Empire review: Honesty’s the best policy unless your last name is Lyon, Cross or Rawlins


Thirsty’s loyalties are proven and Cookie’s loyalties are tested on the latest episode of Empire, “Shift and Save Yourself”

Thirsty starts spilling

At the start of the episode, which is mostly made up of flashbacks during Thirsty’s interrogation, Thirsty recalls how he met Damon Cross and started working with him as he tries to fend off questions from Attorney Conway.

First, we go back to the label’s Platinum Party, which took place back when Eddie was CEO. As Tiana performs her song “So Amazing,” decked out in head to toe platinum and glitter, Damon watches Cookie from afar and declares that she (or she and Lucious) is his future. We also see some of the early flirtation between Jeff Kingsley and Giselle in this scene.

As Attorney Conway shakes him down, Thirsty holds firm and refuses to take any of her bait to rat out Lucious or Damon. When he attempts to leave, Attorney Conway informs Thirsty that the feds have been watching him and he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Thirsty agrees to spill the beans starting with him meeting his girlfriend Vera. According to Thirsty’s memories, Vera’s a secretary for the DA who gives Thirsty tips on how to sweet talk the DA into a plea bargain. Thirsty also charms Vera into agreeing to a dinner date.

After a period of courtship, Vera becomes infatuated with Thirsty and celebrity life. Vera quits her job and starts working for Thirsty, who tries to impress her at Empire’s Platinum Party. At the club, Lucious shares that he doesn’t like being unable to pay Thirsty and asks him to take a leave of absence until his money is right. Disappointed, Thirsty runs into Damon Cross at the bar.  Damon shares that he’s looking for a personal attorney. Hungry for new clients, Thirsty accepts but Vera advises him against it, saying that Damon is dangerous.

After the party, Thirsty tells Conway he never talked to Damon again, but Conway then mentions another of Damon’s associates, Victor Horst. In another flashback, Thirsty recalls that after a money laundering scheme involving an orphanage didn’t go as planned, Damon killed Victor and instructed Thirsty to give the orphanage $2 million. Damon then issues a warning to  Thirsty “I ain’t no Lucious Lyon, I’m a lot more dangerous.” Considering the fact that Damon actually got blood all over himself after pummeling Victor with a putter, I have to agree.

Conway offers to protect Thirsty for more information on Damon. Thirsty then thinks on how he got Damon into the poker game from last season because Damon wanted to meet Lucious–this is also where Damon got the painting that was a wedding gift from Lucious to Cookie. It turns out, Damon pulled a gun on Thirsty after the poker game stick up left him short $250,000 and Thirsty gave him the painting as a peace (read: please don’t shoot me) offering.

Back in the interrogation room, Thirsty “admits” to trying to keep up appearances. He says he’s never been on the inside with Lucious or Damon and that there’s no connection between the two. “This is the story of a guy trying to be something he’s not…I was just trying to keep my girl.”

With no evidence to keep him, Conway finally releases Thirsty and his dead squirrel coat but doesn’t give up on trying to crack the code to catching Damon and the Lyons. Thirsty returns to a truck where Vera is being held at gunpoint by Damon. Thirsty tells Damon that the feds have been on him for a while but assures Damon that he threw them off his scent with his non-answers to Attorney Conway’s questions. Damon releases Vera but says Thirsty isn’t out until he says so. Damon instructs Thirsty to keep a closer eye on Lucious. “Lucious or Cookie my man?” Thirsty asks. Damon’s non-response proves to be enough of an answer for Thirsty as he exits the truck.

Changes for Empire

At Lyon Manor, C² (Carol and Cookie) sit down to a breakfast of dry pancakes. Cookie gets a call from an agent who wants to make her a TV star, but Lucious shuts her dream down quickly.

Back at Empire headquarters, Hakeem films a spaced out music video for his song “Splash” with enough strobe lights and awkward choreography to last a lifetime. Mya, moonlighting as a production assistant this week, insists the choreography needs more lines and sexiness–her vision intrigues Jamal, who asks her to step in and show the dancers the sexy.

The finished video impresses Cookie and Lucious. Jamal suggests a tour to promote his and Hakeem’s new music while regaining the public’s trust,  but Giselle isn’t feeling the idea of a costly series of concert dates. Unfortunately, Cookie and Lucious put their collective feet (and majority shares in Empire) down and Giselle storms off.

Cookie goes to talk to Giselle who is still frustrated about her decision being overruled and Cookie’s refusal to break away from Lucious’ will. Cookie again tries to sell Giselle on a national tour featuring all of Empire and LFM’s artists. Giselle pulls out the big guns and tells Cookie that she called Kelly Patel to tell him about the tour. Cookie reiterates that Empire needs that tour and leaves.

Cookie decides to meet with the agent, who says her social media presence could make her famous (think Oprah or Beyonce, or Whoopi’s replacement on The View). Cookie is skeptical but seems open to the idea.

Kelly sides with Giselle on the tour, stating that there’s no vision on how to fund it. Cookie and Lucious blame Kelly for hiring Jeff Kingsley and putting Empire in the hole in the first place. When the meeting with Kelly turns into a shouting match, Andre interrupts with an impassioned speech about how Cookie, Giselle, Lucious and Kelly’s arguments are preventing Empire from making money. “How the hell can we expect to rebuild our customers’ trust? You can’t even trust each other.”

At Treasure and Tiana’s session, Lucious figures out how to sell Kelly on the tour. Lucious and Cookie tell Giselle and Kelly that they want to make the tour free as a way to regain the trust of their fans. Though Kelly doesn’t like the idea Giselle connects the dots and concludes that the free tour will generate enough free publicity and record sales spikes to offset the cost. With the majority on their side, the team moves forward with the tour. But Kelly refuses to offer any support from his company, which owns Empire.

Lucious and Cookie announce to Empire’s roster of artists that the tour will kick off in Philadelphia. Mya also gets a piece of good news as Jamal asks her to choreograph the whole shebang. Unfortunately, Porsha retains her post as Cookie’s verbally-abused assistant despite gunning for the job of tour manager.

Despite the good news, Cookie is still scared about Empire’s  future even though Lucious reminds her that every time they’ve gambled on their family they’ve “rolled a seven.” Cookie admits that she agreed to mull over the agent’s offer and tells Lucious that she’s building her brand. Yet another score for independent Cookie.

Conflict in T Major

Meanwhile, Treasure and Tiana are making a lot of noise but very little music as their incessant feuding stifles the creative process. A frustrated Jamal calls the girls into the studio to see what the beef between the two is about.

Tiana says she’s still angry with Treasure for stealing her song. Tiana shares how Eddie used to play with her head by comparing her to bigger stars and pressuring her to lose weight after her pregnancy. Jamal notes that men in the industry (including him) have used, controlled and pitted the two women against each other and encourages Tiana and Treasure to sing with each other rather than against each other.  The songstresses finally team up and successfully record the song “About to Go Down” as Jamal and Cookie declare the song a hit.

Andre’s Diagnosis

Andre gets a CT Scan at the doctor where he receives devastating news. His doctor notes that his results are disturbing but says that he won’t give up hope–unfortunately, that’s all we hear from the doctor as Andre zones out.

At Terri’s house, Andre asks Terri to sign his trust over to her and Quincy as he shares that he’s been diagnosed with advanced stage 4 lymphoma and only has a few months to live. Terri is distraught but refuses to sign the papers. Terri agrees to help Andre fight his diagnosis until the end. “You did the impossible for me, and so I’m going to do the impossible for you.”

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So Empire and the Lyons are in transition, Thirsty’s in over his head and Andre may be in trouble. What else is new?

Empire airs on Fox on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.