Trai Byers, Serayah McNeill, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Gray in a scene from Empire
Chuck Hodes/Fox

There’s a high-tech whodunit at Empire Records, which forces the Lyon clan to air their dirty laundry in public in last night’s episode of Empire, “Chimes at Midnight.” It’s a fun episode; I’d grade it a B-plus, only because the previous episode climaxed with a violent family fight that was live-streamed on the jumbo screens in Times Square and nobody brings it up this week. Also, Taye Diggs takes off his clothes but doesn’t give us the full Monty, so that’s a demerit. And for the second week in a row, we do not see Rhonda’s ghost having sex with Andre. In any case, let’s go!

Something is going on. Empire’s emails have been hacked. There’s a message for Lucious: “You got got.” Vladimir Putin just wants Lucious to hear his sick beats. Either that or Lucious is being called out for tampering with Bernie Sanders’ run for the White House. Either way, a cyber expert explains the digital breach to Lucious and Andre, but it sounds like a lot of blah, blah, blah to me because I’m riveted by what’s going on with Lucious, who is getting his hair conked. And this happens after an earlier scene in which he just drifted into a room wearing a suit and do-rag. You have to wonder if this is an idea from the costume department or if it’s just Terrence Howard being Terrence Howard. In my mind, it goes like this:

Director: OK, Terrence, we’re ready to go. What’s that thing you’re wearing on your head?


Terrence: It’s just my do-rag; this will lend authenticity to the role.

Director: Uh, I think we should just … wait, who is that woman? Why is she on the set? What kind of glop is she putting on your head?

Terrence: That’s just my stylist; she’s relaxing my hair. It’ll add authenticity.

Director: [Sigh.] Let’s just roll.

Lucious and Andre question associates, including Vaughan, but c’mon, none of Lucious’ rivals are savvy enough to pull off the scheme, right? Things go from bad to worse with the technical difficulties. Now every email that has ever been sent to or received at Empire is being leaked. The culprit demands that a million dollars be wired to an offshore account, every hour.


In the meantime, Andre and Hakeem’s competition for Nessa’s heart, which prompted the Times Square debacle in the first place, is still going on. Let’s face it: Given the choice between Andre, who is a mature, intelligent, grown man or Hakeem, who is … Hakeem, the choice is clear. Bye, Hakeem.

Cookie and Councilman Dubois’ romance is still heating up; she watches him give an outdoor speech for his run for mayor, and all I can think about is the Diana Ross-Billy Dee Williams scene at a political rally in Mahogany. Cookie, who already thinks she’s a liability, stays in the background until she’s summoned to a board meeting.


In a discussion about the email leaks, the board members harumph, harumph, and Andre claims that the late Uncle Vernon used company funds to pay prostitutes, and Andre covered it up to ensure that their IPO went through. The board members call for Andre to step down, but he just smirks and alludes to their own freaky-deaky habits. Andre wins and I’m loving his new badass attitude. Andre needs to borrow that do-rag; he’ll be strolling around whistling the “The Farmer in the Dell” soon.

After the meeting, sensitive information flashes on the screens in the Empire lobby and everyone sees that Cookie has been sexting pics of her cookies to Dubois.


That’s nothing compared with the next hit: Jamal is in the studio and watches as the hacker, who has now gotten into Empire’s entire system, erases all the music he had been working on. He’s already jittery because he’s trying to stay off the pain pills. But he’s a drug addict now and nearly has an overdose, but we yawn because that’s not a main storyline right now.

Dubois visits Cookie, who pushes him away because she’s sure that the texts will ruin his campaign. A bunch of reporters do thrust microphones in his face to find out about the scandal, but Dubois shuts it down by stripping down to make a point about how trivial the matter is. Hey, he doesn’t boast about grabbing women by their lady parts or run around with white nationalists, so the reporters go away.


The only person happy about all the email leaks is Lucious’ half brother, the evil FBI agent Tariq. He and a fed buddy are combing through all the emails to find dirt to bring Lucious down. Bingo! Tariq finds an email that was sent shortly after Frank Gathers was killed in prison; it mentions money going to two mysterious initials: MM and BK. Who could they be? And what exactly did they do?

Andre and Lucious find the supposed real hacker and take care of him offscreen, so we can assume we’ll never see him again. Later on, Andre brings Nessa along to a meeting in a warehouse. He’s wearing a fedora to up the gangster vibe. He meets with Vaughan and exchanges money. OMG, Andre! You’re the mastermind? Well-played, sir. Nessa doesn’t seem turned off by this. Welp. Andre better watch his back; taking on Papa Lyon is a dangerous game. You come at the king, you best not miss.


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.

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