Warning: This recap of the “Chapter Eighteen: When a Stranger Calls” episode of Riverdale contains spoilers.
One of the most disturbing aspects of having a psychotic serial shooter on the loose is when he starts calling you on the phone. It’s bad enough that he’s felling townsfolk right and left and marring public property with unsightly blood stains, but must he also resort to such unheard-of tactics as dialing a phone and speaking into it? It’s like a rain of terror onto a reign of terror. Don’t call me on the phone, jerk! Although, in the case of Betty Cooper, it’s probably her fault for answering an “unknown” caller, and it’s her fault for having that terrifying ringtone. Still, “Chapter Eighteen: When a Stranger Calls” was a tense and sometimes disturbing episode (those snake masks!) of Riverdale. Let’s talk about it!
We began with a jerk using a vocoder he probably bought on eBay.
The main thing you need to know about the Black Hood is he’s a big Betty Cooper fan. Just calling her at all hours of the night ostensibly to give her clues or commands, but also he’s just lonely and she’s the only one in town who answers her phone. The other thing you need to know about the Black Hood is he can’t seem to tell when he’s on speakerphone. Because even though he swore Betty to absolute secrecy, you better believe she immediately roped her hunky neighbor into it! Anyway, the Black Hood is also kind of a real bitch, because he started commanding Betty to do superpetty things to her friends and family, and in exchange he’d answer questions about himself. Her first task? To publish this old mugshot of her MOTHER in the school paper:
First of all, I am laughing forever at that file being titled “SHAME.JPG”. But also… Mädchen Amick’s ’90s hair! And it’s no wonder Alice Cooper is so hateful toward the Southside… She used to be a ne’er-do-well teen from there! Publishing this old news clipping was going to cause problems in the Cooper household, but Betty didn’t care. She needed to prevent further shootings, specifically her sister’s, which the Black Hood was now threatening. (OK so I still think the dude is Sheriff Keller, but this episode made me think it could also be Mr. Cooper. Definitely a dad is doing this. Black Hood is a total dad.)
Jughead had decided to officially join the Southside Serpents, and the hazing had begun. The first terrifying trial? Waking up to all his friends wearing Taylor Swift masks! Also he had to take care of a dog. This was going to be hell.
Then one of Veronica’s rich ex-boyfriends paid Riverdale a visit and he immediately looked like he was going to be trouble. Also he looked like a male Veronica, which was kind of incesty, but whatever. They were broken up now! I’m sure his arrival won’t cause any complications for anyone whatsoever.
Jughead’s next gang trial involved grabbing a knife from a rattlesnake cage, but the rattlesnake was like, “Hey, that’s mine!” and bit him gently on the hand. But the snake wasn’t poisonous, don’t worry. Jughead had done it. Two trials down!
Then Archie lifted weights.
As you can imagine, Alice was not happy about the local high school newspaper printing a front-page story about her teen legal problems. To her credit, Betty was NOT sorry bout it, she was more sorry not sorry bout it. And yeah, Alice had been printing tons of Southside-slagging lately, so this did feel like justice. Still, what a weird high school newspaper! Are there no faculty advisors to say, ‘Uh, actually this is an odd thing to print’? Anyway, DRAMA.
So then Veronica’s rich ex invited all the teens back to his penthouse at the Five Seasons (LOL) and offered everybody Jingle Jangle, which I had been led to believe was a poor people drug, but I guess even the richies are into it. The next thing we knew everyone was doing very out of control things like dancing and flipping their hair, but Betty (who had abstained) was NOT participating. This was because the Black Hood’s next command was she had to end her friendship with Veronica or else someone else would be shot. So Betty used this opportunity to ruin the party and cuss Veronica out about whatever, then stormed out. Damn, Betty!
But the Black Hood just couldn’t stop calling her phone! I loved in this moment when she was sitting on a bench already bummed about fake-breaking-up with Veronica and then her phone rang and she did a full body groan. That is how I feel whenever my phone rings! Anyway, she asked him if she’d recognize him without his mask and he said yes. That narrows it down! Good thinking, Betty. Anyway, her next task was to dump Jughead, so she was not very stoked about that. Shootings aside, the Black Hood was turning into a real jerk.
I loved that Alice Cooper showed up to a local construction party cleavage-first, as if to say “Yeah I was arrested as a teenager and this was recently reported on by a high school newspaper but I have also applied self-tanner to my thighs to deal with it!”
Then Jughead put on a tank top and frowned while Archie informed him that Betty didn’t want to date him anymore. (Archie had agreed to do Betty’s dirty work for him, mostly because he knew they could undo the damage after the Black Hood was caught.) But Jughead was already waist-deep in a gang initiation so he didn’t care TOO MUCH that the love of his high school life had just dumped him by proxy. He had bigger snakes to fry or whatever.
Cheryl was mostly fawning over Veronica’s rich ex the whole episode, but he still deemed it necessary to drug her champagne like a cartoon villain. Also, way to chug that Cristal, girl! Nothing says ‘get crunk’d’ like a daytime construction party or whatever this was.
Later at the party, Josie and Veronica sang a song from Rent, which made zero sense in context except maybe the showrunner is just working through a checklist of personal faves to insert into the show. The song was “Take Me A-Hoot Tonight,” and it was fine. But the genuinely amazing thing was that, even while performing, Veronica could tell that a wobbly Cheryl across the room was in danger girl!
Speaking of which, this song turned into a montage of everyone not-doing-well, especially Jughead, who was currently experiencing his final trial, the one where everyone punches him. So yeah, Jughead got punched so much! Poor Jughead. Gangs are not great, it’s official.
I think we are meant to believe that Veronica, Josie, and the Pussycats left the stage and immediately ran upstairs to kick the s*** out of the rich guy who was about to sexually assault Cheryl. I LOVED this moment. The fact that they immediately knew what was up, and immediately did something about it. I don’t know, it just felt cathartic in a way. Especially after Veronica had already fought off the dude’s advances, so she knew what to expect. Yes, this was dark and unfun, but I appreciated the end result. I don’t know.
After Betty answered the 30th call from Black Hood she finally demanded to know who he was, so he said she’d find out if she went to this random abandoned house. So she did! Betty really and truly trusted the Black Hood with her safety, for some reason.
But instead of some kind of Post-It note with his name on it, Betty instead found a wrapped box containing a hood and instructions to put it on. Then she looked in the mirror and we all groaned: This was his lesson, that he and she were the same! I mean, Betty hasn’t shot as many people as he has, but I guess he meant that they’re both into moralizing and being judgmental and whatnot. Cool, guy. Very helpful.
Because Jughead was freshly beaten up and also didn’t have a girlfriend anymore, Toni stepped in mouth-first. They kissed! They are officially a thing now! Bet Betty’s gonna regret “breaking up” with Jughead real soon. As though she couldn’t have just wink-winked her way through it and let him in on it the way she’d let Archie in on it. Ah whatever. Love triangle stuff.
It’s definitely weird when Cheryl is presented as anything other than an icy mean robot, but it’s still nice to remember she’s just a scared and vulnerable human being like the rest of us. Also it’s exciting to think that she might channel her rage into some very Blossom-y revenge. Unless someone else beats her to it, of course…
The Black Hood demanded that Betty name his next victim and at first her moral compass was like, “No don’t shoot ANYONE” but within seconds she changed her mind and instructed him to kill the date rapist instead. Which, duh. But also, damn. Betty’s in deep now!
“Chapter Eighteen: When a Stranger Calls” was a dark, slightly wild episode full of very implausible things that were nonetheless immensely satisfying. I don’t think any of us were shocked that Veronica’s rich ex was capable of drugging and raping someone, but to see it unfold the way it did was disturbing. And while the Black Hood remains scary, he’s definitely starting to seem silly now. Again, either Sheriff Keller or Mr. Cooper owns some Halloween store green contacts, so I’ll be excited to find out just which Dad is trying to clean up the “sinners” of Riverdale. Meanwhile Riverdale’s sensory pleasures remain unmatched. This show, even when it’s darkly ridiculous, is just so damn pleasant. You know? If the caller ID says “Riverdale,” I’ll always be answering that phone call.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.
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