Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 205, "When a Stranger Calls"

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Riverdale 205, When a Stranger Calls

The Black Hood begins a torturous mental game with Betty (LILI REINHART) when he begins calling her with demands. He's already told her that he's begun this mission all because of her inspiration, cleansing Riverdale of sin by getting rid of the sinners. To co-opt Betty's loyalty, he tells her he knows the secret of her sister Polly's pregnancy, and he knows where she went. If Betty doesn't cooperate, he'll kill her. But Betty sets up a return flow of information. If she does what is asked, she gets to ask the Black Hood a question (other than his name) and he has to answer.

His first demand is that she publish a photo he has emailed her. It's a mugshot of her mother, Alice Cooper (MADCHEN AMICK), who was arrested as a teenager -- when she was a South Side Serpent! Betty doesn't want to do it, but the next day Alice and Sheriff Keller confront Betty over the Black Hood's letter she handed over. The handrwiting doesn't match the letter Alice received. And since the accompanying cypher came from a NANCY DREW book, Alice believes Betty made the whole thing up for attention. That's just the push Betty needs to publish Alice's past info in the school newspaper. She calls it justice. When the Black Hoold calls back, Betty gets to ask him her question: Would she recognize the face under the hood. The answer is, "Yes." And now he wants more. He wants Betty to cut the sinners out of her life, or he'll do it for her. Starting with Veronica Lodge (CAMILA MENDES).

Jughead (COLE SPROUSE) finds the Serpents preparing a pipe bomb for the Riverdale Register after the latest article Alice wrote blaming them for all the violence. Toni Topaz (VANESSA MORGAN) tells Jug that when his father ran the Serpents, he was able to keep the peace. But they don't know where Jughead stands. So he decides to join them fully, setting up a chain of initiation events to prove his loyalty to the gang.

The Lodges, Hiram (MARK CONSUELOS) and Hermione (MARISOL NICHOLS), are preparing an open house for their new project, but they need investors. They find them in the St. Clair family, Xavier and Simone, and their son Nick (THE GOOD WIFE's GRAHAM PHILLIPS). Nick is an old friend of Veronica's from her high society days -- and apparently we do mean high society. When Veronica first introduces him to Archie after dinner, he offers them both some drugs as dessert, which they both refuse. However, when he later invites the entire gang to his place for a party, he brings out the Jingle Jangle -- and this time everyone partakes, except Betty. Yes, Archie (KJ APA), Veronica, Josie (ASHLEIGH MURRAY) and even Cheryl Blossom (MADELAINE PETSCH) partake. I'm doubting Archie stands for any of the values he used to. When do we go a bridge too far, ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA? Only Betty sits it out, and when Veronica calls her out on it, Betty takes the opportunity to unload a royal speech that puts the kibosh on their friendship before she walks out. Of course, she's only doing this because she's been coerced into doing so by the Black Hood.

After the party, when it's just Nick and Veronica, he comes on to her hard. She rebuffs him, and he reminds her that she has to treat him nice per her father's orders or he could tank the investment deal. He pushes harder, and she slaps him and leaves.

The Black Hood calls Betty and she gets another question: What will make him stop? He says she's what makes him stop, so long as she continues to prove her loyalty to him. And now she has to do so again -- by cutting Jughead out of her life. Betty can't do this on her own, so she asks Archie to do it for her. Archie knows it's the Black Hood making her do this, but he agrees. However, when he arrives at Jughead's house, it's just in time to see him about to finalize his membership with the Serpents. Angry, Archie delivers the news Betty asked him to, and in the most convincing manner, putting Jug in just the right frame of mind to run The Gauntlet -- a beating from every single Serpent without defending himself.

At the Lodge open house, Nick apologizes to Veronica for his behavior and confesses he's been in and out of rehab. She forgives him, but that will be short lived.

Hal Cooper (LOCHLYN MUNRO) meets with the Lodges, explaining that Alice won't be there. The publication of her mug shot has apparently upset her, so they both decided he would cover this alone. And that's when Alice makes her grand, slutty entrance, with an open-front, caped outfit and a gaudy serpent necklace. She looks as though she's not going to hide from her past, but own this Serpent thing full-on.

Cheryl Blossom arrives and hooks up with Nick, who slips a roofie into her champagne (because open underage alcohol consumption has always been a thing on RIVERDALE).  Veronica, on stage singing with The Pussycats, sees Nick escorting a woozy Cheryl away from the event, she quickly surmises he's planning a little date rape. She brings Josie and the rest of the Pussycats and gets the master key to his room. Fortunately for the barely-conscious Cheryl, they pull him off of her just in time -- and then proceed to kick his ass!

As things close down for the episode, Jughead has gotten his Serpents tattoo and ends up kissing Toni Topaz. Betty gets notified of Cheryl's near-rape right before the Black Hood calls again. He's going to strike now, unless Betty gives him a different target. Betty pleads with him not to do anything, but he's insistent. And just before he hangs up, she comes up with a name: Nick St. Clair.

So they mystery deepens as to who the Black Hood is. Is it one person, or two? Two people would explain the difference in the handwriting. But who knows where Polly went? Who knows that the child in her belly is born of incest? Who knows Alice used to be a South Side Serpent? Who has a self-righteous outlook that sees everyone else as immoral?

How about Hal and Alice Cooper? Hal's got the right build of the guy who shot Fred, and Alice has demonstrated both the judgmental outlook as well as the habit of controlling Betty's actions. What are your thoughts?

4.0 / 5.0