After a two-week break (thanks, sports!), Empire is back and crazier than ever. Seriously, I mean it. This episode is ridiculous, so let’s just get into it.
News about Lucious’ “post-traumatic amnesia” hit TMZ, so it’s time for some serious damage control. Claudia and Lucious have been sort of in love since she took him to the lion statue in Philly, and Claudia seems a little worried about being unprofessional, since she’s supposed to be helping Lucious recover his memory — but she also wants to “start over” with him and help him be the nice, new Dwight he wants to be. Anyway, none of that matters right now because Cookie storms in to grab Lucious for an emergency board meeting so he can convince everyone he’s fine.
It goes as well as you’d expect. Cookie tries to take control, but Shine demands to hear Lucious speak. So immediately Lucious greets Shine with, “Moonshine! My dear old friend.” Every time Lucious calls him Moonshine, I lose it. The formality of it is so funny to me. So the board asks Lucious for some straight answers, and he does a pretty good imitation of Real Lucious, telling them he doesn’t answer to them and that Empire’s stock is higher than ever, and can they please stop wasting his time?
It works for the moment, but then they’re reminded of the cadre of reporters waiting in the lobby. Cookie’s solution? Let’s have the press follow Lucious around for 48 hours to prove they have nothing to hide. Cookie! They probably would have been satisfied with like, five hours with Lucious. You did not have to go that far.
While the press visit gets all set up, Jamal and Warren share a car on the way to Empire — and when they get out, who meets them at the curb but good old Angelo DuBois? Angelo hands Jamal a subpoena to appear at Hakeem’s custody hearing (remember: Angelo is representing Anika) and warns him that Warren might have been the person who leaked the information about Lucious to TMZ. Uh-oh…infighting among the DuBois? This could be interesting.
Becky is supposed to be Lucious’ mind, essentially, in the studio during this press visit. But when they’re all in the studio with Veronica, it seems like Lucious doesn’t need Becky after all. The scene is a callback to Empire’s spellbinding pilot (back when it first premiered, I watched that episode four times). The gorgeous chanteuse Veronica is in the studio, and just like the old days, Lucious coaches her to draw on the pain of her past to give the song more raw soul. It works: The song is better, and the press sees that his artistic genius is still intact.
The next booths don’t go quite so smoothly. As we recall, Empire’s artists are covering Lucious’ old tracks — but the lyrics for the one Jamal has chosen are pretty offensive and haven’t aged well over the past 20 years. Then we move to Studio 3 to see what Shine is working on, and Lucious bristles at the song: “It’s just anger with no purpose!” People start to panic, but Lucious says he knows what to do — he’s going to get one of his “people” to solve this problem.
Just as Andre is about to send the reporters home because Lucious has been gone so long, Lucious reappears with Eddie Barker. He’s like family to the Lyons, and he knows the whole truth about Lucious’ trauma. It’s a smart move: In the studio with Tiana, Eddie gives advice on the cover she’s working on with Hakeem, and the reporters are excited to see another legend in person.
Not everyone is having such a smooth go of things, though. Pamela spent the night at Andre’s, but things got tense in the morning when he started asking about developments in his father’s case. (Also, Andre drank from a glass of whiskey in the morning, which can’t be good.) Then later, she tells him the Vegas PD has video footage of Shine doing something to Lucious’ car — you know, the one that exploded. She tells Andre that Shine “threw shade your way” and that she’s trying to help Andre get in front of it and tell the cops everything. He insists he already has told them everything — but then goes to confront Shine. Shine, of course, says he doesn’t talk to cops, and Andre decides that if Shine wants to tell the cops, then whatever. He can tell them. But Andre isn’t going to be pitted against his family anymore.
Hakeem, on the other hand, is freaking out about the custody hearing — and the complicated relationships between Anika and the rest of the Lyon clan don’t seem to be helping his case. Hakeem goes to confront Angelo (who’s just come from a confrontation with Warren), and Angelo tells him there’s going to be another dude calling Bella “Daddy.” Hakeem clocks Angelo in the face — and then Angelo reminds him that parents who can’t control their temper don’t really get treated favorably by judges.
So Hakeem comes up with the brilliant plan to take Bella and flee to Cuba. He has a plane and fake passports — now all he needs is Tiana, whom Bella apparently thinks is her mother now. Tiana tells him she’ll meet him at the airport…but when she does, she brings Cookie with her. Cookie and Tiana convince him to fight the case because together they can win it. We’ll see.
And now, to the good stuff! And by “good,” I mean absolutely ridiculous. (Recap continues on page 2)
Now that Lucious seems to be connecting to the music better, he asks Claudia, “Why is it that when I hear music, I see color?” She asks if he’s ever heard of synesthesia (which is the coolest neurological condition of all time; also, Pharrell has it) — and then Lucious starts to hear some music in his head, so she brings him paints and Lucious starts finger-painting all over the place. “His brain’s been rewired!” Claudia says. “The only music he’s listening to is in his head right now!”
He paints a ridiculous image on the glass wall of the board room — it’s like a geyser of rainbow paint — and at the next board meeting, Cookie explains that it’s so brilliant, it’s going to be the cover art for the remix album. This seems to be the right time to tell the board the truth about Lucious, so Cookie tells them he’s suffering from a traumatic brain injury. They’re worried about protecting the company, so she brings in Eddie to act as her special advisor. Everyone is satisfied.
Back at home, Lucious continues to paint, and literally all of his memories return through finger-painting. “Your synapses are reawakening!” Claudia cries, as Lucious says things like, “I remember this feeling! I remember what this is!” Then, as they dance around covered in paint (like a complete bastardization of the Ghost pottery scene), his romantic memories of Cookie flood back, and he starts confusing her with Claudia. “You’re my muse,” he says to Cookie-Claudia. “I love you.” Claudia is elated.
The next morning, Claudia is putting her shirt back on and Lucious sees a bunch of scars on her back. “Don’t look at my scars…they’re not very pretty,” she says. He says something nice about them, and then she starts gushing: “Thank you for really seeing me. I was so surprised when you said it before, but I love you, too. I love what we’re creating, this breakthrough…What do you think about me writing a book?”
Lucious is like, “Hold up. You misunderstood me.”
She backtracks. “I’m just happy to be your muse!”
And right on time, Old Lucious is back, shooting arrows into Claudia’s heart: “Claudia, you’re not my muse. I love Cookie. Stop calling me Dwight. My office will send you a check — you may leave now.”
She’s overwhelmed, and finally we’re starting to see the Crazy Claudia we all expected when she first made her appearance as Lucious’ overly touchy nurse. “I don’t think you can trust all your memories yet!” she tries to say. “There is no Lucious! Lucious is gone!”
Cookie comes in at just the right time and gets Juanita and some bodyguard man to call someone to take Claudia away. Slightly giddy, Lucious tells Cookie, “I have to tell you what I remembered!” But Cookie is all business: They have to get to Hakeem’s trial, and Lucious can tell her in the car. I hope we get to see that car ride next week!
So, there it is: The cure for amnesia is finger-painting and developing synesthesia. Tell science! I’m going to miss Dwight’s kindness, but I didn’t expect to be this relieved to get Lucious back. Maybe it’s because we didn’t get to see Lucious and Cookie in love and on the same team again after last season’s finale? Either way, this episode was both amazing and horrible, and I’ll never forget it. Please make memes of those finger-painting scenes. Thank you.