Was the kiss between Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Skye (Alicia Keys) an innocent moment or something more?
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This was a fun episode. We get to focus on Cookie, and everyone had something to do, especially Jamal. His story is going to get folks talking. Let’s go!

Carol is missing and getting high. Cookie and her bougie sister, Candace, take to the gritty streets of Philly in their conspicuous designer outfits to locate her. Candace’s kids are good students and accomplished, doing well in figure skating, debate, etc. Cookie inquires, “Do they know they’re half-black?” which is an asinine statement. Candace is so uppity, she probably thinks her kids could be president.

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The scenes aren’t really about Carol; they’re about letting us know that Cookie and Candace don’t get along and Cookie apparently thinks that marrying a white guy and living in the suburbs is dubious. Cookie is in no position to discuss marital choices.

They find Carol, thanks to help from Rosie O’Donnell, who shows up for a cameo as Pepper, Cookie’s friend from the big house. Empire is turning into The Love Boat with all of these random guest stars, but O’Donnell doesn’t embarrass herself as much as Chris Rock did portraying a hardened criminal. Even Lee Daniels gets into the act later in the episode. He plays himself as the director of Jamal’s Pepsi commercial.

Given a choice to live with one of her sibs, Carol picks Cookie. This will turn into a situation. Candace implies that Carol did something shady when Cookie was in prison. Hmmm.

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Let’s check in with Laura, Hakeem’s girlfriend and protégé. Last week Boo Boo Kitty went to the trouble of donning a blond wig and disguising herself as Laura’s chauffeur, but Laura is just fine. She’s in the studio with Hakeem. So what was that all about?

Boo Boo Kitty was on a fact-finding mission, and her bombshell is that Laura is a Puerto Rican who lives in the South Bronx with a big family. That’s it. She reports this to Hakeem, who acts as the audience surrogate and looks at her like she’s crazy, which she is. Instead of just telling Hakeem she’s pregnant, Boo Boo Kitty has gone into full-on stalker mode, including the requisite creepy pictures of her prey and dreaming up Wile E. Coyote-style schemes. This is Empire, so she’ll likely be sane next week.

In other baby news, Rhonda is actually pregnant; I’ve had my doubts about that. Lucious, who, as we all know, loves children (except for Lola, whose name is never mentioned), is so ecstatic about this grandchild that he buys a mansion for Andre and Rhonda. I have a bad feeling about this; there’s no point in having two pregnant characters on a soap opera unless something bad is going to happen. Boo Boo Kitty is hanging around; I think she might end up stealing that baby.

Lucious is still fixated on dominating the streaming business; Andre tells him that the only way to move at the speed Lucius desires is to start leveraging pieces of their empire, which is clearly a bad idea. They’re going to do it.

We get a scene where Lucious visits Lyon Dynasty, and all I can focus on is how posh Cookie’s office is. Is it just me or does Empire upgrade that set every week? Lucious meets Laz and we witness a wet, noisy kissing scene between Cookie and Laz. Lucious responds by knocking over their wine because Lucius is a Real Housewife.

What’s important is that Lucious researches Laz and returns to tell Cookie that her boyfriend is involved with the gang that kidnapped Hakeem. She leaves Laz at the mercy of an armed Lucious and his goons. When she’s alone, Cookie freaks out. She is interrupted by Carol and tells her to go to rehab. Carol literally says no three times.

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This week’s musical guest star is Alicia Keys as Skye Summers, who ends up working closely with Jamal. Very closely. Jamal, the self-described superfan, can’t stop beaming at her. It’s very cute, and you could see something developing if Jamal were straight, but he’s not. Wait, what? Welp, it looks like Jamal is singing a new tune.

Seeing Jamal and Skye kiss is surprising, but interestingly, it’s not a shocker. Empire has dashed through most of the stories at a breakneck pace lately, but it’s been clear that Jamal has been going through some changes ever since the season premiere. The show hasn’t been buzzworthy this season, but this development is going to get everyone talking. Now you really have something to argue about at Thanksgiving dinner.

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.