By Luria Freeman
March 28, 2019 at 01:53 AM EDT
Chuck Hodes/FOX
S5 E12
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It’s the first episode since all 16 felony charges posed against actor Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record was cleared. The news, which came Tuesday morning, has sparked speculation and celebration and possibly reconsideration? After the view of Smollett shifted from victim to suspect, Fox confirmed that Empire scenes featuring his character Jamal would be rewritten and reduced. Now that he’s been exonerated, could he be reclaiming his time?

We shared an exclusive clip Wednesday afternoon that showed Jamal pitching a “resurrection tour” and Gisele not holding back her opinions on the idea. Cookie elects to “handle” Gisele’s attitude. They’ve been playing nice for a while, but it will be interesting to see how exactly she gets the job done.

Thurston is being detained by the FBI as they try to pry information out of him about Damon Cross and Lucious Lyon. The agent is unrelenting and even goes as far as to threaten him with a trip to Guantanamo Bay to inspire “Thursty” to talk. As he relays to her the version of his story that will do him the least damage, a series of flashbacks detail specifics of how Thurston came to work for Damon Cross in the first place.

It’s two years earlier and the Platinum Party is bursting with sequins and top hats and finger waves, beckoning old Hollywood glamour. Tiana is performing on stage while Cookie and Lucious look on with pride and a suspicious Damon creepily eyes Cookie—or as he calls her, his “future”—from a balcony above. Lucious is still without his Empire and Gisele and Cookie are still exchanging insults. Ah, the way we were.

Thurston is working the party with his girlfriend Vera, a former assistant to the assistant district attorney turned employee of his firm. Lucious speaks to Thurston about temporarily relieving him of service to avoid owing the man any more money than he already does. This leaves Thurston scoping the crowd for new clients, which lands him in the open arms of Damon Cross.

Back in the present, Cookie is being scouted by an agent from Los Angeles who wants to elevate her “brand” and make her a star. Cookie insists that she’s too busy trying to get Empire on stable footing to take on anything else, but when the agent dangles a guest hosting position on The View in front of her, Cookie finds it hard not to at least give the offer some thought. Lucious, however, didn’t need much time to think at all before shutting down the idea of his wife aspiring to some Oprah-level stardom. As far as he’s concerned, she’s already a star. What can this agent offer that she doesn’t already have? It’s sugar-coated selfishness with a bitter aftertaste, and hopefully, Cookie doesn’t miss a chance to put her desires first for once.

While Hakeem is shooting a music video that looks more like a hip-hop PSA for melting ice caps, Jamal looks on from the sideline, dissatisfied with the “basic” choreography of the dancers. Conveniently, Maya is within earshot and happy to offer up her opinions on how the dance could be improved. Jamal asks her to take over choreo for the video, the finished product of which he presents to Cookie and Gisele as part of his pitch for a “Hakeem and Jamal Lyon Resurrection Tour” that we saw in that exclusive clip. Lucious thinks the tour is an excellent idea, but Gisele thinks it’s an irresponsible move and challenges Lucious’ authority. Cookie tries to make excuses for her husband, but Gisele doesn’t want to hear it. She’s gone above their heads and asked Kelly to come back her up.

Thurston is still taking the FBI agent down memory lane. Vera heard rumors about Damon while working at the ADA’s office, and warns Thurston that he could be dangerous. Thursty brushes off her fears but quickly realizes he should have heeded her warning when Damon beats a man to death with a golf club right in front of him. Their attorney-client relationship is characterized by Damon’s intimidation and Thurston’s fear.

In the studio at Empire, Treasure and Tiana are too busy fighting to lay down any music. When Jamal sits them down to try to get to the root of the issue, it becomes clear that the girls had been used by Eddie and Jeff as pawns, pitting one female artist against another to make them work harder or pressure them to fit a specific image. While he doesn’t want to be “just another industry man telling [them] what to do,” Jamal really believes that if they look beyond the bulls— they’ve been fed, they could work really well together.

So well, in fact, that listening in on their recording and a few words from Cookie flips on a light bulb in Lucious’ brain. He feels that the company owes fans of Empire a show of gratitude and good faith. Lucious enlists Cookie to help him convince Gisele and Kelly that not only should they do the tour Jamal suggested, but they should also do it for free. Kelly is immediately against the idea, but for some reason, Gisele is now on board. Their combined 60 percent outweighs his 40 percent, but honestly, this is the worst idea I’ve ever heard for a company supposedly trying to crawl its way out of debt. The “Trust” tour will send 12 LFM and Empire artists around the country to perform free shows and *magically* still pay each artist their normal rate. And Jamal was so impressed with Maya’s choreography on Hakeem’s video, he’s enlisted her to bring her skills to the tour as well. Math certainly isn’t my best subject, but none of this is adding up.

Thurston manages to convince the FBI that he isn’t in as deep with Damon and Lucious as they suspect. He’s just a middleman masquerading as a tough guy to impress his girl. They let him go, but that in no way means their investigation is over. They seem very determined to take down the Lyon family in particular one way or another.

In a car idling outside the station, Damon is waiting for Thurston with a gun pointed at a frightened Vera. When Damon is satisfied that Thurston didn’t say anything he wasn’t supposed to, he lets Vera go. Thurston thinks he’s off the hook as well, but Damon makes it clear that Thursty will continue to be his eyes and ears with the Lyons until he says otherwise.

Elsewhere, Andre has had a CT that reveals his nosebleed incident was a symptom of a much more serious issue. He’s diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphatic Cancer. He breaks the news to a devastated Teri that he only has a few months left to live, at best.

He wants her to sign paperwork that will ensure she and her son are taken care of after he’s gone, but she’s not willing to accept the idea of him being gone. She wants to help him fight this disease for as long as they can and return the kindness he once showed her and her son.

Did the news of Andre’s cancer break your heart? Does Damon Cross’ smile also make your skin crawl? Sound off below.

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Episode Recaps

Lee Daniels and Danny Strong created this Fox drama about a kingpin of hip-hop (played by Terrence Howard) and his family, who fight him for control of the empire.
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