This week’s hour, like every great episode of Empire, centers on Cookie. Through flashbacks — some we’ve already seen, some we haven’t — we learn more about the life her father wanted for her. A life that, with Angelo, she has a second chance at getting.
So let’s get into it. Remember last week, when Cookie dumped Angelo but then whispered she loved him after he stripped down for her on TV? One of Angelo’s superpowers is bionic hearing, apparently, because he shows up this week at Cookie’s door, carrying their customary coffees and ready for a second chance. “Are you in or are you out?” he asks her, to which she replies, “Did you just give me an ultimatum?” Fortunately, the ultimatum works: Not only does Cookie decide she’s “in,” but she and Angelo finally consummate their relationship, seconds after resuming it.
Lucious has called a meeting over at Empire, even though it’s a Saturday. New York DJs have been dissing Jamal, so Lucious decides to confront him in front of everyone about how much money Jamal is burning through with no music — and no Empire XStream data — to show for it. Jamal swears he does have music, and not only that, but he’s also created some visuals (“a musical museum” as he calls it) to go with the tracks, à la Frank Ocean or Beyoncé. Always on trend, that Jamal.
One of those trends, however, isn’t great: After the meeting, Jamal is once again at home, and his two love interests are there, too. Phillip and Derek bicker in the kitchen — Phillip doesn’t think Derek should be giving Jamal drugs (duh), and Derek says everyone takes those pills. “‘Everyone does it’ is not an excuse!” Phillip tries to say, but Jamal stops them right there and makes them leave. Cookie’s coming over.
“Look at my ho-ish baby,” Cookie says when she arrives — the first of three BAZILLION amazing Cookie zingers this week. “Got two grown men sprung!” Jamal brushes it off with a smile and then takes Cookie into a room full of screens to show her his musical museum. A series of Cookie’s old home videos start to play, and she’s loving it — until her father appears on screen. Then she freaks out: “Shut it down! You can’t use those videos! You had no right!”
She rushes off to the fancy event where she’s supposed to be meeting Angelo’s mother, but she’s incredibly late after the shock of seeing those videos. When she arrives to find Angelo at the piano surrounded by pearl-clad society types, she snarls, “Can I have a minute with my man?” One of the women shoots back, “You sure he’s your man?” Cooke responds by tossing the woman’s purse and saying: “Go fetch!” When the woman is out of earshot, she mutters, “Cheap-ass bag.” I LOVE COOKIE. She never gets old; I don’t know why!
Cookie apologizes to Angelo, but he’s extremely upset. “Music is to your family what politics is to mine,” he says. “You disrespected my mother. That’s not cool.” Cookie tries to explain: Jamal found the videos, and all they did was remind her she chose Lucious when she should have chosen someone like Angelo.
In a flashback, we see teen Lucious dropping teen Cookie off at home late at night. Her father opens the door, extremely upset, holding something up. “I can’t do this anymore,” he says. “Guns and drug money? I know that’s his. You’ve got to go… As much as it’s killing me, you’ve got to go. I have two other girls to think of. I can’t let that boy ruin them like he ruined you.” Cookie tries to reason with him, but he breaks down sobbing and hugs her goodbye.
I’ll be honest, this scene made me sob. I think Ray Austin — who plays Cookie’s father, John Holloway — is phenomenal. Same to Ajiona Alexus, who’s wonderful here as young Laretha. Was John right to kick Laretha out so quickly? I don’t think so, but Cookie was blinded by young love. She didn’t yet know Lucious is The Actual Worst.
Back in present day, Cookie tries to figure out how to make it up to Angelo, and decides to take his mother out for dinner. Angelo says she should invite her sons — especially Andre, who shares an alma mater with Mrs. DuBois — because his mother is big on family. Cookie pleads with her boys and they promise to attend (though they’re not all happy about it).
NEXT: Cookie’s heartbreaking flashback
Over sushi, Cookie tries to explain to Jamal why she reacted so strongly to the videos. As she tells him the story, we get another flashback. Cookie shows up at her father’s house just as he’s being loaded into an ambulance unconscious. She wants to go with him to the hospital, but Candace won’t let her. “You stress Daddy out enough — go be with Lucious!” Candace says to a sobbing Cookie.
“Candace blamed me for his death and she was right,” Cookie tells Jamal. His heart attack happened just three days after he kicked her out, so it’s no wonder Cookie has a conflicted, unresolved, and guilt-filled relationship with memories of her father. But in the end, she tells Jamal he’s free to use the videos if they inspire him. She just might not be able to watch.
In the next scene, Sad Cookie is gone. “Okay, teach me to be a society bitch, Candace,” she says to her sister at a fancy restaurant. “I need to learn how to conversate! What do I say to this bourgie b–ch? Well, I shouldn’t call her a b–ch. It’s his mama.” I am dying, even though I don’t feel like Cookie is nearly as dumb as she’s acting in these scenes. Cookie can speak just fine; I don’t think she really uses words like “conversate,” and I feel like she usually has no problem acting like a rich woman (as long as you don’t piss her off). But whatever. Candace tells her Mrs. DuBois was in the same minority sorority as Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou, and Rosa Parks, so Cookie should try to quote them if she can. Like this from Maya Angelou: “We cannot repair what we cannot see.”
“Didn’t Beyoncé say something like that?” Cookie says.
“Maybe,” Candace says. “But it sounds like something Maya could have said. You’re going to have to Melania Trump the hell out of this situation.” Amazing.
Of course, Lucious comes in and dampens the mood. He rents out the restaurant so they can’t use it, and then somehow seems to get the Lyon name blacklisted from every fancy joint in town.
Candace suggests just doing the dinner at Cookie’s home — it is a luxurious place, after all. Cookie bristles: “I practically have penises hanging on the walls!” she says, looking at a piece of art by her side. She decides to do an extreme house makeover, trading her leopard fur chairs for silk sofas.
NEXT: Lucious crashes dinner
Cookie’s not the only Lyon fretting over something: Hakeem has to “babysit” his own child and is completely freaked out (no thanks to Lucious). His friend suggests calling Shyne since he raised Nessa, but Hakeem has a better idea: “I’ma call Jamal,” he says. “He did have a baby for, like, two seconds.” Dead.
But Jamal won’t answer, because he’s already at Cookie’s — and high as a kite off the new pills from Derek. Cookie is furious: “Jesus, please stop me from killing my child tonight.” Angelo and his mother arrive next (and she somehow knows Cookie changed her whole apartment). After that, it’s Hakeem, carrying a crying Bella and begging Cookie to make her stop. It’s a mess. “Where’s the child’s mother?” Mrs. DuBois asks Hakeem.
“Mrs. DuBois, you be mad shady,” High Jamal shouts (with a smile) from the corner. “I clock that. I catch that!” I kind of like High Jamal — he’s just telling the truth! Then, just as Angelo reminds Cookie his mother is deathly allergic to seafood — which, of course, is the dinner they were going to eat — Lucious and Anika show up, fuming about Hakeem bringing his own daughter out of the house without telling them. Lucious is in heaven: “That woman is my wife, Anika, who just gave birth to my grandson…” He spills all the dirt to catch Mrs. DuBois up to speed. “I see you met the gay one, and you met the irresponsible one,” he says. “Where’s Andre at? Where’s the crazy one?” Oh, poor Cookie.
Where is Andre? He’s at Nessa’s family party to commemorate the six-year anniversary of her brother Stone’s death. Not only that, but he brought Freda Gatz to convince her to join Shyne’s label. He was going to drop off Freda and go to Cookie’s, but Nessa tells him how important this night is to her, and he ends up staying. Of course, Nessa and Freda perform about finding new families after losing their fathers (or father figures, in Nessa’s case). Freda talks about not trusting Lyons, and Shyne covertly gets the whole thing on video. But what is he planning to do with it?
In the end, Andre never shows up to Cookie’s, but it’s okay. Cookie kicks the caterers out, feeds everyone peach cobbler and cold duck, and tells Mrs. DuBois her family might be a twisted tree but she wouldn’t trade away any of the branches. She tells Jamal to go sing a song, and he performs a beautiful ode to his mama about what she went through with her father and how there’s nothing Jamal wouldn’t do for her. It’s emotional enough to make Lucious and Anika leave quietly, and — more importantly — it helps win over Mrs. DuBois.
“I can tell you’ve gone above and beyond to try to impress me,” she tells Cookie. “But my blood ain’t blue. My granddaddy was a bootlegger, his father was a smuggler… You and your family remind me of where we came from. I see why Angelo is attracted to you — you’ve got fire in you. Just make sure that fire doesn’t burn my child. My only child.”
Angelo and Cookie are pleased with how the night went. Is this the start of something amazing — the life Cookie’s father always wanted for her? Or is this a moment of calm before some fiery storm? Guess we’ll find out next week, but for now, it’s refreshing to have an episode packed with great Cookie-isms and low-stakes, easily resolved drama. Even Lyons need a break now and then.