Empire Recap: Driven to Insanity

As a gay, forty-something white man and father of 4-year-old twins, I have no business judging the rap battle that took place on this week’s episode of Empire (though for the record, I’d probably call it a draw). That said, I do know a full plate of crazy when it drives up to the curb in a black SUV, sporting a chauffeur’s cap and a $10 blonde wig from Party City.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I hijack one of Cookie Lyon’s great Season 1 lines and apply it to our old friend Boo Boo Kitty: “All right, look, girl — I don’t judge. But you’s a freak — and that’s a good thing. We can sell that.” In other words, welcome back to the plot, Fake-Ass Lena Horne — we’ve missed you!

EMP208_sc33.A34_0083R_hires1This plot twist spins me right round (baby right round), like the record player in Dead or Alive’s greatest hit — or for you young’uns, like Flo Rida and Ke$ha’s heads in their seminal 2009 collaboration “Right Round.” I mean, we knew Anika was a little touched based on her plans for a white-doves and catered-canapés wedding with Lucious Lyon, but seeing her tear open a pregnancy kit with a hunting knife, then impersonate a limo driver and (likely) kidnap Laura? Well, now I know how Bugs Bunny felt when he learned Baby Finster was a bank robber.

But “My Bad Parts” is more than the sum of Anika’s bad acts: There’s Cookie hiding in a closet and eating a soft taco! There’s Jamal’s greatest hit since “You’re So Beautiful”! There’s major product placement for Pepsi! So let’s cut to the recap:

EMP208_sc25_0461R_hires1GETCHA PEPSI ON | Jamal is caught in a love triangle — a parental love triangle to be specific. He’s in the running to be Pepsi’s next spokesperson — provided he can come up with the perfect song. Problem is, Cookie gives him delicate strings and piano, and he loves it. And then Lucious delivers him tribal beats and blazing guitars, and Jamal loves them, too. And because of his parents’ seething feud, he can’t admit to either one that he’s two-timing. It all blows up when he gets them in the same room and tries to make the music bring ’em together — “This is not the Disney Channel!” shouts Cookie — and it turns out that little brother Hakeem holds the solution. “They’re business partners — not your parents,” Hakeem says, encouraging Jamal to be the boss and take what he needs from each. The end result, a thrilling dance track called “Ready to Go,” keeps both Lyon patriarch and matriarch glued to their seats, seals the deal with the soft-drink giant and results in as close to a group hug as these people are ever going to get. Oh, and just in case there was any question, both Cookie and Lucious will be producing Jamal’s record — and that’s an order from Jamal himself. Lest we forget, he’s not afraid to dangle a bitch over a balcony, mmmkay? Recognize!

EMP208_sc35_0671R_hires1HE DON’T EVEN KNOW HIS LAST NAAAAME (HIS MAMA REMAINS UNASHAMED) | Becky warns him he’s going too far — oh, Becky, we need more of your wisdom in the Empire universe! — but Lucious goes ahead and cosigns Freda Gathers’ performance of a new dis track that paints Hakeem as “daddy’s little girl.” We interrupt Hakeem’s (possible) taking of Laura’s virginity with a video of raging Freda — and let’s just say Hakeem doesn’t back down. Instead, he challenges the female upstart to a rap battle — with the prize being his Lyon surname. (Little does he know, Cookie and Lucious have a side bet — if Hakeem wins, Lyon Dynasty gets to release Jamal’s next record; if Freda wins, Empire scores Hakeem’s next release. But…ummmm…isn’t Empire a publicly traded company? Oh who cares?) There are dozens of great zingers thrown back and forth — “Tell Cookie get the milk, her baby keep on cryin'” spits Freda, and even Cookie has to nod her head with mad respect — while Hakeem declares that, “like Warren Buffet, I own stock!” Hakeem really gets the crowd involved, though (good advice, Jamal!) as opposed to Freda’s more internal style, and he takes the prize, then smashes the illuminated “Lyon” beneath the word Hakeem. Yep, from now on, he’ll be uni-monikered — with no artistic ties to daddy. Lucious promptly has a flashback to being a homeless pre-teen, waking up beneath a stone lion and clearly getting the inspiration for his name. Turns out, Hakeem’s rebuke stings more than he’ll ever let on — but he can’t say Becky didn’t warn him!

EMP208_sc30_0282R_hires1LIVIN LA MIMI LOCA | Mimi is all “Come with somethin’ betta or let’s close this!” regarding the SwiftStream deal, and I involuntarily shout at my TV, “Girl, you white!” (Oh, c’mon, you thought it, too.) Thirsty and Andre fail to dig up dirt on the streaming service’s CEO — which leads to a final negotiation where Lucious sucks on a lollipop (random!) and Mimi comes in at the last minute, signs the paperwork and then dramatically shares, “I have to get to Positano!” I don’t care how many more billions she has in the bank, I wouldn’t co-sign a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru purchase with her at this point. (We can all agree Mimi’s been a letdown since her bad-ass intro in the Season 2 premiere, yes?)

IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO KNOW | Laz gets sidelined this week (by which I mean to say he does not take off his shirt). But when he and Hakeem get into a shoving match at Lyon Dynasty, Cookie slaps him so hard you can feel the whoosh in your living room. “Don’t ever touch my son!” #BowDown

EMP208_sc37_0791R_hires1YOU DIDN’T REALLY THINK HER MAMA NAMED HER COOKIE, DID YOU? | As Cookie celebrates Hakeem’s battle victory with all three sons — and braces for Lucious to do something dreadful — her reverie is interrupted by an angry, silk-pantsuit-wearing woman (Vivica A. Fox, playing Cookie’s sister Candace). Except Candace keeps referring to Cookie as… drumroll please… Loretha! (¡¡¡!!!) She’s rolled in from Cherry Hill, NJ, with her slick mouth and unabashed judgment to tell Cookie that their sister Carol has gone on such a bad bender that she’s abandoned her kids to Candace and her wealthy white husband. Rich? Hrmm. “I can’t tell by them cheap-ass shoes,” huffs Cookie, making me really hungry for a full-blown Empire Thanksgiving. We’ll settle for a road trip to Philly though. I wonder what car snacks Cookie fancies!

anika-empire-wig-chauffeurSHE GOT THAT BOO BOO… POW! | Anika discovers she’s pregnant, and after a run-in with Rhonda, learns babies are kryptonite for Lucious. She tries to get back with Hakeem, but he tells her he’s fallen in love with Laura, puts Anika in the friend zone — then tells his one-time lover they’re “still homies.” I suspect this hits Anika harder than Cookie’s knuckles in the Season 1 finale, because as the episode ends and Hakeem puts Laura in an SUV, we get an SVU twist. A blonde-wigged Anika is behind the wheel. Oh hold on, Laura, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

What did you think of this week’s Empire? Could you have ever predicted Anika’s 50 shades of cray? 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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  1. Annie says:

    Best episode of the season.

    “welcome back to the plot, Fake-Ass Lena Horne — we’ve missed you!”

    Yes, she was missed. I don’t even mind that all of a sudden she’s crazy.

    I love the advice that Jamal gave Hakeem. They could make a longer storyline out of this, both Hakeem and Jamal have to realize that they are not going to be successful by copying their father’s style. Freda won the battle, but Hakeem was smarter by winning over the crowd.

    I can’t wait to see Lucious fall. It’s obvious that Mimi is up to something, but it is in character for Lucious to let his greed blind him to what’s happening.

    • Skyler says:

      Yeah! Imo, Hakeem’s second round in the rap battle was dope! Smart move! Freda was raw though, hate the way she included Cookie and Jamal in her rap. She might have been the stronger rapper lyrically but Hakeem was definitely more entertaining. Makes me wanna keep replaying his rap scene over again.

  2. Relaxxx says:

    Michael Slezak I adore you and don’t ever change! Your recaps give me life. I don’t even know where to begin with this episode. Boo Boo Kitty just…ughhh! This won’t end well! It’s going to get crazy because I think Anika is losing it. I have no clue what she’s doing with the blonde wig and chauffeur get up!? I loved Jamal trying to get his parents to work together and I’m really enjoying Hakeem and Cookie together. Luscious and Cookie is always comedy gold. Cookies taking a trip to Philly so the next episode should be great with Anika telling Hakeem he loves her…OK! That’s not strange at all, lol!

  3. hbeachman says:

    Loretha?!?! Don’t tell Raven-Symone about this!

    • Win says:

      Haha! Although I do have to wonder: Carol, Candace, and Loretha. If Cookie’s Mom & Dad both have “C” names, I’m calling Joe Dirt Shenanigans! I like that we found out both Lucious and Cookie have reinvented themselves names-wise. I wonder if all someone needs to take Lucious down is to step up and say “your [last] name is Rumplestiltskin.”

      “and I involuntarily shout at my TV, “Girl, you white!” (Oh, c’mon, you thought it, too.)”


  4. mrmcgee says:

    Really strong episode, and I was entertained, especially during the rap battle. Dress is a beast! Now that, kids, is rap. Loved it. I’m going to wait and see with Boo Boo. While I love the campy twist, I wonder about how they can redeem her character.

    They needed an episode like this because as much as I enjoy the show, it’s missing that narrative cohesiveness last year with the story of three sons vying for the throne. Sometimes this session has meandered a bit without any true arcs other than the two companies.

    Oh and was out me or was Lucious drunk the whole episode? Besides the deal signing scene, he seemed very off in a lot of scenes.

  5. abz says:

    Good episode, but I just do not like this Freda Gatz character.

    • Kiki says:

      I think that every show needs it’s arch enemy and I think Freida gatz this will be Hakeem’s until she finds out Lucius killed her father.

    • Viv says:

      I adore Freeda! She’s so original and refreshing. She’s a natural. She reminds me of a young Jodie Foster — total powerhouse. Freeda and Hakeem have such amazing chemistry. They’d make a fantastic couple. Well, until she finds out Lucius killed her Pops…

    • Kristen says:

      I actually really like Freda… mainly because the girl is genuinely talented, but it’s nice to see Lucious take her under his wing. I’m interested to see what happens when she finds out how her daddy died. Speaking of talent, I just don’t feel that Hakeem is better than Freda at rapping. He’s so mainstream, while she is just so raw. I can’t imagine that if this wasn’t a scripted show that Hakeem would’ve won. WHAT IS ANIKA SMOKING!? Girl has gone loco! Poor Laura (also could she have not held out on the whole V card a little longer!?), but this broad needs to check herself into a mental hospital. Now she’s preggo with Hakeem’s baby!? Bahahaha Nice!

    • Skyler says:

      I don’t like her either. She might be really good at rapping but I don’t like the fact that Luscious has been using her as a tool to get back at Hakeem. Can’t wait until she finds out that Luscious killed her father in jail!

  6. Erica says:

    It has been strongly established that this is a series about a music mogul etc…… but damn I wish they’d take out 1-2 songs every episode to give more time to character development and story line. It’s like Dallas, except more screaming and rap. I love the characters, but the story line is so repetitive. It’s the same people screaming at each other; screwing each other around, screaming again, Hakeem’s mad, then Luscious is mad, then Cookie is mad, Andre tries to impress Luscious, Luscious treats Andre like human garbage, Luscios goes all megalomaniac on everyone’s butt, Hakeem gets mad, Cookie’s screaming at ______________ whoever,
    Hakeem screaming at (inset mother father or brother name here), and so on and so on. And yes, I do understand this is a story about family and family business, but it is season two and I was hoping for something added story line wise. Something not too obvious (Seriously? woman loses her job, so she loses her mind? Really Empire writers? Really? Couldn’t come up with anything more original? (mind you, Grace Gealy is gonna kick some butt for sure).
    I am definitely looking forward to Cookie figuring out what a two-faced loser that Laz is and putting him and his buddies in their place (or maybe setting Laz up ….. that’s be a nice case of turnabout is fair play).

    • Victoria seaton says:

      I think you pinpointed why I keep losing interest this season. Everything is so obvious and poorly developed on this show. The writers need help. I’m trying to hang in but am quickly losing interest. Many things also feel forced about the scenes and I’m over all sexual content. I wouldn’t be as annoyed by it if the character and story development were better. It wouldn’t seem like a cop-out or cheap attempt to disguise the show’s weaknesses. Shonda Rhimes needs to give them tips.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      I agree with this. Their storylines waver from one week to the next. They add characters and then drop them. How long is Viveca Fox going to be in Empire? How long is Adam going to in the show? We can’t bond with certain characters. I’m beginning to think that their payroll is skimpy and they can’t afford to have long storylines with major characters.

      • Mrs. Rance says:

        Guest stars can’t be regular, long term characters. That’s the problem for me. They are getting to much meat. They need to be supporting cast only. Laura and Laz have had too much screen time. I was happy to see them scaled back last night.

    • LT says:

      Agreed. I struggle with this show. The repetitiveness kills it for me.

    • Win says:

      “Seriously? woman loses her job, so she loses her mind? Really Empire writers? Really? Couldn’t come up with anything more original?”

      I actually think the way they do it/Grace Geeley’s take on Anika’s current state is what will make it original. Some of my favorite story lines have to do with the person who thinks to herself/says aloud, “But… I did everything right!” While the “everything” is debatable, I find the journeys of those who colored inside the lines only to be denied the “brass ring” (or worse, allow yourself to get deep into something you underestimated/didn’t think would be your downfall) in the end to be exciting and unique from character to character. As an aside: in real life, though – it sucks. I’m loving season 2, but for the many who see it as a sophomore slump, I hope the show wins you all back.

  7. laurelnev says:

    This may be WAY out there…but what if Mimi didn’t really switch teams and this whole thing was about taking Lucious down? Maybe THAT is why she’s not that intro ep badass. Maybe that person on the phone is chastising her for having fun instead of revenging. Maybe she’s sabotaging Empire.

    Poor Anika! Maybe she can pass it off as Lucious’, like passed his on to Jamal!

    • Annie says:

      That would be too good of a twist. I’d love to see Cookie being the one pulling Mimi’s strings. It needs to be someone who is already on the show, but unfortunately, that’s probably not the case.

    • chitown_mimi says:

      Girl, you took my theory!! I have been telling everyone that Mimi is working with someone to take down Lucious. Where is Naomi Campbell by the way? Hmmmm, I wouldn’t put it pass her to use Mimi to get back at Lucious!

  8. CK2 says:

    Great episode. The music was great. I’m actually excited about Freda as a character again after that rap battle and most of all, with the twist at the end (Crazy Anika) and whatever is going on with Mimi included, this episode was fun.

  9. Sam says:

    Slezak; you’re awesome! Great recap.

    A very enjoyable episode. Empire might be finding its path.

    Again it shows that when the family gang is together, these are the finest moments. Cookie & Jamal together are premium. Jamal getting both under control… just precious. Jamal and Hakeem together..so awesome. And boo boo kitty is baaack!

    Freda needs to bet written off as fast as possible. I can’t stand her.

  10. chitown_mimi says:

    Michael Slezak, you may be a white middle aged daddy of two, but you are a stone cold ‘hood. “He’s not afraid to dangle a bitch over a balcony, mmmkay.” I nearly fell of the chair hollering! Love your recaps. They’re damn near better than the episodes. IMHO, Jamal’s advice to Hakeem is the way that battle became a draw. He knows how to work a damn crowd. I was standing up calling Hakeem. Put Freda’s verses were cold…I mean Eminem 8 miles style! I’m glad to see Anika hasn’t thrown herself off a cliff, but Lord, she turned full blown cray cray. It’s hilarious though and I am interested to see how this plays out. As for Mimi, I am calling it right now…She is working with Camilla on bringing Lucious down. Mark it down people!. I just feel it in my bones and Lucious will never see it coming.

    • Tasha says:

      Mimi working with Camilla is super clever…I never thought of that. Matter of fact I could see Camilla and Mimi as lovers! I cant wait for the next episodes!

  11. liame says:

    Another great episode. Taraji and Terrence play off each other so well. Great Chemistry makes this show watchable, loveable and entertaining. The fast pace is what makes this show appealing to me. Keep up the good work writers and actors.

  12. Eran says:

    I feel like I’ve got whacky, later years Knots Landing back. I’m expecting Cookie to serve up some major Abbey Fairgate-Cunningham-Ewing-Sumner realness when she learns Anika’s about to make her a Grandmama.

    • Jess says:

      Oh god! I had managed to avoid the visual until I read this comment…Anika has gone from sleeping with her ex-husband, to being the mother of her future grandchild. WTF?! In a fantastically messed up way!

  13. robandco says:

    I am not a rap fan, but that rap battle was great. Yes, it was fake and prepared for when they filmed it but it was really good. Freda is a terrible character, but she’s a damn good rapper. But Hakeem was better.
    And Jamal’s song was dope. I liked Cookie’s version better.
    Lucious is getting on my nerve. He’s a great villain but he should have died in season 1 as planed.

  14. LaDonna High says:

    Can yall PLEASE show a picture of Anika in that black & white dress from last night episode

  15. wooster182 says:

    Can you and Melinda do a weekly video recap of Empire? Pretty please?

  16. Freda killed it ! She has way better bars than Hakeem , Ppl riding the wave.. Let’s be honest , lets be real

    • *in my Jan Brady’s voice
      Andre Andre Andre lol
      He needs help mentally , sheesh
      Boo boo kitty gone crazy off of rejection and she’s not trying to hear Hakeem falling in love with someone younger than her.. Poor kitty
      Waiting on Cookie to wake up to find out that he’s using her ..
      Lucious I was begging him not to sign that paper unbelievable , Whyyyyyy .. And the beat that jamal place together went very well ,Mimi I don’t trust her at all .. Lucious Watchhhh out!

      Andre smh needs help he’s not built for lyon responsibilities .. Go night night…

  17. jamesha says:

    I didnt know that was anika lol wanna be on empire #empire