It’s about to be Cookie’s birthday and because Empire is Empire, that can only mean terrible things are about to go down. Cookie and the rest of the gang start off her birthday week by celebrating the life of Camilla with giant pictures of her, like she’s an Apple product. Hakeem is in charge of the office-appropriate eulogy, as CEO and Vice-President of Sleeping With All Employees. Rhonda will carry on Camilla’s legacy of designing cocktail dresses and fur coats. Cookie giggles during the ceremony that Camilla died as she lived: As “a carpet-munching Romeo and Juliet.” GOD DAMN, COOKIE. THAT IS HARSH EVEN FOR YOU.
Lucious is sitting in Hakeem’s throne waiting for the family to get back from the “funeral.” I guess it would be inappropriate to go to the “funeral” of the woman whom you forced to commit suicide. Lucious commends Hakeem for taking care of Camilla: “Thank God you killed her.” GOD DAMN, LUCIOUS. THAT IS HARSH EVEN FOR YOU. Lucious insists he’s trying to congratulate Hakeem on earning his position as CEO of Empire. Most people just go with a cookie cake and not constant reminders about driving a former lover to suicide. Anyway, it’s Cookie’s first birthday outside of prison and she wants to go to laser tag and the Melting Pot, you guys!
Oh no, the Hakeem face is still in the opening credits.
Lucious is scoping out locations in Philly for the “Boom Times Four” music video. Oh thank goodness, the highly symbolic lion garden statue is still there. It’s almost like the owners of the house knew that it would be extremely relevant in the life of a drug dealer turned media mogul. Lucious tells Cookie that this was where he was forged.
Lucious : Lion Statue :: Bane : The Pit.
Meanwhile, Latina Destiny’s Child are on the road, opening for Tiana in some knock-off J.Lo dresses and Ariana Grande high ponytails. Tiana. Is. Pissed. Mirage a Trois keeps going over their time, adding all kinds of extra songs. They don’t have an album! What songs do they have? Do they do karaoke for 20 minutes? Tiana complains to Becky and confronts Guadalupe and calls her “the help.” I feel like calling a Latina woman “the help” is hella racist, but what do I know?
While Hakeem and Jamal are being driven deep into the inner city to find Freda Gatz, they come across extras from the Annie remake. Hakeem asks one of the ruffians to rap for him and he starts beatboxing. Jamal’s quiet behind joins in and whisper-shouts along with some bucket drummers and before we know it, Hakeem is rapping about being light skinned and curly haired. At least someone on Empire is finally addressing the light-skinned supremacy on this show. Freda walks up and the brothers ask her if she wants to join them in the studio, mainly just to piss Lucious off. Freda says that Lucious has been like a father to her and the audience collectively pulls at their collars. Jamal says that Lucious will just cast her aside when he’s done with her. Considering we haven’t seen her in like three episodes, he may already have.
Lucious and Cookie are in the office ordering her a birthday cake when Porsha suggests a birthday pie and Cookie gets irrationally upset at a great idea. Cookie is also trying to pick a woman to play Lucious’s mother in the video. If only the actresses knew to send in their best makeup-free headshots. Meanwhile, Hakeem and Jamal are working on another song from the Whisper-Shout EP when Becky busts in to tell Hakeem that his former fling and his current boo are blowing up on social media. Jamal politely reminds his baby brother that maybe sending two women he has swapped fluids with on tour together is what experts would call a bad idea. Hakeem snaps back, “Then what’s the point of being a mogul?” Sir. Have you heard of “sexual harassment?” The point of being a mogul isn’t to bang everyone on your payroll. It’s to earn a seat on the Shark Tank panel. Sidenote: I would pay upwards of $15,000 to see an episode of Shark Tank with Hakeem on the panel.
Cookie has ordered eight pounds of shrimp for her birthday and wants to know if Lucious ever told Jamal anything else about flashback Kelly Rowland. Cookie says that no one other than Jamal knew Lucious wasn’t his real name. Okay. If I met a man named Lucious Lyon who was a rapper, I would 100 percent know that wasn’t his real name. Does she think Chamillionaire is a family name?
Hakeem goes and deals with Mirage-gate by promising Guadalupe an extra song in small cities, and then Tiana reminds him that no one gave her special treatment when they were dating. Well, you weren’t a virgin so …
Freda Gatz runs to the studio with Jamal after being rejected by Lucious because the music video is no longer Dungeons & Dragons themed. She lays down part of the song that Jamal was workshopping with those street children. Good thing her voice already has voice effects on it.
Sexy Lady Journalist is on set for Lucious’s video, where he’s coaching a legit 10-year-old boy on complicated family dynamics. Lucious knows how important this video is, but he continues to have sepia-toned flashbacks to Kelly Rowland. Cookie grills him about what other terrible things his mother did. Lucious finally tells her about the bathtub and his mother shooting herself. Has Lucious told anyone about his past? Is Lucious just like Gatsby? Don’t answer that. This show would collapse under the weight of another literary reference. Lucious describes his life after his mother died with fancy words that no one would use in real conversation, like “absconded.” Lucious also reveals that Frank Gathers gave him his first bag to sell.
Hakeem meets Guadalupe’s family, and her father says, “Any father would love to see his children shine brighter than he ever did.” Hakeem attempts to convey emotions with his eyes.
It’s time to shoot the bathtub scene. Lucious has another breakdown as he watches Lil Lucious’s sneakers get wet, so Cookie throws everyone off the set while she talks to Lil Lucious but is really talking to Lucious. That ol’ trick. Cookie is also legit great with kids. Lucious is looking at her so lovingly. If he gets her pregnant, I swear to GOD.
Jamal shows up to Cookie’s office to tell her he can’t come to laser tag but they can totally go to the mall later. Jamal can tell she’s got the hots for Lucious again. I can’t go through this again. Cookie goes to Lucious’s house for her birthday dinner in an amazing fur coat and drops the line of the episode: “I see somebody had fun building a bear.” Lucious opens the living-room door and the Lyon children are in the living room, playing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday.” Cookie brings the mood down by showing them Lucious’s music video while eating a slice of her marabou-feather birthday cake.
The music video is quite possibly the corniest thing this show has ever done. Its shots recreate Lucious’s flashbacks, with Lucious lurking in the background and stroking Lil Lucious’s back. Empire you wrong for this.
Andre immediately recognizes the bipolar tendencies of his “grandmother,” even in music-video form, and asks if Lucious knew his mother had bipolar disorder. Lucious calls her “a nut job.” Andre snaps that Lucious always knew and he could have helped Andre, but he made him feel like a freak instead. These scenes of family drama with Andre are always great. Empire needs to lean in on the character moments and stop making fake music videos. Andre storms out, hopefully to another project with more competent writers.
Hakeem shows up outside the Tiana/Latina Destiny’s Child tour and sunrises Guadalupe by the tour bus. He tells her that his family is always fighting, but her family is nice, so does she wanna get married? That’s all it takes, I guess. Your dad just has to be nice to your boyfriend once and he’ll propose. She accepts as Tiana looks on. It’s been a rough week for Tiana.
Rhonda gets picked up by Boo Boo Kitty after Andre stormed off. Bitch, you couldn’t call an Uber? Boo Boo Kitty invites Rhonda to stay in her house until everyone calms down. What is her end game here?
Hakeem and Jamal are working on the Street Children Whisper-Shout anthem when Cookie and Freda stop by. Cookie listens to Freda Gatz talk about Frank Gathers being her father in the lyrics, then runs out the room to lean against the fridge dramatically. Happy birthday, I guess.