Empire's Nudes Take 'Hack' To A New Level
Who knew that there were so many computer geniuses in the Lyons' social circle?
Lucious bragged about how awesome Empire X Stream is to Vaughn and other assorted poker buddies. Lucious also told Hakeem to destroy Gram, who has improbably designed his own streaming app. Jamal's mixing pills and booze. Becky and Xavier argued over Tiana's next song, with Cookie coming down on side X. Lucious tried to undermine Cookie's confidence in her burgeoning relationship with Antonio by highlighting their class divide. Anika's angling for a job. Hakeem is mad that Dre and Nessa are an item.
Situation: Someone's hacked Empire's server and dropped a load of their emails (and the data within them, like nude photos and one of Tiana's unreleased songs) in front of the world. They're threatening to leak even more unless the company pays a significant ransom.
What makes it awkward? The dumbasses employed by Empire -- including the Lyons -- appear to put everything in email, including details on their sex lives and payments for dirty deeds done dirt cheap.
How is order restored? Andre and Lucious go on a witch hunt to find the hacker -- a hunt that appears to be successful! (Emphasis on the "appears.")
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
Empire takes great pains to let us know that while Cookie and Antonio have grown closer -- his visit to her apartment bearing coffee is apparently now a morning ritual of theirs -- they have yet to take things to the "next level" emotionally or physically. And they won't today, since it's the day Dubois will announce his mayoral campaign. To give Antonio that extra pop he needs, Cookie emails him a topless photo. As you just read the previous particle, I think you see where this is going.
Okay, Hakeem. That'll Do.
Working on a heavily autotuned duet with Nessa -- is it possible that Hakeem cannot actually sing? I believe it is EXTREMELY possible! -- Hakeem sexually harasses her, then talks about her like she's chattel when Andre walks in. "You stole her out from under me," Hakeem tells Andre, which is gross and wrong on so many levels it's hard to decide where to begin. How about with "She was never under you, dummy"? I'd also accept "Take those stupid sunglasses off." Hakeem's reaction to Andre and Nessa's relationship indicates one of two things: Empire's writers are sloppy as fuck, or they are trying to tell us that Andre is not the only mentally ill Lyon son. Because it is literally insane to accuse your brother of "theft" because someone with whom you had no relationship is hooking up with him. Also, it's gross!
Name: Vaughn Cooper. Age: Early 40s. Occupation: Former Live Nation staffer; Lucious Lyon poker pal; computer security expert. Goal: To warn Lucious that Empire X Stream is doomed; to convince Lucious and Andre that he's not the hacker. Sample Dialogue: "Hacking emails? I look like I be hacking emails?"
In an emergency meeting that calls Cookie away from Antonio's inaugural campaign event, Empire's board members announce that they want to give in to the hacker's ransom requests. Lucious and Cookie agree that they've been through worse and to negotiate with the miscreant will weaken them. The board also wants to fire Andre due to what they see as financial mismanagement -- in specific, Vernon's alleged misappropriation of company funds to secure sex workers previous to the IPO, all revealed by the email leak. Andre fires back that the leak also revealed the sexual shenanigans of board members Leonard and Edna, because members of a company's board totally use that company's email servers to arrange assignations.
Meanwhile, Tiana is freaking out, because the leak is exposing her personal life too. (Seriously, do none of these people text, DM, Hangout, or Snap? Let alone Signal? I swear to god, the drug dealers on Season 3 of The Wire were smarter than these goobers!) Suddenly, everyone's called to the lobby of the Empire building, where the screens are taken over with the flood of leaked emails just as Tariq and his FBI colleagues arrive. Though he hates Lucious, the fed takes cybercrimes seriously and is there to help (and/or to gather evidence via the leaks. Whatever!). Suddenly, an animated figure straight out of Hackers (as, honestly, most of this episode is) appears, promising a reveal of "Cookie's Cookies." And then...
That Quote"What the hell y'all looking at? They perky!"- Cookie Lyon -
Plot Lightning Round
Angelo's campaign manager suggests that Lucious leaked Cookie's naked selfie to screw up his mayoral announcement. Despite the fact that that idea is silly, Cookie confronts Lucious. Hey, I guess he's done goofier stuff! But of course he didn't do it.
Or was it Shine? Lucious accuses him of the hack, because Shine has always seemed like a real fucking nerd. Seriously, come on. Anika, who is there to interview to be head of Shine's A&R, defends him. Lucious grudgingly agrees that Shine is not the droid he's looking for, just as he gets a text from the hacker saying, "Get ready, we have so much more."
Xavier prostrates himself before Becky, begging her to construct a strategy to get Tiana off the hack victim ledge. She does so, with the understanding that she'll get full credit and back on Tiana's team. I am sure that will happen!
J. Walter Weatherman Lesson
Under The Bridge
Another thing the email leak has uncovered is the flood of homophobic missives sent to Jamal after he came out. Philip, who I thought was supposed to be helping Jamal, is reading aloud the messages of hate that Empire staffers had previously shielded him from.
Then closeted producer D-Major shows up and casts a baleful look at Philip. Too bad he hadn't arrived moments before, so he could be all "See? And that's why I'm in the goldarn closet!" His jealousy of Philip is quickly forgotten, as he's found a way to salvage a troublesome track of Jamal's. But as they listen to it, some Pac-Man-looking thing from the hacker starts eating up each individual track. I am not kidding. This show makes Sneakers look like a documentary. But, anyway, now the song is gone.
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
There are few fictional relationship tropes I despise more than "I'm breaking up with you for your own good." It's such bullcrap! But when Cookie tells Antonio that she can't be with him anymore because she'll tarnish his brand, I do not disagree! While recent events have made it clear that some folks can get elected to office regardless of their dreadful behavior, I suspect that a black guy running for mayor of New York might have a tougher time with a convicted felon with zillions of other skeletons in the closet on his arm.
It is to Antonio's credit that he does not seem to care about that, and is willing to stand by Cookie! But still, she bids him farewell.
Place Of Interest
A Jarring Interaction
Just as Lucious hands Andre a list of people who should be fired for talking shit about Lucious via email (for stupidity, IMO!), it's revealed that a keystroke logger has been discovered in Studio 6...the same studio Tiana's been using to record her album for the last few weeks. My hopes that a member of Tiana's entourage is actually a master hacker are dashed when it's revealed that Gram, a man so computer-illiterate that he's unaware of what "selfie" means (no I WILL NOT let this go) had been spending time there.
So Lucious and Andre head to Gram's, and, you guys, I could deconstruct Gram's whole...thing all day. The jar of perfectly arranged Oreos (left)! That weird acid-washed denim gi top Gram is wearing (center). All those other weird jars of pasta, hard candies, and other presumed non-perishables (right). Did they shoot this in a Bed Bath & Beyond?
ANYWAY, Gram admits that he's a computer mastermind, but denies he's responsible for the Empire hack, saying that it was much too sloppy to be his work. But when Andre finds evidence of the hack on Gram's computer, it appears that Gram is far less covert than he claims! As punishment, several anonymous heavies take him out on the balcony and beat him, as Lucious and Andre chuckle evilly from the living room. Grab me a cookie before you go, guys!
Wrap It Up
The hacker now nabbed, all is right in the world. And to reward the hardworking staff of Empire, they are all being treated to a performance by Hakeem and Nessa! Because who wouldn't be thrilled to be forced to stay after work to listen to your boss's jerkiest son sing a song? Yay! Why isn't everyone suing this place all the time?
Hakeem acts predictably bonkers during the show, seemingly enraged any time Nessa appears to look in Andre's direction from the stage. But Hakeem's not the only one in a rage...
...because before the show began, Cookie gave a huge shout-out to Xavier, for his brilliant idea to salvage Tiana's work from the leak! Yes, we're talking about Becky's plan, which he clearly did not credit her on, despite his promise otherwise. Becky seems ready to walk over to the A&R guy and destroy him when Thirsty intervenes. "I'll teach you a little something about true payback," he says, and I am a thousand percent into this subplot. Becky and Thirsty extracting vengeance bottle episode, please!
Jamal's at home, and not doing well. He calls Philip and D-Major, asking the latter to come over. He also falls off the painkiller wagon, mixing his opiates with alcohol. When D-Major arrives, Jamal is in the euphoric stage of that high, and the two fall into bed. Some time later, D-Major is unable to wake Jamal up, and rather than call 911, he calls Philip on Jamal's un-password-protected phone. (Maybe it's easier to hack these people than I thought.) Phillip comes by, and they do that standard thing where they put the intoxicated person in the shower to revive them. It works, and Jamal is okay, at least for now.
At home, Cookie watches the local news, where a scrum of broadcast reporters questions Antonio about her naked selfie. Antonio admits that he and Cookie just broke up, but when asked a follow-up about an invasion of women's privacy, he removes his shirt "in solidarity with women everywhere," and also because it's actually a federal law that if you hire Taye Diggs to be in something he must remove his shirt at some point. "I love you Antonio," Cookie mutters, then realizes what she said. Uh-oh.
Andre takes Nessa to some creepy industrial area, and has her watch from a distance as he meets with Vaughn, who Dre employed to hack Empire! He did it, he tells Nessa, to create "a void only I could fill" -- that is, the presidency of Empire X Stream. (Because who wouldn't want to be in charge of an unlikely-to-succeed streaming platform?) With his business acumen and Nessa's musical abilities, he tells her, the two of them could take over Empire together, since they'll be "all-powerful." I think this is going to go great!