Backstabbing, betrayal and terrorizing little girls: The latest episode of Empire, “The Unkindest Cut,” offered up good old-fashioned evil, delivered a lot of juicy moments and laid the groundwork for another family battle.
Angelo is still trying to impress his mother, Diana Dubois, so he brings her further into Cookie’s world with a trip to the Leviticus nightclub, where Tiana is performing in front of a rich white lady, Helene Von Wyeth. Tiana Is the headline act at the annual HVW fashion show, which is a big deal.
Helene travels in the same circles as Diana, and they have a solid air-kiss relationship. Helene and Diana chat about the upcoming Captain’s Ball, a fundraiser for Angelo’s mayoral campaign. Diana suggests that Jamal write a song for Angelo and sing it at the ball. Cookie tries to talk Diana into going with another act, since Jamal hasn’t been able to perform onstage since he was shot, but Jamal insists he’s ready. He’s not.
Helene's not quite ready for Tiana as is. Helene wants her to tone down the blackness by turning her natural curls into silky, straight hair, which annoys Tiana. Andre sees an opportunity to further his agenda of gaining control of the company and hatches a plan with his new lover/co-schemer, Nessa. Andre persuades Cookie to let Nessa shadow Tiana so she can learn more about the business.
During Tiana’s fitting for the couture dress she’ll wear in the show, Nessa “accidentally” ruins it beyond repair by setting it on fire, which prompts Tiana to rant about racist Helene. Someone (cough—Nessa—cough) has recorded the scene, and the footage is leaked, and now Helene won’t take Cookie’s call. Andre promises to straighten things out and slithers over to Helene’s home. (Let me reiterate that I adore Bad Andre—who is communicating with his late wife, Rhonda, to get some Villain 101 training.)
Helene is not a racist, OK? She lets Michael Strahan’s kids swim alongside her Aryan wonder child, so obviously she’s totally down with “the blacks,” as long as they straighten their hair. He suggests that Nessa replace Tiana, but Helene passes. Before leaving, Andre observes how much Helene is tending to her daughter’s nonnappy tresses. Andre, who has upped his level of evil, goes all Godfather.
The next morning, Helene’s little Aryan awakens to find a horse head in her bed. OK, it’s not a horse head, but all of her blond hair has been hacked off. How did she sleep through it? I like to think that Andre chloroformed her because it’s funny and I’m a horrible person. His scheme works—Helene asks Nessa to replace Tiana, and she is a success. Score one for Andre. Helene also warns Diana not to trust the Lyons because they are still gangsters.
You know who else is horrible? Lucious. His shifty lawyer, Thirsty Rawlings, has been investigating Tariq, Lucious’ half brother and the FBI agent targeting Lyon. There is no dirt on Tariq, so they can’t come up with a good blackmail plan. Lucious leaves to take his mom (Hi, Leah! Where have you been?) and Boo Boo Kitty to tea. Leah makes an embarrassing scene, which Tariq knows about because he has them under surveillance.
He follows Leah to a medical appointment and says that if she works with him, Lucious won’t be able to make her disappear from the storyline for weeks—uh, lock her up. Leah is ready to spill, especially about her son’s “light bright” wife and their vulgar sex habits. Let’s not think about how she knows what they’re doing.
At the house of Lyon, Boo Boo Kitty is up to her season 1 shenanigans, strutting about in some trashy lingerie and smashing Lucious’ valuables. This Boo Boo Kitty rocks. She keeps it up until Lucious promises to give her anything she wants, which is a job. She still wants an A&R position with Shyne’s label. They seal the deal with some tabletop sex. Lucious is rubbing her behind, and it is so uncomfortable that I consider getting up for more wine, but Leah saves the day by yelling at them to stop—especially since they are on the table where she eats. She leaves the room and Lucious quietly sneaks up behind her and slips a tie around a throat. Psych! Leah is on Lucious’ side and slyly reports that she told Tariq exactly what Lucious wanted her to say.
Things then go less well for Lucious, who joins the family to hear Jamal’s new song about Cookie and Lyon. It’s not heartwarming; the song is about every horrible thing Lucious has done to Cookie. But Lucious can sing like a canary, too. He tells his sons that their mom orchestrated the hit on Frank Gathers. Gasp!
It was a juicy episode. All the characters were involved, the writers remembered Leah, Tariq and season 1 Boo Boo Kitty, and Andre is committed to his new gangster lifestyle.
Winners: Lucious, Cookie, Nessa, Boo Boo Kitty, Andre and Rhonda’s unseen ghost, and The Godfather, which gets an homage.
Losers: Tiana; Hakeem, who doesn’t get to do much except fume at Andre; Tariq, who’s been played; and whoever has to clean the dining room table.
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.