Welcome to Riverdale! This week, everyone has joined a quiz team for no reason other than it being convenient for the plot and Betty’s quest to bring down Stonewall. For some reason, the quiz team competes on a set that looks ripped from the 1950s but I love Riverdale’s anachronistic aesthetics so I’ll allow!!
Uncle Frank is still in town and while he does not give any teens drugs this week he does shake things up at the construction site including stealing money from the business and this is also how I learned Archie is fully running his dead dad’s construction business? I mean this was probably previously established but Archie has like 8,000 jobs and hobbies right now, so it’s a lot to keep track of! Archie’s storyline here is mostly boring, and Uncle Frank really does feel like someone who has been crammed into a story that already has a lot of characters to keep track of.
In a small subplot, Fangs apologizes to Kevin for that time he manipulated him under orders from cult leader Chad Michael Murray. But then we quickly depart this meaningful character moment to see Kevin being manipulated into recording a tickling video with a stranger.
The best storyline of the episode digs into Jughead and Betty’s relationship, which hits a serious snag when Jughead decides to write a YA mystery novel about her serial killer father. Yes, he’s technically pressured into writing this story. But is he really?! Isn’t this probably the story he wanted to tell all along? It’s even implied that the thought had occurred to him when he’s talking to Charles and says he “couldn’t do that to Betty.” If we’re to take Jughead’s voiceovers on this show literally, it does sound like Jughead mines his friends’ lives for his writing. Betty is right to be mad, especially since he didn’t talk to her about it and also told her about the Yale thing in a weird way. Stonewall has driven a wedge between Betty and Jughead, and while the Stonewall storylines sometimes seem like unneeded interjections, I’m genuinely interested in the tension between Betty and Jughead who have long had the most convincing and complex relationship on this show. Betty Cooper in general has the most consistently engaging arc on this show, and the few scenes between her and Alice in “Quiz Show” are strong, needling back into Betty’s trauma, anger, and confusion about her father.
I wish the relationship writing for Cheryl and Toni had an equal depth and dimension to it, but nay. They sort of just exist together these days. At least Cheryl is in more scenes in this episode, but it’s all as a function of Veronica’s arc. Cheryl and Veronica team up against Daddy Lodge to craft a recipe for rum that involves maple in order to be different enough that they don’t infringe on Hiram’s patent on molasses-based rum, and I cannot believe that is a sentence I just typed but also Teen Rum Business honestly ranks pretty low on the list of bizarrely unbelievable storylines Riverdale has taken on. We do get to see Cheryl and Veronica dance in slow-motion at the teen-run club, quickly followed by Hiram sledgehammering a bunch of bottles of rum in slow-motion. The stakes! Are! High! Eventually, Veronica and Cheryl decide to convert Penelope’s former brothel into a social club where they can shill their run without Hiram interfering. They hire Penelope to manage it, and this is how I was reminded that Penelope has been living in the bunker this whole time!!!!
“Why are we even here?” Cheryl asks Toni during the quiz show finals, and it’s an accidentally very meta moment, because indeed, what role do Cheryl and Toni even play in the story right now? We’re getting so much Brett and Uncle Steve and other characters who didn’t enter until this season, and Riverdale is losing track of some of its main characters.