After a holiday break to give us some breathing room following the last twist-filled episode, Empire leaves no stone unturned this week by ratcheting every storyline up a notch.
We open with another one of those elusive flash-forwards; this time, Lucious washes his bloody hands in the kitchen sink as a concerned Cookie asks repeatedly, “What did you do?” We then go back to the present with the Lyons in… happier(?) times as Cookie (despite her best efforts) is still estranged from Candace after her attack at the hands of Franklin. Lucious assures her she did the right thing by calling the police on her nephew, but before they can dwell on things too much it’s time to watch Jamal’s performance on Entertainment Tonight (which is apparently a morning show in the Empire universe). After the performance, Jamal’s interviewed by Kevin Frazier to promote the coming LFM artist showcase and Jamal takes the opportunity to publicly announce his engagement to Kai. His fiancé, on the other hand, is not too pleased to see their private news blasted on live TV and is even less pleased when the camera lands right on him for a congratulatory moment.
Back at the mansion, Cookie finds a bow-wrapped jewelry box in her drawer filled with pictures of all the diamonds Lucious plans to get her when things at LFM clear up; we then flashback to Lucious presenting Cookie with the special painting of them that he lost to Damon Cross in that poker game turned double cross. “This portrait is my bet on us,” Lucious says to Cookie. “It’s you and me forever, kid.” Back at Empire, Lucious’ newly revealed maybe-baby Kingsley calls a company-wide meeting to announce that effective immediately Empire is pulling all of Lucious’ music from streaming, radio, stores, everywhere. While he insists it’s just business, Becky and Giselle are immediately suspicious. When Becky asks what’s the endgame in this move, Kingsley does what I’m sure is a smart thing for any “business genius” to do: blame Disney. Citing the infamous Disney Vault, Kingsley says that by making a product scarce, it only increases demand and profit when the product returns to the market. When Lavar, another exec at Empire, interjects that the vault succeeded because it was announced ahead of time, Kingsley cuts him at his knees by firing him right then and there. “You spoke when you should have been listening,” Kingsley sneers as he ends the meeting.
In the studio, Hakeem, Devon, and Carlito are working on a track together when Carlito stops the session and questions the showcase, complaining that the studio time is coming out of their contracts. Cookie stands up from her seat and reads her “misfit toys” the riot act, telling them they’re not going anywhere and that their only concern should be making the song and the showcase ones to watch. And of course, Cookie’s taking her cut “’cause I did this!” With those words, the trio gets back to work on their song. As Thirsty fills Lucious, Cookie, and Andre in on the status of the showcase’s venue over breakfast, Becky walks in the door to tell them that Empire is “vaulting” Lucious’ catalog. Andre points out that it’ll slow his residuals (the only income coming in at the moment) down to almost nothing, which makes Lucious ready to get some revenge. However, Cookie stops her husband by telling him this is only a tactic to throw him off at LFM’s biggest moment. Despite seemingly ending his beef with Blake, Hakeem is still feeling the heat from the feud from Tiana. She storms in and confronts him on the threats she and their children are getting from overinvolved fans. Hakeem waves it off and says nothing will happen to them, but Tiana insists he and Blake find a way to end this once and for all.
Another Lyon breakfast is interrupted (those poor, cold pancakes) as Maya walks in to tell Cookie that she and Evan have broken up for good and she needs a place to stay. Still angry about how their last interaction went, Cookie initially stonewalls Maya’s attempts to make nice but eventually gives in, though she makes it clear this is only a temporary arrangement. “Come next month you won’t be in my kitchen begging for snacks with your little ashy ass,” Cookie says before adding that if Maya’s gonna live under her roof, she’s going to have to get a job ASAP. Reeling from the news that his life’s work is being put on the shelf, Lucious confronts Kingsley at Empire on both the business and personal reasons why the move won’t work. Citing Prince’s initial moves to keep his music off YouTube, Lucious says there’s a way to go about a different arrangement that makes both him and Empire money. Kingsley responds by saying that he doesn’t want Lucious or LFM to succeed and further announces that Empire is going into artist management as well. As you’d expect, Lucious doesn’t take the news well and says Kingsley’s move is that of a man who doesn’t value his livelihood much longer. “What are you afraid of?” Lucious asks. “I wonder what Steve Jobs would think about your bitch ass moves.” Not wanting to leave his rival/potential father with the last word, Kingsley tells Lucious that he vaulted his music because he wants to “wipe you from the consciousness of an entire generation.”
(Recap continues on next page…)