Empire Returns In A Whirl Of Glorious Insanity
Cannibalism? Check. A caged Cookie in a gorilla suit? Check. Double-crosses? Double check.
Lucious told his sons he'd be handing Empire off to one of them, but didn't account for Cookie's early release from jail after she snitched on drug dealer Frank Gathers. Rhonda bashed Vernon's head in, then announced that she's pregnant. Lucious left Cookie a rose, but she thought it was a threat from Frank and arranged for Jermel to assassinate Gathers henchman Teddy McNally. Anika and Lucious broke up after he hooked up with Cookie. Lucious was (rightfully!) arrested for Bunky's murder, and now Jamal's in charge of Empire!
What's the occasion? Ostensibly, this is a concert and rally (attended by such luminaries as Andre Leon Talley, Al Sharpton, Don Lemon, and an unseen Bill Clinton) intended to oppose mass incarceration of Black folks, especially Lucious. However, as Hakeem notes, "Mom, you've got us here doing a 'Free Lucious' concert when we should be performing for the brothers and sisters that are innocent." Good for you, Hakeem! Cookie replies that this concert is all bullshit, as its real purpose is to impress potential investor Mimi Whiteman (ha ha ha clever naming convention, show), whom she expects to partner with in the "hostile takeover" of Empire she's planning with Hakeem and Andre.
What are the refreshments? A performance of "Born To Lose" by Jamal, Hakeem, Swizz Beats, and Sean Cross.
Whose big public scene will everyone be talking about tomorrow? As the rally begins, a cage containing a person in a gorilla suit descends to the stage. A Trading Places homage? Nope! As the cage lands, the gorilla rips off its mask to reveal...Cookie. Chills!
That Quote"You're right. Your father is a tampon."- Cookie Lyon, speaking to Hakeem, HER SON -
My Dinner With Frank
Name: Frank Gathers. Age: Early 40s. Occupation: Drug dealer, murderer, implied cannibal. Goal: To figure out who ratted him out, to wreak vengeance for Teddy McNally's death, to have a nice low-carb lunch, and to convincingly present Chris Rock as a future possible Bond and/or Die Hard villain. Sample Dialogue: "I'm hungry. You hungry?"
BrainteaserQ If Jamal so desperately wants to run Empire, why does he constantly bitch about having to do corporate business things, bite off the heads off his support staff (including Becky FOR SHAME JAMAL) when they try to keep him on track, whine that all he wants to do is "get in the studio," and complain to his dad that he's not writing any music or touring to support his album (hence its precipitous drop in the charts)?A Hell if I know.
That Quote"You're rude, he's crude, and the both of y'all are socially unacceptable."- Becky gives Jamal the business over his treatment of Hakeem -
On The Menu
Cookies Aren't Paleo
Talking to Lucious, Cookie describes Frank Gathers as "that skinny Hannibal Idi Amin." You already know who "Hannibal" is, and Amin was rumored to be a cannibal as well. That's why I think it's reasonable to assume that when we see a blood-spattered Frank laboriously cutting some mystery meat, it's what Gordon Ramsay might refer to as "Jermel on a plate," but this time in a literal sense.
Though Jermel (who's incarcerated on a presumably unrelated-to-the-Lyons armed robbery charge) had urged Lucious to "take care of" Frank, Lucious demurred, saying that Frank's beef (ha ha) was with Cookie, not him (though that didn't stop him from throwing his weight around a bit in front of Gathers' freestyling daughter). It's clear that Frank knows Jermel killed McNally, AND that Cookie sold him out, even before we see a sweating Jermel sitting across a be-bibbed Frank. After all, Cookie had already received some "ugly-ass flowers" from Gathers. So this meal seems less like an interrogation than Gathers's perversity writ large.
There's Only So Much "Real" Jamal Can Take
Alert Type: Gay Shame Alert.
Issue: Just because Jamal is gay doesn't mean he's gaaaaaaaaay.
Complicating Factors: Jamal's ex Michael has been working with him to arrange a LGBTQI event with Empire, and so far Jamal seems psyched! That is, until Miss Lawrence sprawls across his desk singing an impressive a cappella rendition of Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)." After that, a visibly uncomfortable Jamal puts the kibosh on the party, even as Michael calls him on his shit, saying that "you just hate [Miss Lawrence] because he's too real for you."
Resolution: Jamal offers to make a big donation in lieu of his participation in the ga(y)la, while giving Michael a titty twister.
Spoiler: I mean, look at these two. I smell reunion.
Lucious The Shoe Snob
Who called the meeting? Roxanne Ford.
What's it about? In an admittedly illegal meeting, the new state's prosecutor on Lucious's case attempts to intimidate him into taking a plea deal, presumably with her terrifying use of double-sided boob tape.
How'd it go? Saying that she (and the late Vernon) believe that the reasons for Bunky's murder went beyond extortion, Ford tells Lucious to "plead guilty, then we can start talking about some of the other killers in your business," or he can spend the rest of his life in jail. Lucious, in the episode's second nod to Hannibal Lecter, responds "So that's your campaign, huh? You plan on running for attorney general, but as a Republican. And you think that being a black bitch in cheap shoes who took down hip-hop, that's your way to victory?
"Let me share something with you, Miss Clarence Thomas. I don't care how many of us you lock behind bars, you ain't ever going to be nothing but a black bitch in cheap shoes."
I'll spare you my speculation on why the whole "cheap shoes" jab is used by a certain type of person to shame women, and just say that Ford seems unswayed, tells Lucious that he's going down, and, BTW her shoes are Tom Ford (no relation -- but also the designer Andre Leon Talley wore to the pro-Lucious rally at the beginning of the show).
"It's Just Business"
Alert Type: Hostile Takeover Alert.
Issue: Cookie's enlisted Mimi (above, right) to help her wrest control of Empire from Lucious by buying $250 million worth of the company's stock -- now public, as you recall from last season.
Complicating Factors: Mimi's lesbianism! Her orientation disconcerts the notoriously homophobic Lucious when he sees her in conversation with Cookie during a prison broadcast (?!? I know) of the Free Lucious rally. He's worried enough that, during a visit with Jamal, he asks, "Who was that lesbian bitch in the red suit at the concert, that was cuddling up with your mama?"
And then there's Mimi's attraction to Anika at a very male gazeish lesbian-themed party (that is, bikinied women with breast implants ostentatiously making out, no ladies with cropped hair and short nails to be seen) the Empire crew throws for her. I'm just impressed Mimi was able to overlook the horrible twin set Anika is wearing! (This is a party, Anika, not a substitute teacher convention.) To get Mimi's investment, Anika (who Mimi calls "Anita") must dance for the magnate...and more.
Resolution: Mimi buys the stock! The hostile taker-overs walk in slow-mo to the conference room to depose Jamal! Except for fucking Hakeem, who rides a fucking PhunkeeDuck.
Spoiler: Hmmmm, who was Lucious's visitor in Room A? One guess -- she's spinning around to reveal herself in the conference room right now...
Howdy, y'all! Turns out Mimi met with Lucious to strike a "better deal" than the one she had with the rest of the Empire crew, since "Lucious Lyon is Empire and Empire is Lucious Lyon. Without him the company is nothing." Though given that Lucious is still in jail on charges of which he's guilty, Mimi seems to be taking a pretty big gamble! Speaking of jail, apparently they have Facetime in the cells there, as Lucious video conferences in to the meeting long enough to gloat at the switcheroo.
That Quote"You can't even dyke right."- Cookie to Anika, after learning that the latter's charms were not enough to seal Mimi's deal -
Wrap It Up
After a rotten day of thwarted corporate espionage, Cookie returns home to discover Carol and her shitty kids playing with her wigs! Well, perhaps this big black box with a red ribbon that was in front of her door will provide her with a pleasant distraction.
Carol isn't so sure about that. And she's right, because...
MAN. It's like Cookie's and my coffee tables are twins! But, yeah, that's the late Jermel, because it's apparently too challenging to make head cheese in jail.
Cookie sends all her kids (and Rhonda) to Lucious's vacant home, because she believes they'll be safer where Frank's people can kill them all at once instead of having to drive around to pick them off one by one, I guess. Then she heads to jail to talk to Lucious. After some initial back-and-forth about who never visited whom in the big house, Cookie gets down to business, saying "They messing with us, Lucius."
This is a remarkable moment, as you see all the bullshit and backstabbing and soap opera shit drop away. Lucious resets his shoulders and asks, "Who messing with you?" in a way that makes me forget Terryology and baby wipes for a second because this man is the real fucking deal.
It's business time! Approaching Frank, Lucious apologizes for "overstepping bounds" regarding Gathers's daughter, saying that her talent has earned her a place at Empire. Gathers isn't stupid, though, and shoots back, "We got a bigger problem here, Lucious, and you throwing my daughter a bone ain't going to fix it." But, says Lucious, if Frank "got war with [Cookie] you got war with me."
"Kill him. Make it fast and quiet," Frank says to his presumed henchmen of Lucious. Oh no, how will our anti-hero get out of this one?
"I'm sorry, I think you're confused," Lucious says, as Mimi spins around in the jailhouse chair JUST KIDDING. Actually, Lucious has just bought off Frank's guys, and tells them, "Kill him. Make it loud, and make it long."
Oh, and one more thing: "I'm gonna sign your baby girl, then I'm gonna slip her my bone." Poor Frank, he's eaten his last guy or whatever.
Back Chez Lucious, Cookie arrives and announces that everything's taken care of. Great, says Jamal, and kicks everyone out for their earlier boardroom betrayal (but not before telling Hakeem that he's going to "bury" his record if and when it's released).
Amazingly, it's not until now, the final moments of the episode, that Cookie slaps someone. The lucky slappee is Jamal, twice! But it doesn't matter, as he shuts the door in her face.