Empire recap: The Lyon Who Cried Wolf
Lucious' mom comes to town, and Rhonda finally gets her memory back
For all the Lyon/lion metaphors this show conjures, this week brings a new one: Lucious’s mother, Leah Walker, is absolutely not a lion. She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
She seems harmless and sweet at first, as little old ladies generally are. Andre is visiting her at the home, and they chat during bingo. “They treat you okay here?” Andre asks. “Not Mondays,” Leah answers ominously. “I hate meatloaf.” Oh. It’s not long before she’s pulling up strands of her past, though: “That boy’s famous now,” she says. “I had the voice, but they never gave me a chance.” Finally, she gives Andre a harder look: “Your eyes. Are you kin to me?” And the truth is out.
While Andre is dealing with serious stuff — as usual — the other Lyons are working on their songs. Specifically, they have to prepare their family reunion song to audition for ASA musical director D Major to convince him to give them a primetime spot. Jamal wants to perform his own new music, Lucious wants control, Hakeem wants to spit a fire verse, and Cookie…also wants control, but she actually deserves it.
Meanwhile, Hakeem is trying to get a song on the soundtrack for the next Ryan Coogler movie (please let this mean that Michael B. Jordan might guest star on Empire) and chooses Tiana for the track instead of his fiancée, Laura. Tiana uses the alone time with Hakeem to her advantage — not to do anything overtly bad but just to nudge him: “I know you want to go to the club right now, but you can’t… You’ve got a wifey and a baby mama!” Hakeem pouts a bit, “I could go if I wanted!” But when Tiana pecks him on the cheek to say goodbye, you know he’s feeling a little left out. Back at home, Laura is obviously unhappy she’s not on the song. Hakeem says to trust him, and she says she does — just doesn’t trust Tiana. Looks like their little tour collaboration song didn’t quite solve everything like the tabloids thought.
Jamal’s love life is on fire this episode, too: It seems like D Major hates him, shooting down every suggestion Jamal makes and getting in his face. But eventually, a face-off turns into a kiss-off (sorry), and they get hot and heavy while Tiana and Hakeem are in the studio (steamy!). But D Major isn’t ready to go public, and Jamal doesn’t want to climb back into the closet, so when D Major comes to Jamal’s later, Jamal sends him away.
Andre picks the perfect time to debut his new find — at the first Lyon family song rehearsal. Mid-fight, one of the Lyons exclaims, “Family… Does anyone here know what that means?” And Andre enters from the back, Leah in tow, with a perfectly-timed response: “That’s an interesting question.” At first, no one believes it’s really her — except Lucious, whose horrified look pretty much convinces all the others. Andre wants to know why Lucious lied, but Lucious acts like he’s seen the devil herself. “You have no idea what you’ve done,” he says. What, Lucious? She seems fine!
In a private moment, Cookie asks Lucious (who’s on a juice cleanse through this episode — a funny running gag) why he lied. He explains that the video wasn’t a lie — she did put the gun to her head and tell 8-year-old Dwight her pain was his fault. There just didn’t happen to be any bullets in the gun. Under Reagan, Leah was finally locked up — when Lucious and Cookie were on welfare with two kids and couldn’t have helped her anyway. “She needed to stay dead,” he says. “That’s why I took Andre to the grave… None of you understand how dangerous she really is.”
Lucious tries to get Thirsty to send her back to the home, but when Andre stops her, she changes tack completely. “I want to go home — with my Dwight,” she says. A nervous Lucious takes her home and instructs his housekeeper, Juanita, to keep a careful eye on her: She must take her pills, and she can’t have a phone or visitors.
Thirsty, for his part, was too busy to drive Leah back anyway: He gets Harper Scott into the car, and they have a quick chat about journalism and law and truth and blah blah before he quickly lets her out on an empty road under a bridge, where she’s quickly snatched up by two hired cronies. Like a nightmare version of Cinderella, she loses a shoe at the scene. Everything comes down to shoes, doesn’t it?
NEXT: Rhonda (FINALLY) has an epiphany
At least that’s true for Rhonda, who finally, finally has a revelation. She’s at Anika’s house watching all the outlandish baby stuff going down (“He even baby-proofed the Jacuzzi,” Anika brags), when someone bumps her from the back, and she has a flashback of the last time she felt strange hands on her back like that. “Are you saying you think someone pushed you?” Anika says when Rhonda tells her.
Later, the two are sitting while Rhonda drinks wine, and Anika is complaining about being sore and tired and unable to drink the wine — but relishing in her complaints, too. Her mistake is bringing the attention to her feet: “My feet are killing me… I keep hearing about this burst of energy in the second trimester…” When Rhonda finally looks at Anika’s shoes, she remembers seeing those Louboutin soles (just like some of us predicted…) and has another flashback: of Anika walking out of her house while she was bleeding on the floor. I’m eager to see how Rhonda gets her revenge. Will she tell Hakeem? The police? Let Andre handle it? Give an ultimatum: No jail time for Anika if she gives Rhonda and Andre the baby?
Also in trouble? Cookie’s sisters — well, Carol in particular. Candace, the well-to-do one, needs to give Carol back her kids now that Carol is rehabbed and seems better. But first, she wants Carol to tell Cookie the truth about what happened with Lucious while Cookie was locked up. (Fun tidbit: Cookie has her own “Dwight” locked away in her past. Her real name is apparently Laretha. “What did I say about calling me by my government name?” she scolds Candace for using it.)
Candace and Carol go to lunch, and Candace reminds Carol that she “helped Lucious murder people” while Cookie was in prison. Which people? And how bad was this? I mean, I guess murder is bad overall…but like, give us a scale here! Unbeknownst to them, they have an eavesdropper — and later, when Carol is nervously sitting at the bar, not drinking the alcohol she’s not supposed to drink, the eavesdropper comes by to chat. He’s an old friend from the neighborhood, and they talk about how he used to be a cop — but he withholds the fact that he’s now in the FBI. Can’t see this one ending well. Would Carol go down and not Lucious? Would Cookie let her own sister get put in jail for Lucious, just like she did herself?
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Anyway, back at Lucious’s house, he and Mama have a bonding moment at the piano. She’s singing a hauntingly beautiful song, “Where do I go when I can’t go home?” Lucious joins in; they seem just as cozy as any mother and son would be — but he promptly takes the melody to his family, and as Lyons are wont to do, they write a song on the spot. It has a perfect verse for everyone, each person’s style meshes with the whole song, and it’s all happiness and rainbows. Also, it’s about a family that fights with each other all the time but now wants to make up, so there’s plenty of Lyon truth in it, too.
The performance goes off without a hitch. They get the spot, and Jamal realizes that he’s willing to give D Major a chance even though it’s not his ideal situation. I’m suddenly obsessed with them as a couple, so I hope it works out!
Now for the chilling scene that has me siding with Lucious for the first time ever: Leah wakes him up in the middle of the night and brings him to the dining room, where the windows are wide open. The table is covered in cakes — seems like a dream, right? — until Lucious asks where Juanita is, and Leah provides a cryptic, “I sent her away.” Okay, so Leah either stabbed her with this giant cake knife she’s been holding, pushed her out the open window, or baked her in the cakes, à la Frank Gathers. All of these options are nightmares, but please, please don’t let it be option No. 3. I can’t take another cannibal on this show.
Leah is a sweet old lady no more: “I slaved all day for you… What do you do to repay me? Leave me alone. Everybody leaves…even your father… Who put all this wickedness into our lives? You.” When Lucious stops eating cake, she hisses, “Who told you to stop eating?” Then a quick transition: “Do you love me?” Lucious nods. “Liar. If you loved me, you wouldn’t have put me away for 21 years.” Lucious protests: “You were sick. You said so yourself.” But Leah is not having it. “I was sick. Now I’m sorry — sorry I was too weak to kill you when I had the chance.” Um — WHAT? Andre, maybe you want to rethink this whole grandma thing… Pretty sure she already killed someone. Don’t want to make it two.