After seemingly walking away from their Empire for good, the entire Lyon clan (in their own ways) have an extra verve to make their newest venture work. After a creatively intense dream of himself rapping again, Hakeem wakes up to find Lucious’ big speech has gone viral for all the wrong reasons. “Lyons Without Pride?” one of the online headlines reads to Cookie’s frustration. But Jamal urges his family to put all the negative press aside as today is the day Andre is finally getting out of prison…or it would have been had he not been sent to solitary confinement for his role in the brawl to protect Quincy. With only walls and the disembodied voice of another prisoner for company, a steely Andre is sure he can survive a few more days away from freedom.
With Andre’s release now delayed, Lucious gathers the family together to announce that Lyon Family Management is off and running with new office space, a new source of capital and its first two artists: Jamal and Hakeem. While they’re both still under contract to Empire, Lucious has found language in their contracts stating that they can be broken without them getting sued. While they’re all sure the current team at Empire will put up a fight, the sons sound ready to battle. Still in solitary, Andre is needled once again by Gusto, who’s been Quincy’s primary bully. “How you gonna come for me and miss?” Gusto asks as we flashback to an earlier brawl between Andre and his crew. It’s here we first see Andre notice Gusto’s focus on Quincy as a target for his aggression. After walking away from a scrap with Andre, Gusto grabs Quincy’s copy of The Wealth of Nations and hits him over the head with it before throwing it on the ground. Andre grabs the book and gives it back to Quincy, no words shared between the two.
Just as Jamal and Kai are starting to make New York City their home, Kai finds out he’s being reassigned to the Sub-Saharan news beat in Lagos. Jamal isn’t pleased by the news, not only because of the fragile state of the area but because Kai’s ex will also be working alongside him. Kai insists he can handle everything the job holds, but this conflict can only last so long: Kai’s flying out for the assignment as soon as possible. With straits still financially dire for the Lyons and their new company, Cookie makes a pitch to Porsha as well as her sisters Candace (Vivica A. Fox) and Carol (Tasha Smith) to serve as the company’s office staff pro bono. All three are very much reticent about the idea, but when Cookie tells them they’d all be backend participants in the venture, they fall into place. When Porsha talks her way into becoming head of A&R (“Ain’t nobody else in that department,” Cookie says as she agrees to the request), Carol asks for a title of her own. “Recovering crack ho,” Cookie snaps back. Ouch. True, but ouch.
With the Lyon sons looking to get out of their contracts at Empire, Jeff Kingsley is left to wonder if Becky is the next Empire lifer to leave. Becky insists she hasn’t received any real offers…just as Lucious is calling her phone. As the former patriarch of Empire rings, Jamal and Hakeem enter the office to meet on their contracts. While Jamal tries to hit an amicable note by saying their exit is simply due to family loyalty, Kingsley is not ready to make nice with any of the Lyons. Bringing up how the three Lyon brothers were once the pillars of Empire, Kingsley dismisses Andre as a prisoner, Jamal as a beggar for his father, and calls Hakeem “broken beyond repair.” While Kingsley is fine with releasing Hakeem from his contract by saying all his value is in his past music, he’s not letting Jamal off the hook so easily. He owes Empire one more album of original music and until he delivers, he’s stuck there.