|"The name's Cookie. Ask about me."|
Before I begin, lemme just share a little something with y'all:
"Empire’s" ratings are defying every usual freshman drama trend for a serialized broadcast show. Last night had 11.5 million viewers and a 4.6 rating among adults 18-49. "Empire" is up 53 percent from its "American Idol" lead-in, and just keeps on growing. Where’s the top? (Source)Funny story...in this episode we get to see Cookie Lyon's version of multi-tasking. Now for Cookie, that apparently means juggling Feds, hitmen, recording sessions, and lesbian scandals...sometimes all in one phone call.
*blink* Perhaps I should rewind.
This week's episode was directed by John Singleton himself. It starts with "Takeem" enjoying the red carpet. After Tiana sticks up for Hakeem with a reporter, he starts getting love goggles. He tries to take her home but she makes an excuse. Turns out, she just wants to get home to her girlfriend.
The next day, Cookie's dropping Jamal off at a broke-down, ratchet-ass studio in Brooklyn. The price is $20 per hour and there are bullet holes in the glass. You can deal with that for a minute.
But Cookie can't stay; she has to testify in front of the grand jury, remember? But there's the rub: she's testifying against gangster Frank Gathers on a murder charge. After Cookie confirms he killed the victim, the prosecution abruptly reveals the deceased was a Fed.
Knowing she's a "Dead Bitch Walking", Cookie heads to her apartment to snag thousands in cash and her hardware. She's about to leave when she sees a red rose on her doorstep, the calling card of Frank's favorite hitman. She panics, goes back inside, and doesn't open the door until her son Andre arrives, picking up the rose and looking perplexed. He explains Hakeem is over-budget on his video and they need Tiana to feature so they can dip into her promo budget. When Cookie says hell no, Andre starts bringing up "The Board," and Cookie demands to know who's on this "Board" and why he and Lucious always mention them when large sums of dough are involved. She makes a decision: she wants a seat on the board. No seat, no Tiana. No Tiana, no video for Hakeem. She then shoos her son out the door.
While giving a bewildered Jamal musical advice over the phone, Cookie hurriedly hails a cab and heads for Philly. The cab driver, who's either of Western or Central Asian descent, at first gives Cookie the "you people" speech. She breaks him off some cheddar and he starts singing a different tune, to which Cookie's like, "Uh, who's 'you people'? You black as me!"
After consulting with her kinfolk in Philly, Cookie confirms that hitman Teddy McNally is the most likely choice to be sent after her. So Cookie promptly hands over $5000 in cash and puts a hit out on Teddy McNally.
Meanwhile, Andre's magic must have worked because Tiana goes to film Hakeem's wack-ass, cliched video (an endeavor which takes the whole damn day), meaning Cookie is now on Empire's Board of Directors. While there, Andre and his wife Rhonda get to scheming. First, Rhonda uncovers the fact Tiana's got a girlfriend named India; she secretly filmed the two canoodling behind the clothes rack at her photo shoot. Andre has her upload the footage, triggering a shitstorm. Hakeem blows up at Tiana, who coldly reminds him that he's got a side-piece too.
Andre then gets another brilliant idea. Pretending to make a call, he talks up the watch and jewelry Jamal's wearing and the ghettofied studio where he's at. He does so near two members of Hakeem's entourage, knowing they'll take the bait and try to rob Jamal.
And they do. Try, that is, since Jamal's not wearing anything flashy, and is clearly not scared of guns. He recognizes one of the gunmen as a friend of Hakeem and assumes his brother set him up. The funny part is, the studio owner is obviously used to this sort of drama 'cause he breaks out his shotgun and restores order with an offer of two choices: stand-off, or multiple homicide. *sniff*
The studio owner then tries to kick Jamal out, saying if it were his enemies busting in, customers get the day free. But when it's the customers' enemies busting in, they got to go. Enter Cookie, via phone. She gets the studio owner to let Jamal continue recording. She calls Tiana and says she can sell the lesbian angle. She also talks with Lucious about how to get Hakeem and Tiana to call truce and finish the video (Lucious insinuates that because Tiana has a girlfriend, Hakeem technically has an extra girlfriend, revealing his stereotypical hetero hypocrisy: girls can have girlfriends. Boys, however, can't have boyfriends).
Mind you, Cookie is doing all this in minutes, deftly switching back and forth between calls with different people. However, in a moment of exasperation, she does slip up and mention juggling Feds and hitmen to Jamal, who has a brief WTF moment.
Later, after a weary day, Cookie gets a late visit from Lucious. He reminds her it's their anniversary, and after some flirtatious reminiscing, it dawns on Cookie that Lucious left the rose for her that morning. She tries to call off her hit, but alas...too late. The episode ends with Teddy McNally gettin' got.
Things to Note
Earlier in the episode, Lucious actually proposed to Anika with a fat rock, and then later went to meet with her parents, who viewers noted looked the same age as Lucious. It's here that some fans theorize about the manipulation behind the marriage proposal: Lucious needs a doctor to certify in writing that he's in good health so the IPO can go through. Anika's father is a doctor who owns his own hospital. He ain't about to risk a goddamn thing for Lucious and flat-out calls him a thug. Lucious then calmly explains that if the IPO goes through and he dies, Anika becomes a billionaire in her own right.*
Three guesses what Anika's daddy decides to do.
While they're talking, Anika's mama is trying to discourage marrying Lucious, reminding her of all the heartbreak and side-pieces she's had to live through. But since Anika can't take her eyes off the 18-carat diamond weighing down her hand, three guesses what she decides to do. Like father, like daughter, y'all.
Also...it seems Andre and Rhonda's scheming was finally able to dissolve Jamal and Hakeem's friendship, because when Jamal confronts his baby brother, he punches him in the stomach so hard Hakeem's drops to the floor. When you think about the ass-whoopin' Cookie gave Hakeem with a broom in the pilot, one can't help but think: like mother, like son.
*Uh...question. What about all the promises Lucious made to his sons? If Anika gets the billions, what's left for them?