Riverdale Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: "When A Stranger Calls"

Photo: Courtesy of The CW.
If you’re a Bughead fan, this week’s Riverdale was hard to watch. The couple — and the show’s central quartet — are growing farther apart, as tensions rise between the Northside and the Southside – and The Black Hood proves to have a creepy fascination with Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart).
We pick up exactly where we left off last week, with Betty on the phone with the Black Hood. When asked about his motives, he tells Betty they're the same as hers — “to set Riverdale on the righteous path” and to “cleanse it of sinners.” That list of sinners includes Polly (Tiera Skovbye), and the “sin she carries in her womb.” The Black Hood threatens to kill Polly if Betty doesn’t do exactly what he says.
That means no calls to the cops, no explanations to her mother, and no confessions to Jughead (Cole Sprouse). Betty complies before bursting into tears in her room. (There’s a lot of Betty Cooper crying alone in this episode.) It’s clear that the Black Hood wants her to feel isolated, and by episode’s end, it seems that he’s achieved his goal.
Betty texts the one person she can always count on: Archie (K.J. Apa). She tells him about the phone call and ultimatum, and Archie vows to help her. Sure enough, Archie is by her side the next time the Black Hood calls. (Please note that the ringtone featuring “Lollipop” by The Chordettes goes from charming and silly to haunting and hair-raising by episode’s end.)
The Black Hood quickly turns the conversation to Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick), calling her “a thorn in both our sides.” The Black Hood tells Betty to prove her loyalty by publishing an item he’s sent along — a newsclipping featuring a mugshot of Alice Cooper. In return, Betty gets to ask the masked killer any question.
It seemed like a longshot, but after Alice suggests that Betty may have been behind the letter and cipher — while in front of Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins), no less — Betty decides that it’s worth the risk. Naturally, Alice is pissed when she finds her mugshot on the front page of the Blue and Gold, especially since she removed it from “every public archive.” Alice says Betty’s motive is “revenge.” But Betty says something very Black Hood-ish: She calls it “justice.”
The Black Hood is happy with Betty’s behavior and offers to answer a question. She asks if she would recognize the face under the hood. The answer: “Yes.”
“I don’t like sharing you with other people,” the Hood tells Betty. “So you need to cut them out of your life.” And that’s what he asks her to do for the rest of the episode — cut out the people she loves or he will.
On the other side of the tracks, Jughead finds the Serpents recovering after their gang fight with Archie and the Bulldogs. The solution for bruised egos? A pipe bomb delivered to the RIverdale Register, of course.
Alice Cooper’s constant harboring on the Southside has worn on the Serpents' nerves. Combined with Archie and his Red Circle, they’re ready to retaliate. Jughead tries to appeal to common sense, but good luck. This guy’s name is Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor). Reasoning probably isn’t his strong suit, you know?
Once again, Jughead is warned that he “can’t be half a Serpent.” But it’s Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) who really gets his attention, telling Jughead that with his dad gone, there’s no one to lead the Serpents — or to keep the peace. With that, he finally gives in and agrees to be a Serpent. But it’s not that easy: He has to face several “trials” first. Given the alternative — violent retaliation against his friends in Riverdale — Jughead decides it’s worth the risk.
Toni and Jughead grow closer as he preps for his trials. At one point, she even calls him “Juggy.” He’s faced with a beast (a dog called “Hot Dog”), a screaming match in a bar where he must recite the “laws,” and an actual serpent.
We only get one romantic Bughead moment and it’s at Pop’s, of course. They share a long kiss. Betty looks tired, with a low bun, rather than her usual high ponytail. Jughead looks tired too. They’re keeping secrets from each other. Neither can really tell the other what they’ve been up to for fear of losing the other. Instead, Jughead wishes they could run away together and leave Riverdale. No Serpents, no Ghoulies, no crazy moms, no Black Hoods.
“Like Romeo and Juliet…but we live,” Betty says. But Romeo and Juliet don’t make it. And it seems pretty clear that Bughead isn’t going to make it either.
Back in Riverdale, Hiram (Mark Consuelos) and Hermione (Marisol Nichols) are hoping to woo potential investors at an open house for a new development project. Their biggest prospects are the St. Clair’s, including Nick St. Clair (Graham Phillips). He’s Veronica’s (Camila Mendes) handsome, hard-partying ex-boyfriend — and he’s complete trash. (Actually, trash is probably an understatement.)
Hiram and Hermione hint that Veronica should do anything and everything to ensure that this deal with the St. Clair family goes through, especially by being friendly with Nick (wink, wink). That’s right: The Lodges are willing to pimp out their daughter for money, but is that really a shock at this point?
Nick St. Clair comes off as the confident and smooth bad boy. At first, it seems like Nick’s role will simply be that of Mr. Steal-Your-Girl. But it’s actually much darker: He openly flirts with Veronica in front of Archie. Then, he breaks out the cocaine and offers Veronica a bump. As the episode progresses, Nick invites the entire Riverdale gang to his hotel room at the “Five Seasons” for a party. The party starts off okay, but things get crazy when Nick breaks out the J.J. (a.k.a. Jingle Jangle). Everyone is down, except Betty, who’s cold and standoffish. The reason why becomes clear: She needs to distance herself from Veronica or the Black Hood will kill again.
Betty calls out Veronica’s “trashy past” and says some words that really hit home with Veronica Lodge: “Like father, like daughter.”
“You’re a bad person,” Betty tells Veronica, before getting thrown out of the party. Betty ends her night alone, sitting on a bench and crying. The Black Hood calls again. He needs her to prove her devotion by cutting Jughead out of her life.
After the party, Nick tries to make a move on Veronica. She’s not interested, but he refuses to take the hint. That’s when Nick tries to force himself on her. When she pushes him away, he basically tells her that if she doesn’t show him some “appreciation” he’ll ruin their parents’ business deal. Veronica responds like the badass she truly is: She slaps the shit out of him. Unfortunately, that’s not the last of Nick St. Clair or the depths of his behavior.
Meanwhile, Betty asks Archie to tell Jughead that they’re over. Archie tries to convince her to call the police, but Betty refuses. She asks that Archie not be harsh. But this is Archie: He has two settings – 0 or 100.
Archie catches Jughead at a bad time as he’s prepping for the final trial. The Serpents show up and it’s enough to push Archie to 100, real quick. “Stay away from Betty,” he tells Jughead, adding, “She doesn’t want to see you anymore.” If that’s not harsh enough, he adds that she’s “been wanting to break up with you for weeks.”
Honestly, it’s sad to see how easily Jughead falls for Archie’s lie. He only protests once. But Archie drives it home, telling Jughead that Betty would never want a Serpent and that Jughead can’t be part of both worlds.
“Tell Betty I got the message,” Jughead says, before heading off to join the Serpents for one last test. Jughead walks down a line of Serpents who beat him. If he can withstand the physical abuse, then he’s a Serpent forever. Unsurprisingly, he passes the test.
On the other side of town, the Lodges’ open house is running smoothly. Until Alice Cooper shuts the damn party down, strutting down the red carpet in a red romper with a serpent necklace around her neck. She’s giving off Britney Spears “I’m A Slave 4 U” vibes (circa her 2001 VMAs performance in which she carried a snake). It’s epic AF and a reminder to never, EVER try to shame Alice Cooper.
Nick St. Clair finds Veronica to apologize for sexually harassing her the night before. He says he’s been “in-and-out of rehab” recently, and begs her forgiveness. But he’s not sorry at all. He spots Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) across the room and quickly spikes her drink. That’s right: Nick St. Clair roofied Cheryl Blossom.
While the Pussycats perform Rent’s “Out Tonight” (and it’s very well done!), they notice Nick ushering a stumbling Cheryl out of the party. Luckily, they follow him.
When Veronica, Josie (Ashleigh Murray), Valerie (Hayley Law), and Melody (Asha Bromfield), finally get into his room, they find Nick taking off his clothes while standing over Cheryl’s unconscious body. Nick’s intentions are clear: He was was going to rape Cheryl. Veronica’s reaction is violent.
She punches Nick in the face, then Josie hits him in the groin before rushing over to Cheryl on the bed to make sure she’s okay. Then, Veronica, Melody, and Valerie continue to kick, punch, and slap any part of Nick St. Clair they can find as he groans in pain on the floor.
After weeks of real-life headlines filled with stories of powerful men sexually harassing and assaulting women, watching four young women take down a predator on a CW show felt damn good. Justice for real world injustices? No. But satisfying nonetheless.
Elsewhere, Betty Cooper gets another call from the Black Hood. When she asks to see the face under the mask, he tells her to head to an abandoned house in Fox Forest. By this point, the “Lollipops” ringtone is unnerving. The Hood instructs Betty open a package for her in the cabin. It’s wrapped like a gift. Inside is a black hood. He tells her to put it on and turn around.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Betty asks, only to find herself staring in a mirror. The Black Hood says to show her “we’re the same.”
Betty is forced to rejoin her friends when Archie tells her about Nick’s attempted rape. Cheryl is visibly shaken. She wants to press charges. But she also says, “I want Nick to pay,” adding that she wants him to “burn in hell.”
The episode ends with Betty’s life actually in shambles. Gone are the cute ponytails and Peter Pan collars. She looks pale, almost sick. Her hair is down while she sits on her windowsill.
She doesn’t know it, but across town, Toni and Jughead are sharing their first kiss (#Tughead or #Joni, anyone?). And what does Betty have? Her old friend the Black Hood.
He calls again; the ringtone jolting her. The Black Hood tells Betty that she broke the rules by talking to Archie, so Polly has to pay. Or (yes, there’s another, more sinister option) she can give the Hood another name of a sinner to punish.
She barely hesitates before saying firmly into the phone, “Nick St. Clair. He’s staying at the Five Seasons.”
The Black Hood ends the episode telling Betty, “I told you we were the same.”
Other gossip:
Cheryl introduced herself as “Riverdale’s resident It-Girl” and I’m not mad about it.
You’re telling me Jingle Jangle looks just like pixie sticks?
Can we talk about Reggie and Josie at the party? Anyone else Team Rosie?
Sorry, Riverdale, but the Five Seasons sounds less like a high-end hotel and more like a bad oldies band.
How come Sweet Pea has a black eye and Archie came out of that fight without a scratch?
Who the hell casually owns a cobra for gang-related trials?
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