Even in death, Camilla Marks Whiteman (Naomi Campbell) knows how to stick it to the Lyons. Even though Lucious (Terrence Howard) encouraged Camilla’s soap opera suicide, the Lyon family pretends to grieve for the deliciously devilish diva. As for me, I’m not pretending; Naomi Campbell was a great villain and it’s a shame the show wrote her out so quickly.

Lucious not only pretends he had no part in Camilla’s suicide, he also sarcastically praises Hakeem’s (Byrshere Y. Grey) sex tape for driving Camilla to the brink. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) puts an end to the argument by doling out the assignments for the week: Lucious will film his music video, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) will work on his album, Andre (Trai Breyers) will stay on his meds, and they will all act like one, big happy family for Cookie’s birthday dinner on Sunday. Hakeem already decreed that Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) will take over Camilla’s fashion line.

Lucious takes Cookie to the corner on Philadelphia where he slept as a boy after running away from his bipolar mother (Kelly Rowland). Cookie is shocked to learn Lucious was on the streets so young.

Really? Cookie and Lucious were together for how long and she never found out anything about his mom? Like, nothing?

Then again, Lucious probably avoided her questions then like he does now; he simply tells Cookie that he wants to change the concept of his video to be about his childhood instead. Cookie is supportive and tells Lucious that he needs to “speak [his] truth.”

People who could benefit from being less truthful and more tactful are Laura and Tiana. Laura and the Not So Supremes are the opening act for Tiana’s tour and Tiana is annoyed that Laura keeps grabbing the spotlight. I can’t tell if Laura is actually oblivious as to what she is doing or is deliberately trying to upstage Tiana. She is dumb, but not power hungry. Hakeem has to be called in to mediate the conflict between the girls. Tiana rightfully points out that no one gave her special treatment when she used Hakeem as her beard and it’s unfair that Laura gets to do whatever she wants. Hakeem negotiates a compromise that makes both singers happy but Tiana is still displeased when she walks by Laura’s dressing room and sees her making out with Hakeem.

I don’t normally use GIFs in my recaps but I imagine Tiana’s reaction to all of this is:

1

The three perform a song together on Tiana’s tour and I kept waiting for some sort of drama, like excessive hair-ography or “accidentally” bumping into each other. But no, it was just a three minute ad for Empire’s upcoming soundtrack release.

Meanwhile, Jamal feels insulted after Lucious calls him and Hakeem “soft.” He decides to go into The Bad Part of Town to recruit Freda (Bre-Z) to do a guest verse on his album. They approach a crowd loitering on a basketballcourt to ask about her but a particularly precocious boy brags that he can “spit better than her”. The kid, Jamal, and Hakeem have a pretty cool jam session before Freda arrives to turn Jamal down. “Lucious has been like a father to me,” she says. “If he did y’all dirty, that ain’t got nothing to do with me.”

Freda changes her mind, however, when she arrives on set for the music to find that not only did Lucious change the concept without telling her, but he also cut out her verse. She goes to Jamal to accept his father and helps him work on his track. Meanwhile, Cookie provides emotional support for Lucious when he gets triggered watching the actors re-enact the scene where his mother tries to drown him. Cookie comforts the actor playing young Lucious and loudly assures him that he is loved and it is all pretend. Lucious feels better and filming continues.

Jamal offers to take Cookie on a “just the two of us” birthday outing instead of going to her birthday party, where Lucious will be there. Cookie is disappointed; especially after Jamal tells her that from now on, he’ll work with Hakeem on his album. “First you’re not coming to my party and now you’re firing me as your producer,” pouts Cookie.

It looks like Cookie’s birthday dinner will just be her and Lucious since all of her sons are mad at him. Jamal disgustedly asks if Cookie is falling in love with Lucious again. Cookie admits that there is so much history between the two that it is hard to give up. That must be why she shows up at Lucious’s house for her birthday dinner in a cleavage baring strapless dress and her finest diamonds. However, it is not a romantic occasion! Lucious convinced the family to attend Cookie’s dinner and they surprise her by singing “Happy Birthday.”

Cookie then screens a rough cut of Lucious’s music video for the family so they can get a better understanding of Lucious. Andre realizes Lucious’s mother was bipolar and that’s who he inherited his disorder from. He demands to know why Lucious lied all these years and Lucious yells that Andre was his biggest disappointment. He storms off without Rhonda, who is forced to turn to Anika (Grace Gealey) for shelter. “It’ll be good to be with someone sane,” sighs Rhonda.

Oh, Rhonda.

Meanwhile, Hakeem spends time with Laura’s family and is surprised to find that they are all supportive of her dreams and don’t try to sabotage her. He tells Laura that he wants to build a family with her and proposes in front of fans. Tiana watches and I finally realize that Tiana is, disappointingly, in love with Hakeem.

Cookie visits Jamal as he records his song with Freda and Freda mentions her father is Frank Gathers. Cookie runs away in a panic. Oh no! Cookie snitched on the murdered drug dealer father of her ex-husband’s new protege. Well, they do say it’s a small world after all.

And now it’s time for the Empire Episode Awards!

Cookie’s Best Outfit

   8 9

Tie between these two looks.

Best Side Eye

2

5

Tie between these two (literal) looks

Rhonda’s Worst Outfit

10

Why does Rhonda insist on dressing like an ugly Brady sister?

Cookie’s Worst Outfit

11

Why does Cookie insist on dressing like…Actually, I can’t think of anyone else who would wear this hideous thing.