I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since we were last with the Lyon family. Thanks a lot, sports! Without getting into everything else that happened during the World Series-induced hiatus (though some characters tonight made some pretty apt allusions), it’s good to be back with the most predictably unpredictable pack in the fictional-music business.
We last left off with Shyne and his crew preparing for war. This week opens with a long, scattered montage showing them on their way to “kill some Lyons.” First target: Andre, who humiliated Shyne the night before with Lucious and forced him to sign Nessa to Empire (though Shyne did throw the first punch). But when Shyne pulls the trigger on an empty gun and stops to grab a second — really? all that prep and you were carrying an unloaded gun? — Nessa jumps in front of it to save Andre and ask Shyne what the hell he’s doing. Shyne is, as expected, furious to realize Nessa is here in the morning wearing Andre’s shirt, but Nessa pleads with him not to pull the trigger: “You’re my brother and I love you,” she says, before his goons pull her away as she screams.
That small crisis averted, it’s time for a Lyon family meeting. Andre and Lucious inform the others of the previous night’s events, and Andre says he’s moving into Lucious’ guest house. Lucious seems to think Shyne’s rage was inevitable, but he doesn’t think he’d go snitching to Tariq, as mad as he is at the Lyons. Jamal breaks in with some truth about his father: “Am I the only one seeing this? He loves this type of drama!” They see it, but can’t do anything. Lucious has his own plan — and part of that plan involves Hakeem doing his Empire XStream performance as planned.
Jamal decides to make Hakeem’s performance work for him, too, and he shows up with a hot track to offer. One condition though: It’ll be a joint performance, streamed from Jamal’s living room so he can get over his stage fright and so Hakeem can show Bella what the future looks like. Hakeem is in, but when they go to Leviticus and announce, Graham (Tiana’s boyfriend) shows up out-of-the-blue and challenges him to a battle, which he will stream on his own app. Because apparently streaming apps can just be whipped up in no time when you need to clap back at someone?
Speaking of Tiana, Empire’s pop princess has to record a new track of her own, but what she wants isn’t what Cookie wants. So Becky, still angry at random white man Xavier getting the job she was promised, decides to go rogue and let Tiana record her chosen song. (Great Becky line this week: “Do not mansplain to me, and especially do not white-mansplain to me!”) She tells Tiana that Cookie’s cool with it, and Tiana records a catchy, smooth song called “Starlight.” Xavier comes to the studio and agrees the song is a hit, and Becky thinks he’ll help convince Cookie to give the song a shot. Of course, when meeting time comes, not only is Cookie pissed, but Tiana gets Becky removed from her team for lying to her. So much for trying to have Tiana’s back. If Becky wasn’t going to follow J. Poppa to the other label before, I bet she’s ready now.
Meanwhile, Jamal surprises Lucious in his office to talk about the stream, but Lucious, as usual, flips the table around. He’s still taunting Jamal about how he lied to get Freda Gatz out, then quotes Shakespeare and calls Jamal “the younger version of me, with a twist” (honestly, kind of funny). “How’d you get so corrupt?” Jamal asks. “There’s no way you were born this way.” In the real world, I think America has the same question. I laughed again, though, when Lucious tells Jamal, “You are 50-percent genetically predisposed to turn into me.” Genes aren’t exactly a cloning coin-flip, but sure, Lucious. Sure.
NEXT: It’s a “kill or be killed” world