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'Empire' recap: 'Without a Country'

Ludacris promises to make Lucious into ‘another dead rapper.’

Posted on

Chuck Hodes/Fox


TV Show
run date:
Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett
Current Status:
In Season

Let’s face it: You’re not reading this recap because you want a lofty deconstruction of the symbolism and philosophy behind Empire. You’re reading because you just watched the latest over-the-top episode and you thought, “What the hell was that?!?” as a billion GIFs exploded in your brain. So every week, instead of a traditional recap, we’ll give you the latest edition of Empire: How Crazy/Awesome Was It?, in which we rate the characters in terms of relative genius/insanity. You can add your own ratings in the comments below.


How crazy/awesome was she? Relatively sane, considering that she conducted business in a gorilla costume last week

What the heck happened with her this week? She did a little T.C.B. and got a new J-O-B, my sweet boo boo kitties. The episode begins with newly fired Empire execs Andre, Cookie, and Hakeem walking out of the office with all of their belongings in hand. Gold records? Check. Important files? Check. Severed head in a box? Uh… HR might’ve confiscated that one. “We don’t need this place,” Cookie insists. “We’ll start our own company!” Before you can start fantasizing about these three running their own gluten-free bakery, they’re already scheming to launch a rival record label.

Most of the planning is accomplished over three-way conference call and split-screen scenes. Were you anxious that these scenes might devolve into dirty Down With Love-style split-screen jokes? Not to worry! Director Dee Rees mostly used the device to show us that, no matter what Cookie and Andre are doing, Hakeem is pretty much always working out. “Let me develop my own artists!” he demands while doing sit-ups. “We just need a dope name!” he insists while doing bicep curls. They discuss whether to steal Tiana and Anika from Empire. Meanwhile, somewhere off-screen, a sweat-slicked Hakeem collapses in the corner of his home gym, trying to ward off a heart attack.

Getting back to the question of the “dope name,” Cookie urges everyone to think big, reminding them that Empire wasn’t always as ambitious as that word suggests. “You ain’t born with your name,” she says. “You grow into it.” It’s good advice, especially for a woman whose own name might’ve been chosen by the Keebler Elves. Soon, Cookie and Hakeem are sweeping out the new label’s headquarters, a building formerly occupied by the Vizhnitz Dynasty. “Dynasty! That’s a dope name!” squeals Cookie. And any dope who watches soaps can guess why Cookie likes itEmpire creator Lee Daniels once called this show the “black Dynasty.” It’s only a matter of time before Lyon Dynasty brings out the ’80s-inspired shoulder pads and lily-pond catfights.

Most tweetable quotes: “Did your daddy drop you on your head?” “Anika knows marketing! She made a whole career selling her ass.”

Most GIF-worthy moment: Saluting the Vizhnitz Dynasty with a “Mazel tov!”


How crazy/awesome was he? Well, he’s about to get a whole lot crazier if he can’t get his prescription.

What the heck happened with him this week? He basically starred in Footloose 2: The One Where Music Gets Banned in Jail. Turns out Lucious wants to record a single from the inside. “I’m actually thinking about doing a Lucious Lyon joint from the joint!” he tells Jamal. There are a few minor obstacles to Lucious’s plan. A power-hungry prison guard (played by Ludacris) keeps interrupting Lucious’s freestyle sessions and insisting that Lucious won’t get his prescription unless he’s “a little more cooperative.” Cue the dramatic music Empire reserves for truly evil characters. If Officer Luda could grow a longer mustache, he’d twirl it. Problem No. 2: Lucious needs someone to smuggle recording equipment into his cell, so a purple-suited man named Thirsty Rawlings (Andre Royo from The Wire) offers his services as a lawyer-slash-smuggler. Next thing you know, Lucious is standing in a room filled with equipment and rapping with his crew: “Snitch bitch! / Snitchin’-ass bitch! / And you know it / And you know it / And I know it / And you know I know it.” Don’t we know it!

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Officer Luda catches him and threatens to turn him into “another dead rapper,” but Thirsty intervenes by arranging for thugs to crack Officer Luda’s ribs and then bribing the judge at Lucious’s bail hearing with illicit photos of His Honor bound up in S&M gear. Much to the horror of Prosecutor Roxanne Ford, whose neckline isn’t exactly rising along with her career ambitions (see “Roxanne Ford’s Cleavage,” below), Lucious is out. And so is his hit single, which is already in heavy rotation when Cookie hears it on the radio. “Damn, that’s hot,” she proclaims. And she knows that Lucious knows that she knows it.

Most tweetable quote: “You still go to church? Still believe in God? Then you pray to God that he forgives you. ‘Cause I don’t.” “Harvard ain’t got nothin’ on me!”

Most GIF-worthy moment: Doing that spank-your-butt dance move any time someone says “snitch” or “bitch”


How crazy/awesome was it? Definitely crazy. Possibly awesome, depending on your affinity for push-up bras that lift you up higher than anything Hakeem can bench-press during a conference call.

What the heck happened with it this week? It squeezed into an impossibly low-cut outfit, distracting the jury.

Most tweetable quote: Cleavage doesn’t need to be quoted! It speaks for itself.

Most GIF-able moment: Threatening a wardrobe malfunction in court

NEXT: The rest of the Lyons…