The episode opens with a heartbreaking flashback to Cookie saying goodbye to her young family just before she hears the guilty verdict that will send her off to jail. She hugs and kisses her sons, tells them she’ll always love them. Lucious sings “You’re so Beautiful…” Thank God we don’t actually see them taking her away.
She comes out of her reverie. It’s the next morning and she’s still in Lucious’ bed. She says that unless he gets rid of “fake ass Halle Berry” she won’t get with him. Besides, if he sticks with her, she’ll make him “immortal.”
Her idea is to produce an album to be called Lucious Lyon Legacy–a retrospective of Lucious’ entire career, including a legacy concert and documentary. He’d go into the studio with Hakeem and Jamal to do a remake of one of Lucious’ biggest hits, “You’re so Beautiful.” He sings the song to her as he tries to lead her back to bed. “If you want Cookie’s nookie…ditch the bitch.” He promises, “I’ll do it. I’ll ditch her.” They fall into bed together.
Hakeem summons Jamal to a Catholic church where he is praying for Lucious. Jamal doesn’t want to cut the song, because it feels exploitive, but Hakeem reminds him that all Lucious has wanted to do is make music and money. Hakeem advises Jamal to get right with Lucious, or he’ll regret it. He insists they do whatever it takes to make dad happy. The two decide to put their differences behind them. Jamal thinks maybe he’ll wait to come out until after Lucious is gone.
Cookie wastes no time getting to work on the song. In the studio, Jamal and Hakeem are cutting vocals in the booth with Cookie on the dials. They convince her to sing on the chorus, and it’s the 4 Lyons crooning and it’s SO cool. “You’re so beautiful. Give the world a show.” Lucious calls himself the most blessed man in the whole world. “I’ve got the most talented family,” he says in earshot of the untalented Andre, looking pretty despondent.
A Family Affair from “The Lyon’s Roar”
Lucious moves fast on the documentary too. He finds and hires a young, cutting edge (and FINE looking) filmmaker, Ryan Morgan, who has also agreed to shoot the big “white party” coming up. Anika interrupts. She found out that Lucious got her father to commit fraud by signing on the key man IPO policy, stating he’s healthy. Anika also wants to know if there’s anything else he’s keeping from her. Like, screwing Cookie the night before. Welp that shuts Lucious up, but only for a few seconds before he launches into a spiel about all the stuff he’s going through blah blah blah blah. He basically throws Cookie under the bus, claiming she caught HIM in a real bad place. He apologizes and it’s so insincere.
Anika wants him to prove that he loves her. “Marry me tomorrow,” she says. He manages to put it off a week. But she insists that he make an announcement at the white party, and COOKIE MUST BE THERE. “I’ll do it,” he says, “I’ll promise I’ll marry you this weekend.” On one hand, he tells Cookie he’s going to “ditch the bitch,” and now he’s manipulating Anika into sticking around. He wants it all.
Vernon and Andre cook up a scheme to have the Empire board of directors approve a plan that would make Andre temporary CEO if something happened to Lucious. Vernon and Cookie will vote for it. And of course, so will Lucious. They just need one more vote. Andre sets his sights on a pretty, young board member to sway his way. She’s married, but loves her some blond girls. Hm. “If only I knew someone to entice her to vote for me,” he hints at wifey, Rhonda, fetching in a green mask and curlers. Andre doesn’t care. He jumps her bones. Oh these two.
Hakeem doesn’t like taking notes from Cookie in the studio. He becomes so annoyed with her, that he rips off his head set and stomps out. Will he ever forgive her? To make matters worse, the documentary director is there getting it ALL on film.
After throwing out the director (“This is the best stuff!” he protests) Lucious tries to force the two to sort out their issues. Neither is really interested in going there. Lucious throws out the “I’m about to be dead soon” card, and they reconsider. Hakeem hates his mother’s bossy and opinionated ways. But that’s not really it. “You love Jamal more than me, and you know it.” There it is.
Cookie says she doesn’t love Jamal more. She just knows him better. Hakeem was so little when she left for jail, they’re strangers now. Lucious asks if Hakeem can get to know his momma better. “No” he says. But then smiles. Cookie playfully slaps him in the head. They get back to work.
Jamal does a talking head thing for the documentary filmmaker, speaking about growing up without his mom and with a superstar father who was more like a TV personality than a parent. The point of cutting the family song is for everyone to finally bond “before it’s too late.” Cut and print!
Oh. DOCUMENTARY DUDE IS CHECKING OUT JAMAL’S ASS. Here we go. He’s pretty hot too, complete with a down under accent. They shake hands and hug, then look at each other, and that moment of understanding passes between the two of them. Like Oh. Hot documentary dude asks Jamal out for a drink. Jamal is still holding his hand when he says yes. Wheee! Dad’s gonna hate this. But too bad.
When Jamal suggests that Ryan hide his sexuality around Lucious, his reaction is…NOPE. If Lucious doesn’t like that he’s gay, he can “kiss my ass.” Jamal smiles.
Taking the Initiative
Back in the studio, scoundrel, Lucious, comes on to Cookie. “Did you get rid of fake-ass Lena Horne?” she asks, brushing him off. He pretends to be hurting, but when she comes over to help he grabs her. “I just want you to hold me,” he coos. She plays along until suddenly slapping him in the face. “That’s for leaving me twisting in the wind for 17 years.” He kinda liked that. “Do it again,” he says. And they do, right in the studio.
It turns out pretty young board member’s husband was totally taken with Rhonda. So, on the way to dinner at the couples’ house, they decide that the new plan is for Rhonda to come on to the mister, while Andre keeps the mrs happy. Things about to get kinky.
Unfortunately for Rhonda, the husband is an old decrepit dude riding a motorized chair. Will Rhonda take one for the team?
Cut to Jamal and Camille. He wants to stop all that “mama” stuff with her. She’s actually OK with that. Cause she’s way too young and hot to be playing those games anyway, she says. Camille gives Hakeem a silky white jacket for the party, so he looks the part of a CEO. He promises to buy her a dress. He’s taking her to the party! “It’s time for everybody to meet my new Queen.”
Hakeem had agreed to allow Jamal to go last at the showcase to make peace with him, but Camille tries to persuade him that he’s making a mistake.
Back at the dinner party, Rhonda is getting VERY VERY drunk. Old decrepit guy mentions seeing the Steven Hawking movie. Rhonda drunkenly wonders how he’s stayed alive so long with ALS (is she worried Lucious might live longer than his prognosis). She doesn’t look happy to find out there’s a rare form of the disease where people live longer, with their minds completely intact, even as their body fails. Decrepit guy teases that Hawking can still get an erection too. Rhonda drinks more. So much, that she pukes right into her dinner plate.
Luckily, Andre finds another board member willing to vote his way. “No harm, no foul,” he says to Rhonda. “Are you sure you don’t need me to sleep with him? Or his cousin? Or his Brother?” Rhonda is sick of the games. “Maybe you can be a man and get this done on your own, and not turn your wife into a geriatric whore.” she says. She’s over it.
Hakeem and Cookie arrive at Empire arm and arm. They’re getting along better, so he asks to go last at the family showcase. He throws up the “You favor Jamal all the time” card and guiltily she agrees.
Jamal meets Ryan for that drink. He admits that he’s a father. Ryan has slept with men and woman, but he’s always known he was gay. They bond over having disapproving fathers “The joys of being the son of a black man.” says Ryan. Jamal is impressed that Ryan isn’t ashamed or embarrassed about it. “This is the way God made me,” he says. When Jamal says he’s been trying to come out for months, Ryan says, “Do it for yourself.” But “Do it for your daughter,” is what really gets his attention.
Back at the house Jamal shows little Lola how to play with a hula hoop. She’s sad because she misses her mommy. Jamal promises she’ll be back, but in the meantime, he’ll protect her from the monsters. He teaches her how to scare them away with a RAWR. “You’re a Lyon. And Lyons are never afraid to let people hear them roar.” In a sweet moment, Jamal teaches her the “wim-a-way” part in “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and they sing together.
I think Jamal is rethinking that decision to postpone coming out.
Back at Empire, it’s time to vote on Vernon and Andre’s proposal. Vernon votes yay. The hot female board member he tried to manipulate votes NAY. They go around the table. Cookie votes yay. But then Lucious votes nay before he angrily leaves the room. SHOCKER.
It’s time for the white party. After walking the red carpet, Cookie takes Jamal aside to persuade him to give up the last spot. “You’re my manager, not his,” says Jamal. He’s pissed that Hakeem went back on his word. And then Cookie makes the executive decision to have Lucious go last. Jamal looks at her closer and guesses that mom and dad are getting it on again. Jamal advises her to be careful, because he’s incapable of loving anybody else besides himself. “I’m off the song,” he says.
Then. Commotion. Anika arrives on Lucious’ arm. She tells the press there will be a very special announcement at the end of the party. Lucious breaks the news to Cookie that he’s going to marry Anika, and the wedding is next week. “Go to hell, Lucious,” says Cookie as she walks away.
Later, she grabs Anika to congratulate her on her upcoming wedding. Anika says she knows they slept together. Oh yea? Well but you don’t know we did it on the soundboard last night! Oop. That got her. Andre starts drinking. Rhonda warns him that alcohol will stop his psych meds from working. He takes a bigger swig. He is such a tortured soul.
Meanwhile, Hakeem arrives, holding hands with Camille. Cookie spots them. This cant end well. Hakeem introduces Camilla as “my girl.” Cookie rolls her eyes, “It’s obvious that you’re seeing old Camilla here because I wasn’t around. But I’m here now baby! You should be dating girls your own age. I WANT SOME GRAND BABIES.”
Camilla informs Cookie that she’s older, but Cookie scoffs. In any case, mom doesn’t date boys half her age. “You need to stay you’re tired ass away from my son.” Hakeem insists that he will date who he wants. Camilla warns Cookie that if she doesn’t put Hakeem last on the song, she won’t be able to use his track.
“So Yoko Ono here wants to play on the song too,” snarks Cookie, “What can YOU do Yoko? Can you play the tambourine?” Camilla warns Cookie not to mess with her. When she says she’s not one of her jailbird mates, Cookie says she wishes she were. “You would have made a good bitch for me. I bet you’ve got a long tongue.”
Cookie tells her to enjoy her little play time with her son, but he ain’t settling for no cougar bitch who is clearly taking advantage of his mommy issues. Camille tells Hakeem, “You’re off that song.”
Andre corners Vernon. What happened? Lucious thinks they’re trying to plot behind his back. Smart man! Vernon promises to take care of it.
Nobody wants to sing on the family song now, including Jamal. Lucious insists it’s not a family song unless Jamal sings on it. Lucious tells him to do the song, not for the sake of the family, but for the sake of the music, which is forever. Lucious asks him to put the bad blood behind them. Tell your truth in the music, Lucious says. Jamal has done his own arrangement of “She’s so beautiful,” and Lucious insists that he sing it for the crowd. It starts off as you’d expect. Lucious is grooving to it.
But then Jamal sings a re-written verse. “This the kind of song that makes a man love a man, a man love a man….” He’s coming out at the white party! Lucious is furious. He flashes back to the time he stuffed little Jamal into the trash can after he caught him wearing his mother’s clothes. “GO MAAAAAAl!” shouts Cookie. Jamal’s new boyfriend raises his fist. “He just came out!” says Andre.
But then, there’s Jamal, singing, more joyous than he’s ever been. The crowd is WITH HIM. Celebrating. After, the relief on his face is palpable, as he raises his fist. Andre, Vernon and Hakeem salute him. The crowd goes even WILDER.
Cut to the next day, as Lucious arrives at Empire amid breathless news reports about Jamal’s “audacious” coming out. Lucious meets with Andre and Vernon. Nobody has heard from Jamal. Andre says it was irresponsible of him not to tell somebody first. But that’s NOT what Lucious is pissed about this morning. He reads them the riot act for campaigning behind his back. Lucious is now questioning Vernon’s loyalty. Lucious confesses to Andre in a private moment that he voted against him because he doesn’t trust him.
“The moment you brought that white woman into my house, I knew you didn’t want to be a part of my family,” says Lucious. Andre insists Rhonda has nothing to do with it. He’s sure the family hates him because he’s not talented in the way he wants. He got good grades and went to school to be accepted. Lucious insists that THEY will never accept Andre. ‘They will accept your money, but they will never accept your black ass. ” Wait…isn’t Lucious about to marry a woman who is practically white? In any case, he won’t leave the company to someone who does not care about his family. Not to somebody who is trying to tear it apart. Oh. He sees through Andre’s schemes.
Hakeem drops by Jamal’s pad to apologize for asking Cookie to go last. He admits that “Camilla got me all hype.” Jamal suggests that they do the song and sing the chorus together. He also came by to tell Jamal how proud he is of him. He doesn’t think it was a mistake. It was the bravest thing he saw in his life. They hug. Aw.
Oh no. There’s Andre. Sitting in a darkened studio. Probably off his meds. He points a gun to his head. DON’T DO IT DRE DON’T DO IT. He pulls the trigger. There’s no bullet. He breaks down into anguished sobs.
Anika gets out of her car in front of a fancy apartment building. She takes her ring off first before entering. She’s there to see Lucious’ arch enemy, Billy Barretti!
Meanwhile, Lucious confronts Cookie. Did she say something to Anika? Because she blew off a meeting with the wedding planner. Cookie lies and says, “No.” Lucious is there to tell Cookie their dalliance was a momentary weakness. He’s not leaving Anika for her. “That’s fine by me,” says Cookie, “Nothing good can come from loving you…except for my three babies.”
She reminds Lucious that Jamal came out and nothing changed. “The whole world knows and doesn’t care,” she says. But Lucious cares. He cares so much. He can’t let it go. The legacy album is dead. “This is not a family,” says Lucious, “This is a disgrace.”
Cookie picks up an old family photo. She flashes back again. This time to prison with the photo taped to her cell wall. “She softly sings ‘You’re so Beautiful…’ The camera pans back to reveal rows and rows of jail cells as Cookies voice echoes through the halls. Until next time…