This week, Lucious is a vampire, Anika is a boss, Cookie is an angel, and Mariah Carey is a kind-hearted diva queen, who finally made her Empire debut — and who does not, in case you were wondering, have any sort of face-off with our true queen, Cookie Lyon.
We open with a whopper of a scene, as Lucious does his best Mark Zuckerberg impression, sitting in a room and staring at screens, willing Empire X Stream’s subscription numbers to go up. (Or is this really an impression of Jay Z at the Tidal offices?) Anika comes in, bored to death at being a prisoner in her new home, and asks about Cookie needing a new head of A&R. Lucious gets a weird expression on his face, and Anika panics: “Are you okay? Do you need me to call a doctor?” But then… a woman comes up from under his desk, and Lucious laughs. She just… couldn’t find her earring. Very classy, Lucious. Right in front of your wife!
Meanwhile, with his ex-wife, Lucious tells Cookie that he needs five new songs to premiere exclusively on Empire X Stream — and he’s giving a new car to whoever has one ready by Friday. They fight again about Jamal’s Black and White Album, and Cookie says she’ll talk to him — after her date with smooth Angelo.
Andre is already getting out of jail, but that doesn’t mean this is going to be smooth sailing following his terrible assault by two bad-egg cops last week. “It was a simple misunderstanding,” he says at first. But when a reporter goades him with comparisons to his parents (“Are you a gangster now, too, Andre?”) he turns back to the microphone. “What happened to me is what’s happening all across America right now,” he says firmly. The Ghost Rhonda shows up. “And what’s that? Hey babe, answer her… We both know none of this would have happened if I was still here.” Is she being helpful or antagonizing? I can’t quite tell…
Across town, Jamal is trying to deal with his own trauma by attending a PTSD support group. But the fellow members are less than supportive. Instead of letting him share what happened to him, another group member exclaims that they all saw it on TV. The (super hot) group leader follows Jamal after the meeting to apologize, telling him that his fame is an additional barrier to his recovery. Jamal is like, “I’m good.” Hot Man (perhaps a new love interest down the line?) says Jamal’s PTSD is just as significant as his own — and he was a soldier. To which Jamal says, “Yeah I just came here to test the waters and now I’m healed. Thank you. Good-bye.” This is going great.
Back at Empire, Cookie and Lucious are worried (finally) about Andre. “I should have been smarter about it,” Andre says. But they won’t hear that. Lucious says it’s just because he was born black. Cookie and Lucious want to “fight fire with fire,” maybe have Thirsty look into things. But Andre reminds them he’s both a CFO of a publicly traded company and a Wharton graduate, so he can’t exactly set things on fire right now. This only makes Cookie and Lucious more worried.
Later, everyone’s at Leviticus for a new Tiana performance, when — surprise! — they realize she brought her new rapper boyfriend, Graham, out to perform on the track with her. I miss Tiana! Where has she been? Bring her back! Anyway, they perform, and Hakeem is furiously jealous. I don’t even think he remember’s Laura’s name… has he mentioned her once this season? Is he burying his pain or did he literally just forget he was about to marry the love of his life? The best part of this scene is a Lucious line: “Damn, son, you look worse than when I was dying from ALS!” Oh yeah. Remember that whole plotline?
Lucious tells Hakeem that if he’s got something to say, he should let the world hear it, not just Graham and Tiana. (Great advice, Dad!) So he heads to the studio to cut a track with Shyne and Nessa. Problem is, Nessa isn’t comfortable with disrespecting Tiana — that’s Hakeem’s beef, not hers. I already liked Nessa, but now I love her. And I think Taylor Swift is about to make a squad opening for her? Shyne, though, is not happy with this, and straight up chokes her out for her attitude. Hakeem tries, in his own way, to stop it, saying “Yo, man, chill!” and “Wow, really?” to Shyne when she walks out the door. I love him even more for not being comfortable with domestic violence — maybe those days of broom beatings with Cookie made him a caring person. Or maybe he just wasn’t insane to begin with.
Either way, he goes to tell Lucious, who tells him it’s not his fight. “The way I see it, Shyne was trying to give me something that I need, which is a hot song,” Lucious says. “So instead of running in here and ratting him out like a little bitch, you need to be taking notes.” WOW. Is it just me, or is Lucious even more evil than usual this week? This Empire X Stream stuff is really bringing out the worst in him. Hakeem says he’s not about choking girls, and Lucious says, well, your song won’t work without a female vocal, so…
There’s someone else who’s trying to get a female vocal for his track, too: Cookie pulled some strings and got Kitty (a.k.a. the great Mariah Carey) to consider doing a song with Jamal. First Jamal says yes without knowing what he agreed to, but then backs out. “I’m not really performing right now…” he says. In a deliciously awkward pause, Kitty is like, “Um… kay? I’m gonna… go back to rehearsal…” This is not a woman who is told “No!” And this time won’t be the first. Cookie talks some sense into Jamal and tells him that she’s gotten half as many live performance requests for him as she used to, so he really needs to give his fans something to cling to. He agrees and Kitty is pleased, and then she puts her arms out for two burly men to raise her back onto the stage. Amazing.
Jamal is still fighting Lucious about the Black and White Album, but Lucious pushes on, and I will transcribe the scene here because it was weird and kind of great: “Empire X Stream happens to be a ravenous beast that is the lifeblood of this company,” he says.
“Okay, we get it,” Jamal says. “You’re a vampire.” Jamal leaves.
Cookie and Lucious bicker about crunching numbers and getting more subscribers.
Cookie: Jamal was right, you are a vampire.
Lucious: So why don’t you let me suck some of your blood?
Cookie: Drop dead, Luscious.
Lucious: I can’t. I’m a vampire.
WHAT WAS THAT? Don’t answer that. I don’t care. I think I liked it.
NEXT: Boy, Bye!