Lucious (Terrence Howard) has major mother issues.
Fox

We get a lot of history about Lucious' childhood trauma in this episode. Lucious has taken on such a villainous role that the show may be trying to redeem him by explaining what made him this way. Lucious is so unlikable that he's past the point of no return in my eyes, but his tale is tragic. At least Cookie seems happier and more fun than she's been in a while, and Jamal appears to be shifting away from the dark side.

Speaking of Cookie, Laz gets the chance to "take these cookies" during a three-day sexcapade with fast-food delivery. My inner Mother Jefferson gives side eye to the unwashed sheets and bedside Styrofoam containers.

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Cookie comes up with an idea: a huge summer jam, Cookie's Cookout, which will showcase all the Lyon Dynasty acts—all three of them. We never see her working with anyone other than Hakeem, Tiana and that girl group. Don't forget that Laz is a bad guy; he's got that longhorn back tattoo, the same as Hakeem's kidnappers. The folks over at Blindspot must tune in to mock the scary stencil.

On the pretense of getting a paper, Laz meets with one of his cohorts. They hatch a nefarious plot: He will promote Cookie's concert and then he'll get even more money from her for protection, more than they originally asked for. The bad guys want more money. Cue evil laugh. I question Laz's ability to pull this off. He can't even remember his ruse, which was to get the paper. They are all sold out because that's what happens in New York City.

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Cookie announces Cookie's Cookout at a big press event—or at least it's a big room with a few extras watching Hakeem's girl group shimmy about in flapper dresses, whip their ponytails, and sing about mimosas and yoga pants. Suddenly "Hotline Bling" isn't the most unnecessary musical moment of the year.

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Lucious is still treating us to "Boom Boom Boom Boom" and mentoring Freda. Their song could be better; he wants her to put more of her pain into the song. Lucious needs to take his own advice, though. He wants a living room session with his mentor and music mogul, Sir Huey; then maybe he could win an award like all the other artists who have had the honor of performing in Huey's living room. Huey wants Lucious to dig deep. Here, we see an anvilicious flashback to young Lucious literally digging in the grass as he buries bullets to hide them from his mentally ill mom.

Andre suggests that Empire create a music-streaming service. Lucious likes the idea, but Mimi Whiteman convinces him that they need to merge with a streaming company, Swiftstream, owned by Jago, who could be "the next Zuckerberg." That's assuming that the next Zuckerberg talks business in a boxing ring. When he shades Lucious' music, Lucious knocks him out. Jago ends up in the hospital and doesn't want to work with Lucious, but Mimi secretly increases his morphine drip and they get the doped-up Zuckerberg wannabe to agree to the Swiftstream merger.

Jamal is working on the song "Heavy" and has been sharing versions with Cookie. Apparently he's done with his turn to the dark side and is up to antics with his mom as they sneak around the Lyon Dynasty like they're in a comedy caper, nearly bumping into Hakeem. Cookie's mentoring proves a success, so Jamal gets to perform in a living room session with Huey, who loves the song. Lucious, who is clearly jealous, takes credit for elevating the tune.

Hakeem and Cookie butt heads. She doesn't think that girl who sang "Blue Bayou" is good enough to lead Mirage à Trois. The group is so annoying that I didn't include the name before, but it looks like they're here to stay.

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Anyway, Hakeem ignores his mother's advice to put Laura in the background and let a flashier singer take center stage. He fixes the problem by having Tiana teach Laura how to give off attitude. Tiana has been reduced to playing Miss J. Alexander, and she still has a better story than Boo Boo Kitty, who is so MIA, I'm wondering if there was behind-the-scenes drama.

In any case, Hakeem proves that Laura's got it by having her sing in the middle of a plaza. As you know, busy New Yorkers always halt for a busker, so they gather around to listen to her sing something to the tune of "I Will Survive" in Spanish. At first she is afraid, she is petrified, but everyone loves it, of course. Now she can be the star of a song about mimosas and yoga pants.

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Hakeem also clashes with Cookie over dealings with the Back Tattoo Boys. Cookie thinks she only has to pay a small percentage of the vendor cost; Hakeem, as an equal partner, demands to sit at the negotiation table—actually, he demands to sit in his negotiation chair. This is still Hakeem, but he's trying.

To celebrate the merger, Lucious and Mimi get drunk and prepare for a threeway with a girl named April. April has a gun tattoo, which kills the mood. Lucious rushes off with a gun and summons Freda at 4 in the morning for another recording session. He flashes back to his mom, who found a bullet he overlooked and plays Russian roulette with that same gun while saying, “Boom, boom, boom, boom.” Lucious waves the gun, rolling its cylinder for the sound effects. Now the song will shoot to the top of the charts.

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.