With “The Lost Weekend,” Riverdale gets back to what it does best: high octane, deliriously addictive chaos. This week’s episode hits a sweet spot as characters dish out brutal comebacks and even harsher threats. What makes everything work so well is how secrets, particularly those that develop between family, warp the relationships of every character. What makes things even better is how the writers utilize a particular framing device to ramp up the tension even further: Jughead’s birthday.
For some, birthdays are glorious opportunities to celebrate their lives. For others, it’s only a reminder of everything they didn’t have in the past and the connections they still yearn for today. Unsurprisingly, Jughead is the latter. I share Jughead’s desire to keep things low-key and only between the best of friends.
Unfortunately for him, despite learning from several people that he isn’t fond of his own birthday Betty becomes myopically focused on throwing a party. That Betty bulldozes past Jughead’s own desires is already a problem no matter how good her intentions. That she doesn’t recognize the drama that will follow given that Cheryl is on a warpath after Veronica pushed her out of heading the River Vixens thanks to a particularly cringe-inducing dance-off only makes things worse. Cheryl isn’t alone when it comes to bringing havoc to what was supposed to be a small get-together. She brings unlikely reinforcements.
Cheryl finds an all too eager teammate in cruelty in Chuck. That’s right — the disgraced quarterback is back at Riverdale. Apparently, sexually harassing several students isn’t enough to get him kicked out permanently. He isn’t interested in Jughead, but he's very interested in making life difficult for Betty. While Chuck is an infuriating example of how men can weaponize their charm and use connections to weasel their way out of consequences there is one positive: the return of what he calls “dark Betty.” I was afraid Riverdale would drop any exploration of Betty’s dark side like when she donned a black wig and tortured Chuck in order to get the truth from him. Thankfully, that isn’t the case.
With Chuck and Cheryl poised to wreck the surprise party for Jughead happening at Archie’s place it’s obvious the good mood will only last for so long. Although "good mood" is probably not the right way to put it considering Veronica and Archie are a mess over family problems. Archie may be in an even worse place than her considering he decided to start drinking to numb the pain of his parents’ impending divorce. Fred is out of town to finally get it finalized and that has sent Archie into a tailspin of bad behavior. Coupled with Betty’s rather creepy rendition of “Happy Birthday,” things aren’t off to that joyful of a start. Jughead openly resents that Betty didn’t listen to what he wanted. He also finds the presence of Kevin, Joaquin, and Veronica bothersome since they aren’t his inner circle. Maybe if it just remained that group he would have tried to handle things. But once Cheryl and Chuck show up with two kegs and a horde of people it’s only a matter of time before long simmering resentment boils over into full blown anger.
Now would be the perfect time for Archie to be a considerate friend and not let these people inside. But once he sees the kegs he gets a twinkle in his eye and lets them in happily. Good job, Archie. The party devolves into a drunken mess with Archie being the worst of all. He even goes so far to drunk dial his dad. But Cheryl and Chuck aren’t there to get everyone wasted and have a good time. They want destruction, remember?
Cheryl decides to play a game of “secrets and sins.” It’s a game that’s all truth and no dare in which secrets are revealed. This leads to Riverdale getting the most intense that it has been in a while. With their classmates surrounding them, Archie, Veronica, and Betty deal with having their problems aired out. This would have been even stronger if the scene was structured better. That Veronica hits Cheryl back with an accusation of twincest and that she killed Jason means no one else can top that supposed secret. Soon enough, Archie has to listen to Cheryl discuss his sordid past with Ms. Grundy thanks to the ever-annoying Dilton revealing some key information. (I will never get over how this show doesn’t deal with Archie being a victim of rape.)
Chuck gets even more delight in watching Betty near tears as he recounts what happened between them dismantling her good girl image. This leads Jughead to punch him in the face. A noble act that would have got him a beatdown if it wasn’t for FP being there. What’s even more surprising than FP showing up with a birthday gift after Betty asked him to be present is that he’s the voice of reason. He urges Jughead to not run away from Betty since she represents a genuine sense of care that FP can’t provide. Can I just say I am loving Skeet Uhlrich on the show?
I’m going to make a bold claim. I think I find the parents of Riverdale are far more fascinating and psychologically rich than the teenage main characters. Part of that is undoubtedly because of the note-perfect casting of people like Uhlrich and Mädchen Amick. The other aspect is that their storylines are proving to have a depth and intensity I wasn’t expecting. FP isn’t just at the party to support Jughead but to get information from Joaquin. Veronica’s arc has actually made her less interesting but it’s added to dimension to Hermione. She’s an “unequivocally good woman” as Smithers (Tom McBeath), the butler to the Lodge family puts it, married to a man who is anything but. Veronica is more a pawn than anything else particularly after Harim threatens to implicate Hermione if she won’t testify as a character witness on his behalf. She relents of course. Then there is Alice’s brief confrontation with FP once the party dies down. Apparently, she’s from the South Side which makes her obsession with perfection even more fascinating. “Snakes don’t shed their skin easily,” FP warns. Then there’s the introduction of Archie’s mother, Mary, played by Molly Ringwald. Guess that divorce isn’t happening after all. While I tend to be most eager to watch the adults it’s really the relationship between Jughead and Betty that drives this episode.
During the party, Betty and Jughead have a pivotal fight when she finds him sulking in the garage. As their relationship has been fleshed out further I don’t think I see much chemistry between them. Although the pairing is a cute juxtaposition considering on the surface they’re complete opposites — the type-A overachiever and the brooding bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. But their opposing personas apparently is becoming the problem for Jughead, who feels Betty ignoring what he wanted to do for his birthday says a lot about her. Jughead goes on and on about how he’s a weird person who can’t be normal. Cole Sprouse’s delivery is a bit too over-the-top. We get it, kid. Once Jughead accuses Betty of only being with him “until Archie changes his mind,” this fight takes on different connotations.
Jughead’s comment about Betty only being with him until Archie decides he wants to be with her is the kind of insult that can’t be forgotten. Even though they remain together and bond after Betty reveals her own darkness it’s obvious Jughead believes what he was saying. It’s bombshells like this which make “The Lost Weekend” one of Riverdale’s most riveting episodes. But what’s most interesting about secrets isn’t how they fester in the dark. It's the brutal aftermath once they come into the light.
— Will Veronica and Archie fully start dating in the wake of their make-out session?
— I’m glad Valerie stuck to her desire to break up with Archie. Him stumbling up to her in a drunken haze at Jughead’s party isn’t much motivation to get back together.
— Where has Josie been?
— That dance-off between Veronica and Cheryl made me feel bad for Riverdale’s resident mean girl. Being the head cheerleader was really her only healthy outlet for dealing with Jason’s murder and her horrid family. Is it any surprise the rest of the team voting for Veronica to take over would lead to havoc?
— Of course the back of Cheryl’s top during cheer practice reads “HBIC.”
— That Betty gets so tense she digs her nails into her palms to the point of drawing blood proves how much she needs therapy.
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