Empire recap: 'Absent Child'
With baby Bella still missing, the Lyons take the DuBois family to war.
This episode centers on the all-out war between the Lyons — loud, wild, new money — and the DuBois — snobby, classy, old money. I will dream of this opening scene for days: The Lyons in a pack, all in sunglasses and killer coats, striding in to meet with the DuBois and their lawyers (see photo above). (I am a sucker for group walking scenes. Sorry.)
Sitting across a gleaming conference table, the differences — and similarities — between the two families are apparent. Cookie has to physically be held back to avoid climbing across the table and scratching Mrs. DuBois’ eyes out. (“Bitch, do you want me to jump across this table?” Cookie shrieks. Mrs. DuBois hisses, “You feelin’ froggy? Leap.“) Angelo’s cousins and the Lyon boys trade insults (and Jamal reminds them they took $5 million of Lyon money), while Anika reminds everyone of the true issue at hand: Bella is gone, and the DuBois are probably responsible for it, though of course they deny, deny, deny. The meeting ends with a stalemate: Cookie shoves her hair over and the Lyons storm out.
But wait, it gets worse: At the police station, Anika and Hakeem get some ridiculously awful news. Due to some paperwork issues, Child Services has lost Bella. “This is very odd,” the supervisor says idiotically. “Several motions have been filed… they’d take a month to untangle. You’re not going to see her for some time.” Are you kidding me? Is there a lawyer reading this recap? Could this actually happen?
Later, Cookie reminds the family that they’re a mess when they’re not on the same page, just like this meeting with the DuBois showed. They all agree to come together and be stronger. Thirsty says it doesn’t make sense the baby could disappear (thank you, Thirsty), so the DuBois must be involved — but it’s still so hard to tell. Oh, and he also says that since most of the Lyon family is “unfit” on paper, they should be distanced from the child — and if Anika and Lucious expedite their divorce, it could really help the situation. (I don’t see why they’d wait?)
Meanwhile, Vegas is still in the works and getting messier than ever. Lucious doesn’t like the concept for his show (“There’s so much cirque in there you’re missing the soleil,” he tells the acrobatic performers), and he and Jamal can’t totally agree on the song they started last week. Jamal wants to do a mix of it himself, but Lucious has a plan to bring a young MC in (played by Fetty Wap!) to “represent” him on the track. They head into the studio, where the MC stumbles in with his entourage, wobbly from pain meds. He just got out of the hospital after being shot four times — and as he records, his shirt slowly reddens with blood. For Lucious, this shows that he’s literally putting his blood and heart onto the track. For Jamal, it’s a reminder that while he too has taken a bullet, Lucious actually hasn’t. “I want to work with you, but I’m not backing down,” he tells Lucious. He plays his version of the song, and the producer in the studio is like, “Lucious, he killed it. He killed it.” But Lucious isn’t convinced yet.
Cookie and Andre are trying to use Lucious’s lack of concept to their advantage — pushing Jamal’s When Cookie Met Lucious to the Vegas man instead. It has a solid through-line, and the star power of Empire’s artists. The man is in — as long as Lucious is.
Andre has more problems than just Vegas right now, though — I don’t know if he’s off his meds or if his bipolar disorder is just rearing its head, but he’s been flying off the handle at the smallest things all episode. It’s a great reminder of how fantastic Trai Byers is in this role — his eyes just go dead when he’s playing Andre in a manic state. Anyway, half a season in, Andre finally seems to remember that Anika killed Rhonda and their unborn baby. I guess he was too distracted by Nessa to remember his whole family associates with a murderer on a daily basis? (Well, two murderers, counting Lucious. But that’s so season 1.) He flies over to Anika and starts choking her. “You think you can kill my wife and kill my kid?” he screams. “I’m gonna make you pay!” But to his surprise, Anika reacts strangely. “Do it! I deserve it!” she cries. “I wanted so badly to be a Lyon, I sold my soul, and now my baby… I deserve to suffer.” This makes Andre change his tune, though. No, he won’t kill her. She’s already suffering, so he’ll let her continue.
Hakeem is suffering too — of course his daughter had to get kidnapped right when he was ready to step up and be a father. He kicks all his partying friends out of his apartment to hang with his real friends — a.k.a. do yet another live monologue on Empire Xstream to tell all his fans about Bella and the DuBois. The fans’ messages pour in in realtime: “The DuBois are going down! Free Bella!”
Quickly, we see what kind of army Keem can assemble with just a few minutes of livestreaming. The DuBois exit a building, where Mrs. DuBois swears to Angelo that she didn’t have anything to do with Bella being taken — and they should probably look into libel sanctions against Hakeem — when they’re met with a mob of protestors with Free Bella signs chanting for the downfall of the “Dirty DuBois.” Didn’t expect that, did you, Mrs. D?
Elsewhere, Cookie is yelling at Andre, who freaked out during the meeting with bald Mr. Vegas (what is his name?) and said he wouldn’t work with Lucious. Cookie said they need him — his name is in the title of Jamal’s album, and if that’s the show, he’s got to be part of it. Nessa is in the room, too, and complains that this whole deal was supposed to be hers, but this new show has nothing for her. She also tries to stand up for Andre… and Cookie slaps her across the face. “Bitch, next time hold your mouth!” Cookie yells as she leaves the room. Andre doesn’t stand up for Nessa at all. Is this his depression talking, or was he never that into her?
A small reconciliation happens between Lucious and Jamal: Leah gives Lucious a box of photos of his father. Though Lucious himself hasn’t been shot, his father being killed affected him strongly, so he decides to make a bunch of cardboard cut-outs of Joe to inspire himself and Jamal in the studio. “I’m going to do the song your way,” Lucious tells him. “I’m sick of fighting. I was fighting against the natural course of things. Every son takes up after his father — your music will be Empire’s legacy.” Aww.
In a way less sweet scenario, Andre brings Hakeem to Shyne’s laundromat, where Cookie is about to do some business. She screams at him for bringing Hakeem there and makes him wait in the car, while she goes to the back room… where Shyne’s thugs are beating Angelo to a pulp to try to get answers out of him. When Cookie comes in, he thinks she’ll save him — but he’s dead wrong. “You know I wouldn’t go this far!” he pleads with her.
“You know those things your mama said about me being ghetto and hood?” Cookie asks. “She was right. You need to talk to your mama, because I know she knows where my grandbaby’s at.” In a moment of anger, Angelo screams, “You’re not going to get away with this.” “WATCH ME, BITCH!” Cookie yells on her way out the door. Is it just me or are her “bitch” exclamations extra satisfying this episode?!
Despite how confident she was in that room, when Cookie goes back to Lucious she tells him she’s sure Angelo has nothing to do with Bella’s disappearance. She also tells him that When Cookie Met Lucious is going to be on stage in Vegas — that it’s a win-win for the family. But then Giuliana waltzes in fresh off a flight from Vegas. “Marcone called me and told me about your conversations,” she says. “I wanted to fly in and make sure we were on the same page.” I HATE HER. Lucious turns to Cookie and tells her that Inferno is the Vegas deal, and Inferno is going to launch Empire Casino. “So you’re saying no to something that could bring this family together?” she asks him. Lucious continues stroking Giuliana, and Cookie leaves with her favorite refrain: “I did 17 years for you!” But it’s not Lucious who responds. It’s Giuliana: “Thank you for that. But I’ll take it from here.” Cookie, attack her!
More drama: After the slap heard ’round the world, Nessa is furious with Andre. “What’s your plan?” she asks about Vegas. “I know you don’t expect me to sit and watch from the audience.” What he says shocks her: “You can do whatever you want. It’s between me and my family.” This doesn’t feel like the Andre Nessa has known, but it’s definitely a side of him we know. Quickly, it all clicks for her. “This was never about me, was it? You needed an artist that you could control,” she says. He tells her it could still work out, and she tells him he’s crazy. He kisses her — and she punches him in the stomach. Good for her for getting out, but I can’t imagine Shyne is going to be happy with this. And we saw how Nessa herself can lash out when she’s threatened (Ahem… Tiana?). Is it bad that I want her to get revenge on Andre?
The last scene, though, is the most shocking yet: As Mama DuBois stitches up Angelo’s busted face, he tells her they have to go to the police chief. He wants to see all the Lyons in jail. “No,” she says. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.” She rings a bell, and a maid comes in… WITH BELLA LYON. “Meet the newest member of the DuBois family,” she tells Angelo. “They ruined one of mine, so I took one of theirs?” Then, to Bella: “Didn’t I? Yes… I did.” Well then! This is not the Claire Huxtable we once knew. I’m sure the Lyons will figure out a way to get her back… but how?