Empire recap: 'Love Is a Smoke'
It's go big or go home for Angelo
It’s just like Empire to fool me into rooting for Cookie and Lucious once again by showing us how well they get along together only when they’re both with other people! This week, not only do we finally get the backstory for Lucious and Giuliana’s relationship — but Cookie and Angelo also prepare to take their relationship to the Next Level.
We start with a flashback — and unfortunately, it’s not more Young Coocious. It’s Lucious with braids and a thin, icky ponytail (not unlike the teeny ponytail he is sporting in present day… what’s up with that), writing a song for Giuliana called “Crazy Crazy 4 U.” “I think I was put here just so I could write a song about you,” he tells her. Lucious is smitten, but it’s hard to tell if Giuliana is feeling the same.
Cookie interrupts Lucious’ reverie and hears the song, which he’s playing on the speakers in his office. “Was that before or after you divorced me?” Cookie asks. Lucious asks, “Does it matter? We both know love and romance is all bull, right?” (Hmm… foreshadowing!) “Well, it’s hot,” Cookie says. Even if she’s a bit hurt, she’s always honest about the music.
She confides that Angelo hinted he’d propose if he won the primary, and since he won, well… something might be coming up. Lucious is surprisingly sweet to her. “Maybe you and he will have a much smoother ride than we did,” he says. She can’t believe he’s not planning to burn it all down, but he is content enough knowing that Cookie and Angelo will never have the passion Cookie and Lucious had. Then Lucious pivots and tells Cookie that Andre’s Vegas deal needs to stop. “This woman Andre is dealing with is very dangerous,” he explains. Um, yeah. We watched her shoot her husband with barely a second thought!
Over at Empire, that deal is still very much underway — and Andre thinks he’s solved their problem of needing to present hit songs for Nessa to the Vegas commissioner in order to get the whole plan approved. He’s asked Tory Ash to write Nessa some hits, but when Tory swings into their meeting two hours late, she explains that Lucious has her on a tight contract for Inferno. But maybe, just maybe, she can make an exception and write one thing for Nessa. She gets to work. When Tory leaves, Andre asks Giuliana what the deal is with her and his father. “We met a long time ago,” she explains, “and he didn’t remember me, so clearly I didn’t make an impression.” Is she lying to Andre or to herself?
Meanwhile, Jamal is choosing some retro cover art for When Cookie Met Lucious when Angelo walks in to ask for his blessing to propose to Cookie. Well, he’s also asking if he even should propose to Cookie. Jamal is sweet and totally jazzed about the plan. In fact, he offers some advice: Stop hesitating! And Cookie likes grand gestures, drama, showmanship. Do it big! Angelo walks out with a spring in his step.
Cookie, on the other hand, is a master of gestures both big and small. Case in point: the way she side-eyes Giuliana when they meet in Empire’s lobby with Andre and Lucious. This meeting triggers another flashback, and we see how Giuliana and Lucious met: He came up to her at a casino, she played coy; he made her watch him play roulette, she started throwing big terms around like “house edge.” A match made in hell. Back in the present, Cookie asked if they know each other, and the answer she gets is, “We met once, years ago.” Lucious tells Giuliana he’s suprised Rafael let her leave Vegas — then Shyne makes a reference to Rafael in the past tense, and Lucious catches it. He explains to Cookie that Rafael was a “big player in Vegas” and a “corrupt, ruthless, and despicable human being.” Talk about the only person who could make Lucious look like a good guy! Lucious continues to swear that Empire will have nothing to do with Giuliana’s dirty Vegas business — and Cookie swears she’s met Giuliana before somewhere. Hmm…
After work, Cookie and her sons have dinner, and she talks to them about Angelo’s impending proposal. Hakeem is a baby about it (“I’m too old to have a stepfather!”), Jamal thinks everyone should be on board, and Andre agrees he’ll be supportive — if they all agree to support his Vegas deal. (Cue collective groan.) Of COURSE Andre has to make a family meal somehow into a business meeting. Is he ever not “on”? I miss Rhonda. Anyway, Andre decides they should launch Jamal’s visual album with a party in Vegas and stream it on Empire Xstream — they’ll break into the town Lucious never could. It seems like a plan, until…
Becky pulls Lucious into the studio to hear what Tory has been working on. It’s a “hit” (like every song that ever exists in the Empire universe except that bad one Tiana didn’t want to record), and like they say on Star, having a white girl singing black music is a surefire way to make bank. Technically, this is the song Andre commissioned her to write for Nessa, but Lucious has other plans: Tory will release the song tonight on Empire Xstream, and Tiana and Hakeem will introduce it to get revenge on Nessa.
Of course the launch goes swimmingly, and Tiana even does a sexy dance with Tory while she sings (um… is something going to happen here? Tiana’s no stranger to the land of women, and it seems like Tory will do anything that gets her the most attention or the most enjoyment). It’s actually Jamal who’s the most annoyed at Tory when he shows up with Tinashe, who — surprise! — is helping Jamal with his album. He tells Tory she’s not supposed to be performing because of her sobriety, but Tory tells Jamal he just can’t handle any sort of competition. I can’t believe how quickly this friendship flamed out — although Tory is such a fair weather friend, I’m glad Jamal was free of her quickly.
Across town, Anika is enacting her plan to wear a wire and catch Tariq doing something illegal. While she works her magic, Lucious and Cookie listen in at home with Bella, impressed at Anika’s skill. “Anika stepped up for us,” Cookie says. “Gotta give her props for that. And she gave us Bella.” It’s definitely interesting to watch these teams get rearranged: I like seeing Cookie, Anika, and Lucious on the same side.
Angelo calls, and Cookie has to run back to her apartment. It’s covered in candles, and it seems like he’s going to propose… but then he just asks her to be on a TV program with him tomorrow. They can show the world “Coocious” is no match for Angelo and Cookie. She agrees, but she’s obviously flustered.
Meanwhile, Shyne let Giuliana into Lucious’ and she walks in and points a gun at him. “Only way I could get your attention,” she says. FLASHBACK: Lucious and Giuliana are in Vegas, and Lucious is showing her around a club, explaining that he’s going to make all their dreams come true. He tells her he never thought he could feel this way again. Was she his only other love after Cookie? (And, I guess, Anika? Okay, three loves is a lot.) Right after this confession, though, Rafael appears and points a gun at Lucious, while a bunch of Rafael’s men point other guns at Lucious’ crew. Lucious is calm while they steal his $10 million right from under him. “Just give me my girl,” he pleads with Rafael. “Your girl?” Rafael retorts. “That’s my wife.“NO WONDER HE HATES VEGAS! It takes a lot for me to feel bad for Lucious, but I have to admit, I really did here.
Back in the present, Lucious is letting Giuliana have it. “Do you have any idea what I had to do to get that money?” he says. “Bridges I burned? Friends I hurt?” Giuliana admits she lied and stole from him but it was all because she was under Rafael’s thumb. Lucious says she owes him $10 million. She says she killed her husband for Lucious (no you didn’t!), and she can’t pay Lucious back without this Vegas deal with Andre going through. He considers.
Anika wakes up at Tariq’s and enacts the rest of her plan — Thirsty and his insider, Agent Sweetwater, arrange for Lucious to meet at a hotel with Tariq, who thinks he’s meeting with Sweetwater and gets a rude awakening to see Lucious there. Look, I really, really feel bad for Tariq. Yes, maybe he’s let this get personal, but he seems like a nice, smart guy (despite, uh, not checking Anika for a wire), and it’s not his fault his half-brother is evil! Anyway, Lucious packed Tariq a bag of money so he can head out on the run. I guess… that’s nice?
Time for Cookie and Angelo to make their TV appearance — and it’s here, on live TV, that Angelo decides to pop the question. Cookie is clearly caught off guard and doesn’t say yes, just, “Oh my god.” He slips the ring on her finger and the anchor is delighted. Angelo’s mom is there, because he’s a grown man and that isn’t creepy at all, and she notices Cookie’s lack of… glee.
After the show is done taping, Cookie yells at Angelo in the green room. “What were you thinking putting me on the spot like that?” she yells. He explains Jamal said she likes showmanship, and she tells him she likes men who can think for themselves. She confesses that this is all happening so fast, and that she might only be dating him to try to please her late father, who always wanted her to end up with someone like Angelo (a.k.a. Barry), and literally died because she chose Lucious. She says all this while telling Angelo, no, it’s not about Lucious. But then confesses that they did kiss. Oh my god, Cookie, you’re botching this.
Of course, Angelo’s mic pack falls off and turns on — or was never off to begin with — and when he has a meltdown, the whole crew hears him list out all the illegal stuff he’s done for Cookie (what is this, The Jinx?). He starts whining about how his mama was right when of course that mama storms in to tell him his microphone is on. Cookie has to take Andre’s call outside, and Mrs. DuBois takes the opportunity to give Angelo a pep talk. “You’ve done nothing wrong. That ungrateful bitch blindsided you,” she tells him. “I’m taking charge now. And I will not rest until I see the Lyon family groveling in the dirt begging for a merciful death.” First of all, yes, I feel a little bad for Angelo, but he’s rich and hot. He’ll be fine. Second, his mom was overly involved before, but this bordered on creepy. He’s 40-something! He needs to fight his own battles! Do we think Mrs. DuBois is actually a worthy opponent for the Lyons, or will this fizzle out fast?
Finally, Lucious holds a grand old party at Leviticus for the Vegas gaming commissioner — not a faceless man as we’d sort of been led to believe, but a slick woman named Charlotte Frost (a.k.a. Eva Longoria playing another business lady like Marisa Tomei in season 2). It’s strange that he’s changed his tune on Vegas so fast… until he tells Andre that by the way, he and Nessa are out. Turns out Lucious has given Tory Ash his “Crazy Crazy 4 U” song and she’s doing her best Amy Winehouse-meets-Lana del Rey impression. Since Tory has a reputation and is already a star, the commissioner is down for the deal. Oh, and… Lucious and Giuliana are suddenly back together. Cookie comes in, sees them kissing, and gets frantic — now she doesn’t have Angelo or Lucious, who she’s finally admitted she still has feelings for.
If Andre has his way, though, nobody’s gonna have Lucious for very long: When Shyne and Nessa go into Leviticus and realize Tory’s stolen Nessa’s whole gig, Andre tells Shyne to round up his troops. “We’re going to take him out,” he hisses. So Andre’s coming for Lucious on one side, and Mrs. DuBois is coming for Cookie on the other? This is going to get interesting.