By Luria Freeman
May 01, 2019 at 09:20 PM EDT
Chuck Hodes/FOX
S5 E17
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Tuesday afternoon, Fox announced that Empire will be back for a sixth season, but how can the Empire stand if the Lyon family is crumbling around it? This week’s episode was Jussie Smollett-less, and that’s likely to be the trend moving forward as Fox execs have no current plans of bringing Jamal Lyon back from his honeymoon or however the writers have chosen to explain away his absence. His castmates have lobbied for his return, but the broadcasting company has yet to blink.

As we tune into this week’s hour, Lucious is still trying to convince Andre that suicide isn’t the answer, but Andre insists that watching his organs give out as his heart fails would be harder for the family to endure than his voluntary exit. However, he doesn’t think he can do it alone; he needs his dad’s help. The idea of assisting in his son’s suicide is too much for Lucious. He rushes out, leaving Andre in the home office where he places goodbye letters addressed to each of his family members on his father’s desk.

While driving away from the house Lucious is so consumed with thoughts and memories of Andre that he runs off the road and into a railing. He bangs his head against the steering wheel and goes unconscious. In his dreams, he’s visited by the spirits of men he’s either killed or watched be murdered. Bunkie says that Lucious is a killer at heart and if he was able to kill him, who was like his brother, he should be able to help Andre out. Shine says that Lucious is a coward for making Andre “limp to the finish line.” Finally, Lucious’ father, whom he saw murdered as a child, insists that helping Andre is tough, but that kind of tough love is a part of fatherhood. It’s almost like a very sick reimagining of A Christmas Carol. Would he really be doing Andre a kindness by helping him end his life, or should he pressure his son to keep fighting? I’m conflicted.

Meanwhile, Teri and Cookie are bonding over Teri’s pregnancy. She’s waiting on a few test results and doesn’t want to tell Andre until she’s positive she has good news to share. When Andre finds the two of them in the kitchen, he invites Teri to come with him to his favorite skating rink (he’s likely checking off a list of things he’d like to do before he dies). Teri obviously doesn’t want to risk getting injured and hurting the growing baby, so Cookie volunteers to go in her place without blowing the secret.

At the roller rink, Andre is having a great time, while Cookie cheers him on from the sidelines. He tells his mother about the college days when he and his friends would skate for hours at this rink and then he’d get them all a suite at his favorite place: the Soho James Hotel. It’s bittersweet for him to reflect on a time when he was on top of the world with no worries, before he’d been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and before cancer (and now heart failure) put an expiration date on his life.

Cookie speaks of what a well behaved and mature child Andre was, but he says he had no choice. As the eldest, he felt he had to step up while Cookie was in jail and Lucious was focused on his career. Cookie apologizes that he was robbed of his childhood in that way, but Andre, having grown to make so many mistakes of his own, can’t fault her. They exchange I love yous.

Back at Empire, Devon is playing a track for Tiana in the studio when Hakeem and Maya barge in, making the room tense. Tiana asks if Hakeem and Maya are a “thing” now, and while he doesn’t have a straight answer, he does notice that she’s not wearing the “Princess” necklace he gave her. She explains that it broke, and Hakeem looks hurt when Devon points out that he’s replaced it with something that Maya quips “looks affordable.” It’s clear that Hakeem still has feelings for Tiana, but could she still be feeling him as well?

Gisele and Becky are in the middle of trying to convince Kelly Patel of how beneficial the Trust tour has been for Empire when Thurston and a disgruntled artist interrupt to announce that everyone’s checks have been bouncing.

The unpaid tour crew ditches rehearsal and Cookie and Lucious are MIA, so Gisele calls Andre to help settle the money problems. She apologizes for bothering him when he should be recovering, but he’s more interested in making sure Empire is in a good place before he leaves.

It turns out Gisele couldn’t get ahold of Cookie because the FBI decided it was her turn in the hot seat. Empire employee checks are bouncing because the feds have frozen their accounts. Agent Conway is back it with her rude, racist comments, trying to poke Cookie’s buttons. She pulls out a file of photos of Cookie and Damon looking cozy and promises that if she snitches on Damon’s dirty dealings in Panama, her husband never has to know. The fact that this agent thought Cookie Lyon, a woman who spent 17 YEARS behind bars for her man, would roll over on anyone is just silly. Cookie tells her to stop wasting taxpayer dollars chasing innocent men and reminds Agent Conway that “God don’t like ugly” before sashaying out of the precinct.

Becky has the inspired idea that Empire host a paid concert to help settle their debts. Andre is concerned it will conflict with the tour and Gisele is worried about venue and promotion costs, but Becky has all the answers. A night of duets between Empire artists and non-Empire artists (read: real stars) won’t cause a conflict, they can promote via social media, and there’s a venue in Manhattan that owes her a random favor. If this concert sells out, they could pull in close to a million dollars, but they’ll need a loan from the top dogs to cover their overhead moving forward. Unfortunately, Kelly is away at a YPO conference, so Andre calls the only person he knows with enough clout to get him in: his new big brother.

Kingsley initially brushes off Andre’s request as an impossibility (he isn’t as chummy with the folks at YPO since trying to take down Empire), but when Andre appeals to him as a brother, his heart softens. Andre says he forgives him for the things he’s done in the past and says this is Kingsley’s chance to make things right. Instead of calling YPO, Kingsley wires Andre $10 million on the spot. It’s not everything he owes Empire, but it’s a start. I can feel the potential for the brotherhood between them to grow and thrive.

That is if Andre wasn’t so insistent on a speedy death.

In another part of the city, Cookie meets Damon at a factory of his to warn him that the feds aren’t giving up. He tries to sweet talk her into letting him love her, but she’s very content with her husband and her family and the life they’ve built.

Lucious is awakened from his grim blast from the past by a call from Thursty. Instead of going to the hospital (which make more sense after that gnarly accident and mind trip), he pulls up to the duet concert Becky and the team have planned and tries to catch up on what he’s missed. Cookie arrives around the same time, but the day’s mess has already been dealt with. There’s nothing for them to do but enjoy the show.

Hakeem performs with Ty Dolla $ign. Tiana stops by her ex’s dressing room after to congratulate him on a great show, and he surprises her with a gift. He got her “Princess” necklace fixed because “it’s irreplaceable, just like you.” Tiana is a little speechless, and I’m not sure how to feel. Hakeem isn’t my favorite of her options, but every now and then sweet gestures like this hit me right in the heart.

While Tiana performs with Sevyn Streeter, Kelly takes another shot at trying to persuade Gisele to give him a shot. She shoots him down once again (she doesn’t want to sleep with the boss, she wants to be the boss, and I feel that!), but he doesn’t look like he’s ready to give up on her yet.

As everyone is celebrating a great night, Teri informs Cookie that all of her tests came back clear and she’s expecting a healthy baby boy. She plans to tell Andre in the morning. When she tries to make plans with him for the next day, he agrees even knowing his plans for that night.

Andre pulls his family together to tell them how much he loves all of them, and with just a head nod, Lucious lets him know that he’ll do the harrowing favor his son has asked of him.

While Lucious and Andre are having a last meal together, Cookie happens upon the letters that Andre has left in the home office. She opens the one addressed to her and slowly realizes what her child plans to do. Frantically, she tries to call Andre and Lucious and then suddenly remembers their conversation at the skating rink. She knows exactly where he is.

Lucious brings Andre a glass of wine to wash down the pills he’s chosen for his suicide. Cookie throws open the door of Andre’s suite at the Soho James Hotel and slaps the pills out of her baby’s hand before they touch his mouth. She’s lashing at Lucious and yelling at the both of them. Cookie is incredulous that Lucious would let her son kill himself. She hurriedly tells Andre that Teri is pregnant, and the stress of the moment must be too much for him because he crashes to the floor, clutching his failing heart.

Will Andre survive? Will this be the last betrayal that sends Cookie over the edge and into the arms of Damon Cross for good? We’ll have to wait until next week’s season finale to know for sure, but leave your thoughts in the comments.

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