whips out a baseball bat and prepares to murder his own sleeping self.

Fred Andrews appears and tries to talk sense into him. But Archie gives three reasons he has to do this, none of which really match each other: it’s Sleeping Archie’s fault that Archie’s current life sucks so much (kinda true); everything bad that’s happened to other people is Sleeping Archie’s fault (not true); and that the only way to come back is to kill the part of him that’s bad and weak (debatable). So yeah, then he takes a baseball bat to his sleeping self. Luckily, Sleeping Archie disappears before Archie’s imagination can murder him, which is good because otherwise we might have a serious imaginary time continuum conflict on our hands.

Veronica, in a gorgeous purple satin gown, is singing at La Bonne Nuit when Reggie comes in and she starts majorly eyefucking him while singing. Reggie, always one to put the bro in romance, gives Veroncia a thumbs up. Oh, Reggie. This doesn’t seem to bother Veronica too much, though; after she sings, when the bar has somehow emptied out, we see them sharing a passionate kiss.

Ending montage time! The music accompanying these scenes, a continuation of Veronica’s song from earlier, is great. First, Jughead and FP–apparently making good on their desire to be “players, not pawns”–meet Fangs in the middle of the forest at night, and ask him to go undercover with the Gargoyle gang. Then, Betty gets a call from McCoy saying that all the nuns have disappeared from prison, leaving only a very nun-like graffiti of “We go to join thee” on the walls. On a hunch, Betty runs to the Gargoyle King’s chamber at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and finds all the nuns on the floor, dead. Finally, a couple rangers bust into the cabin and find Archie in his bed, looking pretty fucking dead.

I admit I got my hopes up that the show had actually killed Archie. I’m sorry you guys! I just find all his problems to be an unnecessary distraction from the bubblegum teen magic that is Betty and Jughead and I wondered if the show itself had come to that conclusion as well. Anyway, for better or worse, imdb listed KJ Apa in every episode this season, so I guess he’s not actually dead.

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