EmpireThe show begins with me demanding a credit from Time Warner Cable for interrupted service, so that’s not a great omen. But when the TV pixels settle down and start behaving themselves, there’s an outdoor “Free Lucious” concert in Central Park (presumably) in which someone in a gorilla suit descends to the stage in a cage…we’re given just long enough to think about the disturbing gorilla metaphor before the costumed performer rips off the head to reveal…Cookie! Of course. She gives a quick, impassioned speech about the inherent racism of our correctional system and then swans off to glad-hand with the many black celebs who’ve come to watch. But despite cameos from Al Sharpton, ALT and Don Lemon, no one is willing to help Cookie, so she blows them all off.

And how is our friend Lucious? He seems pretty good, other than, yknow, being in jail. But he’s hanging in the yard  when a bus pulls up with the newest inmates. (Do they really just dump them out on the playground? Seems unwise.) Who should step off the bus but a shackled CHRIS ROCK!!! Man, everyone wants to be on this show. He walks off the bus looking scared, but apparently “Nobody touches Frank Gaddis,” so he’s tough. Ah, we see it now—he’s Lucious’s old drug boss! Friendly meetup, like they ran into each other at a Whole Foods.

Back at Empire Records, Cookie’s mom’in it up with Hakeem (who stops her from scarfing down a Krispy Kreme and wrecking her diet) and gives a quick smooch to Jamal on his way in with assistant Becky. Jamal’s gone full mogul which apparently means being dismissive of his employees, as he shuts down someone’s wish to sign a new act and then tells Hakeem offhandedly that he’s rejecting the art for H’s album cover as “amateurish.” Hakeem disagrees, and to demonstrate his professionalism he knocks Jamal’s phone out of his hands and shouts, “I’m telling Mom!” before storming off. Smooth.

Jamal’s overwhelmed by all his CEO responsibilities and hates that they’re keeping him from recording. He goes to see Lucious, who’s half a sympathetic ear and half “Get me outta here!” Then he asks, “Who was that lesbian bitch in the red suit at the concert, who was cutting up with your mama?” Despite this very detailed description, Jamal doesn’t know who Lucious means. But L has plans.

Chez Andre, he’s having nightmares about the murder he and his wife committed last season, dreaming about his wife digging the grave. (Did they replace the actress who played his wife? Or is it just her ponytail making her look different?) He’s also stressed, because he’s trying to orchestrate a hostile takeover of Empire and has to get it done before Lucious gets out on bail and takes the whole place back.

Rock confronts an inmate about killing one of his boys five years ago, but he denies it. Don’t know why.

Party in a spa. Marisa Tomei is here. Why??? Cookie’s starting to shmooze when Kitty Boo Boo slithers in to stake her claim. Cookie lunges at her but is discreetly scooped aside by Andre. Then there’s toasting and cocktails and tons of side-eye. Marisa is apparently the “hostile” in the hostile takeover.

Dinner a deux for Jamal and his ex-and-maybe-future honey. Jamal’s getting an award from an LGBT group that Honey is involved with, and there’s a meeting tomorrow he needs to show up for.

Mimi asks Anika to dance and now I realize Tomei is the “lesbian bitch” Lucious mentioned. Anita demurs, but Cookie gives her a speaking look and tells her to take off her cardigan to boot. Anita grudgingly complies.

Ah, the inmate who was threatened is Jamail (sp?) who leaves a message for Cookie, saying that she has to get Lucious to protect him from Frank, and that she and her kids are in danger too. Not clear to me why he can’t go to Lucious directly, but I assume I’m forgetting some double-cross from last season.

At Rancho del Cookie, she’s received some ugly flowers and needs to have a heart to heart with Hakeem, so she cancels the video chat she was supposed to have with Carol. Portia, in classic Portia style, blows off Khandi because “she have to poo poo” and thus doesn’t hear Khandi telling her that “it’s that crazy guy” who sent the flowers. (I assume she means Frank?)

Rexanne the prosecutor comes to see Lucious (which he points out is actually illegal), to tell him that Vernon is digging deeper on Bunky’s murder. She urges Lucious to plead guilty and turn on “the other killers in this business.” He’s not interested in taking the offer of this “black bitch in cheap shoes” who’s gunning for a Republican nom for attorney general. She’s not giving up yet, though–and points out that the shoes are Tom Ford, so nyah nyah.

When he goes out to the general visiting area, Lucious hears Frank’s teenage daughter rapping up a storm. He comes over to say he’s impressed, but Frank looks suspicious. I can’t tell if Lucious is sincere or working an angle here.

Back at Empire and Andre fishes Hakeem out of the studio: “It’s happening.” Purposeful striding through corridors, picking up Cookie and Anika along the way. It’s like the West Wing, but with a hipper soundtrack! OMG—Hakeem is rolling along with his nose in his phone, riding a hoverboard instead of striding. He’s such an asshole.

They march into the boardroom and interrupt Jamal with the news that they’re taking over. Cookie explains (while Hakeem snipes in the background) that Mimi’s given them the funds for a controlling interest in Empire, but they’re not taking it away from Jamal, just Lucious. She asks Jamal not to be upset, because it’s just business. He’s cool as a cucumber as he anounces…MIMI! Complete with the ol’ spin-the-chair-around reveal. Cookie’s pissed, but not blowing her top yet, as Mimi explains that Lucious offered her a better deal. “I told you to sleep with her,” she whispers to Anika. “I did,” Anika whispers back sullenly. Heh. Mimi explains that Empire is of no interest without Lucious, and then Jamal clicks a remote and we get a little look at smug Lucious in his cell.

Back in jail, I’m a little afraid this has turned into Sin City. Frank and Jamail are sitting in a private room while flunkies peer in through the window. Frank, in a bib, is calmly sawing away at some sort of meat in tomato sauce while Jamail sits across from him with a battered face. I am genuinely concerned that it’s going to turn out to be some of Jamail’s fingers on that plate, especially because I can see a bigger knife lying on the napkin next to Frank. But he asks Jamail to tell him who was the snitch, and says that’ll end it. Jamail says it was Cookie, but Frank doesn’t believe him at first. However, Jamail insists, and we get a flashback to Cookie on the witness stand.

Meanwhile, Cookie’s having a not-great afternoon (and after the morning started out so promising!). She tries to explain herself to Jamal, who’s not really having it, so she just tells him he’s turning into his father. Then she heads home…where a large gift box is waiting outside her apartment. One might say it’s the right size for, oh, a head. I fear it’ll be Jamail inside.

Waiting in the apartment is Carol with a passel of kids (all brushing Cookie’s wigs, heh). She tells Cookie that the flowers are from Frank Gannon, and she’s in trouble. Cookie (who’s brought the box in with her) gives it a second look. After a moment’s hesitation, she opens it and…YUP! HEAD. They’re both horrified, but Cookie shakes it off quickly and moves straight into pissed. Yeah, that is a pretty crappy end to a crappy day.

Jamal and Honey have a tiff in the hall (in front of a blowup of Jimi Hendrix) about how Jamal was uncomfortable around the “flamboyant” singer that afternoon, and he doesn’t want to go to the awards thing. He tells Honey he’s not going, but will donate $100K to the group in recompense. Instead, he’s going to spend the night finally recording his own music…until Cookie calls. Jamal tries to blow her off, but Becky won’t take another “Cookie cussing.”

Cookie’s wasting no time—she tells Jamal to drop everything and get to Lucious’s house where he’ll be safe. Then she goes to jail to see Lucious, who gives such a man-speech it’s not even funny. “I still love you, and I’m so sorry I never came to visit you all that time you were in here. This place is hell.” Cookie just shakes her head. “Three months. You’ve been in here three months.” Tell him, Cookie! It’s like he’s got a Man Cold.

She teases him about Anika and finding a jailhouse buddy before getting down to business. She tells him Frank’s messing with their family, but strangely does not lead with “I received a gift-wrapped human head today.”

After the commercial, though, Lucious has come to see Frank and try to work out their problem. Frank explains that Cookie’s a snitch and has to be dealt with, but he has no problem with Lucious. At first it looks like Lucious is going to abandon Cookie to Frank’s ministrations, but then he turns the tables. Frank orders his goons to kill Lucious, “fast and quiet,” but nobody moves. Doh! Looks like Lucious did some executive poaching. Frank’s “bodyguards” have all been bought off—a mortgage for someone’s mom, medicine for another’s kid—and they are happy to follow their benefactor’s orders: “Kill him. Make it loud, and make it long.” We leave Frank with an “Oh, shit” look on his face, and Lucious smugs off to the sound of screaming behind him.

Cookie comes back to Lyon Manor and tells them that it’s safe, and the beef is over. There’s a brief sigh of relief, and then Jamal throws them all out of the hosue for betraying his father. Cookie tries to play the family card, which doesn’t work, and then she tries the angry mama card and slaps him a couple of times.

All he says is, “You done now, lady?” and Jamal’s face is harder than we’ve ever seen it. He shuts the door on her and only then do we see him dissolving into tears. He’s not Lucious yet!