Forest Whitaker guest stars as Lucious deals with painful flashbacks

By Isabella Biedenharn
October 04, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT
Chuck Hodes/FOX


S4 E2
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This week opens with a creepily sensual scene that quickly devolves into horror: Claudia and Lucious are in the bathroom, and he decides it’s time for him to try washing himself (and his amputated leg) on his own. She leaves, and suddenly he feels like he’s being choked by his mother, Leah. His mind switches from flashbacks (hi again, Kelly Rowland!) to the present day, where…oh, wow. Leah actually is choking him under the water, screaming about “evilness” in him. Claudia rushes in just in time, but still — that was terrifying. And it’s just the shock Cookie needs to move herself into the mansion permanently.

Jamal is working on a new song — apparently it’s a contract with a new movie, and if the song is good, he could go the route of John Legend and Common and win an Oscar for Best Original Song. He’s also planning his next venture: An album of love songs. Hmm… inspired by his new DuBois beau?

Meanwhile, Andre is working on the finances and has found a buyer for Empire X Stream. After the business talk, he heads to the bar and strikes up a conversation with a stunning young woman — which immediately turns NSFW. Only problem is, once they actually get down to it, Andre can’t exactly… perform. Too bad, she says, because she would have been the best he ever had.

Another person who’s having trouble with performance? Anika — well, Anika’s lawyer. She’s on trial for murdering Tariq (which is the murder she didn’t commit), and it’s not going well. She hisses to Hakeem in the audience: “Tell Cookie I remember January 7, 2015!”

Next time we see her, Cookie and Thirsty are visiting her in jail. “I managed to crack your code, James Bond,” Cookie snarks. “That’s the day Bunky died.” Basically, Anika wants to get out of jail. Cookie reminds her that they paid her $25 million to get out of town, and she didn’t take it. (I would do basically anything for that much money, so give me a call, Cookie!)

Back at the house, Claudia and Lucious are working on some flashcards about Philly, where Lucious is from. Since he’s doing well, she decides to take him on a field trip to a diner he used to frequent. The owner recognizes Lucious (although he doesn’t recognize him back, of course), and talks about the old days when he’d come in with a composer named Eddie Barker (Forest Whitaker).

The idea of connecting to someone from his past intrigues Lucious, and he slips out of Claudia’s grasp long enough to track Eddie down at a family wedding. Eddie is happy to see Lucious and tries to reminisce with him about the old days — but Lucious stumbles over song titles and can’t quite fake his way through all the inside jokes. Then, when Eddie tells a particularly violent story about something young Lucious did, Lucious is overtaken by disturbing flashbacks. Is he actually remembering the act and feeling awful guilt about it, or is he just picturing it based on Eddie’s story (though still disgusted with himself)?

Back at Empire, Jamal’s Oscar-bait song isn’t exactly what the producer wants. He wants him to tone down the falsetto and take out the strings — but to Jamal, that wouldn’t actually be the song anymore. Becky wants him to make the changes, but Jamal wants to stick with his artistic vision — and he cruelly reminds Becky that she’s only interim A&R head.

Becky is also working with Hakeem. She’s pushing him to put out another pop record like “Drip Drop” so he can blow up enough to have free rein to do whatever he wants. Hakeem isn’t thrilled, and says that when Anika was head of A&R, she let him do anything. But eventually he relents, agreeing to do the old “one for them, one for me” plan — something commercial, then something artistic.

Anika’s meeting with Cookie and Thirsty paid off, because Thirsty helps her get out of jail using a (very obviously) fabricated recording that looked like Tariq stalked and threatened her.

Back at Lucious’ house, Eddie comes over and plays a song on the piano, which Cookie joins in on when she comes in. Lucious thanks him for coming and leaves, and Eddie takes the moment to have a heart-to-heart with Cookie. “He doesn’t remember me,” he says. “He doesn’t remember anything.” (Recap continues on page 2)

Cookie tries to brush it off at first, but Eddie reminds her that they’re family — she can tell him. She relents: “He has a traumatic brain injury. He can’t remember anything…Can you keep this between us?” He tells her she needs to lean on Empire and the artists and the music during this time — especially when she tells him that Empire’s financial prospects aren’t great.

Upstairs, Cookie finds Leah rifling through her drawers for a gun. “We need to put an end to the witch poisoning Dwight with her spells,” she tells Cookie — before confessing that she killed Tariq and sent Anika to prison for it on purpose. Shortly after, Cookie, Lucious, and Claudia decide to have Leah committed to a mental hospital — but does that mean Cookie doesn’t believe her confession? I’m hoping it means she really believes it.

Over at Empire, Becky sits in a conference room with Tory and the movie producer. They’re playing Jamal’s song, but there’s one issue — it’s not Jamal’s voice. Becky replaced his vocals with Tory’s when Jamal wouldn’t make the required changes. The producer loves it…Jamal is another story. “Look, I understand how you must feel,” Becky says, but Jamal isn’t buying it. “Pull this s— again, and you won’t have a job at my label,” he says.

Elsewhere in a different part of the office, the NYPD is questioning Andre about Giuliana once again. He maintains that he doesn’t know where she’s hiding and doesn’t know if she had any associates. But he does get a surprise: Pamela Rose is a new liaison on the case… and also happens to be the woman from the bar. Andre tries to do his old blackmail tricks — “Do you often have sex with strangers in bars?” — but Pamela isn’t falling for them. “We didn’t have sex,” she says. “Because you couldn’t get it up.” Ouch.

On the way to make a big announcement, Cookie and Becky have a walk-and-talk. Becky says that Hakeem turned in a great new track…but Jamal’s had issues, and she had to replace him with Tory. Becky says she felt like dirt, but explains that the producer loved the track so much he offered more money — and to finance the whole video. Shockingly, instead of taking her son’s side, Cookie is all business: “I need strong people around me,” she says, and tells Porsha to raise Becky’s salary by 30 percent — and take “interim” out of her title. I think we’re seeing a new side of Cookie (and a new side of Becky), and I think I like it.

The result of Cookie’s conversation with Eddie is that she decides Empire will produce 20 new albums for the label’s 20th anniversary — and Andre is furious, because he’s the one who has to come up with the money. Cookie tells him he never would have been this rude when Lucious was CEO, and that he better find the money.

Meanwhile, Jamal is still depressed about his Becky betrayal, but his DuBois beau tells him he believes in him, and that he’ll always be by his side. They sing a duet together…I forgot he could sing. This is not going to end well.

Then, a reunion and a departure: Anika shows up at Hakeem’s door and seems shocked to see a maternal-looking Tiana rocking Bella. And Claudia tells Lucious she’s going to leave — but ends up staying after her tearfully begs her not to. “When I woke up in the hospital, I saw your face, and I felt safe for the first time in my life,” he tells her. “I know if you leave, I won’t be safe again. I’ll be stuck in a world filled with demons and they’re gonna turn me into a monster I never wanted to be in the first place.” He snuggles into her, and she decides to stay.

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