WHEW. After a short break from our beloved dumpster fire of a show, Kelli and Mary are BACK, BABEEEEE! This week, we’re looking at “A Night to Remember,” otherwise known as THE MUSICAL EPISODE. Join us, won’t you?
Part I: Mary
I’ve been excited about this episode for AGES, and have thought about what it might be like to the point that whatever it turned out to be was probably going to disappoint me.
We start by setting up a dumb premise for the episode: Jughead is making a documentary based on the school’s production of Carrie: The Musical. No one really knows why?
We then cut to OUR FIRST SONG. All the folks in the musical are getting ready for school and singing a song from Carrie that muses on how high schoolers are worried about popularity. This opening number gives us a good idea of what everyone’s singing voice is like...and it’s not great. Riverdale is known for its music, and I was hoping the musical episode would be a departure from that. It’s not. I think these characters can probably genuinely sing, but the production is overdone, with lots of autotune and correcting. The vocals sound fake, maybe like a Vocaloid was employed to do them, and the actors themselves don’t seem to know what real singing looks like. They can’t lipsync to save their lives.
Fred Andrews is SO HAPPY Archie is getting back into music, and wants to help with the sets for the play. Archie is acting weird because, if you’ll recall the last episode, Hiram just gave him a car and he’s feeling nervous about all that. I guess. It’s kind of hard to know what he’s thinking. We also find out that ARCHIE CANNOT SING. My roommate Jenni yelled, OH NO PLEASE MAKE IT STOP when he started singing, but the joke’s on you, Jenni. We’re in Riverdale hell now.
The group sits down at a cast meeting. Everyone is upset that Cheryl is playing Carrie White, but they’re also upset that Alice Cooper is playing Carrie’s mother. Oh, and Chuck is there. He says he’s trying to reform his image. OK, sorry you’re a sexual harasser, Chuck.
Betty tells Archie that Veronica is way out of line (at the rehearsal, because sure, that’s a good time to do that). Cheryl, unasked by anyone, begins singing “Carrie” in full costume to prove she’s good for the role. I think this song is maybe the most musical theatre of the whole bunch. It’s not perfect. It’s still autotuned in a way, but Cheryl actually opens her mouth wide enough to be believably singing. Something drops from the ceiling, almost hitting Cheryl, and everyone is SHOOK. Eerie things await.
Kevin tells Jughead that he found a letter from THE BLACK HOOD. OOOOOH. I was wondering if they’d forgotten about that plot.
We see Betty and Archie sing a sweet song from the musical, and Betty even has her hair feathered. We also get a little shot of Veronica as a bad girl. In the musical, this is setting up two plots--the good group of teens versus the bad, one wanting to help Carrie and one wanting to hurt her. It doesn’t really seem to correspond to much in the show though? I don’t know.
Veronica and Archie are making out in the hallway, as you do, and Archie asks if he can keep the car at Ronnie’s house because he’s nervous.
Hiram and Hermione plot how to take down Fred Andrews, and Hiram says that he wants to keep Archie and Fred distant from each other, driving a wedge between them.
Jughead shows Betty the letter from the BH, which is exactly what Kevin told him not to do. Betty doesn’t think it’s real, but Jughead says it’s definitely a real thread. Betty thinks the BH copycat is Ethel, so she starts weirdly questioning her about the casting choice of Cheryl as Carrie. Ethel admits she’s angry that Cheryl got cast as Carrie over her because she was “born” to play the role. Ethel sees Jughead filming and gets MAD, saying she would never hurt anyone.
Alice goes to visit FP at Pop’s (which has the sexiest moodlighting for some reason?). She asks FP to come by the play and check it out, but he says nah, he has work. Alice says, “WOW! Really?! This old act again?!” She says that she and FP are the ones making the same mistakes all over again, not their kids, like she was worrying about.
Cheryl and Josie are supposed to be singing a song about being friends, but Josie says she’s faking it. Cheryl stops the rehearsal so they can have a talk, explaining that she’s been working through some stuff. I’m guessing she means her sexuality? On top of the mess with her mom? They don’t really talk about it, but now they seem like buds again? I don’t know. This song got on my nerves the most. Cheryl and Josie BARELY look like they’re opening their mouths. People do not sing that way.
Veronica sings “The World According to Chris,” which for all us Broadway nerds tells us that they’re working on the Off-Broadway revival instead of the original Broadway book. Betty steps in and weirdly accuses Veronica of being really mean. Archie chastises Betty and says she shouldn’t be mean. I know that Betty’s trying to get to the bottom of the BH mystery, playing Nancy Drew again, but this is a weird way to do it. Then Betty and Archie sing a love ballad. Sure.
Betty goes and apologizes to Veronica, who agrees that she’s a mean girl. This hot-cold act from Betty is bizarre to me. Then, Betty starts singing the love ballad TO VERONICA. I screamed at this part, happy, but later I felt a bit sad. This is classic Riverdale queer-baiting, putting Veronica and Betty in a semi-romantic situation only to have that not happen. I’m happy the writers are letting Cheryl and Toni blossom into something (though I’m worried where that’s going, too), but I wish they’d drop the semi-romantic Betty/Veronica stuff.
Hiram tells Fred about the firebird, and Fred is PISSED. He imagined taking Archie to get his first car, of course. This is a classic example of Hiram stirring up drama. Here’s my thing: if Fred was planning to go get an old car and fix it up with Archie, why haven’t they done that yet?
Part II: Kelli
Betty comes home to find Alice leaving a tearful voicemail for Chic. He hasn’t been returning any of her calls, which is typical son behavior! Just kidding, it’s probably because she kicked him out of the house for being creepy.
Back at Riverdale, Kevin and Jughead discuss the mysterious BH, who has left another letter in Kevin’s locker. At first Kevin thought it was a joke, but now he’s certain it’s serious, because it says “this is your last warning to replace Cheryl” and “next time, the sandbag won’t miss.” I’m not really sure why this letter is more convincing than the other two, but… third time’s the charm?
Kevin decides to finally tell Cheryl about the letters (which he probably should have done from the beginning, but okay). He says he needs to recast her, and she outright refuses. Line of the episode: “I will not succumb to thespian terrorism!” She delivers a spirited manifesto about why people need to see her up on that stage, but unfortunately, Penelope Blossom interrupts. Apparently, students need “parental approval” for all extracurricular activities, and under no circumstances will Penelope allow Cheryl to participate in this “matricidal revenge fantasy.”
I have questions. 1.) It’s been a while since I was in high school, but is it true that you need a permission slip to be in a school theatre production? Because that seems… not true. 2.) Is Cheryl currently living with Penelope? Like, did Toni and Veronica just pick her up from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and drop her back off to live with the person who had her committed in the first place? 3.) If Cheryl isn’t living with Penelope, then where IS she living?
Cheryl allows a single teardrop to slide down her face, resigned to her fate. She will not play Carrie, and this is a tragedy for us all. Kevin informs the cast, revealing that he already appointed an understudy after the sandbag incident (wow, Kevin, that’s dark). Carrie will now be played by… not Ethel! It’s Midge!
Meanwhile, on the bleachers, Cheryl tells Toni that all she wanted was to prove to everyone that she’s still herself, but maybe she’s not that girl anymore. Toni reminds Cheryl that she is that same girl, and that she doesn’t have to be done playing Carrie. It’s a nice sentiment, but also, Midge is playing Carrie now. That’s just the way it is, guys.
Back at rehearsal, the cast has quickly moved on, and we watch Alice perform as Mrs. White alongside Midge as Carrie. Alice sings a song in which Mrs. White tearfully begs Carrie not to leave her while simultaneously calling her an idiot, which is basically Alice’s parenting style. This is not news to Alice, who replaces Carrie’s name in the song with Betty’s, and ultimately collapses into tears and flees the stage. “Am I directing a trainwreck?” Kevin asks. No, Kevin. You’re part of the trainwreck. It’s called Riverdale.
Out in the hallway, Betty tries to comfort Alice, who is weeping about her poor parenting decisions. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Alice, even though she’s a complete lunatic, because it’s clear that she does love her children deeply. Later, Betty tells Jughead that she has to do something to help her mom feel less alone and abandoned. For some reason, he’s recording their conversation, even though it has literally nothing to do with the musical.
The extremely professional-looking playbills come in, and the back cover is Hermione’s campaign ad. Fred is still helping put the sets together, and when Archie expresses surprise that he’s still here, Fred’s like, ‘I’m not going to quit just because we had a disagreement, that’s not ~how I roll~.’ Archie is consumed by guilt, which he expresses to Jughead’s therapy-cam. He’s nothing like boy-next-door Tommy Ross — he’s not “good” at all! Later, Archie shows up at Hiram’s to give the car key back, telling Hiram that if he tries to get between Archie and Fred, he will lose “every time” (except for all the times he already succeeded in doing exactly that).
The next day (I think?), Archie brings his dad out to the garage and shows him a junk car he just bought for them to fix up together. Fred almost cries. It’s kinda sweet, but Archie is still a dick. Also, I’m not sure where he found the time to sell music equipment, buy a junk car and lug it into the garage, and still be present for school and musical rehearsals, but… why not.
Finally, it’s OPENING NIGHT MORNING! Alice and Betty are not eating breakfast when Hal appears. He’s holding two bouquets, a tiny one for Betty and a huge one for Alice. It’s clear that Betty put him up to this, but I’m really not clear as to why; last I remember, Betty and Alice both hated Hal and wanted nothing to do with him, and Hal was accusing Alice of trying to get his Blossom inheritance. Now, he’s apparently ready to make nice, and asks Alice if he can move back in. They agree that if they’re going to try to make this work, they can’t have any more secrets, which prompts Alice to tell Hal that Chic isn’t his son. He’s like, ‘lol, I know.’
Finally, it’s OPENING NIGHT NIGHT! Backstage, the gang sings a song about a ‘night they’ll never forget,’ which I assume is the pre-prom song repurposed from Carrie the musical. Juxtaposed with this song, we watch as Cheryl approaches Thistlehouse in a Carrie-esque prom dress. She’s carrying a bucket. Penelope is alone inside when she hears a noise, and when she stands from the chaise lounge, she sees Cheryl standing before her, drenched in blood and holding a candelabra. “This is Jason’s blood. This is Daddy’s blood. The next blood to be spilt will be yours,” Cheryl declares, living for the drama.
This all seems like a rather broad interpretation of Toni’s advice.
It turns out that her actual request is to be emancipated, and to have Thistlehouse all to herself and Nana Rose. Cheryl demands that Penelope and Claudius go to live with the pigs where they belong. I don’t know if she means literal pigs, or if she’s referring to poor people. With Cheryl, you never know.
Back at the school, it’s ten minutes until the show is set to begin. FP shows up, only to see Alice and Hal getting cozy. He promptly walks back out the door. Backstage, Jughead wanders around with his camera, trying to get ‘final interviews.’ Ethel isn’t in her dressing room, so he pushes the door open and discovers that her trash can is full of magazine clippings. Could Ethel be the BH imposter?! She finds Jughead looking and insists that the magazines were for her vision board. Solid alibi. Ethel would have a vision board.
In one of the other dressing rooms (how big is this backstage area???), Betty, Veronica, Archie, and Chuck are practicing tongue twisters. Veronica tells Chuck that his behavior during the rehearsal process has been that of a “Victorian gentleman,” and that his “pariahship” is over. What? Why? Because he was nice for five seconds? Before we can linger on the moment for too long, Chic appears in the doorway of the dressing room to greet Betty. She’s like, ‘cool, you made it, now please go back to your seat immediately.’ It seems like she can’t decide whether she’s pleased to see him or deeply creeped out by his presence.
The moment we’ve been waiting for finally arrives: it’s show time. Alice begins the performance, and the camera pans through the crowd. Somehow, Cheryl is all cleaned up and sitting in the front row with Kevin. I guess she’s pretty good at washing blood off of herself at this point. On stage, the curtain pulls back behind Alice, but what it was supposed to reveal, we’ll never know. Instead, we see that Midge has been stabbed to death and propped up against the wall. BH has written a note there, presumably in her blood. For a few moments, people try to figure out if this is a part of the show, but those involved in the production know it isn’t — namely Cheryl, who repeatedly yells for someone to help Midge. Alice turns around, sees the body, and shrieks. Chaos ensues. Jughead runs to find Betty, his camera bobbing up and down; on the camera’s screen, you can see that Chic is still sitting in his seat, and he looks bizarrely calm.
Mary: I found myself not really caring if Midge died. I mean, who is Midge anyway? Though maybe Kevin can comfort Moose in his time of despair? Or maybe Moose is the Black Hood. Who even knows at this point. I feel like I can’t even make predictions anymore because the whole thing is nuts and no one knows what’s going on, not even the people writing it.
Kelli: Okay, first of all: was that really necessary? They replaced Cheryl! What else do you want from them, BH?! Honestly, though, I don’t really care about Midge. I already thought she died once during her car makeout with Moose, so… *shrug emoji*
I’m assuming that Chic is either responsible for this or that he’s going to be framed for it, based on that little glimpse of him being weird on Jughead’s screen. However, Sheriff Keller was also creeping around backstage, so either he’s the actual worst Sheriff of all time, or he’s the BH. Or, you know, it could still be Hal…
But even with all of that, the thing that confuses me the most about this episode is the timeline. The rehearsal timeline for a high school musical is usually AT LEAST one month, and all of this seemed to go down in like, a week. How is that even possible? Narratively, this episode makes little to no sense.