Well, it was only a matter of time before someone hacked Empire — Lucious has been relying on Empire XStream as a financial and emotional savior ever since it started, and we all know how safe “the cloud” is.
This week’s episode opens at Cookie’s place (come to think of it, it feels like they always start at Cookie’s place) as Angelo brings her some coffee. Turns out they haven’t done the deed yet, because Cookie wants to wait until after he announces his run for mayor. But to placate him in the meantime, she emails him a naked selfie: “Just a little reminder that you have my vote,” she says.
As he leaves, though, her phone starts doing something strange. Tiana’s new single (the one everyone hates, including Tiana) starts playing on Cookie’s screen and she can’t turn it off. We cut to Jamal in the studio with Derek, and the same thing happens to his phone. Over in Bella’s nursery with Anika and Lucious, the same thing happens on Lucious’ laptop — except he also has a personal message: “Lucious Lyon… You got got.” Well, this hacker may know computers, but their vocabulary is a bit lacking, no?
Andre hires a top cybersecurity expert named Piz (who is not, unfortunately, the same beloved Piz from Veronica Mars) to look into the incident. Lucious, Thirsty, and Andre try to figure out who could have done it. Vaughn, who tried to buy Empire XStream a few episodes back? Tariq, who has multiple bones to pick with Lucious (and, uh, has the FBI’s resources at his disposal)? Shyne, who might still be bitter about being forced to sign Nessa to Empire?
Speaking of Nessa, she and Hakeem are in the studio working on a new track. Hakeem is still trying to convince her to leave Andre: “Me and you got something you and Dre are never gonna have,” he tells her. “Music.” Dre comes in, Nessa leaves, and Dre hisses to Hakeem, “You better fall back, boy.”
Then he heads to Lucious’ office, where Vaughn (French Montana) awaits his interrogation. Lucious says if real men have issues, they don’t hide behind computer screens. “Do I look like I be hacking email?” Vaughn asks. He says he was working with LiveNation and trying to help Empire, but he just got fired. Before the story can go any further, though, Fake Piz runs into the room. “If you’ve gotten any emails, don’t open them!” he warns, as everyone’s phone screens start flooding with emails. Again, Lucious gets a personal message: The hackers want $1 million wired to an offshore account every hour, on the hour. Of course, there’s no way Lucious is ready to pay that kind of money to “some punk in his mom’s basement.” But he does get a printout of every email that mentions him by name, so he can figure out which employees are loyal. (Terrifying.)
The board calls an emergency meeting — for which Cookie has to leave Angelo’s press conference — because the emails revealed someone had been laundering corporate funds. Andre mentions it was dead Vernon who used to pay for prostitutes with Empire’s money, so he covered it up, and the board calls for his resignation. Then Andre notes Vernon wasn’t the only person who’d done that and points fingers at multiple sheepish-looking people around the table. Looks like Andre’s position is safe after all!
Cookie leaves the meeting to go comfort Tiana, who’s distraught after her boyfriend — well, ex-boyfriend — Graham posted a Snapchat rant dissing and presumably breaking up with her. “You’re wack in bed… Your singing’s mediocre… You and Empire can kiss my ass,” he says. Jeez, Graham. What did she do to you?
NEXT: Cookie and Angelo discuss their future