The time has come for the question we didn’t dare ask: Has Empire righted itself? After all the nonsense of the beginning of this season, Chris Rock as a dangerous drug lord, the Cau Caus, Flip-Flop-Flippity-Flop, is Empire steering itself back on course to being an actual good show? Their first smart move was casting my precious and IRL friend, Sheedz, to play the bingo host. Sheedz is just a tremendous person who does amazing work in Chicago for inner-city youth. She also looks great in orange.
Andre is trying to bond with Grandma Walker over bingo while some old white lady butts her nose into their conversation. Andre is trying to figure out, for lack of a better term, just how cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs Grandma Walker is. He gets his answer when she grabs his face and goes “Those eyesssssss.” Uh-oh, Grandma.
Jamal and Hakeem are in the studio with an André 3000–looking dude working the board while Becky dances in the background. Becky’s job appears to be “Follow Jamal around and dance.” Oh, and scream “YAAASS BITCH, COME THRU FALSETTO,” so she’s doing all the heavy lifting when it comes to sounding like an actual young person from 2016. Jamal and Hakeem are working on a mega single for Ryan Coogler’s next movie that’s never referred to any other way. They need a female voice on the song and Hakeem suggests Tiana. Jamal takes a break from whisper-singing to ask if Guadeloupe is going to be okay with it. Hakeem is unbothered, which is a great attitude to take about your fiancée’s feelings.
Meanwhile, Cookie is dressed like a Cher/Dolly Parton hybrid that is unstoppable, and pitching her ideas for the ASA performance with D. Major, the artistic director for the award show. D. Major agrees that they should base the Lyon family anthem on one of Jamal’s songs, and Lucious tries to diminish Cookie’s input and says “I’ll call you when I need a bathroom break.” Lucious, go somewhere and eat a lollipop. D. Major and Cookie head to Empire headquarters and run into Jamal, and D. Major lets him know that Jamal’s solo is gone and he shouldn’t throw a hissy fit. Not here for that demeaning language, D. Major.
Vivica A. Fox shows and CANDACE IS BACK! She’s wearing a Chanel-tweed suit. Candace has decided her time as babysitter is over and Carol needs to take her kids back. Carol just got out of rehab and Cookie lives in a two-bedroom. Maybe if Cookie didn’t spend so much on zebra-print rugs and solid gold fixtures, she could get a three-bedroom. Just saying.
Jamal is pissed that D. Major said he was a having a hissy fit and plays him some Freda Gatz on his phone. D. Major scolds him for storming into his studio session, kicks all his employees out of the studio, and MAKES OUT WITH JAMAL. This was hot. Yes, please. More hot beard-on-beard action. They are having a very angry makeout session and taking each other’s pants off while Hakeem and Tiana work on that duet. Sorry ex-boyfriend Michael, D. Major is on the scene now. Tiana tells Hakeem to be careful because he’s a got a wifey and a baby mama now. Then the camera zooms in on her ass. This is Chekhov’s ass.
Cookie is prepping some sort of cocktail party to preview their ASA performance, because that’s a thing. She has to stop everyone from bickering and calls them “a rack of bitches,” which is the best insult of all time and I’m using it all the time now. While Cookie is schooling them, guess who walks up in the club? GRANDMA WALKER! Andre has decided to surprise everyone with who they all think is a ghost, and they’re not wrong for thinking that. Everyone is shocked and Andre explains how Lucious sent her to a home and paid for everything with hush money. Grandma Walker tries to touch Lucious’s face and he recoils like Ted Cruz’s daughter and runs off screaming “You have no idea what you’ve done,” which is dialogue usually reserved for horror movies. This old lady must be a damn trip.
D. Major, I kept writing his name as D. Money in my notes, so guess what? That’s his name now. D. Money shows up to watch the performance but Jamal stops him because Lucious is crying in a gold-plated bathroom stall. D. Money turns right away and leaves without even a good-bye kiss for Jamal.
Cookie and Lucious sit down to figure out what the crap is going on and how much of the “Boom X4” video is true because that’s the important thing. Lucious explains, in more ridiculous dialogue: “Remember how under Reagan …” Yeah. That’s how humans talk. Lucious saw his mother living on the street and put her in a home because the family was currently on welfare. Andre goes to pick up Grandma Walker and sees Thirsty shoving the old bird into a van to take her back to the home. Andre offers to take Grandma home and Grandma stares directly into Lucious’s soul and says she wants to go home with him. After trying to kidnap Grandma, Thirsty successfully kidnaps LBJ and I guess that story line is done.
Jamal is working at his home piano when D. Money shows up and he kisses him again. Jamal doesn’t want to be anyone’s secret side piece because D. Money isn’t out yet. Jamal tells him “I like you a lot” — since when? You met him yesterday, but sure. While Jamal attempts to force D. Money out of the closet, Cookie and Lucious talk about Grandma Walker and how she’s more dangerous than any of them can imagine. Cookie doesn’t believe that this Eartha Kitt look-alike could harm anyone. We’ll see, won’t we, Cookie?
Next is the “remember this subplot” section of the show. Carol and Candace talk more about Carol’s kids and how Carol wants to tell Cookie that Carol helped Lucious kill people while Cookie was in jail. Don’t tell your sister that; don’t tell anyone that in public, especially when some Luke Cage knockoff is eavesdropping. Rhonda and Boo Boo Kitty are directing some movers from the A$AP Rocky Delivery Company when Rhonda is almost knocked over by a box and has a flashback and remembers being pushed. FINALLY, some movement on this story line. I’m ready for the Boo Boo Kitty nightmare to begin again.
Grandma Walker is playing piano while Lucious looks on in a dumb hat. Grandma doesn’t call Lucious “Lucious,” she calls him “Dwight,” and is upset he told the family bad things about her. She insists she’s better now. When an old woman creepily playing piano tells you she’s better, don’t believe her. Maybe Empire is moving to being a horror story. I’m here for that. Lucious uses the song his mother makes up to create the new Lyon family anthem. Hakeem starts freestyling and listing the occasions his family has ruined and Jamal starts whimper-singing in the corner. Cookie is wearing a blazer from the Samantha Jones Collection.
Carol is resisting drinking by putting a drink to her lips and then putting it down again, when Duke Page shows up and buys her a cranberry juice. He’s FBI and DTF.
The Lyon family kills it at their performance at the club with their custom gold microphones, and Jamal catches up to D. Money and passes him a note that says “DO YOU LIKE ME? YES NO MAYBE CIRCLE ONE” and D. Money circles MAYBE. Rhonda is at home drinking heavily with Boo Boo Kitty who is suddenly showing and Rhonda see the Louboutin flats. I hope Rhonda becomes a lady detective and solves the mystery of her stair-pushing. It’s a better story line for her than “Drinks Wine and Gets Knocked Over.”
Lucious is woken up by his mother who has baked 19 different cakes at 3 a.m., and she forces Lucious to sit down and eat. She waves a knife at him and tells him that Lucious can never repay her for leaving her alone. Lucious is the start of all her problems and she was fine until the day he was born. Uh … oh … Lucious is a liar. Lucious doesn’t love her. Lucious put her away. Grandma says she was weak before. She was too weak to kill him when she had the chance.
Eat the cake, Lucious Lyon.