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 this week’s episode in terms of relative genius/insanity. Add your own ratings in the comments below.
LUCIOUS & ANDRE LYON
How crazy/awesome were they? Crazy enough to sell pieces of their company to acquire SwiftStream, which only happens because Lucious is jealous of Jamal… again.
What the heck happened with them this week? Lucious tries to do right by Andre and Rhonda by buying the soon-to-be parents a six-bedroom mansion in Long Island, telling them how proud and excited he is that they are carrying on the Lyon name and by explaining to a relieved Andre that he is done testing him. Andre then tells Lucious he has an idea on how to raise the captial to acquire SwiftStream: They can forfeit their future royalities to Lucious’ old music to make some cash, but that would mean getting the sign off from Cookie, who is listed as a publisher as well. Lucious tries to sell Cookie on the idea, stating that the deal would be good for both companies, but Cookie says that selling off the royalties for those old tracks is a no-go. Cookie tells Lucious that when they were beyond broke, all they had was the music. So selling it off now would be like going bankrupt. She tells him to find another way to get his capital and then reveals that she is seeing Laz by making out with him right in front of Lucious. He’s none too happy about the news and takes it as well as a passive-agressive teenager would. But he also decides to look into Cookie’s new boyfriend and discovers the truth about Bull background (but more on that later).
As for finding more capital for the SwiftStream deal, Andre comes through, telling Lucious they can sell off the sports and liquor parts of their company to make the money back. At first Lucious disagrees, saying that breaking apart pieces of the Empire would not make it an empire, which is understandable, but all that changes after one little comment from Lee Daniels, who cameos as himself to direct Jamal’s Pepsi commercial. (Of course the co-creator of Empire would want to cameo on Empire. Who else would love to see Danny Strong also pop up as Doyle from Gilmore Girls or Jonathan from Buffy at some point?)
After Daniels rebuffs Lucious’ father/son idea for the Pepsi music video, stating that Jamal is the future and deserves to have his own concept, Lucious gets jealous of being swept aside and agrees to Jamal’s deal in order to prove just how much success and fame and future he has left in him.
Most Tweetable Quote: “What’s up with this ‘legendary’ stuff? Y’all making me sound neolithic or something,” is pretty impressive simply because Lucious uses the word “neolithic.”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Lucious’ jealousy gets the best of him when seeing Cookie and Laz make out. Tipping a wine bottle onto Cookie’s rug and then racially insulting Laz might be the perfect representation of just how obnoxious Lucious is.
How crazy/awesome was she? Pretty equally both actually. Crazy enough to not realize that Laz was untrustworthy at first, and crazy enough to not realize he is trustworthy now. Also, awesome enough to get her sister the help she so desperately needs.
What the heck happened with her this week? Cookie spends most of the episode with her estranged sister Candace (Vivica A. Fox is perfection this week), as they try and track down Carol in Philadelphia. After all of Carol’s normal drugged-up hotspots are a bust, Cookie turns to her old prison pal Pepper, played by Rosie O’Donnell, for assistance in the search. Pepper is now living in the suburbs and has a successful bakery, but she always has time to help out a dear friend and she still has the resources to find Carol without really breaking a sweat. (Her relationship with Cookie is best described with this line they chant together: “Baddest bitches on the block” as two hoity-toity customers frown.) Pepper learns that Carol is spending her time with a “little skinny bitch who likes to beat women” and she tags along with Candace and Cookie as they find Carol looking way worse for wear. After taking Carol to get some food, Candace and Cookie make their sister choose between them so she can get out of Philly. After confirming that her children can stay with Candace, Carol chooses to go back with Cookie.
When she returns home, there’s more trouble for everyone’s favorite Lyon. Cookie is bombarded by Lucious about the SwiftStream deal, which would require her permission. Cookie refuses Lucious on principle.
Meanwhile, Laz tells Big Heavy that their deal to scam Cookie is off and pulls a gun on his Bull brother, but it’s too late to start doing the right thing. Laz’s secret identity is discovered by Lucious, who apparently is the only person in the Lyon family who thought to Google the people they’re getting into bed with at the moment. Laz tries to explain to Cookie that what started as a scam has become real as he has fallen for Cookie, but Cookie pulls his gun out and gives it to Lucious before leaving her own office so Laz can be left at the mercy of Lucious and his men. (RIP Laz?)
Most Tweetable Quote: It’s a toss up: When Cookie responds to her nieces and nephews’ school achievements with “Hmm well, do they know they half black?” and this response to Candace as she fights Cookie about going to a crack house to find Carol, “Would you stop acting like Diahann Carroll, heifer? You ain’t been livin’ in the suburbs with that white man all yo’ life.”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Sorry Cookie, you lose out on this one. Candace’s reaction to Carol vomiting on her shoes while Cookie watches is pure gold.
NEXT: If Rhonda’s around, sleep with one eye open.[pagebreak]
RHONDA LYON & ANIKA
How crazy/awesome were they? We don’t even have words for what Anika is becoming right now.
What the heck happened with them this week? Rhonda gives Anika some terrible advice on what to do about Hakeem.
The longer version is absolutely necessary and absolutely memorable. Anika begins the episode obsessively watching Hakeem and Laura rehearse for Cookie’s Cookout with research about Laura’s life sprawled out in front of her. Clearly the lady is having a complete breakdown, but thankfully she hasn’t hurt Laura yet. While spending time with Rhonda at Rhonda’s new mansion, Anika reveals that she is in love with someone but doesn’t share the name of the person. Rhonda then tells Anika a little story. When she was in college, there was some other girl who was trying to steal Andre away from her. So Rhonda cut the girl’s ponytail in her sleep, sent her a picture with a caption that said if the girl continued to pursue Andre, she would “keep cutting.” Moral of Rhonda’s insane story: Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from getting the man you want.
Anika takes this lesson to heart and crashes a party at Hakeem’s place, confronting Laura about how she’s actually from a not-so-great upbringing (who cares?!), insulting her talent, and telling Hakeem that he deserves so much better. Hakeem tells Anika to leave, but she is not getting the hint. She later revisits Hakeem and tries to explain to him that he is actually in love with her. Her tactic don’t work and she’s unable to even tell Hakeem that she’s pregnant — he kicks her out and tells her she’s not a Lyon and will never be one. Who else is genuinely worried for Laura’s safety once again?
Most Tweetable Quote: Anika’s response to Laura asking if they’ve met before (because obviously they have) “Mmm I doubt it honey, unless you bus tables at Nobu.”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Anika’s first scene in the episode as she watches Laura and Hakeem’s rehearsal on her phone while eating lots of ice cream and pouring over her stalker-ish research about Laura is pretty GIF-tastic.
How crazy/awesome was he? Rather calm actually.
What the heck happened with him this week? Hakeem begins this week’s episode rehearsing his new track with Laura and taking care of business for Cookie’s Cookout while Cookie runs around Philly for Carol. He tries to make peace with Laz as long as Laz is willing to realize how hard Hakeem is looking to work to become a legend in his own right. (Seriously, who would have thought that Hakeem Lyon would end up becoming to Laz vs. Lucious and his men.
Hakeem is also propositioned one last time to rejoin Empire by Lucious who tries to bribe his youngest son, but Hakeem is not having any of that.
While partying with Laura, Anika struts in and tries to convince Hakeem that he loves her. As stated above, Hakeem turns her away harshly. (Didn’t he just proclaim to the world that he’s not really one anymore as well? But that’s beside the point, I guess). Anika might not be a Lyon, but she’s carrying precious Lyon cargo.
Most Tweetable Quote: His most tweetable quote might actually come from a line from his track with Laura, “With you around it’s easy, not hard like Calculus.” How very Drake of him.
Most GIF-worthy moment: After his epic takedown of the Lyon last name, dissing Anika is as GIF-y as Hakeem gets in this episode unfortunately.
How crazy/awesome was he? Awesome enough to help Skye Summers break out of a public image she hated and try singing something more personal to her. Crazy enough to let their relationship get extremely complicated.
What the heck happened with him this week? Jamal is on top of a mountain right now in terms of success. He’s got a new album to record soon, he’s working on a single with one of his favorite singers
Alicia Keys Skye Summers, and he’s got the shoot for his Pepsi commercial directed by Lee Daniels. After Jamal plays a sample of the track Lucious believes will be a hit for the new duet partners, Skye tells Jamal that she agreed to work with Jamal and Lucious because she wants to step outside of her cookie-cutter box. When Lucious tells her she should stay in her line, Jamal tells her his words are BS and she should “burn the box.” The two end up writing an awesome new anthem for love together and in the end, share a kiss.
Most Tweetable Quote: “I am the OG Skye Summers fan” might have to be his most tweetable quote considering how many times he brings the damn line up over and over again.
Most GIF-worthy moment: Jamal kissing Skye, of course. What in the world is going on right now?