Empire Recap: The (Nia) Long Con


Love Is a Smoke
Season 3 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating *****
Terrence Howard as Lucious, Nia Long as Giuliana. Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX

Every week, there is a reveal on Empire that cements its place as a nighttime soap worthy of standing up against the greats of days past. There are a lot of great, over-the-top reveals in this episode, but truly the most outrageous and shocking are Lucious’s scraggly-ass braids. The flashbacks attempt to explain the relationship between Lucious and Nia Long, but all we’re left with are questions about those braids.

The episode begins with a dreamy sequence of Lucious and Nia Long and those braids where he’s playing a song he wrote for her. Lucious, in the present day, is gripping his blanket, staring into middle distance when Cookie comes in. He’s sitting perfectly still, listening to the song he wrote for Nia Long. Cookie has something she just wants to run by Lucious — Angelo might propose. Just a little thing. In a total twist, Lucious is oddly cool with it. Cookie hasn’t had to tear up a building to send a message to Angelo, so maybe it’ll be easy. God, I hope so. He agrees to fall back if she wants to say yes, but she needs to convince Andre to stop dealing with Nia Long because she’s dangerous.

Meanwhile, the Vegas gang, Andre, Nia Long, and Xzibit, are waiting for Tori Ash to negotiate her deal to write a song for Nessa to impress THE GAMING COMMISSIONER. After a little bad-bitch pissing match between Tori and Nia Long, Tori says that Lucious has her under lock and key for Inferno, and Nia Long suggests that maybe they can all just get along and do something with Lucious. That goes over about as well as you could imagine with two people who are currently plotting to kill Lucious.

Jamal is in the studio when Angelo stops by to ask for Cookie’s hand in marriage … well, to ask for permission to ask for permission to consider the thought of asking for Cookie’s hand in marriage. Jamal says that maybe Angelo should get his shit together and make a grand romantic gesture to win Cookie’s heart. As viewers of television, we all know how well that grand romantic gesture is going to go. There’s a lot of dramatic irony happening here.

Andre and Nia Long are leaving Empire when they run into Lucious and it triggers another braid-based flashback. Lucious is going to an underground casino and sees Nia Long in an amazing fur coat and bra and loses control of his mind. Her nickname was “Juicy” in this flashback and he impresses her by betting on double zero like a sociopath and winning big. In the present, Lucious presumably resumes talking after pausing to relive that memory and concentrate his boner away after picturing Nia Long in that fur coat and bra. He declares that he won’t do business with Nia Long and the late Raphael kept her ass in line. But we all know Raphael is out of the picture.

Later, Becky barges into a meeting between Lucious, Xzibit, and Thirsty to tell Lucious to get down to the studio right away because Tori is recording a demo … but it’s a little something special. Lucious rushes down to the studio to hear the song she’s working on. They end up doing a whole Amy Winehouse thing with her styling and this song. Lucious loves it so much he decides to release the song to mess with Andre and generally piss everyone off. He says that she’s a white girl singing black music and she’s got a real soul. Oof.

Boo Boo Kitty goes to visit Duke Page while she wears a wire to get him to admit that he’s terrible at being in the FBI. Lucious knows that an agent who is suspended can’t continue working on a case, so he’s going to take this clearly illegally obtained tape and ruin his life. When Cookie is done with her listening session, she goes to her apartment because Angelo is waiting for her with 1,000 lit candles and he clearly makes it seem like he’s going to propose. Instead, he asks her to appear on public television with him.

Xzibit calls Lucious to get him to come to his office. When he arrives, Nia Long is standing there with a gun pointed at his head! We get another goddamn braid flashback of Nia Long and Lucious getting ready to buy a club in Vegas. Bunkie is there to communicate that it is the past. Raphael shows up and his goons take the cash and Nia Long just lets it all go down. In the present, Nia Long says she wants to make everything right and the only way to fix it is to get Lucious to cajole THE GAMING COMMISSIONER to agree to the terms of Andre’s deal.

The next morning, Duke Page and Boo Boo Kitty wake up in his bed and she has on some very cute silk pajamas, which I guess she brought with her? He’s ready to hand Cookie and Lucious to the authorities and he wants to celebrate with a little morning fun, but Boo Boo Kitty is still wearing a wire and has to take advantage of him getting a call from Thirsty a.k.a. “Agent Sweetwater” to slip the wire off. Meanwhile, Hakeem and Tiana are introducing Tori’s new single to mess with Andre, and Tiana rubs up on Tori while Hakeem dances like he’s Powerline. Tiana’s willingness to seduce or at least flirt with other women is new to me. Jamal comes in with Tinashe and he is stunned that Tori would be around all this alcohol and partying. Tori snaps back that Jamal just doesn’t want any competition, then grabs a pretty girl and a bottle and heads out.

Lucious meets with Duke Page and tells him he’s got a recording of him sleeping with Boo Boo Kitty and working outside the law, so he better take this conveniently placed bag of money and run. Duke Page agrees. [shrug emoticon guy]

Cookie appears with Angelo on public television and Angelo takes advantage of the moment and uses the grand romantic ambience of a black curtain and a folding table to propose to Cookie on air. She says yes-ish, but backstage she comes clean to Angelo that she kissed Lucious. Angelo flips out and starts ranting about everything he did to erase Cookie’s past and all the illegal things he did to make that happen. His mic turns on in the middle of his rant and it broadcasts throughout the studio. I don’t think that’s how microphones work, but Phylicia Rashad rushes in and sends Cookie away. She vows to destroy Cookie, Lucious, and all the other Lyons. I’m into this Game of Thrones–style story of revenge.

Finally, Lucious is meeting with THE GAMING COMMISSIONER who is just Eva Longoria, but I’m always down for an appearance by her. Lucious has turned Leviticus into a mock-up of what Empire Vegas would look like. When Andre shows up wondering why it isn’t Nessa performing but Tori, Lucious tells him that Andre is out and he’s taking over. Xzibit arrives to see Tori performing and is tired of Lucious screwing them around. Andre says the time to take Lucious out is now. Just as the song is ending, Lucious and Nia Long cuddle up, talking about how romantic it is that Tori is performing the song for them and Cookie comes in to see them cuddling. Cookie, you are seriously better off. Let those two trash fires burn hot together.

Empire Recap: The (Nia) Long Con