It has been a totally batshit couple of days in America since last week’s episode, so I was really excited to sit down to “The Body Double” for some good, wholesome fun from my friends in Riverdale. Boy, did this episode deliver.
Cheryl clarifies to Sheriff Keller that she’s only confessing to being guilty of not telling the truth, NOT killing her brother. She says she loved Jason more than she loves herself ([insert the O.K. emoji here]) and explains that the “plan” that they had was bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Apparently, Jason wanted to leave Riverdale forever, so he enlisted Cheryl to help him get away without the ‘rents noticing. Seriously, how insane must the Blossom parents be for their son to want to fake his own death just to get away from them? Will we ever know? Right on cue, Mama and Papa Blossom swoop in to take Cheryl away–but not before she tells the Sheriff about the gunshot she and Jason heard after they made it safely across the river.
Speaking of crazy parents, Betty’s mom is a journalist and in fact runs the Riverdale newspaper with her husband. She has published Jason’s autopsy along with some damning headlines about Cheryl. Betty, frustrated by her mom’s lack of ethics, reminds Amy, “Whatever Jason did to Polly, he’s still a person.”
Back at the school, Archie confesses that he, too, heard the gunshot. “Was anybody with you?” the Sheriff asks. Archie has a soft-core-porn flashback to Grundy whispering, “Let’s make it a Fourth of July you’ll never forget” (ew, OMFG, ew), but he lies and says he was just with his dog practicing his top-secret music.
In the student lounge, Veronica reveals that she has a date with Chuck Clayton, the son of the football coach. Betty notes he’s “kind of a player,”; Kevin approves. Switching gears, Betty invites Jughead to restart the old school paper with her. She also calls him “Juggy,” which, in a different AU, is his Pokemon name. Juggy begrudgingly agrees and Betty gives him his first assignment: to talk to the boy scout troop leader Dilton Doiley, who found Cheryl by the river.
After school, Fred Andrews, who has just heard from the police that Archie was at the river on the Fourth instead of on that road trip with Jughead, grounds Archie for lying to him. Meanwhile, Veronica and Chuck take selfies outside of Pop’s. They bond over a shared backstory of being the new kid at different points in their lives, and then kiss.
The next day, Archie confronts Grundy about the situation and she’s just so darn mad she suspends their music lessons. In the hallway, Veronica dishes on the date (it was boring). A few girls walk by, sneering, “How was the sticky maple you had last night?” Veronica checks Instagram, where Chuck has published a photo with maple syrup photoshopped over V’s face. Walking-Urban-Dictionary Kevin Keller says, “It’s a Riverdale thing,” to which an enraged Veronica responds, “No, Kevin, it’s a slut-shaming thing” and storms off; Betty jogs after her, offering positive alternate solutions such as telling the principal or exposing Chuck in her brand-new newspaper, but Veronica barges into the locker room and confronts Chuck about the photo anyways. Big mistake: Veronica is on Chuck’s turf now. “You’re in bulldog territory,” he says, and all the guys around Veronica and Betty begin to bark and howl threateningly.
On the field, Jughead interrupts a boy scout meeting to confront Dilton, who is one shady nerd. In class, Cheryl whispers to Archie that he deserves a “reward” for backing up her story about the gunshot. Well, what she specifically says is, “I’m granting you one wish, Archie. Nothing is off the table. Except my body. Jason would want me to reward you,” and it’s all very fucking creepy and unnecessarily sexualized. Turns out the (totally innocent) favor is Josie agreeing to help with Archie’s music. Josie invites him to their rehearsals this week–he’s grounded, of course, but that’s not her problem.
At Veronica’s place, Hermione asks how the date went. Still shaken, all Veronica can muster is, “He’s not my type.” (Wishing only for the best for my sweet sapphic angel, I quietly whisper to the screen, “Because girls are your type, Veronica.”) With impeccable timing, Betty calls her, beckoning her to the journalism classroom. There, Ethel Muggs (portrayed by Shannon Purser, AKA Barb from Stranger Things) tells them the same thing that happened to Veronica happened to her, too. The football guys keep records of girls in a secret “playbook.” Cheryl interrupts with her usual annoying AF attitude, tastefully calling them all sluts and throwing some “boys will be boys” nonsense in there, just to really hammer it home that she’s the kind of white woman who got Trump elected. She, of course, doesn’t believe in the playbook, because Jason would never have allowed it. Annoyed by Cheryl’s callousness, Veronica gives another Ice Queen speech. It’s totally pandering to the part of the Riverdale audience that crosses over with woke Teen Vogue readers, but luckily, that’s me (I cheered).
Back at Pop’s, Juggy interrogates a boy scout while eating his food (rude). Turns out the gunshot was fired by Dilton, who was teaching the kids survival skills. At Pussycats practice, Archie quietly listens for like, 30 seconds, until he begs to write songs for them. Josie gives him a damn fine speech about how he can check his white privilege at the door. “Do you have any idea how much hate mail my mom got when she was elected mayor?” Josie demands, to which Archie responds, “I campaigned for your mom, I get it,” making himself look like an absolute tool to everyone on planet earth.
Betty and co. show up at the school with flashlights on a nighttime hunt for the goods. Cheryl interrupts; Kevin loves her boots for some presumably gay reason? Meanwhile, Barb Ethel does all the heavy lifting and finds the playbook immediately. It’s filled with names and ratings. Polly’s name is right next to Jason’s name, which sends Cheryl into a low-key panic attack concerning her beloved bro’s morality. Betty, also enraged, goes AWF: “They shame us into silence… they have zero lives they destroy.” Luckily, she has a plan.
In another rehearsal, the Pussycats argue about lyrics. Archie offers a solution. Josie isn’t swayed, but the other Pussycats are kinda into it, so even though she just gave him the White Male Privilege speech she’s like, “OK, sure, you can rewrite our songs.” (How does that make sense?! Whatever.) Josie starts singing the new version. Archie goes nuts for it and so do I, because Ashleigh Murray (Josie) is the cutest thing I’ve ever freaking seen no matter what white boy’s song she’s singing.
At home, Betty puts on red lipstick “because it makes me feel powerful.” We get a gregarious shot of the Covergirl logo. Her mom wipes it away, leaving streaks across Betty’s cheek. Betty tells Mom she’s going to Veronica’s to study for a test, but surprise: she shows up at Pop’s, where Chuck is eating alone. Armed with the Mother-Not-Approved Red Covergirl lipstick, she charms Chuck easily into hooking up. “You want to be a bad girl?” Chuck asks (gag), “like Polly was?” The mention of Polly catches her off guard, but she rolls with it. Betty convinces him to meet her at Ethel’s place to get it on by telling him Ethel has “a pool… and a hot tub.” Hot tubs are super sexy, so Chuck agrees.
Fred catches Archie getting home late after Pussycats practice. He worsens his punishment, banning Archie from attending the Pussycats’ performance tomorrow night. Archie attempts to accuse Dad of not taking his music seriously (“If I had a football game tomorrow night would you stop me from going?”). Archie is definitely in the wrong here (stop LYING, DUDE), but I appreciate the attempt to bring up fathers encouraging their sons’ healthy emotional outlets anyways.
To Chuck’s surprise, it’s Veronica who opens the door to Ethel’s pool house, and she looks like a total babe. It’s obviously a threesome situation. Chuck’s really into it even though I am/Veronica is trying not to vomit. V leads Chuck to the hot tub just as Betty walks in wearing a bra and a black wig and looking like an evil supermodel. Veronica’s eyes get absolutely MASSIVE because she’s just that gay for it.
In a less exciting plot, the parents are gathered in the school auditorium where Josie and the Pussycats are on stage. All the moms have a really awkward interaction that culminates in Amy Cooper getting the shit slapped out of her by Cheryl’s mother, who breaks down sobbing due to the horrible stories Amy published about the Blossom family.
Just as the Pussycats start playing, Archie sneaks up to the balcony overlooking the event. Jughead is also there for some reason, but he basically says “I’d love to stay but I don’t want to,” before jetting off to find and intimidate Dilton into giving him a statement. Archie sees his dad talking to Grundy, which fills all of us with extreme nervs, but it turns out Fred is just being the Best Dad Ever and asking Grundy seriously if his son has any talent in music so that he can support it fully and not worry about Archie’s future.
At the pool house, the girls pour drinks. In a true disservice to the feminist message we got earlier in the episode, Betty secretly grinds a muscle relaxer into Chuck’s glass. Appalled, Veronica asks if maybe they should slow down a little. Betty, reveling in a devious and amoral side of herself, gives Chuck the drugged drink anyway. The next thing we know he’s handcuffed to the hot tub as the heat slowly rises. Yep: they are boiling Chuck like a fucking frog.
Veronica records on her phone as Betty demands Chuck tell the truth about the date. He splutters out the story. Unsatisfied, Betty heels his head, pushing his face into the water. Veronica is really into this until she isn’t; Betty goes unscripted and starts pouring maple syrup all over him. Shouting now, Betty calls Chuck “Jason” and says he needs to pay for “what you did to Polly–what you did to me!” Yeah, this shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
In a major tone switch, we flash forward to the next morning where Archie catches his dad soundproofing the garage on his way to school. His dad mentions talking to Grundy last night, and that he fully supports his music career. Best. Dad. Ever.
At school, a wary Veronica catches up with Betty, who traded sleep for the finished article exposing Chuck’s lies. When Veronica presses Betty for details as to where her consciousness went during their little play date, Betty can’t remember it at all and denies that it happened. Does Betty have a split personality disorder that took over in the moment? Did her sister’s mental health crisis affect Betty so much she thinks she’s Polly now? Was the person V saw last night actually Polly, or could Polly not even exist at all?
Our gaggle of girls watches the football boys leave the school in disgrace. Ethel thanks Betty and Veronica. Cheryl rolls her eyes and says, “Hashtag Justice-For-Ethel” (sorry, didn’t she mean #JusticeForBarb?). Out behind the field, Betty and Cheryl throw the playbook in the garbage and burn it. They watch their names and their siblings’ names go up in flame, and Cheryl apologizes for whatever Jason did to Polly. Betty doesn’t even blink.
Back in the sexy music classroom, Grundy heads to her cello to rock out some more when Archie interrupts her. To absolutely nobody’s excitement, they start to get it on. In the journalism classroom, Dilton confesses to Juggy and Betty that he does know something else: he saw Ms. Grundy’s car at the scene of the crime.
- I’m getting kind of tired of the Jughead voiceover. It just doesn’t seem to have a purpose.
- “They didn’t make them like that in my day” (ew ew ew ew ew).
- Even if Chuck did get kicked off the field for being a major sexist douchebag, he can at least put “proficient in Adobe Photoshop” on his resume.
- When Betty convinced Chuck to go to Ethel’s place because she had a pool and a hot tub, I got serious Stranger Things flashbacks. Was anyone else worried that Shannon Purser was gonna die in a pool for the second time?
- This episode features LOTS of black characters who all get speaking roles, which is a step up from the last few episodes, but it does seem kind of unfortunate that this plot’s major villain is the first black male character we see. It’s also ironic considering that we get a speech about race from Josie, and yet… Riverdale doesn’t even take its own advice. In any case, I hope Chuck comes back at some point. Maybe a really solid redemption arc would fix this mess?
- On that note, I’d like to mention that K.J. Apa, who plays Archie, actually isn’t white. He’s mixed race, Samoan on his father’s side. Apparently though, Riverdale‘s Archie is textually white, and the creators ignored his ideas about bringing in a Samoan parent to reflect his heritage. Kind of weird that we’re whitewashing an actor for the sake of calling that actor’s character out on white privilege, but, like, OK.
- I guess if we are going to get a threesome tease, it’s good that the scene is teaching boys NOT that girls will willingly have threesomes with you, but rather that when they proposition you for a threesome they are probably going to kill you. What a nice change of pace.
- I want to go back to that pool house scene for a minute, because there’s something interesting going on there. We begin the scene with Chuck at the door. He knocks, and blows on his hands to warm them up. We’re in his perspective right now, so we share his surprise and arousal when Veronica opens the door. We get to use Chuck to oggle at V. I’m not necessarily complaining; I love to oggle just as much as any girl, but it should be noted that it’s specifically set up through a boy’s eyes. Chuck watches–so we watch–Veronica drop her cover up and slip into the jacuzzi. It’s mildly male-gazey at best, contextually exploitative and dehumanizing at worst. However, when Betty comes in dressed like the dark timeline version of herself, the reaction shot from Veronica and Chuck is set up such that Veronica is in the foreground. It’s Veronica’s eyes that we see widen. It’s her surprise (and arousal) that we feel. All that dramatic music in the background is happening inside Veronica’s head. It’s refreshing, as a queer lady, to get to look at a girl through the eyes of another girl. Setting up scenes in which women audience members are supposed to admire on-screen women through the eyes of male protagonists tends to keep our sexuality from us for longer than necessary because, to condense a lot of complicated feminist film theory, we are usually only allowed to be the Object and never the Viewer. But I mostly mention this because, as cool as it is, it’s not enough. Archie fans already include a community that believes these girls should be together, but television is no stranger to queerbaiting. Showing two characters being attracted to each other as fan-service is fun for a while, but doesn’t actually create textually queer characters. Riverdale has potential to really represent something important, and no matter how much I shout “THIS SHOW IS SO GAY,” it’s really… not that gay. It’s giving us scraps because it knows we’re so starved for mainstream representation that we’ll settle for those scraps. Given that the CW has made some pretty popular decisions in the past couple years regarding their representation of queer characters (see: The 100, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Supergirl), there’s no reason they should drag us along like this with Riverdale. They gave themselves a reputation; now they actually need to live up to it.
- I’ll be coming back to that soap box later, I’m sure. I’m keeping my eye out.