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'Empire' recap: The Lyon Dynasty emerges, with Cookie at the helm

'Empire' recap: The Lyon Dynasty emerges, with Cookie at the helm
Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon in the "Without a Country" episode of "Empire." (Chuck Hodes / Fox)

There's a saying: "If you can't join them, beat them." And that is exactly what Cookie and her other Lyon cubs plan to do.

After being bested by Lucious last week when he foiled the hostile takeover plan, Cookie sets out to do her own thing. That is, after being kicked out of Empire Entertainment (with Andre and Hakeem in tandem), boxes in hand, by Jamal. Mama Lyon makes the decision to start her own record label. (Because, easy. And duh!) Though rebuffed by Andre, Cookie never flinches at a challenge.

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While they ponder on a name that lives up to their family's legacy, the first order of business is acquiring artists and a space. Enter the rugged but faithful Ghetto-[something that rhymes with glass] Studios where, ironically, Jamal originally found solace. Though Cookie tries to keep Anika out of the picture, both Andre and Hakeem know they need her expertise of the industry -- and her pull on songstress V. Bozeman -- to succeed.

FULL COVERAGE: All things 'Empire'

One of the best lines this episode comes from Anika's interaction with Cookie (obviously) when Boo Boo Kitty makes an appeal for more respect. Cookie, however, doesn't see it for women who sleep their way to success, though dealing drugs may be acceptable.

"If it wasn't for women like me, [the word used for female dogs] like you would spend a lifetime on your knees, or underneath my 20-year-old son," she said.

Back at Empire, Jamal is making waves with new music and an interview with real-life journo Sharon Carpenter. Ahead of the interview, he performs a song he wrote about missing and falling back in love with his boyfriend, Michael (long live #JaMichael, unless someone better comes along, and yes, there are better).

(Pause: Carpenter's talk show is called "Spilling the Tea." For someone who is trying to keep a tight lid on how he shows his sexuality -- remember Jamal shunned Miss Lawrence's "flamboyant" behavior last week -- doing a show that pulls its title from the effeminate camp of black LGBT folk is foolish.)

But Cookie, in true scene-stealing fashion, interrupts the interview to talk business. After trying to convince Jamal to give Hakeem his near-complete album, she drops the bomb that her label, Lyon Dynasty, is coming to fruition.

Meanwhile, in jail, Lucious' slick mouth with his prosecutor has gotten him into trouble. Mysteriously, the medical papers he needs authorizing his shots (because, yes, he's still sick, just not dying) have disappeared from his file. Luckily, a sheisty new lawyer comes into his life.

As he waits for his attorney to work his illegal magic (to get him medicine and a bail hearing), a perfect "High School Musical" (the cafeteria scene) moment takes place in the prison yard. Surrounded by his inmate bodyguards, Lucious spits a new rap he's been working on, "a Lucious Lyon joint from the joint." Though they could've taken it a little further -- an MJ inmate tribute perhaps? -- the track becomes Lucious' latest single, a club-banger called "Snitchin' [something that rhymes with glass] [the word used for female dogs]."

By the end of the episode, Lucious' lawyer has finagled a hearing. Though the prosecutor objects to bail, when threatened with pictures revealing his predilection for leather and ball gags, the judge sets an amount and Lucious goes free.

Other moments of note:

  • Hakeem wants to be like Diddy. In a step into the producing role, he auditions a number of women for a Destiny’s Child-like group. Hakeem selects Valentina (singer-rapper Becky G) as the group’s lead, and his new boo thang.

  • Andre eventually quits Cookie’s startup label and tries to get back into Empire Entertainment’s good graces. But Lucious isn’t having it. He tells Andre, “Pray to God that he forgives you because I don’t.”

  • Rapper Ludacris convincingly plays an oppositional officer in the jailhouse. He’s come a long way since ruining my marathons of “Law and Order: SVU.”

  • In a flashback to Lucious’ childhood, the show hints that his mother (Kelly Rowland) suffered from bipolar disorder. That could explain his sudden enduring disdain toward Andre.

Trai Byers and Grace Gealey are joining me Thursday morning to chat about "Empire." Ask them questions on Twitter with #AskLATimes and watch here.

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.

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