Hakeem's birthday party gets out of hand, and Jamal is caught in a love triangle.

By Isabella Biedenharn
April 06, 2017 at 12:05 AM EDT
Chuck Hodes/FOX


S3 E12
  • TV Show

This week’s episode of Empire felt like a bit of a throwaway: Cookie and Angelo’s latest drama is boring, Jamal still is caught in the same love triangle he’s been in all season, and Hakeem is trying to have an epic party. The only real new stuff is in Andre’s world, and it’s still just shady business, as usual. Either the show’s hitting a lull… or this is just the calm before the storm. Anyway…

Jamal is in bed (well, on the couch) with a sleeping Philip when he hits his phone, and it opens up a live stream from D-Major. “I’ve been hiding my entire life,” D-Major is saying as hearts and likes flood the screen. “I’m about to lose somebody I love because they can’t stand me not being true to myself… Jamal, I’m coming up to see you.” Jamal freaks out, makes Philip throw clothes on (what is he hiding?), and just after D-Major comes out onscreen, he comes in toJamal’s apartment.

“I did what you told me to do,” he tells Jamal, explaining that Jamal said the only reason they weren’t together is that he wasn’t living his truth. Jamal tries to tell Philip not to leave, but Philip is like, You need to deal with this on your own. Jamal tells D-Major they can talk later and kicks him out, too. I mean, I guess he wasn’t exclusive with either of them, but he did give Philip and D-Major some mixed signals, right?

Later, Jamal talks to D-Major, who is freaking out — he’s losing contacts in the hip hop world since coming out, and he’s taking it harder than he expected. He needs Jamal to help him through. Jamal tries to explain to Philip how hard it is to come out in the music industry (to which Philip sarcastically replies that it must be much harder in the music world than when he came out while in… the military) and how they should be kind to D-Major right now. Philip seems to agree, but later, when D-Major shows up at Empire looking for Jamal and insinuates that he’s better at making love to Jamal than Philip is, Philip decks him in the face. Yeah, this isn’t going to be a happy trio of pals anytime soon. It’s clear, though, that Jamal wants to be with Philip — the question is, will D-Major back off and let it happen?

Elsewhere, Hakeem is dealing with a different sort of problem. It’s his birthday (I can’t believe he’s only just turning 21), and he’s freaking out that his family isn’t making a big deal of it, despite the fact that they’re all pretty panicked about Anika being missing. Hakeem doesn’t even know Anika’s gone, despite how she frantically gave Bella to him on her way out of town. (Another great part of this scene: Lucious has come down with a cough, and Cookie snaps, “What’s that? You getting that ALS again?” I love when they remember the ALS story line!)

Hakeem has his own plans for his birthday anyway — for 21 straight hours, he’ll be live streaming on Empire Xstream, dropping hints as they go to different clubs. He’s bummed that Tiana won’t be there, but eventually when they get to Club Surrender, he gets a birthday surprise: She did come, and with two of her hot new dancers in tow. It’s funny to see Hakeem breaking out of party mode to narrate to his cameramen, like he’s pulling a Ferris Bueller, but it’s also sort of… boring. I don’t really get why we’re here, or why we’re supposed to care about Hakeem’s party. He’s pretty much been partying for two and a half straight seasons, so it’s not exactly a scintillating plot point.

Anyway, the deal was that he was supposed to get paid for these club appearances, but the Club Surrender owner tries to stiff him, taking all the champagne money from his appearance fee. (Not sure what this jerk was trying to accomplish outside of just being a jerk. Were we supposed to know who he is?) Some goons on either side of Hakeem pull out guns and tell the club owner to pay him. They agree, Hakeem gets a Club Surrender guard to give up his own watch for one of the goons, and he invites them along to serve as security for the rest of the night.

Angelo and Cookie are preparing for another of his bougie events when he notices Cookie still has the gold gun Lucious gave her ages ago in her purse. He freaks out, reminding her it’s illegal to carry a gun in New York, and asks her if she’s ever shot someone. Cookie says no — although we see in a flashback that she’s lying. When she was a teen and was waiting for Lucious at their hotel (apartment?), one of Lucious’ friends came over and tried to make a move on her. She grabbed the gun, he told her she wouldn’t do it, and she shot him in the knee (freaking out the whole time, to be fair). Cookie tells him she’ll get rid of the gun.

So she brings it over to Lucious’ house, where they’re playing Cookie and Lucious Mob Bosses once again. This time, they’re trying to figure out what Anika has on Cookie, and what Tariq wants from her. Lucious says, “You’ve become a huge problem. I don’t see a reason we don’t just kill you right now.” Leah — who brought Anika back to Tariq’s attention in the first place — literally begs Lucious to let her do it… and then wanders away and comes back with the gun from Cookie’s purse, pointing it straight at Anika. Man, after all of the Rhonda drama, raising Hakeem’s baby with Lucious, the catfights with Cookie, can you imagine if that was how Anika went out? Just Leah Walker in a mood? Anyway, Lucious talks her out of it for now, as Anika explains she’s formulated a plan. She’s going to get “involved” with Tariq so he’ll be forced to drop the case for good. Could it work? Anika is devious… and usually succeeds. Lucious gives her the week to try it, and later, when she goes to Tariq and whimpers about needing protection, he seems to take the bait just as easily as she’d hoped.

What’s not going as easily? Hakeem’s party, which is at its final stop: Leviticus (obviously). The whole family is there so Hakeem is overjoyed already, and for the icing on the cake, Tiana pops out of an Empire State Building replica looking like a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Marilyn Monroe to give him a Happy Birthday performance. But the show gets cut short when one of the random thugs tries to make a move on Tiana’s friend, she turns him down, and he smacks her so hard she ends up in the hospital.

The scene is pandemonium, and no one is as angry as Andre, who chews Hakeem out for hiring random people as “security” and putting them at risk. Hakeem assumed they were Shyne’s boys set up by Andre, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Of course, as the argument escalates, it goes back to what it ALWAYS goes back to: Hakeem reminding Andre that he has something with Lucious that Andre never will. What’s that? All together now: the music! In retaliation, Andre bans Hakeem from Empire Xstream… for good. Can he even do that? Isn’t Hakeem a successful artist? Won’t this hurt the company?

Anyway, Andre also has other stuff to worry about, namely this whole business with Juliana. He’s arranged for Nessa to perform at the opening of the new club in Vegas, with Empire footing the bill. Andre wants to negotiate the deal with her before going to Lucious (though we don’t know if he ever will, since he still wants Lucious dead). Their meetings throughout this episode contain a whole lot of innuendo — and just flat out touching — and at one point, Juliana tells Andre that she won’t touch another woman’s man. Andre says this is always how he’s done business, and Nessa knows he’s trying to close a big deal for her. “So you have an arrangement?” Juliana asks. Andre says they do — but uh, they most definitely don’t. Judging from how Nessa reacted when Tiana and Hakeem crashed her performance, I’m pretty sure she isn’t going to take this news well when she inevitably finds out. She’s not Rhonda (despite that ghost threesome), and I can’t imagine she’d be okay with this.

We also find out that Juliana answers to someone else, too: a big dude who seems to be a huge Lucious Lyon fan from way back and has been trying to partner with Empire forever. Are we supposed to know more about these “clubs” they co-own? How exactly are they connected to Andre’s murder plan?

For now, anyway, Lucious is still alive and well, and he and Hakeem have a bonding moment when Hakeem storms up to the house to spend his birthday with “his girl,” Bella. Finally stepping up and acting like some sort of father! Lucious is proud and tells Hakeem a nice (and actually kind of beautiful) story about the night he was born, and how he’s always tried to move too fast. He admits he’s probably indulged Hakeem more than he should have, to his detriment, but now that he’s finally taking responsibility for his child (for three full minutes), Lucious knows Hakeem is a man. So… is he right? And does Hakeem even have a crib at his house? I’m worried that he only has the three diapers he threw into the leather diaper bag…

Until next week, Lyons. And if anyone can follow this club/Vegas business better than I can, I’d love to hear your analysis.

Episode Recaps


Lee Daniels and Danny Strong created this Fox drama about a kingpin of hip-hop (played by Terrence Howard) and his family, who fight him for control of the empire.
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