‘Empire’ recap: Will the real Lucious Lyon please stand up?
The Lyons want their Empire back, and they’re willing to do a number of things to get it, keep it and ensure Camilla (and her wife Mimi) end up far away from it. It all comes to a head in this week’s “Empire” episode, titled “A Rose by Any Other Name.”
We begin with Hakeem, as the new (perhaps temporary?) CEO, holding a press conference to announce the new staff changes -- Cookie as head of A&R, Andre remaining as CFO and Jamal stepping down as VP to focus on his music -- with the family in tow. When asked by a journalist how Lucious Lyon fits into the picture, Hakeem responds: “Who’s Lucious?”
Mother Lyon interrupts the convo to save face in front of the press, announcing that Lucious is focusing on his music and preparing a video for his song “Boom Boom Boom Boom.” She warns Hakeem to not act irrationally. After all, Lucious has an itchy trigger finger.
That same pesky journalist then takes a trip to Lyon Dynasty’s headquarters to interview Lucious about the video. Taking on a theme reminiscent of King Richard II of England (he was overthrown and had to fight to regain governmental control), the video is an obvious reference to the family’s current turmoil, but Lucious attempts to downplay that aspect to the journalist. When she continues to poke, he kicks her out.
Back at Empire, Hakeem is attempting to erase Lucious’ memory as much as he can. He introduces a new logo, this one with his face, as opposed to his father’s, emblazoned in the center.
Though the family is not quite sure how to feel about this move, no one says anything. Their collective focus is trying to get dirt on Camilla and Mimi’s plot to dethrone Lucious so that they can oust the pair.
Andre is the leader of the plan, as he’s the most familiar with the company’s charter. He, however, isn’t handling the pressure and stress well. After persuading Rhonda to join him in grief counseling with his pastor -- reminder, Rhonda is not here for God -- he begins to show signs that he may be losing control of his bipolar disorder. Coping with the loss of his child and the drama with Empire isn’t serving him well, prompting bouts of paranoia and anger. He even accuses Rhonda of cheating. It also doesn’t help that Cookie slips and calls him “crazy” while chastising him. (She immediately apologizes after seeing his face drop.)
Rhonda, on the other hand, is recuperating well from the fall. She convinces Andre to get her an interview with Camilla to work on the new Empire fashion line. She lands the job, allowing her to get dirt on Camilla that the family can use.
Meanwhile, Camilla is making her power known. Not only does she cut the massive budget for Lucious’ video -- no, he’s not happy -- she also doesn’t approve the budget for Tiana’s tour. It’s all just too expensive, she says. Additionally, when Camilla finds out that Hakeem is still dating Laura, she vows to make life hard for the Menage a Trois leader.
But Cookie has a plan. She convinces Camilla to approve Tiana’s tour with Menage a Trois as the opening act. That’s two tours for the price of one, and Laura will be away from Hakeem for an extended period of time. Camilla sees this as her opportunity to make final claim on Hakeem’s love.
While all of this is going on, Jamal’s career looks to be headed for the gutter. As the rumors -- which are actually true -- continue to spread about his rendezvous with Skye (a woman), the gay community turns on him. So much so, in fact, that a group of gay guys stage a flash mob as Jamal is exiting Empire. Using actual flip flops, and the beat of Hakeem and Tiana’s “Drip Drop,” they accuse the crooner of letting the gays down by "flip flopping."
Angered, Jamal meets with Jameson and finds out that it’s actually Papa Lyon who has been spreading the word about his fling in the lady pond. He plots his revenge by staging a performance at Leviticus of a new song, “Like My Daddy.” The track is an explicit shot at Lucious. He ends the performance calling his dad “inauthentic,” and revealing that “Lucious Lyon” isn’t his real name.
Now in media manipulation mode, Lucious invites back the journalist he kicked out of his office. He offers her an exclusive: “The Dwight Walker Story: How a Homeless Orphan Became Lucious Lyon.” Obviously, she’s intrigued.
Just as this is happening, we find out that Hakeem has taken Operation Dethrone Camilla into his own hands. Using info from Rhonda that Mimi would be in the city during the weekend, he records a sex tape of him and Camilla to send to Mimi’s hotel. Knowing that Mimi is overprotective, he thinks this will set her off. And set her off it does.
After an off-screen disagreement of sorts, we see Camilla wiping fingerprints off a filled tub, with Mimi’s body submerged in it. In walks Lucious, who has apparently been watching the whole thing and has Camilla on tape in the act. She dropped some kind of lethal liquid into Mimi’s drink and staged everything to look like a suicide.
This is perfect for Lucious. He uses the opportunity to blackmail Camilla into killing herself, but not before telling her how Hakeem was the one who betrayed her.
And just like that, Camilla is no longer a problem.
Other moments of note:
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
Get our revamped Envelope newsletter, sent twice a week, for exclusive awards season coverage, behind-the-scenes insights and columnist Glenn Whipp’s commentary.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.