Riverdale is back! I’m excited! Not only because my favorite best worst show is back with new episodes, but also because my friend Justin Repasky’s band Imaginary People’s new song Hometown is featured on tonight’s episode. While the episode title of tonight’s Riverdale might scream late 90s James Van Der Beek movie, the episode itself plays out more like classic Friday Night Lights, just of course crazier, because Riverdale gotta be Riverdale. 

The Riverdale Bulldogs are going to the state finals. I never realized before how similar the football uniforms are on Riverdale and Friday Night Lights. “Clear eyes! Full hearts! Can’t lose!” But here it would be “M’hija! Boy! Jingle Jangle!” It just occurred to me that I have no idea who the Riverdale High football coach is. These kids need some Coach Taylor in their lives. Maybe they wouldn’t be out joining cults or opening speakeasies if they had a heart to heart with Coach or Mrs. Taylor on a week to week basis.

Coach and Mrs. Taylor

Riverdale will be facing the Stonewall Stallions in the state finals. Is it ironic that the other school in the state finals is the only other school on this show? The other school that Jughead briefly attended doesn’t count since that was closed down to start a prison. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Riverdale takes its cues from Gossip Girl, a show that had me regularly saying, “Are these the only six people in New York?”

XOXO Gossip Girl

Bret suggests Jughead get a new computer, that his is a bit too beat up for a writer of his caliber. Jughead counters that the keys have basically molded to fit his fingers over time. But Jughead can’t debate this with Bret, because he has to head to a meeting with Mr. Dupont. Dupont lets Jughead know that Yale is interested in him. Jughead is hesitant because Betty was already denied Yale admission.

In the bowels of La Bon Nui, Veronica and Reggie taste test her new rum. This can’t be legal.

Principal Honey introduces Ms. Appleyard to the Vixens. She’s to be their new coach. Cheryl isn’t pleased. It suddenly occurs to me that maybe football doesn’t have a coach since cheerleading has gone so long without one. Ms. Appleyard lays down the law quickly. The Vixens will be focusing on cheering, not singing and dancing to pop songs. She’s got a good pedigree, she led her last team to nationals three years in a row. That quiets Cheryl for now.

Betty works on an article about the football final at the behest of Principal Honey. But when Reggie claims that Stonewall plays to hurt, not to win, Betty wants to change the focus of the article to an exposé.

Uncle Frank (remember this guy?) and Archie share some Chinese takeout. Frank plans on moving on, but Archie wants him to stay. Apparently, they’re keeping it a secret from Mary that Frank has been in town. This is weird, even for Riverdale. When Mary finds out, she’s none too pleased. She has no faith in Frank, claiming he’ll bolt at the first sign of trouble.

Jughead breaks it to Betty that he has an interview with Yale. She encourages him to go. She laments about the puff piece she’s writing about the game for Principal Honey. Jughead suggests interviewing the opposing QB, who happens to be Bret, his roommate. Betty points out he’s the same Bret who attacked them in a bunny mask.

Jughead and Betty discuss Yale on Riverdale

Cheryl brings muffins to Ms. Appleyard as a peace offering. This is really Cheryl’s only opening move, huh? Appleyard suggests Cheryl spend more time in the weight room and less time baking. That doesn’t go well.

Bret and Betty sit down for an interview and it’s like Clarice interviewing Hannibal Lecter. Bret calls football a sport of gladiators, and says you win by debilitating your enemies. Then he promptly leaves. That was a very weird, two sentence interview.

Veronica meets with local restaurant owners. She pitches them on Luna Rum. They’re impressed and not at all concerned that the business is owned by a high schooler.

Jughead returns to his room to find a Quill and Skulls box on his desk. In it is a new computer, courtesy of Bret and the rest of the Quill and Skulls. Why are they trying to buy him off? Or has Bret installed a keylogger and other spyware to keep tabs on Jughead?

Cheryl and the Vixens announce to Principal Honey that they’re going on strike. They demand their new coach be fired immediately on what is only her second day on the job. Like President Trump, Cheryl doesn’t believe in oversight. Honey says he doesn’t respond well to threats but in this case will consider it. Uh-huh. He’s setting you up for you fall, Cheryl.

Betty meets with victims from other school’s teams. One player says the Stonewall coach pays bounties to his players to hurt the other team.

Cut to Mad Dog Monroe getting jumped outside of Archie’s gym by four guys in bunny masks. Instead of heading back inside to get backup from his teammates, he decides to take them on himself. Soon, Archie and the other Bulldogs find Monroe on the ground. One of the attackers golf clubbed Monroe in the knee. Uh-oh. I know Monroe is a tough fighter, but simple math would have told him that the Bulldogs would have overwhelmed the bunnies very quickly.

Up at Stonewall, the Quill and Skulls initiate Jughead. Bret joins conspicuously late due to a “prior commitment.” Why not have him walk in swinging a golf club for the all the subtlety of that line? They all share their deepest and darkest secrets. Donna is a cutter. Bret’s dad got him a hooker when he was 14. Johnathan doesn’t get a chance to speak. The Pussycats are off the show and the one black kid still on the show doesn’t get a line during “we’ll all share our dark secrets before you do, Jughead.” Not a good look, showrunners. Jughead talks about being homeless and how a homeless guy named Doc looked after him. One day some drunken businessmen beat Doc to death and Jughead did nothing. He says how he never told anyone that story, not even Betty. Of course, this is all being filmed, and no, how could this ever come out to harm Jughead later?

The Vixens all turn on Cheryl and Toni after Honey threatened to ban them from prom. Cheryl and and Toni are off the team. Appleyard is back in control. That was easy.

The Bulldogs take the fight to Stonewall, starting a team vs. team brawl in the middle of the swank Stonewall library, in an attempt to avenge Mad Dog Monroe. This lands the Bulldogs in jail. Uncle Frank bails Archie out of jail. Archie didn’t call his mom. Archie and Uncle Frank bond over their shared love of boxing while eating fries at Pops. When Uncle Frank asks if Archie is any good at it, he casually mentions that he once boxed a bear.

Yale meets with Jughead. The interviewer likes his writing, which takes Jughead aback. Jughead, you got into a fancy private school because of your writing and won a YA ghostwriting contract. Accept the fact that people like your writing!

When Mary asks Archie if anything interesting happened today, he stammers out, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Dude, your mom is a lawyer. If she’s asking the question, it’s because she already knows the answer. And sure enough, she does. Skeet already filled her in. Mary isn’t a fan of Frank, largely because Fred took the fall for Frank in Frank’s DUI, and Frank paid him back by immediately skipping town.

Veronica sneaks into Stonewall’s pre-football party sporting a blonde wig, a couple of bottles of rum, and the alias Monica. When she says she’s taking orders, Bret tells her to go to his room, get undressed and wait for her and then laughs that privileged prep school laugh that makes you want Veronica to knock his teeth in. Veronica balks at this, and then pours him and his friends generous servings of rum instead. Bret gets boisterous. Veronica not so subtly questions Bret about Mad Dog’s injury, and he’s had enough rum to play along. Unfortunately, Jughead accidentally outs Monica as Veronica.  And Veronica accidentally out Jughead as being in a secret society to Betty over her mic wire. Oops.

Riverdale's Betty finds out Jughead is in a secret society

Later, Betty and Jughead have it out over their secrets but make up quickly. Betty is bummed that she has to file her story without a confession from Bret.

Archie confronts Frank about his DUI. We find out about Frank’s Desert Storm PTSD, how shameful he feels that Fred took the blame for him, and that he never made right with his brother before his passing.

Hiram visits Veronica at La Bon Nui. He’s impressed with her salesmanship. He’s so impressed that he serves her with a cease and desist due to patent infringement. Luna is a little too close to Lodge Rum. The spices she added are new, but the core recipe is the same. He’s ready to sue her out of business, but offers to team up instead. She’s not interested. Hiram isn’t happy with her turning him down, but we get a “m’hija” from Hiram at least. I smell a reconciliation coming…

Monroe can barely walk, much less play. Uncle Frank offers him a way to play through the pain, some strong painkillers he gets from the VA. Uncle Frank, the opioid king of Riverdale! Good thing they ran Dodger out of town. Better to keep this kind of business in the family. Even Archie, king of bad ideas, realizes how bad an idea this is. But Monroe wants to hear Frank out. Archie’s bad decision mind wins out when he leaves Uncle Frank alone with Monroe, saying he’ll see them at the game. Hey Archie, if you don’t want Uncle Frank dealing to your friend in your office, maybe escort at least one of them out with you!

Mr. Dupont wants Jughead to convince Betty to kill her story on Stonewall. Jughead refuses, and when he realizes it might affect his chances at Yale, he hints that won’t change his mind. But Dupont actually says the opposite and invites Jughead to sit with him and Mr. Brooks, the Yale rep, at the game. This Dupont, I can’t get a handle on him.

Principal Honey isn’t happy with Betty’s piece. He doesn’t want to publish a story based on hearsay. He’ll kill the story himself if she doesn’t change it.

Monroe shows up in the Bulldog locker room with no limp. That Archie is getting smarter; as he puts two and two together immediately. Monroe says this is the only time he’s taking the pills. Archie warns him that if he gets injured, he might never play again. But Monroe is betting against that for a shot at a Notre Dame scholarship. I’ve seen enough Friday Night Lights to know this is going to end so badly.

Betty finds Jughead on the Bulldog side of the stands. Jughead has convinced himself that Yale isn’t happening, and would rather sit with his old friends.

Game day on Riverdale

Reggie offers Veronica a way to get back at Hiram and then hops the fence from the bleachers to the field. Man, oh man, I was kind of hoping he’d sprain an ankle here. The Mad Dog painkiller football injury is obvious, but the cocky Reggie injury? No one would have seen it coming!

Reggie, Riverdale's star lunkhead

In the huddle, Archie says he wants the Bulldogs to protect Monroe. They know he’s already got a target painted on him.

Cheryl locks Ms. Appleyard in her office. I’m not sure how she managed to lock the door from the outside in a way that doesn’t allow the person inside to open it. Cheryl reclaims her team by calling them bitches and reams them out for their betrayal. Veronica is on Team Chery here, which is weird, because she showed up early to the field in uniform ready to cheer alongside the Vixens. Doesn’t that make her one of Cheryl’s betrayers too? Cheryl leads the Vixens in a rendition of The Runaways’ Cherry Bomb as the game gets underway. Stonewall is vicious, knocking Bulldog players to the ground with abandon. The Bulldogs quickly fall behind 7-0, but manage to keep the score at that until the last play of the game. Monroe gets the ball and runs it into the endzone despite a solid hit to the legs. Archie says Coach (if he even exists) called for a 2 pointer. With no time left on the clock, he hands off to Monroe and basically seals Monroe’s fate. Monroe runs into a wall of Stonewall players and falls under them. Riverdale loses the game.

Uncle Frank comes into the locker room to congratulate Archie and his team for how well they played today, despite losing. Archie doesn’t want to hear it. He’s pissed that Uncle Frank dealt to Monroe. But Monroe is elated. He comes into the locker room crowing that a Notre Dame recruiter saw him play and wants him to play for the Irish. At least he gets a happy ending.

After the game, Cheryl offers Veronica a lick of a maple snowcone and Veronica gets an idea.

Over in the parking lot, Hiram finds his classic car keyed from end to end and a Luna bottle hanging out of the gas tank. This was Reggie’s grand plan? Subtle, m’hija. Subtle.

Archie and Uncle Frank make up enough for Uncle Frank to move into the house. Archie is willing to overlook Frank’s drug dealing to Monroe because everything worked out. I’m sure this ends well and doesn’t escalate with Uncle Frank becoming a major drug lord in Riverdale. It’s not like the town has had massive drug problems in the past.

Veronica meets with Cheryl at Pops. She gives Cheryl a shot of Luna Maple Rum. These two ladies are officially in business together. And I’m confused how adding maple syrup to the rum will get your around Hiram’s cease and desist claiming the base recipes are the same, m’hija.

Principal Honey is happy with Betty and her article. She lets him know that Stonewall has an elite quiz team captained by Bret. Betty wants to field a team to take them down a peg. Honey likes it. He’s hungry for trophies, any trophies.

Jughead is surprised to see Skeet at school with Mr. Dupont and his classmates. They’re there to celebrate both Bret and Jughead getting into Yale. Oh boy.

Flash forward to one month later and Betty is cleaning out Jughead’s room. A sad and angry Bret tells her to save her tears. Betty is taking Jughead’s spot at Yale, just like she wanted, he says. Oooooookaaaaaaaayyyyyyy…