If season 2’s big swing was the musical episode, then I’d like to officially welcome you to season 3’s big swing: The flashback episode, in which all of the show’s actors take on the roles of their parents … as teens. It sounds more confusing than it is.
We start the episode with the Gryphons and Gargoyles pandemic. Every time an adult confiscates a rule book, another one pops up, until, eventually, Mayor Hermione Lodge ends up standing in front of a classroom filled with high schoolers explaining that she is officially banning the game, because she claims it could foster violence in developing minds. Furthermore, she’s set up a hotline for anyone who needs someone to talk to — but only if that someone is Kevin and only if they want to talk after school. Otherwise, he’s not available.
But Hermione’s announcement isn’t the only big news to come out of school that day: Betty gets a call from the coroner revealing that someone died a “suspicious death” many years ago, and the deceased had blue lips. It was right around the time Betty’s mom Alice would’ve been in high school. So of course, Betty goes straight to the source, and when Alice finally gives in and decides to tell her daughter the whole story, we enter flashback land.
We head back to when all of Riverdale‘s parents were juniors in high school, when “phones had cords, Winona had Johnny, and everything smelled like teen spirit.” At least that’s how Alice, who went by Alice Smith at the time, puts it. She was the bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks with enviable hair and a very big problem: She’d just found out she was pregnant with FP’s child. Hermione and Sierra catch Alice crying in a bathroom stall before Penelope busts in demanding hall passes. But when Alice doesn’t have one, well, one thing leads to another and Penelope calls Alice a bastard baby, and suddenly, the two are fighting it out in the girls’ bathroom.
Across the school, FP — a football player!!! — is being made to streak the school. Apparently, it’s a Bulldog tradition. FP is hesitant until Fred Andrews, a baseball player, agrees to go with him. (Fred’s done it once already and apparently it really helped him with the ladies.) And so, the two go streaking down the halls of the school, a move that lands them in Saturday detention, where the bathroom ladies — probably not their preferred nickname — join them. Leading their Breakfast Club-esque Saturday detention is Anthony Michael Hall, which is insanely perfect casting, and have I mentioned how fun this episode is ALREADY?
As Alice tells Betty in present day, it was supposed to be one Saturday where six people — the bad girl (Alice), the rebelling Catholic (Hermione), the teacher’s pet (Penelope), the artist/athlete (Fred), the political animal (Sierra), and the ladies man (FP) — sat in silence for eight hours and wrote 1,000-word essays about what landed them in detention in the first place. But of course, it evolved into much more than that.
The moment Principal Featherhead (Anthony Michael Hall) decided it was a good idea to leave the kids unsupervised and return to his office is the moment all of Riverdale makes sense. These kids just need some supervision!! And that’s also the moment that things start getting interesting…
First of all, apparently Sierra and Tom Keller were a major item (and maybe if she’d known how well he was going to age she never would’ve let him go). And when everyone realizes they don’t know anything about one another, Sierra suggests a round of “Secrets and Sins,” and so, they move from their desks to the floor for a game of what’s essentially Truth or … Truth. Sierra’s secret is obviously her relationship with Tom, which leads Hermione to talk about the fact that she’s interested in Hiram but her parents don’t approve. As for Fred, he thinks Riverdale is the greatest city in the world and sees himself playing baseball and music here until he, one day, runs for mayor. (Sierra scoffs at the idea). More than anything, Fred wants to stay in town to look after his sick father.
When it’s Alice’s turn to tell a secret, she decides instead to out FP as a guy who lives in Sunnyside Trailer Park and wears a varsity jacket like he’s from the North Side. Alice tells him he’ll end up just like his dad, but FP one-ups her by revealing that his dad is the one who broke his arm when FP told him that he wanted to be the first Jones to go to college.
As for Penelope, she’s got the biggest secret of all: She’s not really a Blossom. She grew up at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy orphanage until the Blossoms showed up when she was 8 and asked to see all the red-headed children. They then picked her from the group and took her home to be Clifford’s sister and … life companion. Ew. Needless to say, she takes every opportunity to escape that house. (Next: The Gargoyle King says hello)