Empire – The Unkindest Cut
By: Kelly Kearney
The Fashion Show
This week’s episode of “Empire” begins with Tiana (Serayah) practicing for a Helen von Wyeth (Gina Gershon) fashion show. After some bad P.R., Helen is looking to boost her brand appeal with some urban flavor and Empire has just the style she is looking for. Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson) overseeing the rehearsal and invites Diana Dubois (Phylicia Rashad) to tag along and see just what Empire is all about. Immediately, Helen and Diana reveal they are friends and the two convince Cookie to ask Jamal (Jussie Smollett) if he will perform at Angelo’s (Taye Diggs) campaign fundraiser. Diana was touched by his performance at Cookie’s dinner party and thinks adding Jamal to her son’s big night will be a win for both families. Cookie agrees, but can Jamal overcome his panic attacks in time to perform? Jamal seems to think so because he agrees to perform and says he’s ready to get back at it. Cookie supports his decision because she wants her son happy and successful, but quietly remains skeptical.
While Jamal is trying to dig himself out of trauma, Andre (Trai Byers) seems to be wallowing in it. During a bizarre conversation with his very dead wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), Nessa (Sierra Aylina McClain) interrupts him and the two talk about his plans for her career. With each week that passes since Rhonda’s swan dive off the roof, Andre seems more and more like his ruthless father and his plans for Nessa and Empire just keep getting darker.
Speaking of Lucious (Terrance Howard), Thirsty (Andre Royo) interrupts his manicure to let his boss know that his brother Tariq (Morocco Omar) is too squeaky clean to blackmail. “The man doesn’t drink, he doesn’t screw broads, he doesn’t do nothing!” Lucious isn’t buying it because everybody has vices and skeletons in their closet just waiting to be set free and with a sinister smile, Lucious might know just the thing to shake up the freak Tariq.
White Washing The Show
With the fashion show almost here, Cookie meets with Helen to discuss the final touches on their collaboration. When Helen asked Empire to lend her Tiana to fix her public image they had no idea Helen was going to be such a racist! Her ideas of urban flavor consist of straightening Tiana’s hair, calling her Jessica O’Donnell and all around whitening her up! Cookie is not pleased especially when she has to dodge the shade Helen throws at her about poaching Angelo and his family’s high class status. She assumes Cookie is trying to wash away decades of Lucious’ dirty deeds with the Dubois’ respect and political savviness. On top of having to play nice with Helen, Andre shows up with Nessa to ask if his new girl can hang behind and learn the ropes from Tiana. At first Cookie, doesn’t want to hear about Nessa because she is still angry with Andre over blowing off her family dinner to impress the Dubois, but she gives in and allows Nessa to sit in in Tiana’s costume fitting. Little does Cookie know Nessa has her eyes on the prize with plans to push Tiana out and steal her spot at the show.
Tea Time With Granny and Boo Boo Kitty
Tired of all the tension in the mansion between his new wife and his mother, Lucious take the two women out for a family friendly cup of tea that turns into an embarrassing fight over Anika’s (Grace Gealey) unfulfilling life as an at home mom and grandma’s keeper. The two women do not get a long, if pointing kitchen knives and threats are any indication and Mary Walker’s (Leslie Uggams) had enough of Boo Boo Kitty. Mary flips out at the restaurant and starts screaming about her son locking her up in his dungeon and starving her. No wonder Lucious was complaining to Thirsty about the woman in his life driving him crazy, they are both conniving, delusional and homicidal! Outside the restaurant, Tariq is listening in on the family meltdown and decides to use the elderly Walker to get incriminating information on her son. Mary certainly likes to talk and has outed her beloved son Dwight’s secrets before so Tariq might be on to something with pumping her for dirt on Lucious.
Tiana’s Costume Is Lit!
At the fashion show, Tiana is complaining about the fit of her dress. She doesn’t like the train or the cape and asks Nessa to help her take it off. Thinking this might be her shot at taking Tiana’s spot in the show, Nessa lays the dress down on top of a hair iron and the whole outfit goes up in flames! Helen had hoped Tiana’s performance would be fire, but not literally! The dress is destroyed and while Tiana is ranting about Helen being a racist and using Empire to make her look good, Nessa sneaks off and tries on some of Tiana’s make up. Nessa has this whole Single White Female thing going on and Tiana is her mark. Later, Tiana finds out her “Helen is a racist” rant was recorded and got back to the designer, risking the show and Empire’s name. Andre agrees to do smooth it over with Helen, but after she outs herself for being a clueless racist Andre thinks Helen should find a different performer and suggest Nessa who unlike Tiana didn’t call her a racist. Helen, while brushing her daughter’s hair, listens to Andre’s idea and he warns her to agree. Later, Helen finds out just what Andre thinks of her racist ways when her daughter (Violet Hicks) wakes up to find all her hair has been chopped off! Warning heard loud and clear, do not mess with Andre Lyon!
While the fashion show is having a meltdown, Mary Walker meets with Tariq undercover at a gynecologist’s office. When asked how she slipped away from the watchful eyes of Lucious, she tells Tariq she said she had a woman’s issue and he didn’t ask for the details. Tariq buys Mary some ice cream and listens to her traumas over how her son treats her and a few juicy details concerning her son’s hate fueled marriage. The two meet up again later where Mary and Tariq talk about his father and the life Tariq missed out on.
Brothers about to Blow!
Lucious never really understood Jamal’s performance phobia and that’s why it was no surprise when he finds Jamal using a virtual reality style immersion therapy, he flips out and makes fun of the struggling singer. The new therapeutic idea seemed to be working, but as usual Lucious ruins it with his fatherly advice and Jamal walks out.
Over at Empire’s offices, Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) and Andre are about to come to blows over Nessa taking Tiana spot. Hakeem corners Andre over the switch with the fashion show as well as outing the older brother for recording Tiana’s rant about Helen. Andre doesn’t deny his involvement and Hakeem takes a swing at his brother. Andre out maneuvers Hakeem and in some weird display of dominance, aggressively kisses his younger brother’s forehead. Andre is a loose cannon and becomes more like his father every day and just like Lucious and his threats, Andre’s plan works! Nessa replaces Tiana at the fashion show and Hakeem is not happy.
Boo Boo Kitty Breaks Lucious Down
After a long day of family drama, Lucious comes home to find a scantily clad Anika smashing his priceless vases and heirlooms to get his attention. Anika wants what Lucious promised her, the liaison job with Shyne (Xzibit) and a shot at the open A&R job. Confused and wowed by her sexy destructive side, Lucious gives in and the two start going at it on top of his desk. They don’t get far when Mama Walker breaks up their sexual battle to talk to her son about Tariq and their plot to beat him at his own manipulative game. That’s right, it seems Mary isn’t as crazy as she pretends to be and has been playing Tariq to guide him away from Lucious and his crimes. Part of Tariq’s hatred for Lucious stems from not knowing his father and Mary happily provides him stories if it keeps him away from Lucious.
The episode ends with Jamal performing his new song in front of the whole Lyon family. Lucious thinks Hakeem is the clapback artist, but he might change his mind after he hears the scathing song his son wrote about him. The song outs Lucious as an all-around awful person and responsible for the death of Cookie’s father. Cookie begs Jamal to stop digging into their past and that’s when Lucious drops another bomb; Cookie was the one who called the hit on Frank Gathers (Chris Rock) and started this whole mess with Freda Gatz (Bre-Z) and now Tariq coming after Empire. Their sons are shocked and before he walks out he Lucious admits that he never regretted loving Cookie because nobody is all good or all bad.
Will Jamal be able to forgive Cookie for her role in his shooting? Will Andre and Hakeem come to blows over the women in their lives? Can Mary keep Tariq busy long enough for Lucious to dig up dirt on his little brother? Find out next week on, “Empire’s” mid-season finale!