Empire recap: 'My Naked Villainy'
This week opens with Lucious sick — very sick — in bed with an unknown disease, with Thirsty urging a doctor to undertake some sort of illegal procedure. It’s not ALS again (as Hakeem is told later in the episode, “That’s not how ALS works”), but we don’t quite know what it is. Either way, he looks terrible, but he squeaks out one request from his ill haze: “Watch my family… they’re snakes.”
Turns out Lucious was right to think that his family would use his immobility for their own advantage… but can you blame them? Jamal and Cookie take the opportunity to work on the music video for Jamal’s “Dangerous” — a funky, Bruno Mars-esque duet with Delphine (Estelle) that tells the story of Cookie and Lucious’ die-for-each-other early days. The video stars Jamal and Delphine as the Lyon matriarch and patriarch in their gaudy ’80s best — which is a funny contrast to the more muted, more real ’80s style we see in the flashbacks.
Cookie convinces Jamal to put out a teaser for the video (complete with Cookie’s own emotional commentary upon seeing it) on his Empire Xstream channel, and it blows up. Jamal gets more followers, the fans are eager for more, and — as Cookie finds out while accompanying Angelo to the primary polls — it turns out fans are actually rooting for real-life Cookie and Lucious to get back together. They’re… I can’t even type it. They’re calling them “Coocious.” (“Sounds like a damn STD,” Cookie remarks later).
Not everything is as happy as that video, though. Empire is hit with a lawsuit for $50 million by Kennedy, Tiana’s friend who got assaulted by the random goon Hakeem had hired for his birthday party. It was on Empire property, done by an Empire employee (even a temp), streamed on Empire’s streaming service… basically, it doesn’t look good for the company. In addition to the money, Kennedy’s legal team wants a public apology from Hakeem and wants him to cancel his upcoming club appearances. The company, as you can expect, is livid.
So they have one of this week’s first Empire meetings in Lucious’ bedroom (isn’t there a song somewhere playing off “boardroom”/”bedroom”? I’m definitely missing the opportunity for a joke). Hakeem is ready to just apologize, but Thirsty says an apology is essentially an admission of guilt and tells him he can’t do it. Thirsty’s plan is to dig up dirt on Kennedy (man, Thirsty! Just when I was starting to like you for helping Becky. Ugh), which Jamal says is victim-blaming — a big no-no for an artist like Hakeem whose fans are mostly female. (I didn’t know that! Interesting.)
When everyone else leaves, Anika stays — but not before Thirsty asks her when she’s going to wear that wire for Tariq, and why they don’t just kill her now. She removes Lucious’ oxygen and starts threatening him. “Don’t die… because if you die, I’ll get everything,” she whispers. Turns out their hasty sham of a marriage didn’t include a prenup: smart on Anika’s part, not as much on Lucious’. Her threats don’t quite work, though, because Lucious shakily pulls a pistol out from under the covers. Anika gets the message and bolts… straight to Cookie’s house. She asks Cookie flat-out if she’ll personally be Bella’s guardian if Anika goes to jail or gets killed, and Cookie asks why she’d give her child to her enemy. “I’ve seen firsthand what you’re willing to do to protect your own blood,” she says. “Bella needs that.” (Aren’t we forgetting Bella’s father, Hakeem, in this equation? Although yes, I’d rather give my baby to Cookie, too.) Cookie agrees, and Anika starts to say something about “the man we both love,” but Cookie corrects her and says there’s only one man she loves, and “his name ain’t Lucious.” Anika isn’t buying it. “You can say that, but it’s not the truth,” she says.
Meanwhile, someone else has been saying things that aren’t the truth. Giuliana mentions the “arrangement” to Nessa, wondering whether she can hang with them when Nessa and Andre move in together, and asking how they deal with their hookups — do they each bring them home? Do they take turns? Nessa is confused — just as we knew she’d be. There’s no way Nessa would share her man.
Later, she confronts Andre about it at the party for the mayoral primary (at… shocker: Leviticus!). Andre tries to smooth it over by saying that’s just how he does business. “That’s how you and Rhonda did business,” Nessa says. “And I am not Rhonda.” She tells him she’s not going to put her name on a lease with his if that’s the way things are going to go down. Good for Nessa for putting her foot down on this even though Andre’s trying to get her a big Las Vegas residency. She’s not going to sacrifice her values to become a star! (Yes, one of those values includes the right to fight Tiana if she feels disrespected, I guess. Her prerogative!)
Back to that pesky lawsuit. Thirsty and Hakeem sit in a conference room with Kennedy and her lawyer, and Hakeem sits mostly silent while Thirsty throws accusation after accusation at Kennedy. “How much were you drinking?” “Doesn’t this photo show you with your arm around your assailant just an hour before the incident?” “You were thrown out of a club for fighting someone you’d been sleeping with before…” Kennedy grows more and more upset and pleads with Hakeem. “You were there! You saw it!” Hakeem tries to tell Thirsty to fall back a bit, but not forcefully, and of course Thirsty isn’t going to listen.
Hakeem goes straight to Cookie and Jamal after the meeting. “What do you mean by ‘victim-blaming’? What’s that?” he asks Jamal. Hey, better late than never, I guess. Jamal explains that it’s what Hakeem does in virtually all of his songs, which then influences his fans. “Remember that homophobic rant you threw at me? Do you know how many threats I got after that?” he tells Hakeem. So Hakeem decides he wants to apologize anyway, and Jamal lets him use his Empire Xstream channel even though his got shut down.
Cut to the studio, where Hakeem sings an AutoTuned little ballad “for my queens around the globe” about bringing women up instead of down. “We all came from a woman, so be as strong as you can be,” he sings. And he apologizes to Kennedy twice: once in a verse (“I take full responsibility for you getting hurt”), and once at the end, saying she “didn’t deserve what she got” while dedicating the song to Kennedy, Tiana, and Bella. Jamal and Tiana are praising Hakeem for the song when who bursts in, of course, but Andre — who calls an emergency board meeting in Lucious’ bedroom.
At the (very strange) meeting, Andre lays out the plan he’s hatched with Giuliana and that scary guy: Las Vegas residencies for Empire’s artists. It’s extremely profitable, and everyone on the board and in the family is impressed with the numbers Andre presents… except Lucious. “I think I made my position very clear with you regarding Vegas,” Lucious says to Andre. Ooh — another secret we don’t know about! Though we’ll find out a piece to the puzzle soon… But first, Lucious tells Andre he’s fired for insubordination. Jamal says they should settle down, and Andre says that since he’s an officer of the company, they need a second motion to fire him. Lucious asks for one, and there are crickets.
Honestly, I thought Hakeem would be the second, considering how awful Andre has been to him lately. Why didn’t Hakeem agree with Lucious? Does he just hate Lucious even more than Andre or what? Anyway, the board basically says they love Andre, and since the investors like stability — and since Empire has been crazy unstable for the past, uh, three seasons of television — they should keep Andre where he is. Lucious blows a gasket and tells everybody to get out.
So, back to Leviticus, where Cookie and Angelo are awaiting the results of the Democratic Mayoral Primary. Angelo’s been taking the whole “Dangerous” thing pretty hard. He’s not a “Coocious” fan, as you might guess, and Cookie’s been trying her hardest to make him sure that she isn’t going back to Lucious. (Let’s hope he doesn’t find out about the baseball bat incident, right?) So who shows up at Angelo’s party but Lucious, up and walking. “What brings you from your coffin?” Cookie asks. Angelo classily thanks Lucious for the use of the space, and the results come in. Angelo wins the primary! Of course, once I remembered it was the primary and not the real election, it was obvious he’d win. The question now is, who’s going to run against him in the real election? My guesses: Cookie, Lucious, or Andre.
Angelo is trying to make his thank you speech, but Lucious grabs a mic and starts taking over, saying he is the one who helped Angelo win because his endorsement of John Meeks made Angelo a stronger candidate. Um… I think that’s what we’d call an “alternative fact” these days, Lucious. Lucious interrupts Angelo even further to start playing Cookie a song on the piano, one he wrote for “that beautiful woman standing next to him.” Cue a gorgeous, piano-only version of “You’re So Beautiful” — which is all the more impressive knowing that Lucious looked like he was on his freaking death bed just hours before. What exactly was this illegal miracle procedure the doctor performed that Lucious needed to be intubated for? And what is wrong with Lucious?
Well, one question probably needs to be addressed before that: How does Lucious know Giuliana? She puts her hand on his shoulder while he’s in the middle of the song (ballsy!) and purrs, “Why don’t you play the song you wrote for me, Lucious?” GIRL, WHAT?! Since he and Cookie have been together since they were tiny teens… when did you come into the picture? Also does Lucious really need to share another woman with one of his sons? I’m getting skeeved out.