Empire recap: Jamal gets hitched, the FBI seeks a snitch, and Andre can't catch a break
This is the last time fans will see Jussie Smollett’s Jamal Lyon this season (and potentially forever?), and his exit is one for the books. As the exclusive first-look photos showed us, Jamal and his fiancé Kai Givens, portrayed by Toby Onwumere, will take part in what is being lauded as the first TV wedding between two gay black men. No matter how you feel about Jussie and the scandal that won’t die, that is definitely an accomplishment to be proud of.
As we rejoin the Lyons, a reporter from The New York Times is interviewing each family member about their thoughts on love and the happy couple. Hakeem talks about his love for his children and Andre speaks ominously about the potential for love extending beyond death. While questioning the soon-to-be husbands, the reporter whips out a file containing an anonymous email that says Jamal and Kai are secretly trying to cancel the wedding because Kai allegedly hasn’t been honest with Jamal about his positive HIV status. It’s a ridiculous lie, but Kai doesn’t appreciate his personal business being used as a weapon against him. Jamal thinks they should make a public statement to clear the air and control the narrative, but Kai is protective of his personal life.
That pot-stirring reporter also presses Jamal about his father’s past homophobia. He claims that the “king of hip-hop” has evolved beyond his once problematic opinions, and as if to prove that, Jamal later asks both of his parents to walk him down the aisle. Lucious essentially throws a fit. He makes a rude comment about that being a tradition for the bride and that Jamal and Kai obviously don’t care about tradition. He thinks that the excessive amount of press the wedding has forced him to endure should be enough support. So much for Lucious’ evolution. Jamal storms off, and Cookie informs her caveman husband that he’s a jackass.
It’s a little odd to me that Jamal and Kai are even bothering to have a rehearsal dinner since they were so expressive about wanting to get married ASAP without all of the planning nonsense. Nonetheless, everyone is happily mingling, including the parents of the grooms. Tiana informs Hakeem that she’ll be attending the wedding with Empire’s newest heartthrob Devon. The Lyon cub pretends not to care that the mother of his children is moving on, but his jealousy is only made more obvious by his immaturity.
The FBI still has the Trust tour on hold, and Becky corners Lucious to tell him that the blogs are getting suspicious. Of course, Lucious already has a shady plan in the works. Later, Thurston strolls into the Federal Bureau of Investigation to deliver an injunction that he “white-mailed” a pedophilic judge into signing. Since the fed doesn’t have any evidence that Lucious was using the tour as a drug trafficking scheme, they have to back off and let the tour continue.
After the reception, Damon Cross appears at the Lyon’s home with the painting of Cookie and Lucious that he hustled from Thurston. He says they “deserve this symbol of their enduring love.” Damon is definitely too close for comfort for Cookie, and Lucious is suspicious about how the painting got in the man’s possession in the first place, but Jamal is on a wedding high and graciously thanks Damon for the seemingly random act of kindness. He even invites Damon to the wedding, and before Cookie or Lucious can change Jamal’s mind, Damon accepts the invitation, satisfied and sleazy.
The brothers gather for Jamal’s bachelor party that night at a local club (featuring a cameo from The Vixen of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame, honey). Much to everyone’s disappointment, Andre has also invited Kingsley. Jamal and Kingsley exchange insults (Jamal’s jab at Kingsley, a.k.a “Mark Sucker-Black” is elementary at best), but Andre stresses the fact that life is too short to fight with family and that Kingsley needs to leave pettiness behind to take the mantle of Empire now that he’s the oldest Lyon. This little speech also comes after Andre gifts Jamal their grandfather’s cufflinks, an heirloom that he used to cherish.
Last week, Dr. Swain said that Andre was on the verge of being cancer free, yet he’s still acting like his days are numbered. Everything Andre does and says during this week’s hour is VERY suspicious.
Back at home, Lucious is still obsessing over how Damon could have acquired the painting. He asks Cookie if Damon ever brought it up while they were in Panama (because he thinks that’s the last time the two of them spent time together. Yikes). Cookie manages to redirect the conversation, instead ripping her husband to shreds for denying Jamal’s request that he walk him down the aisle.
“You’ve let my son down way too many times,” Cookie says. “You do it this time, we gon’ have a problem.”
You already have a problem, sis! His name is Damon Cross!
Speaking of the devil, Damon shows up to the wedding early while Cookie is still directing the set-up. She hurries him aside to remind him that there was never anything between them and instructs him to leave immediately. Unfortunately, Jamal has already seen them. Cookie is forced to tell him about the secret friendship she’s had with Damon for the past couple of months. As if he hasn’t been riding the toxic rollercoaster that is his parents’ marriage his whole life, Jamal has convinced himself that they have a fairytale love and knowing that his mom is lying to his dad rocked his world. He’s honestly too old to be this naive.
Lucious is running late for the wedding, but he actually has a good excuse. To repay him for the injunction, the FBI has picked up the Patriarch at Empire headquarters and brought him in for questioning. Agent Conway wants Lucious to give her information about Damon Cross, and she’s willing to unleash any number of vaguely racist or homophobic insults upon him to assert her dominance. She says she’s a big fan of his song “Snitch Bitch,” but Lucious advises her to give “I Shot a Fed” a listen before she comes for his family again.
Meanwhile, Jamal and Cookie can’t get ahold of a now very late Lucious, and Jamal’s worry has morphed into anger. He’s not the little boy Lucious threw into a trash can for “acting like a b—tch” anymore. (Remember that?? WILD.) He’s a grown man who’s proud of his sexuality and angry with his father for being a lesser man than he believed he could be.
On cue, Lucious rushes into the room and we’re ushered into the scene from the exclusive clip shared on EW Tuesday morning. Lucious has finally come to his senses and would be happy to walk his son down the aisle. He’s ashamed of how he’s acted and doesn’t want to cause Jamal any more pain.
The church is decorated extravagantly with flowers and candles everywhere. Chaka Khan (!!) sings as Kai and Jamal are each escorted down the aisle by their respective parents. There are at least 200 guests in the pews. The reception space is equally lavish. For grooms who wanted to avoid planning a wedding, this seems HEAVILY planned. Did they just hand the reins over to Cookie? Wasn’t this thrown together in about a week’s time? Who just has Chaka Khan on retainer? Don’t you hate when TV treats you like you’re dumb??
Becky officiates the wedding as Kai and Jamal exchange breathtaking vows about being loved as their truest selves and seeking a real love, free from the facade of fairy tales. They kiss passionately, jump the broom, and run down the aisle in joyous love. My heart weeps!
In lieu of taking a porn star as his date to his brother’s wedding, Maya volunteers to go with Hakeem, but even with her at his side, he’s still focused on Tiana and Devon. Maya definitely has ulterior motives I haven’t figured out yet, but I also feel bad that all of the men she likes are obsessed with Tiana.
After their first dance to the Winter’s beautiful vocals, Jamal and Kai happen upon the NYT reporter who’s profiling their wedding. Kai was inspired by seeing Lucious put his feelings aside to support Jamal and gives the reporter permission to print the information about his HIV status. He isn’t ashamed and won’t be made to feel that way. Right on!
Kingsley also attended the wedding, and when he mentions to Lucious that Andre asked him to take up the mantle of the family as the eldest son, Lucious starts to piece together all of Andre’s suspicious behavior that I’ve been noticing all night.
He finds Andre hiding in a room away from the party, and asks him what he’s hiding. Andre reveals that although the chemo trial killed his cancer, it also has destroyed his heart muscle. He only has weeks left to live, and he doesn’t plan on withering away. He’s ready to take his own life.
Lucious is shocked and devastated. He tries to persuade Andre to keep fighting, but Andre is standing firm. He wants to die as he feels he should have lived: on his own terms.
It’s truly tragic timing because Teri has just offered Cookie her own revelation: She’s pregnant!
Do you empathize with Andre? Do you think knowing Teri is carrying his child would change his mind? Share your thoughts below.