Freda Gatz (Bre-Z) tried to take Hakeem’s (Bryshere Y. Gray) name, but turns out he didn't need it anymore.
Fox

This episode of Empire, "My Bad Parts," was silly and soapy. Thank God! The Lyons behaved like the fun season 1 family: dysfunctional but in a charming way. Lucious and his interminable Gutter Life storyline were not the focus. Lucious works better as part of the ensemble. Taraji P. Henson got to show off her comedy skills in a way that has been missing. The show's campiest antagonist, Anika, is back in play and up to shenanigans. Let's go!

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Lucious is continuing his version of tough love. To punish Hakeem for joining Cookie's label, he instigates a rap battle between his protégé Freda Gatz and his son. I get anxious every time I see that girl because she is a harbinger of doom: Lucious is likely to go "Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom" again. Fortunately, he doesn't sing in this episode. Lucious' opening salvo is an event for the media. An enthusiastic extra has on a headband with kitten ears; you know she's about dat thug life. Freda's rap is a misogynistic song. It goes something like this: "Ha, ha, you're a girl, Hakeem! Your daddy considers me his son."

That girl Hakeem found crooning "Blue Bayou" is still hanging around. They start to have sex, but it's her first time. Hakeem expresses annoyance that she will probably follow him around like a puppy, but then tries to make it memorable with some foreplay on the pool table.

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Get ready for the best three minutes of your life, girl—unless the phone rings. Before they can do anything, Hakeem sees Freda's rap and gets ready for war. Cookie doesn't seem all that confident that Hakeem will win. Her shady lover, Laz, offers his 2 cents and gets in a shoving match with Hakeem. Cookie slaps Laz—you do not touch her son. Wait until she finds out that Laz is involved in Hakeem's kidnapping.

At the Empire studio, things are going well for Jamal during a lengthy product-placement spot. Pepsi is interested in featuring one of his songs in a commercial. Lucious' day isn't going perfectly. His streaming deal is fouled up because Jago Locke raised the price. Good for him; Lucious and Mimi only got the deal after pumping the hospitalized man with morphine. Mimi will withdraw her investment money if Lucious doesn't go along with it. Mimi is trying to go black again. Lucious can "kiss her white ass." She also tells him to "come with something bettuh," in a tone that I guess is supposed to sound black. Wait until she starts to "pop off." If Lucious agrees, he'll have to liquidate assets. What could go wrong? He later agrees. Something will go wrong.

Yay, Boo Boo Kitty is back! She now collects pregnancy tests. Hakeem, you are the father. Sad Kitty runs into Rhonda, who is still not showing. She killed a man, buried and dug up a corpse, and works out like a fiend, so I don't know about this baby. In any case, Rhonda mentions how much Lucious loves children—just like he loved Lola until he put her on the bus with Raven-Symoné. That's child cruelty.

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Jamal's song for Pepsi needs work; he sneaks off to Cookie for help, which Lucious better not find out about. Oh, hi, Lucious! It's a cute caper scene as Cookie hides. Welcome back, Cookie! We missed you. Lucious finds out about Cookie and we get some season-1-style giggles as they trade snark. Jamal forces a collaboration; it's a success, of course, and Pepsi wants him. Hopefully he won't flip-flop like he's done all season and go with Coke.

The rap battle ensues. Freda sticks with her schoolyard taunts, but Hakeem outshines her. In victory, Hakeem announces that he is dropping the name Lyon. Then we get one heavy-handed flashback: Lucious, who is randomly dressed like the Unabomber, recalls when he was a homeless child sleeping under a stone lion.

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Hakeem, Jamal, Lucious and Cookie are doing OK until Candace (Vivica A. Fox) shows up. Bougie Candace tells Cookie that their sister Carol is missing. She dumped her kids on Candace and blamed it on Cookie and Jamal. Cookie says they need to go to Philly. Road trip!

Hakeem says goodnight to his virginal girlfriend and sends her on her way in a car. Why, look who's driving! It's Boo Boo Kitty looking crazy in a blond wig.

Elaine G. Flores is a New York writer, editor and bon vivant. She’s a hard-core shipper and excommunicated soap opera reviewer. Her fictional dinner-party guests include Omar Little, Buffy Summers, Abigail Mills and Ichabod Crane. You can visit her site, TV Recappers Delight.