I… am struggling to pick my jaw up from the floor after that last scene. I’ll say just this for now: Andre deserved to catch a break, and I think he got one?
This week’s episode was about choices. First up: Our prodigy du jour, Nessa, who has to choose which label to sign with out of the half dozen bidding on her. Oh, you thought her deal was in the bag at Empire? So did Lucious and Andre, but Shyne played them, parlaying Empire’s interest and Nessa’s incredible debut at the Empire X Stream launch into a fight over her talent. Hakeem tries to be a big boy and sign her on a livestream after Lucious tells him to offer her $2.5 million, but Shyne tricks him into writing the number on a napkin then broadcasting it (is Empire still paying for all the screens in Times Square, by the way?) — so all the other labels know where to start their offers.
So Andre tries his hand — and it turns out he and Nessa have a lot in common. They’re both fantastic with money (Nessa runs the numbers for Shyne’s “business”), and they’re both not currently getting what’s rightfully theirs. Andre gets Nessa to sign, but Shyne is furious, and storms into Lucious’ office later when he’s there with Andre. Shyne won’t sign the contract, so Andre clocks him in the face. Then Shyne points a gun on him, but before he can pull the trigger, Lucious uses his fancy baseball bat (which belonged to A-Rod!) to bludgeon Shyne in the knees. He still won’t sign, and he spits blood on the contract instead — but then Lucious points the gun at Shyne, and he relents. Who knew Lucious and Andre still made such a good team? Oh yeah, after Shyne signs, Andre gives him another rough kick in the gut. Woof.
Cookie, on the other hand, has a different set of options: She’s torn between a new, high-society life with Angelo, or the hustle she knows with Lucious. She starts out upset (but pretending not to be) that Angelo hasn’t called, but then he shows up with three adorable children singing “Frère Jacques” and invites her to what he calls a concert. She has a delicious wardrobe-changing montage (I could handle one of those every episode, writers!!) and decides on a sexy red dress and chic black lipstick — but surprise, it’s actually a fundraiser with an opera performance, and everyone is wearing white and silver ballroom gowns. Oh, and Angelo’s female friends are as catty as they come, both to Cookie’s face and behind her back, when she catches them talking about her in the bathroom. She scares them enough that they shut up (for now), but it’s clear she’s shaken and doesn’t feel comfortable around these unwelcoming debutante jerks, so she sneaks away and dodges Angelo’s calls.
Still, two great things come from this: One, she realizes the key to the song Tiana has to release to squash Graham and Hakeem’s beef is sampling the bit of the opera La Bohème she heard that night (about a woman torn between two men). And two, Angelo goes to Jamal for advice, and Jamal tells him he needs to be able hang in Cookie’s world, too — which means coming out to Leviticus to see Tiana, and also maybe not wearing a suit every single day. Lucious is not happy to have clean-cut, suave Angelo on his turf, and he takes this opportunity to tell him (in a flashback for us) how Cookie got her nickname. In that flashback, and another one earlier, we learn that Cookie’s father pinned the hope for the family onto her. She was supposed to marry Barry, go to Howard University, and then on to medical school. But Lucious and the music seduced her, and then Lucious and his henchmen beat up poor, sweet, smart Barry after he tried to take Cookie home from a block party. Does Lucious have even one non-evil bone in his body?
Let’s check in on the Lyon who usually wouldn’t hurt a fly: Jamal. He’s still dealing with his PTSD (when do we think he’s finally going to hook up with hot military vet therapist man?), and part of the recovery is going back to see Freda again. He feels bad that he was so harsh last time. But then when he sees her, he feels even worse: Her face has been beaten to a pulp. An eye swollen shut, the other one bloody, bruises all over. It’s heartbreaking, and poor Freda feels like she deserves it. She also intimates that Lucious’ people set it up, which sets Jamal off, too. So he makes it his mission to get her out ASAP — and Angelo knows just the right strings to pull to help. They have to prove that she was temporarily insane, but Angelo’s fancy lawyer makes a convincing case — as does Jamal, who tells the judge that Empire is part of what screwed Freda up.
NEXT: Lucious drops a bomb on Jamal