Empire Recap: Hashtags Do Come True

#FreeLucious. Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX
Episode Title
Without a Country
Editor’s Rating

When Jamal closed that door on Cookie last week, shivers went down my spine because I was hoping that that would begin his descent into Corleone-dom. And in this episode, when he rolled up in a big black car and told Hakeem to get in, when he was going to become an uncle, when Lucious lost his voice and was doing his best Brando impression, I thought we were in for a full-scale Godfather homage. However, Jamal never was vicious in this episode, and Lucious’s jaw remained un-puffy. There’s still time yet for a montage of people being brutally murdered as Jamal stands at Andre’s baby’s baptism. 

We kick off this week’s episode with a slickly executed montage of phone calls where everyone in Cookie and the Hostile Takeover Gang is planning something but not telling everyone exactly what they’re planning. The phone-call montage lies somewhere between the Mean Girls phone-call montage and the Down With Love phone-call montage. Hakeem needs to record one more song to complete his album … which Empire Records still has control of. Cookie still doesn’t trust Boo Boo Kitty because she can’t bang anyone to completion, and Andre is just tortured. Poor Andre. Hakeem comes up with the flawless plan to become Matthew Knowles and make a hip-hop girl group. Everyone knows that girl groups are easygoing and free from drama. This should go well.

Meanwhile in prison, Lucious is in the prison doctor’s office to get his very specific medicine for his NALS (Not ALS) when the doctor reveals that his medication-authorization form is missing. Listen, we’ve all seen Orange Is the New Black. If half of this show becomes Orange Is the New Black, I’m gonna be pissed. If this show suddenly gets a blonde privileged protagonist, I WILL EAT MY HAT, and you know I’m running low on hats, America.

Jamal is doing a TV interview on a show called, I kid you not, Spilling the T. The name of the show wasn’t annoying because it was a clear attempt to grab onto some of the hip new lingo the youths are talking about, but because it wasn’t hosted by a drag queen. I know some (bigots) are upset at how “gay” the show is becoming, and I say: SHUT THE HELL UP. Add more gay stuff! Lesbian make-outs! Hot dudes in really sweet relationships mending their love and learning to trust again! Miss Lawrence on pianos! We all know that there are dozens upon dozens of drag queens working on their Cookie Lyon drag. Put them in an episode now. The best part of the interview sequence was Cookie busting through the door. She’s the Kool-Aid Man of characters.

This episode was light on plot and new develop— I’M JUST KIDDING. LUDACRIS WAS IN THIS EPISODE. Guys. I love Ludacris. He’s America’s greatest living actor. Fight me. Ludacris appears as a crooked prison guard who is being paid off by the prosecutor to break up Lucious’s cyphers in the yard. Ludacris is great in this part. Jamal teleports to prison to visit his dad, and a shady defense attorney named, again, I kid you not, Thirsty Rawlings, offers his services. You see, Lucious wants some recording equipment to record in prison because there’s no end to the contraband Lucious wants. Doesn’t he have a phone? Can’t he just use the voice recorder on that?

Hakeem is auditioning girls for his girl group, and weirdly, only Latinas are showing up and have talent. Gap-toothed Songstress Becky G appears as Valentina and cusses Hakeem out because she can’t read the fine print on Instagram. Girl. While Hakeem argues with the rest of the Hostile Takeover Gang, Jamal rolls up in a big black car and offers him a spot back at Empire and a release date for his album. Cookie comes out and sees them together, and Jamal rolls up his window super-dramatically. I tried doing that to my CEO mom, but it doesn’t have the same effect in a bright-blue Ford Focus.

Lucious is sitting in the prison doctor’s office when a not-interesting, non-Ludacris guard sneaks him his medicine and guides him to a secret recording studio where all of Lucious’s buddies are sitting around and have prepped an entire track. How long have they been sitting in there? Do they all know how to use Garage Band? All of this is a gift from Thirsty, and Lucious wastes no time recording his new track, “Snitchin’ Ass Bitch,” which is obviously about Cookie. (I really want more songs on Empire to be completely related to the action. Please let Tiana’s “I know you want me back but I’m gone” song be foreshadowing a reconciliation and love triangle with Boo Boo Kitty and Hakeem. It would do something to make Tiana and Boo Boo Kitty’s characters slightly interesting.)

Ludacris pulls a Cookie and busts into the makeshift studio at the exact moment Lucious and the Prisoners finish their first track and puts Lucious in the hole for breaking literally every rule in the prison. Ludacris also delivers a delicious monologue about being able to kill Lucious and no one would care. #FreeLucious — It doesn’t matter because Thirsty pays some thugs to steal the laptop from Ludacris after they pistol-whip him. I’m ready for the Better Call Thirsty spinoff after Empire is finished.

Back at Unnamed Records Inc., Cookie (in her hood Peggy Olson pantsuit) and the Gang argue about what is the best next move. Hakeem “uploads his album to the internet,” whatever that means. SoundCloud? Spotify? Kazaa? Andre and Cookie convince him that an all-Latina group might be a good idea. Oh? Really? Good thing, Hakeem is already bathing with Valentina. Andre begs Cookie to let him go from … Dynasty Records. I thought they were gonna pick Legendary Records because Hakeem was repeating it more than Barney Stinson.

Andre crawls back to Lucious and asks him to take him back to the company. Lucious rejects him and tells him to go ask God for forgiveness. Damn, dude. He is your son. Can he just give him a hug or something? Andre asks him how he can accept Jamal after putting him in a trashcan and beg Hakeem to come back even after banging Boo Boo Kitty, but why not me, Dad? It’s his Fresh Prince “Why didn’t he want me, man?” moment. Lucious has a flashback to his mom, KELLY FREAKIN’ ROWLAND, singing him a song and then, like … spacing out for a second. Uh-oh, his mom had a mental illness and something bad happened, so this all boils down to selective mommy issues. Lucious had reconciled Andre’s illness and trusted him up until, like, last week, but suddenly he can’t trust him because his mom spaced out one time while she sang. Okay, dude.

Cookie and Hakeem are sweeping their formerly Jewish warehouse loft when they hear Lucious’s song on the radio. He recorded one take. Suspension of disbelief. Suspension of disbelief. Breathe, girl, breathe. Cookie says that they’ve got to move now before Lucious gets out of jail. Unfortunately for Cookie, Thirsty is one shady little bitch and he’s managed to get the judge’s Fetlife profile pictures (for dirty purloined shots of the judge in a compromising position, they were surprisingly well-lit and had amazing composition. Is the judge’s lover David LaChapelle, famed fashion and commercial photographer?). With that little bit of “evidence,” Lucious is out on bail. #ThatHashtagCameTrue #WhatOtherThingsCanWeMakeHappenWithHashtags #FrankOceanDropYourNewAlbum