Urban Dictionary defines doing too much as “the act of overachieving without results or purpose.” It’s not often that I want to refer to Urban Dictionary, but there’s no better description of this episode than doing too much. Scenes zipped by almost impossibly fast without much substance. Most of the episode was people standing across from each other reciting exposition. There were actual montages in this episode. I’m not entirely sure how to recap this episode. Can I just list a series of words and see if that does the trick?
Micro-bangs. Bleach in a trash can. Mau Maus. Kick to the head. Jesus raps. Flash drives. Apple Jam.
Did that help? No? All right, here we go.
Our new character this episode is J Poppa, a Gutter Life rapper and Becky’s new jump-off. Can I just say it’s awesome to see a woman like Gabourey Sidibe in a role where she can get a new hot piece who is very into her and her body but she isn’t fetishized and her sexuality isn’t a joke? Yes. I can just say. But Becky can’t bang all night because she’s got to get ready for her first day in her new position under Andre at Gutter Life Records.
Cookie is running rehearsal for “Destiny’s Problem Child,” a name for the girl group so hilarious I’m furious I didn’t come up with it, and I’m going to imagine Taraji came up with it on set because it’s a level of shade worthy of her and only her. While Cookie is chastising Porsha for that knockoff Raven-Symoné Mohawk, she gets a Snapchat of Hakeem lookin’ like some American Horror Story credits. Her first thought is that Lucious did it.
How is that your first thought when your son shows up kidnapped on your phone? Even that would be pretty wild for Lucious. Lucious and Jamal are working on a song in a studio with a ton of candles. Who lit all the candles? Did Lucious light them, or is some assistant assigned to have his candles ready? There’s some minor drama between Lucious and Jamal, and who cares? It’s not really given weight this episode.
Cookie busts in with the phone and is like, “What’s good?” and Lucious is all, “New phone who dis?”
Hakeem is being held captive by the Mau Maus, but they all have longhorn tattoos so they’re Cau Caus, my mistake. They head-butt him, which sets off a string of mysterious medical mysteries for Hakeem including but not limited to: headaches, double vision, hearing women’s voices as static, and loss of flow.
Lucious and Cookie put $40,000 in a trash can near a welder under some train tracks. This is a scene that happens in this show. A van pulls up and the portly driver says that Hakeem asked to be let out before the drop zone, which is a totally normal thing to do when dropping off a hostage. Hakeem is wandering around until he hides behind a column on Boo Boo Kitty’s doorstep and gives her a hickey when she shows up. I think I forgot the unexpected sexual behavior side effect. Boo Boo Kitty, in her characteristic sad-sack fashion, seems to think this means she’s going to reconcile with Hakeem. Oh, girl. Oh, no.
Okay, what happens next? I need a road map for this episode. Andre is meeting with his new Gutter Life employees and explaining that he won’t judge them solely on the color of their do-rags but will judge them on the content of their character. He will interview each of the artists to determine if they’re Gutter Life material. After a charming little montage of rappers answering questions in a hilarious way because they’re rappers, J Poppa tells Andre that the J stands for Job, and they have a Bible quote-off. Andre tells him that his place at Gutter Life is secure if he puts more Jesus in his songs.
I understand that Andre’s whole thing now is that he’s super into being a Christian, but in what universe is this a good idea? This sounds like an idea some white Evangelical church cooked up to “draw in a more urban crowd.” This sounds like the plot of Sister Act 3.
Sister Act 3 sounds like a great idea. This is not.
So Jamal was up to some general sensitive-artist pouting this episode because the Staples Center didn’t want to book him because he was gay. He thinks it’s time to stop being characterized as a niche artist and wants to be mainstream. It’s probably not that Jamal’s record isn’t out yet and that his father/manager was recently in prison that’s keeping the Staples Center from chomping at the bit to book him. So Jamal brings in some help: Jameson, a rich-guy type in a light suit and T-shirt, who almost managed Lucious’s career until Lucious found out he was gay. Classic Lucious.
Am I done with this episode yet? No? God.
Cookie and Lucious argue about the best way to protect the boys after Hakeem got snatched, and they settle on hiring the people who snatched Hakeem. In a brilliant move, Cookie takes Hakeem back to the place where he was kept so he can obviously have a posttraumatic break and pull a gun on his attackers. Cookie takes the gun from him and points it at his attackers and then hires them?
I seriously don’t know what’s happening in this episode. I do know that Cookie is wearing a fabulous cobalt-blue suit and delivers the line “Welcome to my streets, bitch” in a way that makes her a lock for next year’s Emmys.
Then Lady Chief Keef kicks a guy in the face, and Hakeem nearly blows it at Apple Jam.
Is Apple Jam a real concert? Or Big Apple Jam? I Googled and Googled, but I couldn’t find any evidence of it, so the best name the Empire writing staff could come up with for a fun concert was Apple. Jam. What’s in the water over there?
Hakeem busts onstage and can’t remember how to rap until his Latina lady muse sings directly at his face.
I just … I can’t, you guys. Empire, I will give you a lot of leeway, but I will not accept that someone singing into someone else’s face makes them remember how to rap. No! I rebuke this!
Even though Lady Chief Keef kicked a guy in the damn face, Lucious doesn’t care because they’re both from the streets. He plays Lady Chief Keef a beat he made for Hakeem, and they rap in his car.
Terrence Howard’s inherent creepiness gives these scenes a really slimy vibe. I do not like creepy Terrence Howard waiting for a young woman and making her rap in his car. I don’t think the scene was supposed to be creepy, but ick.
Cookie shows up in a mauve silk jumpsuit to Adam Rodriguez’s house and tells him she wants him to make her forget everything that happened that week. A good deep dickin’ will make you forget your son was kidnapped for sure. Unfortunately, I think a jumpsuit is an impractical garment for a late-night booty call. Not exactly easy access to any of the parts.
When Adam is taking off his shirt, he reveals that he’s got the same brand as the Cau Caus, which means what? I feel like we’re supposed to glean some important information or foreshadowing from that reveal, but it doesn’t have much impact. Nice try, Empire. Symbolism was never your strong suit.