Empire Season 2 Episode 9 Recap – Sinned Against
We learn more Cookie backstory in the “Sinned Against” episode of Empire. We learn that she’s got a “bougie” big sister named Candace (Vivica A. Fox), who left the streets behind after she married a white man. She still calls Cookie by her real name, Loretha, and bosses her around like they’re still on the playground. When Candace refuses to look for Carol at a crack house, Cookie says to her, “Will you stop acting like Dianne Carol heifer. You ain’t been living in the suburbs with that white man all your life!” That’s pretty much their relationship in a nutshell.
Last week, Candace came strolling back into Cookie’s life after little sister Carol dumped her kids off and promptly disappeared. Cookie is super distracted during the search, her mind is on the big concert she’s planning back in NYC with her boyfriend, Laz. She tries to abandon Candace at one point, getting out of the car and telling her to look for sis herself, but she can’t bring herself to drop it.
Cookie contacts an old prison friend, Pepper (Rosie O’Donnell) to help smoke Carol out. She owns a bakery now (Cookie raises an eyebrow when she spies the thuggy guys she has working for her) but still has contacts to the criminal world. The sisters fear Carol’s disappearance is tied to how the man they contracted to kill Frank Gathers’ right hand, wound up with his head in a box. But as it turns out, Carol had run off with a loser to smoke crack in the hood.
After they retrieve her, Candace and Cookie fight over who is going to take care of her. It’s clearly more about one-upmanship than Carol’s welfare. Both Candace and Cookie have left the old neighborhood behind. When Pepper suggests Cookie visit the prison on family day, she begs off, too busy with her upcoming concert. In the end, they decide Candace will watch the kids, while Carol lives with Cookie in NYC.
Back in New York City, Andre is working out how to fund the ongoing costs of the streaming service they bought. He devises a plan that would leverage the company’s music publishing, but the hitch is that Cookie is part owner of Empire’s early songs. Back from Philadelphia, relaxing in a chair, Cookie thinks the man giving her a shoulder massage is boyfriend Laz, when it’s actually Lucious. Immediate freakout! He presents the music publishing idea to her, insisting it would secure all their futures. She points out that the music is all they have, and they can’t give it up. The answer is no.
When Laz interrupts, Lucious is peeved Cookie’s got a new guy. When she makes a show of sloppy kissing Laz, Lucious sneers, “It’s nice to see you sleeping your way to the bottom.” On the way out the door, he knocks over the bottle of red Laz brought. “It’s a good thing you’ve got your maid in here to clean it up.” Yup. Lucious still loves her. And you know what happens next. He gets to the bottom of who Laz really is.
The thing is, Laz has really fallen for Cookie. When Big Heavy and his boys show up at the Harlem venue, looking for a bigger cut, Laz resists, and then calls the deal off. Guns are drawn. Laz puts himself at risk. Hakeem and Laz come to a shaky understanding about working together, with Laz asking for trust. But that doesn’t last long. Laz talks to Cookie and Hakeem about moving the venue to Bronx, out of Bull territory, but they don’t know that. Cookie thinks he’s lost his mind. But then Lucious busts in with some of his guys, revealing Laz’s association with the “Bullies” who shake down young rap artists. Hakeem mentions the Bull tattoos they all sport, at which point, Cookie goes nuts and pulls his gun on him. Laz tries to explain that he’s in love with her, and pulling out of his shady deals. Of course Cookie is having none of that, handing the gun to Lucious before she leaves. Laz is left in the room with him and his muscle. Gulp.
Later, at home, Cookie loses it, crying and trashing the room. Carol walks in, and a lightbulb goes off in Cookie’s head. She’s got to clear away the bullsh*t. It’s time to take care of what matters. Family. She confronts her sister about her drug abuse. Carol resists at first, blaming her spiral on what went down with Frank Gathers. But Cookie makes her see that she’s running from the bad stuff in her life, rather than dealing with it. The conversation ends in tears, with Carol realizing she needs help.
Meanwhile, Andre has become Lucious right hand man. He buys him and Rhonda a big ass mansion on the water in Long Island. Hakeem dropping his last name, and in effect, turning his back on the Lyon legacy, has Lucious looking to the future. He has all his hopes pinned on the couple’s baby. After Cookie refuses to turn over her song publishing rights, Andre suggests leveraging arms of the company, such as their fashion line. Lucious refuses, reasoning if they sell off bits of the company, they will no longer be an Empire.
He eventually changes his mind. Lee Daniels, playing himself in a mega meta moment, is the director of Jamal’s Pepsi commercial. When Lucious presents a “father and son” concept for the spot, Lee blows him off, explaining that Lucious represents the past. “This kid, he’s the future!” Lee gushes. The backhanded diss lights a fire under Lucious. He’ll show him who’s relevant and who isn’t! He instructs Andre to go ahead and start selling stuff off. Slip Stream is going to make them SO huge, they’ll be able to buy it all back. Maybe some day, Lucious, Lee will document YOUR story. Heh. In any case, Lucious acting rash does not bode well for the future.
Anika is back, sitting in her empty apartment with a pint of ice cream, news clippings all over the floor, watching videos of Hakeem and his girlfriend, Laura, rehearsing. This tired “Fatal Attraction” trope is just stupid. Last episode, a blond wigged Anika was behind the wheel of the car taking Laura home after a gig. She didn’t kidnap or hurt her. At this point, she’s at the stalking stage. She crashes one of Hakeem’s soirees, all bug eyed and crazy, hissing at Laura. “Do I know you from somewhere?” Laura asks, “No honey, unless you bus tables at Nobu.” She lets slip that the song they were rehearsing together was originally written for his old girlfriend, Camilla. Oops. Anika snarks that the song needs a real woman to sing it. Not some “Neorican wannabe from the South Bronx.” Anika turns to Hakeem, “Your Jenny from the block jump off lives in a hovel with seven brothers and sisters.” Did I mention stalking?
Later, Hakeem summons Ankinka to his apartment. She’s all chirpy. But he’s invited her over to stress, in no uncertain terms, that he does not love her, and what’s more, she’ll never be a Lyon. Oh. But she’s carrying one in her tummy. Why doesn’t she tell him about the baby? Her reaction to Hakeem’s denials is to insist he stop fighting it. “It is so clear that you love me,” she crazily insists.
Meanwhile, Rhonda gave Anika a tour of her and Andre’s new manse. Without naming names, Anika reveals she’s in love with a musician friend who isn’t reciprocating the way he should. Rhonda tells the charming story of how she snuck into the dorm room of a girl who was trying to steal Andre away from her. She cut off her ponytail and emailed a photo to her, warning she’d cut off more if she didn’t stay away from her man. “Take down anyone that gets in your way,” Rhonda advises. Bad advice. Really bad advice.
Pop star, Skye Summer (Alicia Keys) isn’t part of the Empire stable…yet. But she’s been contracted to appear on Jamal’s “Black and White” album. He plays her something at a meeting but she and her mommager (played by Alicia’s real-life mom!) were looking for something “edgier.” Lucious insists she stay in her lane, which is “girl power pop.” When Jamal get her alone, he professes his love for her work, calling himself an “OG fan,” in other words, a stan from way back.
Jamal wants to help Skye find her way out of the box the industry has forced her into. He helps her compose a meaningful song, These two begin to bond. Jamal has been inspired by her music over the years. Skye is finally becoming the artist she always knew she could be, with his help. At the Pepsi shoot, she corners Lucious to confess she can’t stay in her box. He sees it as an opportunity to lure her to Empire.
The show closes with Skye and Jamal singing their new song, “Powerful.” They finish and look into each other’s eyes. And they kiss. Like, a romantic kiss. I kid you not. What the hell? For those of you who haven’t been following along: Jamal is gay.
The preview for next week’s fall finale reveals Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) to be the conniving player we all suspected. Once again, the family will have to set aside their differences to fight for what is theirs. Until next time, kids.
Check out Jussie Smollett and Alicia Keys duet, Powerful