It’s Riverdale’s fiftieth episode, and in honor of that, they spend the episode celebrating FP’s fiftieth birthday.
Previously on Riverdale: Archie and Hiram formed a truce; the Warden branded Archie; a little boy named Ricky that we’ll probably never see again tried to kill Archie as part of a “Kill the Red Paladin” quest; Jughead suggested Archie bring it all to a head; FP told Jughead to give the Serpents a purpose; Jughead deputized the Serpents to become police interns, because sure; Alice sold the house to an anonymous buyer; Betty totes set the house on fire; Gladys took Reggie’s car in exchange for letting them repay her debt gradually; and Jellybean and Gladys plotted about taking over the town.
Jughead decides to tell us about the American dream. FP is turning fifty, and with the girls home, he has his dream: a family, a home, food, a dog. Over breakfast, Gladys tells him she has a surprise for him and flirts with him, while Jughead looks on with a sleepy smile. (Jughead, unsettlingly, isn’t wearing his hat.)
Gladys brings all four of them to what turns out, not unexpectedly, to be the Coopers’ house and tells them she already closed on it. Then Betty and Alice emerge with boxes, just in case you forgot they were moving out. “What the hell is Alice Cooper doing in my house?” says Gladys. As soon as they’re inside (with Alice desperately trying to pretend that the fire didn’t totally decrease the value of the house), Jughead and FP try to disown this decision. Gee, it’s almost like it’s not a great idea to buy a house for your husband without consulting your husband. Though Gladys, of course, has a lot of much worse plans that she’s keeping from FP. FP “offers” to walk away from the purchase (which Gladys apparently made online, like, did Alice sell this place on Craigslist?!) but Alice says, “That won’t be necessary.” Yeah, um, that’s not really how contracts work, FP, but nice try!
Betty and Jughead confabulate on the steps outside. Jughead suggests that Betty just stay on in her own room with his family, but Betty says she doesn’t feel comfortable since she barely knows Jughead’s mom, so she’s going to crash with “Vee” instead. Did you know those two girls still hung out? Because I didn’t! Also, Betty is apparently the one teenager in Riverdale who doesn’t think that cohabitating with your high school S.O. is a completely normal thing to do. But it’s not like she’s completely connected to reality, since she thinks a woman she doesn’t know (Gladys) is a worse choice to crash with than someone she does know who has repeatedly tried to murder her best friend (Hiram).
They go on to have breakfast with Archie. Jughead apparently found new evidence in Warden Norton’s office. How convenient! It’s a Kill the Red Paladin card. Jughead theorizes that since it’s the same card stock as the one Ricky had, the same person printed them out, and they should look for that person. Have we entirely moved on from the idea that this was a manufactured game with pre-printed cards? But anyway, my favorite part of this scene is definitely the ominous THONK they play when Jughead whips out the second Kill-the-Red-Paladin card.
Cheryl, continuing her campaign of terrorizing everyone in increasingly bizarre but still perky ways, has bought Toni a giant parka that she wants Toni to take to Quebec on the surprise ski weekend she just booked. Toni says that she and the Pretty Poisons had plans to take a road trip to Silver Lake. Wait, so is Cheryl not even in the Pretty Poisons anymore? Or she’s in them but not invited on their road trip? Either way, that’s cold, Toni. Cheryl petulantly declares that fine, they’ll never go anywhere ever again! Well, isn’t she a peach. Toni dashes off to work, only aggravating Cheryl’s insecurity that she might just not be the center of the universe.
Speaking of people Betty Cooper would rather stay with than her boyfriend’s mom, Hiram the Drug King and Cold-Blooded Murderer is hanging out in his office when Archie casually drops by. When he asks how Archie’s been, Archie says, “I was doing pretty good, Mr. Lodge, until a homeless kid stabbed me in my house.” I wouldn’t describe taking illegal payoffs to throw boxing matches as “pretty good,” exactly, but I did laugh at this line! Hiram, however, continues to be the funniest part of every scene with Archie. He widens his eyes innocently like he knows nothing about it and says, “Did this person break in?” Hee. I love Deadpan Hiram. “No,” Archie says, and completely fails to explain further, because he’s Archie.
Getting down to business, Archie hands Hiram the KTRP (I cannot type that phrase out one more time) card. Hiram protests that they have a truce. But when Archie asks him flat out, he actually admits to having printed out a clean dozen of these cards. Archie yells at him that now the clock is ticking… so Hiram actually offers to help him find everyone who has a card. What’s happened to Hiram? He’s gone soft! He tells Archie about G&G hot spots where he can find the fanatical players who got the KTRP cards.
Cheryl shows up to La Bonne Nuit wearing a red riding hood and carrying a basket, but she’s definitely the wolf in this scenario. For some reason Reggie doesn’t find the fact that a sociopath has shown up at a bar, at night, with a basket of freshly-baked scones, at all suspicious and lets her right in. Downstairs, she finds Toni singing with a bunch of other girls onstage, having a blast singing with Veronica. They hug and jump around like they’re drunk at karaoke, and it’s super cute, but to Cheryl it looks like flirting. She stands there like an outraged princess. What a drama queen!
Alice comes to see FP. He thinks it’s about the house, but she says, “That house means nothing to me.” She’s here about Gladys. FP sighs and says they are still married, and that she left because he was “a no-good husband and a rotten father” (continuing his trend of talking like he’s in a B-movie about cowboys). When she asks if he loves Gladys, he just says she’s the mother of his children. Not an answer. Then she asks, “And me? Do you love me?” And FP says, “Doesn’t matter now. It’s over. I’m sorry.”
Um, did you guys even realize Alice and FP were still dating? Because I didn’t. The fact that Alice was busy full-on joining cults kind of made her seem like she had no one in her life. Now I kind of judge FP, not only for letting his ex-wife move in without bothering to break up with his girlfriend first, but also for continuing to date a woman who had joined some deranged farm cult. And also for apparently forgetting to dump her till she showed up at his office to ask if he was back with his ex-wife.
Reggie comes to Veronica with a proposal that, since he’s basically doing all the work in this place and even gave his car to Gladys, he become her business partner. A very reasonable proposal–especially since, as will shortly become apparent, he hasn’t even been freaking PAID this whole time–but Veronica goes full-on Lodge, hits him with her brightest and fakest smile, and tells him that though he’s been helpful, she’s in debt and “it just wouldn’t be wise for me to begin another partnership right now.” Reggie tries again, telling her he knows what he’s worth. Veronica then says: “To quote my abuelita, no one walks on water in my place except me.” Um, what?! How is that a response to a business proposal? As if she thinks that’s going to finish the conversation, she goes back to her work–but with a sidelong glance at Reggie to see if he’s buying it. But even Reggie isn’t that gullible.
Jughead sits down with his mom while she wraps an elaborate present. He wants to know if buying this house means that she’s here permanently–and where she got the money. Gladys explains she sold the chop shop and asks if he has a problem with it. Jughead says she’s made some shady moves and he doesn’t understand what her plan is. She pretends she’s just here for FP and the family, and that her plan is to get a job. Jughead gives her a cute little smile, and says, “Sounds good. …Is it true?” Hee! Gladys says she’s treating this like a do-over. She asks him for one more favor: give a speech at his dad’s fiftieth birthday party tonight at La Bonne Nuit, which apparently she hadn’t even notified him she was throwing. Not the best communication from Gladys in this episode, eh?
FP gathers the Serpents and tells them they’re starting a new chapter: from outlaws to “law-keepers.” I probably don’t need to repeat how ridiculous this decision is on FP’s part. Anyway, he’s brought in Sheriff Keller to organize a kind of mentorship program between the boys and the officers. FP naturally claims Jughead to be his mentee. Very professional.
In the car, Jughead, who’s in the mood for a Big Talk, remarks that FP probably never expected to be in the driver’s seat of a police car. He asks FP what he’s most proud of and FP, as is apparently obligatory for parents, answers Jughead and Jellybean. Then Jughead comes out with his real question: Are they really moving to the Northside? He compares it to a “Norman Rockwell painting with leather jackets.” But FP pumps his fist and says he’s excited that he can finally provide for his family. I mean, Gladys bought the house with her own money and FP didn’t even know about it, but sure, FP! You’re the provider! (And to be fair, it seems that both of them expect the sheriff gig to be paying the mortgage and stuff.)
Just then they get called over to Pop’s, where a junkie apparently attacked someone who works there with hot coffee. FP remarks that he’s heard rumors someone’s looking to reopen the “candy shop.” Jughead stares accusingly at Veronica and says, “I wonder who.” Clearly he thinks it’s Hiram. Veronica, who knows it’s Gladys, stares him down and says neutrally, “That’s a good question.”
Cheryl stomps out to her Nana, who’s alone in the garden in her wheelchair playing with flowers, and asks if she’s seen Toni. Nana bizarrely declares, “Not since she gave me an envelope of money. I believe she called it ‘rent.’” Cheryl looks pissed.
Speaking of envelopes of money, Veronica comes up to Reggie with another one and tells him it’s what she considers “a good, fair starting salary” for him. What?! That’s not how you decide on salaries. Also what has he been doing this whole time if she’s not paying him?! Reggie indignantly asks if he’s “just a hired hand,” which, slow your roll there Reggie. I do feel like he probably deserves to have a stake in the business, but “just a hired hand” is kind of a weird way to respond, like he’s mad about getting paid at all. Veronica tells him condescendingly to “take the rest of the night off, clear your head, and recalibrate your attitude.” THEN HE LEAVES THE MONEY ON THE BAR and leaves.
Betty, Jughead, and Archie have seen fit to hold a meeting in the bunker, but only after lighting about ten thousand candles. Their meeting lasts about thirty seconds: Jughead munches on snacks, Archie reports on what happened with Hiram, and Betty declares that gee, they should probably track down everyone who has those cards, starting with the places Hiram listed for Archie. Did they really need to go to the bunker and light all those candles just for that? Have they ever heard of a little thing called a Group Text?
At the first place they check out, they interrupt an intense G&G game being run by an incredibly smug Game Master. When Betty and Jughead show him the Red Paladin card, he cheerfully admits that yes, he’s seen it, yes, he knows who Archie is, and oh by the way, “That quest is in play here.” Archie leaps forward and goes, “Yeah, well take your shot then.” I love how Betty and Jughead are trying desperately to save this kid’s life and he’s running around to game-crazed randos all, “Hit me! Hit me!” It’s an uphill battle for poor Betty and Jughead. The latter two, trying to keep things on track, ask the Game Master where he got the card and he says it came from the King himself, of course. Betty, DRIPPING with derision, confirms, “The Gargoyle King came here? To the back room of a comic book store?” Hee! The Game Master is forced to admit that one of his deputies came instead, wearing a mask. He also tells them that it’s an advanced quest, so whoever has the card (and it’s no one in this room) is taking time to prepare. Lucky break that they found such a cooperative possible murderer.
Betty’s followed through on her plan to move in with Veronica, so the girls are having a little sleepover with mugs of hot chocolate. Veronica goes for a little girl talk about Jughead–then totally spills the beans about Gladys planning to reopen the drug trade because she doesn’t want Betty getting caught up in it. Aw, I love when the girls remember that they’re best friends! Anyway, Betty says she’s going to have to tell Jughead.
Back in the Bunker of Fire Hazard Lighting, the kids discuss what they’ve found out. Jughead lights on the idea that since the players will listen to anything the King says, they could change the quest. “Perfect!” you’re probably thinking. “They can have the Gargoyle King call off the quest!” NOPE. That would be way too easy and, worst of all, wouldn’t require Archie to take off his shirt or play the martyr at all. Can’t have that! So Jughead theorizes that they could use the fact that Archie is great at King of the Mountain, so they’re going to have Archie play King of the Mountaintop for twelve hours, and if no one takes him down by the end, then the quest is off. Betty, exhibiting only slightly more common sense than Jughead, offers a few additional rules, like that there should be no weapons and only one challenger at a time. Archie, for his part, offers up a venue for this bizarre event.
Once he’s gone, Jughead promises Betty, “We’ll watch over him. I know it’s risky, but it’s better to see it coming, right?” I mean, or you could stop it altogether, but sure. Betty, sadly, repeats that it’s better to see it coming. Then she gently tells him what she learned about Gladys. He asks who her source is, and Betty says that it’s someone trustworthy. She wants to help him look into it, but he sadly declines because he wants to do this on his own.
Archie’s brilliant idea for finding a venue is to go to Hiram himself and ask him to help him find a spot for Archie to fight all the people that Hiram tricked into trying to kill him. (We know it’s morning because Hiram is drinking from a tea cup instead of his ever-present crystal whisky glass.) For some reason Hiram doesn’t laugh him out of the office OR point out that gathering ten Fizzle Rocks junkies intent on killing you into one room is probably a bad idea (probably because he secretly still wants to get Archie killed). Instead, he pleasantly offers Archie access to a shuttered boxing gym on a block of land he recently purchased. Oh Archie, poor dumb Archie, run! When Hiram is smiling and helpful you know things are going to turn out very badly.
Jughead’s typing away at the new quest when Archie calls to tell him the location (not that he gives any specifics, but I guess Jughead can just google it). They sign off with, “I’ll see you at dusk.” Just in case you didn’t realize that this was a Significant Moment, not some lame mundane meeting where you decide upon an actual hour and minute to meet up.
Jughead gathers a bunch of Serpents to the bunker and assigns them in pairs to distribute the new quest, wearing masks. He adds that he has something “personal” to ask them–to find out who is the new player moving into the drug trade and tell only Jughead what they find. As they leave, he stares ahead of him sadly. Poor Jughead!
Speaking of people I feel sorry for, Gladys hauls Reggie up to the bar of judgment, by which I mean the bar at La Bonne Nuit, where Veronica’s serving. Apparently he tried to steal his car back. Veronica has to promise to cover the expenses for FP’s fiftieth birthday party at La Bonne Nuit before Gladys is satisfied. As soon as Gladys leaves, she lectures Reggie about being reckless. Poor Reggie is like, “Dammit, Veronica, I gave you everything!” I mean. Yeah. Also, Veronica says that they were “this close” to paying off their debts, which, I thought they had only paid off like 5%. But I’m not complaining, I’ll just be happy when this Debt Storyline is oooover.
Cheryl arrives at La Bonne Nuit dressed for… well, a very different event. She’s wearing a long red ball gown as if she’s in a James Bond movie, and coldly orders Toni to fetch her a bellini. Wait, I thought she was security, not a waitress. But let’s not get too hung up on details.
Jughead, Betty, and Archie wait awkwardly in the boxing ring. Archie isn’t shirtless yet, but you know it’s coming; his red robe thing is open far enough that you can see the scar from where the bear scratched him. Can you believe that the whole “Archie almost dies of a bear scratch” plotline was only like a third of a season ago?! Finally, a bunch of people in semi-scary masks show up and demand the Red Palladin, so the kids can stop awkwardly standing in the boxing ring.
Oh hey, there goes Archie’s shirt! After the commercials, Jughead is … emceeing? Is that the word? … the match. He tells everyone they get to fight Archie one at a time for three minutes if they have the card, and if they get beaten, the quest is over. Archie takes a pretty significant hit to the face in his first go-round, but then he knocks the dude out. Then there’s, you know, more fighting. I wasn’t going to bother recapping it, but then one dude flat-out sinks his teeth into Archie’s shoulder. That’s… one way to fight! Archie howls and knocks that guy out too. Then he’s like, “Jughead, how many of these guys am I fighting?” Was he not paying attention? Hiram said he gave out twelve cards! Try to stay focused, Archie!
Cheryl’s in some kind of basement, exploring with her flashlight, when Toni finds her. I guess it’s the basement of La Bonne Nuit. What follows is best described as the exact plot of a softcore porno: Cheryl says something about, “Are you going to cuff me?” and the girls start doing it right there in La Bonne Nuit. That’s some great security guard-ing you’re doing there, Toni.
Over at the boxing ring, Archie has to deal with one Gargoyle continuing to beat up on him after the three-minute bell rings. Betty yells, “Get off of him!” But it turns out, you know, drug-crazed gang members aren’t so great with rules. Archie still wins, though. Then Betty announces there’s only eleven cards. For some reason Archie sees fit to yell, “Who else wants to try?!” Hey Archie… maybe don’t take EVERY situation as a reason to try to start a fight? You just had eleven fights! Calm the eff down!
Unfortunately, though, some dude arrives who was a guard at the prison when Archie was there. DUN DUN DUN. Jughead asks if he’s up for this, and Archie says yes, because he wants the “sacrifice mark” off of him. Archie and the guard start fighting. Oh, and this whole time it’s also cutting back and forth to Toni and Cheryl’s sex scene. Finally Archie wins, and Jughead wraps a blanket around him and says, “Sacrifice no more!” Again, it would have been easier to just tell everyone the quest was off, but OK! At least they’re all happy now! I’m sure this will last! JK.
Afterwards, Toni and Cheryl sit at the bar, which is empty. They agree that it was hot, but Toni says they need to talk. She feels like Cheryl resents the Pretty Poisons because Toni’s in charge. This is CLEARLY true, though Cheryl avers it’s because Toni doesn’t spend time with her anymore. Finally Toni admits that she feels like she moved in with Cheryl too soon (that does tend to happen when you start cohabitation at sixteen years of age). They agree she’ll move out, and then Cheryl flounces off, clearly angry.
A rather bloody Archie visits Hiram to return the keys and tells him that the quest is over. But Hiram wants him to keep the keys and the gym. Yeah, you know what this show really needs to make it exciting, is another teen-run local business! JK. They do not need that at all. Also, Hiram tells Archie this is to make amends for setting the quest in motion, which is so clearly not a thing Hiram would ever say! But of course, Archie is incapable of making logical decisions, so he accepts the keys, thereby entangling himself in whatever bananacrackers scheme Hiram has cooked up this week.
Veronica shows up to La Bonne Nuit and asks Reggie what’s gotten into him. Reggie says adorably, “I have an issue with how I’m being treated by you.” How much do you want to bet he was practicing that slightly awkward sentence in the mirror for like an hour to make sure he didn’t forget it? He tells Veronica he wants to matter to her and asks if they’d even be dating if it weren’t for the speakeasy. She admits maybe not but that she’s glad they are. Reggie doesn’t go for this. He thinks she owes him and he’s getting nothing in return. Yeah, I mean, she didn’t even pay him apparently! What a jerk. She does, however, give him his car keys since she bought the car back from Gladys. “Now we don’t owe each other anything.” I beg to differ, she probably owes him way more than that in back wages. But Reggie isn’t exactly a mathematician. He takes the keys and leaves a pensive Veronica behind.
Sweet Pea and Fangs arrive at the bunker and tell Jughead they found something out and it’s “bad news.” So he goes home to Gladys to ask if she moved home to take over the drug trade from Hiram Lodge. She admits it fairly readily, and says she did it for Jughead. Jughead calls that selfish, and she gives him a whole lecture about how hard her and FP’s life used to be, and how they had to run scams to get food on the table and whatnot, and how it’s FP’s dream to move to Elm Street (first I ever heard of it!). She even says that it would “break” FP to learn how she paid for the house. I didn’t realize FP was such a sensitive soul!
It’s finally time for FP’s birthday soiree! When Betty and Jughead arrive FP does a classic dad move: making a joke about an awkward relationship memory that you aren’t totally over yet, in this case the time that Betty threw Jughead an ill-fated birthday party that almost broke them up. Hee! Betty and Jughead manage wan smiles. Then Fred arrives and sweetly welcomes FP to the neighborhood and gives him a big hug, leading me to once again become maudlin over Luke Perry.
Cheryl decides to call Kevin all the way to her estate just so she can tell him in person, while playing croquet, that she’s decided to change the school musical this year to be Heathers. Again, these kids really need to learn how to text.
Gladys gets up on stage to toast FP as “Riverdale’s finest.” She also says he was the best King ever. Um, isn’t her son the King now? Ouch! She calls Jughead up, and Jughead mounts the steps like he’s climbing a gallows. He starts with a joke about the Jones men being a “broody bunch” who don’t like birthday parties. Aww. He tells FP’s story of going from Serpent King to Sheriff, “right[ing] his wrongs,” and reuniting the family. Then he swallows and, as Betty watches in suspense, just says that he’s proud to be FP’s son. Aww! As he hugs FP, he and Gladys share a distrustful look.
At the bar, Betty tells him his speech was beautiful. She asks what he’s going to do now, and, as they both stare at Gladys, he goes, “Save Jellybean, protect my dad, and run my mom out of town. Do you wanna help?” Betty just grins.
Holy shit. AWESOME ending.