|“||Thicker than blood, more precious than oil. Riverdale's big business, is maple syrup. Since the town's founding, one family has controlled its lucrative syrup trade: the Blossoms. They were a part of the fabric of our daily lives. Rich or poor, old or young, we consumed Blossom syrup by the bucket. That sickly sweet smell was inescapable. The death of Jason Blossom precipitated a crisis, with the heir apparent gone, who would inherit the family business one day? Certainly not Cheryl. It was a question that brought the wolves to Riverdale, and now, the Blossoms were circling the wagons against possible attack, from within their own ranks.||”|
|— Jughead Jones|
ULTERIOR MOTIVES — Archie reluctantly agrees to escort Cheryl to her family's official start of maple syrup tapping because he gets an offer that could help his future. Archie starts to become skeptical of the real reason the Blossoms are so eager to help him, however he gets some helpful information for Betty about her sister. Veronica is trying to be nice and unbeknownst to her, befriends a classmate that her father's illegal doings has hurt. Hermione is conflicted about telling Fred the truth. Meanwhile, Alice is ready to get revenge on the Blossoms once and for all with the help of her two daughters.
The episode, like any other, unfolds with a narration of Jughead's. He talks about Maple Syrup — thicker than blood, more precious than oil, Riverdale's largest business has been maple syrup since the town's founding, and one family that has held a monopoly on this lucrative trade, is the Blossoms. Via flashback, Cheryl, Jason, Cliff, and Penelope sip delicious maple syrup from glasses, almost as if it is fine wine. Maple syrup has become an important aspect of everyone's daily lives, whether they be rich or poor, old or young, the Blossom Maple Farms label can be spotted in just about every fridge in town. The death of Jason Blossom precipitated a crisis. With the heir to the family business now gone, who would inherit the family business in Jason's place? One thing's for sure, it will certainly not be Cheryl. It is a question that has brought upon the board of trustee's descendence upon Riverdale contemplating a hostile takeover, that has made the Blossoms having to watch their backs from attack within their own ranks. The Blossoms await in the snow, along with Polly, for the arrival of the board of trustees. A fleet of ominous black Town Cars pull up to the Blossom farm, out of which emerge some equally ominous red-haired strangers.
For reasons unknown, Polly has been ignoring Betty's calls and emails, she confides in Jughead, wondering what it is that she did that resulted in Polly giving her the cold shoulder. Just as they kiss, her mother comes barging into the room to inform her and Jughead that they had a big week ahead of them. The Blossoms and Coopers have been at odds since, according to Hal, great-grandfather Blossom killed great-grandfather Cooper. Alice decides it is finally time for someone to bring them to a stopping point. With the Blossom board of trustees in town, Alice hopes to discover the meaning behind their sudden arrival, and incorporate it into a tell-all exposé she is writing about the Blossoms and their corruption. The only thing she needs now is someone from the inside.
At the Pembrooke, Hermione explains that lawyers will be coming this week to take Hermione and Veronica's statement for Hiram's hearing since they both are going to have to testify on his behalf. Veronica wonders what she was to say if asked about her father's embezzlement charges, in which Hermione explains that they will have to stretch the truth. Between Hiram finding out about Hermione's secret love affair with Fred and the Blossoms still fighting for the land development, Hermione is under a lot of stress and pressure, not to mention that fact that Fred is still unaware that Hiram is the anonymous buyer. Veronica suggests that, with this small gossipy town, she tell Fred the truth before someone else does, even if it means risking the SoDale project.
Cheryl approaches Archie in the music room with an invitation to her family's maple tree tapping, as it is the week of the official start of the maple season. The tree tapping ceremony is an annual event, a ritual that honors the Blossom bloodline, it is extremely exclusive. The maple tapping is something special that she and Jason have done together ever since they could walk, but she is not sure she can face it alone this year, if Archie comes along as her escort, maybe she could get through it. Unfortunately, while Archie would love to help her, he has a girlfriend. While Archie suggests other people, Cheryl does not want anyone else to escort her, as Archie is like no other, he defended her even when her parents would not. Upon his rejection of her offer, she shrugs it off and apologizes for asking.
At school, Ethel reads a poem in class. Several classmates are disturbed by Ethel's reading of an exceptionally dark poem, specifically Kevin and Veronica, which results in Veronica taking a personal interest in the matter. While Veronica is moved by Ethel's poem, she can also tell it is coming from someplace dark, leading her to question if everything is alright with Ethel. Ethel admits that everything is not okay within the Muggs household as her parents have been constantly fighting, but they won't tell her why. She feels as if something really bad is happening, and there is nothing she can do to stop it, like watching a slow-motion car crash. In an effort to cheer her up, Veronica invites Ethel to lunch and pampering with Veronica at the Pembrooke, and sneakily includes Kevin sitting not so far away from them, to which Ethel accepts.
Following her chat with Ethel, Kevin catches up with Veronica, who explains that Ethel's poem is a cry for help, the likes of which she vowed she would never ignore. This is brought on after an incident that happened last year at her old high school, where Veronica and her best friend Katy, terrorized another girl named Paige, which subsequently led to Paige transferring schools and going into therapy. Veronica feels that if she could make Ethel's life even a little bit better, then that's what she is going to do.
As Archie takes a drink in the hall, Penelope appears behind him, as she confronts him about his invitation by Cheryl to the tree tapping ceremony. Penelope who was aware of Archie's passion for music, and capable of getting him into the Brandenburg Music Academy, which is a school for the musically gifted, though hard to get into. Penelope recalls how Archie brought her Jason's football jersey during his memorial, that was a gesture of kindness during a moment of despair for her family, making Archie a good person in her eyes. Penelope insists that Archie escort Cheryl, it will only be one afternoon and it would mean the world to Cheryl, which Archie finally comes around to agree to. In the lounge, Archie celebrates with his friends over the possibility that he would be accepted into the exclusive summer music program. Jughead and Veronica question the validity of Archie's agreement with the Blossoms, but Betty thinks it is a great idea, then asking if Archie could check on Polly while he is there.
The next morning, as the tree tapping ceremony is ready to commence, all Archie has to do is hold the bucket steady, Cheryl would do the rest. As they are walking toward the gathering, Cheryl informs Archie that everyone else in attendance is her father's board of trustees, they are concerned that Cliff is losing his grip on the company and they are looking for a way to take over, and they can if they all vote together. Jason's death was a PR debacle, and Polly being pregnant and unwed certainly does not help the situation. As they arrive, Cliff holds his speech with Penelope standing next to the maple tree. In Jason's place, Cheryl is called up by her father to stake the tree, noticeably nervous, as she's only seen Jason do it. Archie, who holds the bucket, gives Cheryl a pep talk, telling her she could do it in her sleep, and just like he said, she does it without a hitch, earning everyone's applauds and parents prideful approval.
As promised, Ethel has lunch with Veronica, Kevin, Betty, and Hermione, however, due to all the stress she has been undergoing at home, Ethel doesn't feel hungry. Her living situation hasn't gotten any better, as her parents are still fighting, and after some bad luck with their savings, they are going to have to sell the house. At this very moment, Veronica realizes that she and Ethel have more in common than she originally thought because the Lodges lost their place at the Dakota, and having your life ruined is a terrible experience, but Veronica reminds Ethel that she still has her family and friends' support. Unbeknownst to either Ethel or Veronica at the time, Veronica's father, is responsible for the Muggs' recent misfortune. So upon learning that Ethel's last name is Muggs, which the third "G" was removed from when her grandfather moved to Riverdale, Hermione becomes fairly concerned.The tree tapping ceremony ends as they all pose for a group photo. Following the group photo, just as Betty asked, Archie checks in on Polly, he asks why she is not returning Betty's calls since she fought for her, and now Polly is treating Betty as if she is the enemy, to which Polly replies that she is fine. As they are walking to the Blossom farm, Cheryl overhears as her own aunt and uncle talk down on her, refusing to allow her to run the company, fortunately for her, Archie also overhearing their conversation, comes to Cheryl's aid. He informs aunt Cricket and uncle Bedford that Cheryl loved Jason, she has done as much to help the Bulldogs win games as Jason did, and that she has a 4.0 GPA. If there is anything that he has learned from being in class with Cheryl, it is that she should not be underestimated or betted against.
Shortly after her conversation with Veronica, Hermione finally decides to tell Fred the truth, that she and Hiram are the anonymous buyers, a revelation that Fred does not take well. Fred explodes as she attempts to explain her reasons for deceiving him; had she told him the truth, he never would have gotten involved, which Fred agrees with as he does not do business with criminals. Hermione is attempting to turn Lodge Industries legitimate, but she can only do that by partnering with businesses like Andrews Construction. Hermione confesses that while that is the reason for Cliff Blossom stealing his crew, it is Hiram that sent the two attackers, having found out about their affair. She understands that Fred is angry, but she pleads with him to stay on the project because she is not able to start over if Fred abandons it. However, he is so frustrated that he exits the trailer before answering.
After the group photo, Cliff takes the opportunity to have a quick chat with Archie as he is Cheryl's escort, in which he admits to being taken aback at Cheryl's choice, considering how Cliff and Fred do not have the best relationship. Archie says that he only came for Cheryl's sake and because of Penelope's favor of getting him into the music academy. Cliff reminds Archie that his family can be quite generous to the right people, which is why Cliff wants him to attend the banquet they are hosting later this week at the Belmont Lodge as Cheryl's escort. Archie is not too sure he should attend since he is an Andrews, banquets are not their type of scenes, but this is precisely why Cliff wants him to come, people like the Andrews are the bedrock of their town. Cheryl pitches in, trying to convince Archie that she also needs a dance partner. After a bit of effort on their part, Archie reluctantly complies, knowing they won't accept no for an answer.
Archie visits the Coopers to give Betty information about Polly after he attended the tree tapping ceremony. Alice finally has someone on the inside, "our fox in the hen house", she calls him. Archie informs them that the Blossoms are treating Polly great, and that he does not think she wants to come back, which Alice is just fine with, or so she claims. Alice wonders what else Archie might have come across while in the sticky-red thick of it, anything about the board, she pries. According to Archie, the Blossoms are worried that the board will try to steal the company from Cliff Blossom after the scandal behind Jason's death and Polly pregnancy, which Alice finds to be quite the scandalous story in the making. A hostile take-over accounts for the trustees being in town, since the Blossoms empire is crumbling. Despite Polly being at Thornhill with the Blossoms, Alice will not allow this to sway her from exposing them, claiming that Polly betrayed them, not the other way around.
The next day at school, a brief confrontation takes place between Betty, Jughead and Cheryl, in which Betty demands that she be allowed to talk to Polly, though, Cheryl is not in much of a fighting mood. Cheryl tells them that they should be celebrating over the news that Polly is having twins, which Betty was unaware of. She is shocked to learn that her own sister hasn't told her, but she pleads with Cheryl to at least deliver a message, telling Polly to call their mother as she misses her, despite her best efforts to hide it.
Veronica invites Ethel back over to The Pembrooke, where she surprises her with expensive clothing and jewelry as gifts. The items she is giving to Ethel were first given to her by her father, he would bring home gifts in an effort to make up for misdeeds, she even still wears the pearls he gave her. However, Ethel doesn't want any gifts, she only desires to be Veronica's friend.
Archie receives a surprise visit from Cheryl, who wishes to thank him with a brand new guitar for agreeing to escort her to the upcoming banquet, Cheryl kisses him on the cheek and then leaves, commenting that her claustrophobia acts up in small houses. Fred advises him to give it back, but Archie reminds him that the Blossoms are going to get him into the best music program in the country, they believe in his potential. Fred informs Archie that the Blossoms are no friend to them, they are only using Archie, as he and his father are nothing more to them than dirt under their shoe.
Alice and Betty meet with Hal at The Register, with a USB flash drive that contains all the evidence need to expose the Blossoms and their corrupted ways. However, Hal is unwilling to publish what her refer to as her own personal vendetta. When Alice tries to use the computer herself, she learns that Hal changed the password. Alice tries to convince Hal that if they expose the Blossoms, they could get Polly back, but a bitter Hal retaliates for being thrown out of the house by firing her from the paper. Alice and Betty exit the shop, but not quietly (nothing ever goes quietly with Alice), just then Alice picks up a large rock and throws it through the front glass door of the Register, as she cries "I want my daughter back, you bastard".
As promised, Archie is taken to the local tailor to get sized for the suit he will come to wear for the banquet, but before they move on to measurements for the pants, Archie wants to talk to Cliff. His father's company is having troubles, so he wonders if the Blossoms can help his father and Andrews Construction instead of helping him with the music program. Cliff is impressed at the lengths Archie is willing to go for his father, negotiation on his behalf. He tries to imagine if Jason would ever have done the same for him, but he is not too sure he would, it speaks to Archie's character. Cliff informs him that they have already given the academy a call, however, after the banquet, he will be willing to discuss what the Blossoms can do for Fred.
At The Blue and Gold offices, Betty expresses how she cannot believe how poorly her parents are behaving while Polly is locked up at Thornhill. In times of crisis, families usually come together or fall apart, Betty feels like her family is falling apart, and there is nothing she can do about that. Jughead refuses to allow her to give up, he assures her that the Coopers will not fall apart because she will keep them together. Jughead claims that she is stronger than all the white noise, her parents included, so she should not let go, which Betty agrees to just before hugging him.
At the student lounge, Valerie informs Archie that she has just had a chat with Cheryl, who believes that she is going to steal Archie away, which Archie insists is not true. Archie doesn't seem too concerned with being bought by the Blossoms, so long as it helps his father's company and gives him access to that prestigious music program he is promised. Valerie wonders why Archie won't rather earn his spot in the program with his music. Which leads him to question what she would do in his place, to which she says that if he has to ask, then he doesn't know her at all.
Soon after this, Betty and Veronica learn from Kevin that Ethel's father was in the hospital after attempting to commit suicide. Upon learning this, Veronica runs to the restroom, partially feeling responsible for their situation. Tears escape her eyes as she snatches the pearls, that her father gifted her, from around her neck, causing them to scatter the floor. Not long after, Betty rushes in to comfort her.
In the evening, held at the Belmont Lodge, the banquet finally commences. As promised, Archie escorts Cheryl to the banquet. As everyone gathers at the dinner table, Cliff holds his speech, he talks about how they have been tested this year as a town, a company and a family, and while it was not Jason's hand that staked the maple, it was the hand of hope. After the speech, Cheryl tells Archie that her parents' kind ways are not genuine as they wanted her to fail the tapping. Just then, Cliff requests to speak with Archie privately, he has decided to help Fred since Archie has helped them, the Andrews have a bright future with the Blossoms. Archie reminds him that they do not have to keep doing him favors, he likes Cheryl and is happy to be there for her as a friend. Though Cheryl is a bright girl, the trustees are skeptical of having her play an active role in the company, but if someone with Archie's character were at her side to temper her erratic behavior, they would be more inclined. So having Archie with Cheryl creates an appealing picture.
Polly interrupts the two of them, asking to have the first dance with Archie. As they are dancing, she explains that the Blossoms have something to do with Jason's death, and she is there to figure out how, but she needs Archie to get Betty to back off. Upon that discovery, he notices Cheryl storm off after a fight with her father, in which Archie follows her out to the pool in order to check on her.
Veronica and Betty buy flowers and bring them to the hospital for Ethel's father, where they run into Ethel and her mother, Mrs. Muggs. Veronica introduces herself as the daughter of Hiram Lodge, the man responsible for their troubles. Veronica apologizes, wishing she could do something, but that isn't good enough for Mrs. Muggs, she wants justice. She wants Veronica to tell the truth about her father at his trial. He is ruining lives and deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. Once home, Veronica informs her mother of Ethel's father's attempted suicide, and that she is done lying for him.
Following an argument with her father, Cheryl exits the banquet for some fresh air, she is of course followed by Archie. Jason was the golden boy, Cheryl says, people hate her, and while that is fine at school, it is too much to bear from her own family. However, Archie thinks she is awesome, which leads Cheryl to express how she feels that Archie is the only decent person left in Riverdale, she then kisses him and tells Archie that her lipstick is maple-red, in case he is wondering why it is so sweet. Archie runs off, leaving her by the pool. As he is leaving, he stumbles upon a conversation between Cliff and Penelope outside the lounge. Cliff says that while the trustees are satisfied, uncle Bedford keeps asking about the drive-in land. Cliff is close to regaining the land, and Hermione Lodge will crumble in the process, but they never imagined that she would be so resourceful. Penelope comments that maybe Cliff should have sent her to jail, instead of Hiram, unaware of Archie listening behind the bushes.
Meanwhile, Cheryl manages to catch up to him on the other side of the lodge after he ran off, she thought it was Cinderella that ran away from the ball, not Prince Charming. Archie wants to break off their arrangement, but Cheryl first reminds him of everything he could be losing if he does. She then accuses him of being just as bad as everyone else in town, despite her initial beliefs, as he wants something from them as well.
Betty and Jughead go to the Cooper house to inform Alice of news from Archie concerning Polly. Alice learns from them that Polly has not betrayed them, but that she is actually spying on the Blossoms, making her their woman on the inside. Alice cries as a sign of relief, when she went after the story, a part of her thought that Polly might have been gone forever. Betty and Jughead want to finish the exposé at The Blue and Gold, and they want her to join them. Alice is reluctant at first, questioning the reliability of the school newspaper but after encouragement from Jughead and Betty's part, Alice agrees to join.
The next day, on his way to school, Archie catches up with Valerie to tell her that he is done with the Blossoms, and to admit that she is right about him being bought and taking shortcuts. Unfortunately, Valerie is already done with him as she is sick of being ignored, and unlike him, she will not be bought. In class, Veronica apologizes once again for her family's action, which Ethel doesn't hold her accountable for, hoping they can still be friends. Archie goes to Jughead and Betty at The Blue and Gold offices with one last piece of information, he informs them of what he'd overheard at the Blossom banquets between Penelope and Cliff, it sounded as if they were responsible for sending Veronica's father to jail.Meanwhile, Hermione announces to Fred that she has decided to sell the SoDale project to Cliff before it gets any worse but Fred is against this as he decides that he will stay on the project under a few conditions; everything that they will do from this point forward will be legit, and that his stake is 20%, a percentage that he is not willing to negotiate on. Fred is tired of people like the Lodges using his family as pawns. Finally, Fred ends their romantic relationship, they will be nothing more than business partners after that. Hermione accepts his terms, but it's apparent that she is hurt that their relationship is no more.
The Blossoms stand by and wave as the Blossom board of trustees depart Riverdale, however, upon Penelope asking Cliff of their status with the board of trustees, Cliff assures Penelope that they aren't out of the woods just yet. Meanwhile, Cheryl sits on her bed as she scribbles, with a red marker, on Archie and Polly's face in the group photo following the tree tapping ceremony.
- Archie: "I already talked to Valerie and she's cool with it."
- Jughead: "Cool with you being a gigolo, now?"
- ―Archie tells the group of his involvement with the Blossoms
|“||Archie, if music be the food of love, play on. Play on.||”|
|— Cheryl Blossom|
|“||Winter had come early to Riverdale. Brutal, and unforgiving... But it would be nothing compared to the storm that was gathering. A storm of chaos named Cheryl Blossom.||”|
|— Jughead's narration|
- Archie: "At the banquet, I heard Mr. and Mrs. Blossom talking. It sounded like Clifford Blossom was responsible for sending Veronica's dad to jail."
- Betty: "Oh, my god. If Clifford sent Hiram Lodge to jail, tore apart his family, then maybe Hiram was trying to do the same thing to him?"
- Jughead: "Yeah, by going after what the Blossoms value most: their family, their legacy. That's a motive."
- ―Jughead adds Hiram Lodge's name to Jason Blossom's murder board
- The title for this chapter is named after the 1937 Jean Renoir film.
- This episode marks the end of Archie and Valerie's relationship and Fred and Hermione's rekindled relationship.
- This episode marks the last official appearance of Ross Butler as Reggie Mantle.
- This episode marks the first time Archie & Cheryl kiss.