"Empire" recap: "Out, Damned Spot"

Well, well, well…it would seem that even though Cookie is always the one to watch, there were some other big character moments that really brought the story to even a higher level. It’s no wonder that the show keeps growing its viewership every single week.

Jamal getting his hustle on: Jamal is a strange character to me. Perhaps. It still feels in some ways like the show really wants us to side with Jamal, but we’re getting to see that he’s not as clean-cut as we were led to believe, which is great. We need to see that he’s got some roughness to him instead of just hearing about him being a fatherless child.

However, Jamal surely changed on a dime, didn’t he? One minute, he’s a literal starving artist, just caring about the music (as Michael said), then next he’s a baby shark in the game, trying to get up with the big sharks. There was a specific costume design moment happening in this episode, which I’ll get to sometime later, but just to quickly discuss it, you’ll notice that Jamal has switched from wearing mostly grey to just black. At one point, he’s even wearing a black wifebeater, and a wifebeater is one of the most evil pieces of clothing you can wear.

Michael, on the other hand, wore mostly grey this week, except for the one injection of color I’ve seen either of them wear, red. Red is the color of anger, and we’ve seen that Michael is getting angrier by the day. But still, I have to say that Cookie is right about Michael. Like attracts like, and I guess Jamal picked another whiny person who’s spinning their wheels to be in a relationship with. Jamal’s finally gotten his act together and is on the come up; the least Michael could do is get on board with the changes. Culinary school is great, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough for him to keep up with Jamal, unless he somehow lands a contract with The Food Network or something.

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But on the other other hand, Jamal went really left when he didn’t address Michael in the Sway interview. That’s cold, Jamal. How can you go from barely wanting to make any music to immediately turn into a calculating person? My sister did bring up a good point that he’s probably chickening out of saying he’s in a same-sex relationship because overall, the black community will not go out and support a gay male musician. Frank Ocean came out, and he’s had to face a lot of homophobia since. T-Pain said in an interview that he knows many people who didn’t want to work with Ocean simply because he’s not straight. “But what about Sam Smith?” I asked. “He’s accepted by the black community.” “That’s because he’s not black, he’s white,” she said. “They can overlook that with him because he’s an outsider to them. But you see what happened to Frank Ocean, don’t you?”

However, I do have to say that backstabbing suits Jamal when it comes to music; it makes him turn out something better than whiny music (Yes, I said it. The “Keep Your Money” is, in my opinion, whiny.) “I Wanna Love You” is a song that is an actual song. I mean, it’s great when a person sings from their pain, but Jamal never seemed to present his pain in a way that was anything other than whining. He didn’t seem clever with it. I know this sounds harsh; you can go off on me if you wish in the comments section. I’ll understand. But to each their own, right?

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Jamal’s baby mama: First, it’s great seeing Raven-Symone on the TV again. “But she said she’s colorless or whatever!” Yeah, I know. I still like seeing her on TV, okay? But it’s hilarious/wrong that they called her character Olivia. Come on, writers; y’all knew what y’all were doing when you called her the same name of her character on The Cosby Show.

Second, it would seem that Jamal picked someone like Cookie to be the mother of his children. That’s interesting to me. People do have a tendency to choose someone like their parents to be in relationships with. I wonder how Olivia and Cookie will act when they’re in the same scene together.

Third, it’s nice to see Jamal get his share of problems. Now that he’s blown up big, he’s got the classic “Baby Mama out of the woodwork” problem. Let’s see how he’ll handle this. I feel like he’ll bungle his way through.

New Head of Security: Lucious is feeling the pressure now that the police are closing in on Bunky’s killer (i.e. him) and he’s hired more security. Enter Derek Luke, who’s playing Malcolm Devoe. It seems like Malcolm is very expert at his job and is committed to protecting the Empire brand, but I’m sure he’s got some skeletons in his closet. Perhaps one of those skeletons will become his relationship with Cookie; I’m hoping they hook up at one point. She needs someone to wear that lingerie for.

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Cookie’s scene-stealing teddy: I’d be mortified if my mom came in a family meeting wearing lingerie for my dad. Thankfully, I don’t have that kind of mom, but even if I did, I couldn’t imagine sitting in the same room with her, much less laughing when she asks me, “But I gave you body?” NO, MOM, YOU DIDN’T GIVE ME BODY. YOU GAVE ME EMBARRASSMENT. 

But, since I’m not Cookie’s daughter, I just want to thank her for that crazy “OH NO SHE DIDN’T” moment. It’s even more classic than her praying to God to get rid of “hoes who hire skanks to spy on me.”

By the way, Cookie really knows how to get out there and hustle. Jamal better give her a big cut of his royalties when he really hits it big.

Cookie and Elle Dallas: The working relationship/friendship I’m really excited to see is Cookie becoming a sobriety coach/second mother to Elle (Courtney Love). Elle really needs some help, and it’s Cookie’s drive and passion for Elle’s music that’s really making the hit-making wheels begin to turn in Elle’s head.

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It would seem that this show is also giving Love a real life resurgence, or it could anyway. It’s opening her up to a brand new audience (because I don’t know anyone in my circle that grew up listening Hole) and seeing how large Empire‘s audience is becoming every week, the song’s bound to become somewhat of a hit. Do I think her lane is Amy Winehouse? Unsure about that. But the song “Take Me to the River” is pretty good. (I’m listening to it as I’m typing this: big props to the background singers; they’re the unsung heroes in this song.)

Hakeem: Hakeem’s a mess; he’s now regretting not having Jamal in his life, but Jamal thinks he just wants to use him for music/business purposes. Hakeem’s lady Tiana is with a girl and he’s having a whiny hissy fit about it, even though he decides to call Camilla when he feels depressed. GET YOUR LIFE TOGETHER, YOUNG MAN. 

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Will Porsha choose Anika?: I hope not. Yeah, I know Cookie kinda talks to her any kind of way, but they seem to have some kind of understanding. This might sound “new black,” and it’s certainly not intended to sound that way if it does, but both Cookie and Porsha are closer in terms of world experiences in that they’re both from the hood. Anika wouldn’t know how to handle Porsha because she’s too bougie. Cookie might call Porsha stupid, but Anika would treat her like she’s stupid. Of course, someone could argue that Cookie treats Porsha like she’s stupid, too, but like Porsha said, Cookie kinda treats everyone a little rough. Anika, on the other hand, would be debutante about it, and no one likes nice-nasty. At the very least, Cookie is straight-up about when she doesn’t like something.

I would think Porsha would eventually resent working for Anika, not because Porsha wouldn’t fit in, but because Anika’s not real, in both the slang and literal forms of the word. Anika’s all about money and stealing people. Artists, husbands, it doesn’t matter. All she cares about is the bottom line, whereas Porsha can see Cookie caring about the music and making bank at the same time. It seems a lot cooler to be in on something that’s coming up than something that’s already so cold and calculating the humanity is lost from it. Cookie’s about substance, Anika’s about outward appearances.

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However, if Porsha’s about showing some business acumen, she’ll shake Cookie down for some more money and better treatment. Porsha could easily come to Cookie and be like, “Porsha’s offering me X amount of money, and you do call me stupid a lot. I’m going to leave for her if you don’t pay up and pay me some more respect while you’re at it.” Cookie gets loyal to people, so she wouldn’t want Porsha to go, especially to someone like Anika. Anika doesn’t even want Porsha that badly, anyway. She just wants to ruin Cookie. Cookie doesn’t treat Porsha as badly as she could be treated, but Cookie also doesn’t think Porsha has business sense. This will show her that Porsha is also someone she shouldn’t mess with.

All of this is not to say that someone can’t move up in the world as if we’re in a caste system. Moving up is what Empire‘s about, anyway. I’m just analyzing the situation as I see it.

Lucious’ experimental treatment: As we can see from the promos, that new drug from Russia is not going to work out. Sorry, Lucious. That’s what happens when you hire quack concierge doctors. That’s all I have to say about it.

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The fall guy and Vernon: So Lucious got someone to take the fall for him after all. This is very How to Get Away with Murder, isn’t it? Just like with the latest developments on that show, I’m sure that everything’s going to come to light in the ugliest way.

It already got ugly when Vernon made Lucious admit that he killed Bunky, leading Vernon to choke Andre out because he thought he was lying to him when he covered for Lucious. Turns out, Andre didn’t even know what he was covering his father for. All of this took Vernon down an existential thought process with his sobriety coach, wondering if this mess is even worth sticking around Empire for. But now that he’s got leverage on Lucious, he knows he can secure his spot as the head of Empire, with Andre at his side. But does Vernon even have a musical ear? Also, would Andre really slice Vernon’s throat if he choked him out again? Vernon doesn’t seem to phased about it, probably because he could hire someone to kill Andre just as easily as he found someone to take the fall for Lucious.

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That’s about it. You already know what the score is with this show: every week is great, and it keeps getting better with each episode. This show is like Goku and we’re all like Vegeta, saying “Impossible!” and stuff whenever Goku reaches an even higher level of Super Saiyan. This show is over 9000 and climbing; let’s just realize it and learn to love the impossibility.

Photo credit: Chuck Hodes