Riverdale spiced things up this week with a steamy make-out party — and mixed up a few of the main couples, too.
We start out Wednesday’s episode by learning why Ethel is covered in blood: Her parents were both stabbed to death, and she says the milkman did it. Everyone is skeptical, though, because the local milkman is in his 70s. Penelope doesn’t like Cheryl’s sexy paintings of the female form (or her suggestively eating a papaya at breakfast), so she pushes Julian to find his sister a boyfriend. Archie isn’t ready to give Veronica another chance yet, so Julian pulls him aside and suggests Cheryl instead. When Archie hesitates, Julian adds that Cheryl usually dates college guys, which makes her more “open-minded.” And suddenly, Archie’s ears perk up! Oh, and did we mention it’s sex education week at school?
Toni invites Cheryl to a spoken-word poetry night at the coffeehouse, and when Archie asks Cheryl out for a movie, she says she’d rather go to the coffeehouse. Kevin also receives an invite from Clay, who’s getting more touchy-feely with him, and Veronica gets Julian to escort her, too. Meanwhile, the sheriff clears the local milkman of the murder, but Ethel insists it could’ve been a different milkman. Or someone dressed as one? She’s afraid she’ll be accused of the crime — and she has macabre drawings of herself putting her parents through a meat grinder. Jughead volunteers to fetch those drawings out of her house before the cops find them, but he also finds a comic book in her stash with a story about a murdering milkman. Hmmm. Betty also stops by Ethel’s house to pick up some clothes for her… and discovers an intriguing book about human sexuality that she picks up, too.
At the poetry reading, Archie doesn’t understand Clay’s poem — it doesn’t even rhyme! — but Kevin gazes up at Clay admiringly. When it’s Toni’s turn, she recites a poem while gyrating seductively in a tight black turtleneck… and Cheryl is mesmerized. She snaps out of it, though, and demands Archie take her home, planting a big kiss on him when he does. That night, Betty reads her human sexuality book under the covers and then has visions of making out with Kevin while Archie locks lips with Cheryl and then Veronica. Cheryl and Toni make out, and then Kevin and Clay do, and Betty finally wakes up in a sweat after dreaming of herself straddling and kissing a shirtless Archie. The school’s sex education curriculum is hopelessly dry, so Betty shares her sexuality book with her friends, leading Veronica to suggest a good old-fashioned make-out party. Who’s going to want to make out with whom, though?
Kevin gawks at Clay’s bare torso in the locker room and is taken aback when Clay boldly declares, “I like boys.” Archie is nervous about the make-out party, so he turns to Betty for another lesson: This time, they sit next to each other on her bed, and then she puts her hand on his leg… and he’s forced to put a stuffed animal over his crotch and run away to safety. At the party, Veronica puts everyone’s name into random envelopes to pick a kissing partner. Cheryl gets Fangs, Kevin gets Midge… and Betty gets Jughead! (Did we sense a hint of that old #Bughead connection there?) Veronica gets Archie and pulls him in for a deep kiss, but Cheryl leads him away for further action as the others start to pair off. Veronica ends up with Jughead, and the two actually bond over The Catcher in the Rye and monster movies. Dare we say… #Vughead?!
Betty wants to try out her new sexuality skills on Kevin, but he’s still a cold fish — and she can tell he’s not excited, if you know what we mean. Archie and Cheryl, meanwhile, get hot and heavy, and though she’s annoyed when she learns Julian set them up, she’s eager to prove she likes boys, so she pushes Archie to the ground and mounts him. The next day, she proudly shows off a hickey to her mom, gloating that Archie “all the way pinned her.” Betty is left gazing out her window at Archie while she gives Kevin her sex book to study, and Toni admits to Veronica she has her eye on someone, while Veronica isn’t ready to rule out Jughead just yet. (A-ha!) Speaking of that beanie-wearing scamp, he gets called into the principal’s office with Ethel, and they find out the cops searched Jughead’s home and found that comic book about the murdering milkman… and Ethel’s drawing of herself grinding up her parents. Uh-oh.
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Sometimes you’ve just got to appreciate how weird this show is. Every week is like a new piece of fan fiction.
The latest “Riverdale” theme seems to be overcoming the cultural and sexual repression of the 1950s. But based on this episode, the real-life Dr. Fredric Wertham and his censorious Comics Code Authority were right to block gory horror comics, which were a huge fad at the time, from being sold in mainstream stores – since it turns out that their artwork predicted, and maybe even caused, actual murders. (In real life, then-horror publisher EC Comics — for which Riverdale’s Pep Comics is a stand-in — responded by creating Mad Magazine, which did more to help kids understand modern culture than just about any other publication.)
Of course, the true beneficiaries of the Comics Code, coincidentally, were wholesome titles like “Archie” — which suddenly gained a lot more more shelf space. (Although even they had to re-draw female characters like Katy Keene to make sure they never showed too much skin. Cheryl’s artwork in this episode would never have been permitted.)