Empire review: Spotlight Stealing 101 as taught by the Lyons


As Cookie finds a possible new leading man, Tiana and Treasure battle it out for the spotlight on the latest episode of “Empire.”

Lucious and Cookie try to make a change

The episode opens with Jamal lamenting the end of his engagement to Kai with the song “Perfect Place.” A few rooms over, Cookie also contemplates her life with Lucious. Cookie is still feeling guilty about the lives Empire has ruined. Lucious insists that they did what they had to do but Cookie isn’t buying his defense. “I want us to act like two people who know they did a lot of wrong and hurt a lot of people and know they need to make it right.”

After her argument with Lucious, Cookie goes to comfort Jamal and reassures him that Kai will be back. Jamal disagrees, saying Kai is already back in London. He decides against going after Kai, throwing himself into his music instead. Jamal and Cookie both agree that they need to be better so Empire doesn’t eat them alive. “I can’t go back to knocking people down just to build us up,” Cookie says.

At the new, improved Empire, Cookie, Lucious and Giselle conduct a focus group of young adults to determine how Empire’s core demographic feels about the company. The focus group’s sentiments are less than favorable but Lucious and Cookie assure their fans that even though Kingsley and Empire failed them miserably, under their leadership, Empire will regain their trust. Cookie also shows her allegiance to Lucious, but her loyalty isn’t as unfaltering this time around. “I don’t have a choice. This is half my company too.”

At an all hands on deck staff meeting, Lucious ushers in the return of music and the death of startup analytics by smashing Kingsley’s computer. The company shakes up their leadership by having Cookie and Lucious return as co-CEOs and bringing Giselle on as a partner.

Lucious also names Andre as CFO, Jamal as chairman of music development and Hakeem as creative director. Given how Hakeem did as CEO of Empire, I’m not sure his business prowess can be trusted but, hey, it ain’t my company. Becky, who was one of those burned by her loyalty to Empire, retains her title as VP of A&R and tells Giselle that she still has her back as long as Giselle has hers.

Cookie, Andre, Giselle and Lucious meet and Andre drops the bomb that Kingsley’s bad investments and poor money management have put Empire in a hole that will take at least five years to fully correct. Sounds about right for an entitled startup bro.

As they try to figure out how to generate cash flow, the Lyons remember the money Eddie funneled into a Panamanian bank account but Giselle says she’s been unsuccessful at securing the funds from the Panamanian government. Lucious takes matters into his own hands and asks Thirsty to set up a meeting with his old poker buddy Damon Cross, against Thirsty’s advice.

At their meeting with Damon Cross, Cookie recognizes Damon from their brief encounter at the Moet, but Damon plays dumb. Damon agrees to help Lucious get his money back and asks that a member of Empire’s C-suite accompany him. With Lucious doing a PR tour and Giselle as Eddie’s ex, Cookie decides to go to Panama with Damon to retrieve the stolen money.

As Lucious runs damage control for Empire, Thirsty (in the ugliest tie the world has ever seen), lets him know that there’s a problem with his mother at her assisted living home. Lucious pays off the balance on her account and talks to his mother. Leah lets Lucious know Kingsley came to see her and mocks Lucious for his current situation saying Cookie will leave him. “As soon as she realizes that no matter how much you promise to be a good little boy, you’ll never change.” Lucious makes the excuse that if he’s a monster it’s because of his mother, then leaves.

After arriving in Panama, Damon finally reveals that he does remember Cookie and the two prepare to meet with Julio Calderon, a powerful, and apparently very chauvinistic businessman who is holding Empire’s money hostage. Cookie and Damon ask Julio to move the money Eddie stole back into Empire’s hands.

After some initial hiccups, Cookie offers Julio a percentage of the money in the account and a free concert for Julio’s clients featuring Empire artists. Damon defends Cookie when Julio tries to shut down her offer and Julio finally agrees, sealing the deal with a toast. Damon and Cookie celebrate their victory with a dance but when Damon gets too close for comfort, Cookie reminds him that she’s married. Cookie tries to leave but Damon warns, “I don’t plan on chasing you…trust me, you’re going to come back to me.”

North of the border, Thirsty’s life of skirting the law and living large in hideous suits is abruptly interrupted after he’s taken for questioning by the FBI. U.S. Attorney Megan Conway asks Thirsty questions about both Damon Cross and Lucious Lyon but when Thirsty holds out, Attorney Conway lets him know he can’t use his University of Guam law license (seriously?) to wiggle out of this mess. “Lucious Lyon or Damon Cross, whose freedom are you going to trade for your own?”

As Thirsty’s luck runs out, Cookie returns to her hotel room to find a rose and the book of matches from the Moet on her bed–gifts from Damon. Lucious surprises Cookie in Panama and shows her that he just bought a crack house in Philadelphia and plans to turn it into a rehab center for abandoned young men like him. Lucious says he wants to rebuild and tell a new story with Cookie. The two seem to reconcile as the episode ends.

Andre unhinged and… unhealthy?

Andre is back from the hospital and heading back to work as Empire’s CFO after his health scare. Terri buys him a new briefcase as a gift and all seems to be well healthwise, too, after Andre’s doctor calls and informs him that his bloody nose was the result of a burst vessel.

As his first order of business as the newly reinstated CFO, Andre wants to help Devon get involved with the Empire, but Devon’s label isn’t having it and doesn’t want him working with any other artists until after his debut album. Andre agrees to help him out.

Andre and Devon meet with Samson, the head of Devon’s label and an apparent Samurai enthusiast. Andre just wants Devon to record a few songs with Empire but Samson says if Devon has a hit with Empire before he has a hit with them his label will look like sloppy seconds and sends the two men away.  Andre returns and this time uses a combination of vandalism (via sword) and blackmail (information about Samson expensing his escorts to artist accounts) to get Devon’s whole recording contract signed over to Empire. Never forget, Y’all, Andre Lyon is still a dangerous man, in sickness and in health.

Andre is feeling good after his victory signing Devon and celebrates with Terri. But his happiness is short-lived after his doctor calls saying he just got the results from some missing tests, indicating that Andre’s health may not be on the up and up after all.

T(iana) versus T(reasure)

At the “new, improved Empire” meeting, Treasure comes back to Cookie and Lucious with her tail between her legs and apologizes for deserting Lyon Family Management, but Cookie and Lucious aren’t so forgiving. Cookie and Lucious tell Treasure, who still has yet to release a new single, that she’ll be on their good side when she starts making money for the label.

In the meantime, Tiana visits Jamal in the studio where she learns about his breakup. Jamal asks Tiana to sing on his new record and tells her that she’s still family, even after all that happened between her, Hakeem and Blake.

Jamal is still in the studio working when Treasure pops in to try to get in on his new song. Jamal politely declines, saying he already gave the song to Tiana but Treasure plays him a remixed version of his song “Nothing to Lose” to show how they sound together. Treasure takes a dig at Tiana’s role as a mother by playing the “I don’t have any distractions” card, which doesn’t score her any points with Jamal who is, of course, her kids’ uncle. Still ‘Mal agrees to think about collaborating with Treasure and boots her out of the studio.

At New York Fashion Week, tensions boil over between Tiana and Treasure (as a Nicki Minaj song plays in the background–oh the forced irony) and the two nearly come to blows on the red carpet over the feature spot on Jamal’s song.

After the fashion week debacle, Tiana and Treasure both get chewed out by Becky and Giselle. Jamal crashes the meeting and tells both women that he’s taking his vocals off the song and asking them to record together. Giselle warns the two divas that if there are any more problems neither of them will be on the song, which would harm both of their careers.

More for Mya

Back at home, Mya asks Cookie for more responsibility at Empire as a choreographer — after only a month as her assistant’s assistant. Unfortunately, Cookie shuts her down and forfeits her lattes in the process.

Mya shares more of her ideas with Porsha. Porsha agrees that she has great views but says that it takes a while to pay your dues. Mya notes that Porsha’s approach hasn’t been very successful for her — she’s been in the same role for years and wasn’t one of the people promoted in the Empire shakeup.

Taking Mya’s words to heart, Porsha, who we found out had bars last fall, signs Blake and helps him write a new song. But Mya doesn’t get to bask in the glory of her good idea after Porsha takes credit for her idea. “Stick to your grind, eventually you’ll get yours,” Porsha says in a half-hearted pep talk to Mya as she leaves to conjure up more ideas – that she’ll hopefully keep to herself.

light. Read. 25 celebrities you didn’t know had music careers

Empire returns to us each Wednesday on 8 p.m. ET. on Fox.