‘Riverdale’ season five episode nine recap: how to win when you lose

**Spoilers for 'Chapter Eighty-Five: Destroyer' below**

This week’s episode revolves around Riverdale High’s newly reformed football team, the Bulldogs, who aren’t exactly Super Bowl standard yet. In fact, they suck so badly that Ronnie (Camila Mendes) offers a $10,000 incentive to the first player who actually scores a touchdown. Coach Archie (KJ Apa) persuades Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) to host a bonding pancake breakfast for the team at Pop’s, but Reggie (Charles Melton) spoils the mood by telling them they’re about to be kicked out of the league. Rightly guessing that Hiram (Mark Consuelos) is somehow behind this, Ronnie offers her duplicitous dad a bet: if the Bulldogs don’t score in their upcoming match against the Stonewall Stallions, they’ll voluntarily withdraw from the league. But if they do manage even a single touchdown, Hiram has to lobby for the Bulldogs to keep their place. The stage is set for a dramatic sporting showdown.

Meanwhile, Kevin (Casey Cott) actually gets a proper storyline this week. After unlikely relationship counsellor Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) tries – and fails – to get him talking to boyfriend Fangs (Drew Ray Tanner), Kevin hits on the wrong guy in a sauna and gets brutally beaten up. He then confesses to his dad, Sheriff Tom (Martin Cummins), that his penchant for cruising is rooted in his own gay shame. On the one hand, Riverdale deserves credit for showing us a homophobic hate crime and at least trying to explore the issue of internalised homophobia. But on the other, linking cruising so cleanly to gay shame is very reductive and super-slut-shamey.

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Madelaine Petsch at the Bulldogs ground in this week’s episode. CREDIT: Netflix

Fresh from his close encounter a couple of episodes ago, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is increasingly convinced that the mysterious Mothmen are carrying out alien abductions on the Lonely Highway. His curiosity is piqued when one of his English students, an accident-prone kid called Lerman, turns in a sinister story involving an alien abduction. After Jughead asks Lerman about the story, concerned he’s either a real-life abductee or a survivor of abuse, his parents pull him out of class and Jughead gets a telling off from Principal Weatherbee (Peter Bryant). But later in the episode, Lerman goes missing and is found on the Lonely Highway – something his parents say happened once before, when he was much younger. All signs point to Lerman being another Mothmen abductee, and the plot thickens when we learn that he and his parents have suddenly left town.

This is enough to persuade Betty (Lili Reinhart) that her missing sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye) might have been abducted too. Earlier in the episode, her creepy FBI colleague Glen (Greyston Holt) calls Betty to say the blood found on the phone box matches her sister’s super-rare type. Betty fears the worst, but doesn’t have the heart to share this with mum Alice (Mädchen Amick), so she lies and says the blood wasn’t a match. At the end of the episode, after taking matters into her own hands by tying up the seedy truck driver who had been meeting with Polly on the Lonely Highway, Betty arrives home to find Glen in her living room. He’s already told Alice the truth – something she’s understandably furious about – and has decided to replace Betty as lead investigator of Polly’s case. Given that Betty was about to pull a gun on the trucker before Jughead interrupted, this is probably no bad thing.

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Cole Sprouse in ‘Chapter Eighty-Five: Destroyer’. CREDIT: Netflix

On a happier note, Bulldogs fans finally have something to cheer about. Though they get walloped 52-7 by the Stallions, the team’s sole female player Britta delivers a last-minute touchdown, meaning Ronnie wins her bet and the team keeps its league place. It just goes to show that sometimes winning isn’t everything.

Did you notice?

  • Cheryl gets to perform Lady Gaga‘s ‘Stupid Love’ before the Bulldogs’ match against the Stallions. Is this what fans were hoping for after Riverdale bravely tried to revitalise itself with a seven-year time jump? Probably not, but at least it’s a fun distraction.
  • Lerman’s full name is Lerman Logan, a playful reference to actor Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Hunters).
  • T-Dub (Kheon Clarke), the pro football player who Ronnie asks to give the Bulldogs a pep talk, previously appeared a few episodes ago. As Ronnie explains to the team, he was a valued customer at her Manhattan jewellery store, which is exactly where we saw him before. Riverdale continuity team for the win!

‘Riverdale’ season 5 episode 9 is streaming on Netflix now

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