The whole premise of the latest episode of Riverdale is that Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) is showing off her latest set of paintings to Minerva, who returned for a visit, despite having her life threatened the last time she was at the Blossom estate. Cheryl has moved on from forgeries to her own original work. She has four paintings to show Minerva, each of which lets us catch up on a different Riverdale cast member. The first is Archie (KJ Apa) as a coal miner.
But Archie doesn’t mine coal, you say, he’s too busy dealing with his PTSD. On that point, he’s meeting with a therapist for the first time. For anyone wondering, the Ted Lasso therapy scenes are much more entertaining. Dr. Winters, Archie’s therapist, tries a hypnosis technique that gets him into his memory of Bingo’s death. You’ll remember Bingo as the private who died on the battlefield while Archie was helpless to do anything about it.
Jackson isn’t in therapy but is on meds instead. Archie is worried about the meds’ side effects, but Jackson says it’s okay. And Jackson is looking a lot better than Archie these days.
Cheryl pays the Andrews house a visit. She wants Archie, Uncle Frank, and Jackson to put a crew together and get the palladium out from under her groves. They enlist Reggie (Charles Melton), Fangs, and Kevin (Casey Cott) to assist. Cheryl leads them all in prayer, and Fangs is the only one who raises an eyebrow at this. He’s all “Cult me once, shame on you. Cult me twice, shame on me.”
On their first day of mining, everyone takes a break except Kevin, who keeps on digging, despite the obvious safety concerns. Archie heads back into the mine after him, and flashes back hard to Bingo’s death, falling to the ground, picturing gunfire all around. Archie snaps out of it and berates Kevin, but Kevin has news. He found a big nugget of pallidum!
Archie inquires with Dr. Winters about taking some drugs for his PTSD. She gives him something that I get will get the feeling will turn out to be highly addictive.
During their break from mining, the guys talk Mothmen, with Fangs leading Mothmen History 101.
The guys are really mining, despite the only one having any experience with this is Uncle Frank. Archie hears a call for help, sees Jackson with his back to him, but when Eric turns around, it’s a mothman he sees. Archie freaks out, running from the mine. He bursts into Dr. Winters’ office asking what’s in the pills she gave him. He’s convinced she’s experimenting on them. She’s understandably freaked out and it’s not until her current patient, another former soldier, stands up to Archie that Archie backs down.
Jackson, on the other hand, seems fine and recommends Archie continue seeing Dr. Winters. Uncle Frank thinks Archie should take a break from the mining and catch up on some office work instead. While stoking a fire, Archie hears voices crying out in anguish coming from the mine and finds Kevin and Fangs both freaking out. Reggie runs out screaming. Jackson is trying to kill Uncle Frank, calling him the devil, until Archie knocks him out. Maybe test the air in the mine?
Sure enough, Uncle Frank thinks it’s carbon monoxide. Cheryl is pissed, wanting them to resume digging ASAP. I hope she’s paying them well since she doesn’t seem to care all that much for their safety.
Archie returns to Dr. Winters hat in hand apologizing. He explains about the carbon monoxide poisoning behind his freak out. He’s seeing every soldier that died under his watch and needs help. Dr. Winters doesn’t feel comfortable being alone with him though, and after hearing his claims of seeing dead soldiers everywhere, doesn’t think he should be around people. Next episode: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Riverdale style?
Cheryl shows off more paintings, the next of Betty looking straight out of a horror movie.
Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) meet late at night at Pop’s after closing to talk about the trucker they caught last week. Betty wants Tabaitha to back out and let her take care of interrogating the guy, who she keeps chained up in the Riverdale High’s garage. You know Betty means business because she’s in her all leather outfit when she shows up to interrogate him. When he says he’s a US citizen with rights, she responds, “You’re not in the United States anymore,” she tells him, “you’re in Riverdale.” I almost expected her to deliver that David Caruso style. All that was missing was aviators and The Who yelling Yeaaaahhhh!
She pulls files on all the missing girls, asking the guy about them. He gives her the location of one of the bodies, but Betty finds only dog bones buried there. He calls Betty Agent Cooper, which throws her. Apparently, it’s known up and down the highway that she’s after truckers. This guy is a big-time Incel, saying if he gives Betty what she wants, she’ll cast him aside just like every other woman. Hey Betty, maybe it’s time to call in the real FBI.
Betty wants Alice to talk to the guy, hoping that seeing a grieving mother will get him to confess. Alice meets with him, showing him childhood photos of Polly. It seems to get through to him, but it was all a ruse. He mocks her, which sends Alice into a blind rage.
Betty’s next idea: make him think he’s going to die. Alice sees that and raises her, suggesting Betty actually kill him. She even gives Betty permission to kill him. I’m not sure that’s how that works, Alice.
When the killer isn’t helpful, Betty gives him a very “To the pain” speech about her plans to hurt him severely but keep him alive. This surprisingly gets him to talk, but it’s more mind games. He verifies a bunch of details about Polly with her and then says he doesn’t remember her at all.
Betty flashes back to being imprisoned by the Trash Bag Killer. He gave her the same “To the pain” speech Betty just gave the trucker, word for word.
Betty returns with a chainsaw, but later tells her mom the trucker bit his own tongue off and choked on it before Betty got there. They’re going to take him to Dr. Curdle. But how are they going to explain away all his bruises, and where they found him? And did he really bite his own tongue off or did Betty kill him? Betty thinks he’s part of a family of killers hunting together.
Cheryl’s third painting is of Jughead (Cole Sprouse), sitting on a throne. Ooh, we’re finally getting a Jughead catch-up? Jughead is in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. We find out about Jughead’s college years. He was bored his freshman year, which was good because he dove into reading and writing. Unfortunately, he also started drinking at night.
Jughead signed with his first literary agent as a freshman. He gives Jughead a bottle of whiskey, which can’t end well. Jughead and Betty share a phone call, and Jughead shares his good news. He left college to move to NY to become a full-time writer. That’s when Jughead moves from whiskey to shrooms. Jughead gets more into drinking, and despite being with Jess, who now moved in, is still texting Betty. He invites her to his book launch but on the night of, she says she can’t make it, which leads to Jughead leaving that toxic message Betty shared with Tabitha and Jessica a few episodes back. Jughead still regrets that message. Then he says he never made it to the party but was swallowed up by the dark. What a writerly way to say got blackout drunk.
The group leader asks if that’s a metaphor, but nope, Jughead said he went from stumbling in a back alley to waking up in a hospital room. Sounds like a metaphor to me. Jessica is there, waiting for him to wake up. You get the feeling this episode that she’s not nearly as bad a girlfriend as Jughead made her out to be. She clearly cared/cares for him. He was unconscious for days, but it didn’t change anything for Jughead. He kept drinking and not writing, so when Archie called, he ran to Riverdale. But he didn’t clean up there either, so decided to leave Riverdale and head back to NYC to find answers about his three missing days.
He went to St. Vincent’s. He was treated for rabies. Jess tells him he disappeared for three days before showing up at St Vincent’s ranting about a Rat King who lived under the streets of NYC. Possible TMNT crossover???
Jughead literally went underground during that time, falling through a sinkhole into the sewer. The Rat King is ready to kill Jughead, but Jughead tells him he’s a writer and can tell him a story. Jughead reads him his whole book, which the Rat King loves. He wants Jughead to stay down there to tell him more stories.
He has a vision of Betty saying he’s in danger. In the vision, Betty says the city floods the sewers every two weeks, and he’ll drown. I don’t think the city does that on purpose, Jones. Jughead makes it back to street level, where the cops take him to the hospital. Jughead regales this entire tale without a hint of irony or acknowledging how nutty this all sounds.
The group leader asks Jughead what we are all thinking, how much of this is actually true? Jughead says he found the alley recently. The sinkhole was gone, but he was able to pry open a sewer grate. His cot and his book were still there. The Rat King and his story about being captive was written in the margins of the book. All that was in Jughead’s head. There was no actual Rat King. In reality, he woke up in the sewer, covered in rats. Bloodsport nightmare (watch Suicide Squad for that to make sense). But wait, if he was covered in rats and afraid to move, when did he write a whole story in the margins of his book? Realizing what really happened to him made Jughead realize he needed to get his drinking under control, which is why he’s here in group. Sorry, folks, looks like no TMNT–Riverdale crossover.
Cheryl painted one more painting. Psyche is revived by Cupid’s kiss with Cheryl playing the part of Cupid and Minerva as Psyche. She’s conflicted. She has feelings for Cheryl, but on the other hand, last time she was here, Nana Rose encouraged Cheryl to sacrifice her to an eldritch terror. You understand. But Minerva relents and decides to stay overnight in Riverdale.