We gave it a C+
This week’s episode of Empire felt like a bit of a throwaway: Cookie and Angelo’s latest drama is boring, Jamal still is caught in the same love triangle he’s been in all season, and Hakeem is trying to have an epic party. The only real new stuff is in Andre’s world, and it’s still just shady business, as usual. Either the show’s hitting a lull… or this is just the calm before the storm. Anyway…
Jamal is in bed (well, on the couch) with a sleeping Philip when he hits his phone, and it opens up a live stream from D-Major. “I’ve been hiding my entire life,” D-Major is saying as hearts and likes flood the screen. “I’m about to lose somebody I love because they can’t stand me not being true to myself… Jamal, I’m coming up to see you.” Jamal freaks out, makes Philip throw clothes on (what is he hiding?), and just after D-Major comes out onscreen, he comes in to Jamal’s apartment.
“I did what you told me to do,” he tells Jamal, explaining that Jamal said the only reason they weren’t together is that he wasn’t living his truth. Jamal tries to tell Philip not to leave, but Philip is like, You need to deal with this on your own. Jamal tells D-Major they can talk later and kicks him out, too. I mean, I guess he wasn’t exclusive with either of them, but he did give Philip and D-Major some mixed signals, right?
Later, Jamal talks to D-Major, who is freaking out — he’s losing contacts in the hip hop world since coming out, and he’s taking it harder than he expected. He needs Jamal to help him through. Jamal tries to explain to Philip how hard it is to come out in the music industry (to which Philip sarcastically replies that it must be much harder in the music world than when he came out while in… the military) and how they should be kind to D-Major right now. Philip seems to agree, but later, when D-Major shows up at Empire looking for Jamal and insinuates that he’s better at making love to Jamal than Philip is, Philip decks him in the face. Yeah, this isn’t going to be a happy trio of pals anytime soon. It’s clear, though, that Jamal wants to be with Philip — the question is, will D-Major back off and let it happen?
Elsewhere, Hakeem is dealing with a different sort of problem. It’s his birthday (I can’t believe he’s only just turning 21), and he’s freaking out that his family isn’t making a big deal of it, despite the fact that they’re all pretty panicked about Anika being missing. Hakeem doesn’t even know Anika’s gone, despite how she frantically gave Bella to him on her way out of town. (Another great part of this scene: Lucious has come down with a cough, and Cookie snaps, “What’s that? You getting that ALS again?” I love when they remember the ALS story line!)
Hakeem has his own plans for his birthday anyway — for 21 straight hours, he’ll be live streaming on Empire Xstream, dropping hints as they go to different clubs. He’s bummed that Tiana won’t be there, but eventually when they get to Club Surrender, he gets a birthday surprise: She did come, and with two of her hot new dancers in tow. It’s funny to see Hakeem breaking out of party mode to narrate to his cameramen, like he’s pulling a Ferris Bueller, but it’s also sort of… boring. I don’t really get why we’re here, or why we’re supposed to care about Hakeem’s party. He’s pretty much been partying for two and a half straight seasons, so it’s not exactly a scintillating plot point.
Anyway, the deal was that he was supposed to get paid for these club appearances, but the Club Surrender owner tries to stiff him, taking all the champagne money from his appearance fee. (Not sure what this jerk was trying to accomplish outside of just being a jerk. Were we supposed to know who he is?) Some goons on either side of Hakeem pull out guns and tell the club owner to pay him. They agree, Hakeem gets a Club Surrender guard to give up his own watch for one of the goons, and he invites them along to serve as security for the rest of the night.
Angelo and Cookie are preparing for another of his bougie events when he notices Cookie still has the gold gun Lucious gave her ages ago in her purse. He freaks out, reminding her it’s illegal to carry a gun in New York, and asks her if she’s ever shot someone. Cookie says no — although we see in a flashback that she’s lying. When she was a teen and was waiting for Lucious at their hotel (apartment?), one of Lucious’ friends came over and tried to make a move on her. She grabbed the gun, he told her she wouldn’t do it, and she shot him in the knee (freaking out the whole time, to be fair). Cookie tells him she’ll get rid of the gun.