Any preconceived notions that Riverdale is nothing more than a CW high school show are quickly evaporating as this season continues with When a Stranger Calls. And we're only on episode five! The fact that these kids even go to Riverdale High seems more like just a convenient place for them to hang out considering how little we actually see them in class. This episode had one of my favorite moments not only of this season but maybe of the series thus far. Grab your milkshake and let's get on with it!
This episode picks up exactly where we left off last week with Betty (Lili Reinhart) speaking to The Black Hood on the phone. He explains to her how he's trying to cleanse Riverdale of sinners and that includes her sister Polly-and he knows she's on that farm. He threatens Betty by telling her if she tries to warn Polly, talks to Jughead (Cole Sprouse), or tells the police about him then he'll kill her sister. Then her mom, Mrs. Cooper (Madchen Amick) has the impeccable timing to come into her room. As Betty hangs up her mom assumes it was Jughead and starts complaining about him being a "south-sider" and hanging with all those "criminals and degenerates." How Betty is keeping it together after that phone call and her mother nagging is some nerves of steel.
That next morning, Betty asks Archie (KJ Apa) to walk her to school figuring that since they are neighbors that wouldn't alert The Black Hood to anything suspicious. She makes him promise to not say anything and tells him how The Black Hood called her last night. With the ironic timing that Archie has sent Principal Weatherbee the letter, he requested disbanding the Red Circle this would've been a good time to call them. But since that is NOT an option Archie offers to help her and not let her deal with this on her own.
Over at the Lodge residence, Hermione (Marisol Nichols) is reading an article in the paper that Mrs. Cooper wrote to her husband Hiram (Mark Consuelos) about how he is trying to develop the South Side with his real estate but he shouldn't be trusted. The delays are causing them to lose capital and they need more investors, so they call upon some family friends named the St. Clair's from New York to come down for their planned open house. Because their son Nick (Graham Phillips) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) have a past history of being party buddies back in the day, the Lodge's ask their daughter to help influence the son into getting his parents to invest. She is happy to accept the request to make her parents proud and help out the company.
Down on the South Side, Jughead is dealing with the Serpents and how they want to build a pipe bomb and use it to blow up the offices of The Register because they are unhappy about the negative article Mrs. Cooper wrote about the South Side and the fact that the cops blamed them for Doiley getting stabbed last week. Jughead brings up how Doiley is saying he was jumped by them but they say he stabbed himself. When Jughead tries to talk them out of the bomb idea, he brings up talking to Archie which just infuriates them more. They question his loyalty to the Serpents and as to what side he is really on. Toni (Vanessa Morgan) tells Jughead that his dad kept the peace between the north and the south but now that's he gone there's no referee.
At Betty's house, Archie is sitting with her as The Black Hood makes his expected call. He tells Betty that her mother Alice is being an annoyance so he sends her an e-mail, with an article that he wants to be published in the school newspaper. If she does this, he says it will prove her loyalty to him and he will allow her to ask one question of him. The e-mail turns out is an article with a picture of her mother, as a teen, in a mug shot with the headline reading "Southside Teen Arrested". Betty initially resists complying with his demands (even with Archie trying to convince her) but then Mrs. Cooper accuses her of faking the message from TBH and this makes Betty lose all love for defending her mother's reputation and she publishes the article. When it comes out her mother is quite upset and asks her where she got it. Betty just tells her its justice for all the bad press she has been giving the south-siders. When Betty gets a call from TBH, she asks her question if he is someone she knows and he answers "yes." Well, now it's like we have a big group photo up that we can start trying to put red "X's" through. But he's not done with her, he wants Betty to cut Veronica out of her life next.
After Jughead does some deep hard teen angst thinking, he decides he wants to take on his dad's responsibility and try to keep the peace between the north and the south sides. He grabs his jacket with the Serpent crest on the back and tells the gang that he's ready to be a member. So now comes the fun part as to join any gang one doesn't just fill out a "questionnaire for initiation." He gets woken up in the middle of the night by a bunch of guys wearing actual snake masks like something out of a fraternity for Dungeons & Dragons and is told he has to take care of the gang's four-legged friend "Hot Dog." Next, he has to memorize all the Serpent laws and scream them back at the top of his lungs in the local Serpent bar. Then the fun really goes up a notch, as he has to stick his hand in a case and pull out a knife surrounded by a rattlesnake (but non-venomous, they're not savages).
When the St. Clair's arrive Veronica is there to greet them and offers to help them with anything they need while in Riverdale. Nick comes up to her and immediately complains about the hotel they are staying in (the amusingly titled Five Seasons) all the while staring at Veronica with the devilish appetite of a wolf that has found new prey. This guy has the instant stench of dollar bills and dishonesty. Later on, when she is hanging with Nick and Archie after dinner he offers her some cocaine and she turns it down. While this doesn't stop Nick from inhaling the powder it does show that there is a side of Veronica we have yet to see. Not only does Nick poke fun at the small town city life of Riverdale but his flirting with Veronica in front of Archie is just waiting for him to get a punch in the gut.
Nick decides to have a get together at his hotel room and invites all our Riverdale regulars to it but the social butterfly queen herself, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) overhears about it and decides to introduce herself to Nick. The fact that Cheryl would want to gravitate to Nick's upper-class self, doesn't surprise at all. That night at Nick's hotel, things are going too normal for a party so he decides to up the stakes and breaks out many doses of "jingle-jangle" for everyone. As he looks to Veronica to join him this time around she is hesitant until he brings up how she's supposed to be keeping him entertained per her father's wishes. With that, she makes an excuse for herself to indulge this time around and just like dominoes the rest of the group falls in on the decision to do the drug-except Betty. We keep getting several examples of people doing this drug but I have yet to figure out what exactly it is. I first just assumed it was speed, but in this episode, everyone is dancing around and getting all amped up while making out with each other like they're at a rave in the desert. Either way, while everyone seems to be having the best time, Betty is sitting in a chair alone, with a look on her face that is equal parts boredom and critic of the site before her. When Veronica tries to get her to join in on the festivities, Betty uses this as a time to cut Vee down and tell her how she's only using them and that they're not her friends but just distractions for her. Betty makes sure to really bring it home by telling Veronica "like father, like daughter" and then leaves the party. As much as it had to hurt saying all those things to Veronica, Betty knows she was doing it to save her.
After the party has ended, Nick decides that he hasn't shown how much of a pig he is yet and tries to make a move on Veronica. When he doesn't take the polite "no," she actually has to push him off of her. With his ego damaged he calls her a "tease" and threatens to sabotage the business deal between their parents if she doesn't cater to his needs. She waits for him to get in close and gives him a swift slap in the face and leaves. Well, it's not a punch to the gut, but I'll take it!
As Betty sits outside, crying at a bus stop that looks out of a John Carpenter film, she gets on the phone with The Black Hood and tells him she got Veronica out of her life. She asks him what will make him stop, and he tells her as long as she continues to "show her devotion." So with that TBH makes another request and tells her to get Jughead out of her life or he will kill him. Damn, he is just really putting her heart through the meat grinder. So she enlists Archie's help to go tell Jughead that they need to not see each other for awhile. When Archie argues that this guy is destroying her life she tells him it's keeping him from hurting anyone else so she wants to keep doing what he says. Being the good friend that he is, Archie goes over to Jughead's place just as he's about to meet up with the Serpents for the final part of his initiation. Maybe Archie was going to be delicate about it, but when he sees Jughead in cahoots with the Serpents he really makes sure to keep him away from Betty and tells him that she doesn't want to see him anymore. He embellishes by saying she's felt this way for weeks but couldn't bring herself to break it off. When Jughead doubts this, Archie invites him to call Betty, and to make sure that he lets her know he's becoming a Serpent as well. I think the plan worked a little too well because now it seems like Jughead might have lost Betty AND Archie.
That day at the open house, the Lodges are all smiles as they hope Veronica came through and got the St. Clair's to open up their wallets for them. Speaking of, Nick approaches Veronica and apologizes for his actions saying he's been having a tough time going in and out of rehab. So how does rehab effect you not respecting a girl's relationship with someone else? This guy is so full of himself he doesn't even realize his own bullshit he's slinging. And just when we needed a confirmation of this guy's immoral self, he sees Cheryl and as he offers to get her a drink, drops a pill into her glass which we know is not a Vitamin C tablet. Even with the town looking down at Alice Cooper for her released mug shot she still shows up to the open house to do her job reporting but she makes sure to wear an outfit hot enough to break some men's necks as she walks by. Thank goodness Betty is not there to be embarrassed. As Veronica is performing on stage she sees Nick take a very wobbly Cheryl away from the event and since she knows him well grabs the Pussycats and they follow. Sure enough, when they enter his hotel room (thank you to the maid who left her keys on the cart) he has Cheryl on the bed and he's hovering like a vulture over her. Veronica grabs him first and decks him in the face and then the rest of the girls proceed to give him a good beat down. If I was in a theater watching this, I would've stood up and applauded.
Meanwhile, as Betty is sitting at home a depressed mess she gets a call from The Black Hood and tells him she broke up with Jughead. For her question, she asks for his identity and he sends her to some random abandoned house where he left her a box on the floor with a black hood in it. He tells her to put it on and asks her to turn around and look in a mirror. She does so and when she asks why, he says, "to show you we're the same." Well, that was about as lackluster of a reveal as we could not wish for.
In our last moments, we see Betty gets a call from Archie about Cheryl and she rushes over. Although very upset, Cheryl is okay and asking for Nick's head on a pike for what he did to her. Jughead is nursing his many wounds but he is now a full member of the Serpents. Knowing that he is now a single man Toni takes this opportunity to make her move and kisses him. Well, we can bet she was just waiting for that! Betty gets ANOTHER call from The Black Hood and he's upset because he knows Betty has been talking to Archie about him. Does this guy have her bugged or something? He threatens to kill Polly because of Betty's mistake unless she gives him another name. While she is very hesitant to do so he insists or he will also hurt her parents next. So with no other choice, she says, Nick St. Clair. And I don't think anyone is really going to argue with her choice either. You think Nick will be The Black Hood's next victim when Riverdale returns on The CW? Is Jughead going to give up on Betty for Tori?