How To Practice Safe Shipping in ‘Riverdale’

The stars of the CW hit show explain how to protect yourself — from shipping too dramatically.

Despite Riverdale fast-forwarding seven years post-high school just two episodes ago, this week took us right back to the oh-so-familiar hallways of Riverdale High. We really just can’t escape this place, huh?

And if this week’s recap of all the epic highs and lows of high school football reads a bit different to you, that’s because I’m taking over the hallowed duties from your usual recapper Sam Highfill while she’s on a very well-deserved vacation. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve written about the shenanigans of the town with pep murder capital of the world, and things have gotten exponentially crazier around here since then. But at least one thing’s for sure — I can always count on Riverdale to make poor song choices for the musical performances and deliver a random murder plot. So let’s jump into “Back to School,” which gave us both!

As the episode title suggests, it’s officially the first day of school (again) for all these (technically not so) recent high school grads. Toni and Kevin carpool together on Toni’s motorcycle and Veronica’s strutting back through Riverdale High’s hallways like she never left, whereas Betty, Jughead, and Archie look appropriately stressed out about becoming teachers without a lick of proper teaching education. Meanwhile, Hiram worries that Riverdale High’s existence could be a beacon of hope for the nonexistent town, and might actually help bring back the town’s existence. Because that’s how townships totally work.

And because her new job as a teacher isn’t enough for this Diamond District dealer, Veronica also wants to open a new fine jewelry store in the town that is no longer a town and can’t afford to even be a town, let alone buy fine jewelry. She tells Smithers she doesn’t want her controlling, toxic husband Chad to know about her idea. But methinks he’ll probably find out in about three scenes, if we’re going by Riverdale’s usual pacing.

Meanwhile, Betty’s more worried about Polly’s recent disappearing act than her new students fearing her as the daughter of the Black Hood, so Archie offers to de-stress her with another secret steamy hookup. She takes him up on that with a Titanic recreation (you know, hand on a steamy car window), right in the high school workshop. What an appropriate place for two newly-hired teachers to have sex! But at least this “Barchie” thing is not just a one-night stand. It took five seasons and they’re actually getting their due (sorry, “Varchie” lovers). Their hookup is oh-so-rudely interrupted, however, by some teens starting a trash can fire in the middle of the Riverdale High hallway. This won’t be the only arson of the night!

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At Pop’s, Jughead’s new boss Tabitha reveals she’s determined to turn the Chock’lit Shoppe into a full-on franchise, and she’s got loads more ideas about how to expand it into a successful business. And then Jughead is forced to wait on his new students. Talk about awkward!

The next day, Archie’s excuse for being in the high school at night is that he was “night jogging,” and that’s why he noticed the fire. Turns out Stonewall Prep kids were the arsonists, sent/protected by Hiram, so they’re basically untouchable. Plus, they’re star football players, coached by none other than Hiram’s righthand man, Reggie. So, of course, Archie punches Reggie in the face in front of the whole Stonewall Prep team, and leaves them with a promise that Riverdale is going to demolish Stonewall on the football field — but first, he needs to actually convince Principal Weatherbee to reinstate Riverdale’s team, despite having absolutely no funding. This is a great idea!

Jughead’s students try to embarrass him by putting a tip jar on his desk as school, but it doesn’t work. He’s up front about his need for double employment despite being a famous writer. He’s really not hiding anything. Mature and unflappable is a nice look on Jughead!

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Meanwhile, Veronica’s class is interrupted by Chad bringing her flowers, completely undermining her authority in front of her students. This dude really can’t take a hint. Why did Veronica even marry him in the first place? He’s such a wet blanket. Archie meets him in the teacher’s lounge and he’s not impressed either. And the gang decides to blow off steam with a karaoke night at the Whyte Wyrm.

Toni tells Betty that Polly’s been spotted a lot at a sketchy truck stop known for shady dealings, which is the first lead she’s been able to get about her missing sister. So Betty enlists Kevin for help, and they hack into Polly’s secret online account to set up a meeting with one of her usual trucker “clients” before heading to karaoke night while they wait for a reply.

At Thornhill, the construction workers are starting to revolt because they’re not getting paid thanks to Cheryl’s financial woes. Cheryl is confident that her plan to sell a fake version of a super expensive painting will get her the necessary funds to keep the renovations going.

At karaoke night, Toni introduces Veronica to the crowd as Veronica Lodge, which is definitely not what her controlling, possessive husband wants to hear! But Veronica brushes it off and grabs the mic, regaling the Whyte Wyrm crowd with a Riverdale version (read: yikes) of A Star Is Born‘s “Shallow,” which she meant to perform as a solo but Chad crashes her song and forces her to turn it into a duet. It’s supposed to be romantic, I guess? But come on, this guy sucks! He’s not even a good singer. And he’s nothing but horrible to Veronica. All his “nice” gestures and romantic moments are calculated and emotionally abusive. But everyone thinks they’re some happy couple based on this performance, and Veronica’s smiling and seems super into it. Kevin is even crying! I just don’t know how we’re supposed to feel about all this, guys. And then because the night went so well, Chad decides to stay in Riverdale “for a few days,” and Veronica’s happy about it? But he’s obviously going to stay there as long as Veronica does because he can’t let her out of his sight.

Back at the high school, Archie recruits his RROTC guys and a few other students for Riverdale’s new football team — including a girl! We stan gender equality in sports! But he still runs into an issue with funding (of course). So he goes to Riverdale’s resident investor Cheryl Blossom for more money, trying to appeal to Cheryl’s love for her football-loving brother as a tactic. It doesn’t work. He just pisses her off more.

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Betty gets a weird message back from the trucker Polly was in contact with, so she and Kevin decide to stake out the sketchy trucker stop to see what’s up. And Jughead, off a tip from Tabitha, seeks out an interview subject for a story about a mysterious “Mothman.” It turns out to be some ghost story about alien-like abductions and things that live in caves off the highway, but Jughead never heard of the tall tale before despite living in Riverdale all his life. He’s intrigued.

During Betty and Kevin’s truck stop stakeout, they notice a woman walking away with a big wad of cash. But then Polly’s “TruckerBoy69” (yes, that’s actually his account name) email friend shows up, and Betty apprehends him. He admits to buying Jingle Jangle from Polly and driving with her for a half-mile until she jumped out of his truck and started running away. He says she was scared and gives Betty the location he saw her last. Betty tells a worried Alice about the investigation and what she learned about Polly.

Archie admits to the “football team” that there’s no funding for them, and he gets even more upset when he sees Toni walk in wearing an HBIC shirt with her Riverdale Vixen squad. She proudly tells Archie that they’re Riverdale’s only sports team, and they’re going to be competing against other schools’ cheer squads — something not even Cheryl was able to accomplish when she was in school. Archie then gets the idea to hit up Veronica for the money necessary for his football team, even though he’s worried it might be weird to ask his ex for a large sum of money.

Cheryl gets a tip from the school’s secretary about Toni leading the new Vixens and then fetches a high price tag for the original portrait that she plans to swap out for the fake copy she painted. In every scene, Cheryl has a perfect tear running down her cheek. This is a new level of crazy, even for Cheryl. I’m actually very worried about her.

Betty and Alice find Polly’s wallet and shoes on the side of the highway, which is not a good sign. They didn’t find her cell phone though, so Betty says the FBI can trace it to find her.

And then Riverdale trolls itself beautifully when Jughead tells Archie to never again bring up the “epic highs and lows of high school football,” and friends, I couldn’t catch my breath because I was laughing so hard. No matter what, you’ve just got to love this strange show. Jughead also tells Archie to just lean into the weirdness of asking his ex for money.

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Veronica gets Chad to agree to support her new jewelry store endeavor, and he surprisingly does. They agree to be a two-home couple, commuting back and forth from the city to Riverdale, and decide to remodel the apartment at the Pembrooke to give them a clean start. But then Chad admits Hiram gave him a job offer to manage Sodale properties, which sets off her red flag alert because her Hubby and Daddykins have been talking behind her back. Their tense conversation is interrupted by Archie stopping by, asking for funding, and Veronica agrees to front the startup costs. Chad, of course, makes it weird though, asking for Archie to renovate their apartment in exchange so it’s not a “charity handout,” to which Archie agrees. “Awesomesauce,” is Chad’s actual reply. Awesomesauce. Veronica’s not happy with how this all went down, and Chad’s true colors slip out for a second before he apologizes and gets all romantic again — classic abuser cycle. And then he suggests going to Mia’s, a restaurant Hiram recommended — bringing the weirdness right back.

Jughead looks into the Mothman victims and finds out they all died from the same type of cancer. He thinks maybe they were all exposed to radiation on a spaceship, and while he doesn’t believe this whole alien theory fully, he loves it as a story. He’s going to look further into it, and Tabitha offers her help. Sparks are flying between these two, y’all!

Betty stops by Archie’s place for a distraction from the Polly investigation, and they continue where their car rendezvous left off. While cuddling after yet another steamy hookup, Betty gets a message from her FBI Academy friend about Polly’s cellphone, and she leaves him in bed with a kiss.

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The next morning, Chad wakes up to find his suitcases packed by Veronica. She wants to pump the brakes on their relationship and finally admits she wants space from him. He thinks it’s because of Archie, but she says it’s actually because of her. She needs to figure out if she’s “a Pop’s girl or a Mia’s girl.” He says it’s not a problem, but we all know it most definitely will be.

Meanwhile, Toni finds Cheryl in her office, with the red-lipped former HBIC angry about how her ex “stole” her Vixens from her — even though it’s been seven years since Cheryl was a Vixen and shouldn’t care anymore about high school cheerleading. “You’re playing a very dangerous game, Topaz,” Cheryl warns, with a hint of the old HBIC venom in her voice. Is this what finally brings Cheryl back to her usual self? It’s weird, but I’ll take it. Anything to get her to stop crying in every scene she’s in.

Archie and Veronica meet with the newly formed football team in the boy’s locker room, happy about finally achieving success. But the school secretary (she’s been busy this week, huh?) tips off Hiram this time about what’s happening with the team. He’s not happy. And Reggie’s got an idea of how to handle this latest ruffle in their plans to completely demoralize Riverdale.

Polly’s cell phone location leads Betty, Alice, and Kevin to a swamp at night, and they hear her ring tone in the distance. Kevin tracks it… right to a dead body. Is it Polly? The Cooper family has the worst luck when it comes to murder, huh?

But the danger comes to Archie’s doorstep in the next scene, as he and Jughead discover their front porch and back porch are both on fire. Hmm — we just learned that Stonewall Prep football players love to set fires. Is this how Hiram and Reggie plan to take care of Archie’s new football team? By just… killing Archie? It sure tracks with Hiram’s usual tactics.

And next week: Cheryl proposes a Vixens dance off, à la the Riverdale series premiere! Who says you can’t go home again?

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