Empire Recap: Roulette It Be

A lesbian and homophobe walk into a nightclub on this week’s Empire — but not to worry, they’ve got common interests: Namely April, a sparkly, sexually fluid and verrrry sexually available young woman who’d like to teach the world to sing. (And by sing, I mean, “check out the pistol-shaped tattoo on her inner thigh… and then explore other nearby landmarks.”)

So how come Mimi Whiteman ends the night weeping into her iPhone while Lucious Lyon digs up his most painful childhood memories and books middle-of-the-night studio time? Because, as Wilson Phillips reminds us in “Hold On” — allow me to paraphrase here — we know there’s pain… and soap opera characters in particular tend to lock themselves up in their chains of prior tragedies, bad acts and uncertain futures.

In the meantime, Cookie spends three whole days in bed – don’t call the doctor Porsha, she don’t need him, she don’t want him; Jamal gets rewarded for going behind his father’s back; Hakeem gets his mogul swagger back; and Boo Boo Kitty goes MIA. (Fret not: When you’re Cookie’s arch nemesis, sometimes you have to hole up in an all-inclusive spa in Santa Fe or Tucson or some such spot and work on your bitchy retorts.)

While you cook up other possible scenarios explaining Anika’s absence — and Becky’s, too! – allow me to recap the action from “True Love Never”:

EMP207_sc42.43_0542R_hires1MIMI WANTS A MERGER | Mimi, unhappy with Empire’s stock performances, ignores Andre’s caveats and pushes for a merger with an up-and-coming streaming service. She sets up a cray-cray meeting between Lucious and the SwiftStream CEO — in a boxing ring — but it’s a blessing in disguise when Lucious knocks the guy out cold for dissing his lyrics. With Mimi toying with the guy’s morphine drip, Lucious is able to manipulate him into a deal that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law — but definitely sails over the low bar of soap opera plausibility.

COOKIE HEARTS RADIO | Cookie spends three whole days in bed with Laz — running Lyon Dynasty with a laptop and some food deliveries from a mortified Porsha. She concocts the idea for a new music festival called Cookie’s Cookout — centered on Lyon Dynasty artists — but the park she wants requires a deal with the gang that kidnapped Hakeem (and of which Laz is secretly a part). (Hrmmm… anyone starting to suspect he might turn out to be an undercover cop in the end? And would that be better or worse in Cookie’s eyes?) Hakeem crashes Cookie’s meeting with the thugs — and negotiates a better deal for Lyon Dynasty — but he also floats the idea that Cookie may be as sexmatized by Laz as she thinks Hakeem is with Laura. And for once, the kid may be right!

EMP207_scB21_0588R2_hires1LUCIOUS NEEDS A LITTLE RESPECT | Lucious decides he needs to court musical kingmaker Huey Jarvis — whose living-room sessions somehow always lead to Grammy wins. When he plays him his duet with Freda Gatz, though, Huey tells him he needs to dig deeper lyrically. Lucious knows the guy is right, and it sends him spinning into a series of flashbacks where he’s stealing his mother’s bullets and burying them in the backyard. When she finds one he missed, we understand the childhood Lucious’ panic: Like his now adult son Andre, Lucious’ mother had a penchant for playing Russian Roulette — and that trip to the intersection of Memory Lane and Nightmare Boulevard gives “Boom Boom Boom Boom” a whole new meaning. After Mimi and Lucious kiss (GAAAAAHHHH! WHAT IS HAPPENING!?) he flees the scene of their three-way with April for a 4am studio session with Freda. It’s fiyah, as the kids say, even if Terrence Howard’s flow reminds me a little of Busta Rhymes. (The spinning cylinder and trigger clicks of his mother’s gun add percussive sizzle to the experience.) Mimi, meanwhile, also exits the menage a trois to take a phone call that sends her into ugly-cry mode — and makes Lucious surprisingly protective of her? Is she just playing him, though? She seems way too self-aware to be getting so messy in front of her partner in capitalistic hedonism, no?

JAMAL GETS HIS ‘HEAVY’ ON | Jamal is struggling with a new ballad called “Heavy,” and reaches out via text to Cookie — who puts aside their “we’re on separate labels” beef and gives him the kind of advice he needs to take the track to the next level. They wind up popping chamos and sharing headphones over dinner — and it’s the most joyous moment of the episode, if not the whole season — leading to an all-night studio session where Jamal has to sneak out to avoid detection by an early-to-work Hakeem. The end product is stunning — the “my whole damn kingdom sittin on top of me” hook is the best in an A+ episode for music — and scores him an invite to Jarvis’ living room. Lucious is clearly proud of his son — WHOA! An actual hug? — but his face also betrays a hint of jealousy from a man whose own needs always come just ahead of his family’s.

EMP207_sc40_0419R1_hires1HAKEEM IS ALL ‘BESAME MUCHO’ | As Mirage a Trois rehearse their new single “Bottomless Mimosa” — hi, fellow gays! we have a new anthem for fall! — supporting player Carmen tries to physically bump Laura from her lead-singer slot, a move that Cookie cosigns. Hakeem’s not ready to give up on the girl whose nightclub performance captivated him down to his toes — so he has her meet with Tiana for a lesson in body movement and star quality — then takes her to a major thoroughfare and has her perform “I Will Survive” in Spanish to see if she can command a very tough audience. Of course she succeeds — that chick’s vocals are next-level — but Hakeem looks legit shocked when Laura plants a kiss on him when she’s done.

ANDRE CHOOSES THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS | Andre reaches his own moral crossroads when Lucious basically asks him to pimp himself out to the Deputy Mayor with whom he used to canoodle — this time to get Freda’s gang charges dropped. Unfortunately for the eldest Lyon son, his paster has a barely concealed agenda, too, telling his mentee that “God has chosen you to be his warrior” and pushing him to do “repugnant” things if it serves their larger goal. (I half expected the dude to hand Andre a CD of his original tracks and ask for help scoring a deal!) Andre decides against sleeping with Alvarez – blackmailing her instead with iPhone footage of their prior twists. For the most morally conflicted fella on the show, it’s a win… I guess? On the plus side, his ability to resist Alvarez’s charms sends him gleefully back home for some afternoon delight with Rhonda, who’s been praying for some of that good Lyon lovin’! See? Even murderer’s prayers come true sometimes!

What did you think of this week’s Empire? Are you digging “Boom Boom Boom Boom”? And what do you think of Lucious’ flashbacks? Sound off below!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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21 Comments
  1. Annie says:

    Interesting episode in that it wasn’t great, but it did hint at some promising storylines. I like the idea that the writers are going to explore the idea that Lucious is jealous of Jamal. It makes sense. Not only does Lucious want to be the center of everything, but it is reasonable to believe that he would be jealous of all of his sons, because due to their youth and and the standing and money that comes from him, they will get opportunities that he will never receive. I hope that this will lead to Jamal making a power play at Empire, and not to Jamal leaving to join his mother at Lyon’s Dynasty.

    I also like the idea of Andre deciding that he can be devious and religious at the same time. This show needs a big dose of season one’s Andre and Rhonda.

    I don’t like the way that Cookie and Jamal reunited. Their relationship was the heart of season one, and something that has been sorely missing this season. I didn’t like seeing Laz telling Cookie that her sons come first. Season one Cookie knew that. I also don’t like that the reunion happened because Jamal needed help, and not because he missed being with his mother. During the first season their relationship gave the show depth, and was incredibly sweet. Were they are now just seems shallow.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      It was strange wasn’t it – the Cookie & Jamal meeting. She was in his corner in Season one and then switched up to be with Hakeem and now she’s back with Jamal. Sometimes you wonder who’s writing these eps. Do they know what happened in the first season? Are these a new crop of writers?
      And I still don’t know this. Answer me this. Who’s running Empire? Is it Jamal or Lucious? In the beginning we saw Jamal struggling to be a manager of the company and now he’s back being a FT artist? Pleeeeez writers – get it together.

  2. Annie says:

    One more thing that I did love about the episode is that it looks like Mimi is just as two faced as everyone else. It looks like she is going to be the one person who finally brings Lucious down.

  3. laurelnev says:

    I want to know HOW Cookie keeps her wig looking so good through 3 days in bed! And what that wig is going to look like after she finds out Laz has been playing both sides. Somehow, I think the Longhorn Gang has severely underestimated Cookie…and Lucious. When the bullets start to fly, the devil himself is going to fly to Cookie’s side to protect what is HIS.

    I just hate how the Lyon Cubs are always put in the middle of things, mere pawns in the ultimate battle of the egos. I’d sure hate to see their therapy bills! And poor Andre. He turns to a spiritual leader who appears to be as morally corrupt as the family patriarch. Guess blackmail is a lesser sin than adultery!

    Who thinks it’s time to start the Laz pool? I’ll take shot by Lucious to protect Hakeem at the mid-season finale for 25. :)

  4. Sam says:

    Empire is still struggling majorly in it’s second season but there were some rays of hope in this episode.
    Cookie and Jamal together is indeed the best moment of the season. Those two have this great chemistry that they need to be working together. Such a pity that 7 episodes in (almost midseason) the writers seem can’t seem to figure out why the hell they put them apart.

    Otherwise nothing else stuck in my mind.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      Empire has ceased being my “must see TV” show. I watch it as mere passing time when I’m at home working on the computer.
      It still has some writing faults, but this ep seemed to come together. I still miss Vernon, and where’s the lawyer Tricky? How is it Lucious is having Mimi drawing up contracts WITHOUT HIS LAWYER LOOKING AT THE CONTRACT! Doesn’t happen that way folks. Those contracts take a ton of lawyers to finalize.

      • wrstlgirl says:

        This second season is truly bad IMHO. I do the same, watch/listen while I’m doing house work, lol. There is absolutely nothing going on that interests me. The new “projects”, meaning the two new female singers are boring. I don’t even know their names.

  5. ami says:

    Another example of extremely overused and damaging “lesbian with a man” trope. TV executives apparently can’t fathom the idea that lesbians really don’t desire men sexually. So disappointing.

    • Annie says:

      Who said that Mimi desired Lucious? That’s not the vibe that I got. First, that threesome was about sex, and not some romantic need. Secondly, it seemed clear that Mimi is up to something, and is just using Lucious. Like pretty much everyone else on the show she is not afraid to use sex to get what she wants.

      • ami says:

        “First, that threesome was about sex, and not some romantic need.”

        And that’s exactly the damaging myth about lesbians that it encourages. That “lesbians may love each other, be touchy-feely, hold hands and cuddle together, but deep down they need a good d*cking”. The mentality that leads to the fact most out lesbians like myself and all my friends are constantly harassed by men who tell us they’ll turn us straight or bi, we just need to have sex with them. Mentality this kind of representation further encourages and validates.

        The trope of lesbian having sex with a man and enjoying it occured just last year in at least 7 TV shows, not to mention less extreme examples that just insinuated that the lesbian character is not so completely uninterested in men sexually, like this show did. They never do something like that with gay men – if they’re showed with women, it’s only to emphasize how gay they are and can’t go through it.

        • Win says:

          Haha – I think that you’re on point about the not-so-right reverend, Slezak. Pastor Che Köttmei-Mixtäp wants to keep people out of the proverbial “hot fire” by passing along his hot fire demo. I can imagine the beginning is him saying “shout out to Big G and Li’l J” followed by 3 airhorn sounds.

          I loved 1) Laura amping it up without losing herself and 2) Jamal having to sneak out like making music was an illicit “booty call.”

          Wow on Lucious’ backstory with his mom. We saw little Andre (literally) cover for his dad and now we see what young Lucious had to go through.

          Was Clarence Williams III’s character supposed to be like Quincy Jones?

        • Win says:

          Excuse the placement of my reply. I’m having a David Byrne moment where I’m asking myself, “how did I get here.”

        • Annie says:

          The writers have not taken the time to develop those characters, so that we will care about them.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      Who said she was a full-out lesbian? Could she be bisexual?

  6. Sally McLinn says:

    This was a better written cohesive episode. I didn’t understand where they were going the previous eps. But they def need to stop with the flashbacks. It’s worse than Boardwalk Empire’s last season. Flashbacks IMO is what ruined that finale season.

  7. Bigdede says:

    This episode wss seriously boring. Cookie asking Porshs does her butt look right in that dress… she was going to meet her son! When Lucious took Mimi’s phone screaming at whoever was on the other line was awkward. Sick of Cookie’s wig. And she would really make a deal with the guy who kidnapped her son? Really? This episode sucked. Where is Thirsty? Who is running Empire because Lucious time seems to be all about producing, rapping and following around that new rapper

    • RD says:

      I believe the show has lost it’s way. It’s dull,It’s floundering and even Cookie doesn’t have the first season’s zingers. Just mediocre writing.

  8. Flashrow says:

    Please stop with the same dynamic in music: Slow song for Jamal and rapper song for the awful female rapper. At first I was ok with the music, but this season usually I roll my eyes everytime someone sings. Boom boom boom…. bang bang bang