Empire recap: The truth won't set you free
It became clear at the end of last week’s episode that no matter how hard they try to turn over a new leaf, the Lyons are magnets for drama and despair. Their karma is abysmal, and the universe seems to be ready to collect on all the dirty deeds they’ve done — one way or another.
A chef and a security guard venture out into the alley for a smoke to find Lucious Lyon still lurking at the scene of his most recent crime. These guys are too starstruck to notice a dead body seemingly no more than 20 feet away, so Lucious offers them a light and thanks them for their praise of the night’s performances and they move along. Still fiddling with his lighter, Lucious makes his way back over to Joe’s pale, bloody corpse. Suddenly, his driver pulls up, and he already knows the drill — burn Joe’s personal items and scatter his limbs. Kindly allow an intermission while I vomit.
The next morning, Lucious calls the front desk to find out where his disgruntled wife spent the night. Cookie isn’t answering her phone, and the receptionist says she didn’t request a new room, which we know is because she decided to bring Damon Cross a little room service.
Lucious calls Jamal and Hakeem, instructing them to fly back to NYC immediately. Meanwhile, Cookie’s with Carol at the construction site for the crack-house-turned-community center and exercising her aggression about Lucious’ supposed infidelity with a sledgehammer and a plywood wall. Carol was in the middle of grilling her sister about why she was still sporting the previous night’s party dress and makeup when Lucious calls her cell looking for his wife. Cookie tries to dodge him, but the news of Andre’s illness trumps her current pettiness.
Back at the Lyon’s mansion, Andre is describing his medical journey thus far and no one is really listening. Cookie wants to take time off from work and turn their home into his own personal medical facility full of oncology specialists. Hakeem and Jamal are ready to abandon the Trust tour to be by their brother’s side. Andre erupts at his family’s willingness to abandon Empire, and storms off in frustration. Hakeem and Jamal follow after him, and Andre makes them promise to keep the family business, their birthright, at the forefront.
Lucious tries to convince Cookie that nothing happened between him and Treasure. She was confused by his generosity, but he really did try to stop her advances. Cookie doesn’t want to hear it. She’s sick of his lies, and his words aren’t enough for her anymore. Sometimes consuming yourself with loathing for someone else’s mistakes makes it easier to justify your own.
Andre is surrounded by Cookie and Teri while Dr. Swain administers a round of chemo, but Lucious is standing by a window, uncomfortably looking on from afar. He drifts into the memory of a time when Andre was a toddler and sick with an unrelenting cough. As a young man, Lucious was more concerned with hustling and progressing his music career than being a good partner or father. After leaving Cookie to deal with baby Andre alone, he finds himself at an open mic, unable to focus on anything but the thought of his son at home suffering. He ditches the gig to run home and calls every clinic in town until he finds an answer on how to help Andre. In the present, Lucious later promises Andre that he will stand by him throughout his battle with cancer. He hates seeing his son in pain, but he understands that supporting Andre is a priority. Andre is overcome with emotion at this rare selfless moment from his father. Seeing Lucious being so kind and vulnerable almost makes me forget that he beat a man to death and then ordered the body dismembered.
Back in Philadelphia, Empire’s artists and staff are dealing with the remnants of their drunken decisions. Carlito is flirting with Tiana while Tiana insists that she won’t be making the mistake of bedding him (and whatever he’s named his penis) again. Blake is either hungover or still drunk from the night before. He stumbles around the stage looking at Tiana like a heartbroken puppy, and Maya eyes him with pain and disgust. Kai shows up at rehearsal to find a very overwhelmed Jamal trying to tighten up the slack his parents and Andre have left behind. Kai wants to be there for him, but Jamal insists that he doesn’t have time for their relationship. Family still comes first, and maybe they’re better off apart.
Cookie and Teri go toe-to-toe when Cookie tries to assert some power over Andre’s medical plan and brings in an oncology specialist she’s found. She might be Andre’s mother, but Andre is Teri’s man, and she’s the one he trusted with his initial diagnosis. They already have a treatment plan, and Teri doesn’t want Cookie’s overbearingness to jeopardize Andre’s place in Dr. Swain’s trial. An exhausted Andre sides with Teri. Cookie is forced to tuck her tail between her legs, but she’s never been known to go down without a fight.
On top of everything, the Trust tour has been bringing in great reviews, but not much else. Fans are taking advantage of the free shows and now refusing to pay for things elsewhere, including music sales. Lucious is too distracted with thoughts of Andre to properly address the problem at hand. We don’t see much of her, but although Gisele is sympathetic about Andre’s illness, she’s fed up with picking up Cookie and Lucious’ slack.
Treasure shows up at the Lyon’s mansion to beg for Cookie’s forgiveness. Since the incident, they’ve cut her loose as an artist. She accepts the consequences of her actions but wants Cookie to know the truth. Her story corroborates what Lucious has been saying. Treasure blames her behavior on lies Joe had fed her about needing to seduce execs to make up for what her music supposedly lacked. Cookie takes pity on the girl and decides not to fire her after all, but now she has to face the fact that her excuse for running into the arms of Damon Cross no longer holds up.
It’s the second night of the Trust tour’s stop in Philly, and the love square between Tiana, Maya, Blake, and Carlito has finally blown up. Carlito and Blake are ready to exchange blows, but Jamal interjects, scolding the entire group of artists for letting petty issues distract them from what matters: putting on a good show for the fans that are there to support them.
Speaking of respecting your supporters, Kai shows up backstage to inform Jamal that he’s not allowed to just end their relationship. In fact, he’s declaring that they’re back together. Jamal tries to fight him, but Kai stands firm. He insists that he wants to be with Jamal through whatever mess he and his family cook up. Kai pulls out Jamal’s engagement ring and asks him to never take it off again.
Hakeem and Jamal go on to perform a hip-hop remix of “Lean on Me” as a tribute to Andre while baby photos and group shots of the three brothers flash on the screen behind them.
Back at Empire, Cookie has summoned Damon Cross to her office to make sure he keeps his mouth shut about their night together. It is then revealed that Cookie never actually cheated on Lucious. After stripping off her fur coat and dress and throwing Damon on the bed, she was overcome by memories of lovemaking with Lucious. Before Damon could even kiss her, she realized how wrong sleeping with him would be and fled the room before anything could happen.
Regardless, her running to him is not going to go over well with Lucious, if he ever finds out. Cookie tries to appeal to Damon’s humanity by telling him about Andre’s cancer. Damon, in turn, confides in her about his daughter’s own fight with cancer and talks Cookie out of blaming herself for her child’s illness with surprisingly genuine sounding compassion. He promises that he won’t reveal their secret and that he’s there for her if she ever needs to talk. Not the response I was expecting from Damon Cross, especially after coming so close to having what he truly desires, but I’m wary of his manipulations. I hope Cookie doesn’t forget who she’s messing with.
Cookie reconciles with Teri, conceding that Andre has everything and everyone that he needs to fight this cancer without her specialists. When it’s revealed that Andre’s recent blood work has qualified him for the next step of the chemo trial, the room is overcome with emotional celebration. The moment of unity with her family makes Cookie believe that she and Lucious might be able to survive her coming clean about Damon Cross. She attempts to confess that night in bed but punks out at the last second. Lucious is responsible for a lot of the dirt in their relationship, but I think Carol hit the nail on the head when she advised Cookie that he’d never be able to accept or get over her mistake.
Elsewhere, The FBI has tracked down Kingsley and brought him in for questioning. They promise that working with them is his best shot to bring down his father Lucious, and Kingsley’s interest is certainly piqued.
Do you think Cookie should come clean? Does Lucious deserve the truth? How far will Kingsley go to take down the Lyons? Sound off in the comments.