Empire recap: Shyne's death has unforeseen consequences for Cookie and Lucious
“Do you need a kidney?”
Renee means it as a joke, but there are probably kinder words to say when visited by your estranged daughter. This week’s episode picks up where we left off last week, with Cookie visiting her mother’s home for the first time in forever. (Maya’s reaction to Poundcake’s death has shaken her.) Cookie almost heads out the door running after her mother’s joke, but is convinced to stay for tea…or “something stronger.” After they break out the whiskey, Cookie discovers the photos in her mother’s kitchen: Though her father had put a hit out on her mom, her mom had been watching her and her sisters from afar and snapping shots of them with a telephoto lens.
Meanwhile, Thirsty is ordering his goons to dispose of Shyne’s body by distributing his body parts throughout the four boroughs. The men aren’t thrilled with doing this dirty work after being promised that Thirsty was going “legit” when he joined the Empire team, but Thirsty reminds them that they now have 401Ks, so they should be grateful. Perks! Thirsty and Lucious are celebrating their victory when Andre shows up to inform them that Anika has been meeting with some of Empire’s most powerful board members and is trying to convince them to reject Eddie’s resignation. Andre says he’s run the numbers and they should have enough support to stop that from happening, if they have Shyne’s backing. Lucious informs him that Shyne is on a “permanent vacation” and Andre informs him that if Shyne doesn’t cast a vote, it’s as good as a vote for Eddie. A replacement board member could be named, but not until Shyne is declared dead. That could prove difficult, seeing that his body is all over New York…
But they are indeed able to put “Humpty Dumpty” back together again and — after the title card — we find Lucious and Cookie getting ready to attend Shyne’s memorial. They have a plan: They’re going to befriend Shyne’s love, Tiffany, in hopes of getting her on their side once she’s named Shyne’s replacement on the board.
At the memorial, Becky calls Jamal out on the track he and his band of misfits (including Tory) released on the internet anonymously. She promises not to snitch but warns him that it’s just a matter of time until his parents find out. And because a memorial is the perfect place to talk business, Anika takes the reception to continue to build up Eddie’s resumé in the minds of the board members while Becky informs Hakeem that he’s been offered a role in a movie. She questions if he’ll be able to balance the shoot with his duties at House Empire, but he says he can handle it.
Lucious is comforting Tiffany when Eddie shows up promising that Empire can help Shyne’s other baby mamas financially for a while if that makes Tiffany’s life easier. Lucious responds that he is the only one who speaks for Empire, but that they would indeed help if needed. Once alone again, Tiffany informs Lucious that it’s not her who will be taking Shyne’s boad seat, it’s his star performer, Nessa. Nessa and Cookie do not get along, so this should get interesting. (The drama continues on page 2.)
On set, Hakeem’s rehearsals aren’t going well. His superstar leading lady looks at him with disdain and the (old, white, male) director doesn’t find his acting “natural” because he wants him to sound “more like a rapper.” (Read: speaking in poor English, or like he’s on drugs.) He wants him to bring his “black” into it. Hakeem isn’t having it and pushes back. In response, he’s fired — to be replaced by Jayden Smith. But by standing up to the director, Hakeem won a fan (and possible love interest) in his costar, Haven.
Andre opens up to his pastor that every time he sees Anika he just feels “pure hatred” for her being responsible for his wife’s death. The pastor encourages him to forgive her. When Andre and his parents go to pitch their case to Nessa, Andre apologizes to her for not being ready to date her after Rhonda’s death. Lucious sweetens the apology by offering to extend her contract, a healthy signing bonus, and the final spot in House Empire (a spot that was supposed to be held for Jamal). He also promises to help find Shyne’s killer, and Nessa agrees to vote against Eddie’s reinstatement.
Anika thinks they’re screwed without Nessa’s vote, but Eddie decides to pivot and take down all the artists in House Empire, in hopes that their downfall will leave the Lyons weak.
At their ladies’ lunch, Cookie’s sister and mom reveal that Renee spent a lot of her time away from her daughters traveling to exotic places for her photographer. Cookie recalls Renee saying that her time being kept from them was hard (comparing it to Cookie being away from her kids while in prison) and Cookie calls BS. Cookie says she felt abandoned when her mom chose to travel instead of stay close when she was in jail; Renee responds that Cookie shut her out and therefore has no right to be mad that she didn’t stay.
At the 20 for 20 event, Hakeem shows up with Haven. During Tiana’s performance, Haven points out that he doesn’t seem over his ex, and she plants a kiss on him. All the cameras go from shooting Tiana to shooting Hollywood’s hottest new couple. Across the room, Cookie meets up with her mom. She tells Renee that she’s come to realize that not having a mom made her stronger and she should thank her for that (it’s hard to tell if she means this as a compliment or a dig) and introduces her to Hakeem, Jamal, and Andre.
As Cookie and Jamal are talking to the press, the video and photo screens around the room begin broadcasting a photo of Blake as a kid giving a Nazi salute while his dad holds a Confederate flag. Eddie’s doing. Blake swears he was a 10-year-old boy just doing what his dad told him to do, but Becky and Hakeem kick him out while Lucious tries to assure the board that the rest of the evening will go off without a hitch. Lucious and Cookie want the other artists to help distract the press but Tiana leads a revolt, stating that none of them want to be associated with a label that supports a racist. Eddie steps in offering to help. Lucious and Cookie turn him away, but the board wants his help. They give him the power to speak for Empire and, in a speech to the press, Eddie basically strips Lucious of his kingdom. <Cue Eddie’s slow clap. Cut to black.>