Empire recap: More Than Kin
This week’s episode opens in a strip club, where Hakeem is rapping a woozy party track. It looks like a video shoot, but it’s not — it’s just Baby Lyon blowing off steam after being ousted as CEO and finding out about Anika carrying his baby just after he and Laura got engaged. Sure, it’s a lot to deal with, but when Laura finally storms into the strip club after seeing Hakeem’s location on his new app, she tells it to him straight: “If you take an ‘L,’ you’re supposed to come to me, not this thirst trap.” But of course, Hakeem is self-destructive and self-loathing as usual, and after saying he just assumed Laura would bail like everyone else, he eventually says, “You don’t care that I got Anika pregnant?” Way to break that news gently, buddy. (What is this app, by the way? Something for secret concerts? Is this related to Swift Stream?)
The rest of the Lyons, as usual, are dealing with their other various problems: Lucious continues to taunt Jamal in the press over this ASA nonsense, though Jamal refuses to play dirty. All the while, the family is supposed to be presenting a united front so Empire’s board doesn’t act on its desire to install a white, non-Lyon businessman as CEO. Cookie asks Andre to talk to his brothers about the whole image thing, but Andre takes her request one step further. He suggests that Empire gets behind bipolar disorder in a big, public way — Andre will become a spokesperson for it, while the rest of the family, especially Lucious, can show their support as a family. Especially after everyone saw Lucious’s mother portrayed in his video, the timing couldn’t be more apt.
Jamal opens a brotherly bonding session beautifully, telling Hakeem: “You smell like stripper a–.” Hakeem tells Jamal and Andre that Laura broke off the engagement, but Jamal asks if she actually said “it’s over” or if maybe there’s still a chance to work things out. “Every time I do everything right, everything goes wrong!” Hakeem whines. Andre, refreshingly, gives him a little sense: “You think you did everything right?” When Jamal tries to defend Hakeem, Andre stands firm: “I lost my kid. But sure, let’s just pamper Hakeem because he’s the baby!” Jamal and Andre tell Hakeem he actually was becoming a great CEO — “a mash-up between DMX and Bill Gates” — and Andre uses this opportunity to bring up the bipolar event. Jamal worries that Cookie is just doing it for Lucious and confides that he thinks she’s falling for him again. “You saying mom is falling for Lucious?” an incredulous Hakeem asks. “I ain’t getting King Kong and Godzilla back together!” Andre also reminds Jamal he’s not the boy he used to be, where Lucious would call him a sissy and he’d go crying to Mom. He’s tougher now.
Jamal takes this to heart, and goes with his tragically beautiful ex, Michael, to the intimate, indie venue where they met (after running into Michael catering an event). As Fantastic Negrito takes the stage, Jamal clearly envies their gritty, bluesy sound, and when they invite him onstage, he obviously goes because if there’s one thing Jamal Lyon never says no to, it’s the spotlight! He sounds great and raw — like Season 1 Jamal, plus a little something more ferocious and experienced.
Hakeem, meanwhile, is trying to right his wrongs one at a time — starting by tricking out his apartment as “Baby Wonderland,” where 10-foot teddy bears rest in a fully baby-proofed room. Anika is skeptical: “What about your fiancée?” Hakeem says he needs to get things straight with Anika and the baby first; then he’ll talk to Laura — but the good thing about being a Lyon is he already knows everything not to do when raising a family. Anika, for her part, isn’t so excited to step back into the den. “Your father threatened my life on the day the baby is born,” she tells him. “So, forgive me if I’m not feeling the whole concept of being a Lyon.”
There’s no way Hakeem is letting this stand, so he and Cookie interrupt Lucious, who is meeting up again with suspicious blog lady, Harper. The only reason she’s fun to have around is because Cookie no longer has Anika as a punching bag (though we did get a nice “Boo Boo Kitty” mention this week), so we finally get some of the zingers we’ve been missing, like “I need to disinfect this seat,” as Cookie perches where Harper sat minutes before. Once Harper leaves, Hakeem lays it on Lucious. “So you threatened to kill her? The mother of my child?” Anika is saying she’s going to leave New York — and Hakeem makes it clear that if Anika does leave, Lucious won’t see him or his little heir, ever. When Hakeem storms out, Lucious says, “Ooo, he’s upset!” But Cookie reminds him why he should care: “You know we need the boy to show up to our event, or you can get used to answering to whitey.” This, Lucious takes seriously. “I should have never went public,” he says.
Cookie, always the mediator, goes to Anika’s house to have a chat, but when she gets there, she finds the door hanging open — and then Anika is carried out on a stretcher by EMTs.
NEXT: What happened to Anika?!
At first it seems like Lucious got to her early, but turns out it’s just a panic attack (because Lucious got to her… So yes, he still caused it, in a way). Cookie helps calm Anika in the ambulance and then eventually says, “Hakeem will kill me if something happens to his baby.” Anika quickly corrects her: “You mean your grandchild?” Cookie responds with a sly look I couldn’t quite read. Is she reluctant to claim the kid? Does she just not want to feel old? Does she still just hate Boo Boo Kitty? What was that? The baby will be fine, by the way. For now.
Cookie summons the rest of the family to the hospital, interrupting two of the Lyon men in pretty important situations: Lucious has to stop his romantic encounter with Harper, who is not happy, and threatens to do a profile on Cookie instead (“Meet the b—- who has Lucious Lyon wrapped around her little finger”). Lucious makes it known that Harper should most definitely not go that route. And Cookie interrupts Hakeem’s failed attempt to convince Laura to stay with him. She takes her ring off (“I think you and me have very different ideas of what family means”) and leaves; then Hakeem sees his phone and rushes to the hospital.
The grandmas — Anika’s mom and Cookie — are already at the hospital when Hakeem shows up. He convinces Ms. Calhoun to let him see Anika. (“Your family isn’t exactly known for doing the right thing,” she says. But Hakeem responds, “I can assure you, whatever happened in the past, I’m going to take care of Anika and our baby.” She seems satisfied.) When Lucious gets there, Hakeem bans him from Anika’s room; although if he hadn’t done it, Ms. Calhoun would have since she’s still furious Lucious got her doctor husband to sign the papers that allowed Empire to go public in the first place. “I’m sorry, I’m calling off the dogs,” Lucious promises Hakeem. “That’s my grandchild.”
“I thought you were going to kill me,” Hakeem says, and Lucious easily promises, “If you had been someone else’s kid, I would.” Ouch? Apparently seeing the way Hakeem stood up for the baby convinced Lucious that he’d raised him right. Personally, I don’t think Lucious should get credit for that — if anything, it was some combination of Cookie and Laura that got Hakeem’s head on straight, but whatever keeps ‘Keem alive, I guess? Anyway Lucious proves he’s serious by calling Laura and convincing her to give Hakeem a second chance. Laura comes to the hospital and talks to Hakeem, who’s been carrying her engagement ring since she took it off. She accepts it once again, and they’re re-engaged!
Cookie and Lucious chat at the hospital, and decide that Lucious should give the exclusive he promised to Harper to one of the trade publications instead. Bad move: Later, at the bipolar disorder event, Harper is furious. To get back at Lucious, she walks up to Andre and gives him an envelope full of photos just before he’s about to go onstage and make his speech about having bipolar disorder. “It’s a group home outside Philadelphia,” she explains. “That woman’s name is Leah Walker. I believe she’s your grandmother.” Mic drop. She leaves, and when Rhonda comes up to ask if Andre is okay, he just says, “I have to go,” and bolts. Grandmother-grandson reunion next week?
Sick of Lucious bad-mouthing him to the board and everyone else, Jamal refuses to perform at the event and instead schedules his own secret show at the indie venue, alerting people through Hakeem’s mystery app. (Clearly this app is going to make Hakeem a huge start-up CEO and then Empire’s going to want him back, right?) Even Jamal’s little sister Freda Gatz shows up, as happy and supportive as we’ve ever seen her. He doesn’t invite Freda to the stage (she doesn’t seem to expect it), but he does perform a funky, rootsy cover of his song, “Good Enough.” The secret show is so hot it even makes the local news, with lines of people waiting outside to get in. The youth always win with the power of the Internet!
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Back at the event, where exactly zero of the Lyon brothers have shown up, Cookie and Lucious are left onstage by themselves. But Cookie makes a wild announcement: The Lyon family — “the First Family of Music” — will perform together at the ASA Awards. “Is that really happening?” Lucious whispers. Cookie says even if she needs to strap everyone down to get them there, it’s happening.
Cookie’s announcement has instant results in at least one arena: The two board members in charge of the CEO hunt approach them after the show. “That vision you laid out of the family…that’s just what we need to get Wall Street excited about the company,” they say to Cookie. Before Cookie can respond, Lucious jumps in: “That’s exactly why we did it!” Eventually, he remembers to give Cookie credit, but the board members explain that’s why they wanted to talk to Lucious and Cookie in the first place. “The board would like you to come on as co-CEOs, with control split down the middle.” Cookie hesitates, but Lucious says, “I think it’s a fantastic idea!” We know Lucifer Lucious well enough by now to know that he wouldn’t share control of Empire with anyone — not even Cookie, and when the two share a hug, Lucious gets a downright evil glint in his eye when he tells her, “I got your back.”
Cookie, you better invest in some armor, and quick! My only consolation? They can’t kill off Cookie because she IS Empire — the company and the show. But there are a few shoes that have yet to drop, namely Rhonda’s attack, the ASAs, Jamal’s album, and, crucially, this promised performance with Hakeem, Lucious, and Jamal. That show is not going to happen easily, if it happens at all.